Salsa in the Square

East, East Coast
Thursday, February 11, 2010
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Things have gotten pretty wild in Times Square, what with the permanent plazas, aquariums, and ice sculptures on the horizon—that last one is going up tonight—so what about a good old fashioned billboard? Well, not exactly old fashioned. In January, Cuban-born street artist Sofia Maldonado took up residency in Times Square’s BLANK SL8 space, where she began work on a clutch of murals that will be installed in the square come march, bringing a bit of graffiti grit back to the area. Our friends at LOOSEWORLD swung by and put together this video of Sofia at work, and there’s another on the way, so stay tuned.

Times Square Fish Tale

East
Thursday, February 11, 2010
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A Toronto-based developer may build a 600,000-gallon aquarium in the base of the FXFowle-designed 11 Times Square. (Courtesy FXFowle)

Did you have a nice time watching Phantom of the Opera? Did you buy all that you could carry from The Disney Store? Have fun strolling down the soon-to-be-redesigned Broadway plazas? Why not pop around the corner and check out a peep show? I’m not talking naked ladies here, I’m talking real live sharks! This isn’t a joke. In the very near future this may be an option. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Jerry Shefsky—a Toronto-based developer—is near to closing a deal with SJP Properties to put a 600,000-gallon aquarium in the base of the company’s brand spanking new 11 Times Square office tower. In addition to the aforementioned sharks, the $100 million project would include tanks featuring rays, penguins, otters, and drier attractions such as a pirate museum. This could even serve as a model for other financially troubled projects in the city. Perhaps turn Stuytown into a zoo? Not that it isn’t one already.

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Another Gehry Ghost

West
Thursday, February 11, 2010
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Burdened by more than $3 million in debt, the Pasadena Playhouse closed its doors on Sunday. The nonprofit company intends to “explore viable options of financial reorganization, including bankruptcy, to determine a responsible solution for its ongoing operations,” according to a statement. While the theater’s fate is resolved, the Mission-style building itself, designed by Elmer Grey (who also designed much of CalTech’s campus) in 1925, will be protected, since it’s a California state landmark and owned by the city of Pasadena. But the situation doesn’t bode well for the two-phase project that Frank Gehry had agreed to undertake for the playhouse pro bono. That work included a renovation of its balcony performance space, the Carrie Hamilton Theater, and the creation of a new 300-400 seat theater across the street. Read More

La Serenissima Strikes Again

International
Thursday, February 11, 2010
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Venice is seeking to rival Milan's annual design fair, the Salone, above.

Is Italy returning to medieval-era warfare between city-states Milan and Venice? AN’s own Julie V. Iovine reports from Milan that Milanese and Lombardy officials are more than a bit miffed that Venice is proposing to start its own design fair in 2011, seeking to steal the spotlight from the nation’s long-established epicenter of design. Read More

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Pecha Kucha Haiti

International
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
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(Courtesy Pecha Kucha)

There’s never been a Pecha Kucha in Port-au-Prince before. But on February 20, some 280 cities across the globe that have hosted the 20-seconds-per-20-slides architecture presentation cum party will join together to try and raise $1 million for Architecture for Humanity’s relief efforts in Haiti. As the Pecha Kucha people put it on their site, it only took a matter of seconds for hundreds of thousands of lives to be forever changed. Hopefully, 200,000 design-savy, humanitarian-minded types will get together for a few more seconds in a week-and-a-half and start to put things back in order. Read More

Be My Neighbor

Midwest
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
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Charles H. Shaw Technology Learning Center (all images courtesy Chicago Neighborhood Design Awards)

Members of Chicago’s community development world gathered Tuesday evening for the 16th annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA). Established by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago, the CNDA recognizes outstanding achievement in neighborhood real estate development and community building. This year, ten honorees were celebrated in a ceremony attended by Mayor Richard M. Daley. The CNDA is the largest awards program of its kind in the country. In addition to the prestige of winning, many of the awards are complemented by a monetary gift. Read the full list and see images of some of the winning projects after the jump. Read More

A Castle Near the Sand

East
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
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The Shore Theater was calendared today, the first step in the landmarks process. (vanz/Flickr)

With snowpocalypse about to descend on the city, summer feels a long way away. But there is cause for sun-soaked celebration today, as the Landmarks Preservation commission calendared the Shore Theater, the first step in the public review process to make the building an official city landmark. The calendaring is actually the first fruits to bear from the Bloomberg administration’s 13th hour deal with developer Joe Sitt. It will be months before amusements return to a saved Coney Island, but a major negotiating point for the community—and the amusement community in particular—was more landmarks in Coney to protect the area’s historic buildings from the flood of development the city’s rezoning hopes to create. So far, there are no other buildings in the docket besides the 1920s theater-and-hotel building, though, which could be cause for concern—especially after the area’s oldest building recently suffered water damage. Still, after decades of deterioration, any progress is good. In other landmarks news… Read More

Hollywood Sign Secretly Saved

West
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
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There's more to the sign than just those letters.

It all seems so hush-hush, which is surprising in Hollywood, but the Hollywood Sign has apparently been in trouble for some time.  Chicago-based  Fox River Financial Resources has been trying to sell  large parcels on the hill just next to its “H” for luxury homes. The company bought the land from the estate of Howard Hughes in 2002. Luckily the Trust For Public Land has secured an option to buy the  138-acres on Cahuenga Peak for about $12 million, hoping to maintain views of and around the sign, and to preserve local recreation and habitats. The Trust has already raised about $6 million from sources like the Tiffany & Co Foundation and from Hollywood celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Virginia Madsen, and Aisha Tyler. Now all that’s left is for the group to raise another $6 million more by April 14 to complete the deal. To donate, go here.

Spruce Up a Parking Lot

West
Monday, February 8, 2010
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The Santa Monica City Council recently approved an installation by Ball Nogues for a renovated parking garage.

Despite the frustration of having to drive everywhere, often sitting through interminable traffic, at least Angelinos can boast some of the prettiest parking structures in the country. One of the latest to the game is Pugh + Scarpa’s dressed up garages for the redeveloped Santa Monica Place mall, garages that were originally designed by the same man behind the now demolished mall, Frank Gehry himself. Not content to simply dress up some old garages with a flashy new facade, the mall has dedicated space on each of the two parking structures for art installations Read More

The Art of Taking a Walk

East
Monday, February 8, 2010
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Fitch and Cotner's urban poetics.

In 1685, a young Japanese poet recorded his thoughts in the first of many travel journals, The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton. This now famous haiku master, Matsuo Bashō, believed that one attains spiritual serenity by embracing the world of nature. Now, more than three centuries later, two Gotham flaneurs have updated Bashō’s meandering form, exchanging 17th-century Japan for 21st-century Manhattan. The result is Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch’s new book Ten Walks/Two Talks, a series of 60-minute, 60-sentence walks around Manhattan, interspersed with a pair of dialogues. No ordinary tour guide, the book is an associative journey where scents, noises, people, and buildings are meticulously described through the eyes of intensely attentive explorers. Read More

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Another Close-Up for Studio Gang

Midwest
Monday, February 8, 2010
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(photos courtesy Columbia College)

Last Friday’s ribbon-cutting festivities marking the opening of Columbia College’s 35,500 square foot,  $21 million Media Production Center (MPC) in Chicago’s South Loop featured retired anchorman/documentarian/pitchman Bill Kurtis emceeing a ceremony in the building’s large soundstage that included remarks by Mayor Richard Daley and a slew of college officials and donors, all extolling the virtues of the first new building in the school’s 120 years of operation. Columbia claims to have the nation’s largest film and video school, and refers to the MPC as a “state of the art facility designed to foster cross disciplinary collaboration among students in film, television, interactive arts and media and television.” Read More

SFMOMA Searches for a Wingman

West
Friday, February 5, 2010
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SFMOMA reflects on its future. Photo by David Paul Ohmer/Flickr

The Examiner’s George Calys reports that SFMOMA is narrowing down a list of international architects to design its new 100,000 square-foot wing. The shortlisted firms will be asked to submit proposals. Asked who was on the list, museum director Neal Benezra said diplomatically, “Right now, all of them.” Read More

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