You may have heard that the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is being replaced. (Technically the west span is being retrofitted and the east span is being replaced.) But the $6.3 billion project, which has been underway since 2002, has hit a snag: We learn via the Sacramento Bee that the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has fired two employees after a Bee investigation showed that the technician responsible for testing the new bridge foundation’s structural integrity falsified and fabricated test results on other projects. The two fired were: Duane Wiles,who tested foundations for bridges and other freeway structures and Brian Liebich, who supervised Wiles as chief of the agency’s Foundation Testing Branch. The Bee‘s investigation examined about 50,000 internal Caltrans reports and test data documents and reported that Caltrans officials knew about the problems for years, but never conducted a serious investigation. Oops. The new bridge is expected to open to the public by 2013. Hopefully.
[ The AN editorial team is on hand for Zoning the City conference, now in progress at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center in Manhattan. We'll be live blogging and tweeting @archpaper with hashtag #zoningthecity throughout the day, so check back and follow us on twitter for updates! ]
In a wrap-up conversation moderated by Kayden, a panel brought together Thom Mayne, A.M. Stern, and Mary Ann Tighe to investigate a few non-planning factors, though of course it rounded back to planning within moments. The exchange was peppered with A.M. Stern wit, Mayne theory, and Tighe pragmatism.
Remarking on the more than 4 billion square feet of undeveloped FAR in New York City, Stern remarked, “That’s a lot of development–even for Related!”
Tighe said that zoning remained necessary, at the very least, for developers’ peace of mind. “I think we need some boundaries,” she said. “Things that will allow capital an amount of comfort that it’ll need to move foreword.” Tighe, who heads up New York’s real estate board, provide an audience full of zoning wonks and architects an investors voice, “What we keep forgetting after the vision is that the money has to come, the as-of-right things are needed.”
Stern replied no spoon full of sugar was needed to let this medicine go down. “Architects complain, they always complain,” he said “But they do their best work with difficult clients, financial constraints.”
Mayne broke through the realm of brick and mortar. “New York is inseparable from its intellectual capital, that’s it’s certainty and predictability.”
Matthew Carmona of University College London played to a re-caffeinated crowd, using humor to diffuse a very complex approval process for zoning London’s 32 different boroughs. With each borough weighing in with their own distinct processes and opinions, plus the mayor putting his two pence in, and even the secretary of state having a say, its amazing London plans as well as it does. The process looks more nightmarish than a West Village community board debating a university expansion. One intriguing aspect was the specificity of the Views Management Framework, which include river views, linear views, townscape views, and panoramas. But it was left to Loeb Fellow Peter Park, paraphrasing Goldberger, to best describe London’s beautiful mess. “Some of the greatest places in the world were built before zoning,” he said. “There’s an element of serendipity.”
Just when we were getting used to Behnisch Architekten having an office in Venice we learn that leader Christof Jantzen is leaving and the office is closing. Stuttgart-based Behnisch opened the outpost back in 1999 and the location has worked on projects ranging from a lab at Yale, student housing at UC Berkeley, and an upcoming parking garage in Santa Monica. Now Behnisch’s only U.S. office is in Boston.
“It’s an evolution,” described Jantzen. “We had a successful story together.”
Here comes the good news: Jantzen is starting his own firm, Christof Jantzen Architecture, just down the street, and he hopes to take some of Behnisch’s eight Los Angeles employees with him. Jantzen described the venture as on the “smaller scale” to begin but noted, “we’ll see how it develops.” The web site isn’t yet live, but it will be www.cjantzen.com.
Brooklyn’s grandest public space at the top of Prospect Park has always been a work in progress. Grand Army Plaza, an oval-shaped public space composed of monuments ringed by an inner and an outer roadway, was built as the main entrance to the park in 1866, serving as a buffer between nature and city and happened to be the confluence of some of Brooklyn’s busiest avenues. Over the years, a monumental archway was added, fountains came and went, and eventually the roads were widened until the lush plaza was effectively cut off from the surrounding Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods. Last week, however, after months of construction to tame the out-of-control roadways, a group of civic leaders and officials gathered in what was once a busy street to celebrate the newly reclaimed plaza.
Last week, The New York World, a website produced by Columbia’s Journalism School, along with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show completed a crowd-sourced survey of New York City’s privately owned public spaces (POPS). The World consulted Jerold Kayden’s 2000 tome, Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, as a guide to gauge whether the private entities were keeping the public parks truly public and user-friendly. Kayden, who is co-chairing tomorrow’s Zoning the City conference with Commissioner Amanda Burden, has been the go-to expert on subject since Occupy Wall Streeters took over the world’s most famous POPS, Zuccotti Park. All told, nearly 150 sites out of 391 around New York City were visited and commented on for the survey.
Still riding the wave of publicity following her recent MacArthur genius grant win, Jeanne Gang gets the full star treatment from Chicago’s public TV station WTTW. This documentary, “Jeanne Gang: The Sky’s the Limit,” is all praise. Blair Kamin and Stanley Tigerman figure as her head cheerleaders. It would have been nice to have someone puncture the bubble a bit, possibly interrogating Gang about architect’s limits, rather than merely presenting the discipline (and Gang as one of its leading lights) as a environmental and societal savior. The documentary does show some engaging glimpses of Studio Gang’s working methods and office style, so there’s plenty to enjoy, even for the (mild) skeptics.
Noting the rivalry between his new home, Los Angeles, and New York while visiting the Big Apple last week, Conan O’Brien launched a new segment , the Fight to the Death Building Battle to settle the cities’ differences once and for all. Curbed spotted these epic architectural fights posted online at Team Coco’s blog, and we couldn’t help but share on this Friday afternoon, 11/11/11. While in New York, Conan pitted the Empire State Building (“weighing in at 365,000 tons of limestone”) against LA’s Scientology Book Store (“the best building they could come up with.”) Of course, the Empire State soundly won. Back in LA, he revoked his New York show as “playing to the New York crowd,” and held another match between the Empire and a trio of LA buildings: the Capitol Records Building, a Lady Foot Locker from a Venice Boulevard strip mall, and later Randy’s Donuts. Remember, whatever side you choose, as Conan pointed out, “You’re booing a building.”
The 19th annual CANstruction NYC, a massive canned food drive in the form of an exhibit and design competition, is now on display at World Financial Center at 220 Vesey Street. Over 100,000 cans of food have been configured into 26 sculptures erected overnight (literally) by teams of architects, engineers, and students mentored by designers and architects. This year’s designs ranged from video games, to city skylines, to bowling, and even three different pairs of shoes. The fanciful display will stand proud until November 21st when it will be toppled and donated to City Harvest, the world’s first food rescue organization, in order to feed thousands of hungry New Yorkers. The exhibition is open daily in the Winter Garden from 10:00am through 6:00pm.
Thursday was a great night for New York showroom events. AN took advantage of the beautiful fall weather and made the rounds. Here are some highlights:
Moroso Traveling Show
Moroso celebrated the NYC launch of its traveling show commemorating 60 years of great furniture-making history. Designed by Rockwell Group, the pop-up exhibition will tour New York through November 26, then continue on to Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, and Vancouver. The show features 25 pieces from the Moroso oeuvre, many positioned on raw wood displays next to a timeline illustrated with images and drawings from the company’s archives.
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By our watch here at The Architect’s Newspaper HQ, it’s 11:11:11 a.m. on 11/11/11. We’re pretty excited that the date and time looks a little like a miniature Manhattan skyline! Continuing on our theme of absurdity (previously, architectural models), check out this delightful video put together by the New York-based Koren Ensemble to commemorate this special day. Some say so many 11’s is certainly a lucky event, so be sure to make a wish when the clock strikes 11:11 the second time around.