Messrs. Fixit

National
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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All aboard. (Teamsugar.com)

With the loss in yesterday’s Massachusetts special election no doubt hanging heavily over the White House today, the Obama administration can at least take solace in the fact it’s done at least one thing right. Planetizen points us to a Brookings Institution report from Friday that gives the 44th president an A- grade for infrastructure from his first year, meaning there’s still room for improvement (launch an infrastructure bank) but things are generally pretty good (high speed rail, grid upgrades, job creation). Read More

Stimulus Potholes

East Coast, National
Monday, January 11, 2010
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Men at work. Or not... (Courtesy Fremont.gov)

In a blistering report published today, the AP contends that the roughly $20 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, né the Stimulus, dedicated to road and infrastructure spending did nothing to help create jobs over the past 10 months. The news is particularly damning because the House has proposed another $28 billion in road work in its latest jobs package, and in light of this news, those critical infrastructure projects—which are easily pegged as pork to begin will—could become the next health care debate. To wit: Read More

Architects #1 in Something!

National
Thursday, December 31, 2009
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Unfortunately not a good thing. According to MSNBC (and via Curbed LA), architects saw the most job losses of any profession in 2009. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job losses in the profession jumped 17.8 percent, bringing the total number of employed architects to 189,000 in the first three quarters of 2009, compared to 230,000 in the same period a year earlier. The good news: The BLS predicts a 10% jump in architecture jobs by 2018. But can we make it till then? The list, by the way, was rounded out by the following big job losers: carpenters, production supervisors/assembly workers, pilots, computer software engineers, mechanical engineers, construction workers, tellers, and bookkeepers.

Lotsa LaHood

National
Friday, December 18, 2009
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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Ray LaHood
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Fortunately it has not been all doom and gloom this week for mass transit, as Ray LaHood took a media tour of New York, to plug for High Speed rail, mass transit spending in general, Cash for Clunkers, air travel, safe driving—you name it. He started out at an editors’ breakfast at Hearst, where PopMech reports he declared the first $8 billion is coming… soon. Later that night, LaHood stopped by—where else?—The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart tried to pin him down on the same question of where and when, and where LaHood gamely fielded some jokes. The next morning, it was a two-fer at WNYC, where he appeared on The Takeaway to further flog his talking points, raging against digitally distracted drivers and the poor state of air travel, and then, as the video after the jump shows, he took on local interests, discussing the proposed MTA cuts with Andrea Bernstein, as well as a no-go on gas taxes but more transit funding in the next “highway” bill. It’s about the smartest transportation talk we’ve heard in the mainstream in a while. Read More

R.I.P., I.D.

National
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
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(Image Courtesy I.D. Magazine)

(Image Courtesy I.D. Magazine)

To get a brief taste of a world short one more smart design magazine, type ID Magazine into the search field. You might get i-D with a bunch of nude blondes on the cover or id magazine at the ready to discuss transgender issues in Oregon, but you will not easily find I.D., the magazine that has covered the art of design and the design of the everyday for more than 50 years, winning five National Magazine Awards in the process. While nobody who wanted to know the new brand names in the making dared miss I.D.’s Annual Design Review every July/August (since 1954!), it was really the steady hand and sharp eye of its most formidable editors Julie Lasky and, before that, Chee Pearlman that made I.D. a force of good in design. Lasky left last February to join the website Change Observer and continue championing innovative design. The rest of us will just have to turn the page.

And the Winners Are

National
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
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(Rick Lowe's Project Row House. All images courtesy United States Artists)

(Denari's HL23)

Among the winners at last night’s ceremony for United States Artists (USA) were architects Neil Denari, Laura Kurgan, and architect/activist Rick Lowe. The $50,000 unrestricted awards are given each year “to ignite the creativity that makes this country great,” according to the organization’s website. USA was started in 2005 with seed money from the Rockefeller, Ford, Prudential, and Ramuson foundations to support artists in the wake of dwindling public funding for the arts.

They praised Denari as a “leading voice in the pedagogy and practice of contemporary architecture,” and commended him for showing that “progressive ideology is buildable.”

Kurgan’s work employs “data network information and uses it as a visual device to inform and educate the general public on social issues and their physical implications to the built environment.” Read More

The Big Bang

National
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
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On Friday I posted a video about the Ocean Tower in South Padre Island, Texas, also known as the Leaning Tower of South Padre Island. It is, or was to be, a 31 story condo. Regrettably, after topping out one side of the foundation sank more than a foot into the sand, construction was halted, and on Sunday the structure was imploded. At 400 feet tall, it was the tallest concrete structure to ever be imploded, according to the demolition contractor, Controlled Demolition of Phoenix, Maryland. The above video, and many more like it on youtube, capture the magic moment.

Leaning Tower Of South Padre Island

National
Friday, December 11, 2009
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Metaphorically speaking, so much of the development that has happened over the last decade has been built on loose sandy soil. Here, however, is a literal example of this very disheartening state of affairs: The Ocean Tower in South Padre Island, Texas—designed by the Brownsville-based Walker & Perez Associates—was to be a 31-story condo, promising startling views of the Gulf of Mexico and proximity to the most exclusive neighborhoods in the popular vacation destination. But after topping out last year construction was halted because one side of the building sank 14 or more inches into the underlying clay stratum. Major cracks appeared throughout the tower’s base, and now the structure is slated to be imploded this Sunday. The eloquent commentary on the above video gives voice to what we have all been thinking but afraid of saying while the myriad of architectural projects have been crumbling around our heads.

Kings of Curbed

East Coast, National
Thursday, November 19, 2009
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Some Curbed fan favorites: The Standard Hotel in New York, San Franciscos de Young Museum, and the Caltrans HQ in LA.

Some Curbed fan favorites: The Standard Hotel in New York, San Francisco's de Young Museum, and the Caltrans HQ in LA.

It must be said that Curbed, in its short life, has become one of the preeminent sites for not just real estate but also architecture and planning news, one of—not the, mind you, as that would us—best places for info on the evolving built environments of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They are most certainly in our Top 10. Reaffirming that fact is a Top 10 of Curbed’s own, a celebration of the best buildings of the past decade, something the site(s) weren’t around to see the dawning of, though who cares, since neither were we. Read More

You Like Him, You Really Like Him

National
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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The David Rockwell-designed stage from the 2009 Oscars.

The David Rockwell-designed stage from the 2009 Oscars.

David Rockwell’s star turn at the Oscars last year won the designer considerable plaudits, so he’s been asked to reprise his role, according to UPI. “We loved the look and feel that David created for the Oscar show last year,” one of the producers said. “David is so creative and has such a great big-picture approach to set design,” said another. The well-known interiors ace has done considerable amount of work on Broadway as well as the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are taped, so really, it’s like a homecoming.

Hidden In Plain Site

East Coast, National
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
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Curbed LA points us to a new video series by VBS.tv exploring the unexplored nooks and crannies of the country called Uneven Terrains. And like all things carrying the Vice label, the web series is populated by airy hipsters with a certain indifference, and yet sometimes they turn up some really cool stuff. Case in point: the hidden oil wells of LA, including in Beverly Center mall and a nearby high school. Our pal Dakota wonders how the parents (“Won’t you please think of the children!”) could let such a thing happen, but given oil prices, how couldn’t you? After the jump, you can check out the “ruins” of New York—been there, done that—and our favorite, the Missile Silo home—most silos have been decommissioned, and many have been privatized[!!!]. They’re perfect for any fan of urban exploration and cutting edge music. Read More

Of Architecture and Austism

National
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
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If you’re reading this, you probably have at least a passing interest in architecture and an equivalent understanding of its power to shape and influence the world. But what about those of us living in a world of our own? What about those of us on the autism spectrum? It turns out architecture can play an even more important role in their lives than for us average Joes, according to a Newsweek article (via Archinect) that explains the unexpected attraction of children with autism to SketchUp, Google’s free online drafting program. It turns out that for those on the spectrum, for whom verbal and interpersonal communication has often been challenging, the precision of the computer and the visual nature of SketchUp allow them to express themselves in new ways. Google has been exploring this world for a few years now, as the video above shows, and there is even hope it could help find careers for these aspiring architects. We’ll certainly welcome them into the field.

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