Restored London. Building Design reports that after 15 years, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is scaffolding-free. The £40 million project restored Christopher Wren’s masterpiece to its original glory in time for the cathedral’s 30oth anniversary. St. Paul’s will host a photography competition and display the winning selections in the cathedral crypt to celebrate its complete renovation.
Artificial England. While China continues to be a hot spot for architectural and economic development, its many ghost towns lack permanent residents. The Infrastructurist exposes one of China’s English-inspired uninhabited cities, Thames Town, built in 2006 as part of Shanghai’s “One City, Nine Town” initiative at decentralization. The state-of-the-art $9 billion design draws tourists, but not residents.
Trucks, not Tanks. At the United States Conference of Mayors, local government representatives vote to reallocate federal funds directed toward the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the improvement of American cities. The municipal leaders assert that the conflicts’ $126 billion per year budget would be better spend building urban infrastructure, employing civil servants, and supporting educational and family institutions.
Mall City. City Watch LA evaluates Rick Caruso’s latest business proposition: running for public office. The billionaire developer envisions a new Los Angeles comprised of isolated communities each with its own shopping mall, a potential reality if Caruso wins the 2013 mayoral seat.
Pasadena is celebrating its 125th Anniversary today and will continue partying all month and into the fall. Now a significant city with over 140,000 residents, it was a rural settlement when it decided to become the fourth city to incorporate in Los Angeles County on June 12, 1886. While many know Pasadena for its Rose Bowl, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena Playhouse, and California Institute of Technology, the city is also home to “Bungalow Heaven,” a 16-block Historic Landmark District neighborhood featuring nearly 1,000 Craftsman bungalows. This month features tours of these homes and more.
AOL’s New Offices Are Snazzy: Fast Company has a slideshow of interior shots of AOL’s new offices in Palo Alto. The space was designed to be bright and collaborative. “This being a tech company, naturally, it’s got a game room, too,” writes Suzanne LaBarre. The interiors are the work of Studio O+A, which has designed offices for other Internet companies like Yelp, Facebook and PayPal.
Philly Set For a Makeover: Sometimes it seems like Philly is the East Coast city people love to hate on for its small size, poor public transit and high crime rates. That may change soon with a new comprehensive plan for the city that could include: “more open space, bike lanes and preservation efforts, as well as specific goals including an extension of the Broad Street subway to the Navy Yard, an east Market Street that can really be Philly’s ‘Main Street’, a waterfront lined with parks.”
NYC’s Lesson for LA: New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan blogs on how Los Angeles can learn from New York City’s Plaza program. It’s the quintessential showdown of cities: New York, a dense metropolis where most native-born teens don’t even have their driver’s licenses, and LA, a sprawling auto-centric city. There’s even a book called “New York and Los Angeles” that says so. Sadik-Khan’s piece is part of Streetsblog’s new series on how the best transportation practices in other cities can be adapted for LA.
Brownwashing Republicans: Grist has a list of 10 Republican politicians who are backtracking on pro-environment statements they’ve made in the past. The #1 offender is presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who called for climate action in a 2008 ad for Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. Earlier this year, he said, “”I would not adopt massively expensive plans over a theory.”
Guy Maunsell’s Sea Forts. Standing above the sea, these Maunsell fortifications were originally built as British defenses during World War II. They remain lifted as a symbol of protection. As industrial creatures, the towers take expressive portraits.
Oh, Pentagram. New York City paired with Paula Scher of Pentagram to create a new symbol for the iconic NYC Parks Department leaf. Although excellent in traditional green, the paired down logo can also be used as an elegant silhouette for programming and public events. Or perhaps wrapping paper.
Parasol Unit in red, in public. New York-based performance artist Kate Gilmore and the Parasol unit foundation collaborated to start a new program entitled parasol public. Gilmore’s red structure is the centerpiece of Walk the Line, a small two story space designed upstairs for pacing and downstairs as a passageway within Exchange Square, London.
Downtown to Santa Monica. The new Los Angeles county Expo Line light rail system expects to bring a bit of green speed to transportation across the city. With a plan to partially open in the fall and to unveil completely in 2015, the rail line is already underway. Just about everybody is looking forward to the new light rail, especially those who will benefit directly as part of their commute to work.
Yesterday we visited one of our favorite sites in Los Angeles: Watts Towers. The amazing complex, which includes four towers, a gazebo, fountains, and a slew of other jumbled elements, was designed by Simon, or Sam Rodia, a tile factory worker who labored on the project basically without stopping for over thirty years (from 1921-1954).
The structures rise as high as 100 feet and are clad with broken bottles, tiles (over 15,000 of them), sea shells, and pretty much anything else Rodia could get his hands on. Their frame is made from chicken wire, barbed wire, coat hangers, and other makeshift materials.
The feat is all the more amazing considering that Rodia didn’t study any sort of building trade and was illiterate. He usually worked until 1 or 2 in the morning then went back to work in a factory the next day.
Tonight gives Angelenos the chance to check out the classic film The Music Man inside the Los Angeles Theater. With its glass chandeliers, Corinthian columns, and intricate Baroque details, the Los Angeles is one of the most ornate movie palaces you’ll ever visit. It’s the second week of Last Remaining Seats, the LA Conservancy’s popular series that opens up Broadway’s once great (and now mostly dormant) theaters again. That includes the Orpheum, the Million Dollar Theater, and more. This year is Last Remaining Seats’ 25th Anniversary. Other engagements include King Kong at the Los Angeles and Sunset Boulevard at the Palace. Find tickets here. More pix of theaters after the jump. Read More
Over the past year or so we’ve been hearing grumblings about how the LA Community College District has been conducting its huge $5.7 bond-funded building program. So had the LA Times, which yesterday kicked off a large investigative series documenting the corruption and the incompetence prevalent in that campaign.
The verdict, according to the Times: “Tens of millions of dollars have gone to waste because of poor planning, frivolous spending and shoddy workmanship.” The first story uncovers an email from the LACCD’s construction manager Larry Eisenberg admitting that quality control was “horrible,” and that, “We are opening buildings that do not work at the most fundamental level.”
Our favorite example of waste: The district paid photographers up to $175 an hour to take pictures of trustees at a construction award banquet. We also learn that the district’s board has little to no experience with construction. And that’s just the beginning. Check out the piece and fear for our public programs. Who said investigative journalism was dead?
Last week we checked out the opening of the new Lafayette Park Recreation Center, right outside of Downtown LA. Designed by Kanner Architects, the 15,000 square foot, $9.8 million complex represents a complete about-face from what was once a decrepit senior center with a drug and weed infested park.
It includes the airy renovation of 60’s architect Graham Latta’s whimsically modern 1962 senior center (with its barrel arched concrete canopies), a light-infused new gym (thanks to a large double-layered glass curtain wall—why don’t most gyms have those?), and new fields and picnic tables.
Mega Watts. The Los Angeles Times reports that the James Irvine Foundation has granted $500,000 toward the preservation of LA’s Watt’s Towers, declaring the folk-art stalagmites “an important cultural icon.” (Photo courtesy Robert Garcia/Flickr)
Luck in School. The NY Times relays the story of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck who has chosen to pursue a degree in architectural design at Stanford’s School of Engineering rather than head off to the NFL draft. We wish Mr. Luck, well, all the best in his endeavors, but life as an architect can make the NFL seem like a walk in the park.
Al Matisse? Variety brings us news that Al Pacino has been selected to play Henri Matisse in an upcoming film called Masterpiece detailing the French painter’s relationship with his nurse, model, and muse Monique Bourgeois. Producers will soon be looking for female leads.
Like Jane. The Rockefeller Foundation is accepting nominations for this year’s Jane Jacobs Medal honoring two living individuals who have improved the vitality of NYC and, among other things, “open our eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding our city.”
LA starchitect Thom Mayne recently took some time to share his art/sculpture with our friends at Form magazine. The three-dimensional pieces reveal his love for investigating hard-edged metallic shards, architectural movement, faceted surfaces, hovering forms and general chaos; all major forces in his architecture.