A New School for The Lower East Side up in the Air. The massive development planned at the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) was unanimously upheld by the New York City Council Land Use Committee on Thursday, and the Lower East Side might be getting a new school. Or not. City officials won’t decide whether to build the project—part the 1.65 million square foot development at SPURA—for at least another five years, claiming initially that the community did not need a new school. According to City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, the city will set aside 15,000 square feet in the new mixed-use buildings in case a school becomes necessary in the future. The city will also reevaluate the funding available to build it and will keep the potential space available until 2023.
Eavesdrop> Keep In Touch, BK!. We’ve poked fun at Blair Kamin numerous times, from his nerdy-sexy picture next to his byline to our disparate views on PoMo design. Despite all that, his contribution as an architectural critic and historian is quite profound and very important for the Midwest. Kamin’s announcement that he’s taking a leave of absence from the Chicago Tribune for a fellowship at Harvard made us panicky. Newspapers are trimming staff faster than design firms during the recession. We just hope that with or without Kamin, the Tribune recognizes the value of his work and keeps that legacy alive.
GENSLER’S GROWING PAINS. We’re big fans of Gensler’s new downtown LA offices, which open up to a central atrium, keeping employees visually and physically connected. But the firm’s growth has forced it to partially abandon that model, moving extra employees to the decidedly-less-airy upper floors of their building, City National Plaza. Even in the most democratic offices, you can’t escape hierarchy!
AIA 2012 Firm Survey: A Bleak Backward Glance. The AIA has released its 2012 Firm Survey, and brace yourself–Cormack McCarthy’s bleakest novel would make for more cheerful reading. The AIA reports that for all the firms surveyed, collective gross revenue dropped 40 percent between 2008 and 2011. In real numbers that’s a decline from $44 billion to $26 billion. Personnel has been cut by one third, with non-billable, non-technical staffers bearing the brunt of downsizing. On a brighter note, the number of LEED AP staff at firms doubled (plenty of time to study!). Projects involving renovations, rehabilitations, and additions increased. And while everyone knows that work outside the U.S. has been keeping many firms afloat, the stats are eye-opening: two-thirds of international billings in the last three years were from projects in Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America.
EAT MY DUST. Former New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff reemerged recently in an unexpected location: the pages of Smithsonian magazine, where Ouroussoff profiled Rem Koolhaas for the venerable publication. Those who read the piece online may not realize that Ouroussoff is one of the writers featured in Smithsonian’s September issue, which marks the debut of the magazine’s sleek redesign initiated by editor-in-chief Michael Caruso. “The main idea was to rev it up,” Caruso told Adweek of his changes to the staid cover, layout, and contribitor’s list. Smithsonian’s monthly print circulation has already risen under Caruso—it currently sits at 2.1 million, giving Ouroussoff’s feature almost twice the reach that it would have had in the Sunday Times.
Kiosks Nixed from Met’s OLIN-designed Plaza. OLIN’s Met Plaza After its tony neighbors complained, the Metropolitan Museum of Art dropped plans for kiosks selling refreshments and tickets in a proposed plaza designed by OLIN, reports DNAinfo. The Met has been courting the nearby co-ops in monthly meetings, and doesn’t want the $60 million project to be held up. Construction is slated to begin in October. The community at large will get another gander at the construction plans at tomorrow night’s Community Board 8 meeting.
LYNN PROJECT SINKS. Bummer. SFMOMA, soon closing for several months for its Snøhetta-designed expansion, was hoping to keep things interesting by hiring Greg Lynn to design a floating exhibition in the San Francisco Bay. The project, coordinated with sail maker North Sails, would have included 200 sculptural chairs (made out of carbon fiber—the same material used in America’s Cup boats’ sails) under a large canopy on a large barge, providing clear views of the America’s Cup, which will soon be held in San Francisco. According to North Sails, Lynn may now produce some of the chairs for Vitra instead.
MAS Takes on Grand Central. The Municipal Arts Society is celebrating Grand Central‘s upcoming centenial, by holding a design challenge to reimagine the grand dame for the next 100 years. Foster & Partners, SOM, and WXY have each been invited to revamp public spaces inside and outside the terminal. More DOT pedestrian plazas anyone? The results of will be shown at the society’s third annual Summit for New York City on October 18. (Photo: Tom Stoelker/AN)
Announcing the Gehry Prize. Frank Gehry has won every architecture award you can think of, from the Pritzker to the AIA Gold Medal. Now he has one named after him, thanks to his $100,000 donation to SCI-Arc. The Gehry Prize will be awarded annually to the school’s best graduate thesis. The first prize will be handed out this Sunday at SCI-Arc’s graduation. Gehry has been a SCI-Arc trustee since 1990, and has been involved with the school since its inception in 1972. Which reminds us: SCI-Arc will be 40 next year.
Inwood Hill’s Land Artist Young Jee Passes Away. Young Jee, the land artist who carved his work into earth of Inwood Hill has died, DNAinfo reports. Far from the galleries flanking the High Line, Jee’s quiet compositions served as an anecdote to high concept, in keeping with the park which is the largest natural tract of land in Manhattan. (Photo: Tom Stoelker / AN)
Tacha Sculpture Saved!. In an about face, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reversed a decision to demolish Athena Tacha’s Green Acres, a site specific installation at the State’s Department of Environmental Protection. Tacha is largely credited with bringing the land art movement into the social context of architecture. The 1985 sculpture’s staying power remains contingent upon private funding to restore the piece. With Art Pride New Jersey, Preservation New Jersey, and The Cultural Landscape Foundation all rallying to the cause, Green Acres looks like it will remain the place to be.
SPURA Redevelopment Sails Through City Planning. The planned 1.65 million square foot redevelopment of two blocks of the Lower East Side was approved by the Department of City Planning with no requests for changes, according to DNAinfo. The Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) is a Moses-era slum clearance project that has stood vacant since the 1960s. The redevelopment would include 900 apartments, 500 of which would be designated as permanently affordable housing, as well as retail, community, and green spaces. The plan now needs approval from City Council to proceed.