When a huge piece of a starchitect-designed building comes crashing to the ground, the architectural world tends to notice. We are of course talking about the recent reaction to the 176-pound piece of concrete that fell off Zaha Hadid’s Library and Learning Centre at Vienna University of Economics and Business. Making matters worse for Hadid, this is the second time the building has shed a piece of its skin. But Zaha is not alone; shed(-ding) happens.
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.
Archtober Building of the Day #3
The New School University Center
65 5th Avenue, New York, NY
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the five-story academic building topped with student housing on the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 14th Street aggressively embraces its urban setting wearing a vivid zig zag expression of vertical circulation on its sleeve. The AIA New York Chapter held the most recent FitCity conference in its 800-seat auditorium last May. The site was selected for this annual event that brings public health and design professionals together, partly because stairs are the defining element of the structure.
In one of the few towns where the AIA has serious pull, the AIA San Francisco has named Jennifer Jones as its new Executive Director. Longtime HMC principal Kate Diamond has left her position and is looking for a new job. While it pales in comparison to the news that AECOM has merged with URS, forming the biggest firm in the galaxy, WSP has bought “global design giant” Parsons Brinckerhoff for $1.35 billion. That’s no joke either. Finally, after more than six years of waiting, SOM has begun work on its massive redevelopment of the WWII-era housing development, Park Merced. In San Francisco that’s like waiting for fifteen minutes.
With another set of renderings revealed for Florida‘s upcoming commuter rail service, it’s clear that SOM hopes to give the system a highly recognizable visual brand. After the firm unveiled plans for All Aboard Florida’s Miami Station, which floats the rails 50-feet above grade on trusses, SOM and Zyscovich Architects revealed its design for the smaller Ft. Lauderdale station, which clearly borrowed heavily from the first. The 27,500-square-foot hub is also defined by reinforced concrete trusses. And today, with images released for the West Palm Beach station, we know those trusses aren’t going anywhere.
At first glance, the glass-observation boxes that jut out of the Willis Tower’s 103rd floor don’t look all that safe—and that is exactly the point. The SOM-designed attraction, known as the Ledge, opened in 2009 and offers “thrill seekers,” “death defiers,” and “people who can wait in a really long line” the chance to step outside of the iconic skyscraper and look straight down at the streets of Chicago, 1,353-feet below. The floor of the suspended structure is comprised of 1.5-inch laminated glass panels, which can hold 10,000 pounds and withstand four tons of pressure. So, the danger is all imagined, right? Well, it certainly didn’t feel that way for a California family who visited last night.
It’s a battle of the starchitects in Mexico City—and the Brits are leading the pack. Out of the seven finalists short-listed to design an expansion for the capital city’s airport, Benito Juarez International, four hail from the UK: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Pascall+Watson.