It has been a rough few months for modernist civic buildings. First, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks denied Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital landmark status, and then came the demolition of Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama, and now the future of The Roundhouse, Philadelphia’s Police Headquarters, hangs in the balance. Last week, during his budget address, Mayor Nutter brought to light the city’s plan to renovate the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Building at 4601 Market Street and turn it into the new police headquarters (to be shared with the City Morgue and the Health Center). Nutter said that the move would mean selling the Roundhouse, along with several other municipal buildings. PlanPhilly reported that the city would pay for the renovation of 4601 Market Street with long-term borrowing, but the costs of the project “would be offset by the sale of the three would-be surplus municipal properties.”
This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate.
The latest Shigeru Ban paper tube building has opened at IE University in Madrid, Spain. Elsewhere, Ban built the paper tube Nomadic Museum in New York City on a Hudson River pier in 2007, a Camper retail store in New York’s Soho neighborhood, and now in Christchurch, New Zealand he is constructing an A-Frame cathedral out of the temporary, eminently efficient material. The Madrid University building took only two weeks to build, is based on sustainability objectives, and there was a requirement that it be a temporary construction. It is made of 173 paper tubes held together by timber joints that rest on paper columns.
Oklahoma City just cannot tear down its architectural landmarks fast enough! The city and its developer community have been trying to do away with John Johansen‘s famous Mummers Theater and now David Box, a local developer, wants to get rid of a unique geodesic dome built in 1958 on Route 66. The developer—who claims among other things that the roof leaks and “you can’t just call a normal roofer and say hey we got a geodesic dome here can you fix it”—will give anyone who wants the dome a $100,000 bonus to take it off his property so he can fill it in and “make it safe.” The structure was originally built to house a bank and has been declared eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and was designed by local architects Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson, and Roloff based on Buckminster Fuller‘s patented dome.
While Two Trees still needs to make it through the ULURP process before breaking ground on its SHoP Architects-designed mixed-use development for the Domino Sugar site on the Brooklyn Waterfront, the developer has just announced plans for Site E, a vacant parcel on the corner of Kent Avenue and South 3rd. A large section of the 55,000-square-foot lot will be dedicated to a community green space run by North Brooklyn Farms that will host a range of Brooklyn-friendly activities and classes from yoga to urban farming. And on the western side, there will be a bike course, organized by New York City Mountain Bike Association, with areas for riders of all levels. This new urban farm-meets-bike recreation spot will open to the public in May and close once construction commences on the development.
The perforated aluminum skin would replace the previously proposed glass facade. (Courtesy TJPA)
It looks like Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Transbay Transit Center, which stretches about three blocks through the city’s Rincon Hill neighborhood, might go ahead with its first major piece of value engineering. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the architects have suggested that the building’s undulating glass skin become perforated aluminum. The move would meet federal safety guidelines and chop $17 million from the estimated $1.59 billion budget for the center’s first phase. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board will be asked to approve the change at its March 25 meeting. The structure is not expected to be complete before 2017.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today named Illinois’ Department of Transportation the leader of a multi-state effort to advance high-speed rail. Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington will use $808 million from the FRA to build 35 new diesel locomotives and 130 bi-level rail cars. California led the group last year, in which 130 bi-level rail cars were procured for high-speed service.
Northern Illinois may not have pyramids (you’ll have to go to elsewhere in the Midwest for that) but the Egyptian Theatre continues Pharaoh Ramses II’s reign over downtown DeKalb, IL. As this post in PreservationNation describes, the movie house has undergone a series of restoration efforts since it landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Designed by architect Elmer F. Behrns in 1929, the theater’s pharaoh sculptures, scarab stained glass, and winged orb marquee fell into disrepair by the late seventies, when the theater closed. It reopened in 1983, but renovations continued until recently. In the last six years building rehabilitation and maintenance exceeded $1.5 million, but creative fundraising—the owners, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc., sold the theater’s original seats when they were replaced in 2011 and even started running popular haunted tours—have helped fill the financial gap.
The building owners hope to continue renovations, including replacing the carpeting and installing air conditioning.