Four Freedoms Park

A sunny and (relatively) warm President’s Day saw a few Masters of Architecture students out on Roosevelt Island, enjoying some time out of the studio and taking in the work of the late master architect, Louis Kahn. Kahn’s FDR Four Freedoms Park, located on the southern tip of the island, was not finished during his lifetime. In a respectful turn of events that every architect can only hope for, the design Kahn completed in 1973 was constructed posthumously, opening for the first time in 2012. The park has a magnificent view of the city – Brooklyn to the east, the Williamsburg Bridge to the south, the United Nations on the immediate west bank and a detailed Manhattan skyline behind it. With the Cornell Tech Campus that will soon grow up behind it, Four Freedoms Park maintains an important historic legacy in a place that will soon become a hub for the future.


photo by Luke Erickson


The Professional Practice and New York City Seminars

The New York City program is unique from the Ithaca experience in many ways. Fine Arts majors sign up for some familiar classes such as Art History and a studio course, but also take a couple that may seem quite mysterious and different from those back in Ithaca. The Professional Practice and New York City Contemporary Seminars may, at first glance, seem like fairly standard critical theory or visual studies courses, but actually are incredibly helpful sneak peeks into the often frustratingly inaccessible professional art world. Professional Practice, taught by historian Jane Farver, is geared toward professional skill building, career opportunities, and a behind-the-scenes look at museums and galleries. The NYC Seminar, taught by artist Jane Benson, is a compliment to this—focusing instead on an artist’s perspective and featuring studio visits, artist’s talks, and the cultivation of a unique and introspective standpoint on what being an artist means today. So what does a “normal” Thursday look like for the B.F.A. students studying in New York City? Here’s a brief look at last Thursday (2/6):

10:30am- The Professional Practice class gathers at the Bronx Museum and meets Lia Zaalof, a Bronx Museum curator who speaks about the Artists in the Marketplace program that has transformed the careers and practices of a multitude of successful artists since 1981.

11:15am- We are introduced to Holly Block, the Executive Director of the museum and the co-commissioner of the United States pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. The class had the chance to discuss everything from how to ensure community engagement in an art museum to the challenges of representing the United States in one of the most renowned art festivals in the world.

12:30pm- An exhibit of Tony Feher’s work is on view in one of the galleries downstairs. Curator Lia Zaalof treats us to a special tour of this curiously beautiful exhibition.

2:00pm- After a quick lunch on the subway over, we meet professor Jane Benson at Greene Naftali Gallery in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan for our second class of the day—NYC Seminar. Our readings this week related to the changing place of painting in a post-genre, anti-hierarchical art world. On view were paintings by renowned Scottish artist, Michael Fullerton.

3:00pm- Next, we went across the street to another famous Chelsea institution, James Cohan Gallery, to see and discuss Ingrid Calame’s latest large scale wall drawings.

3:30pm- Finally, we head to famed sculptor, painter, and videographer, Robert Melee’s studio to meet him and learn about both his recent work and the path he took to get where he is today. This inside look at his journey from art school to exhibiting in galleries and museums internationally while receiving critical acclaim from such publications as the New York Times and ARTFORUM, was truly inspirational and a rare opportunity.

5:00pm- Classes are over and we all scatter to head back to AAP NYC, apartments, dorms, or art supply stores to begin work for Friday’s morning studio.



Jane Farver introduces curator Lia Zaalof at the Bronx Museum
Jane Farver introduces curator Lia Zaalof at the Bronx Museum. Photo: Danni Shen
Jane Benson guides students through Michael Fullteron's show at Greene Naftali gallery.
Jane Benson guides students through Michael Fullteron’s show at Greene Naftali gallery. Photo: Danni Shen
Students observe Tony Feher's work at the Bronx Museum
Students observe Tony Feher’s work at the Bronx Museum. Photo: Danni Shen

AAP NYC B.F.A. Internships

BFA students in their Professional Practice class with professor Jane FarverArt Professional Practice Professor Jane Farver (center) introducing BFA students to artist and author Jackie Battenfield (center left). Photo by the author.

All of the Fine Arts undergrads are required to participate in an internship in addition to their regular coursework while studying in New York City. This unique addition to the NYC semester curriculum makes use of some of the plentiful opportunities for professional development that the city has to offer; such opportunities would be much more of a challenge for students to find in Ithaca. I sat down with the B.F.A.’s to find out a little more about where they’re interning and what it’s like:


1) Aisha Abbassi, B.F.A., ’16

  • What is your internship?

I am working for Arcade Creative Group, which is the creative group of Sony Music and Columbia records.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

I thought it would be interesting to see how what I’ve studied in art would apply to a big corporate company rather than a smaller fine art focused group such as a gallery or museum.

  •  What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

Usually I go in and if I don’t have a project I’m working on from the previous day, I ask people if they need help. It could be cutting up paper or helping design album covers and redesigning logos. The best part is being the entire creative group’s intern; I can work in a variety of fields—graphic design, video production—there are many things to explore. The worst part is that the amount of work I have is inconsistent—sometimes I have nothing to do, other times I’m overwhelmed.


2) Liseidy Bueno, B.F.A., ’15

  • What is your internship?

I’m a graphic design intern for nAscent Art.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

I knew I wanted to do some kind of design internship, so I looked for things in the city that would give me good work experience for my portfolio. I looked for smaller companies and firms.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

This is what I want to do as a career. This could lead to another internship in the summer and hopefully a job when I graduate.


3) Sara Cheong, BFA, ’16

  • What is your internship?

Design/Marketing at Pilobolus Dance Company.

  • What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

Sitting down and working. A lot of computer work. The best part was going to Connecticut yesterday to meet their home office. The office here in New York is very small.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

I’m designing a lot of posters and merchandise but I guess I’m not learning anything from a supervisor… However, I am learning how to manage social media and marketing techniques.


4) Jae Hee Cho, BFA, ’15

  • What is your internship?

My internship hasn’t started yet, but is starting next week. I will be the personal assistant of the Artbook Director, Skuta Helgason at MOMA PS1.


5) Minhye Choi, BFA, ’16

  • What is your internship?

Sony Music Entertainment, Recordings, Digital Marketing.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this internship?

I wanted to apply the skills I’ve learned in fine arts to another field. I’m a business minor so I wanted to incorporate these two areas of study. My internship includes working with social network and making instant videos for Singer of the Month, for example.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

Definitely a career in the future. This is a field I can go to with my fine arts background.


6) Jessica Chu, B.F.A., ’16

  • What is your internship?

International Studio and Curatorial Program.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

I chose it because I like that it’s an international community of artists. It’s great to interact with artists from different places who are all very experimental and emerging too.

  • What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

I sit at a desk and do database work and go through applications to the residency program. I also sit in on staff meetings. The best part is getting to talk to the artists. The worst part is it’s cold!


7) Esther Jun, B.F.A., ’15

  • What is your internship?

I’m working at Abrams Books.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

I was interested in learning about the workings of a publishing company. This specific one concentrates on books about art, artists, and architects so it fits my interests more than general publishing houses.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

It will help me see if I want to pursue a career in the publishing world. Also it’s a good resource for me as I am constantly surrounded by books about artists and illustrations.


8) Lauren Jung, B.F.A., ’16

  • What is your internship?

Sony Music, Creative Department.

  • Was it what you expected?

It’s different from studio practice, which is interesting. In studio I generally work alone, but now I’m working with a lot of people. This is helping me as an artist but also as a working person in general. It’s great to work in a community and build connections.

  •  What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

I arrive and get to work right away, either from the day before or a new task sent to me through IM. My projects usually involve using Photoshop and designing CD covers. The worst parts are the periods of time when I don’t have anything to do and am just waiting. The best part is getting to work with Aisha collaboratively on a project.


9) Valerie Kwee, B.F.A., ’16

  • What is your internship?

I am a design intern for the design agency, Kate Moodie Creative.

  • What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

I’ve done a lot of things—trend boards, calling people, admin work, going to fairs…The highlight will be going to fashion week this year! The worst part was that I was taking the wrong train for a while and it took an extremely long time to get there!

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

I was really interested in magazines and design and I thought it would be really cool to learn and see what it was all about.


10) Naima Reddick, B.F.A./B.A. Biology, ’17

  • What is your internship?

Gallery Nine5.

  • Was it what you expected?

For the most part yes. It’s interesting seeing the behind the scenes work of a gallery. I didn’t realize galleries go and actually scout artists—even B.F.A. students for shows.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

It helps me understand how galleries try to find artists, what they look for in artists, and how they build an image. It’s a good thing to know if I become an artist or if I work in a gallery.


11) Danni Shen, B.F.A./B.A. Art History ’15

  • What is your internship?

ArtNews editorial intern.

  • What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

We meet with our supervisor who’s the Executive Editor, Robin Cembalest. Then we preview and read over articles. Yesterday I worked with Barbara Pollack who is the China correspondent. We also do a lot of blog work and maintaining the ArtNews website—that’s the tedious part. The best part is when we get to go to openings with Robin. Yesterday I went to a VIP reception of a Xu Bing show. I got to meet him! It was really exciting—the best part so far.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

It really affects how I see the art world and how art world media plays a really big part in the recognition of artists and news throughout New York and internationally.


12)  Melody Stein, B.F.A., ’16

  • What is your internship?

Storefront for Art and Architecture production and curatorial intern.

  • What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

Generally, working with other interns preparing for a show or taking a show down. Storefront is both a gallery and a foundation so I’ll be sorting emails and working on administrative stuff in the morning and then working with exhibiting artists to install a show in the afternoon. The best parts are getting to meet people and see shows come together. The worst part is probably how cold it gets. The gallery is not very insulated and recently it’s been extremely cold.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

I get to meet some really remarkable artists and architects so the connections are very good. The process of researching some of they’re work and just talking to my boss is also very beneficial to my current practice as well.


13)  Emily Teall, B.F.A., ’16

  • What is your internship?

I am interning with an artist, Angiola Churchill. This means I get to help her put together pieces, but I also get to go to galleries, sort massive amounts of old work, and meet other artists. I’m excited for it!

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

I did not want to be in an office all day, and I hoped to have some insightful conversations with artists about their practice. Because I’m with an artist, I can see the process by which artists create exhibitions and document work. I thought I would gain more from this than from interning with a museum or gallery.

  • What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

Sorting through images of work, repairing broken work—Angiola works with thin paper—documenting work, running errands, meeting artists, visiting galleries…all’s been good!


14) Jin Young Yoo, B.F.A. ‘16

  • What is your internship?

I work at Dieu Donné Inc. Papermill.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

The print studios back at Cornell recently adapted paper making into the curriculum and as a print studio monitor I thought it would be beneficial to work in an artisanal papermill and experience the range of possibilities possible with paperwork. Also, my boss, Lauren Valchuis, studied briefly at Dieu Donné.

  •  What does a normal day entail? What are the best and worst parts?

I get there in the morning and my boss gives us a summary of what we have to do for the day. Do ho Suh is a current artist the studio is working with. Currently, we are experimenting with different kinds of Asian fibers to caste Korean post World War II school uniforms. The best part is meeting new artists. We have four artists in residence, four guest artists, and we also have open studio for artists who rent space.


15) Katrina Yu, B.F.A., ’15

  • What is your internship?

Advertising and graphic design for Loyal Friend.

  • Why did you choose to pursue this specific internship?

It is about graphic design. I applied to a lot of fashion and design internships.

  • How do you see this experience either benefiting your current practice or leading to a career in the future?

Basically, professional skills. Photoshop, illustrator, etc.

Attending “A Conversation on the MoMA’s Plan for Expansion”

There is no better way to begin a semester of architectural study in New York City that to address head-on the most emotionally and politically charged decision presented, in recent days, to the architectural community: the scheduled demolition of the American Folk Art Museum by The Museum of Modern Art. “A Conversation on The Museum of Modern Art’s Plan for Expansion” was held at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on January 28, hosted by The Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and the American Institute of Architects NY Chapter. And I was fortunate to be in attendance.

DSC_0065(American Folk Art Museum.  Photo by Luke Erickson)

Touted as a “public” event (for members of the hosting organizations only), it was a somewhat social gathering of the architecture and art communities. And yet a cloud of despair, apprehension, and in some cases, outrage, hung over the group. From the woman whose shirt shouted “NO!” in neatly applied tape lettering to the whispered conversations with tilted heads and emphatic glances, each attendee seemed to understand the significance of this architectural “State of the Union.”

The presentations opened with an overview of the MoMA’s reasons for expansion that was given by Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art. Following that introduction, Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio+Renfro detailed the process and rationale for decisions made by she and her design team and the conclusions they had come to with respect to the fate of the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams & Billie Tsien (notably not in attendance). A panel of gathered experts took the stage to discuss the responsibilities of MoMA to public interests, and its obligations to preserve and protect architecture. Of the entire group that spoke at the event, these individuals gave the most pointed, blunt, and occasionally emotionally-charged remarks. Everyone had an opinion. Even those whose voices were limited to the question cards passed out prior to the event ensured that their voices were heard with the various factions applauding at opportune moments.

In the end, the final question posed to the panel was perhaps what the entire event should have begun with: Does MoMA consider architecture to be an art? And if so, does it not have a responsibility to safeguard and preserve architecture?

Glenn Lowry responded to the question, stating that the MoMA does not recognize architecture as an art that is to be collected. In his own opinion, he said, architecture is intimately tied to a building’s function, and when that function is no longer supported, the responsibility to preserve it as an object is unreasonable.

On most accounts, I agree with Mr. Lowry’s assessment of architecture. And yet, I can understand the discomfort and unhappiness with the MoMA’s decision. Although the American Folk Art Museum and the MoMA are private entities and can utilize their buildings however they choose, a city feels a familial connection to its museums and cultural institutions. Intentional demolition of such a building is painful and presents all of the largely theoretical but very real questions about architecture. We, as architects, treat buildings as permanent entities. We feel a sense of ownership over our designs. But in reality, we hold no ownership over the physical building that results from our design. Should we collect architecture as we do art? Or better yet, can we call architecture art? We have already begun this collection of architecture through historical preservation and landmarked sites. But what constitutes “historical?” And who is given the final word in determining the cultural and historical value of a building? What is an architecture firm’s responsibility to its client when it disagrees with a planned demolition? And what of its responsibility to architecture? Should Diller Scofidio + Renfro have refused the commission to protest the demolition of the building? Would other firms have taken a similar stand?

As someone still sheltered by the walls of academia, these questions have begun to emerge as I study architectural precedents and visit landmarked buildings. Although I have little ability to engage in the conversations that were held last evening, you can be sure I will be spending time in front of the American Folk Art Museum, pondering these questions and formulating my own opinions and practical beliefs of the profession of Architecture.

A First of its Kind Colloquium Class

(Center to right) Jia Li, Hobum Moon, and Denai Zaire at a weekly professional practice colloquium. Photo: Vicki Long

This semester I participated in a first of its kind course at NYC AAP. The class connected current Masters of Regional Planning (MRP) students directly with alums. The course was titled “Professional Practice Colloquium” and was facilitated by Bob Balder. The course consisted of presentations from NYC based AAP graduates of the Masters of Regional Planning program and the undergraduate Urban and Regional Studies program.

Guests came to AAP NYC’s 17th Street studio on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Often, visits involved slides combined with casual question and answer sessions. In addition to learning about the myriad of directions the degree can lead, the conversations invariably returned to shared experiences from the halls of West Sibley in Ithaca. In several instances, current MRPs are taking courses with the same professors who inspired the visiting practitioners’ careers.

Here are a few alums we met over the past month:

James Eisenberg (URS ’98 and Baker Real Estate ’02)-

James Eisenberg visits the AAP NYC studio to visit with MRP students. Photo: Vicki Long

With an undergraduate degree in city planning, James took that degree and applied it to the real estate development industry. He currently heads project development for the real estate investment trust (REIT) Urban American. The company was started in 1997 by James’ father, Philip Eisenberg. The company operates with the purpose of acquiring, upgrading, and managing middle income housing in the NYC area. Operating for the past 15 years, the firm now manages up to 14,000 units at any given moment.

During James’ visit we learned about his career background, the operations of Urban American, and the linkages between a planning degree and the real estate world. James sees a strong connection between success in real estate and understanding the rhythm of the broader city. Interpreting neighborhood trends and ensuring communication between residents and property managers are skills he believes he honed while studying planning at Cornell.

An example of how James facilitates better communicate between residents and property management is through design. In his role as head of development and construction he leads a push to relocate management offices to the street front upon Urban American’s purchase of buildings. By inviting communication with residents, he finds that this increases the sense of community, and helps to quickly reveal impending problems.


The Roosevelt Island tram midway between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island.  Photo: Max Taffet

With all of the Cornell focus aimed at Roosevelt Island, it is serendipitous that James’ family-operated REIT also owns the largest complex of residential apartments buildings on Roosevelt Island. The complex called Roosevelt Landings, formerly Eastwood, was designed in the 1970s by José Luis Sert.

Of the many holdings in Urban American’s portfolio, Roosevelt Landing is a particular passion for James. This is due in part to the coming development of the Cornell Tech campus, but also to the building complex’s novel vacuum garbage collection system. Like the vacuum tubes at the bank, which move money and cheques from the car drive-through to bank tellers, the garbage vacuum allows for garbage to be sucked to the far end of the island away from the development. This means that many fewer garbage trucks rumble up and down the single Main Street road that connects the north and south ends of the island.

Beyond garbage, what also excites James about the coming Cornell development is its potential to improve the quality of life on the island. For many years, Roosevelt Island’s residents have existed in something of a food desert. With a population of roughly 14,000 people there were very limited amenities. James explained that part of the reason for the limited amenities is the island’s unusual land lease structure.

Roosevelt Island is owned by New York City, but most all of the land outside of the future Cornell footprint and a hospital on the north end of the island is under a 99 year land lease to the State of New York. The State of New York’s Empire Development Corporation subleases land to private developers like Urban American and Related Companies. However, until recently, the State of New York retained control of leasing all ground floor retail. Over the years, the challenges of the physical form of the ground floor spaces combined with lack of leasing expertise resulted in many vacant storefronts. The arrival of Cornell combined with the State relinquishing control of retail leasing space represent a significant change.


Talking with masters of regional planning students, directly under the flat screen, Julio Peterson ’86. To Julio’s left Bob Balder, Jonathan Tsai, Danai Zaire, and asking question in foreground is Dan Moran.  Photo: Vicki Long

Julio Peterson (URS ’86)- Passing most of his days in Manhattan’s Theater District, Julio’s profession represents an interesting twist on the typical planning career. For the past 13 years he has worked for the largest owner of stage theaters in NYC, the Shubert Organization. His current title is VP of Real Estate and he is also a board member of the Municipal Art Society (a very cool organization I wrote about here).

After graduating from Cornell’s Urban and Regional Studies as an undergraduate, Julio returned to his native New York City where he worked for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). During his tenure at NYCEDC he focused on work in Harlem where he served as project manager for several large scale projects, among them The Malcolm X Memorial at the Audubon Ballroom and the Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center in East Harlem.

Following four years at NYCEDC Julio went onto spend three years as director of the Neighborhood Builders Program, a nonprofit that facilitated minority women and men being involved in the real estate development of distressed neighborhoods. As director, Julio facilitated the investment of $300 million into multi-family homes throughout NYC.

At this point in Julio’s career, he made the decision to return to school for a masters in real estate development from Harvard. Upon graduating he worked a short while for KPMG before moving to his current employer, The Shubert Organization. Julio’s timeline with Shubert aligned perfectly with the rezoning of New York City’s theater district.

First established in 1998, the Theater Subdistrict was created by the New York City Planning Commission in order to protect the “concentration of over 40 Broadway theaters [which] make the Theater District one of the most well-known areas in the world.” A central part of the Theater District’s designation as a subdistrict was the creation and regulation of an air-rights market place. This area covers the blocks between Sixth to Eighth Avenues and 40th to 57th Avenue.

As theaters in this part of midtown Manhattan are not “the highest and best use”, City Planning created an air rights transfer market to encourage the maintenance and reinvestment by property owners into existing theaters. By generating money from the air-rights market, property owners can sell off unbuilt floor area and thereby leave theaters standing. In effect theater properties are able to capitalize on their location through selling unused vertical space. Working for Shubert,  Julio has become an expert in the deal making around transfer development rights (TDRs).

Current member of the Cornell AAP’s Dean’s Advisory Council, Kate Bicknell ’99, presents on her work with Forest City Ratner in developinging the Barclay’s Center.  Photo: Vicki Long

Kate Bicknell (URS ’99)-

Combining an undergraduate degree in planning with a Masters in Business Administration, Kate is in the midst of a fascinating career. Immediately after Cornell she went to work as a legislative aide for Senator Patrick Moynihan. Representing the people of New York State and with a background in Sociology, Senator Moynihan was known for his passion for cities and the built environment. Kate’s planning background from the URS program situated her perfectly to work on Moynihan’s staff.

After Moynihan left the US Senate in 2001, Kate stayed in Washington D.C. working as Federal Policy Director for Smart Growth America. Following four years of government and nonprofit work Kate then transitioned to the pursuit of an MBA at Wharton. While in Philadelphia, Kate had the good fortune of meeting Eileen Weingarten, a Cornell B.Arch alum. In her capacity as a Vice President at Forest City Ratner Companies, Weigarten was giving a guest lecture at Wharton. From this fortuitous connection and a follow-up coffee, on graduating from Wharton in 2005 Kate joined the Commercial & Residential Development division of Forest City.

Since joining Forest City Ratner, Kate has combined her public and private sector knowledge to help in the construction of several high profile developments. One such development is Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.  In building the Barclay’s Center atop the Atlantic Yards, Kate was central in the negotiations between the City, State of New York and the MTA in expanding the existing subway station beneath the stadium. Barclays Center is the first major new sports and entertainment complex in New York City since 1968. In total the subways system addition cost Forest City more than $70 million.

Barclays Center
South East corner of the Barclays Center. The foundation underway for NYC’s largest ever modular apartment tower. Photo: Max Taffet


While visiting with the MRP students, Kate also shared a great deal about the new construction techniques being used by Forest City Ratner in building the rest of the buildings in the Atlantic Yards complex. One example is in the foreground of the above image which is the base of New York City’s first high rise apartment building to be built wholly out of prefabricated units. In collaboration with Skanska construction, Forest City Ratner established a new business that builds complete apartment units modularly offsite.

Using dockside warehouse facilities in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a new construction entity called FC + Skanska Modular is building complete modular apartments. The idea is that most of the construction may occur in a controlled warehouse environment, essentially creating the Lego blocks that are apartments that will be fit together on site at Atlantic Yards. Once each apartment is constructed and then transported from the Navy Yards to the Barclay’s site, the only thing to do is attach the units. Everything from wiring to the installation of toilet paper dispensers occurs while the modular units are in the warehouse at the Navy Yards. 

As all things Cornell lead to Roosevelt Island these days, it is another coincidence that Kate’s new major duty as a VP at Forest City Ratner is managing the development of Cornell’s first building on the new Cornell Tech campus. In June of 2013, Cornell selected Forest City Ratner as the “master developer” for the new campus. As the campus takes shape it will be great to know an AAP alum is in the middle of it all.