On Wednesday, federal transportation secretary Ray LaHood effectively killed Detroit’s planned light rail line, citing doubt about the city’s ability to build and maintain the project, given its dire finances and collapsing levels of density. He instead pushed for bus rapid transit along the Woodward Avenue corridor. Elsewhere, however, transit seems to be gaining traction. Read More
The small world of classicist architecture in America–where many former Postmodernists found refuge after the dial of taste turned away from jokey historical references and pasted-on pediments–is working overtime to rehabilitate the 70s and 80s stylistic counter reformation. First was the recent conference, “Reconsidering Postmodernism,” organized by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which brought out many of the movement’s old stars for presentations, chats, and a lot of hand wringing. Today, the Chicago-based Richard H. Driehaus Foundation announced that Michael Graves was this year’s winner of the $200,000 Driehaus Prize.
The architect/developer David Hovey has designed buildings in the Chicago suburbs as well as city neighborhoods outside of downtown. With the Optima Center Chicago, he is making a 42 story debut just north of the Loop. The luxury rental tower will have 325 units. Hovey is bullish on the building’s potential. “All our market research shows a lot of demand for rentals in that area,” he said of Streeterville. The units will sit on top of nine floors of parking as well as 20,000 square feet of commercial space. Hovey thinks the building’s location–walkable to the Loop, the Lake, and the Magnificent Mile–will make it appealing to upper-end renters. Amenities will include 10th floor recreation center and a sky deck on the 42nd floor concealed behind an ultra-smooth glass curtain wall.
While a number of new rental towers have been announced in recent months, Crain’s has an informative article about a number of Chicago condominium developers who are beginning to build again, albeit at a very small scale and in tightly phased sequences. Even for projects as small as 14 units, banks are demanding projects be split into two phases, six units first, followed by eight in a second building. Some developers are also willing to accept lower offers from buyers for higher down payments up front. The thinking reflects new stricter lending standards and continuing economic uncertainty. But with Chicago’s condo market still over-saturated and the foreclosure crisis just beginning to wane, it also reflects a much needed correction from previous patterns of over building and over lending. And, pardon me Mr. Burnham, but isn’t incremental city-making and infill development often the best approach?
MoMA/P.S. 1 has announced the finalists of the 2012 Young Architects Program. The winning team, which will be announced in February, will have the chance to makeover the museum’s courtyard into a space for the annual Warm Up summer concerts and dance parties. The program has served as a launching pad for younger firms and as a testing ground for new formal and programmatic strategies. This year’s entry by Interboro Partners, called Holding Pattern, stressed community engagement, as all the elements of the installation were repurposed by neighboring non-profits. The 2002 finalists are: AEDS Ammar Eloueini Digit-all Studio, Ammar Eloueini, principal, of Paris and New Orleans, LA; Hollwich Kushner, Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner, principals, of New York; I|K Studio, Mariana Ibañez and Simon Kim, principals, of Cambridge, MA; UrbanLab, Martin Felsen and Sarah Dunn, principals, of Chicago; and Cameron Wu of Cambridge, MA.
The new Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) building at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign uses the latest in sustainable technology and building practices in hopes of reaching not only LEED Platinum, but even zero net energy usuage. Designed by SmithGroup, the 230,000 square foot building is also meant to serve as a prototype for sustainable building across the campus. The ECE department is working toward a net zero building that will supply one hundred percent of its energy demands by incorporating renewable energy systems. The architects and engineers from KJWW have integrated a range of system, including an array of photovoltaic cells panels, displacement and demand control ventilation, heat recovery chillers with net metering, and a chilled beam system for cooling and heating the classroom tower. The building also features solar shading and a multi-hued terra cotta rainscreen over an R30 building envelope. Construction is expected to begin at the end of this year, with an estimated completion date of fall 2014.
Still riding the wave of publicity following her recent MacArthur genius grant win, Jeanne Gang gets the full star treatment from Chicago’s public TV station WTTW. This documentary, “Jeanne Gang: The Sky’s the Limit,” is all praise. Blair Kamin and Stanley Tigerman figure as her head cheerleaders. It would have been nice to have someone puncture the bubble a bit, possibly interrogating Gang about architect’s limits, rather than merely presenting the discipline (and Gang as one of its leading lights) as a environmental and societal savior. The documentary does show some engaging glimpses of Studio Gang’s working methods and office style, so there’s plenty to enjoy, even for the (mild) skeptics.
Yesterday Queen City voters nixed a ballot measure that would have banned all rail funding, which would effectively have killed the Cincinnati’s planned streetcar. In defeating Issue 48, voters cleared the way for construction to begin on the downtown to the Over-the-Rhine light rail line early next year. The margin was tight, only a percent and a half, but it was large enough to avoid a recount. According to UrbanCity.com, the election also solidified support for the line on the city council, with three new pro-streetcar council members elected, for a seven to two majority.
Mayor Emanuel’s proposed $2 congestion tax on downtown parking is facing stiff opposition from, you guessed it, the parking lobby. According to the Tribune, the Parking Industry Labor Management Committee is posting placards in member facilities and handing out flyers opposing the tax. The committee argues the tax will not improve traffic flow and could encourage businesses to relocate to the suburbs. Emanuel believes the tax will foster greater transit ridership and raise an estimated $28 million annually for CTA improvements. The $2 tax on parking at garages and lots in the Loop and River North will be added to the existing $3 tax that goes to the city’s general fund.
Detroit’s most famous ruin, Michigan Central Depot, may soon see new life. Workers for the billionaire Maroun family have been clearing debris out of the 18-story building and a feasibility study for reusing the building is underway. Ann Arbor-based Quinn Evans Architects are among those working on the study. “Structurally, the building is very sound. What’s different now from (previous attempts) is the momentum—the group of people behind this effort as well as the outreach to a wide group,” principal Elisabeth Kibble, told the Detroit News. Local politicians, foundation leaders, and officials from the Detroit Institute of the Arts were recently given a tour of the space. New York-based developer Scott Griffin is working with the Marouns to find possible new uses for the building.
Studio Gang has long partnered with nonprofits and community groups to realize their unconventional designs. For her recent Harvard GSD studio, principal Jeanne Gang partnered with one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to tackle an issue with repercussions across the northern Midwest: separating the South Branch of Chicago River to prevent invasive Asian carp from decimating the Great Lakes.