Two dirty coal powered electric plants in central Chicago are coming under increasing scrutiny from neighbors, environmental activists, and architects and designers. Earlier this week Greenpeace activists scaled the stacks of the Pilsen plant operated by Midwest Generation, and painted a large sign calling for their closure. The plants were also the subject of a recent design competition, the results of which will be on display on June 10 at the Pilsen/Chicago Arts District and on June 13-15 at the Merchandise Mart during NeoCon.
You’re not supposed to judge a project before it’s completed, but last week the scaffolding came down around the highly anticipated new Poetry Foundation building in Chicago designed by John Ronan Architects, offering a glimpse of how the building is coming together. While the elegant glass box looks refined enough for a finished building, it will soon be concealed behind a perforated metal screen, creating an interstitial space between the building envelope and the street. The combination of glazing and screen should make for shifting effects of light and texture that change throughout the day and over the seasons.
Watch for Falling Libeskinds. The breaking news of the day from Building Design: Daniel Libeskind’s $555 million Westside retail center in Bern, Switzerland has collapsed for a second time in three years. An elevated swimming pool fell into the building injuring two people. An investigation is pending. In 2008, shortly after the building was completed, the roof of a fast food restaurant inside the center collapsed, injuring two children.
Transporting Chicago. Transportation Nation reports today that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tapped Gabe Klein to head up the city’s DOT. Widely viewed as a pro-bike kind of guy in his former role as head of Washington D.C.’s DOT, Klein helped launch a bike-share program, expand bike lanes, and install electric car charging stations across the city. Could more alternative transportation be in store for the Windy City?
Gaudi Burns. An arsonist set fire to Antoni Gaudí’s Segrada Familia in Barcelona said the Guardian. The cathedral’s sacristy was destroyed and the crypt heavily damaged during the attack. Some 1,500 tourists were evacuated and four treated for smoke inhalation.
Wisconsin Bamboo. Sarah F. Cox talks with NYC-based architecture firm Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis for Curbed about a recently completed student center at the University of Wyoming which includes a stunningly intricate bamboo-lattice screen.
Nature’s Benz. LA Autoshow reveals a radically green Mercedes-Benz concept called Biome– it’s made of organic fibers, powered by the sun, and releases pure oxygen into the air! The system behind this model is called “Mercedes-Benz Symbiosis,” in which vehicles are seamless part of the ecosystem.
Facebook’s Exodus. According to the New York Times, Facebook is moving out — of the office clusters in Palo Alto — and into an insulated 57-acre corporate campus in Menlo Park, California, which is to be renovated by San Francisco-based Gensler. About 2,000 workers, including Mark Zuckerberg, will be moved in within next 10 months. These young 20-somethings don’t want a sleek corporate office, but something idiosyncratic and soulful, which the new campus aims for.
Code Green. Crain‘s reports that the New York City Council continues to green up the city’s building codes. A trio of bills looks to “create more energy-efficient roofs.” While the first bill requires more reflective and less heat-absorbent roof materials, the second removes building-height limitations from solar thermal equipment and electric collectors and the third bill will add heat and power systems to the list of allowable rooftop structures.
Well-spoken Vowell. Chicago magazine talks to Sarah Vowell about Chicago — and a little New York — architecture. “It’s what I do for fun: Go see buildings. I like architecture because it’s so nonverbal,” she said, and then goes on to discuss her personal relationship with the Carson Pirie-Scott Building. Vowell recently finished her new book on Hawaii called Unfamiliar Fishes.
Mies Bashing. For all the glory of Modernist Chicago, there are still those who mourn the loss of the White City‘s Beaux Arts influence. Historian David Garrard tells WBEZ of the “sterile” Daley Center‘s ruinous effect on The Loop. One has to wonder what he’d make of Time Out Chicago’s “Fifteen Fanciful Ways to Fix Navy Pier.”
Tiiiimmmmbeeeeerrrrr! Meanwhile, at another Navy locale…Chuck Schumer is hopping mad about contorting being done by the U.S. Army to get out of repairing the 158-year-old Timber Shed at Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. The Brooklyn Paper reports that the senator is pressing army brass, which still has control over the building, to fix it or get out of the way and let the city do it.
For Sale: Beach front property, water views, lively neighborhood. WSJ reports that the land where Coney Island‘s famed Thunderbolt roller coaster scared the bejesus out of generations of New Yorkers can now be had for $75 million to $95 million.
Way Head Start. NYC Department of Buildings launched their Junior Architects and Engineers Program this week at PS31, reports NY1. (The news clip, starring fifth grade Frank Lloyd Wright fan Thomas Patras, is just too cute to pass up.)
Keeping Cooper. There’s a fight brewing over the demolition of the 186-year-old 35 Cooper Square. A demolition permit had been issued and subsequent stop work orders and candlelight vigils. The small federal style structure was once home to descendants of Peter Stuyvesant and beatnik Diane DiPrima. Keep tabs on the little building at EV Grieve and the Bowery Alliance (And in other Cooper Square preservation news, what’s going to happen to the Astor Place mosaics under the planned pedestrian plaza upgrades?)
Block by Block. Brooklyn-based illustrator James Gulliver Hancock is attempting to draw All the Buildings in New York in quite beautiful pen and ink sketches like the one above. Watch a video of the artist explaining his inspirations, style, and how a chained up wheelchair is architecture after the jump. (via Gothamist.)
Chicago may boast one of the country’s largest urban solar installations, but it’s also home to two polluting coal-fired power plants, the Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village both operated by Midwest Generation. The two plants emit toxins and advocates say they contribute to elevated asthma rates in those neighborhoods. A new competition ask designers propose solutions to the problem, which could be anything from educational campaigns to remediation strategies. Read More
Two new competitions of note explore possible futures for Chicago‘s public realm. The 2011 Burnham Prize ideas competition sponsored by AIA Chicago and the Chicago Architectural Club calls for new visions for the McCormick Place East building, the 1971 modernist covention center on the lakefront designed by Gene Summers of C.F. Murphy Associates.
The massive, Miesian building has a powerful presence on the lakefront, and a vast column-free interior, but parks advocates have long contended it should be removed. Meanwhile, the building’s owner, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, says it needs $150 million in repairs and is functionally obsolete.
The competition aims to inspire new dialogue around the future of the building and site. The Street Furniture 2011 competition sponsored by Architecture for Humanity‘s Chicago chapter aims for something more universal, new street furniture that could be deployed to activate almost any vacant site.