New York’s Summer Streets Begins This Weekend

East
Friday, August 5, 2011
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Summer Streets. (Courtesy Transportation Alternatives)

Summer Streets. (Courtesy Transportation Alternatives)

Beginning tomorrow, August 6 in New York City, grab your bike or jogging shoes and run out into traffic. Summer Streets, the program that shuts down a portion of the city’s thoroughfares to anything with a motor, is back for three weekends in August and the event is not to be missed. Described by Transportation Alternatives as “a cyclist’s dream, a pedestrian fantasy and most definitely New York City’s greatest car-free event,” there’s no exaggeration in saying you’ll never experience the city’s public spaces like strolling down the middle of Park Avenue without the dangers, sounds, or smells of the city’s notorious traffic.

Summer Streets will be barring autos from seven miles of Manhattan roads on August 6th, 13th, and 20th from 7:00a.m. until 1:00p.m., so wake up early and tell your friends!

Check out the route map after the jump.

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Video> Lithuanian Mayor Goes on Bike Lane Offensive

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
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Mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania crushing a car in the bike lane. (Video still)

Mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania crushing a car in the bike lane. (Video still)

A few days ago on July 30, Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, became fed up with cars illegally parked in the city’s bike lanes. To prove his point, he ordered in a tank and proceeded to crush a Mercedes-Benz stopped not only in a bike lane but partially in a crosswalk. The mayor then takes all scofflaw motorists to task, declaring, “That’s what will happen if you park your car illegally!” Perhaps, best of all, the Zuokas swept the broken glass from the bike lane and hopped on an electric bike and rode off into the horizon. Can you imagine such a thing happening in America? (Via Urban Velo.)

Watch the amazing video after the jump.

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Museum Plaza Developers Scrap Plans for Tower

Midwest, Newsletter
Monday, August 1, 2011
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Museum Plaza would have extended Louisville's skyline. (Courtesy REX)

Museum Plaza would have extended Louisville's skyline. (Courtesy REX)

The first line of a press statement sent out by developers of the REX-designed Museum Plaza tower in Louisville, Kentucky put it bluntly: “Museum Plaza will not be built.” The 62-story hyper-rational tower—part kunsthalle museum, part residential and commercial hub, part art school—was hoped to signal the rejuvenation of the city’s urban core, but like so many iconic buildings proposed in the days leading up to the great recession, the vision succumbed to the realities of the financial markets.

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Video> Welcome to Cloquet, Home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Only Gas Station

Midwest
Friday, July 22, 2011
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Gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Screen Capture)

Gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Screen Capture)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of Broadacre City may have been the prototype for the modern American suburb, but in Cloquet, Minnesota, a small piece of the original plan was actually built and is still in operation. The R.W. Lindholm Service Station, the only gas station ever designed by the architect, was commissioned after the Lindholm family previously hired Wright to design their house. Finished in 1956, the service station offered a futuristic vision of the gas station as place of community and culture with a novel waiting room prominently perched overlooking the filling bays. Wright took the structure’s design seriously, even specifying that gas be dispensed from the ceiling to avoid obstacles to auto traffic flow, an innovation that didn’t make it through history.

Watch the videos after the jump.

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Video> Proposed Utopian City Moves Like Clockwork

International
Friday, July 15, 2011
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Clockwork City by T0R0YD. (Screen Capture)

Clockwork City by T0R0YD. (Screen Capture)

“Clockwork City” is the fantastical vision of animator Roy Prol calling for a city of rotating rings that change the notion of getting around in large city. As the video (after the jump) notes, the 3,000 meter diameter “Clockwork City” won’t need cars or even transit since work and home are a mere minutes away, anywhere in the city. The city itself is in effect one large form of public transportation. To get to work, the video notes, “Just wait at home until you see your workplace closer.”

Four concentric rings each 280 meters wide housing offices, residential, industrial, and agricultural/energy zones are traversed by smaller cogs joining them together. Boldly proclaiming “endless movement” complete with the prospect of an ever-changing skyline, it’s unclear how such a “Clockwork City” could be built or sustained. What are your thoughts? (Via Digital Urban.)

Watch the video after the jump.

LevenBetts Baking Up A New Industrial Paradigm in Harlem

East
Friday, July 15, 2011
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Taystee at Harlem Green (Courtesy LevinBetts Architects)

CREATE at Harlem Green along 126th Street (Courtesy LevenBetts Architects)

The New York City Economic Development Corporation announced Wednesday that the former Taystee Bakery site in Harlem will be redeveloped into a green, mixed-use structure featuring light manufacturing, artists and not-for-profit spaces, a local bank, an ice skating rink, and a local brewery. Project developers Janus Partners and Monadnock Construction asked LevenBetts Architecture to create a design that merges the eclectic program to create an economic and social center for the neighborhood.

Continue reading after the jump.

Stop, Collaborate & Lexington: Studio Gang Reveals New Plans for Stalled Kentucky Site

Midwest, Newsletter
Thursday, July 14, 2011
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Studio Gang's design for a 30-story tower in Lexington, Kentucky (Courtesy Studio Gang)

Studio Gang's design for a 30-story tower in Lexington, Kentucky (Courtesy Studio Gang)

Developer Dudley Webb of the Webb Companies didn’t make any friends when his company razed an entire block of Downtown Lexington, Kentucky for a massive mixed-use tower that ended up stalling in the recession. Now, though, after bringing on Chicago-based Studio Gang to help reimagine the project at the behest of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design Michael Speaks, the community is regaining excitement over new plans to revamp the CentrePointe site.

Continue reading after the jump.

NEA Our Town Grants Could Spur a New Economy

National, Newsletter
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
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MOS Architects-designed arts Drive-In in Marfa, Texas. (Courtesy NEA)

MOS Architects-designed arts Drive-In in Marfa, Texas. (Courtesy NEA)

Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), believes that art can play a major role in improving the economy and our quality of life. A new program of grants called Our Town seeks to spur such economic and civic development by investing more than $6.5 million in 51 projects covering 34 states.

Landesman said the goal is to foster creative placemaking through public space design, cultural planning, festivals, public art, and more. “Creative placemaking is a strategy for making places vibrant,” said Jason Schupbach, the NEA’s Director of Design. “Arts and design are essential parts of the complex work of building a livable, sustainable community.”

Check out the winners after the jump.

What Ales, Robert Moses?

East
Friday, July 8, 2011
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Who knew the Power Broker himself was a beer man? The Robert Moses of my imagination could be spotted, martini in hand, at a swanky Manhattan lounge. But in reality, the workaholic was such a control freak that he would never permit himself to loosen up in public, instead spending much of his free time stolen away from the city sailing on the Great South Bay in his boat the Sea-Ef. (Even then, his mind was still on work: he once grounded the boat on a quite visible sand bar thinking of his plans for New York!) Ceaselessly maneuvering and tightening his grip on Gotham politics, Moses may have been the one man in New York most in need of a cold beer.

Grub Street spotted a new beer, appropriately made by the Great South Bay Brewery on Long Island, that pays homage to the Robert Moses Causeway and its promise of breezy summer beaches. According to the brewery, the Robert Moses Pale Ale is a beer made for relaxing–hardly the image of Moses at work.

Famously, his nemesis Jane Jacobs was an unabashed beer drinker, frequenting the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street where she fraternized with her Village neighbors. Could the act of clinking a cold one (or in Moses’ case, not) explain much of the difference between these icons of New York urbanism?

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Rogers Marvel Secures Competition to Revamp White House Lawn Extension

East, Newsletter
Thursday, July 7, 2011
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Proposed changes to President's Park (Courtesy RMA)

Proposed changes to President's Park (Courtesy RMA)

Today, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) announced that Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA) has won a design competition to revamp President’s Park in Washington, DC. The New York-based architects bested a distinguished list of landscape designers, including Hood Design Studio of Oakland California, Michael Van Valkenburgh of Brooklyn, and Reed Hildebrand Associates and SASAKI, both of Watertown, Massachusetts.

After September 11th, 2001, security design in major public spaces took on a new significance, and President’s Park South—a large ellipse forming a public extension of the White House’s front lawn—this meant concrete jersey barriers and fences along E Street. Soon, though, the park could become one of the most pedestrian-friendly—and secure—in the capital, thanks to RMA’s subtle combination of landscape architecture and security design.

Continue reading after the jump.

Sustainability Martyred in Name of Saint Green

International, Newsletter
Thursday, June 30, 2011
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Eco-Pantheon, Rome 126AD (Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture)

Eco-Pantheon, Rome 126AD (Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture)

Has the green movement gone too far? STAR Strategies + Architecture examines the prevalence of “green-washing and the abuse of sustainability” in their project O’ Mighty Green, where they posit that the notion of “green” has taken on a life of its own outside of sustainability and has become on many levels a new sort of religion. As the architects said in their introduction:

Sustainability currently shares many qualities with God; supreme concept, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; creator and judge, protector, and (…) saviour of the universe and the humanity. And, like God, it has millions of believers. Since we humans are relatively simpleminded and suspicious and need evidence before belief can become conviction, Green has come to represent sustainability; has become its incarnation in the human world. But sustainability, like God, might not have a form, nor a colour.

To demonstrate this absurdity, STAR has implemented what they call “sustainability as a photoshop filter” and clad a variety of iconic—and notorious—buildings with green walls, even invoking the spirit of St. Green, the patron saint of sustainable architects. The architects have taken a similarly snarky view of contradictions in preservation. (Via Dezeen.)

What are your thoughts? Are architects guilty of praying at the green altar?

Photos after the jump.

Future of Preservation in St. Louis Looks Modern

Midwest, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
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Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL)

Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL)

When St. Louis architects Schwarz and Van Hoefen designed a 120-foot diameter flying saucer in 1967 along the city’s Grand Boulevard, historic preservation was likely the last thing on their minds. Today faced with demolition, the structure’s concrete cantilever has garnered tremendous public outcry and has become a local icon. (It’s facebook page numbers over 11,600 fans, trouncing the 850 fans of Chicago’s threatened Prentice Tower.) It’s hard to imagine a gas station turned drive through restaurant could muster such support with such an anti-urban background, but the Del Taco building isn’t leaving without a fight.

Continue reading after the jump.

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