[Editor's Note: The following are reader-submitted response to a back-page comment written by Pamela Jerome (“The Mid-Century Modernist Single-Glazed Curtain Wall Is an Endangered Species” AN 05_04.09.2014). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ]
Pamela Jerome’s thoughtful comment on mid-century modernist curtain walls raises a number of important issues that deserve further study.
Having successfully redeveloped two major twentieth century commercial buildings, I believe that those buildings are probably the least understood in all of preservation theory. They were built by unsentimental men in pursuit of trade, commerce, and wealth. There was never a moment’s hesitation to alter them time and again as tastes changed, neighborhoods evolved, and tenants came and went. Those commercial cultural issues are just as important as the aesthetic issues inevitably associated with any building, and they are very hard to reconcile.
Construction has started on two towers set to rise in the BAM Cultural District in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Unlike most new projects in the area, one of the buildings to rise off Flatbush Avenue, a 32-story structure designed by Brooklyn-based architect Thomas Leeser, will not be luxury apartments, but a 200-room boutique hotel run by Marriot. The tower is one of the most architecturally distinct high-rises to arrive in Brooklyn in quite some time, with prominent, asymmetrical carve-outs along its glass facade that make it appear as if someone—or something—has slashed through its skin with a knife.
Speaking of directors stepping down, it appears the unspoken rumor that we’ve been forbidden to share for so long is now all-but official. Eric Owen Moss is indeed stepping down as the head of SCI-Arc, and a committee is in session to choose his replacement. This being SCI-Arc, everyone has an opinion about who should step in; but we won’t share anything else until we find a ripe, unsubstantiated piece of gossip telling us who it might be.
We’ve known for some time now that ex MOCA director Richard Koshalek has returned to Los Angeles from D.C., where he recently stepped down as director of the Hirshhorn Museum. Now we know one of his exploits: We hear that he is consulting Frank Gehry on the organization of his vast archives. Maybe this means there will someday be a Gehry museum? Certainly the architect is not getting any younger, so we may hear more soon.
The Cleveland neighborhoods of Kinsman, Duck Island, and West 65th Street could eventually get major updates now that three new plans have won unanimous approval from the city’s planning commission. All three neighborhoods were built when Cleveland’s industrial heyday propelled a boom of real estate development that has long since given way to depopulation. In Kinsman, on the city’s far East Side, the plan proposed creating an arts and entertainment district. The Duck Island plan focused on multi-modal transportation hubs, and the plan focusing on the West 65th Street neighborhood called for a two-mile multi-purpose trail. Funding for most of the work is still undetermined, but the city has committed some money for bike lanes, curb extensions, and other local improvements already called for in the three plans.
[ Editor's Note: The following are reader-submitted responses in reference to William Menking’s editorial “Will de Blasio Make Progress on Design?” (AN 05_04.09.2014). Opinions expressed in letters to the editor do not necessarily reflect the opinions or sentiments of the newspaper. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email email@example.com. ]
In your editorial “Will de Blasio Make Progress on Design?”, you seem to suggest that there is an inherent conflict between the development priorities of the new administration and the accepted tenets of good urban design. We disagree.
Major museums are really expensive these days, and boy do we like to complain about it (actually we get into most museums for free with a press pass, but we still love to complain about it)! Well gather ‘round dear readers, because we’ve got a bit of nice news for once. The new Renzo Piano–designed Whitney Museum is offering free admission for a year to all the men and women who are building their new Meatpacking location. It’s a nice counter to all the bad news about labor conditions at major cultural and educational institutions in the Middle East (we’re looking at you, NYU).
Peeping Toms, bust out the kazoos. Your field day has arrived—and it comes equipped with party favors. The Shard, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, is London’s tallest skyscraper and, as of last week, home to a new luxury hotel. The rooms include breathtaking views of the city—and, thanks to a design flaw, unscrupulous views of unsuspecting neighbors.
Glass panels on the Shard’s exterior bestow the building with a crystalline front and its namesake. But at night, the city’s lights turn the glass into mirrors that fully reflect guest bedrooms into each other. Complementary binoculars (“for the view,” ahem) don’t help matters. Nor do puns about the naked eye. Masking a blush? Rest easy—susceptible rooms include shades for extra privacy.
This week in Venice, the New York–based Van Alen Institute convened a group of leaders at 13 top architecture firms to brainstorm ideas that will guide the non-profit institution with an increased international perspective. The group will meet twice a year “to identify and investigate issues facing cities internationally, and to guide the impact of the Institute’s public programming, research, and design competitions,” according to a press release from Van Alen. The goal is to find topics that the institute can explore more deeply in its ongoing efforts such as Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape exploring our relationship with urban life.
Divvy, Chicago’s bike share program, just sold the moving ad space of some 3,000 bicycles that have traveled 2.5 million miles since the system launched nine months ago. Illinois’ largest health insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, paid $12.5 million to sponsor Divvy and brand its blue bikes and vans with their corporate logo beginning in June. The Chicago Tribune reported that the highest bidder was Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which has also sponsored several other bikeshare systems in recent years, starting in Minneapolis. The health insurance company will pay $2.5 million each year through 2018—revenue the city will use to expand Divvy and fund bicycling projects throughout the city.
Just last month Eaves dropped in on the Chicago Design Museum for the launch of its Kickstarter campaign, which sought funding for the institution’s first summer exhibition in a new permanent space. Well, that space has been revealed, and it’s every Chicagoan’s favorite downtown boondoggle. No, not the Spire. Or the Post Office. Never mind—it’s Block Thirty Seven! That’s right, it turns out the largely vacant downtown mall has 5,000 square feet free for ChiDM (and probably a lot more). A good chance to remind yourself that the building’s still there, looming above the Red Line-Blue Line transfer.