Thursday, June 29, 2017

Architecture as an Art Form

Architecture is a highly complex beautiful work of art. The essence of art is expressing oneself and sparking a conversation with the viewer. For instance, I love walking around the city, and coming across a building that forces me to question “How does that building stand up and not tip over?” Architectural forms genuinely are meant to benefit society and not hinder it. Some people have a romantic fiction of the term art defining it, as “art is just art”. However, I believe that all art has a function; at the very least, it has a purpose to convey a unique message.
Calatrava’s Oculus at the World Trade Center
When Jorge Mastropietro designs, he is always thinking about how each person is going to be living in that space, and how will he create a structure that responds to the needs of its users. Architects have a certain responsibility to construct buildings that are functional and have a meaningful place for people to dwell.  Architecture is truly an art form; imagine visiting two different houses, one house built from a generic blueprint that satisfies the fundamental requirements of a house. Moreover, this house would just be to provide shelter. Then, compare it to a house like Jorge’s XS House, a house designed with purpose and pleases the senses. For instance, Jorge designed a unique water feature in the XS House that is both a pleasing sound and sight.  It gives the home a kinetic, natural energy.  This type of architecture will always be far more engaging as a habitat for the owner and to the passer-by who views it. The XS House, like all of Jorge’s projects, is a great representation of good architecture that also fulfills the artistic desire.
XS House designed by JMA

Architects have an ultimate mission of conveying emotion through space and form, by the means of a combination of various parameters such as light, materials, proportions, etc. The XS House is beautiful construction made with high quality materials. The house is based off the relationship with the inside and outside space. The interior is the refuge of the house. The outside is what binds us to nature and to society. The inside plays with the lights and shadows, with walls that are variously open and closed, ranging from transparent to solid. The result of this project is a beautiful and simplistic modern style home.

Architecture is the recurrent form of art in our lives; life simply would not be the same without it. For instance, architecture without art is merely construction and this alone does not afford any value to the soul.  Jorge believes that architecture satisfies the poetic needs of human beings. Architecture is a unique type of art.  It takes creativity and vision for architects to design buildings just as it does to write a novel, sculpt, or how a painter would paint on a canvas.

The Character of Adaptive Reuse

Did you know about the impact historic preservation can have on a city? Historic buildings, despite their aesthetic appearance and symbolism, can pose challenges in today’s modern society and people’s evolving changes. Look at New York decades ago, many of the buildings were once large factories made for different purposes such as manufacturing. Today, that is no longer the case, our city’s workforce evolved and those buildings changed to become more useful for the times they are now in.
Old factory buildings in New York

With the purposes for those buildings are no longer relevant and functional, this is when adaptive reuse kicks in. The old structures are adapted for a new use and have new life breathing into it.

Adaptive Reuse Saves Cities
If adaptive reuse no longer occurred, our city could consist of structures falling apart, abandoned buildings and more. Adaptive reuse has become an important tool to promote preservation along with economic viability of buildings and vitality of neighborhoods and districts. For instance, Jersey City is a historic district and the process of adaptive reuse is thankfully, trending in this area.

Jorge Mastropietro, loves designing in these types of neighborhoods because he appreciates historic districts and wants to update their buildings to fit today’s modern needs. In his project 526 Manila, he had the opportunity to alter the primary function of the structure while retaining some of the architectural details that make the building unique.
526 Manila Townhouse

The original house, an 1880 townhouse, was a 4-story brick building. JMA’s mission was to create two different 2-bedroom duplex apartments. JMA adapted the existing space to the new needs of modern life but kept the charm of the original style in its façade.
The house is situated between five similar row houses from the same period, which is the reason why the front elevation has only been restored and is further kept untouched.
Adaptive Reuse Reduces Energy and Resources
It is beneficial for architects to reuse an existing structure and shell because it reduces the need to manufacture and construct the building with new materials. Thereby, reducing the need for additional natural resources and the energy required to use them. 
Depending on the integrity of the building, it is more affordable and easier to renovate or to add on to existing buildings rather than to build new. The economic savings may differ from project to project.
Our 526 Manila project is a building that has great presence in the community due to its location, as well as its row style streetscape.

When JMA was working on the 526 Manila renovations, we made sure the interior also included changes to fit today’s needs. For instance, the environmental issues today have skyrocketed. Therefore, we used eco-friendly materials like bamboo floors, high efficiency appliances, and double pane windows. To provide views, the wall of the east façade (rear) on the first three levels, were opened and replaced by sliding windows partitions. In the lower apartment, the living area, kitchen and living room, were installed in the parlor level in order to get the best views. The living spaces were opened up to the exterior and the unrestricted views span from the front to the back of the house.
Stairs by the entrance at 526 Manila
Designed by JMA

Interior at 526 Manila

I think preservation and adaptive reuse should be a subject that is important to everyone. These historic buildings have a spirit to them, when they were first built; they represented the people and how they lived. For an architect to dismiss a building’s story is a shame because the entire city loses a part of its culture.  I love architecture because each building creates a narrative for our lives and the narrative always has the chance to change as time moves forward.

Sarafides, Athena. “Creating Sustainable Communities.  A guide for developers and communities-  Building Reuse and Adaptive Reuse”.  NJ Gov. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Web September 2007

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Architecture in Buenos Aires, Argentina

It is hard not to fall in love with Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is an amazing city known for its vibrant culture, stunning European influenced architecture, the tango, and its Jorge’s hometown!
About Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, and it is the largest city in the country. The city lies in Pampas (fertile plains); it is close to the coast and located right off of the great Rio de la Plata. Buenos Aires is a port city; local residents often refer to themselves as Porteños.
About 3 million people live in the city of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has a mild climate year round. The average temperature is 18º C (64.4º F), making extremely hot and cold days infrequent. Therefore, it is the perfect weather for visitors to explore the city in any season.
The city is nicknamed the “Paris of South America” because it has a European sophistication with a combination of Latin passion. Buenos Aires is known for its wide boulevards, grandeur architecture, incredible food, nightlife, art centers, and the famous tango.

Buenos Aires Architecture

Teatro Colón
No trip to Buenos Aires is complete without a visit to the Teatro Colón. Teatro Colón is one of the top theaters in South America. It hosts the most famous artists of national and international opera and ballet, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world.
Exterior view of the Teatro Colón

The Teatro Colón was designed by many different talented architects. The original designer of the theater was Italian architect, Francesco Tamburini. After his death in 1891, the project was continued and modified by his partner Víctor Meano, the architect of the Argentinian Congress building. In 1904 Meano, had passed away and Belgian architect, Jules Dormal finished the construction in 1908.

The total area of the theater is 624,000 square feet. It has 7stories and covers an entire block. The main hall of the theater is designed as an elongated horseshoe-shape. The hall seats a total of 2,478 people with a standing room that can fit an additional 500 people. The main hall in the orchestra pit can hold 120 musicians.

The Teatro Colón's is a beautiful interpretation of classical architecture with an eclectic style. The basic aesthetic of the Teatro Colón is Italian Renaissance influenced by Neoclassical. You can tell it is this style, because of the triangular pediments, geometric proportions, and many columns. In addition to, the architects also wanted to incorporate French motifs in the theater like the mosaic tiles you see on the floor.
The foyer of the theater is extremely impressive with its luxurious high quality materials. The design elements included are marble, dramatic statues, and stained glass. The columns are constructed out of red hued Verona marble, Portuguese marble is used for the two lions that guard the central staircase, yellow marble from Siena, and white marble from Carrara can also be found throughout the foyer. The beautiful chandelier in the center of the auditorium has 700 light bulbs. This elegant chandelier casts light upon the golds and reds of the upholstery, carpets, curtains, and trim.

Architecture in San Telmo
San Telmo is a historic neighborhood known for its cobblestone streets, corner cafes, and casas chorizo. Casa Chorizos are traditional Buenos Aires homes first built in the 1800s.  They are long narrow houses consisting of a central courtyard with all the rooms surrounding the patio. The rooms in a straight formation against the property line give it a sausage like (chorizo) appearance. 
Cobblestone street with Casa Chorizo houses

What makes a Casa Chorizo house so special?
The layout of a chorizo house has a suspended ceiling that forms an air pocket creating a good insulation for the rooms. It provides residents with a great deal of light and ventilation to each room.  Jorge’s childhood home in Buenos Aires was built in the Casa Chorizo style.

Jorge's childhood Casa Chorizo home that was  built in the 1800s
He has many fond memories of the comfortable living space his house provided to him and his family. It had amazing cross-ventilation even without any air conditioning or ceiling fans. This was due to the building’s layout; each of the rooms had thick walls creating exceptional insulation. The transom windows above the doors and windows pushed warm air across and out of the building.  The veranda provided a buffer from the high summer sun, but allowed the low winter sun to project light into the bedrooms. The grape vines growing above provided perfect shading for the space below. Jorge is a passionate believer in architects designing buildings with comfort and resource-efficiency in mind.

Another great example of a Casa Chorizo house is the famous singer Carlos Gardel’s home. He purchased it in 1927 and in 2003; it was converted to a museum holding memorabilia of his life.  Today, visitors can take free tango classes and watch screenings of the tango legend.
Famous singer, Carlos Gardel's home in Buenos Aires

Carlos Gardel's chorizo style home turned into a museum

Interior view of the chorizo style layout

Argentines take extreme pride in their country and their beautiful culture. Buenos Aires is a must see destination for architecture lovers. It is a city that once you visit you will never want to leave. So what are you waiting for?


  • Zeveloff, Julie. “21 Reasons You Should Visit Buenos Aires”. “Business Insider. Business Insider, 12 Aug,2014.  Web. 11 June 2017.
  • Touropia.” 10 Top Tourist Attractions in Bueno Aires.” Touropia, 03 Nov.2016. Web, 11 June 2017.
  • GypsyNesters.”7 Things Not to Miss in Buenos Aires”. HuffingtonPost. HuffingtonPost, 25 Dec. 2013. Web, 11 June 2017.
  • Expedia “Buenos Aires Vacation Travel Guide. Web. 11 June 2017
  • International Studies Abroad.“What is Buenos Aires Like?” City Overview. Cultural Highlights. Points of Interest. ISA. Web, 11 June 2017.
  • Baker, Vicky. “The Local Beat In Buenos Aires”. Intelligent Travel. National Geographic. 6, July, 2015. Web. 11 June 2017.
  • National Geographic. “Buenos Aires, Argentina” Web. 11 June 2017
  • World Monuments Fund. “Teatro Colon” Web.
  • La Dacto Tours “Teatro Colon Buenos Aires”
  • Teatro Colon Organization
  • Lucking,Skye “Teatro Colon-Buenos Aires Opera House” Tripsavvy. Web 26 May. 2016
  • Say Hueque.”La Casa Choriza:Carlos Gardel’s Sausage House” Travel and Argentina Blog.18. April. 2015
  • Zorrilla, Hector, “The Chorizo House in the Rio de la Plata” Architecture of Houses 22.July, 2011
  • Posada Palermo Buenos Aires “The Casa Chorizo”
  • Interknowledge Corporation.“Buenos Aires Introduction” Web. 11 June 2017.


Monday, June 5, 2017

The Past and Present of Jersey City

In 2016, CurbedNY named Jersey City as “Neighborhood of the Year”. No one would have seen this coming if they knew the history of this town from a few decades ago. In the past, Jersey City was a town that was definitely not sought after. In the past, the vibrant downtown area that residents enjoy today was relatively non-existent back then. It’s quite fascinating to read about the changes this city has undergone. For instance, the beautiful row houses you see in the image below are well worth over a million dollars today. In the 70s, these same houses were available for less than $100,000; the difference in price is incredible! 
Row houses in Jersey City 

History of Jersey City
Jersey City was one of the original settlements of New Amsterdam, which was later renamed New York, with a land grant awarded in 1630. Jersey City emerged as our country’s industrial power starting in the 1800's and played a tactical role in the American Revolution and Civil War. It became a major hub for commerce in 1824, with the opening of the 107-mile long Morris Canal. It was the initial destination for many immigrants entering the U.S through nearby Ellis Island, which operated from 1892 to 1954. The steamships transported more than 12 million immigrant passengers in search of a land with new opportunities. Some of these newcomers settled in Jersey City, a location full of brownstones and ornate townhouses built on streetscapes that were once farmland in the 1600’s.
Aerial View of Jersey City in the past
Morris Canal
Jersey City Turnpike in the 60s
Jersey City was known for being a manufacturing hub for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. Around the 1970s and1980s, the city experienced some economic cultural hardships. Jersey City had vacant lots, abandoned tenements, and a neglected waterfront. By 1980, Jersey City only had a population of 223,532. Thankfully, in the mid to late 1990s, Jersey City began to undergo a development boom. The old piers, railroad yards, and tracks along the Hudson River waterfront gained new additions of modern residential units and office buildings. This led to more people moving back to the city with the potential for new jobs and a better state of living. A city that was once bland was now getting a new breath of life.

Jersey City Today
Jersey City is an ideal location for living because it is close in proximity to New York City. It has many different transportation options available like the 24-hour PATH train, major highways such as the NJ Turnpike, and the NY/NJ Waterway. The commute from downtown Jersey City to Midtown is approximately 20 minutes. This city is an amazing place full of diversity, beautiful architecture, and a growing population. 
Jersey City Skyline Today

By 2018, Jersey City will have over 266,000 people living there, and it will continue to increase by 2035, where the population will approximately reach 334,768 residents. Jersey City is full of landmark attractions like the Liberty Science Center, Liberty State Park, Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Powerhouse, and the Colgate Clock Tower. Residents also love spending time with their families and friends visiting green spaces like Van Vorst Park, and the bustling downtown Jersey scene full of coffee shops, restaurants, arts centers and more.
Jersey City is a town that is currently booming. According to Mayor Steven Fulop, there are 10,000 new residential units under construction and another 17,000 approved. Fulop, has encouraged large-scale development while simultaneously championing small businesses. More than 650 new small businesses have opened within the past three years, many of them bars and restaurants. Jersey City is a location where developers and architects are making buildings to suit newcomers’ demanding tastes. JMA has done many projects in this area like our buildings 93 Bright,54 Bright, 349 4th street, 526 Manila, and 7th street townhouse.

54 Bright designed by JMA
349 4th street developed by JMA
93 Bright developed by JMA

526 Manila Townhouse 
526 Manila interior renovation
7th street townhouse designed by JMA

7th street townhouse 

7th street townhouse

Jersey City is also great because of its diversity that hosts an array of ethnicities and cultures. It is a family oriented city with amazing historical architecture, charm, great schools and transportation access that makes getting around convenient. JMA appreciates the historic sensibility of the townhouses in Jersey City and respects the neighborhood’s historic charm. However, we have the skill to create modern buildings that blend in respectfully with its counterparts and in turn increase the value of the neighborhood.
Our designs are timeless and preserve the beauty of historic neighborhoods yet still let them shine in the 21st century. Jersey City is a city that pulled itself up by its bootstraps and has turned into a location that many people are excited to be a part of. In today’s age, it is important to respect the memory of a city’s past while embracing the present. JMA will continue to create buildings in cities that will help create a vibrant future.

Cruz, David. “In Jersey City, Gentrification Accelerates, Changing Neighborhoods and Lives”. NJTV News, 17 March. 2016
Kaysen, Ronda. "Moving to Jersey City? Join the Club." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 June 2017.
McDonald T. Terrence. “Jersey City development boom reaching new heights.”  The Jersey Journal NJ.COM.  New Jersey On-Line LLC.  Web 13 April 2015.
Rosenberg, Zoe. “The 2016 Curbed Cup winner is…Jersey City!”. CurbedNY, 3 Jan. 2017.
City of Jersey City. “About Jersey City.” Web
VisitNJ. “Jersey City.” Web
The State of New Jersey. “A Short History of New Jersey.”
Black and white photos Source: U.S Forums. New Jersey “Jersey City before skyscrapers”. Web.
JC Landmarks Conservancy. “Legacy of Historic Preservation” Web. 04 June 2017.