In 2005, the doors to the New South China Mall first opened, promising a new age of Chinese consumerism and signaling the rise of the middle class. Located outside Dongguan, an industrial city located in the rapidly-growing Pearl River Delta with a population comparable to New York’s, the nearly 10 million-square-foot mall was the largest in the world in terms of leasable space. The developer, Chinese instant noodle tycoon Alex Hu, expected 100,000 daily shoppers, but the crash-strapped factory workers who populate the nearby metropolis never bothered to make the 2.5-hour trek to the overgrown shopping center, and so 8 years later 99 percent of the mall’s 2,350 retail outlets are still vacant. In the wake of this failure, a new developer, the Dongguan Minying Real Estate Development Company, has hired California-based architecture firms 5+Design and SWA to design yet another mega-sized mall in the rapidly growing city, this time with a few important adjustments that the team hopes will make their project a success.
Richard Rogers turned 80 years old this week, making him the same age as Willie Nelson. You might think that’s a pointless comparison, but the Italian-born, British, self-described “left-winger” architect and the pot-smoking Texan Outlaw Country singer have more in common than one might at first suspect. At around the same time that Shotgun Willie was changing America by uniting the hippies and the red necks through music, Rogers and his buddy/collaborator Renzo Piano were converting critics into fawning admirers and altering the face of architecture with their design for the Centre Pompidou. “We thought of ourselves as bad boys who wanted to change the world, with the funny idea that you could do it through architecture,” is the way Piano put it in a recent article in The Guardian.
After reviewing over 60 entries from around the world, The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) has selected this year’s winners of its annual Best Tall Buildings. Regional winners from Canada, China, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates have been announced, while an overall winner will be revealed at the CTBUH 12th Annual Ceremony in November. Projects are recognized for their impacts on the development of tall buildings and the urban environment, and for sustainability.
In recent interview with the journal Foreign Policy, Frank Gehry held forth on how architecture and democracy don’t really go together. Just too many opinions, you see. “I think the best thing is to have a benevolent dictator—who has taste!” said Gehry. “It’s really hard to get consensus, to have a tastemaker. There is no Robert Moses anymore.” Why was Gehry on FP’s radar in the first place? We’re guessing it was Hillary Clinton’s Gehry name-check in one of her outgoing speeches as Secretary of State. Riffing on how institutions of the future must be dynamic rather than static, the stateswomen stated, “We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek.”
The planners of the AIA New York Chapter 2014 International Architecture and Design Summit have selected a pretty unusual conference venue: the Chateau of Versailles. Given the still sorry state of the economy, the choice left us scratching our head (under our powdered wig). Perhaps Rick Bell will point out the lessons in urban agriculture to be found in the Petit Trianon? Summit participants can display their work on easels in the Galeries Batailles, which will be handy if they want to do a little painting later en plein air. Apres tout, Giverny is less than an hour away by automobile, a bit longer by carriage though. Potential attendees are warned that the Plaza Anthénée will be closed for renovations. Sacrebleu!