Obama Banking on an Infrastructure Rebound

National
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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President Barack Obama hopes that a $50 billion infusion of government money
will help counteract two things that plague the nation—job loss and potholes. The
White House has a list they see as “tangible” goals for the next six years, with a focus on roads, railways, and runways. So, what might you, the taxpayer, get for $50 billion? Read More

Daley Out. Rahm In?

Midwest
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
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The Sun-Times broke the story that, after much deliberation, Mayor Richard M. Daley has decided not to run for reelection. Daley has been in office since 1989, so his impact has been vast, especially on the city’s built environment. From planting thousands of trees and promoting green roofs and LEED construction, to building magaprojects like Millenium Park and championing development like the new Trump Tower, Daley’s vision shaped the architecture and urbanism Chicago, as well as the city’s identity, arguably more directly than any other mayor in the country. With less than six months before the election, those interested in replacing Daley will have to work fast. President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, generated considerable buzz earlier in the year when he said he’d like to be mayor someday. He quickly qualified that he would not challenged Daley. No word yet on his intentions following Daley’s announcement. While Emanuel is known to be a strong armed character, his views on design and the built environment are unclear at the point. Whoever becomes mayor, Daley’s shadow will be a long one.

Car Free In San Diego?

West
Friday, September 3, 2010
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It seems that Times Square’s pedestrian-friendly experiment is catching on.. According to The San Diego Union Tribune, The Plaza de Panama in San Diego’s Balboa Park is proposing to go car-free with a $33 million plan by Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs.  The proposal would remove 67 auto spaces in the park, and a 900-space parking structure will be built at the south of the park for the displaced cars.  If achieved, the new space opens up possibilities not only for strollers but for public artwork and new landscaping. The plan has its detractors, mostly because there is the possibility that the parking structure could impose a fee (parking in the park is currently free). A committee has been created to help raise the funds and the media has stated that there are donors already, who have history of funding park improvements. The new pedestrian friendly space is reflective of the 1915 San Diego Exposition, where the center was completely open to walkers. Officials are hoping to restore it for the centennial anniversary in 2015.

Parks Department Coopting NYC Skaters?

East
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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On Tuesday, the Parks Department cut the ribbon on the River Avenue pocket parks in the Bronx. It is the latest piece of the sprawling, long-overdue parks system promised by the Bloomberg administration in exchange for the parks sacrificed and taxes forgone in the name of the House That Steinbrenner Built (God rest his soul). But that is not what is truly interesting about the River Avenue park. What is is that it contains a skatepark. The fourth one to open this summer, in fact, preceded by new ramps and half-pipes at Hudson River Park (above), Flushing Meadows, and Robert Venable Park in Brooklyn’s East New York neighborhood. A very popular park opened last year as the first piece of the McCarren Park pool’s redevelopment. (This reporter saw young scalawags jumping the fence to get in even before it was finished, so eager were they to ollie about.) The Parks Department now has 11 skateparks under management, with more on the way. Read More

Burning Man Architecture Amazes

West
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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Serpent Mother, by the Flaming Lotus Girls

Proving our theory that the best architecture these days is installation architecture, the work on display this year at Burning Man is blowing us away. The theme this year is Metropolis: The Art of Cities, making for some even more inspired (and, of course out there..) art/architecture installations, which include: Read More

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Venice 2010> Has the Biennale Outlived its Usefulness?

International
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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The Cherry Blossom Pavilion, in the Italian pavilion, one of the increasingly rare examples of architecture at the biennale. (Bill Menking)

The 2010 Venice architecture biennale closed on Saturday—at least for media representatives, as journalists were required for the first time to turn in their press passes and enter as public citizens (tickets, $25). I hated giving up that pass as it allowed me access to the exhibitions both at the Arsenale and in the giardini, home of the national pavilions. Though Venice is hardly a major military installation there are canals in the area that are off-limits to civilians; a water taxi driver informed my group that only a special permit would get us into the canal so I produced my press pass and he said “va bene” and he drove us up the canal. The power of the press! Read More

Buy This House!

Midwest
Thursday, September 2, 2010
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(photo: John Andersen/New York Times)

The comparison shopping set up of the “What you get for…” column in the New York Times Real Estate section is often a stroke of editorial genius. This week’s price point is an affordable $275,000, which gets you a charming frame bungalow in Nashville, a handsome one bedroom loft in Philadelphia, or this Midcentury Modern two bedroom in Madison, Wisconsin, designed by William Kaeser. According to the Times, the house is located in a residential neighborhood called Sunset Village about two miles from downtown and within walking distance of shops and restaurants. The house retains many of its original details, including mahogany paneled interiors, so the right buyer could turn it into a serene yet cozy modern hideaway.

Wilf Hall Not Bad By NYU Standards

East
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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Wilf Hall (Courtesy Archidose)

Yesterday, John Hill, arguably the city’s most prolific architecture critic, finished up one of his latest projects, entitled “31 in 31.” In addition to his usual flood of posts, Hill is chronicling one building every day in August, in preparation for a new guide book. The buildings are scattershot, ranging from the new Crocs super store in the West Village to One Bryant Park, but most of them are new and, in a way Hill always seems to manage, representative of precisely what has been going on in the city recently—not comprehensive, but authoritative. It’s a rundown worth running down, but one building in particular caught our eye: the rather unassuming Wilf Hall at NYU. Read More

Scale the Scaffolds on DOB YouTube Channel

East, East Coast
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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The Department of Buildings recently launched a YouTube channel. You’d think the department’s time would be better spent actually inspecting buildings instead of making videos about inspecting buildings, but a) given the black eye the department suffered after the two crane accidents two years ago, and b) this is a pretty damn good video, let’s let our criticizm slide. In fact, this simple black-and-white-photos-and-voiceover film verges on tearjerker. “A lot of the companies out there welcome us and are happy to see us out there performing a safety inspection, and then there’s that percentage that want no part to do with us,” intones inspector Joseph Coben, the Bronx still thick in his voice. Interesting factoids about the three-year-old scaffolding team abound, like how every scaffold gets a walkthrough no matter how dangerous, and how thankful workers are for the inspector getting them off a dangerous site they can’t leave without risking their jobs. Grab some popcorn and a hardhat and enjoy.

More Construction Canvases Downtown, Still No UrbanShed

East, East Coast
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
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"Restore the View," one of three Richard Pasquarelli installations that are the latest edition to the Downtown Alliance's re:Construction program. (Courtesy Downtown Alliance)

The Downtown Alliance unveiled “Restore the View” today, the latest installation in its re:Construction program, which gussies up downtown construction fencing. The program began in 2007 and has gotten bigger each year, with five installations done earlier this summer and now three from Pasquarelli, the first artist to conceive of more than one. “Restore the View” just went up over the weekend at the site of Fitterman Hall, across from 7 WTC. “Secret Gardens” will mask road construction on Chambers Street and “Hours of the Day” is going up on a plaza across from the new W Hotel on Washington Street. Not only is it nice that the Alliance is concerned with how these sites look, but it means there is a lot of work still going on downtown. Read More

BP Stringer Throws Water on Riverside Center

East
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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BP Scott Stringer is no fan of Riverside Center. (Courtesy Extell)

It has not been a good day for Gary Barnett and his Extell Development. First, the Post‘s ur-real estate columnist Steve Cuozzo gave Barnett a hard time for delays at his skyline-bursting Carnegie 57. (How come Tony Malkin didn’t complain about this one, by the way?) And this evening, Borough President Scott Stringer has announced he is giving the project his ULURP thumbs down. What more does everyone want? Barnett has promised to build a school, to up the affordable housing from 12 percent to 20 percent, and he has hired one hell of an architect. But this is far from enough apparently, given Stringer’s strongly worded announcement. Read More

A New Beginning for West End Avenue

East, East Coast
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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The Landmarks Preservation Commission is preparing to preserve a large swath of West End Avenue and the surrounding buildings. (Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

The West End Preservation Society could only save two of the buildings it had hoped for, but an entire neighborhood has been preserved in the process.

Back in 2007, a clutch of concerned citizens living on West End Avenue were dismayed to learn that two pairs of brownstones were bound for the wrecking ball, to be replaced by the sliver buildings much in vogue in Manhattan’s narrow upper reaches over the past decade. The houses at 732 and 734 West End Avenue are currently being demolished, but 508 and 510 West End Avenue survive, and likely will for some time thanks to the efforts of the society. The LPC is now preparing to finalize plans for a new, expansive historic district—lobbied for by the preservation group—running the length of West End Avenue from 70th Street to 109th Street. The result will be two-miles of almost uniterrupted pre-war grandeur. Read More

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