Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

East, East Coast
Friday, April 16, 2010
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The Spring Mills Building in 1963, the year of its completion. (Courtesy Abramowitz, Kingsland & Schiff)

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it’s not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Read More

NEA Gets Big Cheese

National
Thursday, April 15, 2010
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Yesterday, we wrote a story about Jason Schupbach taking over as the NEA’s Design Director. Today, we decided to post that story to Twitter and to look up Schupbach so we could include him in the tweet. What we found were two Twitter accounts, @CreateMA and @thecheesefreak. As it turns out, in addition to being a fan of design and grant writing, Schupbach loves cheese, or so we gleaned from the site, the CheeseFreak, the latter handle directed us to. There, an often giddy Schupbach has posted 24 episodes of his cheesy vlog since September along with very detailed posts about the cheeses and experiences surrounding them. That’s an average of more than three a month, kind of putting us to shame. If he brings even half this much enthusiasm to the NEA, we’re all in luck. And to learn more about all the great work he’s done in the recent past, here‘s a profile from the Globe that we turned up on Google. Ah, the Internet. (Oh, and it goes without saying that if you’re not already following us on Twitter, please do so.)

That Settles It

East
Thursday, April 15, 2010
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Did the center hold? Hold off mold? (jonas_k/Flickr)

MIT reached a settlement with Frank Gehry last month for what had been called a flawed, leaky design for his Ray and Maria Stata Center that led to a 2007 lawsuit, which also named construction manager Skanska as responsible. Blair Kamin revealed the news Tuesday on his Cityscapes blog, but he didn’t reveal much as the settlement remains private. Drawing on an MIT student newspaper story from March 19, Kamin notes,

“MIT retained outside consultants to examine the construction for defects, and those consultants produced reports which are not publicly available.” The account does not say whether any money changed hands in the settlement. [...] In an email Tuesday, Gehry said no money was involved in the settlement. On March 30, the university’s news office issued a joint statement from MIT, Gehry’s firm (Gehry Partners) and Skanska saying that the lawsuit had been “amicably resolved.”

So there you have it. Legacy preserved.

HOLLYWEIRD

West
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
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Hotel Hollywood (Courtesy LA Daily News)

So the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign was nearly turned into the backyard for a bunch of mansions, but fortunately the recession intervened—one of a surprising number of upsides to the downside, it seems. But that doesn’t mean those big white letters aren’t seeming a little tired, and so a Dutch designer has come up with a rather clever new use that Curbed tipped us off to: turn the sign into a giant hotel. As Christian Bay-Jorgensen explained it to the Daily News, “The ultimate goal would be to preserve an internationally recognized landmark while helping the city generate badly needed funding.” If that weren’t bad enough, our pal Alissa Walker points us to Jeffrey Inaba’s plan to uproot the individual letters, loaning them out to areas of town in need of cache. The design provocateur explains after the jump, plus images of both, uh, projects. Read More

Bombing and Boosting Domino

East
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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Rival graffiti artists have overtaken what remains of the Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn. (Courtesy Animal New York)

As the redevelopment of the massive Domino Sugar refinery on the WIlliamsburg waterfront continues to trudge through the city’s public review process, what remains of the once mighty sweetener plant continues to deteriorate—or improve, depending on your attitudes towards street art. Following on the footsteps of the busted windows some feared would cause water damage to the main refinery building, now warring graffiti crews have set up shop on the bin building. A concrete addition from the 1960s that will be demolished to make way for some of Rafael Viñoly’s 2,200 apartments, the bin building has now been bombed by no fewer than 5 graffiti writers. But it’s not all bad news for the development, as it won conditional approval from Borough President Marty Markowitz on Friday, though some of those conditions are pretty steep Read More

Figment Island

East, East Coast
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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Ann Ha and Behrang Behin's winning Figment entry, "Living Pavilion," was lauded for its sustainabile simplicity. (Courtesy Figment)

After nearly a year of waiting, we’ve now seen the new designs coming to Governors Island sometime in the future. But there is also some exciting architecture, art, and, most importantly, mini golf coming to the island this summer, part of the fourth annual Figment arts program that has been populating the island with exciting activities and edifices since the park first opened. On Friday, Figment announced the winners of its call for entries for the aforementioned projects, namely an architecture pavilion, 17 sculptures, and a 10-hole mini golf course. Eschewing the flashy forms of the three finalists they beat out, Ann Ha and Behrang Behin took a creative yet affordable approach with their winning Living Pavilion, tethering together milk crates to create planters for a garden that proceed to fold in on themselves, forming a wave-like tunnel sodded with grass. Check out the architecture finalists plus a few of the winning sculptures after the jump. Read More

Bergdoll Breaks It Down

East
Monday, April 12, 2010
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The man, the myth, with his finger in the dyke, saving the city from itself. (neutralSurface/Flickr)

Few things go together better than public radio and art museums—and not just for those ubiquitous canvas tote bags—and yet it was still a pleasant surprise to hear our dear friend and chief MoMA design curator Barry Bergdoll on one of our favorite shows, Marketplace, this evening. Bergdoll and his sonorous voice were on to discuss Rising Currents, the recently opened show we’ve followed very closely, including our latest feature. There was plenty of discussion about hard and soft infrastructure, the inherent optimism of a rather pessimistic venture, the value of oysterculture, and glocalism. And if that weren’t enough, today’s episode turns out to be a double feature, as there was also a piece looking at the potential (fiscal) downside of the Governor’s Island deal.

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Taming Governors Island

East, East Coast
Monday, April 12, 2010
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The new Governors Island, as envisioned by West 8 and Co. CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy GIPEC)

Even with last week’s heat wave making it feel like July in the city, it will still be seven weeks before that oasis in New York Harbor, Governor’s Island, opens for the season on June 5. But there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate like summer’s here, as the city reached its anticipated deal with the state for control of the 172-acre island yesterday. The city will now be responsible for the development and operation of all but 22 acres of the former Coast Guard base purchased for $1 from the federal government in 2003, whose National Parks Service remains responsible for a small historic district on the northern section of the island. This paved the way for the rather quiet unveiling today of the 87-acre final master plan designed by West 8, Rogers Marvel, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Mathews Nielsen, and Urban Design+, which had been under lock in key since last spring, when the proposal was completed but held up by all the fighting over the island’s, uh, governance. Read More

Our Man in Washington

National
Friday, April 9, 2010
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It’s been a busy week for Ray LaHood, our favorite Transportation Secretary. On Monday, he sat down with the Times‘ Green Inc. blog to discuss a range of topics, most notably his recent declaration (video above, shot from atop a table at the National Bike Summit) that cyclists and pedestrians would get equal time, money, and consideration on America’s streets. The next day, a blog post, ostensibly by the secretary, featured an interesting study showing that a staggering amount of us—Americans, not just readers of this blog—want more and bet transit options. And this goes for the nation’s waterways as well, all delivered through a more transparent DOT. And in an unusually unbureaucratic move, the department is even sharing some of its responsibilities, partnering with the EPA to set fuel efficiency standards. The week was capped off today in a sweep through New York to press drivers stop texting and stump for high-speed rail, one of his pet projects. And to think people were afraid he’d be reactionary just because he was a Republican Congressman. Revolutionary is more like it.

SHoP Floats

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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SHoP's plans for the South Street Seaport may be back from the dead. (Courtesy SHoP)

One of the many flashy architecture projects believed to have been killed off by the recession was SHoP’s highly impressionistic proposal for the waterfront portion of the South Street Seaport. The bankruptcy of mall owner and would-be developer General Growth Properties seemed to scuttle plans for the sail-and-net-inspired complex, but having emerged from court protection, GGP is evaluating what to do with its remaining properties and it appears SHoP may once again be in the mix. The company is being spun off into two pieces following its bankruptcy, with the one made up of mixed-use and development-worthy projects getting a $6.55 billion infusion from three outside investors. It remains up to this new person what to do with the Seaport, but a GGP spokesperson tells Downtown Express, “Presumably the new company would continue to pursue the highest, best use of that property, which we felt was the proposal we put out.” Should the project return, there is still the issue of appeasing the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which saw it as more barnacle than beautiful.

Pixellating New York

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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A reader sent us this pretty awesome video of old arcade games taking over the city. Still can’t decide whether our favorite part is the Art Deco Tetris or Block Breaker Bridge. Even if that bomb would render us all in 8-bits, it should be a fun existence while it lasts. 1-UP!

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Raimund Abraham, Real & Imagined

International
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
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The work of Raimund Abraham. CLICK TO LAUNCH SLIDESHOW

In the latest issue of the paper, Lebbeus Woods pays tribute to his friend and colleague Raimund Abraham, who died last month. Here, we gather together a survey of the visionary architect’s work, both built and—perhaps more importantly—unbuilt, for as Woods recounts of Abraham, “Building, he believed, necessarily violates nature’s wholeness, and must be done with a full awareness of consequences.” Click the image above of Abraham’s best known building, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York, to begin the slideshow. (Special thanks to Stefan Heßling for generously sharing his images of Abraham’s musikstudio in Germany.)

You can also watch Abraham’s last lecture, delivered at SCI-Arc the night of March 3. He died in a car accident on his way home.

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