One of the perks of being an architect is the excuse to build yourself the coolest of all possible houses (despite any budget holes it may push you into). An excellent way to explore this phenomenon comes at this weekend’s Venice Art Walk + Auctions, and their Art and Architecture Tours. Featured on the tours is one of the wackiest houses we’ve ever seen: Architect Tony Coscia’s own Skywave House (above), a serpentine sculptural form unraveling itself from a single plane and hovering over a glass base. Another highlight is Glenn Williams’ Guitar House, a cubist creation that the architect designed for himself after being inspired by a Picasso painting of a guitar. Read More
New Las Vegas megaresort City Center, which we reviewed in January (it features buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, and others) just reported its first quarter results. They weren’t good. The’s $8.5 billion project, owned by MGM Mirage and Dubai World (which has finally worked out a debt restructuring deal with its creditors), recorded an operating loss of $255 million, and has only been able to sell about 100 of its 2,400 luxury condominiums, according to the Wall Street Journal. MGM is also locked in a lawsuit with its contractor, Perini Building Co, for defective workmanship and overbilling. For what it’s worth the company claims that it will soon begin to turn a profit on the project. Now that’s a Vegas bet we’re interested in following.
What’s that on the roof of Hollywood’s Standard Hotel? Is it a….giant light bulb? Well, yes. Artist Piero Golia has installed a permanent, orb-shaped light (clad in acryclic, lit by eight fluorescent tubes, and sitting on a large steel spindle and crown) on the roof, called Luminous Sphere, that is quite visible from traffic below. It looks a little bit like a glowing golf ball on a steel tee. In a particularly quirky (and egotistical?) move, the light will go on when Golia is in town and off when he is out of town (it can be controlled via the internet). The project was organized by Culver City’s LA><ART and executed by Zellnerplus architects, Buro Happold engineers, and Benchmark Scenery fabricators. LA><ART, which focuses on site-specific work while also maintaining its own gallery, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Sphere launches its LA Public Domain (L.A.P.D, get it?) program (also sponsored by local group For Your Art) , promoting artistic interventions in experimental contexts. Now is that lightbulb a halogen?
Is the air coming out of the big orange balloon? Orange County’s Great Park, which is rising on the former El Toro Marine Base in Irvine, has since its inception in 2002 been the last great hope for OC residents hoping for a great rural retreat (landscape architects like Ken Smith and Mia Lehrer are among those working on it). But the housing market has now officially gotten in the way, delaying the needed $1.4 billion in construction funding by years. According to The Orange County Register, the 1,347-acre park will have only $17 million in unallocated funds by next summer, and building money is still years away. “I don’t know where the idea materialized out there that somehow we would have the great metropolitan park developed full scale within a matter of a few years,” said Great Park Chairman Larry Agran. “Nobody ever promised that, and certainly I believe we have been quite clear that you build out a park of this magnitude in typically a 15- or 20-year process.”
Sure, sports fields are great. But wouldn’t it be cool if your school had a great garden? GOOD Magazine and the LA Unified School District think so too. They’re looking for architects as well as teachers, students, parents and anyone else to create affordable, scalable, modular school garden designs that any school can use. There’s more to it than you might think. Plans can include not only plants and plant beds but pathways, tool storage, irrigation schemes, greenhouses, benches, seating, trellises, plant beds, paths, trees, potting tables, farmstands, and so on.. It’s a great idea to unleash creativity and learning in a place that’s so often dominated by tests. Winning designers will attend a one-day workshop with landscape architect Mia Lehrer to refine their proposals, and one garden will be installed in a Los Angeles school by October. Submissions are due by June 15, and the winners will be chosen by July 1.
Once again our friend Stanley Saitowitz—San Francisco architecture’s answer to Meryl Streep— took home the most honors at the AIA SF’s annual awards, held at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center last Thursday. Saitowitz took home prizes for his elegant, and relatively affordable, Tampa Museum of Art, his screen-obsessed Costa Rica house, and his effervescent Toast Restaurant in Novato, CA, which the jury described as “like walking inside a loaf of bread…..like swimming in sparkling champagne….” . Other big winners included Jensen Architects, noted for their SFMOMA rooftop garden and Walden Studios in Sonoma; EHDD, which took home awards for its UC Merced Science and Engineering Building and its Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo in Lincoln Park, IL; and Min Day, which took home prizes for its L Residence and its Community CROPS Center, both in Nebraska.
We don’t usually track our emails from the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA) very carefully. But today we learned via one of their offerings that Sarah Palin will be the keynote speaker at the NHLA’s annual convention, which will be held from October 13-16 in Vancouver. So what does Palin have to do with an organization formed to “establish a uniform system of grading rules for the measurement and inspection of hardwood lumber?” Here’s what they say: “The hardwood industry has been successfully self-regulated for more than 110 years. Governor Palin supports a free enterprise system with limited government involvement and understands that industries, such as ours are a great example of America’s pioneering spirit. We are pleased and honored to welcome her as Keynote Speaker.” There you have it. God Bless America.
Once again the Society for Motion Pictures About the Built Environment (SMIBE) has dared filmmakers to document the constructed world around them, with its second annual short film competition (see our take on last year’s competition here). This year’s theme, “Personal Infrastructures” (everybody loves the word infrastructure these days, right?) spurred some great work, including First Place winner “Ice Carosello” by Matthias Löw, which captures the creation and enjoyment of an ice carousel (yes, a spinning block of ice in the middle of a frozen lake) in Sweden through time-lapse photography, accompanied by light techno background music. Now we REALLY want to visit one of these things. Our favorite of all was Augmented (Hyper) Reality: Domestic Robocop by Keiichi Matsuda, who explores the blurring line between humans and cyborgs as an animated human (or is it a robot?) digitally scans everything in his kitchen to make a cup of tea. Reality is coming, and we are all turning into iPads.
A Quincy Jones’ Brody House in LA’s Holmby Hills has hit the market for a whopping $24.95 million, report the Wall Street Journal and LA Curbed. The 11,500 square foot modernist home has nine bedrooms, a tennis court, pool, and a guest house on 2.3 acres. It also features a floating staircase, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and plenty of indoor-outdoor spaces. Not coincidentally the art collection of the home’s owners, Sydney F. and Frances Brody, is going up for auction today at Christie‘s in New York. It includes works by Picasso, Giacometti, Matisse, Degas, Renoir (not bad staging pieces for a house sale). The couple were founding benefactors of LACMA, major patrons of the Huntington Library and Gardens, and known for throwing legendary parties full of stars. Frances Brody died last November. We think Mr. and Mrs. Brad Pitt would like living here.
The magnificent Neutra VDL House on the Silver Lake Reservoir is one of our favorite places in Los Angeles. Now we like it even more, thanks to its first ever concert series, inspired by Richard Neutra’s love of music (Neutra played piano throughout his life). Small groups of students from Cal Poly Pomona (which owns the home) will be performing works from Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Ravel, and Mozart on May 8 and May 22. All proceeds will go toward restoration of the VDL House, an ongoing effort that has included roof, window, and electrical repairs and work related to long term water damage.
The Trust For Public Land today announced that it successfully wrapped up its down to the wire save of Hollywood’s Cahuenga Peak, the 138-acre swath of land behind the Hollywood Sign that had once been slated for development (one of many pleas included red letters over the sign reading “Save The Peak”). The final donor: none other than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who chipped in $900,000 to complete the $12.5 million needed to finalize the purchase. The Trust had missed its original April 14 deadline, but were granted an extension until April 30. Hefner, who had helped raise money back in the 70s to rebuild the sign, back when he was dating a whole other set of playmates, was joined by other LA stars, philanthropists, and companies. These included Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Aileen Getty, Norman Lear, CAA, LucasFilm, Walt Disney Company, CBS, NBC, Sony Pictures, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many others. Really a historic Hollywood collaboration.