Described as “crime scene photos,” stark images of Spain’s housing bubble landscapes depict a grim reality. But instead of a somber discourse on the evils of political corruption and real estate speculation, the Architectural League’s symposium this past Friday, The City That Never Was, looked forward and, as Iñaki Abalos aptly asked, wondered if we, “can turn shit into gold.”
Building on their research and design studios at the University of Pennsylvania, Chris Marcinkoski and Javier Arpa, the moderators, explored the future of urbanism through the lens of Spain’s economic crisis and its resulting desolate urban form. Framing the historical context of boom and bust cycles, they reveal that the Spanish situation is only unique in scale and intensity. It exists as part of a larger commodification of urbanism all over the world resulting in similar conditions in an ever simplified placeless urbanism.
Go Down, Moses, indeed. Highway-removal advocates were awarded a small victory this week as New York State announced it will be tearing out a two-mile expanse of the aptly-named Robert Moses State Parkway (aka the Niagara Falls expressway). The section to be removed runs along the main part of the river gorge and has long been a barrier to pedestrians seeking access to recreation areas.
The Buffalo News reported that some sections of the roadway will be kept, but the long-term plan is to build a multi-use nature trail for sports such as hiking, biking, and cross country skiing. This will be the first time in half a century that residents and visitors will have access to nature trails without the inconvenience of crossing the parkway. There will be car access to the gorge by way of Whirlpool Street, which will be turned into a two-lane parkway. New York State Parks officials anticipate the entire process will take around three years and cost up to $50 million. According to the Buffalo News, “It would also constitute the largest expansion of Niagara parkland since the Niagara Reservation was created in the 1880s.”
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Topocast and Randy Twaddle used Rhino to produce a 3D version of a 2D pattern. The 3D model became a 3D print, which was used as a prototype for casting 65 sculptural tiles.
The entrance portal of Mirabeau B, a 14-unit residential complex in Houston’s Hyde Park neighborhood, is home to a 7-foot-high, 25-foot-long white wall of deeply textural tiles. Each tile is 20 inches square and features on its surface a three dimensional pattern that resembles nothing so much as the carapace of a Sci-Fi race of crab creatures. In fact, the pattern was derived from a photograph of a power transformer and its tangle of intersecting wires atop an electric light pole. It was worked into its current condition through a collaboration between print and textile artist Randy Twaddle and Dallas-based design and fabrication studio Topocast.
Twaddle had used this image to generate several of his designs for wall coverings and rugs and the like. In this instance, he manipulated the image until arriving at a pattern that could be repeated and assembled modularly in a system of tiles. Twaddle delivered the 2D pattern to Topocast, which began to develop a workable 3D version. “Most of the 3D was done in Rhino,” said Topocast founder Brad Bell. “We also used the Rhino plugin T-Splines to create the intricate curvature and geometries.”
Silicon Valley definitely has the architecture bug. We’ve recently seen remarkable new designs put forth by Foster + Partners for Apple and NBBJ for Samsung. Now Gensler has released ambitious new designs for tech company Nvidia, located in Santa Clara. The 24-acre complex’s two 500,000-square-foot buildings are each shaped like triangles, a configuration that Gensler principal Hao Ko explains facilitates collaboration by allowing connections to each side of the building to be the shortest. (The triangle, he adds, is also “the fundamental primitive that defines all shapes in the digital realm.”) Undulating roofs will be made up of smaller triangle pieces, breaking down the overall mass and allowing for ample skylighting, in the in-between spaces. Construction is set to begin this summer, with completion in 2015. Apple’s circle now has geometric competition. Who’s next?
The Architecture Billings Index showed renewed strength in January, with a jump to 54.2 from 51.2 in December (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). All four regions were in positive territory with the Midwest leading at 54.4, the long struggling West showing strength at 53.4, the South came in at 51.7, and the Northeast at 50.3. The Index posted the strongest gains since November 2007.
Another weekend, another Modernism Week. One of our favorites: a look inside the Palm Springs Art Museum’s future Architecture and Design Center, located inside E. Stewart Williams’ sleek Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan (1960). The International Style building is being renovated by Marmol Radziner, who also worked on Richard Neutra’s nearby Kaufmann House. The museum has already raised more than $4 million to buy and renovate the building, and is now just $1 million shy of what’s needed to get work underway. The organizers hope to break ground in the next few months and open the center by fall 2014. But for now, its interior is still lots of quirky fun, including a chance to walk inside the old bank vaults, check out the old drive through teller, and explore the old kitchens and mechanical systems.
Hudson Yards broke ground late last year, but the Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed tower that will one day be the headquarters of fashion-label Coach isn’t the only construction activity causing a buzz on the 26-acre site on Manhattan’s West Side. Wrapping around the south and west sides of the Hudson Yards site, construction crews are busy building out the final segment of the High Line, including sandblasting and refurbishing the steel viaduct, repainting the steel structure’s beams, girders, and columns with the High Line’s signature “Greenblack” color, and removing and storing existing railroad tracks. Landscape construction is expected to begin later this spring.
The Friends of the High Line recently stopped by the construction site with photographer Timothy Schenck to take these photos of work in progress. Be sure to take a look at James Corner Field Operations’ design for the final segment here.
Even though Brooklyn has morphed into a hub of cultural activity, there has been a notable shortage of hotels to serve the spike in visitors, especially in south Brooklyn. But this will soon change. The New York Post reported that a new 200-room hotel, designed by Thomas Leeser, is in the works for the Brooklyn Downtown Cultural District, which recently saw plans for new towers by TEN Arquitectos.
The hotel, with asymmetrical splits in the facade, will replace a five-story building at 95 Rockwell Place, and include a basement performance space, a rooftop bar, a banquet hall, and a restaurant that looks onto an outdoor arts plaza. It will be in a prime location—right next to The Theater for a New Audience and close to a 32-story mixed-use complex from Two Trees and a 50,000-square-feet cultural space that will be occupied by BAM, 651 ARTS, and the Brooklyn Public Library.
Developer Second Development Services (SDS) predicts they will break ground next fall and complete construction within two years.