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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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