Last week, we wrote about Christopher Alexander winning the prestigious Scully Prize. Now, he’s been named the third most important urban thinker by venerable planning site Planetizen, after Jane Jacobs and Andrés Duany and ahead of F.L. Olmsted and Kevin A. Lynch. Even Daniel Burnham, who’s celebrating the centennial of his eponymous plan was lower on the list. If we sound surprised, it’s because many of us here in the office had either never heard of Alexander or long forgotten about him, his heyday having been so long ago. But clearly he is on people’s minds, considering Planetizen‘s list of the 100 most influential urban thinkers comes from a survey of its readers.
Perhaps Ned Cramer put it best, when we discussed Alexander’s selection by the Scully jury, of which the Architecture editor was a part: “I think it’s a lot like Venturi in the 90s, people are really starting to recognize a very influential designer, someone they’d been drawing on for years without even realizing it.”
Today is Park(ing) Day LA. It’s the third year that the City Of Angels is participating in this transformation of metered parking spots into temporary microcosms of park-like environments — some replete with bench seating, grassy areas, and fresh food off the grill. San Francisco-based art and activist studio, Rebar, created the idea in 2005 as a comment on the lack of quality public spaces as well as to promote social interactions and critical thinking among urbanites. And the meters? Organizers are continually plunking change into the metal coin collectors while the parks occupy the parking spot. Some highlights include: Read More
On the occasion of the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, architecture firm MDAA (Massimo d’Alessandro & Associati) of Rome designed a photovoltaic tower to power an existing cellular communications aerial. The installation brought to life an idea that has been paddled about quite a bit in recent years: equipping our existing infrastructure with energy-producing technology. After the G8 tower was erected, MDAA designed a more efficient version for Vodafone (the largest mobile network operator in the world). The new tower raises the design quality, lowers the use of materials, and is capable of producing 15KWp, enough to run broadcasting equipment. Check out that design, as well as more on the G8 tower, after the jump. Read More
We’ve been paying an awful lot of attention to high-speed rail of late. That’s partly because it’s a pet project of the president, as well as the various regions we cover. Well, bids were due last month for the $8 billion to be doled out in stimulus funds for high-speed rail development (after all, that kinda money isn’t going to go very far toward building any one system, let alone the dozen or so needed to begin supplanting planes or cars), and while the money will likely get split up amongst different states and localities so as not to anger any constituency, the infrastructure-oriented, RPA-affiliated group America 2050 released a report today recommending where best to spend that money, and we’ve got bad news for our colleagues on the West Coast and Great Lakes—it should go right here in the Northeast Corridor. (It should be noted the RPA, like AN is headquartered here in New York, so maybe it’s just bias at play.)
There has been so much talk in recent years over the confluence of fashion and architecture, we won’t attempt to add to the “discourse” accept to note that Fashion Week is ending today and with it a number of cool and interesting installations around town. One of particular note was created by our friends at Bureau V—two Asymptote alums and a former DSRer—who have now made their third installation for designer Mary Ping and her Slow and Steady Wins the Race brand. We’re not exactly sure what’s going on here, as one of the principals sent over this nice photo in reference to a separate email, but Style.com puts it thusly: “[It] uses the idea of the still life to, as Ping puts it, ‘react to the temporality of the pop-up, and go back to an older tradition of talking about objects.’” If you hurry, you can still catch the installation and the objects thereon—some designed by Ping—some merely selected by her, through tomorrow at Saatchi & Saatchi’s ground floor events space at 275 Hudson Street.
While Denmark, Sweden, and even Finland may better known as leaders in design, in recent years the small family-owned Norwegian company LK Hjelle has been working with the collaborative Norway Says to produce innovative contemporary furniture that should be better known in the US. The company, best known for its more traditional upholstered furniture, has embraced contemporary designs, both for seating and tables, that are practical and well made with a fresh, lighthearted sensibility. Read More
After a great summer spent in Maine and Canada we are back at the newspaper ready to soldier through the New York media wars. This week we were inspired by our fair city all over again. In case you missed the VMA awards and all the brewhaha about Kanye West, check out Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind! Jay-Z and Alicia Keys rocked the house. I suggest this as New York’s new City song. It could play on the jumbotron in Times Square and at Yankees stadium. The black and white NYC fly-over images at the back of the stage were incredible. The designer, photographer, videographer should win awards for this. Check it out.
It’s a bit of a tradition for newspapers to issue endorsements in political races, and so when we got wind that an architect was running for mayor, well, who else could we support? It being primary day, if you haven’t voted yet, we recommend you consider casting your ballot for He Gin Lee. According to the bio on his campaign site, He “was named the ‘Architect of the Year’ by New York City” in 2003 and 2004 and “is not your typical politician who sees this mayoral position as a role and opportunity to win fame or satisfy personal ambitions.” A profile in July in City Hall notes that the Korean-American architect has built numerous churches in Queens, many of which can be found on He’s firm’s website. And while our incumbent mayor has much for the design and construction of the city (for better or worse), He told City Hall that is his main reason for running: “I’d like to make a beautiful city. That is my goal.” And were he to win, he’d join some 850 fellow architect-pols nationwide.
Icarus. The Tower of Babel. We all know what can happen when humans reach too high. Well, apparently reaching too low can also have some negative side effects. In mid-August, a geothermal power plant under construction in Germany set off a trembler that registered at 2.7 on the Richter scale. A similar project in Basel, Switzerland, set off successive earthquakes in 2006 and 2007, one registering as high as 3.4. While some seismic activity has always resulted from geothermal installations, a new process which digs deeper and involves fracturing solid rock, rather than harvesting existing steam beds, both promises to increase power production and, evidently, earthquakes. The news is disheartening, considering that a report from the Department of Energy that came out earlier this year cast geothermal energy as real possibility for significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in a relatively short time frame.
SHoP’s new designs for the Barclay’s Center at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards site has probably gotten the firm more attention than any of its previous ones, including its rather controversial plans for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Today, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn penned an open-letter to the firm, calling out “Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli” for signing on to “a very contentious and troubled project that faces widespread resistance from the communities it would impact—and well beyond.” Meanwhile, “Mr. Pasquarelli” sat down with the Observer to, uh, talk shop on the project and defend his firm’s involvement in the project: “We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building.” SHoP and Barclay’s collaborator Ellerbe Becket will be discussing their new designs at a special hearing in Brooklyn tonight at 6 o’clock, as will DDDB, no doubt—and us. If you can’t make it for the fireworks, we’ll recount them here for you tomorrow. Or follow us on Twitter, where we’ll be live-blogging the main event.
The “in” color for homes in San Francisco these days is a dark charcoal gray. If you are boldly angular, the sober color helps camouflage you. And if you are historic, you can declare your modernist leanings by choosing to dial down any rambunctious curlicues.
Inside the several charcoal-gray houses on the tour, it was a dramatically different story. Interior design for modern homes can play it safe, or go out on a limb. You wonder: Is it going to be straight-up Eames/Noguchi/DWR? Too-cool-for-you-Italian? Zen-rock-bamboo? Z Gallerie? Or a quirky mix of industrial materials and antiques? Read More