Sculptor Kenneth Snelson is tired of having his name all over the derided spire atop One World Trade Center. It has been widely reported that Snelson consulted with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) on the 441-foot-tall spire that brings the tower to its highly symbolic height of 1,776 feet. But he said he was only peripherally involved in the early stages of the design and is not all that connected to what now towers above Lower Manhattan. Snelson said everyone involved in the design of the spire had the best intentions, but as for its final iteration, he’s no fan. “I don’t know why somebody doesn’t decide, ‘well, we should remove the spire,’” he said.
It’s good to see some good old-fashioned roasting, and that’s what the Westside Urban Forum’s WUFFIES awards are all about. This year’s event, held earlier this month at the Los Angeles Times of all places, was full of the usual snipes on botched RFPs and difficult County Supervisors. But it also got in some good jibes at architecture’s expense. Our favorite: the Darth Vader Award, which went both to Peter Zumthor’s foreboding, jet black LACMA expansion and to Renzo Piano’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum with its helmet-looking theater bulging out of the old May Company Building.
Who’s most irked by the Frank Gehry backlash currently underway in press rooms from Sydney to Spruce Street? Why, Frank Gehry, of course. At a press conference in Oviedo, Spain, Gehry replied to one journalist’s implication that Gehry’s architecture was just about spectacle with a spectacle of his own: He gave the journalist the middle finger.
In a recent Q&A with the Boston Globe, Daniel Libeskind made it clear that when it comes to books, he doesn’t just look at the pictures. Titles on the architect’s current reading list reflect a predilection for essays and short stories—Borges, Melville, and Walter Benjamin, among others. He told the Globe that he keeps a set of Edgar Allan Poe stories on his bedside table.
The planned giant Ferris wheel in Staten Island—one of kookier of the Bloomberg-era megaprojects—is apparently still happening. Eavesdrop always thought the step-Borough deserved more than a tourist trap wheel and a giant outlet mall, but hey, apparently Amanda Burden thought differently. According to the Associated Press, New York Wheel CEO Rich Marin said the project will include a thrill ride that will “simulate a ride in a subway car.” Here’s a better idea: buy a MetroCard.
Philip Johnson’s only Dallas residential design, The Beck House (1964), has hit the market with a $27.5 million asking price. Current owners Naomi Aberly and Larry Lebowitz—who famously hosted President Barack H. Obama twice within the home’s white walls at fundraising events—recently spent seven years conducting a detailed modernization and renovation of the modernist palace, as well as a re-landscaping of the 6.45-acre park that surrounds it. Dallas firm Bodron + Fruit touched up the architecture, including adding a pavilion beside the new pool, while Massachusetts-based Reed Hilderbrand worked on the grounds.
Contemporary monarchs and world leaders have a mixed record when it comes to dictating architectural taste (see Prince Charles: wrong on classicism, right on sustainable agriculture). Even so, it seems significant that Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an end to “weird architecture,” the kinds of formally adventurous projects China has been building at a breakneck speed for the last few decades. It’s unclear at this point if he was expressing a personal preference or if this edict will have teeth. One Bird’s Nest too many?
Opponents of storing petcoke, a sooty byproduct, on Chicago’s Southeast Side can breathe easier now that Beemsterboer Slag Corp. has announced it’s leaving the city for greener (for now) pastures, following public pressure from the city and angry neighbors. The Koch Brothers typically set (read: buy) trends rather than follow them, so don’t expect their petcoke business KCBX to hoist anchor anytime soon, but enviros can celebrate this development, even if the city’s new regulations give companies a full two years to cover their dusty piles of petcoke.
And then there were four. The committee in charge of picking a site for President Barack Obama’s presidential library and museum narrowed the playing field to four illustrious institutions of higher learning, with two in Chicago. The University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University, and the University of Hawaii have until December 11 to submit their bids, just in time to kick back and sip some eggnog while the president gears up for his last two years in office.
It’s such a shame that we live in areas so full of secrecy. Why won’t Hollywood stars in Los Angeles or tech moguls in San Francisco let architects spread the word about their million dollar houses? Sure we hear dribs and drabs. For instance that Sergei Brin and a major executive at Yahoo! have both commissioned San Francisco architect Olle Lundberg to design their new abodes. But these tidbits are far too infrequent. So we at Eavesdrop are making a plea for you to share gossip on who is designing for the most famous people you can think of. We promise, we won’t divulge our sources. And we won’t partner with Us Weekly. Probably.
You don’t often hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel utter these words, so when Rahmbo admitted he “made a mistake” in proposing naming a Near North Side school after Obama, his former boss, we thought it worthwhile to get him on the record here. Earlier this year Emanuel threw $60 million in TIF funding to the planned selective enrollment school, offering up the name apparently without consulting local leaders, including the head of Chicago Public Schools. They didn’t like the idea, as it turns out, probably only a little more than Emanuel didn’t like every local reporter committing his rare self-effacement to print.