A ample geometric accurate anatomy sits on the active bend of Canal and West Streets in Lower Manhattan. Passersby apprehensive at its action may assumption it’s a museum, or an art gallery. Few are acceptable to hit on the reality: a alkali shed. And that was absolutely the intent, says Richard Dattner ’60, advance artist of the project.
“Our job was to architecture what is absolutely a banal box captivation 5,000 bags of salt—but to architecture it for one of the best important corners in New York City,” he says. “In the end, it angry out the way the burghal capital it—iconic, enigmatic, and somewhat mysterious.”
Completed in 2015, the alkali afford was the best contempo activity that Dattner, now 82, led for his close Dattner Architects. It caps a bequest that includes such capital but generally disregarded basement elements as baptize analysis facilities, carrion dewatering plants, abyssal alteration stations (where debris is loaded assimilate barges), and sanitation garages—projects that Dattner says abounding architects wouldn’t accept taken on. His portfolio additionally includes tens of bags of affordable apartment units, the new 34th Street–Hudson Yards alms station, and Hudson River Park, as able-bodied as schools and health-care facilities.
“When I started out, ample accustomed firms were not absorbed in borough work,” explains Dattner. “These projects accept complicated processes commonly advised by automated or sanitation engineers. Because of my accomplishments at MIT, I consistently had an absorption in all-embracing basement and collaborations with engineers.”
Dattner Architects now employs added than 100 architects, but its aboriginal appointment was Dattner’s active room. After MIT, he formed at several New York firms while teaching at Cooper Union and the Burghal College of New York (later, he additionally accomplished at the University of Wisconsin).
“After actuality laid off or accursed by six firms, I accomplished that I was not cut out for alive at a ample accumulated architectural firm, so I went out on my own,” he says. His aboriginal big break, in 1964, was a job for Estée Lauder, architect of the alleged adorableness company. “A architect I knew asked me, ‘Can you architecture a factory?’ and I said, ‘Of advance I can,’” recalls Dattner. “Having been to MIT, I anticipation I could do anything.”
The Lauder ancestors after kicked off his borough assignment by allotment him to architecture the Adventure Playground in Central Park. Playgrounds in the ’60s were austere and unsafe, with little added than asphalt, seesaws, and monkey bars, Dattner says. His new model—incorporating timberline forts, aggressive poles, tunnels, beach areas, and water—became a ancestor for playgrounds about the country.
Working with adolescent psychologists and adolescence development researchers, he wrote the book Architecture for Play in 1969. Following an absorption sparked at MIT, he additionally advised and patented PlayCubes—climbing structures aggressive by the cuboctahedron, a 14-sided polyhedron with eight triangular and six aboveboard faces aboriginal discussed by Archimedes in 230 BCE. “My addition was to put holes in this appearance so that kids could ascend on top of it, in it, through it,” he explains. When they debuted in 1969, PlayCubes were fabricated of fiberglass, which became cost-prohibitive. In 2016 Dattner relaunched the architecture with an American manufacturer, application both molded artificial and laser-cut steel.
Although Dattner no best leads projects, he advisers agents and participates in architecture discussions: “As the founding partner, I appear to the appointment aloof about every day to assignment with a assorted agents from about the apple and see the absurd array of projects advancing through our office.”
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