Tower of Babel. Argentinian artist Marta Minujin has created an 82-foot tall “Tower of Babel” in Buenos Aires after the city was named UNESCO’s World Book Capital for 2011. Readers, libraries, and 50 embassies donated over 30,000 books in a variety of languages to fill the twisting structure. The Guardian has a slideshow and we posted a video of the tower after the jump.
High Line Caution. Witold Rybczynski penned an op-ed for the NY Times cautioning the many would-be High Line copy cats that the success of the New York wonder-park (and a Parisian predecessor) aren’t because of the parks themselves, but because of their unique situations in dense, thriving cities.
Tower Trouble. The Wall Street Journal writes that skyscraper construction has dropped off drastically from decades past to the tune of 14 million fewer square feet per decade than the period between 1950 and 1990. Can New York maintain its global competitiveness without ramping up construction?
Twin Lions. Two stone lions, Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, have been standing sentinel at the New York Public Library’s main entrance on Fifth Avenue since 1911. Ephemeral New York posted a little more history on the backstory of the big cats.
Splash House. Graduate architecture students at the Parson’s Design Workshop are ready to get to work this summer on a pool-deck pavilion for the Highbridge Park Swimming Pool in Washington Heights–that is, if they can raise enough funds for their project via a Kickstarter campaign. Mammoth has more details on the pavilion.
Preservation Month. Richard Layman isn’t wasting any time in celebrating National Preservation Month, going on all May long. He has collected 33 ideas for an action-packed DC-based month of preservation.
Taxi of the Future. WNYC’s Transportation Nation reports on the city’s choice of Nissan to build the Taxi of Tomorrow, finding there’s likely to be a controversial road ahead for the bright-yellow mini-van.
Coming this summer to a Governor’s Island near you (as long as you’re in New York), the Burple Bup pavilion will fuse natural and synthetic materials to create a sustainable refuge from the sun. Composed of layered earthen strands winding sinuously beneath a translucent floating dome. Designed by Bittertang, the temporary shelter will provide a quiet meditative and social space on the island beginning May 27.
La Vie Gigapixel. It’s Paris like you’ve never seen it — even if you have been there. A super-high-def 26-gigapixel photo of the city of lights (yep, that’s 26 billion pixels) was stitched together by a team of photographers and a software company in France. Go ahead, pull up the full screen view and wander away the afternoon. We won’t tell. (Via Notcot.)
Metro Music. When Jason Mendelson moved from Tampa to Washington, D.C., the city’s subway literally moved him to song. NRDC Switchboard says that he’s creating a tune for every Metro stop across the system, each stylistically indicative of the station itself. Listen to his completed songs over here.
Biosphere 2 at 20. Not often do we design entire mini-worlds, but then, Biosphere 2 was always unique. Now two decades old, the three-acre terrarium-in-a-desert is still helping scientists figure out life’s little lessons. The AP/Yahoo News has the story.
Scraps, Glass, and Stone. Curbed found a new book by Steven Guarnaccia transforming the classic Three Little Pigs story into three little starchitect pigs where Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright each build houses and the big bad wolf huffs and puffs (and critiques?) the walls down. (Guarnaccia also reimagined Goldilocks into a tale filled with chairs by Aalto, Eames, and Noguchi!)
Tweeting Seat. Imagine if the public realm was able to reach out digitally and interact through the internet. Yanko Design spotted just such a bench by designer Christopher McNicholl which tweets about people sitting on the aptly-named @TweetingSeat. Two cameras — one watching the bench and one looking outward — continuously let curious people all over the world who is taking a break.
Second in Line. The Wall Street Journal spoke with an anonymous philanthropist and architecture fan from Iowa who is looking for the world’s second most famous architect. According to the story, the donor is willing to pony up $300 million to any city that does not hire Frank Gehry to design its art museum. “Don’t get me wrong, I like iconoclastic, swoopy structures that look like bashed-in sardine cans as much as the next guy… I’m just saying we should give an architect not named Frank Gehry a chance.” Ouch.
Presidential Pritzker. Blair Kamin reports that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be in attendance at the Pritzker Prize award dinner for Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. It’s the first time a president sat in on the ceremonies since the Clintons dined with Renzo Piano in 1998. Also check out AN‘s exclusive Commentary and Q+A with Souto de Moura.
Safdie’s False Solution. Oren Safdie, playwright and son of architect Moshie Safdie, is making progress on the third part of his trilogy of architecture-themed plays and will be conducting a reading this evening in LA. A False Solution tells the story of of a Jewish-German architect whose resolve is shaken by a young intern after winning a Holocaust museum in Poland. (Via ArchNewsNow.)
Watch for Falling Libeskinds. The breaking news of the day from Building Design: Daniel Libeskind’s $555 million Westside retail center in Bern, Switzerland has collapsed for a second time in three years. An elevated swimming pool fell into the building injuring two people. An investigation is pending. In 2008, shortly after the building was completed, the roof of a fast food restaurant inside the center collapsed, injuring two children.
Transporting Chicago. Transportation Nation reports today that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tapped Gabe Klein to head up the city’s DOT. Widely viewed as a pro-bike kind of guy in his former role as head of Washington D.C.’s DOT, Klein helped launch a bike-share program, expand bike lanes, and install electric car charging stations across the city. Could more alternative transportation be in store for the Windy City?
Gaudi Burns. An arsonist set fire to Antoni Gaudí’s Segrada Familia in Barcelona said the Guardian. The cathedral’s sacristy was destroyed and the crypt heavily damaged during the attack. Some 1,500 tourists were evacuated and four treated for smoke inhalation.
Wisconsin Bamboo. Sarah F. Cox talks with NYC-based architecture firm Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis for Curbed about a recently completed student center at the University of Wyoming which includes a stunningly intricate bamboo-lattice screen.
Land’s Literal End. A sprawling 25-room colonial mansion called Land’s End on Long Island’s North Shore has been torn down. Gothamist and Curbed link to a CBS video of the destruction of the house said to have inspired the decadence of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Fortress in Disguise. Shortlist found a house that can transform itself from a windowless cube of a fortress into a modern luxury mansion with the press of a button. The appropriately named Safe House was designed by KWK Promes architecture
Treme Teardown. Preservationists in New Orleans are pushing to save the 1950s-era Phillis Wheatley elementary school designed by Charles Colbert from the wrecking ball. The Times Picayune reports that Tulane architects and a Treme actress are leading the call.
The Urban 30. We’re tickled to be named in OCU’s list of 30 Best Blogs for Urban Planning Students!
Renewal 2.0. The NY Times ran a recent story about the proposed rebuilding of Quincy, Mass. The public-private partnership would tear town most of the city’s urban core and start over again with a massive roughly $1.5 billion project to create a new downtown. While the article doesn’t articulate what would be lost, it does speculate on the size of the real estate gamble if the project falls through.
Bridge Backtracks. Brownstoner uncovered the above historic view of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1903 back when transit and pedestrians dominated its traffic flow. StreetsBlog also noticed that the bridge has lost quite a bit of capacity as trains were removed in favor of cars (down significantly from its 1907 peak of 426,000 crossings a day). Also be sure to check out the super-high-res photo over at shorpy.com.
Library Life. Robert Dawson lamented, “These are brutal times for public libraries,” in a piece for Design Observer. With funding in short supply, he argued that the library is more than a room full of books, but a true “American Commons.”
Crowd-Sourced. The Institute for Urban Design is prepping for the first annual Urban Design Week this September with a crowd-sourced assignment to improve New York City. Running through April 30 and called By the City / For the City, you’re invited to share your ideas via this handy online form. (via Polis.)
Architecture Queen. The Philippine Star reports that newly registered architect Shamcey Supsup was crowned Miss Universe-Philippines. The magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines won over 39 other (non-architect) contestants. Supsup’s next stop is Sao Paulo, Brazil where she will take on the world, T-square in hand. (via Archinect.)
Pruitt Overgrown. Thirty three acres in the middle of St. Louis are now densely overgrown with forest, but the site was once home to the infamous Pruitt Igoe homes. Preservation Research Office led a tour of the site last week and took some great photos on the way to a screening of the Pruitt-Igoe Myth documentary.
Ciclovia Transformations. While LA shut down city streets over the weekend for its first CicLAvia of 2011, Project for Public Spaces imagines how such car-free events can invite new thinking about the use of public space in cities across the world.
Tobacco Troubles. On Friday, the latest round of drama surrounding Brooklyn’s Tobacco Warehouse played out, and it wasn’t the latest performance by the indie theater troupe of St. Ann’s Warehouse, who plans to renovate the abandoned building. A judge has issued an injunction against developing the property on grounds that a public hearing wasn’t conducted. Brownstoner and the Brooklyn Paper have the latest.
Lego Love. The Overhead Wire spotted a lego train with an actual operating sliding door. OW says it best: “I like legos, I like trains, and I like them together.” In other Lego news, Curbed found the world’s tallest Lego tower in Sao Paulo, Brazil standing 102 feet high, and Unbeige reports that Mies’ Farnsworth House is the newest architectural icon to become a Lego set.
Studio Gang has been hired to reimagine a stalled mixed-use high-rise in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Having languishing through the recession and without financing, the development called CentrePointe may now gain momentum thanks to the fresh eye of the Chicago-based firm responsible for the much-praised Aqua Tower. Jeanne Gang, principal, told AN her office will be preparing several concept plans over the next six weeks demonstrating new design strategies that could guide the future project and attract new tenants and financing.