Buy This House!

Midwest
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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(photo: John Andersen/New York Times)

The comparison shopping set up of the “What you get for…” column in the New York Times Real Estate section is often a stroke of editorial genius. This week’s price point is an affordable $275,000, which gets you a charming frame bungalow in Nashville, a handsome one bedroom loft in Philadelphia, or this Midcentury Modern two bedroom in Madison, Wisconsin, designed by William Kaeser. According to the Times, the house is located in a residential neighborhood called Sunset Village about two miles from downtown and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The house retains many of its original details, including mahogany paneled interiors, so the right buyer could turn it into a serene yet cozy modern hideaway.

Expedited Boarding in the Loop?

Midwest
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
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Overview_image-1

Block 37 (courtesy Joseph Freed and Associates)

Mayor Daley has announced a plan for a high speed rail line linking O’Hare to the Loop and has appointed a 17 member panel to look into the project. According to the Sun-Times, though, he has a major caveat: the line should be entirely privately financed and run with no city or government money of any kind. He gave this ultimatum to the panel of prominent business and civic leaders. The line would connect O’Hare to the currently unfinished station under Block 37. Is such a plan feasible? The mayor thinks so. “There’s already interest by private investment funds, foreign investment funds,” Daley said, according to the Sun-Times. “They’ve come to see me, I’ll be very frank, talking about this. That’s exciting.”

Changes at Architecture School Urban Design Studios

Midwest
Thursday, July 22, 2010
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Terry Schwarz

Kent State University has named Terry Schwarz the director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC). A satellite of the College of Architecture, the CUDC provides urban planning and design services to underserved communities and neighborhoods. Schwarz has worked at the studio since 2000, creating, among other projects, the Shrinking Cities Institute, to investigate urban vacancy and declining population, and Pop Up City, an initiative to animate underused land with arts activities. Schwarz has a masters in city and regional planning from Cornell, and has lectured and published widely.

The Urban Design Studio in Louisville has focused its mission on sustainability, according to Broken Sidewalk. The University of Kentucky College of Design, based in Lexington, recently withdrew its involvement in the studio, leaving the planning program at the University of Louisville as the primary partner. The Studio will also expand it’s collaboration with AIA Central Kentucky raise awareness of contemporary design in Louisville.

The Wonders of Weese

Midwest
Monday, July 19, 2010
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The D.C. Metro designed by Harry Weese. (photog courtesy of the Weese family, via Chicago Magazine.)

I finally got around to reading Robert Sharoff’s fascinating Chicago Magazine piece on the life and work of Harry Weese, the architect of one of my favorite works of modern of architecture, infrastructure, and urban design, the D.C. Metro. The piece is packed with 20th century Chicago architectural history, compelling biography, and insightful analysis of Weese’s work. Sharoff draws on Robert Bruegmann’s forthcoming book on the architect, and both make the case that Weese should be considered one of the preeminent figures in Postwar American architecture. Like his friend Eero Saarinen, he seemed to reinvent himself with each new project, pushing modernism in new, diverse directions and offering an alternative to Miesian orthodoxy. Sadly, his prolific career was brought to a premature end by alcoholism, but even so he made an indelible mark on the American landscape.

Lagrange out to Pasture?

Midwest
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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courtesy Crain's

Crain’s reports that prominent Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange is throwing in the towel at the barely ripe age of 69. Not only his he closing up shop–at an as yet undisclosed date–he’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “Retiring, (there would be) a lot of liabilities are on my back. I can’t just walk away,” Lagrange told Crain’s. “Chapter 11 gives you a chance to plan ahead, organize and close in a decent way.”

While the AIA may be forcasting a brighter 2011, Lagrange, best known for designing high end condos, doesn’t see the market bouncing back for another five years. While he might be in a gloomy mood now, my hunch is that Chapter 11 won’t be the final chapter in his career.

Ebert Gives Modernism Two Thumbs Down

Midwest
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
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Ebert admits to loving the original University of Chicago campus, though hating its modern additions, such as Saarinen's Law School. (Courtesy UChicago)

Ebert.

Everyone may be a critic, but none moreso than Roger Ebert. While film has long been the Chicagoan’s preferred medium, he has increasingly cast his eyes and pen elsewhere on his Sun-Times blog (begun after a bout of thyroid cancer). Yesterday, he fixed his attention—and mostly scorn—on modern architecture. It’s a highly opinionated piece, one in which Ebert openly admits his increasingly “reactionary” preferences:

It was not always so. My first girlfriend when I moved to Chicago was Tal Gilat, an architect from Israel. She was an admirer of Mies. Together we explored his campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. She showed me his four adjacent apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive and said they looked as new today as when they were built. It is now 40 years later, and they still look that new. Then I was impressed. Now I think of it as the problem. They will never grow old. They will never speak of history. No naive eye will look at them and think they represent the past. They seem helplessly captive of the present.

Read More

Chicago and New York Score Big Bucks for BRT

East, Midwest
Friday, July 9, 2010
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A preliminary design for a reworked 34th Street. (image: NYCDOT)

Chicago and New York have well developed mass transit systems, notable for their extensive subway and commuter rail networks. But it’s buses that are getting a big boost in both cities. Chicago will receive more than $35 million in federal grants for two planned rapid bus service projects, and New York is getting $18 million to rework 34th Street with segregated bus lanes. Read More

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At Home With Jeanne Gang

Midwest
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
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(photos: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing)

The undulating balconies of Aqua have become one of the most recognized and talked about additions to the Chicago skyline. Less attention has been paid to the handsome townhouses, called “Parkhomes,” in the building’s base. Magellan, the developers, are trying to right that balance and drum up interest amid the still sluggish downtown condo market by enlisting Studio Gang to fit out the interior of one of the units. The six 3,200 square foot Parkhomes, have three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a two car garage, a rarity for condos in the immediate vicinity of the central business district. Read More

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A Yearbook of Minnesota Architecture

Midwest
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
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A new go to guide for the Twin Cities and beyond.

Among the dozens of books that arrive in our office, I found myself quickly drawn into Alan K. Lathrop’s handsome new guide Minnesota Architects: A Biographical Dictionary. The volume includes nearly forgotten 19th century architects all the way up to leading contemporary practitioners like Vincent James, David Salmela, and Julie Snow. While the book might sound like a dry reference, Lathrop includes concise descriptions of the individuals and firms, including their educational and professional lineages. Black and white photographs, both contemporary and historial, illustrate the book, and most are larger than the postage stamp-sized images found in many guides. Lathrop  also connects professional collaborations between individuals, so the book feels like a yearbook for the state’s architects.

It’s a form of refence book that should be copied. For now, Minnesota Architects is poised to become the new standard reference for anyone looking to learn more about the state’s rich built heritage and its well developed professional culture.

Walmart, Wages War in Chicago (Guess Who Won)

Midwest
Thursday, July 1, 2010
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These pro-Pullman protesters got what they wanted. (Ira and Andrea/Flickr)

After years of trying to land a second Walmart in Chicago, the world’s largest retailer succeeded in a big way yesterday when the City Council unanimously endorsed a Supercenter on the Far South Side, the anchor of a 270-acre mixed-use development. While only a few months ago the outcome of that store seemed uncertain, it all broke last week, when the unions reached a tentative agreement with Walmart to pay $8.75 an hour in its stores, more than the current minimum wage but less than was initially sought. On top of that, the retailer has cast doubt on whether a surefire deal has been set. Meanwhile, the city is bracing for the prospect of dozens of stores, through a deal arranged by Mayor Richard Daley, both a bane and a boon as it could mean an investment of $1 billion though also a costly one if it undercuts current retailers. The Sun-Times‘ incomparable Fran Spielman spells it all out for us: Read More

Museum Plaza Rises from the Grave?

Midwest
Thursday, June 24, 2010
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Could REX’s massive office/condo/hotel/art center finally be alive? We heard from Joshua Prince-Ramus that a “big announcement” about the project was coming, and now word arrives that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and the project’s developers have called a press conference for 10:00 AM tomorrow. Has financing been secured? Is the project being scrapped? We’ll know more tomorrow morning.

Hats off to Braden Klayko, the brains behind Broken Sidewalk and an AN contributor, who even when he isn’t blogging is still most in-the-know person about architecture, planning, and development in Louisville. Thanks for the tip.

UPDATE: Another tipster says the developers have secured a HUD loan for the project. Will the program be altered to meet the terms of the loan?

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NeoCon Wrap-Up

Midwest
Thursday, June 24, 2010
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NeoCon may not have the hipster cachet of ICFF or the design world glamour of Milan’s Salone, but every year I come away from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart having seen a lot of great products, and am reminded of the vast size, scope, and importance of the show. And as the way we work and the way we live become increasingly inseparable, design trends in the contract and residential markets are becoming similarly intertwined. Further, many Midcentury classics, now popular in the residential market, were first developed for the contract market. In addition to the great products we featured in our preview, here are a few more standouts from the show.

Antenna Workspaces, Knoll

The big news from Knoll was the Antenna Workspaces (above) collection by Antenna Design. The desk system is built around a table base with clean lines. A variety of box storage, drawer units, and panels can be attached to the center rail. The system looks particularly good when used with Knoll archival surfaces, such as the natural rattan and grass fabrics used in the NeoCon showroom. Read More

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