Perkins+Will Talks Transparency. Fred Bernstein of The New York Times quizzed Chris Youssef and Peter Syrett of Perkins+Will about their “Transparency” lists, an online database “linking common forms of flooring, lumber, wiring, pipes and other construction materials to government warnings about the substances contained in them.” The site is divided into the “Precautionary List” (harmful substances commonly found in the built environment), a list of asthma triggers, a list of toxicity levels of commonly used flame retardants, and a list of lists (a resource library). It’s a valuable tool for architects and designers; for lay users, it could become the WebMD for home and office (“Hey honey, did you know that a lot of treated wood contains arsenic?!”)
Steven Holl’s Houston Unification. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston announced today that architect Steven Holl was selected to build a new building on a two-acre parking lot in the city’s Museum District, besting Morphosis and Snøhetta. Situated among other structures by Mies van der Rohe, Raphael Moneo, and a sculpture garden by Isamu Noguchi, Holl’s building dedicated to art after 1900 will help unify the campus. According to MFAH Director Gary Tinterow, “Everyone on the committee was deeply impressed by the intelligence and beauty of their museum projects, and we feel certain that they will conceive a design that will match the clarity and elegance of our existing architectural landmarks.”
Whew! EPA Declares Chicago’s Air is Still Dirty. Most people would think that politicians would want their cities to be declared in compliance with Clean Air Act standards, but not Chicago! Illinois Governor Quinn and others the EPA lobbied to make sure Chicago is counted as having dirty air, in spite of initial findings from that Chicago’s pollution levels had improved significantly from 2008 to 2010. Why? Money of course! According to Crain’s, a cleaner air ruling would have jeopardized up to $80 million in funding for projects to promote cleaner air, including transit upgrades and bike paths. While the logic is mind-bending, at least it means better public transportation and biking options!
Green Monsters. Isn’t it annoying when you’re trying to do your part to go green and then things catch on fire? In what some are calling a case of “green on green crime,” a low-e glass window has been accused of melting the side-view mirror of a nearby Toyota Prius in Southern California. The Prius owner noticed a concentrated beam of sunlight reflecting off her neighbor’s windows, which had been treated with a highly reflective energy efficient coating, after being told by her Toyota dealership that nothing was wrong with her car. It wouldn’t be the first time good windows turned bad: Las Vegas’ Vdara hotel made headlines when its “death ray” reflected super-hot beams of light onto its pool deck, allegedly burning some sunbathers. Following reports of melted vinyl siding, pool covers, and car parts across the country, the National Association of Home Builders has launched a study about the amount of concentrated sunlight reflected from energy efficient windows. [DailyTech, image via CBS]
Too Warm for Winter Jam, says NYC Parks. Hang up those snowshoes. The NYC Parks Department has officially canceled this year’s Winter Jam, an annual event that invites New Yorkers to come try out an array of snow sports in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. What gives? Not only is there no snow in the forecast for the planned February 4 date, but average temperatures are too high for the city to even fake it. “It is simply too warm to make snow, and the long-range weather forecasts and current ground temperatures make it extremely unlikely that snow could be made,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
Three Pelli Towers to Rise on the Chicago River. According to the Sun-Times, the Kennedy family and top tier developer Hines are working on plans for three towers at the Wolf Point site, just west of the Merchandise Mart, to be designed by Cesar Pelli. Currently used as a parking lot, the Kennedy-owned site has dramatic views of the covergence of the Chicago River as well as the Loop. Plans call for the tallest building to reach 60 stories. No word yet on the uses for the buildings. Full details of the proposal are expected to be released in March or April. Pelli’s only other building in Chicago is an office tower at 181 West Madison.
Illinois Bests California and New York in Green Building. If you still think green building is a primarily coastal pursuit, you would be wrong. According to the USGBC, Illinois ranks third in square footage of certified green building per capita in 2011 (2.69 square feet a person) behind the District of Columbia (31.50!) and the state of Colorado (2.74). The leading states are scattered far and wide, with Texas (#8 with 1.99) outranking crunchy California (1.92). New York is even further behind (1.89), just edging out Minnesota’s 1.81 square feet per person.
OXY Goes Solar. President Obama’s Alma Mater Occidental College is finishing up work on a $6.8 million, 1-megawatt ground-mounted solar array. When finished this spring it will be one of the largest ground-mounted arrays in Los Angeles, generating about 11 percent of the College’s annual electrical usage. Led by physics professor Daniel Snowden-Ifft, the array’s 4,886 panels will be mounted on top of shade structures in a campus parking lot and on a nearby hillside.
Getting Boxy in Chicago’s South Loop. Chicago’s South Loop skyline may be getting a new bobble in the form of a boxy rental residential tower across from the Roosevelt University vertical campus. Designed by Lothan Van Hook DeStefano Architecture, the black boxes cantilever over the edge of the one below, creating a cubic counterpoint to Roosevelt’s zig zag. Many of these stacked box schemes—including a project in Jersey City by OMA and the dead Museum Plaza by REX in Louisville—have never made it off the drawing board, so it will be interesting to see if the locals can pull it off.
Allons, enfants! We’re going to Napoleonland. How do you top Euro Disney? With a theme park dedicated to everyone’s favorite Corsican upstart, Napoleon! Bonapartists, rejoice, your day has come. The Telegraph reports that a proposed park just south of Paris will immortalize the military exploits of Napoleon, including defeats at the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, as well as “a ski run through a battlefield ‘surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses’ and a recreation of Louis XVI being guillotined during the revolution.” Sure to be the top du fun, as they say in France. The proposed park will include “a museum, a hotel, shops, restaurants and a congress centre.” (Might we also suggest a Rosetta Stone cartoon character named Pierre?) Further details will be announced in February. Get ready for le RFP!
Zaha Hadid shortlisted to build icon in her home country. BD Online is reporting that architect Zaha Hadid has been shortlisted for the $1 billion new home of the Iraqi parliament. The project will be built on a site of the former Al Muthana airport once slated for Saddam Hussein’s partially constructed super-mosque in central Baghdad. The finalists haven’t officially been made public, but Iraqi-born Hadid is on the list along with Buro Happold and AECOM. Designs are due in July and a winner will be announced at the end of the year.
Sox Populi. Times are tough for architecture, but is it time for starchitects to begin taking on other jobs on the side? John Hill over at A Daily Dose of Architecture spotted architect Charles Renfro’s newest gig—J. Crew model—which is helping Renfro to become a household name. Appearing in a two-page ad running in the latest issue of Fast Company, Renfro is sporting a trim, tailored outfit of fine Italian fabrics, otherwise known as the Ludlow Suit, and some dazzling multi-colored socks. “This is what they mean by style with substance,” says the copy. (Oh, that’s what they mean…) Who should J. Crew pick for its next architecture model?