On Saturday, April 23 the conceptual Dutch design company Droog and Diller Scofidio + Renfro presented “Open House,” a project that offered dialogue for possible new social and economic models to revitalize pre-existing suburban neighborhoods. The one-day event began with a symposium at Columbia’s off-site Studio-X in Downtown Manhattan, followed by a field trip to Levittown, Long Island, where nine homes from the fabled, archetypal post-war American suburb were transformed into residential marketplaces with experimental installations by designers, architects, and homeowners.
La Vie Gigapixel. It’s Paris like you’ve never seen it — even if you have been there. A super-high-def 26-gigapixel photo of the city of lights (yep, that’s 26 billion pixels) was stitched together by a team of photographers and a software company in France. Go ahead, pull up the full screen view and wander away the afternoon. We won’t tell. (Via Notcot.)
Metro Music. When Jason Mendelson moved from Tampa to Washington, D.C., the city’s subway literally moved him to song. NRDC Switchboard says that he’s creating a tune for every Metro stop across the system, each stylistically indicative of the station itself. Listen to his completed songs over here.
Biosphere 2 at 20. Not often do we design entire mini-worlds, but then, Biosphere 2 was always unique. Now two decades old, the three-acre terrarium-in-a-desert is still helping scientists figure out life’s little lessons. The AP/Yahoo News has the story.
Scraps, Glass, and Stone. Curbed found a new book by Steven Guarnaccia transforming the classic Three Little Pigs story into three little starchitect pigs where Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright each build houses and the big bad wolf huffs and puffs (and critiques?) the walls down. (Guarnaccia also reimagined Goldilocks into a tale filled with chairs by Aalto, Eames, and Noguchi!)
With the exception of the World Trade Center, there’s probably no better place to call a press conference dealing with construction issues than Atlantic Yards. At the moment the controversial project practically guarantees a large press turnout. On Tuesday, the Department of Buildings used the site as a backdrop to launch a new safety campaign for the 7th Annual Workers Safety Week with a particular focus on getting workers to wear harnesses. Sixteen workers have fallen to their death since 2008, prompting the agency to call the campaign “Experience is Not Enough.” In addition to covering the initiative, the press also got a chance to check out progress at the stadium site from “court level.”
Tweeting Seat. Imagine if the public realm was able to reach out digitally and interact through the internet. Yanko Design spotted just such a bench by designer Christopher McNicholl which tweets about people sitting on the aptly-named @TweetingSeat. Two cameras — one watching the bench and one looking outward — continuously let curious people all over the world who is taking a break.
Second in Line. The Wall Street Journal spoke with an anonymous philanthropist and architecture fan from Iowa who is looking for the world’s second most famous architect. According to the story, the donor is willing to pony up $300 million to any city that does not hire Frank Gehry to design its art museum. “Don’t get me wrong, I like iconoclastic, swoopy structures that look like bashed-in sardine cans as much as the next guy… I’m just saying we should give an architect not named Frank Gehry a chance.” Ouch.
Presidential Pritzker. Blair Kamin reports that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be in attendance at the Pritzker Prize award dinner for Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. It’s the first time a president sat in on the ceremonies since the Clintons dined with Renzo Piano in 1998. Also check out AN‘s exclusive Commentary and Q+A with Souto de Moura.
Safdie’s False Solution. Oren Safdie, playwright and son of architect Moshie Safdie, is making progress on the third part of his trilogy of architecture-themed plays and will be conducting a reading this evening in LA. A False Solution tells the story of of a Jewish-German architect whose resolve is shaken by a young intern after winning a Holocaust museum in Poland. (Via ArchNewsNow.)
In honor of the passage earlier this month of LA’s Baseline Hillside Ordinance (Warning: PDF), which prevents “out-of-scale” single family development on LA’s hillsides via height and FAR restrictions, we’ve dug up five of the most ridiculously gigantic homes in the city. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of square footage, bathrooms (why does the number of bathrooms always seem to double the number of bedrooms?) and opulent taste (note the preponderance of French Chateaus: will there be another revolution?) The ordinance, which goes into effect on May 9, is the third in a series of city measures to prevent McMansions and other neighborhood busters. So perhaps say goodbye to this type of development in LA. At least for now.
The foreclosure crisis has up-ended old assumptions about the relative prosperity of cities versus suburbs. In many regions waves of foreclosures have hit the suburbs hardest. In the second iteration of their “Issues in Contemporary Architecture” residency and exhibition series, MoMA and P.S. 1 will ask five teams to design interventions for five “megaregions” facing high levels of foreclosures. Like the earlier iteration, Rising Currents, the new project, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream will include a residency and public workshops at P.S. 1, followed by an exhibition and public programs at MoMA. Organized by Barry Bergdoll, chief curator for architecture and design, and Reinhold Martin, director of the Buell Center at Columbia, Foreclosed “will enlist five interdisciplinary teams of architects to envision a rethinking of housing and related infrastructures that could catalyze urban transformation, particularly in the country’s suburbs,” according to a statement from the museum.
Finally. After 39 years of wandering around Los Angeles and trying to convince its landlord to sell, SCI-Arc today announced that it has bought its building in LA’s Downtown Arts District. The 1,250 foot-long Santa Fe Freight Yard Depot building, a reinforced concrete structure designed by architect Harrison Albright, stretches seemingly forever along Santa Fe Avenue. Students like to bike or skateboard inside it to get to class.
The school moved to the former rail depot 10 years ago after a 2001 renovation by architect Gary Paige. The school’s opening came when building owner Meruelo Maddux Properties filed for bankruptcy—meaning it really needed the money. The school bought the property for $23.1 million. Other homes for the school have included Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica. But now it finally has a real home.
And their edgy, coarse and lively corner of downtown, as SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss has pointed out, is where it’s always wanted to be. “SCI-Arc is absolutely committed to Downtown,” he told AN in a recent interview, adding that the area is a laboratory for architectural and urban development. “We are staying Downtown. Period.”
Ocean Cities. It’s been a year since Americans watched oil spew from the gusher in the gulf. Only limited regulatory reforms saw the light of day. Timothy Beatley thinks it was a missed opportunity. In Design Observer, the University of Virginia professor argues that the key to the ocean’s future lies on land, with cities. Changes on land can have an enormous impact at sea, and Beatley thinks that cities have to the tools to make it happen.
Gimme Shelter. The Board of Standards and Appeals shot down arguments from the Chelsea Flatiron Coalition to halt the Bowery Residents Committee from moving a new homeless shelter on to West 25th Street, reports Chelsea Now. With new digs good to go, the charity has already set their sites on Brooklyn where they plan to open a 200-bed shelter in Greenpoint.
Gimme Signage. Since 1923 small signs guided tourists trough the lush curved roads of Beachwood Canyon to the Hollywood sign. The iconic vista was considered a boon to local real estate. But with property values firmly established, the WSJ reports that many owners don’t want the hoi polli blocking their view and took the signs down, leaving the hapless tourists wandering the canyon.
West Loop Tower. The Chicago Sun-Times says that the 48-story tower proposed to sit next to the Crowne Plaza at the corner of Madison and Halsted may soon become a reality. After a sluggish start, plans are moving forward to make it the tallest building in Greektown, writes Curbed Chicago.
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A sales center on Toronto’s west side shows off a multifaceted approach to fabrication.
The new Studio On Richmond condominiums are located in the middle of Toronto’s Entertainment District, an emerging cultural area around Queen Street on the west side. The 31-story building, designed by Toronto-based Quadrangle Architects, includes 8,000 square feet of space that the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) will use as a public art gallery and café. The condo’s 2,950-square-foot sales center needed to reflect the area’s artistic vibe, so interior design firm Mike Niven Interior Design turned to Eventscape, a custom architectural fabricator also based in Toronto, to build a collection of faceted, folded elements to reflect the neighborhood’s personality and inspire potential condo buyers.
Last month we reported on Beverly Hills’ virtually nonexistent preservation policies and the destructive results for Modern architecture. Well those (lack of) rules seem to be at issue again, as we learn from Curbed LA that Richard Neutra’s 1955 Kronish House is for sale, with a listing on Redfin emphasizing the land’s “huge upside potential as a major estate.”