In a tightly contested decision, the City of Aberdeen, Scotland has decided not to move forward with a dramatic $222 million renovation of Union Terrace Gardens designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and OLIN. The 22 to 20 vote may have brushed aside the so-called “Granite Web,” but it did retain the principals behind the design for whatever future plans are built on the site, including better pedestrian access, a revamped city council chambers, and a new art gallery. Council Lead Councilor Barney Crockett said the project “never won the whole-hearted acceptance of the people of Aberdeen.” [Via World Architecture News.]
The National Building Museum‘s latest exhibit presents a new way to beat the summer heat—12 holes of mini-golf designed by prominent local architects, landscape architects, and developers. But if it’s windmills and castles you’re after, tee off elsewhere. While the course is a challenge, it offers an intriguing (and very engaging) look at Washington’s architectural history and future.
The State Department’s Overseas Building Operations (OBO) released new renderings by KieranTimberlake of the United States Embassy to be located near London’s Vauxhall neighborhood. The project has acted as something of a petri dish for the development of OBO’s Design Excellence program, which was modeled on a similar program at the much-beleaguered GSA. The London project has been watch closely by federally commissioned architects who must comply with design requirements that combine energy efficiency, sustainably, intense security, and high design. “They continue to use this project as a test case for sorting that stuff out and to continue to achieve really high levels of refinement and design excellence,” concurred James Timberlake.
[Editor’s Note: Following the unveiling of proposals to redesign the National Mall, AN will be running a three-part series to display the proposals for each of the three segments of the Mall: Constitution Gardens, Union Square, and the Washington Monument Grounds.]
A 50-acre parcel of the National Mall, Constitution Gardens, lies just north of the Reflecting Pool and east of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Grade changes keep it somewhat hidden from the main stretch of the Mall, and many tourists (and locals) visit the monuments and Smithsonian museums without coming across it. The gardens’ focal point is a small lake with an island that visitors can access by footbridge. The National Park Service has struggled with the site’s poor soil conditions—the ground was dredged from the Potomac River back in the late 19th century—and with upkeep of the paths and other features.
The National Mall Plan of 2010 calls for an “architecturally unique, multipurpose visitor facility, including food service, retail, and restrooms” to be developed at the east end of the lake, as well as a flexible performance space.
LA’s proposed 44-acre Hollywood Central Park, which would be set atop the capped 101 Freeway between Santa Monica and Hollywood boulevards, made new friends in Washington last week, according to the LA Daily News. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with local congressman Adam Schiff and Friends of the Hollywood Central Park (FHCP), a non-profit formed in 2008 to raise funds for the park. LaHood expressed interest in the project, and provided insights on its development and possible benefits. He also offered to have members of his staff contribute to its planning process.
In an amusing aside, landscape architect Laurie Olin discussed his bow ties on the firm’s blog today. Olin briefly described the style of landscape architects. “Well, there are probably as many styles of dress for landscape architects as there are regions of the world for them to practice in,” he said. And he argued that there is a time and a place for the bow tie. “There are of course clients for whom you wear blue jeans, and events where that’s completely inappropriate.”
Ties in general, he added, are one of the last frontiers in attire for masculine elan. “I think that because there are so few details in men’s clothing and so little ornament, that ties have become uniquely important. It’s one of the last gasps of flair and color for men. Humans respond to color, and it signals various things. It signals that, ‘I’m a wild and crazy guy’ or ‘I’m alive’ or ‘I’m sensible.'”
OLIN has completed a renovation of the gardens at Philadelphia’s Rodin Museum, which houses the largest collection of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures and objects outside of Paris. The renovation is a piece of a larger refurbishment of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is also being overseen by OLIN, as a part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Master Plan. Read More
First Laurie Olin, now Frank Gehry. That was the news earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal reported that the Santa Monica-based architect had laid off “more than two dozen” staffers involved with Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project. What followed was a string of cheers predicting the troubled Brooklyn mega-development’s demise. After all, how could it go on without its signature architect?
While considering this question, I kept thinking of a comment made by Kermit Baker yesterday, during an interview about the abysmal November billings index. Given what’s going on elsewhere in the industry, the termination of a handful of architects may not signal the doomsday scenario the project’s critics would like, and instead may be one more credit-related payroll pause like many others around the nation: Read More