The Las Vegas Sun reports that, in spite of some hold ups with environmental approvals, work is expected to begin this year on the $4 billion DesertXpress, a high-speed rail link between Vegas and Victorville, California. Construction on the 185-mile project, which involves two parallel, at-grade tracks through the Mojave Desert, mostly along the I-15 corridor, should take four years. Service is scheduled to being in late 2014. Aecom and Stantec have both been involved in the project thus far, along with a slew of engineering companies. The decision to begin/end the line at Victorville has raised some eyebrows. There are advocates who are pushing for an extension to Palmdale—the site of a future high-speed rail link to Union Station—allowing non-stop rail service from downtown LA to Vegas. DesertXpress chose the Victorville terminus because it is the first major population center west of the Cajon Pass, easily accessible to millions of people in the Inland Empire, and could be paid for without recourse to public tax dollars. To date, the project has been entirely privately funded, though it could be eligible for Federal Stimulus money in the future.
Since the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a lot of attention has been focused on the preparedness of the United States to absorb such massive tremors. Nowhere is this more true than in California, the state that is perhaps the most poised in the country to deal with such disasters, as well as the most prone to suffer them. A recent report last week from California Watch—a consortium of investigative journalists who relish tackling the tough issues—found that the state’s public universities have been particularly remiss in earthquake-proofing their facilities. The report identified 108 buildings owned by state universities that engineers say would suffer serious structural damage in the event of a major quake. UC Berkeley topped this list with 71 occupied buildings that failed to make the grade. California is expected to feel one or more magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquakes in the next 30 years.
Here’s another bad sign for the shaky real estate industry: The California Real Estate Journal, CA’s only statewide commercial real estate publication, is folding. The last issue of the weekly will be on April 5. We received confirmation from the CREJ this morning, but have not yet been able to speak in depth to anyone there. More word as we get it.. For what it’s worth, the pub has received 20 regional and national awards for excellence in journalism. Ah, excellence in journalism. What a quaint phrase..
Our good friend Alissa Walker reports on Good’s blog about a trip this past Saturday led by BLDG BLOG author Geoff Manaugh to California City, a giant unbuilt city in the Mojave Desert, about 2 hours from LA. The trip was part of Obscura Day, described by its founders, Atlas Obscura, as “a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your home town. California City is about 80,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1958 by developer Nat Mendelsohn, who hoped to eventually make it the third largest city in California. Unfortunately that never happened. He only managed to corral about 10,000 people. The rest is just a desert carved with an empty grid of dirt streets. Walker points out that the streets, with names like Oldsmobile Drive, still show up on maps. More of the 70 strange places visited on Obscura Day included a visit to Berkeley’s spooky Bone Room, a tour of the Integatron sound chamber in Joshua Tree, and a visit to Baltimore’s Museum of Dentistry. Read More
Our friends at Curbed LA reported that Downtown LA’s legendary funicular Angel’s Flight finally re-opened yesterday after a 9 year hiatus (it closed in 2001 after an accident killed a tourist). The Victorian-era Flight, known as the “world’s shortest railway,” at 315 feet, was built in 1901 and has seen several iterations, the latest of which is being operated by Angels Flight Railway. It received its LA Public Utilities Commission safety approval earlier this month, so we consider it safe enough for our intrepid transit expert Alissa Walker to try it out. Stay tuned for her upcoming essay on the ride. To help you wait it out, check out a couple of our favorite photo compilations, here and here, of the Flight when it was first built. Especially fun to look at the now-defunct Victorians of Bunker Hill, the ornate masonry buildings, the city trolleys, and the great Victorian outfits.
California’s recovery is underway, but don’t expect the state’s construction activity to return to pre-recession numbers any time soon. That was the message from Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, at the Allen Matkins Construction Trends 2010 conference held in Downtown LA last week. Nickelsburg confirmed the national recession did end last summer, with the nation’s gross domestic product up nearly 6 percent in the last quarter, but financial markets still are healing, he said. Read More
Last night, thanks to our friends at deLab, we were lucky to check out one of the coolest paper structures ever assembled, called Fat Fringe. Hung from the ceiling of the new Fix Gallery in LA’s Pico Union, the die-cut canopy was put together by a team of loyal contributors who sliced, punched, and folded the structure (made up of 800 inter-connected origami-like components). The project was organized by LA gallery and arts incubator Materials and Applications, and was developed by designers Lisa Little and Emily White of the firm Layer. The wavy collection of white paper seems to morph into hundreds of fluttering shapes and it’s especially fun to see how light tries to make its way through, glowing, reflecting, and creating beams of light and mesmerizing shadows in the process. Layer will create another ambitious installation (this time made of more durable materials than paper ) for M+A’s outdoor courtyard this summer. Check out more pictures of Fat Fringe via deLab’s Marissa Gluck below: Read More
Finally, the roundup we’ve all been waiting for… Las Vegas Weekly just shared its five favorite Vegas nightclub bathrooms. Yes, the toilet has always been a particularly rich muse for design in Sin City, and let us tell you these ones don’t disappoint. The Vanity Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for instance, has flat screens over the urinals, faux reptile-skin walls, and giant blinking eye graphics. Another favorite is the loo at Déja Vu Erotic Ultra Lounge, where unisex (yes unisex) restrooms, hidden behind a waterfall, have LED lights that change color inside stalls with glass doors that fog up when locked. The ladies stall at the Mix Lounge at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay offers floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the glittering Vegas Strip. Who knew you could have so much fun in a Vegas Bathroom? Well, scratch that. A lot of people do..
Gagosian Gallery is apparently trying to take over the world, with locations in New York, London, Rome, La Jolla, Hong Kong, and another coming to Paris. Its latest project is Richard Meier & Partners’ expansion of its Beverly Hills gallery which Meier originally designed in 1995. The new space adds 5,000 square feet to what was a 6,600 square foot building. We were able to step inside the project, which opened today on Beverly Hills’ swank Camden Drive, and we weren’t disappointed. The extension combines Meier’s signature pristine white walls and abundant natural light (long acid-etched skylights on both sides of the space are semi-opaque, but still reveal the color of the sky) combined with the grittiness of a wonderful existing barreled vaulted wood truss roof, which was discovered when the firm removed the ceiling from the building’s former tenants, Umberto’s Hair Salon. A huge translucent glass and aluminum sliding door at the street also lets in glowing light, and provides an easy entry for oversized works.
Jennifer Siegal’s Prefab Showhouse has been sitting on Venice’s Abbott Kinney Blvd since 2006, giving clients a preview of what they can get if they invest in a work by her firm, OMD (Office of Mobile Design). Well it’s no longer there. It was recently transported via semi and (once in the desert) robotic tank (yes, robotic tank) to Joshua Tree, where it has found its place as an off-the-grid guest residence for film producer Chris Hanley. The 720 square-foot steel frame structure, with a high sloping ceiling and a steel support chassis, uses solar panels for electricity and also has tankless water heaters, radiant heat ceiling panels, and translucent polycarbonate glazing. It’s not too far from one of our favorite desert houses, Taalmankoch’s iT House, in what is becoming a precious little off-the-grid architecture community. Oh, and if you go, make sure to check out one of our favorite bars in the world, Pioneertown’s Pappy and Harriet’s. Read More