Fifty years ago, the St. Louis waterfront was one gigantic parking lot after 40 blocks of the city’s gritty industrial quarter were cleared in the late 1930s to create a site for a new Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It took another two decades to get anything built, but on February 12, 1963, the missing slice of St. Louis began to change as ground was broken for Eero Saarinen’s famous Gateway Arch that still defines St. Louis in one dramatic gesture.
[Editor's Note: Following the publishing of this story, the Speed Art Museum and tree researchers studied the tree, determining that it was, in fact, not three centuries old, nor a Valley Oak. The tree in question is now believed to be a 60-year-old English Oak. Read the update here.]
The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, is currently closed to visitors until 2015 while a dramatic stacked-box addition is built to the north of the institution’s original 1927 neo-Classical building on the University of Louisville’s Olmsted-designed Belknap Campus. The $50 million expansion, designed by Culver City, CA-based wHY Architecture with Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, who were later dropped from the project, will triple the museum’s gallery space and add to the already robust arts scene in Louisville.
This week, one alert writer at the student newspaper, The Louisville Cardinal, noticed something missing at the construction site: the University’s oldest tree. The approximately 309-year-old Valley Oak had been cut down when the site was cleared late last year. Only a stump now remains behind the construction fence. The author, Wesley Kerrick, noted the tree pre-dates not just the University, but the city, state, and country in which it resides, as it sprouted sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century. Kerrick expressed frustration over the fact that the tree couldn’t have been saved.
Tadao Ando’s architecture strives for perfection, with glass-smooth concrete walls nearly as reflective as mirrors, ideal proportion and geometry creating a sacred sense of space, and design details that reveal no part of a building is too small for consideration. In fact, as one story goes, Ando requested that a foot-thick concrete wall at his Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis be rebuilt multiple times since it didn’t meet his strict standards.
The Pulitzer, one of only a handful of buildings the Japanese architect has completed in the United States and the first in the US intended for public use, opened in 2001, demurely set behind a concrete wall in the city’s Grand Center neighborhood. This Friday and Saturday (February 8 and 9), the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Washington University in St. Louis are hosting the free Building Pulitzer colloquium looking back at the four-year construction period of Ando’s Pulitzer Foundation.
Next week, the fifth iteration of the Times Square Alliance’s Valentine Heart installation will officially open to the public. Brooklyn-based Situ Studio revealed their installation, Heartwalk, in January, which will be built with salvaged boardwalk boards from from the Hurricane Sandy-stricken Rockaways, Long Beach, Sea Girt, NJ, and Atlantic City.
The Situ team has been busy removing hardware from the weathered planks and planing them for a smooth surface. The pre-assembled pieces will be taken to Times Square for assembly, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on February 12 at 11:00a.m. According to a statement from Situ Studio, “Visitors can enter the installation itself and literally stand in the heart of the world’s greatest city.”
The much-talked-about 7 line subway extension on Manhattan’s West Side isn’t the only mega-infrastructure project making progress in New York. Construction continues far below the streets of Manhattan’s East Side as crews tunnel through bedrock for the Second Avenue Subway line. This week, the MTA released a gallery of photos showing construction progress on stations between 63rd and 73rd streets. The photos show the enormous rock caverns that will one day be subway stations being prepped with liners, rebar, and concrete casing. According to Gothamist, construction progress varies by station, with the 72nd Street station 96 percent complete and the 86th Street station 42 percent done.
No one really knows what Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, representing the enlightened human mind, and standing at the head of the University of Virginia’s Academical Village lawn in Charlottesville, VA, looked like originally. The structure burned in 1895, the result of an electrical surge from a local streetcar line, and records of the original design are not complete. Over the years, various generations have rebuilt and restored the structure according to their own interpretations of Jefferson’s design and to the needs of the time. Now 40 years after the last major renovations took place for the nation’s bicentennial, UVA has covered the Rotunda in scaffolding and begun the latest round of improvements to the once-crumbling structure.
It’s been a mild winter so far in New York, and with the first onset of below-freezing temperatures, city folk are donning their heavy jackets and gloves. And while the winds whipping around the glass and steel towers of Manhattan might feel as if it’s as cold as it’s ever going to be, consider a century ago when temperatures were low enough to freeze the East River from the banks of Brooklyn to the Manhattan waterfront, still two different cities at the time, providing thrill-seeking pedestrians with an instant new crossing years before the Brooklyn Bridge was built.
The above view was engraved in 1871 and titled, “Crossing the East River on the Ice Bridge,” depicting dozens of New Yorkers walking across what would normally have been a busy maritime thoroughfare. While such a natural feat seams unlikely today, Gothamist has collected clippings to show that the phenomenon was known to occur around once a decade on the East River during the 19th century and there have been reports of similar frozen-river bridges along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers as well. For instance, in 1851, an estimated 15,000 pedestrians, horses, and sleighs crossed the frozen river.
The lights on the Loew’s Kings Theater’s marquee have been dark for over 35 years since the last showing of Islands in the Stream in 1977. In fact, the entire king-size, 3,200-seat, French-Baroque movie palace is looking quite dim these days, much of its ornate plasterwork worn, damaged, or missing from years of decay and neglect and its terra-cotta facade in need of cleaning. City officials had to string ropes of temporary construction lights through the still grandiose, if a little shabby, lobby, just to make the announcement on Wednesday that Brooklyn’s largest indoor theater is coming back to life in a big way thanks to $93.9 million in new investment from public and private sources.