Day to Night, Illuminating Darkened Detroit

Midwest
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
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(All images courtesy McIntosh Poris Associates)

Architectural lighting is a great way to bring a bit of life to unused buildings. A new program in Detroit aims to cast some of the city’s many empty structures in a better light, in an effort to “mothball” them for future use. The architects at McIntosh Poris Associates have an innovative plan to re-light the four buildings without generating carbon emissions, a plan they hope to expand across downtown. Commissioned by the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, the project will light the interior and exteriors with power generated from rooftop photovoltaics. Read More

Mart for Sale? Not So Fast.

Midwest
Thursday, September 9, 2010
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The Merchandise Mart

(photo: courtesy MMPI)

Earlier in the week Crain’s reported that the Merchandise Mart, Chicago’s iconic Art Deco design center and the home of the country’s largest design trade show, is up for sale. Vornado, the New York–based real estate company that bought the Mart’s parent company from the Kennedy family in 1998, is reportedly seeking more than $1 billion for 8.9 million square feet held by Merchandise Mart Properties (MMPI).

Yesterday, MMPI released a statement disputing elements of the Crain’s story, particularly recent profitability figures. According to MMPI, their properties are 92% occupied, a rate far higher than the 84% occupancy for the rest of the Chicago central business district. The statement implies, thought it does not categorically state, that the Mart is not on the block. Here’s the full release. Read More

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Daley Out. Rahm In?

Midwest
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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The Sun-Times broke the story that, after much deliberation, Mayor Richard M. Daley has decided not to run for reelection. Daley has been in office since 1989, so his impact has been vast, especially on the city’s built environment. From planting thousands of trees and promoting green roofs and LEED construction, to building magaprojects like Millenium Park and championing development like the new Trump Tower, Daley’s vision shaped the architecture and urbanism Chicago, as well as the city’s identity, arguably more directly than any other mayor in the country. With less than six months before the election, those interested in replacing Daley will have to work fast. President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, generated considerable buzz earlier in the year when he said he’d like to be mayor someday. He quickly qualified that he would not challenged Daley. No word yet on his intentions following Daley’s announcement. While Emanuel is known to be a strong armed character, his views on design and the built environment are unclear at the point. Whoever becomes mayor, Daley’s shadow will be a long one.

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.

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