Foster + Partners likes to think of itself as a high-design firm with glamorous projects all over the world. But the banal rendering accompanying this week’s announcement of a new 19-story, “luxury” residential tower, 551 West 21 Street, belies their design skills. Could it be that they have a two-tier design strategy in their office where glamorous cultural institutions get “Sir Norman” and commercial towers get, well, something less?
Norman Foster is expected to design a new skyscraper in downtown Philadelphia, according to sources cited by the Philly Inquirer. Media company Comcast has outgrown its current home in the city’s tallest building—Robert A.M. Stern‘s 975-foot-tall Comcast Center. Details of the planned tower are being guarded, but architecture critic Inga Saffron reported that Comcast is exploring plans to build a “vertical campus” including several new towers, potentially beginning with a new structure on a 1.5-acre vacant lot at the corner of 18th and Arch streets (indicated above). The site was previously approved for a 1,500-foot-tall tower in 2008 but Saffron said the new tower would likely be shorter. Developer John Gattuso of Liberty Property Trust told the Inquirer, “The tower will be as big as it needs to be.”
The Storefront for Art and Architecture and the New Museum in New York City have announced the winners of the StreetFest Tenting Competition for their upcoming IDEAS CITY Festival, arriving Saturday in front of the New Museum on the Bowery. The international competition asked architects to re-imagine the typical street fair tent with a more compelling and sustainable form. Winner Davidson Rafailidis—lead by Georg Rafailidis and Stephanie Davidson of Buffalo—were chosen for their entry, MirrorMirror, which will premiere at 6:00pm on Saturday May 4th.
Apple’s spaceship-like campus plans, designed by Foster and Partners, have been criticized for—among other other things— a lack of pedestrian friendly design. It appears the company has listened. New documents presented to the city of Cupertino show extended bike paths, winding walkways and private roads both circling the grounds and running through the center of the campus. The bike lanes would have buffer lanes to protect them from cars, pedestrian walkways would have increased lighting, a transit center would be the focal point for buses, and the plans also make room for public art projects.
Not all the changes are eco/pedestrian friendly. The new design calls for an increase in parking spaces from 10,500 to 10,980. Slated for completion in 2016, the campus has also been in the news for budget overruns and delays, with Bloomberg Businessweek reporting its cost ballooning from $3 billion to $5 billion. The first phase of the campus is scheduled to be complete by 2016.The original date was 2015.
What do you do if a building is slated for demolition? If you’re the artist Doug Aitken and the building is your gallery, you devise a “time-based destruction installation.” Which is precisely what Aitken, who is known for wrapping the facade of the Hirschhorn Museum in with a 360-degree video installation to the tune of “I Only Have Eyes For You,” installing a video “land art” installation on the Seattle Art Museum, and the video “Sleepwalkers” projected on the facades of MoMA, “a cinematic art experience that directly integrates with the architectural fabric of the city while simultaneously enhancing and challenging viewers’ perceptions of public space” did.
The London headquarters of insurance giant Swiss Re at 30 St Mary Axe, known locally as “the Gherkin,” was scheduled to take its true form, today—a giant green pickle—thanks to Jackpot Joy, a British online gambling site, which promised last month to light up Sir Norman Foster’s iconic skyscraper with a digital projection. The foodie facelift called for wrapping the 41-story tower in a special non-reflective film requiring a crew of ten and around 900 man-hours. With no news that the tower is actually glowing, the stunt appears to have been too large a gamble. The jokesters, however, last year successfully sent a 60-foot rubber duck down the Thames. It appears this is strike two for recladding the tower after a campaign to transform it into a penguin went nowhere as well.
Norman Foster has hoisted a slender sheet of mirror-polished stainless steel above a plaza on the edge of Marseille’s historic harbor, creating a new pavilion that reflects the activity of the bustling public space overhead. Foster + Partners’ “Vieux Port” pavilion officially opened over the weekend in the French city. The pavilion roof measures 150 feet by 72 feet, tapering at its perimeter to create the illusion of impossible thinness and is is supported by eight thin stainless steel columns inset from the pavilion’s edge.
Last week, AN reported on Norman Foster’s newly-rendered plans to transform the landmark New York Public Library at Bryant Park. Foster’s $300 million plan will, most dramatically, gut the off-limits-to-the-public book stacks and replace them with a light-filled atrium and reading space. The NYPL has now released a video fly-through of the project, above. Enjoy!