The Bayonne Question

East
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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The Bayonne Bridge is currently the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world.

The Bayonne Bridge is currently the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world.

The Port Authority has released a report conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which points out that the Bayonne Bridge will begin to impose more and more restrictions on commercial shipping. Designed by master bridge designer Othmar Ammann and architect Cass Gilbert and completed in 1931, the span was at the time the longest steel arch bridge in the world, supporting a road bed of more than 8,000 feet, 1,675 feet of which hang from the arch with no intermediary support. However, its 165-foot height will no longer cut the mustard with todays larger ships, more and more of which are expected to pass through the region with the completion of upgrades at the Panama Canal to be completed in 2015. The Corps determined that the roadway could either be jacked up to 215 feet high, or, alternately, that the bridge could be knocked down and replaced with a tunnel. The Port Authority has devoted $10 million to figure out which is the best solution.

Green Tremors

International
Monday, September 14, 2009
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The deep drilling involved in geothermal power production can induce earthquakes.

The deep drilling involved in geothermal power production can induce earthquakes.

Icarus. The Tower of Babel. We all know what can happen when humans reach too high. Well, apparently reaching too low can also have some negative side effects. In mid-August, a geothermal power plant under construction in Germany set off a trembler that registered at 2.7 on the Richter scale. A similar project in Basel, Switzerland, set off successive earthquakes in 2006 and 2007, one registering as high as 3.4. While some seismic activity has always resulted from geothermal installations, a new process which digs deeper and involves fracturing solid rock, rather than harvesting existing steam beds, both promises to increase power production and, evidently, earthquakes. The news is disheartening, considering that a report from the Department of Energy that came out earlier this year cast geothermal energy as real possibility for significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in a relatively short time frame.

Imagined Infrastructure

National
Friday, September 4, 2009
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Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies

Urban Algae proposes a park on a floating pontoon between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook that would harvest CO2 emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

cityLAB, an urban think-tank at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, has announced the six finalists of its WPA 2.0 competition. The competition, which stands for working public architecture, invited designers of all stripes to submit proposals for rebuilding our cities’ infrastructure as a sort of throwback to the Great Depression-era WPA. Juried by Stan Allen, Cecil Balmond, Elizabeth Diller, Walter Hood, Thom Mayne, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the top-six picks run the gamut from heading off an impending water crisis to creating a softer, gentler version of our infrastructure. One finalist, Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies, proposes to harvest CO2 emissions through photosynthesis. Submitted by PORT Architecture + Urbanism, the solution could be rolled out nationwide on coal-fired power plants and toll booths, but the designers also outlined a scheme for creating a public park on floating pontoons between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, which would harvest emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Read about the other finalists after the jump. Read More

Bayou Ball

National
Thursday, September 3, 2009
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Trahan clad the exterior of the museum in planks of sinker cypress, which comes from logs that have been submerged for years in the soft muddy bottoms of swamps and bayous. (Courtesy Trahan Architects)

Trahan clad the exterior of the museum in planks of sinker cypress, which comes from logs that have been submerged for years in the soft muddy bottoms of swamps and bayous. (Courtesy Trahan Architects)

Construction began last month in Natchitoches, Louisiana, on the Louisana State Sports Hall of Fame and Regional History Museum. “What do sports and regional history have in common?” you might ask. Trahan Architects certainly had to ponder this question when figuring out an elegant way to combine the disparate program elements under one roof. In the end they took inspiration from Louisiana’s geomorphology, basing their layout of interior spaces on “the fluid shapes of the braided corridors of river channels separated by interstitial masses of land.” See exactly what is meant by this in the images after the jump. Read More

Euro Bulb Ban Begins

International
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Europe’s ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect today. A New York Times report filed yesterday from Brussels brought home the air of ambivalence that has accompanied the prohibition, relating tales of some Europeans jumping eagerly on the compact fluorescent (CFL) bandwagon, others racing out to stockpile the old bulbs before retailers run out, and still others wondering, “Why are we switching?” The european ban can be seen as a bellwether for a similar phasing out that will begin to take place here in the U.S. in 2012, which I wrote about in the editorial for our 2008 Lighting Issue. Just to recap, while there is no argument in terms of the energy savings that incandescent replacement technologies such as CFLs offer, they do come with their own problems: they cost more, come with embedded electronics, contain mercury, and, most important for designers, they do not render color as well. And, let’s not forget, in certain places incandescent light bulbs’ inefficiency is a boon.

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Art On The Gridiron

National
Friday, August 14, 2009
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Mel Bochners Win! will be painted directly onto the walls opposite the monumental staircase in the northeastern portion of Dallas Cowboys Stadium. (Courtesy Marc Selwyn Fine Art)

Mel Bochner's Win! will be painted directly onto the walls opposite the monumental staircase in the northeastern portion of Cowboys Stadium. (Courtesy Marc Selwyn Fine Art)

Thirty-five years ago in Austin, Texas, Willie Nelson forged an historic accord between the hippies and the rednecks. Today, some 200 miles to the north in Arlington, Texas, Gene and Jerry Jones, owners of the Dallas Cowboys, are forming a similar pact, this time between the artists and the jocks. The Jones family has kicked off an ongoing initiative to commission contemporary artists to create site-specific installations for the newly completed Cowboys Stadium. The initial blitz of 14 works includes pieces by such art world luminaries as Franz Ackermann, Annette Lawrence, and Oafur Eliasson. See more after the jump.

Read More

Unforgettable Stage

International
Thursday, August 6, 2009
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The 4,000-square-foot video screen is made up of 800 LED Panels. It also expands and contracts.

The 4,000-square-foot video screen is made up of 888 LED Panels. It also expands and contracts.

Engineering firm Buro Happold is known for designing innovative structures. The glazed canopies it suspended above the courtyards of the Smithsonian and the British Museum baffle the mind with their seeming lightness. And the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic, on which the firm collaborated with fellow UK native Grimshaw, introduced upstate New York to some of the most space-age forms it has seen since Whitley Streiber’s Communion. Now the firm—along with designers Hoberman Associates and Innovative Designs—has turned its expertise to the world of rock and roll with its structural design for an expanding 4,000-square-foot video screen that will accompany U2 on their current 360º tour. Made up of 888 LED panels (500,000 pixels) the screen weighs 32 tons, can expand and contract from 23 feet tall to 72 feet tall in 90 seconds, and can be assembled in 8 hours and broken down into portable pieces in 6 hours. More pics and some videos after the jump. Read More

Late Is Better Than Never

Midwest
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
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Zahas fabric and aluminum pod is lit at night by LED fixtures, in a changing color scheme designed by Chicago firm Dear Productions. (Courtesy Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Zaha's fabric and aluminum pod is lit at night by LED fixtures, in a changing color scheme designed by Chicago firm Dear Productions. (Courtesy Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

On Tuesday, after a nearly two-month delay, Zaha Hadid’s pavilion honoring the 100th-year anniversary of Daniel Burnham’s plan for Chicago finally opened in Millennium Park. The wait—allegedly caused by problems with the project’s contractor—was more than made up for by the dynamism of the space, or so thought the Tribune. The installation at last joins its neighbor, the on-schedule Burnham pavilion by UNStudio, which is already showing significant signs of wear on its plywood surface from being used as a public rumpus room. See more pictures of Zaha’s creation here.

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Fontainebleau Anew

East
Monday, July 27, 2009
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A new free-standing spa at the Fontainebleau Miami features a hurricane-rated glass curtainwall. Goldfinger, eat your heart out. (Courtesy Fontainebleau)

A new free-standing spa at the Fontainebleau Miami features a hurricane-rated glass curtainwall. Goldfinger, eat your heart out. (Courtesy Fontainebleau)

Morris Lapidus’ Fontainebleau in Miami is one of the most recognizable hotels in the United States, thanks in no small part to its frequent appearances in television shows and films, perhaps most notably and intimately in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. A recent two-year revitalization has brought the old bastion of luxury and class—which had begun to show its wear—back to prime condition. More than just polish up the surfaces, the effort included the addition of a free-standing spa. The designers, Dallas-based architectural firm HKS, selected a blue tinted glass for the spa’s curtain wall. In addition to referencing the adjacent pool’s azure complexion, the glass (1 5/16-inch thick Viracon laminated units with a Vanceva Storm interlayer) meets Miami’s strict large missile impact and hurricane codes. Goldfinger would be proud.

I Brought My Pencil

East
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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The fenestration of the East Harlem School was designed to let in ample daylight while creating a sheltered environment for the students. (Courtesy www.freelandarch.com)

The fenestration of the East Harlem School, seen here from a typical classroom, was designed to let in ample daylight while creating a sheltered environment for the students. (Courtesy www.freelandarch.com)

We have covered the East Harlem School a few times, once in a studio visit we did with the architect, Peter L. Gluck & Partners (09_05.21.2008), and once in our 2009 favorite sources issue (specifically here). Now construction on the project has been completed and Gluck has sent us some images of the finished product. According to the architect, who also provided construction management services, the school was built for $330 per square foot. Gluck also reports that his firm returned $500,000 to the client in unused contingencies. See what $330 per square foot will get you in Manhattan when your architect is also your CM after the jump. Read More

Times Square Time Lapse

East
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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My In Detail piece in the current issue is about Eleven Times Square, a speculative office tower at the corner of 8th Ave. and 42nd St., which was designed by FXFowle and is now in the final stages of construction. Lucky for you and me, Plaza Construction had the site photographed everyday for the past two years or so from the same vantage on a nearby tower, and has compiled these daily progress photos in the above stop-action video. There is much to admire in the presentation, but pay close attention to the erection of the structural elements. (Hint: The Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop goes up first.) Read More

Path Future

East, East Coast
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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Warp speed. Next stop, the 21st Century! (Courtesy dandeluca, flickr)

Warp speed. Next stop, the 21st Century! (Courtesy dandeluca, flickr)

The Path Train has finally entered the 21st Century. Yesterday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a number of new additions that have rocketed the rail line out of its luddite solar system and into a whole new constellation of technology. The Path now boasts new, up-to-date rail cars, an upgraded website (be sure to watch the video), and… drum roll… a Twitter page! Next time you have to ride out to Jersey you can forget the hair gel and gold chains and instead grab your favorite PDA and put on those glow-in-the-dark Ray Bans. The future is now.

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