In this week’s Friday review, Mark Lamster parses Don Argott’s new documentary The Art of the Steal, a film that critiques the relocation of the Barnes Foundation from suburban Merion, Pennsylvannia to downtown Philadelphia. Whatever your view of the move, the trailer makes the film look like stimulating viewing. Opens tonight in New York and Philadelphia and On Demand. In select cities nationwide beginning March 12.
With all the notice being paid to the new U.S. embassy this week, an even bigger (physically if not psychically) project just next door was overshadowed as it won a key approval yesterday. Rafael Viñoly’s massive Battersea development, which will turn the iconic Battersea Power Station and 40 surrounding acres (once on the cover of a Pink Floyd album) into a huge mixed-use community, won approval from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. According to our colleagues at BD, the CABE found the 5.5 billion pound project to be “intelligent and well-resolved.” Read More
Hard to believe Glenn Beck isn’t already up in arms over the president’s decision to nominate his long-time friend and former Weatherman (some might say terrorist) to become the Architect of the Capitol. Oh. Wait. Wrong Ayers. Stephen Ayers, who has actually been serving as AoC for the past three years on an interim basis, was nominated to take over full-time on Tuesday by the Obama administration. Previously, Ayers held the position of Deputy Architect of the Capitol, taking over when his predecessor, Alan Hantman, retired after a decade of service. Ayers has had a distinguished career of public service, including a stint in the Air Force, then a turn in the public sector followed by work at Voice of America, the government-run radio network in Europe. By all appearances, his experience in facilities management in general and at the Capitol in particular should silence critics who have been giving the industry grief over the AoC position in recent years. Read More
The plight of Detroit is a subject of endless fascination for architects and planners and has been irresistible to photographers. Still, the scale of the city’s problems retains the ability to shock. According to the Detroit Free Press, the city is moving to bulldoze between 2500 to 3000 abandoned homes this year—a fraction of the more than 10,000 homes considered dangerous and slated for demolition. Given the fact that it costs approximately $10,000 to demolish a house, the 2500 figure is all the finacially strapped city can afford to take down. Read More
Commuters who have come to rely on the ferry that connects the Rockaways and Wall Street will have to find another way to get to work starting March 19. The city has subsidized the route since it launched plans for new and expanded ferry service in 2008, but last year’s average ridership was a little more than half of the 300-passenger daily quota required to continue funding. Read More
We are just back from three sunny, margarita-and-architecture-filled days in Palm Springs. This small desert city was barely a mirage until the arrival of Liberace, Frank Sinatra (you can rent his house for $1,900 a night), and air-conditioning helped make it a popular resort in the 1950s. But the clear warm desert air (and wealthy patrons) seemed to lend itself to visionary modern architecture. Read More
Not all TODs (transit oriented developments) were created equal. So ULI Los Angeles has launched a series of TOD Technical Assistance Panels to re-strategize under-performing transportation centers. The first of these workshops – led by volunteer urban-design professionals – presented its findings on February 19 at LA’s Slauson Avenue Blue Line station. The station suffers from poor security; poor pedestrian connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood (including an above-grade platform separated from street life); and poor insulation from noxious industrial uses. Panel recommendations focused on getting people to the station and adding retail. This included a security kiosk, improved lighting, and more visible crosswalks and sidewalks. Read More
It’s official: design students at Iowa State University learn their craft in a LEED Platinum facility. The King Pavilion is the third Platinum building in Iowa, and one of the only design school buildings in the country to reach this highest level of certification. Designed by RDG Planning & Design of Des Moines, the wing features a green roof, extensive daylighting, blue jean insulation and other recycled building materials, among other sustainable strategies. Click through for more photos. Read More
Architecture writer Robert Booth reports in The Guardian that the only two British jurors on the selection committee for the new U.S. Embassy in London pronounced that the Kieran Timberlake design was “not good enough to represent one of the great nations in London.” Whether in meetings or in a “Minority Report” remains unclear, the two Lords on the jury, architect Richard Rogers and developer/art collector Peter Palumbo, allegedly found the design boring and that they “fought to the death” to swing votes in favor of the Thomas Mayne scheme that they considered “touched by genius.” Read More
We learn via email today that California firm WWCOT has been taken over by midwest mega-firm DLR Group. WWCOT’s offices in LA, Modesto, Palm Springs, Riverside, and Shanghai will be known as DLR Group WWCOT. The merger, says 500-person DLR, will give the firm a needed presence in California and Asia, and improve its education, healthcare, and senior community design. Like most businesses, architecture’s biggest firms are interested in the takeover, which gives them more geographic reach, more talent, and more clients. This move follows behemoth firm AECOM’s purchase last October of Ellerbe Becket, and in 2007 RMJM’s purchase of Hillier, and Arcadis’ purchase of RTKL. According to a 2009 survey by business management consultant ZweigWhite, Seventy-one percent of architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms plan to conduct a merger or acquisition in the next five years. Sounds high, but maybe there will be one giant firm running all of architecture the next time we check?