Move over NY Times Holiday Guide… Our friends at Planetizen have come out with something wonkier: their annual top 10 list of books in urban planning, design and development. The winners were based on a combination of editorial reviews, popularity, reader nominations, sales figures, recommendations from experts and books’ potential impact. Some of our favorites include Los Angeles In Maps, a visual history of maps in LA that makes sense of the city’s crazy grids and charts development over the years; What We See: Advancing The Observations of Jane Jacobs, a collection of essays putting a fresh perspective on Jacobs’ views on topics like preservation and urban planning; and Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, which suggests shifting automobiles to “Ultra Small Vehicles,” which could mean far less gas use and even automated driving. Any of these would be a perfect gift for anyone who knows what FOR, CEQA, or TOD stand for..
Our friends at Curbed just reminded us of the latest creation at Silver Lake archi-gallery Materials & Applications: Light Frames, an installation by LA architect Gail Peter Borden. The project consists of two parts: the “igloo”-looking segment, seen above, is what Borden calls an enclosed “chapel,” built out of translucent vinyl plastic and perfect for meditation. The second is a hand-assembled dome—its triangulated metal structure completely exposed—resting at the entrance to the gallery’s courtyard. Together they resemble, perhaps, the love child of an Eskimo and Buckminster Fuller. Or at least that’s how this strange mind sees it. Read More
It sounds like a summer blockbuster, but it’s actually one of the most important symposia this year. Imminent Danger: Earthquake Disaster and Risk Reduction In U.S. Cities. It’s being held on December 1 at UCLA, and features engineers, physicists, geologists, architects, and public officials getting together to discuss how to best prepare for the inevitable ground shaking disasters that will hit our cities in the near future. Thanks (unfortunately) to recent quakes in Haiti, Chile, and China, the group has a lot of new input to discuss. “Every time there’s a large seismic event we learn more,” said Gensler principal Rob Jernigan, who is one of the event participants. He adds that the conference is also a way for architects, engineers and other experts to come up with innovative earthquake-proof buildings that don’t look like large bunkers: “We have to design for lateral movements without making giant, clumsy joints. We can develop a level of refinement,” he said.
We’ve just learned via the LA Times that construction-happy LACMA has suspended all future projects until they’ve raised another $100 million. The news comes on the heels of a mixed finance review from Moody’s Investors Service, which downgraded its ratings outlook from “stable” to “negative.” The museum has so far raised about $320 million for its construction program, and its construction bonds kept their A2 rating. The suspension means an official halt to SPF:A Architects’ LACMA West Project, which includes the renovation of the 1939 May Company building on Wilshire and Fairfax into new gallery spaces. That project was originally scheduled for completion this year. It also puts a longer hold on renovation projects on LACMA’s east end, which were to be the third phase of LACMA’s campus transformation.
We recently ran into Gwynne Pugh, former principal at Pugh + Scarpa (now Brooks + Scarpa), who earlier this fall left his longtime job (22 years to be exact) to start his own firm, Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio. It seems that he’s already quite busy working as an urban design consultant. Pugh, who sees himself as an intermediary between cities and developers, is consulting with agencies in the cities of San Diego, Carson, and Long Beach. He’s also teaming up with Bridge Housing on an affordable housing project in Santa Monica and working with Coca Cola to review its sustainability scheme for its bottling plant in Downey. Pugh is also president of the planners’ division of the League of California Cities. “It’s been a great opportunity for me to focus on some of these issues I care about,” said Pugh, who right now is working with three employees, and plans to move to a new office in Playa Vista in the beginning of next year.
Richard Neutra’s VDL House in Silver Lake has been fitted with a new rooftop installation called Fort da Sampler, by Mexico City-based artist Santiago Borja. The project is centered around a temporary textile loom literally made out of the famous house’s horizontal rooftop steel beams. Now THAT’s a new use for architecture… On the loom the artist, along with the help of a crafstwoman from Chiapas, created a woolen artwork fitted with colorful, Myan-inspired symbols. The project is the first art installation at the home, and curator Sarah Lorenzen says she hopes there are more to follow. She also shares the news that the first of three phases of renovation at the house—centered on the roof and the adjacent garden unit— has been completed pro bono by LA firm Marmol Radziner. This includes new parapets, new plaster, repaired trellises, a partially waterproofed and resealed roof, new planters and landscaping, and the transfer of all plumbing to the inside of the building. Future phases will include site drainage, a new roof deck, more waterproofing, repaired windows, and refinished interiors.
According to the Las Vegas Review Journal and Engineering News Record officials at MGM Resorts want to demolish Foster & Partners’ unopened 27-story Harmon Hotel, a major part of the $8.5 billion CityCenter development. The building was originally designed as a 47-story tower, but major construction errors and subsequent time and money issues led to its drastic reduction in size. Lawsuits will prevent anything from happening to the building until at least 2012, says MGM. “Right now, I have a building I can’t do anything with,” CityCenter CEO Bobby Baldwin told the LVRJ, adding that Harmon has become “the poster child for nonconforming work worldwide.” For the record the Harmon’s web site still says “Coming Soon.” In its recent third-quarter earnings statement, MGM Resorts said it took a $279 million write down for the Harmon and concluded “it is unlikely the Harmon will be completed using the building as it now stands. “Baldwin concludes: “It was one of the most beautifully designed buildings ever, and it’s sitting static for over two years… The most sophisticated of all the architects (Foster) ended up being involved in a building that was our biggest disappointment.” Read More
Tomorrow LA City Hall—usually the scene of budget battles and slow, somber legislating—will host two uplifting performances by Collage Dance Theater, a group that specializes in making the most of architectural settings. The company, started in 1987, has performed in laundromats (yes, dancers did fit inside of dryers), a jail, vacant lots, art galleries, an ice rink, architects’ homes, a courtroom, a church, a locker room, the former Ambassador Hotel, and many more locales. The show, called “Governing Bodies,” will, according to founder Heidi Duckler, take advantage of the 1928 Art Deco building’s beautiful interiors: from its grand rotunda to its echoing, narrow hallways to its cold, bureaucratic council chambers; not to mention allowing dancers to break out and quickly contort in otherwise buttoned-up government attire. Could be a lesson for the real bureaucrats, no?
AN has managed to get its hands on the shortlist for Art Center College’s renovation of its iconic Craig Ellwood building in the hills of Pasadena. Completed in 1976, the dark structure, with its expressive exposed steel frame and amazing glass and steel bridges, is one of our favorites in California, but certainly needs a facelift. According to the RFQ the renovation includes reshaping and expanding the academic building, updating it seismically, installing new sustainable energy systems, and improving its roof and glazing systems. The four finalists are…. drumroll please… Michael Maltzan Architecture, Behnisch Architekten (LA office), Barton Myers Associates, and Krueck + Sexton. That’s three local firms and a Chicago firm, Krueck + Sexton, that renovated a similar project: Mies van der Rohe’s Crown Hall at IIT. The winner, according to competition organizer David Meckel, will be announced early next year. Make sure to take a look at these amazing historic images of the building (including campus construction shots) below, from the Art Center exhibition Hillside Campus. Read More
No property is safe from this economy. The futuristic house from Woody Allen’s sci-fi comedy “Sleeper”, which is actually located just outside Denver, is being foreclosed on. The house, built in 1963 by architect Charles Deaton, who also designed Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, has its foreclosure auction scheduled for tomorrow. According to the Wall Street Journal, Denver entrepreneur Michael Dunahay, who purchased the house in 2006, is delinquent on the nearly $2.8 million outstanding balance of his $3.1 million mortgage on the house. So who will buy the amazing spaceship-like abode? Allen’s co-star in the movie was LA preservation hero Diane Keaton. So maybe? Just maybe she’s interested?
In case you didn’t watch the World Cup this year, orange is the official color of the Netherlands. And it’s the inspiration for a week of Dutch design events in San Francisco starting on November 14 called Seeing Orange. The week will feature Dutch creativity that includes not just architecture (hi Rem and friends..) but design, fashion, graphic arts, and so on. One of our favorite events is a bike tour (makes sense.. have you ever been to Amsterdam?) of Dutch design highlights led by architect David Baker and urban planner Robert Bregoff. The tour will visit places like My Dutch Bike, which sells handmade Dutch cycles and gear, Hedge Gallery, which features art by Dutch designers, Propeller, showing off sleek Dutch furniture and accessories, and several other destinations. Another highlight: UN Studio founder Caroline Bos will talk with CCA students and faculty about the firm’s “Deep Planning” techniques. Sounds mysterious, but great. The full list of events is here. No word yet on whether there will be any of those great Dutch pancakes, but we’ll keep you posted..
We hear from our friends at Curbed LA that Kevin Southerland, a principal at LA firm Assembledge+, has left to form his own firm, architecture 350. And while we’re very fond of Southerland’s work, and of sustainable architecture, we’re a little overwhelmed with the name, which, according to his new site, “refers to the parts per million amount of carbon dioxide that a global consensus of scientists has deemed sustainable for human life to carry on as we know it.” Whoah. The name is relevant because we’ve reached 382, which seems like a very very concerning statistic. Does this mean that life as we know it is about to end? Meanwhile we look forward to seeing what the firm comes up with. They’ll be located on Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills, and will focus on (of course) sustainable, contemporary residential projects.