Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to Get Tech Boost. Known to architects for the dozens of design showrooms it houses and the annual NeoCon tradeshow it hosts, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart may also become a major center for the city’s tech industry. Crain’s is reporting that Google is planning to lease half a million square feet in the mammoth building, and will add a large roof deck offering city, river, and lake views. The deck will, no doubt, help compensate for the massive floorplates that will leave most employees far from natural light. Google will also bring 3000 jobs–from a Motorola division they acquired–from the suburbs to downtown.
Going Local. We hear that the mighty Pritzker family from Chicago (namely Anthony Pritzker) has built an ultra-large estate in Beverly Hills. A 49,000 square foot chateau, to be exact. We haven’t been able to identify who the architect is, but it’s apparently a firm “from Paris.” What ever happened to hiring locally? The compound brings new meaning to the concept of mega-mansion, but plans for an even larger house of 70,000 square feet for a Saudi prince are taking shape nearby. But maybe this means a sop to a West Coast architect for the next Pritzker?
Renaissance Critic. It’s common knowledge that before Michael Kimmelman became the New York Times’ architecture critic he used to be one of the paper’s art critics. But did you know that before delving into the visual arts, Kimmelman had a passion for the lively arts? He even considered a professional career as a concert pianist. In fact, on his days off you can still find Kimmelman performing, most recently on May 19 and 20 with Bargemusic, a chamber music group that holds concerts on a barge near the Brooklyn Bridge. The pianist in a quartet, Kimmelman was down for a little Hayden, Beethoven, and Mozart. “Hoping people will come to my concerts at Bargemusic,” the critic tweeted beforehand, in what may count as one his few reviews of an actual, if nautical, structure. “Nice program, cool place.”
Keeping Busy at ArchPaper West. We’ve got our plates full this month at Dwell on Design/LA Design Festival/AIA LA Design Conference. On Thursday, June 21 we’re hosting a studio tour at our new West coast offices, the American Cement Building, featuring eight architecture firms in one building. Next, on June 22-24 we’re hosting architect consultations at Dwell, connecting more than 20 of the city’s top architects to potential clients. Finally on June 24, West Coast Editor Sam Lubell is moderating an expert panel at the AIA Design Conference examining how architecture can contribute to the public realm.
Zaha Considers Buying a Museum in London. With the London Design Museum gearing up to move in to their new Pawson designed-Pad in Knightsbridge, BD Online reports that Zaha Hadid is a front runner to purchase the old digs in the Southwark section of the city. The buzz is that she plans to turn it into an architecture museum.
To Russia, With Love. Is Russia the new China? Probably nyet, but there are a couple of projects to watch in Putinland. Rem Koolhaas has locked up the commission to transform a crumbling Soviet-era building into a hip new home for the Garage (pictured), the contemporary art center in Moscow run by Dasha Zhukova. Bankrolling the creation of a 58,000-square-foot kunsthalle, complete with the obligatory café, shop, and “learning center,” is billionaire Roman Abramovich, Zhukova’s longtime boyfriend.
WTF WI-FI. That didn’t take long. We hear that the funds promised for the LA Unified School District’s innovative prefabricated prototype schools by the likes of Craig Hodgetts, Swift Lee and Gonzalez Goodale have been routed instead to updating LAUSD schools’ wifi systems. We know that getting on the Internet without a cord is cool, but more important than shelter from the storm? Say it ain’t so! Now that the program is on hold there is one silver lining. It appears that LA’s charter schools are jumping over themselves to get a prefab prototype. Stay tuned.
Jay-Z Named a Director (and Designer) at Barclay’s Center. The exterior of the SHoP-designed Barclay’s Center is rapidly taking shape, and developer Forest City Ratner has been announcing the upcoming acts that will perform in the arena with equal speed (plans for affordable housing at the site, however, have been delayed almost indefinitely). The Post reports that rapper Jay-Z has been named a director for the highly controversial Center, and also noted that Mr. Beyoncé has also been involved in the design of the arena’s 11 luxury suites. Jay-Z is also part owner of the Nets, the arena’s resident sports tenant. Ratner, meanwhile, is working to secure a liquor license for the Center, which many neighbors oppose.
Bye Bye Blair!. Pulitzer-prize winning Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin had better go hat shopping. He’s got another feather for his chapeau! A super prestigious Neiman Fellowship from Harvard! “My aspirations for the fellowship are straightforward: To return to my job refreshed and refocused, so I can provide our readers with the most sophisticated, discerning coverage of architecture—and, in the process, to demonstrate anew why newspapers should cover this inescapable art,” Kamin told Time Out Chicago. Congratulations Blair. Don’t get tempted to stay on the coast. The Midwest needs you!
Last Chance to Make a Sonic Trace. LA radio station KCRW is challenging designers to put together a portable sound booth to collect stories for its program Sonic Trace, which explores questions about community and immigration. Producers will be toting the booth all over LA’s diverse communities (ideally on the roof of their VW Wagoneer), from Koreatown to South Central, so it’s got to be lightweight and hearty. Hurry because submissions are due on June 8!
Dubious FEMA Argument for Rudolph Demolition Debunked, Again. In yet another turn of the screw, Orange County, New York county executive Eddie Diana’s claim that a FEMA report proved Paul Rudolph’s Government Center sustained substantial damage from Hurricane Irene turns out to bogus at best. Dogged reporting from the Times Herald-Record reveals once again that the county executive’s numbers just don’t add up: “Diana told reporters that county officials have coaxed FEMA into raising its original estimate to $535,000 from $505,000. By contrast, the county’s consultants had estimated $10.5 million in damages.” FEMA officials blame the bulk of the damage on poor maintenance.
Times Columnist Slatalla Takes a Walk in the Garden. Remodelista has just launched a new site dedicated to the outdoor life Gardenista.com. The editor is Michelle Slatalla, a former New York Times columnist and current writer for Real Simple. With Gardenista, “we aim to make gardening accessible, the way Remodelista demystified—while celebrating—interior design,” Slatalla said.