Day to Night, Illuminating Darkened Detroit

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

(All images courtesy McIntosh Poris Associates)

Architectural lighting is a great way to bring a bit of life to unused buildings. A new program in Detroit aims to cast some of the city’s many empty structures in a better light, in an effort to “mothball” them for future use. The architects at McIntosh Poris Associates have an innovative plan to re-light the four buildings without generating carbon emissions, a plan they hope to expand across downtown. Commissioned by the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, the project will light the interior and exteriors with power generated from rooftop photovoltaics. Read More

Mart for Sale? Not So Fast.

Thursday, September 9, 2010
The Merchandise Mart

(photo: courtesy MMPI)

Earlier in the week Crain’s reported that the Merchandise Mart, Chicago’s iconic Art Deco design center and the home of the country’s largest design trade show, is up for sale. Vornado, the New York–based real estate company that bought the Mart’s parent company from the Kennedy family in 1998, is reportedly seeking more than $1 billion for 8.9 million square feet held by Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI).

Yesterday, MMPI released a statement disputing elements of the Crain’s story, particularly recent profitability figures. According to MMPI, their properties are 92% occupied, a rate far higher than the 84% occupancy for the rest of the Chicago central business district. The statement implies, thought it does not categorically state, that the Mart is not on the block. Here’s the full release. Read More

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Daley Out. Rahm In?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Sun-Times broke the story that, after much deliberation, Mayor Richard M. Daley has decided not to run for reelection. Daley has been in office since 1989, so his impact has been vast, especially on the city’s built environment. From planting thousands of trees and promoting green roofs and LEED construction, to building magaprojects like Millenium Park and championing development like the new Trump Tower, Daley’s vision shaped the architecture and urbanism Chicago, as well as the city’s identity, arguably more directly than any other mayor in the country. With less than six months before the election, those interested in replacing Daley will have to work fast. President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, generated considerable buzz earlier in the year when he said he’d like to be mayor someday. He quickly qualified that he would not challenged Daley. No word yet on his intentions following Daley’s announcement. While Emanuel is known to be a strong armed character, his views on design and the built environment are unclear at the point. Whoever becomes mayor, Daley’s shadow will be a long one.

Buy This House!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

(photo: John Andersen/New York Times)

The comparison shopping set up of the “What you get for…” column in the New York Times Real Estate section is often a stroke of editorial genius. This week’s price point is an affordable $275,000, which gets you a charming frame bungalow in Nashville, a handsome one bedroom loft in Philadelphia, or this Midcentury Modern two bedroom in Madison, Wisconsin, designed by William Kaeser. According to the Times, the house is located in a residential neighborhood called Sunset Village about two miles from downtown and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The house retains many of its original details, including mahogany paneled interiors, so the right buyer could turn it into a serene yet cozy modern hideaway.

Expedited Boarding in the Loop?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Block 37 (courtesy Joseph Freed and Associates)

Mayor Daley has announced a plan for a high speed rail line linking O’Hare to the Loop and has appointed a 17 member panel to look into the project. According to the Sun-Times, though, he has a major caveat: the line should be entirely privately financed and run with no city or government money of any kind. He gave this ultimatum to the panel of prominent business and civic leaders. The line would connect O’Hare to the currently unfinished station under Block 37. Is such a plan feasible? The mayor thinks so. “There’s already interest by private investment funds, foreign investment funds,” Daley said, according to the Sun-Times. “They’ve come to see me, I’ll be very frank, talking about this. That’s exciting.”

Dyson Awards Aim to Improve Society Through Design

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Copenhagen 1

The brief for the James Dyson Award design competition is deceptively simple: Design something that solves a problem. The winner and nine finalists representing the United States all responded with highly functional designs that could make a positive impact on the way we live, none more so than the U.S. winner, the Copenhagen Wheel, designed by Christine Outram and students in the SENSEable City Lab at MIT. The hybrid battery-powered disk turns any bike into an electric boosted bike, helping cyclists go longer distances and ride up hills. Read More

Margaret Russell Takes the Reins at Digest

Friday, August 6, 2010

Margaret Russell

Margaret Russell, the editor-in-chief and vice president for brand content at Elle Decor, has been named editor-in-chief of Condé Nast’s Architectural Digest. She will succeed Paige Rense who has edited Digest for nearly 40 years.

Russell has made Elle Decor a credible rival for Digest, and is respected for her taste and discerning eye. Digest remained virtually unchanged for much of Rense’s long tenure there, so many expect Russell will update the magazine’s image as well as bring new architects and designers into its pages.

The magazine’s offices will relocate from Los Angeles to New York. Russell will take over in September.

Hefty Bill for AT&T

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The AT&T Building as rendered by Philip Johnson.

In April, a seven foot tall presentation drawing of the AT&T building was purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for $71,000, one of the highest prices ever paid for a “modern architectural drawing,” according to a release. The Philip Johnson drawing was sold through the Wright auction house in Chicago, which has become a specialist in selling architectural materials. The V&A will show the piece in an upcoming exhibition on postmodernism. It is one of only a handful of works by an American in the museum’s 35,000 piece architecture collection.

The building is famous for its “Chippendale” top, which, when it opened in 1984, signaled the ascendency of postmodernism and the return of historical styles and classical references to the architectural vocabulary.

The drawing is part of a larger archive of Johnson’s work, which includes thousands of drawings, plans, and photographs of AT&T, Pennzoil Place, PPG Place, and the Chrystal Cathedral. The owner of the archive wishes to remain anonymous, according to the release.

Changes at Architecture School Urban Design Studios

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Terry Schwarz

Kent State University has named Terry Schwarz the director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC). A satellite of the College of Architecture, the CUDC provides urban planning and design services to underserved communities and neighborhoods. Schwarz has worked at the studio since 2000, creating, among other projects, the Shrinking Cities Institute, to investigate urban vacancy and declining population, and Pop Up City, an initiative to animate underused land with arts activities. Schwarz has a masters in city and regional planning from Cornell, and has lectured and published widely.

The Urban Design Studio in Louisville has focused its mission on sustainability, according to Broken Sidewalk. The University of Kentucky College of Design, based in Lexington, recently withdrew its involvement in the studio, leaving the planning program at the University of Louisville as the primary partner. The Studio will also expand it’s collaboration with AIA Central Kentucky raise awareness of contemporary design in Louisville.

Parks Advocates Picked for Jacobs Medals

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Joshua David and Robert Hammond (photo: Joel Sternfeld)

Central Park Conservancy founder Elizabeth Barlow Rogers and Friends of the High Line founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond will receive this year’s Jane Jacobs Medals, presented by the Municipal Art Society and the Rockefeller Foundation. Rogers founded the Central Park Conservancy in 1980 and served in the dual position of president and park administrator till 1995. Read More

The Wonders of Weese

Monday, July 19, 2010

The D.C. Metro designed by Harry Weese. (photog courtesy of the Weese family, via Chicago Magazine.)

I finally got around to reading Robert Sharoff’s fascinating Chicago Magazine piece on the life and work of Harry Weese, the architect of one of my favorite works of modern of architecture, infrastructure, and urban design, the D.C. Metro. The piece is packed with 20th century Chicago architectural history, compelling biography, and insightful analysis of Weese’s work. Sharoff draws on Robert Bruegmann’s forthcoming book on the architect, and both make the case that Weese should be considered one of the preeminent figures in Postwar American architecture. Like his friend Eero Saarinen, he seemed to reinvent himself with each new project, pushing modernism in new, diverse directions and offering an alternative to Miesian orthodoxy. Sadly, his prolific career was brought to a premature end by alcoholism, but even so he made an indelible mark on the American landscape.

Lagrange out to Pasture?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

courtesy Crain's

Crain’s reports that prominent Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange is throwing in the towel at the barely ripe age of 69. Not only his he closing up shop–at an as yet undisclosed date–he’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “Retiring, (there would be) a lot of liabilities are on my back. I can’t just walk away,” Lagrange told Crain’s. “Chapter 11 gives you a chance to plan ahead, organize and close in a decent way.”

While the AIA may be forcasting a brighter 2011, Lagrange, best known for designing high end condos, doesn’t see the market bouncing back for another five years. While he might be in a gloomy mood now, my hunch is that Chapter 11 won’t be the final chapter in his career.

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