The Wonders of Weese

Midwest
Monday, July 19, 2010
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The D.C. Metro designed by Harry Weese. (photog courtesy of the Weese family, via Chicago Magazine.)

I finally got around to reading Robert Sharoff’s fascinating Chicago Magazine piece on the life and work of Harry Weese, the architect of one of my favorite works of modern of architecture, infrastructure, and urban design, the D.C. Metro. The piece is packed with 20th century Chicago architectural history, compelling biography, and insightful analysis of Weese’s work. Sharoff draws on Robert Bruegmann’s forthcoming book on the architect, and both make the case that Weese should be considered one of the preeminent figures in Postwar American architecture. Like his friend Eero Saarinen, he seemed to reinvent himself with each new project, pushing modernism in new, diverse directions and offering an alternative to Miesian orthodoxy. Sadly, his prolific career was brought to a premature end by alcoholism, but even so he made an indelible mark on the American landscape.

Barnard Takes Diana Center Stage

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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Since last year, esteemed architecture photo agency ESTO has been shooting video as well. Here is the latest effort, a look at the Diana Center at Barnard, narrated by the designers, Weiss/Manfredi. From the first frame, we couldn’t help but think of Curbed’s frequent Rendering vs. Reality feature. From that first frame on, at times it looks like exactly that, like we’re looking at a renderings. Were it not for the cars and buses and students passing by at times, we might actually believe so. We’re still not sure what Weiss/Manfredi was going for here in terms of appearance, but it certainly seems to be working for the firm.

NY Designers Nicing, Icing Stalled Sites

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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Icebergs, an affordable, sustainable alternative to a vacant lot designed by Woods Bagot.

Construction may not be expected to pick up until next year, but the city is already prepping for it with the UrbanCanvas program, for which registration closes Monday. The Department of Buildings and Department of Cultural Affairs are seeking out designers and artists to create new scaffolding, fencing, and other otherwise unsightly construction protections, of which there are nearly 1 million linear feet. If that’s not enough, ArtBridge, a Chelsea non-profit, is pursuing a similar program, albeit just with the overhead scaffolding—which are also due for a redesign—though ArtBridge submissions are due tomorrow, so get cracking. And should you be not a designer but a building, or more accurately empty lot, owner looking an alternative way to dress up your site, consider Woods Bagot’s Icebergs. As the firm describes them: Read More

Lagrange out to Pasture?

Midwest
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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courtesy Crain's

Crain’s reports that prominent Chicago architect Lucien Lagrange is throwing in the towel at the barely ripe age of 69. Not only his he closing up shop–at an as yet undisclosed date–he’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “Retiring, (there would be) a lot of liabilities are on my back. I can’t just walk away,” Lagrange told Crain’s. “Chapter 11 gives you a chance to plan ahead, organize and close in a decent way.”

While the AIA may be forcasting a brighter 2011, Lagrange, best known for designing high end condos, doesn’t see the market bouncing back for another five years. While he might be in a gloomy mood now, my hunch is that Chapter 11 won’t be the final chapter in his career.

Superfront Hawks a Different Dialectic in Brooklyn

East, East Coast
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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Urban Omnibus has put together another great video, this time on Superfront, a new-ish storefront collaborative space on the further reaches of Atlantic Avenue. (We’re partial to it not only because it’s a cool idea but also one of us is moving around the corner and also happens to have a friend who lives in the back of the space from time to time.) The video is basically an interview with the space’s founder, Mitch McEwan, an ebullient mouthful of architectural contradictions. Our favorite line: “There really aren’t a lot of opportunities to make mistakes in architecture. And this is an opportunity for me to make mistakes in architecture.” Now what’s yours?

Gunter Behnisch, 1922-2010

International
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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Günter Behnisch in 2000. (Courtesy Behnisch Architekten)

Word spread yesterday that Dresden-born, Deconstructivist-inspiring architect Günter Behnisch had died. His son’s firm, which had taken on much of his work, sent around the following announcement today. There will be a memorial service tomorrow in Stuttgart, Behnisch’s long-time home.

Professor Günter Behnisch passed away in the early morning hours of July 12th at the age of 88. A good three years ago he retreated from professional life. Since then he has lived, weakened by several strokes, in his home in Stuttgart-Sillenbuch, where his family cared for him. Read More

LA Breaking Ground on New Front Lawn

West
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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(courtesy Rios Clementi Hale)

A ceremonial groundbreaking for a $56 million downtown LA Civic Center park will be held on Thursday, July 15 at 9 a.m. Designed by Rios Clementi Hale, the 12-acre park is located between the LA County Music Center and City Hall and is set to be completed in 2012. Tomorrow’s festivities will include cooking demonstrations, yoga, music, art, storytelling and education on drought-tolerant plants–activities which demonstrate ways the park will be used by the community in two years. Read More

Ebert Gives Modernism Two Thumbs Down

Midwest
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
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Ebert admits to loving the original University of Chicago campus, though hating its modern additions, such as Saarinen's Law School. (Courtesy UChicago)

Ebert.

Everyone may be a critic, but none moreso than Roger Ebert. While film has long been the Chicagoan’s preferred medium, he has increasingly cast his eyes and pen elsewhere on his Sun-Times blog (begun after a bout of thyroid cancer). Yesterday, he fixed his attention—and mostly scorn—on modern architecture. It’s a highly opinionated piece, one in which Ebert openly admits his increasingly “reactionary” preferences:

It was not always so. My first girlfriend when I moved to Chicago was Tal Gilat, an architect from Israel. She was an admirer of Mies. Together we explored his campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology. She showed me his four adjacent apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive and said they looked as new today as when they were built. It is now 40 years later, and they still look that new. Then I was impressed. Now I think of it as the problem. They will never grow old. They will never speak of history. No naive eye will look at them and think they represent the past. They seem helplessly captive of the present.

Read More

Leni Loves the Lights on the Great White Way

East
Monday, July 12, 2010
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Schwendinger's Triple Bridges project at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a few blocks away from her new site.

We got an email earlier today from Leni Schwendinger, principal of Light Projects, informing us that she was also part of the team redesigning Times Square, a terrible omission from the original announcement given that this probably the most well-lit place on the planet. “As a location singularly (and controversially) known for lighting and light, the Times Square win is very important,” Schwendinger wrote. “It is Light Projects’ opportunity to redefine the role of light in the public space of Times Square for pedestrians.” (Graphic designers Pure and Applied and engineers Buro Happold are also on the Snohetta-led team.) This revelation led to a nice little discussion on the nature of Times Squares’ gigawhattage and some brainstorming on what might make a good design. Read More

Crocs Treads Lightly with Soho Flagship

East
Friday, July 9, 2010
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The 1818 structure has been meticulously restored, along with a storefront dating from around the 1920s. (Kristine Larsen)

When shoe retailer Crocs set its sights on Soho, the blogosphere didn’t hesitate grouching about the rubber clog emporium’s arrival at the corner of Spring and Wooster streets. What was feared as an assault of global branding, however, has become an unlikely symbol of a sea change for New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which pushed for a modern, glassy volume in the heart of the historic cast-iron district. Read More

Chicago and New York Score Big Bucks for BRT

East, Midwest
Friday, July 9, 2010
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A preliminary design for a reworked 34th Street. (image: NYCDOT)

Chicago and New York have well developed mass transit systems, notable for their extensive subway and commuter rail networks. But it’s buses that are getting a big boost in both cities. Chicago will receive more than $35 million in federal grants for two planned rapid bus service projects, and New York is getting $18 million to rework 34th Street with segregated bus lanes. Read More

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Allah Architecture Causes Controversies Worldwide

East Coast, International
Thursday, July 8, 2010
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It looks like New York isn’t the only city with a controversial mosque on the horizon—and in the case of Marseilles, that’s quite literally where it’s going. Archinect points us to a BBC report about the Grand Mosque, a huge new complex atop one of the city’s northern hills. As the video above shows, the complaints are akin to those surrounding the proposed mosque around the corner from the World Trade Center site—concerns about culture, paternalism, terrorism, and community, though in France the concerns are obviously less direct. In a favorable sign for the NYC mosque, the local community board voted against landmarking the former Burlington Coat Factory ahead of a binding review at the commission next Tuesday. The vote is non-binding but tends to carry some wait, though we’re curious to see what actually happens, as this should be one of the more interesting commission meetings in recent memory. Do check back for a full report.

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