These days it seems increasingly rare that we take a moment out of our busy schedules to pause and appreciate our surroundings: downtown skyscrapers, grand civic buildings, or the mundane background buildings along our streets. To many, those soaring steel towers are old news, but have you ever stopped to picture a Manhattan without skyscrapers, or a courthouse in Washington, DC that didn’t resemble a Greek or Roman temple, or how about an America without shopping malls? (Unimaginable. Right?)
Dan Protress, writer and producer of the new PBS television series 10 Buildings that Changed America, certainly has. The series, hosted by Emmy-award winning producer Geoffrey Baer, proves that architecture is the cultural back-bone of any society. The show was created to celebrate and explore ten of the most influential American buildings—and the architect’s that designed them—that dramatically altered the architectural landscape of this country.
Over the past few months the Architecture Billings Index has shown the strongest growth in the demand for design services since 2007 and once again reports an incrementally strengthened score of 54.9 for February, a slight increase from a 54.2 in January (and a 51.2 in December). All four regions scored above 50, an indicator of positive growth. The Northeast performed the best at 56.7, the West and the Midwest tied at 54.7, and the South finished with a 52.7.
Michael Speaks, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, has just been appointed Dean of Architecture at Syracuse University. Mark Robbins left that post to direct the International Center of Photography in New York. Speaks, who has been at UK since 2008, cited a number of initiatives as his legacy in Kentucky, including many that engaged directly with urban and rural issues in the Commonwealth. “I arrived here at an inauspicious time, a very economically challenging one, ” he told AN. “One of our goals was to make sure that as many studios engaged with real world problems as possible.”
A new bill before the U.S. House of Representatives is seeking to build consensus to junk Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial on the National Mall. The bill, known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Completion Act, was proposed by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah). It cites concerns over the controversial nature of the design and its escalating costs (currently estimated at well over $100 million) and seeks to “facilitate the completion of an appropriate national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
Opposition to Gehry’s proposal has been brewing for some time. The antagonists include members of Eisenhower’s family and the National Civic Art Society, which published a 153-page report that called Gehry’s scheme a “travesty” and a “Happy McMonument.”
The AIA feels differently. The association released a statement opposing Rep. Bishop’s bill. The statement does not express an opinion about the value of Gehry’s design, but rather disapproves of the “arbitrary nature” of this exercise of “governmental authority.” Lodge your feelings about the bill and/or Gehry’s design in the comments section of this post.
Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced the winners of its Mayors Challenge, a competition meant to generate innovative ideas for the improvement of city life. Out of the 300 cities that submitted proposals, the giving institution created by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg gave the Grand Prize for Innovation to Providence, RI, and its mayor, Angel Taveras. The city was awarded $5 million to implement its project, what Bloomberg Philanthropies called a “cutting-edge early education initiative.” Under the initiative, participating children will wear a recording device home that will monitor the conversations they have with their parents or other adults. The transcripts of these conversations will then be used to develop weekly coaching sessions in which government monitors or someone will coach the grownups on how better to speak with their children.
While President Obama may have called out the economic potential of 3D printing in his State of the Union, one prominent Republican is trumpeting the new technology. In an article posted on the conservative website Human Events, former Speak of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich claims, “the greatest difference in our generation may not be between liberals and conservatives, but between the pioneers of the future and prisoners of the past.” Among the technologies he praises, 3D printing is nothing less than “revolutionary.”
Gingrich has long been a fan of futurist thinking and advanced technology. He campaigned for a colony on the Moon, another place where 3D printing would come in handy:
3D printing may revolutionize logistics and save an amazing amount of money in the Defense Department. It may also revolutionize our capacity to go into space by allowing manufacturing on asteroids and the Moon with minimum weight requirements. 3D printing may also return manufacturing to the United States by eliminating the advantages of low cost mass produced production runs.
It’s been nearly a year since the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge opened in Dallas. Part of an overarching plan to redevelop the banks of the Trinity River, the cable-stayed bridge’s 400-foot-tall central arch pylon has given the Big-D a much-needed civic icon in the otherwise flat and uninhabited swath that the watercourse cuts through the urban fabric.
These photos, taken by budding young photographer Halle Darling-Menking, convey something of the motion and excitement motorists experience while traversing the span. The lines of the cables seem to warp and flex, the arch itself to deflect and lean.
Fans of the crossing now have something more to cheer about. In January, the Dallas City Council approved funding for a second Calatrava-designed bridge across the Trinity, this one expected to cost $115 million. The second bridge, to be known as the Margaret McDermott Bridge, will replace the current Interstate 30 span. It features two arches running parallel to the span supporting pedestrian and bike paths. Construction will begin this spring and completion is expected by May 2017.
President Obama’s second-term White House is still in transition, with Ray LaHood out and rumors of an NTSB replacement, Sally Jewell likely in as Secretary of Interior. Among the non-Cabinet-level appointments, the President appointed Michael Graves to a member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, an agency “devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities.” Graves, who uses a wheelchair after an illness-induced partial paralysis, has been a leader in promoting accessibility in architecture, recently designing prototype houses for wounded and disabled veterans.
This month, Graves will also be launching a new line of more than 300 products at retailer J.C. Penney, including kitchen appliances, candlesticks, and a toaster shaped like a piece of toast. The Indianapolis-born architect will return to his hometown on March 28 to give a lecture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and he recently spoke with the Indy Star about delivering papers for the publication as a child, architecture, and the new product line. An exhibition of Graves’ work, From Towers to Teakettles, is also on display at the Virginia Center for Architecture through March 31.
The Architecture Billings Index showed renewed strength in January, with a jump to 54.2 from 51.2 in December (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). All four regions were in positive territory with the Midwest leading at 54.4, the long struggling West showing strength at 53.4, the South came in at 51.7, and the Northeast at 50.3. The Index posted the strongest gains since November 2007.