AN recently profiled the emerging architectural typology of spaceports across the country, and now there’s news from the Houston site that helped launch the dream of space travel decades ago. Independence Shuttle, a full-scale replica of NASA’s iconic Space Shuttle, recently was moved from the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to its next-door neighbor, Space Center Houston.
To some people, the relocation was a matter of mere logistics. To others, however, the transfer symbolized not just a lessening of power and precedence associated with Johnson Space Center, but with NASA’s space program as a whole.
Decades before the Americans With Disabilities Act, Frank Lloyd Wright designed an accessible home for a World War II veteran. Now Wright’s only home designed for a person with a disability will open to the public. Wright’s Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois opens for tours on June 6, two days before what would have been its architect’s 147th birthday.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is drowning. The banks of the Fox River served as an idyllic setting for the building’s white steel and glass when it landed in Plano, Illinois. But lately the Fox has gone rabid, spilling over its banks three times in the past 18 years. So what to do? Preservationists are looking at installing hydraulic jacks to lift the house during floods, to the tune of about $3 million. Call it the Three Million Dollar Modernist. Ironically Mies put the house on stilts to prevent such flooding; I guess you can’t outwit a wily Fox.
One of Philadelphia’s most impressive old ruins might be coming back to life. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a New Jersey real estate lender is providing $31.5 million to convert the decaying Divine Lorraine hotel into luxury apartments and commercial space. This is not the first attempt to transform the Lorraine, but it just might be its best.
Before the old Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is razed to make way for the massive SHoP-designed mixed-use complex, it has been transformed into a gallery for famed artist, Kara Walker. Inside the 30,000-square-foot space, which stills smells of molasses, she has created a 75-foot-long, 35-foot-high, sugar-coated sphinx (on view through July 6th). The work, which was created in collaboration with Creative Time, is called A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby, and according to Walker’s artist statement, it is “an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World.”
The New York Public Library has canceled its controversial renovation plan by Foster + Partners, according to a report in the New York Times. The plan, which would have removed the historic book stacks and turned the non-lending research library into a circulating library, was widely opposed by scholars, writers, and architectural historians.
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This reminds me quite a bit of the never-built proposal, Bombed Churches as War Memorials (1945), published in London after WWII, which presented various designs for bombed-out churches to be preserved in ruined form with the addition of garden plantings and a few amenities.
A group of North Carolina preservationists is trying to protect a local piece of modernist history from the impending wrecking ball. The News & Observer reported that a group called North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH) has started a campaign to save the former Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic building, which was designed by Raleigh architect G. Milton Small over 50 years ago.
“The building is really Raleigh’s finest example of international architecture,” said George Smart, the head of NCMH, who noted that Small studied under Mies van der Rohe at IIT.
The historic Niels Esperson Building has lit up the Houston skyline since 1927, but far below the tower’s neo-Classical cupola, a basement space connecting to a series of tunnels meandering underneath the city has remained out of the spotlight. Now, the building’s basement gets to play catch up in the fame game with a $2.5 million renovation spearheaded by architectural firm Page.
After a long and heated fight to save Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital from demolition, the site’s future as a medical center has been cemented. But along with the full-service hospital could come two residential towers that are significantly taller than anything in the predominantly-brownstone Cobble Hill neighborhood.
A recently restored Frank Lloyd Wright house on Chicago’s far North Side will be open for weekly tours this summer, starting May 7. The Emil Bach House, 7415 North Sheridan Road, is a Chicago Landmark and an entry on the National Register of Historic Places. As a vacation rental, the carefully crafted private dwelling invites Wright enthusiasts to stay a while.