LEGO Fixer Upper

East, East Coast
Monday, March 8, 2010
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Fix up, look sharp: Vormann works his magic on the General Theological Seminary. (Courtesy Dispatchwork)

As most readers of this blog know, we’ve got quite a thing for LEGO building blocks, which is why Jan Vormann might just be our new favorite artist. The Berlin-based, Bavarian-born Vornmann takes the little plastic blocks as one of his favored media, which would be awesome in its own right. But then, pushing the architectural boundaries of LEGO blocks, uses them to fix real-life cracks in the city, beginning to reverse the urban decay as only a child could. He took a recent visit to New York, as we found out from NewYorkology today, though he’s also made repairs across the globe Read More

The Dispersion

East, East Coast
Friday, March 5, 2010
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The Functionality's temporary installation, "Feel It, Take It" disappeared last weekend.

“We all have day jobs, and we don’t all live in the same city, or even on the same continent,” said Andrew Lyon, one of the six members of the multi-disciplinary design collective The Functionality. “But we all have a shared desired – to make something.” Lyon was standing beside Colin Harris, a civil engineer and fellow member of The Functionality. Huddled together against the cold last Saturday, the three of us barely fit inside W Project Space, a diminutive storefront gallery on a grubby block of Division Street, in a neighborhood that’s become a kind of lightning rod for just the kind of art practice the Functionality seems interested in pursuing: work that’s categorically messy, temporary, and site specific. Here, in the tiny storefront there’s a sixer of beer on the floor, half empty. Late ’90s hip-hop issues cheerfully out of the tinny speakers of a portable boom box. Honestly, anything louder would overwhelm the space. It’s like being invited to an art opening inside a VW Bus. Over our heads hangs the reason for the gathering: a seductively tactile, monochromatic felt membrane entitled “Feel It, Take It,” designed and installed by The Functionality for a span of time as brief as W Project Space is small.
Read More

Lost in Penn Station

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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Moynihan Station is meant to adress the deplorable architecture of Penn Station, but its greatest fix could be to the confusing signage. (Courtesy NYMag)

With any luck, Moynihan Station will finally get off the ground thanks to last’s months grant of $83 million in stimulus funds. Having gone through what seems like dozens of iterations, it’s unclear exactly what shape the new station will take, but we do have one piece of advice for whatever cabal of designers takes up the massive project: Don’t forget the signs. While no hardened New Yorker would admit to getting lost in Penn’s warren of tunnels and concourses, Slate‘s Julia Turner uses the underground mess as Exhibit-A of bad signage for her series running this week and next about just how important wayfinding is in our increasingly confusing world. As Turner puts it, signage is “is the most useful thing we pay no attention to.” Read More

Fresh Look at Fresh Kills

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Fresh Kills Park takes shape, as mounds of capped gardbage are transformed into rolling hills. CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy NYC Parks&Rec)

It will be decades before the 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Park will be totally completed in Staten Island, making it the second largest in the city after Pelham Bay Park and almost three times as large Central Park. Some time next year, limited sections of the park are expected to open to the public, but for those who can’t wait, the city’s Parks Department is guiding private tours through the Field Operations-designed landscape starting next month. Uh, make that May—even though the tours were just announced yesterday, they’re filling up so fast that all the April spots are already taken. The tour season runs through November and will afford visitors breathtaking views of the city and what was once the world’s largest landfill. To sign up, visit the park’s website or—what else—call 311. Should you fail to make it out for a tour, you’ll find a small one after the jump. Read More

Times Square Paint Job

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Some people have complained (us included) that while Transporation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has done a wonderful job carving pedestrian space out of the streets and parking lots of the city, they could stand to be better designed, more aesthetically pleasing spaces. Nowhere was this more true than in Times Square, where, when the Crossroads of the World were shut down last summer, traffic cones and beach chairs proliferated. Three weeks ago, when Sadik-Khan and the mayor announced they were making the Broadway closures permanent, better designs were promised. Sort of. As Sadik-Khan put it back then:

It can be very simple. I’ve seen amazing things done in the Netherlands with nothing but polka dots. And we did a lot already with nothing more than epoxy gravel.

Read More

Pritzkers Take the Stage

East, East Coast
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
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Herzog & de Meuron have designed the sets for the Met's latest production of Atilla, which premiers tonight. (Ken Howard/Courtesy Metropolitan Opera)

Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, like many of their starchitect brethren, have not had an easy time of late in New York, from the stalling of 56 Leonard to the continuing reconfiguration of the Parrish Art Museum. (Yes, we know everybody’s having a hard time of late, but that’s a different story.) Well, the Basel-based architects just got their big break, as they say in the theater: a debut at the Met. No, they are not the latest hot shot firm to proffer an addition to the ever-transforming complex. Better yet, they’ve designed the set for a new production of Verdi’s Atilla, which premiers tonight. We’re not exactly sure what to make of the ghostly scenery that somehow floats above the chorus, from a forest picnic of sorts to post-apocalyptic-looking ruins (hopefully not the remnants of some failed project). Yet even in this unusual setting, the designer’s unusual forms shine. Fashion doing about as well as architecture these days, does it come as a surprise that Miuccia Prada has lent her talents to the costumes? With any luck, Herzog & de Meuron will take over the Oscars next year. Read More

Advertising Jiujitsu

East, East Coast
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
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If you’re an architecture geek like us, you love playing Spot the Building while watching TV or at the movies. (The International, otherwise mediocre, is one of our favorites for this very reason.) That’s why this Cadillac commercial caught us so off guard when we saw it the other day. At first, we knew we recognized the “museum” at the start, even though it wasn’t actually one. In fact, it wasn’t even one building. Read More

Salsa in the Square

East, East Coast
Thursday, February 11, 2010
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Things have gotten pretty wild in Times Square, what with the permanent plazas, aquariums, and ice sculptures on the horizon—that last one is going up tonight—so what about a good old fashioned billboard? Well, not exactly old fashioned. In January, Cuban-born street artist Sofia Maldonado took up residency in Times Square’s BLANK SL8 space, where she began work on a clutch of murals that will be installed in the square come march, bringing a bit of graffiti grit back to the area. Our friends at LOOSEWORLD swung by and put together this video of Sofia at work, and there’s another on the way, so stay tuned.

BigUps for BigApps

East, East Coast
Thursday, February 4, 2010
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(Courtesy NYC.gov)

Last fall, the Bloomberg administration launched NYC BigApps, a competition to design web and phone apps using a massive cache of city data. Dozens of developers entered, including the designer of this very blog, and we’re to report that the mayor announced tonight that her team’s Big Apple Ed came in third place overall. Granted a site all about school data may not be that useful to our readers—unless you’ve got kids in the city school system, of course—but the BigApps site is worth checking out because there are plenty of cool apps dealing with buildings, parks, and even one that lets you build a “walkability shed,” determining how walkable various neighborhoods in the city are based on individual criteria. Other personal favorites include a landmarks app, a bike rack app, and one called BldgBeat. Any strike your fancy?

New and Not So New

East, East Coast
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
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Bloomberg (left) and Walder check out a new 7-Train station. Hopefully it won't leak like recent MTA projects. (Courtesy Office of the Mayor)

On a day when the MTA announced that its budget shortfall may now surpass $400 million as last year’s payroll tax is bringing in even less revenue than expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg began his day underground. He and MTA chief Jay Walder were touring a new station underway at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, the terminus of the underway 7-Train extension. At least during boom times, the project was seen as a boon to residential development on the Far West Side. Now, with construction limited and the MTA in desperate need of money, transit advocates like the Straphanger’s Campaign and the City Council continue to call for tapping capital funds—namely stimulus set-asides—to help cover the gap. And if two recent projects are any indication, maybe that’s not a bad idea. Read More

Coronary Blockage

East, East Coast
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
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A giant ice heart by Moorhead & Moorhead will be installed in Times Square next Thursday. (Courtesy Moorhead & Moorhead)

With Valentines Day barely a week away, the Times Square Alliance is eschewing flowers and candy yet again. Instead, they’re sending New Yorkers a giant designer valentine for the second year in a row, as Moorhead & Moorhead will stage an installation adjacent the TKTS Booth beginning next Thursday. For the inaugural effort, Gage/Clemenceau created a laser-cut heart as flashy as the surrounding billboards. This year’s entry is rather more demur, as Granger Moorhead explained. “We looked at last year’s entry, ‘Two Tons of Love,’ and, well, at the end of the day you’re just left with two tons of stuff, not to knock that project,” Moorhead said. “We didn’t want to do something that would be there at the end. We wanted something more ephemeral.” Read More

Ground Zip, Zero, Zilch

East, East Coast
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
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A photo of the World Trade Center site from January 12 shows progress on the memorial (center), 1 WTC (top left) and Tower 4 (bottom right) but not Tower 2 or Tower 3 (top right). (WTCProgress/Flickr)

That’s how much the Port Authority owes developer Larry Silverstein, after an arbitration panel’s ruling yesterday, which Silverstein Properties announced in a press release today. The developer had been seeking monetary damages and reduced rents because, Silverstein argued, the PA had delayed in turning over the sites of Tower 2 and Tower 3, also known as 200 and 175 Greenwich, designed, respectively, by Norman Foster and Richard Rogers. The arbitrators, who Silverstein tapped in July, found this not to be the case, though it is not entirely clear why as their decision has not been publicly released. Read More

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