Pictorial> New photos illuminate Cleveland’s “AHA!” festival of lights

“The Global Rainbow” in Cleveland by artist Yvette Mattern. (frank lanza)

“The Global Rainbow” in Cleveland by artist Yvette Mattern. (Frank Lanza)

Last week AN plugged an event that aimed to turn downtown Cleveland into a festival of lights. Sure enough, colorful projections flooded the walls of downtown cultural institutions while a massive rainbow arched over the city and iridescent discs of rainbow light saw curious Clevelanders clambering about.

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Van Alen Institute Launches Competition Seeking Land Reuse Strategies for New Orleans

(Courtesy Van Alen)

(Courtesy Van Alen)

Earlier this month, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, an international design competition that is hoping to attract fresh strategies for reusing the many vacant lots that dot New Orleans. The competition is seeking submissions from landscape designers, architects, planners, public policy wonks, and pretty much anybody in the business of shaping urban environments and is supported by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), which owns more than 2,000 vacant lots.

There are somewhere around 30,000 empty lots and abandoned structures throughout New Orleans today, most of them left by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city in 2005. As the 10-year anniversary of the storm approaches, Future Ground is looking to create design and policy strategies capable of adapting to changes in density, demand, climate, and landscape in New Orleans over the next half-century in an effort to turn these abandoned landscapes into lasting resources.

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New Queens Public Plaza Shows Public Space Doesn’t Take All That Much

Bliss Plaza. (Courtesy NYC DOT)

Bliss Plaza. (Courtesy NYC DOT)

A new public plaza in Sunnyside, Queens proves that creating inviting public space doesn’t require lots of money and a lengthy design process – especially in a crowded city like New York. That’s certainly the case with Bliss Plaza, a recently-opened plaza tucked underneath the tracks of the 7 train. Frankly, there’s not all that much to it – save for a new sidewalk, some planters, and a handful of bright bistro tables and chairs. But here’s what Bliss Plaza does have: People. And that’s the key.

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Remembering Doug Wright, the man who helped tear down highways in San Francisco and Portland

Destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway (SF Chronicle)

Destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway (SF Chronicle)

San Francisco’s deputy mayor for transportation—who played an integral role in getting the city to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake—passed away on July 30th. He was 68. After the earthquake struck the city, Wright convinced former San Francisco mayor, Art Agnos, to help lead the effort to remove the highway and replace it—not with another highway, but instead with a boulevard at street level.

Continue reading after the jump.

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill Allowing NYC to Lower Speed Limit to 25MPH

Cuomo signing the legislation. (Courtesy New York Governor's Office)

Cuomo signing the legislation. (Courtesy New York Governor’s Office)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that allows New York City to lower its default speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25. The legislation, which is expected to go into effect within 90 days, is part of the city’s ongoing effort to reduce traffic fatalities. Specifically, reducing the city’s speed limit has been one of the central pieces of Mayor de Blasio‘s Vision Zero agenda. “This is another vital step toward making New York City streets safer for every family,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “Our Vision Zero initiative’s mission is to save lives, and that is precisely what this legislation accomplishes.” 

 

 

 

 

Slideshow> The Manhattan Tunnels of East Side Access

East Side Access underneath Manhattan.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

East Side Access underneath Manhattan. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

The MTA has released a new batch of images of the under-construction tunnels for its “East Side Access” project. For the uninitiated, East Side Access is the agency’s $10.8 billion plan to connect the Long Island Railroad with Grand Central Terminal. The project was initially scheduled to be completed by 2009, but, like so many large infrastructure projects, the East Side Access has been delayed. The project is now scheduled to open in 2023. All told, the project is expected to be $6.5 billion over budget.

Many more construction photos after the jump.

10,000 sunflowers help rehab a vacant lot in St. Louis

As part of Washington University's Land Lab program, a vacant lot in St. Louis was made into a sunflower field. (Richard Reilly)

As part of Washington University’s Land Lab program, a vacant lot in St. Louis was made into a sunflower field. (Richard Reilly)

On a long-abandoned lot in St. Louis’ near north side, 10,000 sunflowers are sucking up the heavy metals that have helped stall development there for “longer than neighbors care to remember,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The project is called Sunflower+. It’s one of the winners of St. Louis’ inaugural “Sustainable Land Lab” competition, which was organized by Washington University in St. Louis and city officials. Over the next two years, the design team will cultivate and harvest four rotations of summer sunflowers and winter wheat on the vacant lot, hopefully preparing it for redevelopment in the future.

Continue reading after the jump.

Improv Everywhere Turns Humid Subway Station into a Relaxing Spa

The 34th Street sauna. (Courtesy Improv Everywhere)

The 34th Street sauna. (Courtesy Improv Everywhere)

Between June and August, a New York City subway platform is a pretty awful place to find yourself. Over those summer months, the subway has all the smells, crowds, and delays you’re used  to with the unwelcome addition of a shockingly stubborn heat that couldn’t care less that you’re on your way to a job interview.

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Parklet Down! Motorist Rams Downtown Los Angeles’ First Parklet

la-parklet-destroyed

The scene. (oneironaut11 / Instagram via LAist)

It seems like just yesterday that Los Angeles opened its first downtown Parklet, a sparkling new design on Spring Street by architects utopiad.org, designers Berry and Linné, and builders Hensel Phelps. But a few weeks ago that design (already getting a little shabby from weather and use) was rammed and badly compromised by an errant motorist, leaving it closed, and leaving downtown without a parklet to speak of more than two years after the city’s parklet program began.

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Bittertang Farms’ organic amphitheater sprouts from straw in Lake Forest, Illinois

Buru Buru amphitheatre at the Ragdale Ring in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Bittertang Farms)

Buru Buru amphitheatre at the Ragdale Ring in Lake Forest, Illinois. (Bittertang Farms)

Work wrapped up this summer on Bittertang Farms’ installation at Ragdale, the nonprofit artists’ community in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, and true to its plans the straw amphitheater springs forth from a lush hillside in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Continue reading after the jump.

Bomb Trains: Vice investigates the dangers of transporting crude oil by rail

After an oil train exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last year. (Flickr / EliasSchewel)

After an oil train exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last year. (Flickr / EliasSchewel)

In a new video report, Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail, Vice News investigated the risk of crude oil–carrying trains exploding as they crisscross North America. That isn’t some hypothetical risk that could be realized down the road—it’s already happening. Last summer, forty-seven people were killed when an oil-carrying train exploded in a small town in Quebec, and in the year since, four more trains have gone up in flames in the U.S. and Canada. With so many train lines carrying oil through the hearts of American cities, Vice highlights safety concerns for urban areas and rural alike.

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Design Trust For Public Space Announces Winners of its Public Space Competition

Awards, City Terrain, Urbanism
Thursday, July 31, 2014
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THE ENERGETIC CITY. (COURTESY DEUTSCH NY)

THE ENERGETIC CITY. (COURTESY DEUTSCH NY)

Last night, AN was over at the National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan, to hear the Design Trust for Public Space announce the winners of  Energetic City: Connectivity in the Public Realm—its open call for proposals to reimagine the city’s public space. Out of over 90 submissions that came from individuals, city agencies, and community groups, the jury selected four winning plans that should collectively include programming in all five boroughs.

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