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Welcome to Urban By Design Online! This blog is a notebook of my travels as a city planner, historic preservationist and nonprofit advocate. It's a virtual collection of the many things that I adore, featuring cities, the arts, architecture, gardens, interior design, and retail. Enjoy! - Deena
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Sunday
Oct212018

Madam C.J. Walker's Villa Lewaro


UPDATE: October 2018

In June, Villa Lewaro turned 100. Harold and Helena Doley, who owned the home for 25 years, lovingly restored it to its original glory. They worked with the National Trust for Historic Preservation to secure an easement for the property. This easement provides protection status that restricts current and future owners from making changes to the property that will destroy the historic, cultural or architectural features of Villa Lewaro. The Doley family recently sold the estate to a new undisclosed owner. The National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the site as a "National Treasure" in 2014. 

My original story

While Madam C.J. Walker’s Harlem home may have been demolished in 1942, a sizeable architectural remnant of her legacy still exists in Irvington, New York.  Madam Walker’s opulent former estate, Villa Lewaro, a 1976 National Historic Landmark is currently on the market for $6.8 million. 

In 1916, Madam Walker decided to build a $250,000, 34-room Italianate Villa mansion that would eventually become her dream home. The 20,000 square foot house with eight bedrooms, and six-bathrooms was designed by Vertner Woodson Tandy (1885-1949), the architect commissioned for her Harlem mansion. A 4,000 square foot carriage house was also built.

Fortunately, I did have an opportunity to visit the mansion for a charity event many years ago.  The palatial home remains quite the showstopper, as it was intentionally sited on Broadway, a well-traveled route between New York City and Albany where it would be very visible to all who passed.  When constructed, it had expansive views of the Hudson River.

Opera singer and Walker family friend, Enrico Caruso, named the home Villa Lewaro. Caruso had remarked that the home reminded him of the homes found in his native Italy. Lewaro is an anagram using the first two letters from Madam Walker’s daughter’s full name, Lelia Walker Robinson.

 

In 1917, there was so much buzz about Villa Lewaro, that The New York Times Magazine chronicled the mansion’s construction in an in-depth article. It astounded, and even puzzled the wealthy village’s residents that Madam Walker could possibly afford to build a house in proximity to the historic Hudson Valley estates of Jay Gould (1838, Tarrytown), and John D. Rockefeller’s Kykuit (1913, Pocantico Hills). 

The New York Times Magazine described Madam Walker's exceptional style and taste, which celebrated her entrepreneurial success:

“Plans for furnishing the house call for a degree of elegance and extravagance that a princess might envy. There are to be bronze and marble statuary, sparkling cut glass candelabra, paintings, and rich tapestries, and countless other things which will make the place a wonder house.

On the first floor are the living room 21 by 32 feet, furnished in the Italian style, a Louis XV drawing room 18 by 45 feet, and a dining room with a hand painted ceiling. Adjoining the two drawing rooms is a chamber for an $8,000 organ, which may be played automatically or by hand. Madam Walker likes music. When the organ is played, sounding pipes will carry the strains to different rooms in the house.” (The New York Times, November 04, 1917)

 

Outdoor spaces: The Italian Gardens

A concrete terrace, with a concrete balustrade, extends across the rear of the house. Stairs from either end extend down to a second terrace with a fountain recessed in an arched niche. A sunken garden and reflecting pool below may be reached by stairs from the second terrace. At the west end of the garden is a Pergola supported by concrete ionic columns. The rear walls of the basement are above grade and open out in an enclosed areaway below the terrace. [National Register of Historic Places Nomination]

Villa Lewaro as a symbol of success

While Villa Lewaro would become Vertner Tandy’s most famous residential architectural commission, the building’s significance went beyond its design. Villa Lewaro also served as Madam Walker’s living testimony to the very possibilities of success against all odds.  In the Walker Manufacturing Company’s advertisements, the home was featured prominently as part of her biography that showed a photograph of a cabin that she lived in as a child, to the palatial mansion that she built, as a result of the merits of her hard work and perseverance. 

General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Sadly, Madam Walker only lived in Villa Lewaro a short time, as she died in 1919. Her daughter A’Lelia Walker inherited the home.  A’Lelia used the house as a country retreat, and it proved to be an inviting setting to stage her elegant parties.  According to Steven Watson in the book Harlem Renaissance, A’Lelia “invited guests for long weekends of ostentatious luxury. They were met by black servants in white wig, doublet, and hose and encouraged to rest on Hepplewhite furniture while enjoying her Estey pipe organ or her 24-carat gold-plated piano (P.142).

In November 1930, A’Lelia Walker had Villa Lewaro’s contents auctioned, due to economic difficulties faced by the company at the height of the Depression.  The New York Times wrote numerous articles about the sale, which included a treasure trove of the finest in the decorative arts including furniture, Oriental rugs, Aubusson Tapestries and Suites, and lamps made of jade and quartz. 

When A’Lelia Walker died in 1931, Villa Lewaro was bequeathed to the NAACP. The organization decided to auction off the home, due to its inability to maintain the house during the Depression. It later became the Annie Poth Home for the Aged, and in the 1990’s reverted to private ownership. Villa Lewaro is a National Historic Landmark, but its grounds are locally protected because of its historic ginkgo and beechnut trees. 

 

[Photographs: Sotheby's]

Sunday
Oct212018

Madam C.J. Walker and A'Lelia Walker in Harlem


Madam C.J. Walker and A'Lelia Walker [A'Lelia Bundles/Walker Family Archive/Washington, DC]Nearly 100 years after her death, Madam C.J. Walker remains an iconic figure in American history. Born Sarah Breedlove in rural Delta, Louisiana, the daughter of emancipated slaves is often credited as the first self-made African American millionaire.  Her vast fortune was the result of her success in the beauty industry, with a product line that primarily catered to Black women.

Although she had a rural upbringing, Madam Walker’s legacy is most closely associated with great American cities, including Denver, St. Louis, and later Indianapolis. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Madam Walker spent her early adult life in domestic service, most notably as a laundress. In the early 1900’s, after much experimentation, she discovered an effective hair care formula that she later manufactured.  Her products were such a huge success, that she was able to open beauty salons across the country.  The Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company trained nearly 20,000 hairdressers, and saleswomen to market beauty products internationally.

Madam Walker’s only daughter, Lelia Walker (later known as A’Lelia Walker) encouraged her mother to relocate her company’s headquarters to New York. Lelia arrived in Harlem in 1913, when her mother purchased a row house at 108 West 136th Street, just as New York City’s burgeoning black population was expanding into Harlem, and solidifying its status as the “capital of Black America.”  By 1915, Madam Walker bought a second row house at 110 West 136th Street, and moved to the city in 1916.

Madam C.J. Walker's townhouse 108-110 West 136th Street, 1915. Madam Walker's car and driver. [Byron Company from the collections of the Museum of the City of New York]

Madam Walker commissioned Vertner Woodson Tandy (1885-1949), the first registered African American architect in the state of New York to work on creating a palatial residence and beauty salon.  He was a graduate of Tuskegee University, and Cornell University’s architecture program. Mr. Tandy also made history as the first Black architect to establish his own practice in New York City at 1931 Broadway. 

Mr. Tandy’s most famous work at the time was the neo-Gothic St. Philip's Episcopal Church (208 West 134th Street), which has salmon-colored Roman brick and terra cotta.  The church was home to New York City’s oldest African American Episcopal congregation (established 1818), and was also considered the nation’s wealthiest black church.   Today the building is a New York City, State, as well as National Historic Landmark. Tandy worked on this project with fellow African American architect George Washington Foster, Jr. (Tandy & Foster, 1910-1911). 

 

 

By 1915, a unified townhouse was constructed, when the two separate row houses were rebuilt, with a new red brick Georgian style facade with limestone trim. The mixed-use building housed the Walker Salon, and beauty school on the lower level.  The upper floors were used as a residence, which featured some of the most exquisite furnishings available at the time.  In the biography On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, author A’Lelia Bundles gives an incredible description of the interior of the Walker home, considered one of Harlem’s most magnificent residences:

“Scalloped pale gray chiffon curtains framed the stylized Venetian windows that spanned the street-level front wall. On the right, French doors opened onto the hair salon with its patterned metal ceiling and buffed parquet floor. To the left at 108, marble Doric columns guarded the entrance to the upstairs living quarters. On the third floor, Madam Walker’s bedroom--- with its intricately carved fireplace and English wall tapestries--- was furnished in heavy mahogany. Down the hall Lelia’s ivory Louis XVI suite was trimmed in gold, her dresser and mantel filled with framed photographs and statuettes, her floor scattered with hand-woven Persian rugs" (Bundles 171-172).

The grandeur of the Walker townhouse was also noted in the book, When Harlem was in Vogue, where author David Levering Lewis wrote that the home, “flaunted their mistress’s wealth from the marble entrance hall and French rooms done in gold and buff to the Aubusson carpets beneath Louis XVI furniture.”


A'Lelia Walker's bedroom, Madam C.J. Walker's townhouse, 1915. [Byron Company from the collections of the Museum of the City of New York

Historic photographs of the Walker Hair Parlor, which was considered one of the most luxurious salons in New York City.

 

The interior of Madam C.J. Walker's Beauty Parlor, 1915 [Byron Company from the collections of the Museum of the City of New York]

 

Madam Walker died in 1919, and left the house to her daughter, A’Lelia, who in addition to working for her mother’s company was also a prominent socialite.  She was a prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance, which occured between the 1920's to the 1930's when African American arts, music, and literature flourished. Writer Langston Hughes once called his friend A'Lelia the "joy goddess of Harlem’s 1920’s.” 

A’Lelia was known for her lavish parties, and in 1928, founded the “Dark Tower” an artists salon on one floor of her home. She entertained numerous poets, writers, artists, and people from various walks of life. The Dark Tower was named after Countee Cullen’s column in Opportunity magazine.  In 1999, The New York Times named the Dark Tower’s opening night party as one of “The 10 parties that shook the century.” The venture lasted a year.

A’Lelia Walker died in 1931. The Walker townhouse was eventually owned by the city, after serving for several years as a health clinic. In 1941, the building was demolished, and replaced by the Countee Cullen branch of the New York Public Library. In December 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the City Council bill honoring the legacy of the Walker women, by renaming 136th Street where the mansion once stood, “Madam Walker and A'Lelia Walker Place."

Friday
Mar302018

Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo World Headquarters

At the Pepsico Headquarters, the buildings were built directly into the land, bringing the beauty of nature together with great architecture. I love meandering about the grounds of the PepsiCo World Headquarters. The sculpture garden always amazes me, and every time that I visit, feels like a brand new experience.  It is definitely one of my favorite destinations in Westchester County.

Have you ever wanted to work in a gorgeous setting that marries nature, and masterful architecture? In 1971, PepsiCo decided to move their world headquarters from New York City, relocating 30 miles north to the pastoral confines of Purchase, New York. Decades later, this thoughtful decision has reaped tremendous rewards, as employees, and the public have benefited by having access to one of the most magnificent corporate campus settings in the country.

Westchester Magazine  once named the PepsiCo World Headquarters one of the “10 most beautiful buildings in Westchester.”   This distinction is well-earned, as in 2009 it also received the Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recognizing the complex, “as an example of how a careful composition of landscape of sculpture, fountains, and gardens can uplift a corporate campus environment, and enhance the quality of employees’ attitudes, lifestyles, and overall performance, even after decades of use.”

Some of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, including Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, George Segal, and Auguste Rodin have their masterpieces on display for free in Westchester County, New York. The Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo World Headquarters has more than 45 works located throughout its 168 bucolic acres, which are open to the public. The gardens have no admission charge.

Russell Page, one of the world’s foremost landscape architects, designed the gardens, which have been extended over the years by François Goffinet. Donald M. Kendall, the former president of the board and chief executive officer of PepsiCo, Inc, collected the sculptures. He conceived the gardens to foster, “an atmosphere of stability, creativity and experimentation that would reflect his vision of the company.” The building complex, consisting of seven, three-story buildings, was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone.

The glorious gardens are open throughout the year, and in warmer weather, it is the perfect place for a picnic, as tables are available onsite. It is a wonderful destination, whether one is an art enthusiast, nature lover, or just appreciates being in glorious surrounding for a few hours for quiet contemplation.  If planning a day trip from New York City, also check out the renowned Neuberger Museum of Art.  There really is no better way to spend a day immersed in 20th century contemporary art, both indoors and outdoors.


Kiosque l'évidé, 1970 by Jean Dubuffet

Giant Trowel II by Claes Ogdenberg

Totems by Robert Davidson


Hats Off by Alexander Calder

Girl with a Dolphin, David Wynne (1972)

The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth

 

Meridian by Barabara Hepworth and Triad by Arnaldo Pomodoro

For more information:

PepsiCo Sculpture Gardens- 700 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY

Individuals are welcome to enjoy the gardens and sculptures. The schedule for school and camp groups and the general public are below; however the schedule is subject to change with little or no notice. To confirm the gardens are open, please call 914-253-3150.

General Public Hours: Saturday and Sunday ONLY (March 30 to October 31)

10 am to 4 pm 

Admission: Free

School and camp groups may visit Mon- Fri 10 am to 4 pm by appointment and registration. See their website for details: Pepsico Sculpture Gardens

Friday
Oct262012

Philips Saeco and Lavazza event at Eataly

Philips Saeco co-hosted an event with Lavazza at New York City’s famed Eataly to present a history of espresso and technology. It was an intimate gathering of professionals who specialize in food, design, coffee, and Italian heritage. 

Salvatore Foto of Lavazza

The day was full of information about the fundamentals of coffee, including the brewing process, and the regions of the world where it is produced. There was also a special presentation made by Salvatore Foto from Lavazza, a company that is the number one coffee selling brand in Italy.  Each attendee received a gift bag that included Qualita Oro, an aromatic, medium roast coffee made with 100 percent Arabica beans from Central America, and the highlands of Africa.  I’ve used it in my Syntia machine, and consider it a delightful late afternoon treat.

Isaac Cohen with the Syntia Brew Group

Isaac Cohen from Philips gave an informative presentation of the history of the company’s espresso machines and its numerous design innovations.  In 1985, the company premiered the first brew-to-cup machine.  He also gave a detailed overview of the Philips Syntia Focus espresso machine, and explained the function of the brew group, a patented feature that is considered the heart of the fully-automated machine.  The device allows the machine to tamp, brew, and dispense coffee in one cycle.  Alessandra Rovati, who edits the blog, Dinner in Venice, closed the afternoon with a lively discussion of the history of coffee and café culture in Venice, Italy.

 

 

The evening was capped off by a visit upstairs to La Birreria at Eataly, a rooftop restaurant and brewery.  The restaurant has a retractable roof, with unparalleled views of some of Madison Park’s most iconic skyscrapers, including the Flatiron building. 

 

 A special menu was prepared for the occasion, and below are a couple of photos of the delectable meal.  The restaurant served the most wonderful tiramisu that I’ve ever had.  Overall, it was a joyous occasion, full of fantastic food, and the unprecedented opportunity to gain more information about coffee.  It is not something that I will soon forget.  I’m very grateful to all for the extraordinary experience.

Sunday
Oct072012

Philips Saeco Syntia

Recently, I received the Philips Saeco Syntia espresso machine.  Normally I use a traditional coffee maker to make my morning coffee, so the Syntia was a phenomenal upgrade.

Honestly, for the first few days, I hesitated to test-drive this machine out of fear that somehow it would be complicated.   Thankfully, I was wrong, because this solid machine was surprisingly operational right out of the box!  Both the easy to read product manual, and the detailed instructional videos on the company’s website were extremely helpful.

The Syntia has a sleek, sophisticated, and elegant black exterior.  Its modern and stylish design is a testament to the storied legacy of Saeco, known for producing extraordinary espresso machines.  I am impressed by the chrome finish, which gives it a rather polished finish. Its compact size makes it easy to store on the kitchen counter, taking up minimal space, without having to rearrange existing appliances.

The control panel, with its LED display was incredibly intuitive. Adjusting the coffee length is a matter of touching the appropriate button. There is also a convenient hot water and steam selector switch.

One of my favorite features is the aroma preference. So far I'm still on the one bean setting, but each new brew has presented a deeper and more flavorful result than I ever would have imagined.

There is a manual button to modify the coffee to either a coarse or fine grind. I've also used pre-ground coffee, but prefer using the whole beans, because of the bolder taste. However, I also enjoy hearing the gentle whirl of the ceramic grinder prior to the brewing cycle, because it makes for a more complete espresso experience.

 

I made my first cappuccino with this machine. The Pannarello wand was not difficult to use, and made rich, frothy milk with ease. The result was an incredibly flavorful cappuccino that tasted even better, because I made it myself!

 

The front loading 40-ounce water tank was a huge plus. I have low kitchen cabinet clearance, so this was an excellent feature.

The machine is easy to clean and maintain. Overall, I highly recommend the Syntia for its ability to provide a delicious espresso, without ever leaving the comfort of home.

Monday
Jan022012

The Bronx is Modern: Below East 161st Street


Entrance to the Melrose Community Center [Deena Parham]

This year, I've decided to include a few posts dedicated to architectural treasures in the Bronx.  Today's installment is about Bronx modernism.

Recently, I mentioned to friends that I went on a tour of modern Bronx buildings.  I received several quizzical looks, followed by a collective, “Really?” 

As quiet as it is kept, several giants of the modern architectural movement such as Paul Rudolph, and Marcel Breuer had early commissions in the Bronx.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Bronx is still stuck in the “buildings are burning” narrative, so this fact is not widely disseminated.  This post will venture into territory where most tours fear to tread- celebrating the borough’s modern architectural heritage!

The Melrose Community Center, 286 East 156th Street, Bronx, NY

[Formal name of building: South Bronx Classic Community Center at Melrose Houses]

A mere five minutes from Manhattan are the Melrose, Morrisania, and Jackson public houses in the South Bronx.  It’s a typical Post World War II, superblock, Robert Moses-era assemblage of functional architecture that met basic housing needs, but was miserably low on inspiration.  The formidable brick buildings with small patches of green space were meant to resemble towers of park. Unfortunately, the sheer density of the high-rise apartment buildings makes the community feel closed, like an impenetrable fortress. 

The gym at the Melrose Community Center [Deena Parham]

After walking past several mature trees, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Melrose Community Center.  The 20,000 square foot building was designed by Agrest and Gandelsonas Architects and Wank Adams Slavin (1998-2001) for the New York City Housing Authority.  It’s currently used as a cultural, recreational, and educational center for local teens.

The Melrose Community Center [Agrest and Gandelsonas Architects]

 Agrest and Gandelsonas Architects made the following design statement:

The design of the Bronx South Classic Center reflects a desire to avoid a fortress-like environment and instead provide the community with a building that conveys a sense of openness and accessibility. The symbolic aspect of the project is of major importance in its social function for the local residents who live amongst one of New York City's highest crime rates; it has generated a point of identification and pride for the community. The Melrose Community Center is composed of two main volumes enclosing programs, the bar and the oval gymnasium connected by a link which provides the entry space. The gymnasium, with its strongly recognizable form, is a symbolic element of identification for the entire community.

We chose to make the classrooms building as transparent as possible. Curtain wall glazing along the length of the bar exposes the interior to public view in both directions. The various activity rooms have a glass wall oriented towards the circulation corridor, enabling its users to see the activities of everyone else. This visual exchange creates a great sense of energy and excitement.

The Bronx Criminal Court Building 215 East 161st Street, Bronx, Harrison and Abramowitz

A travertine sculpture by Constantino Nivola at the Bronx Criminal Court Building. [Deena Parham]

This $31 million imposing courthouse was designed by the architectural firm of Harrison and Abramowitz (1973-1977).  It currently houses the Family Court, Criminal Court and their associated offices, the District Attorney, and offices of the Departments of Probation, Human Resources, Corrections, and NYPD.  The bulky limestone clad building is 13-stories tall, and is 600,000 square feet. This building's unwelcoming public presence resulted in a radical design approach when the Bronx Hall of Justice was proposed.  

 The Bronx County Hall of Justice 215 East 161St Street, Bronx, NY, Rafael Vinoly Architects

The glass facade of the Bronx County Hall of Justice [Deena Parham]

Architect Rafael Vinoly’s courthouse project opened to the public in 2008.  It is two blocks long, and is one of the largest courthouses in the country. The East 161St Street facade is known for its accordion-fold curtain wall of windows that reflected the brightness of the sunlight.  This building’s facade is a stand-out primarily because its intent was to show the transparency of justice, while maintaining a level of privacy. 

The $421 million, nine-story, 775,000 square foot building was constructed between 2001 and 2007.   The windows were made of translucent glass that was tested at a blast simulator in New Mexico, to ensure that they were resistant to any potential terrorist attack.  Overall there are 47 court rooms for the Supreme and Criminal courts, seven grand jury rooms, as well as offices for the Department of Corrections, the Department of Probation, and the Bronx District Attorney. 

Rear of the Bronx County Hall of Justice where the view of the public plaza is blocked. [Deena Parham]

While the building was supposed to be a shining example of superior public architecture, the courthouse has had its share of detractors since its opening.  Several newspaper accounts have quoted court personnel who have complained that the building is allegedly structurally unsound, has leaking ceilings and sewage pipes, and that overall, it is not very well-maintained. 

In the rear of the courthouse building is a public plaza that was meant to soften the institutional building, which faces a residential neighborhood.  However, the public space has not been open, due to structural problems with the two-story underground garage.  The plaza is currently hidden behind a series of fences that block most of the view.  Others wonder if it will ever be open to the public, due to security concerns in the post 9/11 era.  Apparently there's also a rooftop Zen garden that was intended for community space, but it is currently not accessible to the public.

Monday
Dec262011

Via Verde: The Bronx Continues to Rise

 

Via Verde under construction, May 2011 [Deena Parham]

There are times when I am surprised to find brand new real estate developments in the most unexpected places.  In May 2011, I was in the South Bronx for an event at a community garden, when I noticed the striking building across the street (above photo) under construction.  I later learned that it was Via Verde (700 Brook Avenue), a much-heralded new affordable housing complex.

Fortunately, I do occasionally find myself walking on the streets of the Bronx to witness neighborhood transformation first-hand.  The larger than life historical narratives that I've read about the borough's brushes with urban decay, and abandonment, are usually shattered the moment that I meet residents who are working hard to improve their communities.  The truth is that large swaths of the South Bronx have long-risen from the devastation.

Yes, 2011 was a banner year for the Bronx, as several prominent projects emerged that forced the media to take notice.  The borough continues to make tremendous strides in economic development. Here is a new real estate development on my radar this year:

 Via Verde (“the green way”) the South Bronx

View of Via Verde from the street [Phipps, Rose, Dattner, Grimshaw]

In September 2011, Michael Kimmelman, the new architecture critic at the New York Times, visited Via Verde, a new housing development in the South Bronx.  His first review brought considerable attention to the affordable housing complex.  The innovative environmentally “green” building, starts at three-story townhomes, gradually rising to a 20-story tower, and offers 151 rental and 71 co-op apartments to mixed-income families. Phipps Houses and Jonathan Rose Companies developed it with Dattner Architects and Grimshaw. 

Looking South from the Rooftop Garden [Phipps, Rose, Dattner, Grimshaw]

The building incorporates elements of nature, which includes a 40,000 square foot roof deck that will be used to plant fruit trees, and will have garden plots for tenants to plant their own gardens.  Via Verde is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, for its innovative environmentally responsible design.  It also promotes physical activity, by placing staircases in prominent locations, to discourage residents from using the elevators, whenever possible.

 The 20-story rental apartment tower [Phipps, Rose, Dattner, Grimshaw]

What was most noteworthy about the New York Times article was the praise for Via Verde’s design.  Over the years affordable housing developments have rarely garnered accolades.   Michael Kimmelman said:

The rebirth of the South Bronx isn’t news. But Via Verde is. And it makes as good an argument as any new building in the city for the cultural and civic value of architecture. The profession, or in any case much talk about it, has been fixated for too long on brand-name luxury objects and buildings as sculptures instead of attending to the richer, broader, more urgent vein of public policy and community engagement, in which aesthetics play a part.

Via Verde helps shift the conversation. Like all good architecture, it is handsome. Unlike too much, it goes out of its way to be healthy. It evolved out of a competition five years ago, organized by Shaun Donovan, then commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, now President Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development. The idea was to spur developers to team with architects in combining the latest green concepts with high-quality architecture for a public-housing project, a “beacon,” as Mr. Donovan put it to me the other day, that would “re-engage design with the issue of affordable housing.”

 Occupancy is expected in March of 2012.

More information