California Dreaming of High Speed Rail

West
Thursday, June 3, 2010
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Yes, we will someday have high speed rail in California (Anaheim, for instance, is already nailing down its plans and San Francisco has a swanky new downtown station planned). And no, there aren’t enough innovative ideas. That’s why RailLA, a collaboration between the LA Chapters of the AIA and the American Planning Association have launched a Call for Ideas to collect more innovative thinking on the topic. Entrants are encouraged to submit designs, plans, papers, videos, models and other studies about stations, rail infrastructure, architecture, neighborhood planning and anything else having to do with effective high speed rail. In short, say the founders,  the primary goal is to show “how rail can help us recapture our individual American dream.” Wow, that’s a tall order. The top five submissions will receive $2500, and a select group of submissions will be shown off at an exhibit in downtown LA.

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You Can Save The M Cube

West
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
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One of Venice’s great new houses—the  M Cube by designer Mark Baez— is in danger of being at least partially demolished because of a local height restriction that says it’s about two feet above code (32 feet instead of 30). The prefab, modular building glows from within thanks to exterior windows and sliding doors  made of translucent fiberglass. These and other elements make the cube look like a Japanese Tatami home floating above the city.  The structure also uses radiant heating powered by solar panels on the roof. A hearing on the home is scheduled for June 2 (at LA City Council chambers at 10 a.m.) , and the architect is urging supporters to email their local councilman Bill Rosendahl at councilman.rosendahl@lacity.org. So what’s two feet between friends, right?

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Broad Narrows His Sites on Downtown

West
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
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The possible location of the new Broad museum.

According to both the New York Times and the LA Times, Eli Broad appears to have settled once and for all on a Downtown LA site for his new museum, and has gone so far as to hold a new competition for its architect. Further background has it that Thom Mayne, who had been favored to design Broad’s museum, is now out, and the new  finalists are Rem Koolhaas, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Herzog & De Meuron, Christian de Portzamparc, Foreign Office Architects, and recent Pritzker Prize winners SANAA. According to the New York Times, the jury appeared to favor Diller  Scofidio + Renfro and Koolhaas. A choice, according to their story, could be made within the week. Read More

Architects Design For Themselves in Venice

West
Friday, May 21, 2010
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Tony Coscia's Skywave House

One of the perks of being an architect is the excuse to build yourself the coolest of all possible houses (despite any budget holes it may push you into). An excellent way to explore this phenomenon comes at this weekend’s Venice Art Walk + Auctions, and their Art and Architecture Tours. Featured on the tours is one of the wackiest houses we’ve ever seen: Architect Tony Coscia’s own Skywave House (above), a serpentine sculptural form unraveling itself from a single plane and hovering over a glass base. Another highlight is Glenn Williams’ Guitar House, a cubist creation that  the architect designed for himself after being inspired by a Picasso painting of a guitar. Read More

CityCenter: Hold The Fireworks

West
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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New Las Vegas megaresort City Center, which we reviewed in January (it features buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, and others) just reported its first quarter results. They weren’t good. The’s $8.5 billion project, owned by MGM Mirage and  Dubai World (which has finally worked out a debt restructuring deal with its creditors), recorded an operating loss of $255 million, and has only been able to sell about 100 of its 2,400 luxury condominiums, according to the Wall Street Journal. MGM is also locked in a lawsuit with its contractor, Perini Building Co, for defective workmanship and overbilling. For what it’s worth the company claims that it will soon begin to turn a profit on the project. Now that’s a Vegas bet we’re interested in following.

New Age Modern

West
Thursday, May 20, 2010
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View from 450 Architects' Sausalito Residence

The houses showcased in this year’s AIA SF Home Tours in Marin County have a common theme in their responsive attitude to the landscape; permeable skins allowing a transparent transition between interior and exterior, embedding into their sites, and visually enlarging the volume of their comparatively modest footprints on steeply situated hillside lots. Each of the homes have unassuming public facades, displaying a circumspect propriety among its neighbors. The architecture of these residences say as much about their setting as the spaces inside. Read More

You Can Leave The Light On

West
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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What’s that on the roof of Hollywood’s Standard Hotel? Is it a….giant light bulb? Well, yes. Artist Piero Golia has installed a permanent, orb-shaped light (clad in acryclic, lit by eight fluorescent tubes, and sitting on a large steel spindle and crown) on the roof, called Luminous Sphere, that is quite visible from traffic below. It looks a little bit like a glowing golf ball on a steel tee. In a particularly quirky (and egotistical?) move, the light will go on when Golia is in town and off when he is out of town (it can be controlled via the internet). The project was organized  by Culver City’s LA><ART and executed by Zellnerplus architects, Buro Happold engineers, and Benchmark Scenery fabricators. LA><ART, which focuses on site-specific work while also maintaining its own gallery, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Sphere launches its LA Public Domain (L.A.P.D, get it?) program (also sponsored by local  group For Your Art) , promoting artistic interventions in experimental contexts. Now is that lightbulb a halogen?

Not-So-Great News For Great Park

West
Monday, May 17, 2010
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Is the air coming out of the big orange balloon? Orange County’s Great Park, which is rising on the former El Toro Marine Base in Irvine, has since its inception in 2002 been the last great hope for OC residents hoping for a great rural retreat (landscape architects like Ken Smith and Mia Lehrer are among those working on it). But the housing market has now officially gotten in the way, delaying the needed $1.4 billion in construction funding by years. According to The Orange County Register, the 1,347-acre park will have only $17 million in unallocated funds by next summer, and building money is still years away. “I don’t know where the idea materialized out there that somehow we would have the great metropolitan park developed full scale within a matter of a few years,” said Great Park Chairman Larry Agran. “Nobody ever promised that, and certainly I believe we have been quite clear that you build out a park of this magnitude in typically a 15- or 20-year process.”

Grow Baby Grow

West
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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Sure, sports fields are great. But wouldn’t it be cool if your school had a great garden? GOOD Magazine and the LA Unified School District think so too. They’re looking for architects as well as teachers, students, parents and anyone else to create affordable, scalable, modular school garden designs that any school can use. There’s more to it than you might think. Plans can  include not only plants and plant beds but pathways, tool storage, irrigation schemes, greenhouses, benches, seating, trellises, plant beds, paths, trees, potting tables, farmstands, and so on.. It’s a great idea to unleash creativity and learning in a place that’s so often dominated by tests. Winning designers will attend a one-day workshop with landscape architect Mia Lehrer to refine their proposals, and one garden will be installed in a Los Angeles school by October. Submissions are due by June 15, and the winners will be chosen by July 1.

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AIA SF Awards

West
Monday, May 10, 2010
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Marcy Wong Donn Logan Architects' Ford Assembly Building renovation won a merit award for historic preservation. Image © Billy Hustace.

Once again our friend Stanley Saitowitz—San Francisco architecture’s answer to Meryl Streep— took home the most honors at the AIA SF’s annual awards, held at the San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center last Thursday. Saitowitz took home prizes for his elegant, and relatively affordable, Tampa Museum of Art, his screen-obsessed Costa Rica house, and his effervescent Toast Restaurant in Novato, CA, which the jury described as “like walking inside a loaf of bread…..like swimming in sparkling champagne….” . Other big winners included Jensen Architects, noted for their SFMOMA rooftop garden and Walden Studios in Sonoma; EHDD, which took home awards for its UC Merced Science and Engineering Building and its Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo in Lincoln Park, IL; and Min Day, which took home prizes for its L Residence and its Community CROPS Center, both in Nebraska.

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SFMOMA Extension: Channeling Your Inner Maya Lin

West
Saturday, May 8, 2010
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CCA student Annie Aldrich envisions a mysteriously enticing Howard St. entrance.

On Tuesday, SFMOMA will reveal the final contenders for the city’s most prestigious project of the moment, the extension of its 1995 Mario Botta building.  But imagine an alternate universe, where an open competition would invite a broad range of concepts from established firms and fresh talent alike. This parallel world could be experienced a couple of weeks ago, during a final review for an architecture class at CCA. Read More

Salesmanship, Snohetta-Style

West
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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An opera house, or a site for extreme sports?

Just by looking at the mind-boggling New Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, an architectural cliff on the edge of a fjord, you might think there’d be a lot of dense archibabble floating around at the firm Snøhetta.  We have been paying closer attention to them out here in San Francisco, after hearing rumors that they are in the running for the SFMOMA extension in partnership with locals EHDD. Read More

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