Defending Gehry’s Take on Ike. In the perennial battle of rads versus trads, Penn professor and former Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski often sides with the trads. So it was a bit of a surprise to see Rybczynski take to the op-ed page of the New York Times in defense of Frank Genry’s design for the Eisenhower memorial. Genry’s design has numerous critics including two of Eisenhower’s granddaughters, as well as the usual suspects who think classicism is the only appropriate approach to everything really, especially if it involves patriotism, presidents, or Washington D.C. Rybczynski calls Gehry “our finest living architect” and worries that a design-by-committee approach will undermine the quality of the memorial. Or as Eisenhower might have said, beware of the classicist/reactionary complex.
Minnesotans Driving Less, Taking Transit a lot More. Nationally the number of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) has been declining in recent years. Transit ridership has also held steady or been climbing slightly. Minnesota seems to be a dramatic example of this new transportation reality, according to figures from the Minnesota Department of Transportation as reported on Minnpost.com. They cite a 40% increase in transit ridership from 2004 to 2011, and a small but significant decline in VMTs 2011 from their 2007 peak. Road congestion has also been easing slightly. High gas prices, an increasing preference for walkable neighborhoods, and teenagers postponing getting their licenses are all cited as contributing factors. It all adds up to further evidence that political rhetoric around gas prices, transportation, and energy policy needs to catch up to the reality on the ground.
Facing Threats BMW Guggenheim Lab Swerves Away from Berlin. While the commercialization of museums raises eyebrows in some circles in America, in Germany such criticism is much more forceful and threatening. Activist groups have derailed the planned May 24th opening in Berlin of the BMW Guggenheim lab, according to Bloomberg News. They argued that the mobile lab–which debuted in New York and is traveling the globe, all bankrolled by the German luxury carmaker–would accelerate the gentrification of the Kreuzberg district. The Guggenheim has faced criticism for its sponsors and activities many times before, so this episode is not likely to spur much institutional reflection. According to the report, the Museum is currently shopping for a new host city.
Ped Plaza Hit-and-Run. Well that didn’t take long. Less than a month after opening it’s first pedestrian plaza carved out of underused road space in Silver Lake, a hit-and-run driver in Los Angeles careened into massive planters meant to protect the plaza just before 5 a.m., spewing dirt across Rios Clementi Hale’s polka dotted plaza. Resident Sarah Dryden (whose car was also smashed up) snapped a photo of the mess. No one was hurt, but the city is now looking for more robust bollard options to keep the plaza safe from motorists. (Via Curbed LA.)
More Eyes on Rudolph’s Threatened Orange County Government Center. Recently AN put a spotlight on Rudolph’s threatened Orange County Government Center, through photos and reporting, and many others are coming to defense of this challenging and bewitching building. The World Monuments Fund declared the building a culturally significant site, and a local group is protesting the planned demolition. Bloomberg’s James S. Russell just visited, declaring it, “insistently attention-grabbing in photos, the building reveals a surprising delicacy in person. Rudolph’s complicated shape-making domesticates the building’s institutional scale.” Will prominent architects from around the country rally to around Rudolph’s singular creation? Time is running out.
Groundbreaking for SHoP’s Pre-Fab Tower Delayed. SHoP unveiled their design for the 32-story B2 tower in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards last November, which will be one of the world’s tallest prefab building if all goes according to developer Forest City Ratner’s plans. Now, however, Atlantic Yards Report noticed the tower’s planned groundbreaking target, originally set for early this year, won’t be moving dirt until the end of 2012, after the adjacent Barclay’s Center arena (also designed by SHoP) opens in September. In the meantime, the developer says it’s working with unions on the details of the tower’s modular design.
Diamond studded Eco-Developer? Having successfully covered the world (or at least all 11 outposts of the global Gagosian empire) in colorful spots, Damien Hirst is turning his attention to architectural matters. The artist is planning to build more than 500 homes on the land he owns in Devon, England as part of a broader expansion of the glam seaside resort town of Ilfracombe. Mike Rundell of London-based MRJ Rundell+Associates is putting his undergrad degree in fine art to good use and working with Hirst on the project. “He has a horror of building anonymous, lifeless buildings,” said Rundell of his artist client. Pressed for details, Rundell described the houses as modern and possibly incorporating eco-friendly touches such as photovoltaic panels and wind turbines nestled in the roofs. Pickled sharks or spin art not included.
WTC security extends to streets beyond site.. Downtown Express reports that NYPD will be battening down access to WTC “campus” in lower Manhattan. This week a new safety plan was presented at Community Board 1′s Redevelopment Committee meeting, and community members were dismayed by the multiple Checkpoint Charlie-like blocks on streets around the site proper. Said one resident of neighboring Cedar Street, “I don’t see a way to go home in a cab in front of my door without going through two checkpoints. We’re not talking about parking – we’re talking about access to the front door the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, with a cab full of groceries and 24 people for dinner.”
Eating Champ & Starchitect Celebrate Damn Good Advice. During festivities for the launch of his book Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent), legendary art director and advertising guru George Lois announced that he will donate his professional archive to the Vignelli Center for Graphic Design Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. At the launch, a star-studded guest list including Massimo and Leila Vignelli, architect Richard Meier, and competitive eating champion Kobayashi packed NYC’s Art Directors’ Club. The addition of Lois’ work bolsters the archive’s reputation as a world-class resource for design researchers.
Chicago Picks Bike-Sharing Vendor. Big changes are coming to Chicago’s streets, as AN has reported. One of the most visible, the city’s planned bike-sharing system, just took a major step forward with the selection of a vendor, Portland, Oregon-based Alta Bicycle Share and Public Bike System. The vendor will supply 3000 bikes and 300 solar powered charging stations this summer, according to the Chicago Tribune. The number will be upped to 5000 bikes and 500 stations by 2014. The Alta/Public partnership operates bike-sharing systems in London, Melbourne, Boston, Minneapolis, Toronto, Washington, D.C. and Montreal among other cities.
Another $9 Million Banked for Chicago’s Newest Linear Park. Today, Mayor Emanuel announced an additional $9 million in pledges for the Bloomingdale Trail, completing funding for the first phase of the elevated rails to trails project, according to the Sun-Times. The funds include a $5 million gift from Excelon, $1 million each from Boeing and CNA, and a $2 million commitment from the city, which, combined with $37 million in federal funds, will cover the $46 million cost of the first phase. The city and park advocates hope to raise an additional $36 million to complete the project, mostly through private, corporate, and foundation sources.
DS+R Takes it Higher. DS+R was selected to design a new residential tower at Hudson Yards, adjacent to the third section of the High Line. Diller Scofidio + Renfro is climbing ever higher near the High Line with their first ever skyscraper. The Wall Street Journal reports that the firm was selected by Related Development to work with the Rockwell Group on an 800 foot tall, 700 unit residential building that will play well with its architectural cousin next door. Elizabeth Diller tells the paper the architects are “very conscious of the adjacency to the High Line.” Indeed. DS+R, along with Field Operations, will be unveiling plans for the third and final section of the High Line at a community meeting tonight. Public School 11 Auditorium 320 West 21st, RSVP to email@example.com.