“Sometimes the best way to restore a historic structure is to reuse it.” The comment came from Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney at the conclusion of Tuesday’s landmarks hearing on revisions proposed by Vornado Realty for interiors of the recently landmarked Manufacturers Trust Building on Fifth Avenue. The statement summed up the mood of the commission with regard to changes in the space, originally designed by Gordon Bunschaft, which include dividing the first floor to make space for two retail tenants. Most of the commission picked apart the specifics while maintaining that the architects from SOM overseeing the renovation were generally on the right track.
The rumors about Gordon Bunshaft’s landmarked Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust Bank building being transformed into a big-box retail store have been flying around for a while now. In March, Vornado Realty Trust reportedly entered talks to buy the five-story building at 510 Fifth Avenue. Now, we’ve turned up a rendering by 3-D illustration firm Neoscape showing the building as the type of landmark only your high school daughter could love: a Forever 21.
But wait, it gets worse. Until this month the building has been occupied by Chase Bank, and while the changes made to the building for security reasons were lamentable, at least we could rest easy knowing that its site-specific Harry Bertoia sculpture—a 70-foot screen composed of 800 bronze plates—was safe. But not anymore. An AN tipster clued us in today: “Half of it is laying on the otherwise vacant 2nd floor. So far, all I’ve got from Chase is an assurance ‘it’s not going in the dumpster.'”
We confirmed the awful truth:
The last five families were moved out of the Harold Ickes Homes at the end of March, one of the latest clusters of high rise public housing the city is clearing as a part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s “Plan for Transformation.” Dozens of highrise towers have been demolished across the across the city, opening vast tracts of land for mixed-income and in some cases mixed-used development. While few would dispute that the large-scale warehousing of the poor in these projects helped to create major urban problems, the nearly total erasure of these areas seems as blunt as the urban renewal tactics through which they were originally built. Read More
The Burj Dubai Khalifa opened on Monday, breaking a slew of records, but this video showcases one we never expected: a record-breaking base jump. Leaping from a window-washing crane on the 160th floor, two local experts plummeted 2,205 feet to earth, a feat few, if any, will ever replicate, though no doubt they’ll keep trying, as what’s even crazier is a British man attempted the same jump before the building was even completed, though he was caught in the act and promptly incarcerated, as the video after the, uh, jump shows. If that’s not enough, the Daily Mail‘s got some good photos. Read More
Today marks the official inauguration of the world’s tallest building, the Burj in Dubai. While the opening comes at a rocky time for the emirate and for the global real estate market, it was greeted with great fanfare, including, cannily, renaming the building the Burj Khalifa, after the president of neighboring Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The move signaled both Dubai’s gratitude for Abu Dhabi’s recent bailout and the unity of the emirates through the financial crisis.
The Chicago office of SOM has designed a modern take on the menorah, which recently took top prize in a charity competition sponsored by Steelcase. The solid wax menorah, which was created by Colin Gorsuch, burns so that the eight inch square frame is revealed with the passing of each night of Chanukkah. Read More
Big. Bold. Visionary: Chicago Considers the Next Century, another event commemorating the Burnham Plan Centennial, taps local architects, planners, and landscape architects to envision the ideal Windy City of the future. Some designers took a creative and sometimes whimsical approach, while others offered up more practical concepts. Read More
Sixty-eight degrees happens to be the best angle for the streets in San Francisco’s Treasure Island project, a utopian vision of green, pedestrian-centric living. The planners have realized that nobody will walk if they’re buffeted by blasts of wind that sweep the island from the southwest, so they came up with a compromise that blocks wind while giving cars enough clearance to turn.
It was just one of the interesting factoids that came up during yesterday’s tour, organized by the AIA SF for their Architecture + the City Festival, going on right now (still time to catch one of the other tours and get in on the learning and schmoozing!). Read More
We’ve been following Chicago’s Olympic bid rather closely of late, and not only because we’re on the way to inaugurating a Midwest edition of the paper. First, there was SOM’s intriguing proposal to create “sustainable,” “low-impact” Olympics that would have few legacy costs by using temporary facilities, an approach the IOC apparently favored. Then there was the impact of that plan, which still called for the demolition of some buildings—as well as hundreds of trees in Washington Park—most notably at the Walter Gropius-designed Michael Reese hospital campus. Outcry from preservationists led the city to delay demolition, which made time for the preservationists to develop alternative plans. Olympic opponents may be catching another break now, as, ironically enough, the very things the IOC purportedly liked about Chicago’s bid-lite may also be its undoing. Read More