Last year, the Center for Land Use Interpretation of Culver City, California, exhibited its study of the Texas oil industry: Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry. The centerpiece of the exhibit was a 12-minute “landscan” video of the petrochemical infrastructure along the Houston Ship Channel—refineries, tank farms, pipe lines—the largest such installation in the world. Now, at long last, the CLUI has posted the video online, giving us another breathtaking perspective of this terrifying and beautiful landscape.
Did you have a nice time watching Phantom of the Opera? Did you buy all that you could carry from The Disney Store? Have fun strolling down the soon-to-be-redesigned Broadway plazas? Why not pop around the corner and check out a peep show? I’m not talking naked ladies here, I’m talking real live sharks! This isn’t a joke. In the very near future this may be an option. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Jerry Shefsky—a Toronto-based developer—is near to closing a deal with SJP Properties to put a 600,000-gallon aquarium in the base of the company’s brand spanking new 11 Times Square office tower. In addition to the aforementioned sharks, the $100 million project would include tanks featuring rays, penguins, otters, and drier attractions such as a pirate museum. This could even serve as a model for other financially troubled projects in the city. Perhaps turn Stuytown into a zoo? Not that it isn’t one already.
Engineering News Record brings us the news that the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince is one of the few major buildings to survive the January 12th earthquake with only minor damage. According to the report, the facility remained functional during and after the earthquake: the electricity stayed on, communications systems continued to function, and water and air kept operating. As a result the building has become an important center for relief efforts. The reason that the 134,000-square-foot structure escaped the general devastation seems to be that it was built recently in accordance with the International Building Code and the State Department’s Overseas Building Operations requirements. The building was constructed between 2005 and 2008 as a design-build project by New York City-based Fluor Corp, was bolstered by reinforced concrete shear walls, and had mechanical and electrical systems built to withstand seismic events.
If you can’t make it to the Hafele showroom tonight for the presentation on lumenHAUS—Virginia Tech’s entry to the 2009 DOE Solar Decathlon—don’t worry about it. AN was in Times Square last night to get the inside skinny on the solar-powered wonder house. In a quest to reconcile contemporary goals of sustainability with modern architecture, the VT team went beyond solar arrays. They began by studying the Farnsworth House and looking for ways to increase its insulation while maintaining its connection to its surroundings. That inquiry led to the design of a steel-framed glass box outfitted with two layers of sliding panels. Read More
If you didn’t have a chance to make it down to D.C. for the 2009 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, now is your chance to make up for it. Starting today and running through Sunday, Virginia Tech’s entry will be on display in Times Square. Known as lumenHAUS, the 800-square-foot single family home is replete with high tech features such as an iPhone interface, smart controls that automatically adjust climate systems, and of course solar power. If any of this peaks your interest, professors from the Virginia Tech School of Art + Design will be giving a presentation tomorrow night from 6:00 to 7:30 at the Hafele showroom, 25 East 26th St.
Yesterday’s high winds and rain did more than make life miserable for AN staff members with holes in their shoes. They also brought a stop work order down on Forest City Ratner’s Beekman Tower. According to the DOB’s complaint, metal and plywood fell from the 72-story Frank Gehry-designed structure in an approximately 2 1/2-block radius around City Hall Park. No injuries were reported, though a metal turnbuckle did collide with a parked car and emergency services shut down streets. These events followed the DOB’s issuance of a high wind advisory on Sunday. In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Building Commissioner Robert LiMandri sternly reminded contractors that such advisories must be heeded. The GC at the Beekman Tower is Kreisler Borg Florman.
A couple of days ago the New York Times buried a bit of architecture news in their Dining & Wine section: WorkAC has designed facilities for the first New York affiliate of the Edible Schoolyard program. Initiated by the Chez Panisse foundation and begun 15 years ago at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, CA, the program offers students the opportunity to be involved in the planting, growing, and harvesting of seasonal produce. While much of the project will involve tearing up an asphalt yard to make way for planting beds, the heart will be a new kitchen classroom designed by WorkAC, which has dabbled before in edible architecture. The building’s butterfly-shaped roof will collect rainwater for irrigation, and a 1,600-square-foot moveable greenhouse will extend the growing season. The building will be solar powered and will also include a chicken coop, dishwashing facilities, and a toolshed. More images after the jump.
In the above video, lighting designer Leni Schwendinger takes us on a light walk. Inspired by the Professional Lighting Designers Association’s LightMapping events, Schwendinger guides us through the nighttime streets of Greenwich Village, using her keen eye to observe and interpret the urban lighting conditions. What she reveals is a nuanced way of experiencing the city—New York or any place where electric light and the built environment can be found—after the sun goes down and is not to be missed. Enjoy.
On Friday I posted a video about the Ocean Tower in South Padre Island, Texas, also known as the Leaning Tower of South Padre Island. It is, or was to be, a 31 story condo. Regrettably, after topping out one side of the foundation sank more than a foot into the sand, construction was halted, and on Sunday the structure was imploded. At 400 feet tall, it was the tallest concrete structure to ever be imploded, according to the demolition contractor, Controlled Demolition of Phoenix, Maryland. The above video, and many more like it on youtube, capture the magic moment.
Metaphorically speaking, so much of the development that has happened over the last decade has been built on loose sandy soil. Here, however, is a literal example of this very disheartening state of affairs: The Ocean Tower in South Padre Island, Texas—designed by the Brownsville-based Walker & Perez Associates—was to be a 31-story condo, promising startling views of the Gulf of Mexico and proximity to the most exclusive neighborhoods in the popular vacation destination. But after topping out last year construction was halted because one side of the building sank 14 or more inches into the underlying clay stratum. Major cracks appeared throughout the tower’s base, and now the structure is slated to be imploded this Sunday. The eloquent commentary on the above video gives voice to what we have all been thinking but afraid of saying while the myriad of architectural projects have been crumbling around our heads.
The feature that I wrote for issue 20 is about personal rapid transit. PRT, as it is called, is a mass transportation concept that swaps high-capacity trains for small “pod cars.” These individualized vehicles run on dedicated tracks from origin to destination, bypassing all other stations along the way. Such a system is currently being installed at London’s Heathrow Airport and Foster + Partners is developing a PRT solution for its Masdar City project, but the idea has been around at least since the 1950s. In the late 60s and 70s several prototypes were developed and tested for possible urban application, but—aside from a semi-PRT system installed in Morgantown, West Virginia—none of them were ever realized. The one that came the closest was Cabinentaxi, which was to be rolled out in Hamburg, Germany. A recession in 1980 sank the project, but luckily they made this lovely film before falling into the dustbin of history. Enjoy.