The first panel of this week’s conference at Columbia’s GSAPP, “Permanent Change: Plastics in Architecture and Engineering,” got down to business a few minutes late on Thursday morning. After a brief welcome, Dean Mark Wigley ceded the floor to Michael Bell, the first speaker in the line-up for “The Emergence of Polymers: Natural Material–Industrial Material.” But the pace picked up as Bell and subsequent presenters took listeners on an intense romp through the role of plastics in architectural history, providing background for the nine panels to follow through Friday evening.
It’s been a couple of weeks since we stopped by the WTC site. The most striking aspect from the street remains the speed with which glass surfaces begin to rise. It seems like only yesterday that three stories of glass wrapped around Tower One. Now with ten stories completed, the quartz-like surfaces start to take shape. At the Memorial Museum, Snohetta’s glass has flown up in what seems a matter of days. The facade already reflects the grove, whose trees continue their own march toward West Street.
Aspirational Geographic. A recent trip to Appalachia didn’t satiate photographer John Mann‘s wanderlust. He continued his travels via cutting and sculpting maps into three dimensional forms then photographing them through a narrow depth of field. Design Observer runs the nifty slide show.
Priority Parking. Developers of Philly’s 1 million square foot Pennsylvania Convention Center touted their greenness by providing minimal parking; the argument was it would encourage the use of public transportation. Now PlanPhilly says the city council has approved a 530-space garage to rise across the street. So much for synergy. Just north in Newark, they’re having the opposite problem: they want to lose parking lots. Newark’s Star-Ledger reports that March Madness at the Prudential Center won’t hide downtown’s glum outlook: nine parking lots surrounding the arena are still awaiting development.
D.C. Detail. WSJ Magazine explores the oft-overlooked Philip Johnson Pavilion at Dumbarton Oaks where the curvaceous facade slinks knowingly beside the Beatrix Farrand-designed gardens.
Parisian Pulse. Théâtre de la Gaîté Lyrique ain’t your everyday gallery-cum-theater space. The Guardian writes that this “theater for the digital arts” has given its stately old facade a swank makeover aimed at the 15 to 35-year old theater goer.
Sustainable Sound. WBUR spotlights a Boston band that found a way to make music that’s off-the-charts and off-the-grid. Generators hooked up to human-propelled bike peddles provide energy for electric guitars, plus a very John Cage-ish backdrop to the music making.
In Bloom. Spring has sprung! Time to go to the cemetery! There’s no place like Cambridge’s Mount Auburn, the Bronx’s Woodlawn, Brooklyn’s Greenwood, Philly’s Laurel Hill, or Chicago’s Graceland at the peak of spring. Check out great 19th and 20th century architecture alongside exquisite horticulture in full bloom. Need more convincing? read Rebecca Greenfield‘s interview with Keith Eggener in The Atlantic. Eggener, author of Cemeteries, describes these verdant grounds as America’s first parks .
A Shade of Green. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Inga Saffron takes on the very notion of LEED certification with the completion of the city’s massive 20-acre Pennsylvania Convention Center right in the heart of the city. While she gives the Center props for trying, she ultimately finds the silver rating dubious.
Revolving Door. The endless parade of potential buyers that have been sweeping up and down the central stairs of the Chelsea Hotel continues to grow, though the NY Post says that the hotel may finally have found a buyer in the W Hotel magnate David Edelstein.
Shell Shucked. A charming article in The Dirt looks at the history of the humble East Coast oyster and the role it can play in cleaning up polluted waterways if reintroduced.
Microsol Resources’ Tuesday night presentation of Z Printers at Cooper Union was notable for scale of output, both small and large (very large). The 3-D printers produce a powder-based model where all unused excess material gets recycled within the machine. The copier makes tiny models with extraordinary precision. The prices run from $15,000 to $65,000. But a panel of four presenters said the printer’s primary advantage is speed, allowing for new models to be created within 24 hours.
Two firms made notable presentations. Xavier De Kestelier, an associate partner at Foster + Partners, veered from the script a bit when he showed a video of a cement printer being developed at Loughborough University in the UK. That hanger sized 3-D printer makes modular units that can be adapted as building components. Then, Wesley Wright, a designer with Pelli Clarke Pelli, brought the conversation back to the Z Printer, which he said has become an integral part of the firm’s design process.
The firm has four machines operating round the clock. Sketching right onto the models during the review process is not uncommon. In a video, no less than the maestro himself, César Pelli, intones on the importance of model making in general and on 3-D printers in particular. Wright has graciously, and exclusively, shared his video with AN. We nabbed the Foster/Loughborough video from YouTube.
The venerable American Academy of Arts and Letters announced the winners of their various prizes in architecture to an impressive array of writers and practitioners. The judges were Henry N. Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Hugh Hardy, Richard Meier, James Polshek, Billie Tsien (chair), and Tod Williams.
Building Saved, Hospital Lost. A few out there blame the preservation of the Maritime Union Building on 7th Avenue (formerly St. Vincent’s O’Toole building) as the reason for closing the Village’s only hospital. The multi-tiered structure got in the way of St. Vincent’s expansion plans, which involved partnering with the Rudin Organization to demolish the building and build luxury condos. Now, with St. Vincent’s essentially out of the way, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Rudins will forge ahead. They plan to preserve the facade while keeping part of the building as an emergency room run by North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital. However, all Level One trauma patients (like severe car accidents) must travel further. The new “emergency” room provides daily service to all of Downtown Manhattan, including tens of thousands of tourists and workers from the new World Trade Center.
Match, Game. The Washington Post says that in addition to the Southwest Waterfront Project, another boon will soon come to the Southwest D.C neighborhood when the temporary stadium for The Washington Kastles tennis league moves in. The 35-year-old league–which compares to minor league baseball with its smaller stadium and occasional star turnout, including Venus Williams and Andy Roddick–has signed a two-year lease for a site.
Spring Thaw. The New York Times reports that since the Pittsburgh Penguins have moved, their igloo will melt. With the Penguins migrating to the Consol Energy Center, their old abode, affectionately referred to as “the igloo,” now faces the wrecking ball. The domed structure, designed by Mitchell & Richey, is set to become the all to familiar multi-use retail slash apartment slash office slash parking space.
Rogue Contests. The folks from Unbeige note that several competitions have taken on a life of their own, with the contests’ offspring criticizing their parentage–as children often do. Archinect now has their PS1 People’s Choice Awards, which expands on the MoMA PS1 annual challenge, and a new Eisenhower Memorial Competition responds to perceived failings of Frank Gehry’s proposed design for the monument.
New zipper benches designed by WXY are in place at Peter Minuit Plaza. The skateboard-proof benches in front of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal got a proper workout yesterday, despite the cold. The sinuous design begins as two benches facing opposite directions before zipping up and melding into one surface offering the sitter a choice of two views.
Morphing benches seem to be making statements in more places than just New York as well. Last week’s AN Fabrikator story spotlighted subway benches in Philly that scrunch up to discourage people from lying down. It would seem that firms are taking on bad behavior by pushing the design envelope.