Academy Accolades

East
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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Opportunity Inspiration Achievement

Last night was the American Academy of Arts and Letters‘ annual ceremonial. The venerable organization inducted new members, meted out awards, and exhibited newly acquired artwork. Among the honorees were many familiar names from the architecture world. Henry Cobb, a long-standing member of the Academy, presented the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture to Michael van Valkenburgh—only the second time in history that the prestigious prize has been given to a landscape architect (Dan Kiley was the other, in 1995). The Academy also inducted Thom Mayne of Morphosis into its membership, citing the convention-defying nature of the controversial architect’s work as reason for his worthiness. Read More

The Grand Sleep

West
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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If built, the $3 billion, mixed-use Grand Avenue project would be one of the largest ever constructed in downtown LA.

According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, downtown LA’s long-delayed Grand Avenue project is going to, er, keep being delayed. Related, the developer, has asked the city for an extension to its deadline to begin construction on the $3 billion Frank Gehry-designed behemoth. The way things stand now, if they don’t get the pile drivers working by February 2011 LA will take their baby away. Related wants until February 2013, a period of time they’ll presumably spend with their fingers crossed, waiting for the condo market to climb back out of the hole it’s fallen into. Also caught up in this mess is a parcel of land that billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad wants to use to build his very own art museum. Could this cultural component be a bargaining chip that will invoke the city’s leniency? Well, Related sure hopes so.

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California Photovoltaism

West
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
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A concept drawing of SCI-Arc/Caltech's CH:IP solar house, which will enter into the 2011 Solar Decathlon in Washington, DC..

A band of students from SCI-Arc and Caltech have been selected to compete in the DOE’s Solar Decathlon, to be held on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 2011. The team will go head to head with 20 other student groups from all over the world—including Canada, Belgium, China, and New Zeland—to determine once and for all, or at least for the next two years, who can build the most livable and sustainable sun-powered residence of 500 square feet or less. Read More

Landscape On The Range

National
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
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A sketch of Heritage Park in Fort Worth, Texas, by Lawrence Halprin.

I don’t know what y’all are doing on May 6 to 8, but if landscape design tickles your pickle then you might want to hightail it down to the Lone Star State. The Cultural Landscape Foundation has partnered with Preservation Dallas and Historic Fort Worth to bring us Landscapes For Living: Post War Years In Texas, a symposium on modern landscape architecture in Texas at the Dallas Museum of Fine Art. Read More

Not So Fast

West
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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SF's Planning Department holds up 555 Washington again, this time over over uncollected fees.

555 Washington, the proposed 38-story neighbor to SF’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid, has ridden a troubled road on its way though the city approval process. It seems that uneven path will continue. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the planning department recently put a hold on a vote on the project’s environmental impact statement, claiming that the developer still owes the city $102,000 in uncollected fees. Needless to say, the doodoo has hit the fan. Is the planning department trying to chisel the developer to fill its budget gap? Or was it simply incompetent in collecting the fees in the first place? Will the developer refuse to pay unless their project receives the green light? Or will it go along obediently while the city chases its tail? Stay tuned…

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USC Says Fickett

West
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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A California home designed by Edward Fickett, circa 1966.

If you want to understand just how under-appreciated California architect Edward Fickett is just try finding a picture of any of his work online, and then compare that task with finding something by his contemporaries Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. Fickett, who died in 1999 at the age of 83, was no slouch. To name a few of his accomplishments, he designed the passenger and cargo terminals at the Port of Los Angeles, Edward Air Force Base, Dodger Stadium, a bevy of hotels and restaurants, mansions for hollywood stars, and some 60,000 light and airy tract homes known as the “Fickett Houses.” Read More

Fast Train To Sin City

West
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
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The proposed Victorville station of the DesertXpress.

The Las Vegas Sun reports that, in spite of some hold ups with environmental approvals, work is expected to begin this year on the $4 billion DesertXpress, a high-speed rail link between Vegas and Victorville, California. Construction on the 185-mile project, which involves two parallel, at-grade tracks through the Mojave Desert, mostly along the I-15 corridor, should take four years. Service is scheduled to being in late 2014. Aecom and Stantec have both been involved in the project thus far, along with a slew of engineering companies. The decision to begin/end the line at Victorville has raised some eyebrows. There are advocates who are pushing for an extension to Palmdale—the site of a future high-speed rail link to Union Station—allowing non-stop rail service from downtown LA to Vegas. DesertXpress chose the Victorville terminus because it is the first major population center west of the Cajon Pass, easily accessible to millions of people in the Inland Empire, and could be paid for without recourse to public tax dollars. To date, the project has been entirely privately funded, though it could be eligible for Federal Stimulus money in the future.

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9/11 Memorial Pools Almost Framed

East
Monday, March 29, 2010
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99.8 percent of the 9/11 memorial pools' steel framing has been erected.

Today, the Port Authority and National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced the near completion of steel framing for the design’s memorial pools. 99.8 percent of the project’s 8,151 tons of steel has been installed to date. For what it’s worth, when completed the Memorial will boast more steel than was used in the construction of the Eiffel Tower. In the coming months, workers will begin the installation of the granite panels that line the walls of the pools, which will be the largest manmade waterfalls in the country when finished, pumping 52,000 gallons of recycled water per minute. A mockup of the waterfalls was built in Brooklyn in January. Follow this link to see an AP video of memorial designer Michael Arad discussing the motivations behind the project.

California Universities Fail Seismic Test

West
Friday, March 26, 2010
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While most all California public Universities occupy earthquake-prone buildings, UC Berkeley topped the list with 71 structures that engineers say you wouldn't want to be in when the big one hits.

Since the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a lot of attention has been focused on the preparedness of the United States to absorb such massive tremors. Nowhere is this more true than in California, the state that is perhaps the most poised in the country to deal with such disasters, as well as the most prone to suffer them. A recent report last week from California Watch—a consortium of investigative journalists who relish tackling the tough issues—found that the state’s public universities have been particularly remiss in earthquake-proofing their facilities. The report identified 108 buildings owned by state universities that engineers say would suffer serious structural damage in the event of a major quake. UC Berkeley topped this list with 71 occupied buildings that failed to make the grade. California is expected to feel one or more magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquakes in the next 30 years.

Welcome To The Big League

East
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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The redesigned headquarters of Major League Baseball is replete with references to the sport.

Just in time for the beginning of the 2010 season, Major League Baseball has spiffed up and expanded its headquarters and the office of its commissioner at 245 Park Ave. Conducted by Butler Rogers Baskett Architects (BBB) and exhibit design firm C&G Partners, the redesign included the addition of a 24,000-square-foot conference center on a full new floor. Aside from bringing the HQ into the 21st century with up-to-date teleconferencing equipment, the designers went out of their way to make every surface in the place scream baseball.

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Preserving The Changes

National
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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The Medina County Courthouse in Hondo, Texas, will remain as-is after a battle between restorationists and preservationists.

In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).

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There First

East
Thursday, March 11, 2010
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Designed by Elemental Architecture (then The Stein Partnership) Rescue 1, completed in 1988, is the first facility designed for a rescue company. (Courtesy Eduard Hueber)

My story on Rescue 3′s new firehouse in the Bronx, designed by Polshek Partnership, alleged that it was the first such facility ever designed specifically for a rescue company’s needs. Alas, that assertion was woefully wrong. In 1987, Elemental Architecture (then The Stein Partnership) designed the new headquarters for Rescue Company 1—the first rescue company in the world. Located on West 43rd St. in Manhattan, the building includes many features tailored to the elite unit’s needs. These include a quick release system that allows the company’s Zodiac boat to be dropped from the ceiling and attached to the top of the apparatus, a decontamination shower (now a standard feature for FDNY and many other fire departments), and a SCUBA recharging station. Read More

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