Bucky Comes to Town

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 22, 2010
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The Union Tank Car Dome stood 384 feet wide, the largest structure of its kind when it was completed. (Courtesy theWarrenReport.com)

If you couldn’t make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it’s still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump. Read More

Lean and Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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New York continues to "go green." (Courtesy Rickshaw Diaries)

Vice President Joe Biden announced nearly half-a-billion dollars in stimulus funding today to promote green retrofits nationwide, and the biggest winner, according to a Bloomberg administration release, is New York State, which took home $40 million of the $452 million pot. The money will go to two programs, the PACE loan program and Green Jobs-Green New York. The former provides low- or no-interest loans to property owners who buy energy efficient building materials, including insulation, solar panels, and geo-thermal systems, which are then paid back through taxes and utility payments, though the retrofits average out to 20 to 30 percent on energy usage over the life of the product. And Green Jobs-Green New York provides funding to launch training programs so there are capable workers who can build, install, and maintain this new wave of high-tech devices.

He Fought the Good Fight

East, East Coast
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
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Daniel Goldstein, DDDB spokesman and spiritual leader, at a press conference in front of Freddy's last November. (threecee/Flickr)

It appears this is the end of one of the greatest real estate battles since Jane Jacobs took on Robert Moses. But just as Penn Station was demolished and replaced by Madison Square Garden, Daniel Goldstein’s apartment building will soon go, replaced by the Barclays Center. We just received an unusual release from Forest City Ratner saying simply that the company “today reached an agreement with the remaining resident residing in the project’s footprint” and would not comment further. Goldstein’s name was not even mentioned, and while we’re waiting to hear back ourselves, the Times confirms it, along with the rather astounding fact that he was paid $3 million for his condo. The unit was originally bought in 2003 for $590,000, though the state notoriously offered only $510,000 last year, citing neighborhood blight. This comes on the heels of news yesterday that deals had been struck with the remaining 7 holdouts, including Freddy’s Bar, which now hopes to move to somewhere near 4th and Union avenues, not too far from its current home.

Call to Arms!

East
Monday, April 19, 2010
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The massive Remington Arms complex in Bridgeport, Connecticut is slated for demolition.

The Remington Arms factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut is a spectacular 1.5 million-square-foot structure of 13 interconnected buildings stretching over 76 acres. Now its future is imperiled. Long a monument on the city’s East Side, it was originally built by the Remington Arms-Union Metallic Cartridge Company beginning in 1915 to fill an order for one million rifles and 100 million rounds of ammunition to supply czarist Russian armies. Later, the building turned out bayonets, Colt automatic pistols, Browning Machine Guns, and automatic rifles. In 1920, General Electric purchased the property, and produced thousands of small kitchen appliances in the plant, but GE slowly pulled manufacturing from the building, and closed it entirely in 2007. The company claims to have looked for development opportunities for the shuttered factory, but concluded that it is “functionally obsolete (and) inappropriate for modern uses.” Now GE plans to demolish the structure, leaving a huge vacant property in Bridgeport—a city that can ill afford more dereliction. Read More

Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

East, East Coast
Friday, April 16, 2010
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The Spring Mills Building in 1963, the year of its completion. (Courtesy Abramowitz, Kingsland & Schiff)

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it’s not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Read More

That Settles It

East
Thursday, April 15, 2010
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Did the center hold? Hold off mold? (jonas_k/Flickr)

MIT reached a settlement with Frank Gehry last month for what had been called a flawed, leaky design for his Ray and Maria Stata Center that led to a 2007 lawsuit, which also named construction manager Skanska as responsible. Blair Kamin revealed the news Tuesday on his Cityscapes blog, but he didn’t reveal much as the settlement remains private. Drawing on an MIT student newspaper story from March 19, Kamin notes,

“MIT retained outside consultants to examine the construction for defects, and those consultants produced reports which are not publicly available.” The account does not say whether any money changed hands in the settlement. [...] In an email Tuesday, Gehry said no money was involved in the settlement. On March 30, the university’s news office issued a joint statement from MIT, Gehry’s firm (Gehry Partners) and Skanska saying that the lawsuit had been “amicably resolved.”

So there you have it. Legacy preserved.

Bombing and Boosting Domino

East
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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Rival graffiti artists have overtaken what remains of the Domino Sugar refinery in Brooklyn. (Courtesy Animal New York)

As the redevelopment of the massive Domino Sugar refinery on the WIlliamsburg waterfront continues to trudge through the city’s public review process, what remains of the once mighty sweetener plant continues to deteriorate—or improve, depending on your attitudes towards street art. Following on the footsteps of the busted windows some feared would cause water damage to the main refinery building, now warring graffiti crews have set up shop on the bin building. A concrete addition from the 1960s that will be demolished to make way for some of Rafael Viñoly’s 2,200 apartments, the bin building has now been bombed by no fewer than 5 graffiti writers. But it’s not all bad news for the development, as it won conditional approval from Borough President Marty Markowitz on Friday, though some of those conditions are pretty steep Read More

Figment Island

East, East Coast
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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Ann Ha and Behrang Behin's winning Figment entry, "Living Pavilion," was lauded for its sustainabile simplicity. (Courtesy Figment)

After nearly a year of waiting, we’ve now seen the new designs coming to Governors Island sometime in the future. But there is also some exciting architecture, art, and, most importantly, mini golf coming to the island this summer, part of the fourth annual Figment arts program that has been populating the island with exciting activities and edifices since the park first opened. On Friday, Figment announced the winners of its call for entries for the aforementioned projects, namely an architecture pavilion, 17 sculptures, and a 10-hole mini golf course. Eschewing the flashy forms of the three finalists they beat out, Ann Ha and Behrang Behin took a creative yet affordable approach with their winning Living Pavilion, tethering together milk crates to create planters for a garden that proceed to fold in on themselves, forming a wave-like tunnel sodded with grass. Check out the architecture finalists plus a few of the winning sculptures after the jump. Read More

Bergdoll Breaks It Down

East
Monday, April 12, 2010
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The man, the myth, with his finger in the dyke, saving the city from itself. (neutralSurface/Flickr)

Few things go together better than public radio and art museums—and not just for those ubiquitous canvas tote bags—and yet it was still a pleasant surprise to hear our dear friend and chief MoMA design curator Barry Bergdoll on one of our favorite shows, Marketplace, this evening. Bergdoll and his sonorous voice were on to discuss Rising Currents, the recently opened show we’ve followed very closely, including our latest feature. There was plenty of discussion about hard and soft infrastructure, the inherent optimism of a rather pessimistic venture, the value of oysterculture, and glocalism. And if that weren’t enough, today’s episode turns out to be a double feature, as there was also a piece looking at the potential (fiscal) downside of the Governor’s Island deal.

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Taming Governors Island

East, East Coast
Monday, April 12, 2010
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The new Governors Island, as envisioned by West 8 and Co. CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy GIPEC)

Even with last week’s heat wave making it feel like July in the city, it will still be seven weeks before that oasis in New York Harbor, Governor’s Island, opens for the season on June 5. But there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate like summer’s here, as the city reached its anticipated deal with the state for control of the 172-acre island yesterday. The city will now be responsible for the development and operation of all but 22 acres of the former Coast Guard base purchased for $1 from the federal government in 2003, whose National Parks Service remains responsible for a small historic district on the northern section of the island. This paved the way for the rather quiet unveiling today of the 87-acre final master plan designed by West 8, Rogers Marvel, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Mathews Nielsen, and Urban Design+, which had been under lock in key since last spring, when the proposal was completed but held up by all the fighting over the island’s, uh, governance. Read More

Archi-Tron

East, East Coast
Friday, April 9, 2010
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The work of Eitan Grinspun, one of the panelists at Monday's "Post Parametric" event. (Courtesy Eitan Grinspun)

As architecture grows more technical and technologically dependent, it can become harder for designers to navigate the sea of new programs and computer code. Columbia University GSAPP professor David Benjamin is here to help, offering a panel discussion Monday night about the future of computing and design, “Post Parametric 2: Demo.” The program is the second event in a series that brings expert programmers and researchers together, providing a unique opportunity for architects to learn from people outside their profession. “The first event last fall, “Post Parametric 1: Data,” focused on how our new era of massive data might affect computing and design,” Benjamin said in an email. “Monday’s event involves five innovators demonstrating new technologies and speculating on the future directions for computing and design.” Read More

SHoP Floats

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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SHoP's plans for the South Street Seaport may be back from the dead. (Courtesy SHoP)

One of the many flashy architecture projects believed to have been killed off by the recession was SHoP’s highly impressionistic proposal for the waterfront portion of the South Street Seaport. The bankruptcy of mall owner and would-be developer General Growth Properties seemed to scuttle plans for the sail-and-net-inspired complex, but having emerged from court protection, GGP is evaluating what to do with its remaining properties and it appears SHoP may once again be in the mix. The company is being spun off into two pieces following its bankruptcy, with the one made up of mixed-use and development-worthy projects getting a $6.55 billion infusion from three outside investors. It remains up to this new person what to do with the Seaport, but a GGP spokesperson tells Downtown Express, “Presumably the new company would continue to pursue the highest, best use of that property, which we felt was the proposal we put out.” Should the project return, there is still the issue of appeasing the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which saw it as more barnacle than beautiful.

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