Bucky Comes to Town

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 22, 2010
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The Union Tank Car Dome stood 384 feet wide, the largest structure of its kind when it was completed. (Courtesy theWarrenReport.com)

If you couldn’t make it down to D.C. last month for the Environmental Film Fest, it’s still not too late to catch one of the entries, A Necessary Ruin. The movie tells the story of the untimely destruction of Buckminster Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, a piece of railroad infrastructure that was the largest clear-span structure when it was completed in 1958 before being summarily destroyed three years ago. Its epic story will be told tomorrow night next Friday at the Center for Architecture, followed by a lively discussion with Jonathan Marvel, all part of the current show, Modernism at Risk. You can watch the trailer after the jump. Read More

Burnham Depot Reno?

Midwest
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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(photo: Steve Koger, the Pal-Item)

Designed by the great Chicago architect and planner Daniel Burnham, this handsome if forlorn rail station may get a new life. Located in Richmond, Indiana, which is about halfway between Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot has been empty for over 30 years. According to the Richmond Palladium-Item, via archinect, owner Roger Richert recently bought the building for $75,000, but it is expected to take $1 million to stabilize. Richert is working with the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana to identify tax credits and other funding options in hopes of turning the building into a conference center, restaurant, a music venue, or retail space. Though the much of the interior is gone, Richert said the shell is strong, a testimony to Burnham’s robust design.

Detroit Harkens

Midwest
Monday, April 5, 2010
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Detroit's "grand past." CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy Raymond Cekauskas)

Last week, we reported on a new, rather unprecedented plan by new-ish Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to condense the city to fit its current population, which is half what it was six decades ago. Among the people we interviewed was local AIA President Raymond Cekauskas, a huge Detroit booster who sent along the picture above, a reminder of the city’s “grand past,” as Cekauskas put it. But it is also a fitting image of what the city could very well become under Bing’s plan, still in its chrysalis—a little smaller, tightly knit, transit-oriented (yes, transit is coming to the Motor City), in a word, homey, which we mean in a good way. Just look at all the gorgeous homes wanting for salvation. Meanwhile, a Tufts professor looks to Flint and Youngstown for similar shrinking models, though by no means on the same scale. Welcome to the Brave New Midwest.

Preservation Gang

Midwest
Friday, April 2, 2010
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(photo: reallyboring/flickr)

On the heels of their much praised Aqua tower, Studio Gang is talking on a very different kind of project, the renovation and conversion of the historic Shoreland Hotel in Hyde Park into rental apartments, and retail and event spaces, the Chicago Tribune reports. The building, which was most recently used as student housing by the University of Chicago, is in rough shape. Some of the once opulent interiors are in tact, but other spaces have been gutted or badly damaged, which could offer interesting opportunities to juxtapose contemporary insertions with historic elements. The project adds adaptive reuse and historic preservation to the firm’s already diverse portfolio. Read More

Soho Salvage

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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How long before 74 Grand Street is put back in place? (Courtesy Curbed)

Another piece of New York City’s historic fabric is disappearing. But only for a short time! We hope… Curbed swung by 74 Grand Street today and discovered that deconstruction of the five story cast-iron building was just getting under way. The building has been leaning for years after being undermined by construction a neighboring lot. Because it had gotten so bad recently—some 30 inches out of alignment in spots—the Department of Buildings declared the building would come down before it brought the entire blog along with it. Afraid a unique piece of the city would be lost, the LPC demanded the facade be replaced whenever a new building gets built on the site, and it would be locked up in a city warehouse until then. The LPC signed on reluctantly, as the oldest cast-iron facade in the city was once stolen from such a warehouse and sold for scrap. We’ve got our fingers crossed this time around.

Preserving The Changes

National
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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The Medina County Courthouse in Hondo, Texas, will remain as-is after a battle between restorationists and preservationists.

In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).

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Less is More on Lakeshore

Midwest
Monday, March 15, 2010
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Photographers and videographers William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff interviewed architect Ron Krueck about his firm’s restoration of Mies van der Rohe’s  towers at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, better known as the Lake Shore Drive apartments. Krueck, a principal at Krueck + Sexton Architects, calls the towers “revolutionary” for their time for their delicacy and lightness. The video is accompanied by beautiful photographs of the exteriors and grounds.

A Castle Near the Sand

East
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
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The Shore Theater was calendared today, the first step in the landmarks process. (vanz/Flickr)

With snowpocalypse about to descend on the city, summer feels a long way away. But there is cause for sun-soaked celebration today, as the Landmarks Preservation commission calendared the Shore Theater, the first step in the public review process to make the building an official city landmark. The calendaring is actually the first fruits to bear from the Bloomberg administration’s 13th hour deal with developer Joe Sitt. It will be months before amusements return to a saved Coney Island, but a major negotiating point for the community—and the amusement community in particular—was more landmarks in Coney to protect the area’s historic buildings from the flood of development the city’s rezoning hopes to create. So far, there are no other buildings in the docket besides the 1920s theater-and-hotel building, though, which could be cause for concern—especially after the area’s oldest building recently suffered water damage. Still, after decades of deterioration, any progress is good. In other landmarks news… Read More

Yankees Do Over Dandy

East, East Coast
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
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Watch your step. (shihic0518/Flickr)

Watch your step. (shihic0518/Flickr)

This weekend, a lot of New Yorkers were fixated on Yankee Stadium, though for far different reasons than the Times, which paid the House That Ruth Didn’t Build some overdue (or undue, if you’re a Steinbrenner) attention. The biggest and most alarming story was that the vaunted stadium—the most expensive ever built in the U.S., in part thanks to questionable public financingwas cracking, particularly in the ramps, a troubling spot given all the foot traffic. It was revealed over a year ago that a faulty concrete tester was employed on the project, along with hundreds of others in the city, though it also turns out the mob was involved in pouring all that concrete. The Times‘ description is so matter of fact as to be breathtaking: Read More

Crowning 23 Beekman

East, East Coast
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
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Paul Rudolph's 23 Beekman Place took the first step toward becoming a landmark today. (Peter Aaron/ESTO)

While the big news out of the LPC today was the approval of 980 Madison, there were quite a few noteworthy developments as well, namely the designation of three new landmarks and the calendering of 23 Beekman Place, better known as the Paul Rudolph house, which is the first step in the designation process. Poking fun at her fellow colleagues who had been skeptical of the Norman Foster designed addition at 980 Madison, which had been approved earlier in the day, commissioner Margery Perlmutter quipped, “Sometimes a rooftop addition does become a landmark.” Rudolph’s quixotic construction was completed in 1977, though he would revise it, like much of his work, until his death two decades later. Read More

So Long SCI-Arc

West
Friday, September 11, 2009
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3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving, says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

“I hadn’t even heard about it,” Ray Kappe told us when we called him to find out about an item in Curbed the other day noting that the Santa Monica City Council had overturned a ruling by the Landmarks Commission that would have designated SCI-Arc’s original home as a historical icon worthy of preservation. Kappe, who founded the school in 1972 at a 1950s industrial building at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue [map], actually sided with the council in its decision, calling the building “messed up completely.” He said it used to sport “a pretty good 30s modern look. It had good character, but now it’s got dumb character.” That’s because at one point the landlord replaced the ribbon windows with generics, among other changes. Read More

Bathing Beauty

East
Friday, September 11, 2009
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(courtesy kahntrentonbathhouse.org)

(courtesy kahntrentonbathhouse.org)

Since My Architect, interest in Louis Kahn’s work has grown exponentially, and many of his lesser-known buildings have received greater care. Among the most endangered was the Trenton Bath House in Ewing, New Jersey. Though it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, it’s future was uncertain until 2007 when the Township of Ewing and Mercer County, NJ acquired the property and agreed to restore it, a process you can now follow on a new website.

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