Letter from Rome: YAP Opening Night at the MAXXI

International, Newsletter
Thursday, July 7, 2011
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stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

stARTT's illuminated fiberglass flowers (Courtesy James Stevens)

Imagine a warm summer evening in Rome. Then imagine stretching out on a cool, grass lawn underneath giant Jurassic tulips the size of a cherry tree. Their glow softly illuminates conversations over cocktails. Add a backdrop of the serpentine jewel of Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI museum, and you have theater.

Rome is all about theater.

Continue reading after the jump.

Rogers Marvel Secures Competition to Revamp White House Lawn Extension

East, Newsletter
Thursday, July 7, 2011
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Proposed changes to President's Park (Courtesy RMA)

Proposed changes to President's Park (Courtesy RMA)

Today, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) announced that Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA) has won a design competition to revamp President’s Park in Washington, DC. The New York-based architects bested a distinguished list of landscape designers, including Hood Design Studio of Oakland California, Michael Van Valkenburgh of Brooklyn, and Reed Hildebrand Associates and SASAKI, both of Watertown, Massachusetts.

After September 11th, 2001, security design in major public spaces took on a new significance, and President’s Park South—a large ellipse forming a public extension of the White House’s front lawn—this meant concrete jersey barriers and fences along E Street. Soon, though, the park could become one of the most pedestrian-friendly—and secure—in the capital, thanks to RMA’s subtle combination of landscape architecture and security design.

Continue reading after the jump.

Sustainability Martyred in Name of Saint Green

International, Newsletter
Thursday, June 30, 2011
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Eco-Pantheon, Rome 126AD (Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture)

Eco-Pantheon, Rome 126AD (Courtesy Star Strategies+Architecture)

Has the green movement gone too far? STAR Strategies + Architecture examines the prevalence of “green-washing and the abuse of sustainability” in their project O’ Mighty Green, where they posit that the notion of “green” has taken on a life of its own outside of sustainability and has become on many levels a new sort of religion. As the architects said in their introduction:

Sustainability currently shares many qualities with God; supreme concept, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; creator and judge, protector, and (…) saviour of the universe and the humanity. And, like God, it has millions of believers. Since we humans are relatively simpleminded and suspicious and need evidence before belief can become conviction, Green has come to represent sustainability; has become its incarnation in the human world. But sustainability, like God, might not have a form, nor a colour.

To demonstrate this absurdity, STAR has implemented what they call “sustainability as a photoshop filter” and clad a variety of iconic—and notorious—buildings with green walls, even invoking the spirit of St. Green, the patron saint of sustainable architects. The architects have taken a similarly snarky view of contradictions in preservation. (Via Dezeen.)

What are your thoughts? Are architects guilty of praying at the green altar?

Photos after the jump.

Future of Preservation in St. Louis Looks Modern

Midwest, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
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Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL)

Del Taco in St. Louis (Courtesy Modern STL)

When St. Louis architects Schwarz and Van Hoefen designed a 120-foot diameter flying saucer in 1967 along the city’s Grand Boulevard, historic preservation was likely the last thing on their minds. Today faced with demolition, the structure’s concrete cantilever has garnered tremendous public outcry and has become a local icon. (It’s facebook page numbers over 11,600 fans, trouncing the 850 fans of Chicago’s threatened Prentice Tower.) It’s hard to imagine a gas station turned drive through restaurant could muster such support with such an anti-urban background, but the Del Taco building isn’t leaving without a fight.

Continue reading after the jump.

Will Kimmelman Replace Ouroussoff at the Times?

East, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
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Michael Kimmelman (courtesy Wikipedia)

The Architect’s Newspaper has heard from multiple sources that the New York Times may be close to naming the art critic Michael Kimmelman as the paper’s new architecture critic. Outgoing architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff resurfaced today with another far flung report, a glowing review of Steven Holl’s Vanke Center in Shenzhen, China. Will it be his last? Though Kimmelman is best known as an art critic, he has written on architecture several times in recent years during his posting in Europe, including an excellent piece on David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum in Berlin and a profile of Peter Zumthor for the New York Times Magazine.

Talking Transportation In Los Angeles

Newsletter, West
Thursday, June 23, 2011
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Hollywood and Highland Metro Station

Yes, it’s conference time again in LA. The AIA Los Angeles Design Conference, part of Dwell on Design, kicks-off on Friday with an all day symposium, The Architecture of Transportation, which will discuss ideas to help transform L.A.‘s transportation system into an economically and socially viable network. Participants like policy makers, activists, urban designers and architects, will investigate a wide range of transportation-related ideas, like connecting people to their communities, influencing regional prosperity and helping cities compete globally.

Continue reading after the jump.

Design Commission Awards at Museum of Moving Image

East, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
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Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris (center) checks out Steven Holl's designs for Hunter's Point Community Library. (Courtesy Tucker/nycmayorsoffice)

It was an event that was on message and on time. With the unfortunate passing of Mayor Bloomberg’s mother this week, officiating duties for Design Commission’s Twenty-ninth Annual Awards for Excellence in Design fell to Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris and Design Commission president Jim Stuckey.  As the invitation noted, remarks were scheduled to begin at 6:15PM, and Harris started remarking on the dot and kept to the script, reading directly from it in fact, with few off-the-cuff remarks. “Short and sweet,” was how one audience member described it afterward, with an Oscar-worthy combo of Harris and Stuckey–like an urban design version of Hathaway and Franko, without the awkward flubs.

Read More

Revealing The Airplane Of The Future

International, Newsletter
Monday, June 20, 2011
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Aircraft manufacturer Airbus unveiled its conceptual designs for a futuristic, see-through plane last week in advance of the 2011 Paris Airshow, which began today. The “Concept Cabin” showcases what commercial air travel could look like in 2050, and is packed with interfacing technologies and design features to give passengers an ultra-personalized and otherworldly experience.

Continue reading after the jump.

Paris’ Lost Cafe from Hell

International, Newsletter
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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Le Café de L’Enfer (Via How to be a Retronaut)

Le Café de L’Enfer (Via How to be a Retronaut)

Tucked away in in the bohemian enclave of Montmartre in Paris, Le Café de L’Enfer—the Cafe of Hell—welcomed all who dared pass through the mouth of a giant ghoul and a doorman dressed as the devil proclaiming, “Enter and be damned!” The exterior facade appears to be molten rock surrounding misshapen windows and dripping off the building while inside, caldrons of fire and ghostly bodies of humans and beasts covered the walls and ceiling. From an account published in Morrow and Cucuel‘s Bohemian Paris of Today (1899):

Red-hot bars and gratings through which flaming coals gleamed appeared in the walls within the red mouth. A placard announced that should the temperature of this inferno make one thirsty, innumerable bocks might be had at sixty-five centimes each. A little red imp guarded the throat of the monster into whose mouth we had walked; he was cutting extraordinary capers, and made a great show of stirring the fires. The red imp opened the imitation heavy metal door for our passage to the interior, crying, – “Ah, ah, ah! still they come! Oh, how they will roast!”

Quite a site! (In an epic battle of good and evil, another entrepreneur opened Le Ciel—”Heaven”—next door that was filled with clouds, angels, and harps.) The Café de L’Enfer operated from the late 19th through the middle of the 20th century. (Via How to be a Retronaut.)

A few more photos after the jump.

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LPC Approves Adjmi’s Concrete Riff on Cast Iron

East, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
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Detail rendering of a cast iron facade in reverse.

With unanimous approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Morris Adjmi‘s deceptively subtle take on the classic cast iron building is on its way to becoming reality. What at first glance appears to be a cast iron facade is actually a reverse bas relief cast in glass reinforced concrete—essentially a form in which you could mold a true cast iron facade. “This makes  you think of how these buildings were built, from the initial casting to being assembled as components,” said Adjmi. “So this is really taking that and inverting it so it becomes a record of the process.”

Continue reading after the jump.

TEN Arquitectos’ Hot Plan For Tabasco, Mexico

International, Newsletter
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
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The boomerang bridge as seen from above. (Courtesy Enrique Norten/TEN Arquitectos)

If opponents of New York’s bike lanes think bikers get the upper hand, then they’d be stunned to see what TEN Arquitectos has planned for the main drag of Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco, Mexico. Of course, accommodating bikes is only a small part of what is intended to overhaul the city’s spine including an eye catching pedestrian bridge anchoring the project.

The perforated, metal-clad boomerang of a bridge links two lakeside parks, the Tomas Garrido Park and Lake of Illusions. At street level the illusion takes hold as the bridge morphs into the shape of a giant alligator.  A large amphitheater sits at its base with the park serving as backdrop. The project is set for dedication next week.

Read More

Video> Steve Jobs Reveals Apple Campus

Newsletter, West
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
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New Apple HQ (Cupertino City Television Screen Capture)

New Apple HQ (Cupertino City Television Screen Capture)

Behold! The unveiling of Apple’s next product… the iBuilding. Okay, so it’s not a product, but it is their highly-anticipated new campus in Cupertino, California. Steve Jobs, wearing his trademark mock turtleneck and jeans, revealed the plans—with fancy, although somewhat grainy renderings—at yesterday’s Cupertino City Council meeting (watch the video after the jump).

According to several reports, the architect of the new complex, whose land Apple bought from Hewlett Packard, will be Norman Foster, but that hasn’t been formally announced.

A few highlights of the new design: Apple’s new HQ is shaped like a doughnut, a spaceship, or an iPod trackwheel. It’s clad in curved glass with a giant courtyard in the middle. While Apple plans to increase it’s employees from 9,500 to 13,000, it will reduce its surface parking by 90% (from 9,800 to 1,200) and most of the parking will be underground. The vast majority of campus is set aside for landscaping (with an estimated 6,000 trees).

According to Jobs, the building will generate its own clean energy using the grid as backup. Given how the council treated Jobs like a visiting god, it looks like the company should get the project passed. If it moves forward, the new campus is expected to be complete by 2015.

Watch Steve Jobs unveil the new HQ and see more renderings after the jump!

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