Designer Rick Cook talks about the sustainability project designed by COOKFOX Architects in New York City

by Design Daily Team

Reporter: EMILY NONKO
Original from: 6sqft.com
July 31, 2017

COOKFOX Architectural Design Company was established in 1990 and has become the most well-known architectural design company in the real estate industry in New York City. The founding partner of the company, Rick Cook, discovered a historical type of project design opportunity early in the company’s establishment. He said the project was looking for opportunities to “fill the city.” Landscape vacancy”. He cooperated with Bob Fox in 2003, and they co-founded COOKFOX company, dedicated to creating environmentally-related and sustainable development projects. They collaborated with the developer Durst Group to design the first LEED Platinum building in New York City, the Bank of America Tower. They have designed many projects to create a greener and healthier working environment. The project designed by the company has attracted much attention because it has become a landmark building. Its mixed-use project at 401 West 14th Street (known as the Apple Store) and the Stephen Sondheim Theater renovation project won the AIA New York State Design Award. (The company also designed the first LEED-certified theater in New York City)

Recently, the company undertook a large-scale development project to reshape entire neighborhoods in New York City. They designed two residential towers, 550 Vanderbilt and 535 Carlton, both of which are part of the large-scale development of Pacific Park. The company also designed the City Point project, which is located in downtown Brooklyn and includes retail, affordable housing and market-priced apartments, office space and food courts.

A 6sqft reporter contacted Rick Cook to talk about the company’s innovation in New York real estate and why sustainability and good design are becoming more and more important. Rick also shared his views on architectural design that can solve the problem of urban affordable housing crisis, some of their most significant projects, and why gardens and green spaces continue to inspire him.

When you started the company, what was your initial design goal?

Rick: I founded this company in 1990, and a lot of early work focused on filling vacancies in the urban landscape-doing a lot of work in landmark blocks. We stumbled upon the historical preservation movement and the environmental protection movement. This is exactly what we are concerned about, how to preserve and continue these beautiful resources and leave them to our future generations.

This also prompted me to cooperate with my mentor and friend Bob Fox in 2003. We immediately became partners, and we started designing One Bryant Park and the Bank of America Tower. The developer Durst family and Bank of America are co-partners of the Bank of America Tower, the first building with a leading energy and environmental design (LEED Platinum). The process of designing this project is full of joy, and this is also an excellent time, because the world has really begun to be interested in sustainable development and the projects we are doing. Since then, almost all of our projects have revolved around this theme.

When you set out to build the Bryant Park One project, what was your attitude towards the LEED project?

Rick: In 2003, the concept was still very new. One Bryant Park was the first LEED Platinum building. We also built our own office, which is the first building in New York to receive LEED Platinum certification. In the early stages of LEED development, building performance was the most important, aiming to make buildings more suitable for plant growth. We found that when we design buildings to be more suitable for plant growth, we also make buildings more suitable for human habitation. This change makes our works focus on human health.

Is it difficult to convince developers that sustainable development projects are worth taking risks?

Rick: We are very lucky, because Durst Group is the second green skyscraper developer-they have developed the 4 Times Square project (4 Times Square). The developers have understood that air quality is an extremely important factor, and they have gained good experience from the previous project. One Bryant Park not only realized what they had learned in the No. 4 Times Square project, but also went further.

We did not deliberately pursue the LEED project. We have searched for the best technology for the project. After we did some research, we decided to create a LEED Platinum.

What is the biggest change in the real estate industry’s attitude towards LEED and sustainability projects?

Rick: In the development industry, the most frequently asked question is “how much is the cost of LEED projects?”. Because of the participation of a new generation of young people, we realized how much the environment of the building we designed has had an impact on the planet. We began to consider how much influence I could have on the design of these buildings.

Then, everyone will ask a question, “If we know this, why not design all projects like this?” or “I live in a co-op apartment in Brooklyn, what should I do?”. The third stage seems to be a new definition of project quality. If people who are good at thinking work hard to do a good job, of course you will want to pursue LEED ratings and do your best to build the best buildings. This becomes more acceptable.

You designed a large-scale development project-the 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt buildings in Atlantic Plaza. The project has many historical stories and will become a brand new neighborhood in Brooklyn. What is that project like?

Rick: We did not intend to participate in the Atlantic Plaza project (now renamed Pacific Park), but we worked with Forest City Wattner Corporation (the project developer) to build Seward Park. We enjoy working with their company’s core figures Process of cooperation. I know the importance of the 535 Carlton and 550 Vanderbilt buildings to this project, and they will become part of this community.

One of the first things we started-we didn’t want to name this project with a letter/number. These are the real buildings that the project will stand on the real street.

What is your inspiration for designing these buildings?

Rick: There is no doubt that the inspiration for the design of 535 Carlton is mainly derived from the structure and natural texture of CarltonPlace. We hope that the project will become an excellent building in that block. The 550 Vanderbilt is located on a wide avenue, and the inspiration comes from its location. The lighter tray was inspired by the nearby St. Joe’s Cathedral. Both buildings are specifically designed according to the existing local environment, but they will also change the environment here, transforming from Pacific Street into Pacific Park.

Your work has solved New York City’s demand for affordable housing. In today’s environment of crisis of demand for affordable housing, how do you see the role of architects and designers in this?

Rick: While architects are passionate about their work, they also need to bring works of the same quality, whether it is affordable housing for the former homeless, or various types of affordable housing, or works at market prices. I will encourage everyone to try to care, think, and love when designing affordable housing. We believe that every resident should enjoy the sunlight and the beautiful view of the park, so every elevator lobby I designed has a window facing Pacific Park. We created a shared roof on the ninth floor, where everyone can enjoy urban agriculture elements.

What other unique projects does your company have to solve the problem of affordable housing?

Rick: A project that our company is very proud of is Hegeman, located in Brownsville, Brooklyn. It is an affordable housing for formerly homeless people. We bring daylight and security facilities into the building to change the living environment of the basement in the past. We strive to provide light and nature to all residents. On Earth Day, volunteers will plant gardening plants here.

We also designed the City Point project; we designed the affordable housing in City Tower for Brodsky and the large retail center now known as the Dekalb market. A super-large, mixed-use project located in Brooklyn. We also adopted the same idea when designing economical houses. There is sunlight in the corridors and the urban agricultural landscape on the roof.

Which of the projects your company has participated in has caused the most amazing changes in this city, especially Brooklyn?

Rick: We design parks and natural elements in our lives, and the results have always exceeded our expectations. Our company has just moved into a new design room on 57th Street, and we planted plants on two large balconies. Every day I am surprised by the speed of change here, the plants in our garden are so rich and diverse.

When we get the opportunity to plant gardens-usually green roofs or urban agriculture, every time we finish, the results exceed our boldest expectations.

Does your company have projects worth looking forward to?

Rick: I love all of our projects, but my inner favorite is designing the Marymount Future School. The school is located on Fifth Avenue, and they bought a new site on 97th Street. We can imagine how this beautiful building will affect the education, enthusiasm and community of this school. Now, we have the opportunity to design a new school, and we are also working hard to preserve that culture.

Starting from the grassroots level, we are considering reserving space to train our future leaders. Now, every student in our design school has a small mobile phone in their bag, allowing them to access all the knowledge of the world. Therefore, what the teachers in the classroom teach is not necessarily authoritative knowledge. Compared to when I was in school, this change is very interesting, and the role of the school has also changed.

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