Mergers and consolidations continue in the A/E/C industry. The four legacy firms that make up the US division of engineering firm WSP—WSP Flack + Kurtz, WSP Cantor Seinuk, WSP Environmental & Energy, and WSP SELLS—are consolidating under the WSP name.
Herman Miller is acquiring the renowned textile firm, Maharam, bringing together two of America’s most design-centric companies. Founded in 1902 in New York, Maharam has gained a reputation in recent decades for commissioning textile designs by leading contemporary designers like Hella Jongerius, Tord Boontje, and Paul Smith, and reissuing classic designs by Verner Panton, Gio Ponti, Alexander Girard, and many others. Led by Michael and Stephen Maraham, the company has cultivated a strong connection to the design community and developed products guided by the taste and vision of the brothers. According to a release by Herman Miller, both Maharam brothers will stay involved in the company for at least the next two years. Senior executives with the company will also stay in place.
As the chorus of criticism swells against MoMA’s plan to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a pair of petitions have been posted urging the Modern to reconsider its demolition plans. Also, a crowd-sourced tumblr, #FolkMoMA, is soliciting ideas for reuse of Williams and Tsien’s building. With all the action online, will anyone be taking to the streets for some old fashioned picketing? Will anyone chain themselves to the bronze facade? Has all this worry actually left the bubble of the architecture community?
Michael Speaks, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, has just been appointed Dean of Architecture at Syracuse University. Mark Robbins left that post to direct the International Center of Photography in New York. Speaks, who has been at UK since 2008, cited a number of initiatives as his legacy in Kentucky, including many that engaged directly with urban and rural issues in the Commonwealth. “I arrived here at an inauspicious time, a very economically challenging one, ” he told AN. “One of our goals was to make sure that as many studios engaged with real world problems as possible.”
Last night, at the Frank Gehry-designed AIC building in far west Chelsea, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Arts Society honored an esteemed group of urban activists, designers, and community developers with Jane Jacobs Medals, a prestigious prize named for the ground breaking urban writer and activist. Ron Shiffman, founder of the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development, was awarded the medal for lifetime leadership. Roseanne Haggerty of Common Ground and Community Solutions, received the award to new ideas and activism. A new award for technology and innovation was given to Carl Skelton, the founder of Betaville, and Cassie Flynn, Erin Barnes, and Brandon Whitney, the creators of ioby (In Our Backyards), a crowdsourced sustainability platform (the trio also donned Jacobs-like glasses after accepting their award).
The event was originally scheduled for last November, but had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy, which damaged the IAC building as well as many of the galleries, businesses, and residences in the surrounding neighborhood. Social and environmental resilience were strong themes of the night, and Ron Shiffman closed the ceremony with a rallying cry for greater civic activism–a fitting message for an evening dedicated to Jacobs.
Today, New York City broke ground on the new paving/plaza/seating design for Times Square, created by Snøhetta. Dark pavers inset with reflective stainless steel discs will provide a muted backdrop for the area’s frenzy of light and crowds. Monumental benches, with concealed electrical infrastructure for events, will provide a variety of seating, lounging, and viewing options. Moreover, the project signals the Bloomberg administration‘s desire to make its pedestrian plazas permanent.
While President Obama may have called out the economic potential of 3D printing in his State of the Union, one prominent Republican is trumpeting the new technology. In an article posted on the conservative website Human Events, former Speak of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich claims, “the greatest difference in our generation may not be between liberals and conservatives, but between the pioneers of the future and prisoners of the past.” Among the technologies he praises, 3D printing is nothing less than “revolutionary.”
Gingrich has long been a fan of futurist thinking and advanced technology. He campaigned for a colony on the Moon, another place where 3D printing would come in handy:
3D printing may revolutionize logistics and save an amazing amount of money in the Defense Department. It may also revolutionize our capacity to go into space by allowing manufacturing on asteroids and the Moon with minimum weight requirements. 3D printing may also return manufacturing to the United States by eliminating the advantages of low cost mass produced production runs.
The Architecture Billings Index showed renewed strength in January, with a jump to 54.2 from 51.2 in December (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). All four regions were in positive territory with the Midwest leading at 54.4, the long struggling West showing strength at 53.4, the South came in at 51.7, and the Northeast at 50.3. The Index posted the strongest gains since November 2007.
Pharrell Williams recently sat down to interview architect Alexander Gorlin and artist/designer Daniel Arsham of Snarkitecture. They discussed their influences and creative processes. The conversation took place in Gorlin’s apartment in his eponymous building in Miami. As Pharrell noted, “We’re sitting in your idea right now… That’s deep.”