Just a few weeks before the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the New Yorker published a profile by Jon Lee Anderson (“Letter from Caracas: Slumlord”). The subject of the profile was less Chavez and more a Chavez-era phenomenon, the so-called Tower of David in downtown Caracas. “It embodies the urban policy of this regime, which can be defined by confiscation, expropriation, governmental incapacity, and the use of violence,” Guillermo Barrios, dean of architecture at the Universidad Central in Caracas, told Anderson.
Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
Through March 31
Designing Tomorrow presents relics from six depression-era expositions that brought new visions of progress and prosperity to a struggling nation. Tens of millions of Americans flocked to fairs in Chicago (1933/34), San Diego (1935/36), Dallas (1936), Cleveland (1936/37), San Francisco (1939/40), and New York (1939/40) to catch a glimpse of the futurist oracles that would soon become post-war realities—from glass skyscrapers, superhighways, and the spread of suburbia, to electronic home goods and nylon hosiery. The fairs helped America to look forward to an era of opulence and innovation, spreading from the metropolis to the living room. Modernist furniture, streamlined appliances, vintage film reels, and visionary renderings drawn from the museum’s collection are presented together.
Caroline O’Donnell’s Ithaca-based studio, CODA, is preparing to build a towering pavilion in the courtyard of MoMA PS1 in Queens out of scrap from the manufacture of skateboards. O’Donnell talked to AN when the pavilion, called Party Wall, was unveiled in January, saying, “There are eight different kinds of skateboard forms, and each board has its own errors, which produce surprising effects.”
CODA has now released a stunning video rendering showing Party Wall peeking over the walls of the PS1 courtyard adjacent to landmarks like the graffiti-covered Five Pointz building across the street. It suggests how the crowds that flock to MoMA PS1 each summer might interact with the structure showing benches also made from scrap wood. (Plus, an easter egg: check out what the pavilion’s shadow spells at the 1:40 mark!) Party Wall will open in late June and we’ll be sure to see you there!
The Philadelphia City Council will consider several bills aimed at transforming thousands of vacant parcels into development districts, or a land bank. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the city spends an estimated $20 million on keeping up these tax-delinquent parcels. Council President Darrell L. Clarke will propose that the city create development districts on vacant, publicly owned land. The city would provide a number of incentives to entice developers to build on these properties, such as discounts, expedited permitting, and easy re-zoning. The city is also looking at establishing a land bank within the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation to take over these properties and then sell them at low prices.
Last year, plans were floated to build a new $300 million, 25,000-seat, Major League Soccer stadium in Queens’ Flushing Meadows Corona Park, to be designed by SHoP Architects. Because of the contentious nature of using public park land to build a stadium, the project had remained out of public view, but early conceptual renderings were leaked by the Empire of Soccer blog following a lecture by SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli at Columbia University. According to Empire of Soccer, in a video of the lecture posted and since removed from Youtube, Pasquarelli is heard saying, “The project I’m not supposed to show (you) so I am not going to tell you where it is or what it is but it’s a new stadium that should be announced in the next couple of months.” He described the facility as a new type of stadium without walls.
According to Capital New York, MLS president Mark Abbott denied that the proposed stadium would look like the renderings and that SHoP may not be designing the final stadium, stating: “These drawings do not represent what they stadium will look like. In fact, we haven’t selected an architect yet and will not start the design process until we have an owner for the club. This was simply a concept drawing that was done only to help determine the potential height and footprint. Any assertion that these drawings represent what a stadium will look like in Queens is wrong.
Missed Situ Studio‘s 30-foot-long Heartwalk Valentine’s Day installation in Times Square this year? The Brooklyn-based design firm has taken the Hurricane Sandy-salvaged heart back to their DUMBO neighborhood and installed it on the Pearl Street Triangle pedestrian plaza next to the Manhattan Bridge. According to the DUMBO Improvement District, which posted photos to its blog, the installation can be viewed from the ground or from the bike lanes high up on the bridge. The Brooklyn version of Heartwalk will be on display through April 30 thanks to support from the DUMBO Improvement District, Situ Studio, and the NYC Department of Transportation.
Just over four years ago, the Fox River spilled its banks, sending floodwaters into Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and causing significant damage. Built in 1951 and located outside Chicago, the river is again rising, now fully surrounding the stilted abode turned museum, and the house, operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has shared watery photos on its Farnsworth blog, stating: “The house is fully surrounded by river water, but neither the lower deck nor the upper deck has yet to be breached.” Water is not expected to enter the house, but all precautions are being taken, including elevating interior furnishings on milk crates.When the site is not flooded, tours of the house are available to the public.
We were glad to be included on the Studio Gang’s Archi-Salon panel on “outside research” at the Art Institute of Chicago on February 2. UIC’s Clare Lyster moderated a lively discussion that, true to its roots in academic theory, kicked off by questioning the premise in the first place. Are practice and research separated by anything more than semantics? Based on the turnout it seems the discussion series achieved its goal of public engagement—what can we say? We’re thrilled and a bit surprised that you all find architectural theory as stimulating as we do.
During the discussion, Paul Preissner detected a whiff of marketing in architects’ clambering to engage “outside” disciplines. You might have thought he accused them of artistic treason, based on the defensive tone that the discussion took whenever the topic popped back up.
Construction on the two-track Gateway project, a new tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan, will commence this summer beneath Related Company’s Hudson Yards redevelopment site. Related Companies and Amtrak will build this 800-foot-long “box tunnel,” which will first serve as a shell for Amtrak’s rail connection linking the Hudson tunnel to Penn Station’s tracks, and, eventually, to the proposed Moynihan Station. The actual Amtrak Gateway Project is still years away, but construction on this first leg of the tunnel is happening now to coordinate with construction on Manhattan’s West Side. The project will be funded by the federal government including some funding from the Hurricane Sandy relief package meant to help mitigate flooding during future storms. It’s estimated to cost between $120 and $150 million.
Lighting artist Leo Villareal has been busy lately, opening installations in the New York City subway system and in Madison Square Park, but an even bigger achievement is set to debut tonight in San Francisco. Villareal has attached 25,000 LED lights to the San Francisco Bay Bridge and connected them to a computer in order to create dazzling lighting displays viewable from the city and the water along the suspension bridge.
Called The Bay Lights, the project celebrates the bridge’s 75th anniversary and is set to go live tonight at 8:30 PST. But don’t worry, if you’re not in San Francisco to view the installation from the Embarcadero or Telegraph Hill, the event will be streamed live online at the project’s website here. Until then, check out a couple videos below of the installation being tested. The Bay Lights is believed to be the largest of its type in the world and will be in San Francisco for two years, lit each night from dusk till 2:00a.m.
On the other side of the pond, Building Design reports that Will Alsop didn’t hold back in a recent public conversation at the V&A with perennial pot-stirrer Stephen Bayley. “Society has decided in this age of austerity that what we need is more David Chipperfield. We don’t need that. It’s depressing,” bemoaned Alsop, known for his irreverent approach to the mother of the arts. “We need more fun, wit, and humor. It’s part of the human condition, and if you don’t have it, you are left with David Chipperfield and a number of others. He is a very good architect, and there’s plenty of room for him, but not everywhere, and not poor imitations.” Sounds like Alsop could use a long weekend in Vegas.
It’s been nearly a year since the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opened in Dallas. Part of an overarching plan to redevelop the banks of the Trinity River, the cable-stayed bridge’s 400-foot-tall central arch pylon has given the Big-D a much-needed civic icon in the otherwise flat and uninhabited swath that the watercourse cuts through the urban fabric.
These photos, taken by budding young photographer Halle Darling-Menking, convey something of the motion and excitement motorists experience while traversing the span. The lines of the cables seem to warp and flex, the arch itself to deflect and lean.
Fans of the crossing now have something more to cheer about. In January, the Dallas City Council approved funding for a second Calatrava-designed bridge across the Trinity, this one expected to cost $115 million. The second bridge, to be known as the Margaret McDermott Bridge, will replace the current Interstate 30 span. It features two arches running parallel to the span supporting pedestrian and bike paths. Construction will begin this spring and completion is expected by May 2017.