Since the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a lot of attention has been focused on the preparedness of the United States to absorb such massive tremors. Nowhere is this more true than in California, the state that is perhaps the most poised in the country to deal with such disasters, as well as the most prone to suffer them. A recent report last week from California Watch—a consortium of investigative journalists who relish tackling the tough issues—found that the state’s public universities have been particularly remiss in earthquake-proofing their facilities. The report identified 108 buildings owned by state universities that engineers say would suffer serious structural damage in the event of a major quake. UC Berkeley topped this list with 71 occupied buildings that failed to make the grade. California is expected to feel one or more magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquakes in the next 30 years.
Just in time for the beginning of the 2010 season, Major League Baseball has spiffed up and expanded its headquarters and the office of its commissioner at 245 Park Ave. Conducted by Butler Rogers Baskett Architects (BBB) and exhibit design firm C&G Partners, the redesign included the addition of a 24,000-square-foot conference center on a full new floor. Aside from bringing the HQ into the 21st century with up-to-date teleconferencing equipment, the designers went out of their way to make every surface in the place scream baseball.
In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).
My story on Rescue 3’s new firehouse in the Bronx, designed by Polshek Partnership, alleged that it was the first such facility ever designed specifically for a rescue company’s needs. Alas, that assertion was woefully wrong. In 1987, Elemental Architecture (then The Stein Partnership) designed the new headquarters for Rescue Company 1—the first rescue company in the world. Located on West 43rd St. in Manhattan, the building includes many features tailored to the elite unit’s needs. These include a quick release system that allows the company’s Zodiac boat to be dropped from the ceiling and attached to the top of the apparatus, a decontamination shower (now a standard feature for FDNY and many other fire departments), and a SCUBA recharging station. Read More
Today, the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has handed out an indictment to two companies, their owner, and a crane mechanic in connection with the 2008 collapse of a tower crane on East 91st St. that killed the crane operator and a worker. New York Crane, J.F. Lomma, James Lomma, and former employee of New York Crane, Tibor Virganyi, face charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, as well as charges of assault and reckless endangerment. “Today’s indictment is an important step not only in holding these defendants accountable for their conduct, but should send a message to the construction industry that that profit cannot be put ahead of safety,” said Vance in a statement. New York Crane also owned the tower crane that collapsed on March 15 at the Azure condo on East 51st St. That incident was even more catastrophic, demolishing a building and killing seven people. The two collapses exposed corruption and bribery within the DOB’s crane unit, forced the resignation of then-Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, and gave rise to a study of construction oversight and safety.
The past ten years have seen an impressive amount of economic growth and infrastructural development in India, and the nation is becoming more and more a well established market for American architectural talent. This trend doesn’t seem to be changing as we embark on a new decade. One sign of that is the September 2009 opening of an office in Mumbai by structural engineering firm Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA). Founded in 1923 in New York City, LERA has contributed its services to many of the city’s iconic structures (such as the World Trade Center) and has designed buildings all around the world, but this will be its first foreign office. A release by the firm cited a “growing workload” and the need to “facilitate client relations” as key reasons for the opening. LERA will join a number of other American architecture firms that have recently opened branches in the subcontinent, including HOK and Perkins Eastman. See some of the projects LERA has worked on after the jump.
On Wednesday, right on deadline, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the winners of its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant winners. Out of 1,400 applications totaling $60 billion in requests, the agency awarded $1.5 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to 51 transportation projects in 41 states. The projects ranged in scale from bike paths to major bridges and freight rail installations and the grants ranged in size from $3 million to $105 million. Priority was given to projects that needed federal funds in order to complete their funding package and to projects that are expected to be completed within three years. In New York, the DOT awarded $83 million to the first phase of Moynihan Station. This bit of good news for the project, which has been mired for years in funding difficulties, was bolstered yesterday when Amtrak reaffirmed its intentions to move its operations into the proposed station.
Last year, the Center for Land Use Interpretation of Culver City, California, exhibited its study of the Texas oil industry: Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a 12-minute “landscan” video of the petrochemical infrastructure along the Houston Ship Channel—refineries, tank farms, pipe lines—the largest such installation in the world. Now, at long last, the CLUI has posted the video online, giving us another breathtaking perspective of this terrifying and beautiful landscape.
Did you have a nice time watching Phantom of the Opera? Did you buy all that you could carry from The Disney Store? Have fun strolling down the soon-to-be-redesigned Broadway plazas? Why not pop around the corner and check out a peep show? I’m not talking naked ladies here, I’m talking real live sharks! This isn’t a joke. In the very near future this may be an option. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Jerry Shefsky—a Toronto-based developer—is near to closing a deal with SJP Properties to put a 600,000-gallon aquarium in the base of the company’s brand spanking new 11 Times Square office tower. In addition to the aforementioned sharks, the $100 million project would include tanks featuring rays, penguins, otters, and drier attractions such as a pirate museum. This could even serve as a model for other financially troubled projects in the city. Perhaps turn Stuytown into a zoo? Not that it isn’t one already.
Engineering News Record brings us the news that the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is one of the few major buildings to survive the January 12th earthquake with only minor damage. According to the report, the facility remained functional during and after the earthquake: the electricity stayed on, communications systems continued to function, and water and air kept operating. As a result the building has become an important center for relief efforts. The reason that the 134,000-square-foot structure escaped the general devastation seems to be that it was built recently in accordance with the International Building Code and the State Department’s Overseas Building Operations requirements. The building was constructed between 2005 and 2008 as a design-build project by New York City-based Fluor Corp, was bolstered by reinforced concrete shear walls, and had mechanical and electrical systems built to withstand seismic events.