Studio V was founded in 2006 by Jay Valgora who at the time was a design principal for Walker Associates/CNI, and had been a design director at Rockwell Group. In these previous positions Valgora focused on refurbishing projects located in gritty urban industrial areas: A residential tower addition above the RKO Keith in Flushing, Queens, the historic Empire Stores in Brooklyn, and a large zone of Anabel Basin in Queens. Crucial to his later Studio V career as an urban designer, Valgora simultaneously developed theatrical designs for Cirque du Soleil, Mohegan Sun resort, and the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. These widely diverse project types have come together in Studio V’s current work, which shows Valgora’s interest in projects that “reconcile modern architecture and the city’s abandoned or fragmented edge urban areas... emerging neighborhoods, public parks, and sustainable communities.” The 18-member office has under taken a massive renovation of the interior and exterior of Macy’s Herald Square. Other projects include architectural and urban design work in Long Island City, Flushing (Flushing River Waterfront), Astoria (Halletts Point and Astoria Cove), Sunset Park (Bush Terminal), and Red Hook (Atlantic Basin). The firm is also designing new parks and public spaces along the East River in collaborations with internationally recognized landscape firms James Corner Field Operations and Workshop: Ken Smith Landscape Architect.
Niagara Falls Bridge and Cross Link Bridge Development
This project turns an abandoned railway bridge over the Niagara River and an adjacent 40-acre site into a mixed-use commercial development, museum, and cultural center. The bridge’s current owner, the City of Niagara Falls, Canada, must ether destroy it or find a buyer to turn it into a gateway attraction so they hired Studio V to develop a creative and realistic proposal for the structure. The second site is across the bridge and adjacent to Downtown Niagara Falls and the canyon escarpment. Their master plan for the site includes a series of elevated outdoor gardens on the existing track and smaller bridges leading to the main bridge. The scheme also includes a series of pavilions that contain a variety of supporting uses including restaurants, a new train station, a theater, and a hotel tower suspended over the edge of the bridge with views of the famous falls. The bridge is meant to be a contemporary gateway and symbol for the nation of Canada. The glass canopy over the bridge is an aluminum grid shell covered with ETFE foil for the museum and conference center.
Residential Building at Vernon and Jackson Avenues
Queens, New York
The Long Island City site for this new residential structure lies at the intersection of two of the most prominent streets in Queens: Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue. They also face onto two very different plazas: Vernon Plaza (a 100 foot wide street with a new green median) and the Midtown Tunnel toll plaza. The overall massing of the building responds in a sculptural manner to its unusual triangular site. The corners of the building are articulated with cantilevered balconies that extend out into the angled corners of the site as the facade peels away in a series of layers to reveal the concrete structure beneath. Perhaps the most unique aspect of the building is an unusual mid-block courtyard raised up in the air to over look the adjacent boulevard and provide an outdoor space for the residents. Finally, the taut stainless steel and perforated aluminum facade fits perfectly into this mixed industrial, residential, and cultural (P.S.1 is only a few blocks away) zone of the city.
Yonkers Raceway / Empire City Casino Expansion
Yonkers, New York
A gambling casino attached to a horse-racing track in Yonkers is not one where you would expect exciting architecture. Yet Studio V’s striking design for a new Empire City Casino sets out to “re-invent the modern casino with an unlikely and innovative contemporary architecture.” Valgora has designed a volume of stacked elements—balconies and overlook openings between floors, including a dramatic bar, an Alain Ducasse restaurant, and a bowling ally—to create an entirely new paradigm for the casino. The facade is a four-story arc of frameless glass that not only brings the daylight into the casino but projects the excitement of the space outward to the street and the city. The facade is a large steel lattice structure which seems to grow out of its hillside site to create a sculptural entrance canopy and porte-cochere.
Macy’s Herald Square
R.H. Macy’s has occupied their Herald Square Store since 1902, when it moved uptown from 6th Avenue. It first occupied just one building designed by DeLemos and Cordes but eventually began acquiring additional properties on the block bounded by Broadway and 34th and 35th streets until it owned the entire block. Though the building had the first modern escalator in the world and still has several of the great old wooden moving stairs and beautiful deco details, it feels cobbled together with various dropped ceilings, unexplained partitions, and inefficient mechanical equipment. Macy’s, Valgora claims, has always been “contemporary” and it is the Studio’s intention to create a new contemporary environment with restored historic architecture to create a “spacious, grand yet light and fit space for the 21st century shopper.”
The store’s master plan will create an entirely new interior, a high-end restaurant, a café on the mezzanine overlooking the grand ground floor, and a champagne/coffee bar in the Women’s shoe department. It also includes restoration of a Grand Retail Hall with coffered ceilings, visible exterior windows, double-height entrances, and soaring illuminated columns.