Fijne Verjaardag Sol Lewitt!

East, East Coast
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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Ben Van Berkel stands before the New Amsterdam Pavilion he designed with his firm UN Studio and Handel Architects located at the Battery. (Courtesy Handel Architects)

Ben Van Berkel stands before the New Amsterdam Pavilion he designed with his firm UN Studio and Handel Architects located at the Battery. (Courtesy Handel Architects)

That would be Dutch for “Happy Birthday Sol Lewitt!” For you see, the Dutch have arrived in the city this week to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Henry Hudson and the subsequent founding of New Amsterdam. As part of the week-long festivities, they have unveiled a Ben Van Berkel-designed pavilion (above) down on the Battery that was announced back in January. But once those festivities are over, perhaps ours trans-Atlantic friends might head uptown to Columbus Circle, where the MTA unveiled its latest Arts for Transit project today, a 53-foot long tile rendition of one of Lewitt’s wall drawings entitled “Whirls and twirls (MTA).” The installation was revealed today as it would have been the Conceptualist artist’s 82nd birthday. (He died in 2007.) Read More

A School for the Future

West
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
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Architecture for Humanity just announced the winner for the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom. The global competition involved 1,000 registered design teams from 65 different countries. The challenge for the architecture, design, and engineering community was simple–partner with actual students and their schools to create real solutions for a classroom of the future. The winner, Teton Valley Community School in Victor, Idaho, was designed by local firm Section Eight. The concept is centered around the idea of place-based education in the school, a mode of learning that gives more importance to cultural and environmental sustainability than technology and consumerism. Read More

Broad Shoulders, Big Ideas

Midwest
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
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The Chicago Grid, Brinistool + Lynch (all images courtesy The Burnham Plan Centennial)

Big. Bold. Visionary: Chicago Considers the Next Century, another event commemorating the Burnham Plan Centennial, taps local architects, planners, and landscape architects to envision the ideal Windy City of the future. Some designers took a creative and sometimes whimsical approach, while others offered up more practical concepts. Read More

Fire Blast

West
Friday, September 4, 2009
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The fire this time. (Photo: Mary Beth Trama)

The fire this time. (Photo: Mary Beth Trama)

Among other scary lessons, the latest L.A. fire reminds us why it’s important to stick to a small footprint. As of this writing, the Station Fire in Los Angeles County has destroyed 64 homes, three commercial buildings, and 27 outbuildings, and has burned through at least 145,000 acres of land. In the midst of the blaze stands the historical Mt. Wilson Observatory, which was in danger from the nearby flames, but now appears to be safe. Read More

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Perfect Angle for Treasure Island: 68 Degrees

West
Friday, September 4, 2009
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(Rendering courtesy CMG Landscape Architecture.)

Sixty-eight degrees happens to be the best angle for the streets in San Francisco’s Treasure Island project, a utopian vision of green, pedestrian-centric living. The planners have realized that nobody will walk if they’re buffeted by blasts of wind that sweep the island from the southwest, so they came up with a compromise that blocks wind while giving cars enough clearance to turn.

It was just one of the interesting factoids that came up during yesterday’s tour, organized by the AIA SF for their Architecture + the City Festival, going on right now  (still time to catch one of the other tours and get in on the learning and schmoozing!). Read More

Imagined Infrastructure

National
Friday, September 4, 2009
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Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies

Urban Algae proposes a park on a floating pontoon between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook that would harvest CO2 emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.

cityLAB, an urban think-tank at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, has announced the six finalists of its WPA 2.0 competition. The competition, which stands for working public architecture, invited designers of all stripes to submit proposals for rebuilding our cities’ infrastructure as a sort of throwback to the Great Depression-era WPA. Juried by Stan Allen, Cecil Balmond, Elizabeth Diller, Walter Hood, Thom Mayne, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the top-six picks run the gamut from heading off an impending water crisis to creating a softer, gentler version of our infrastructure. One finalist, Urban Algae: Speculation and Optimization, Mining Existing Infrastructure for Lost Efficiencies, proposes to harvest CO2 emissions through photosynthesis. Submitted by PORT Architecture + Urbanism, the solution could be rolled out nationwide on coal-fired power plants and toll booths, but the designers also outlined a scheme for creating a public park on floating pontoons between Lower Manhattan and Red Hook, which would harvest emissions from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Read about the other finalists after the jump. Read More

Bayou Ball

National
Thursday, September 3, 2009
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Trahan clad the exterior of the museum in planks of sinker cypress, which comes from logs that have been submerged for years in the soft muddy bottoms of swamps and bayous. (Courtesy Trahan Architects)

Trahan clad the exterior of the museum in planks of sinker cypress, which comes from logs that have been submerged for years in the soft muddy bottoms of swamps and bayous. (Courtesy Trahan Architects)

Construction began last month in Natchitoches, Louisiana, on the Louisana State Sports Hall of Fame and Regional History Museum. “What do sports and regional history have in common?” you might ask. Trahan Architects certainly had to ponder this question when figuring out an elegant way to combine the disparate program elements under one roof. In the end they took inspiration from Louisiana’s geomorphology, basing their layout of interior spaces on “the fluid shapes of the braided corridors of river channels separated by interstitial masses of land.” See exactly what is meant by this in the images after the jump. Read More

An Olympic Conundrum for Chicago

Midwest
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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SOMs official Olympic village proposal.

SOM's official Olympic village proposal.

We’ve been following Chicago’s Olympic bid rather closely of late, and not only because we’re on the way to inaugurating a Midwest edition of the paper. First, there was SOM’s intriguing proposal to create “sustainable,” “low-impact” Olympics that would have few legacy costs by using temporary facilities, an approach the IOC apparently favored. Then there was the impact of that plan, which still called for the demolition of some buildings—as well as hundreds of trees in Washington Park—most notably at the Walter Gropius-designed Michael Reese hospital campus. Outcry from preservationists led the city to delay demolition, which made time for the preservationists to develop alternative plans. Olympic opponents may be catching another break now, as, ironically enough, the very things the IOC purportedly liked about Chicago’s bid-lite may also be its undoing. Read More

That Empty Lot Problem? Solved.

West
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
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While the recession has put a damper on development along San Francisco’s Octavia Boulevard, the mayor’s office has reached out to Douglas Burnham of Envelope A+D to come up with something cool to temporarily fill the two vacant lots that front Hayes Green at the intersection of Octavia and Fell.

Burnham’s plan sounds like a lot of fun. He plans to transform the space into a mini-shopping, dining, and entertainment destination called PROXY–using a series of modular units that will be recyclable in two or three years when things ratchet up again. The vision includes a group of  pop-up stores,  a food court served by “slow food” carts, an art gallery, and a courtyard for projecting outdoor movies.  Design-wise, the spaces will make their transient nature apparent, revealing their infrastructure (e.g., wiring, water storage) and their modular assembly.

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So Much for LEED

East, East Coast
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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Everybodys doing it: The garage at the Santa Monica Civic Center, the worlds first LEED certified parking structure.

Everybody's doing it: The garage at the Santa Monica Civic Center, the world's first LEED certified parking structure.

Yesterday, the Times ran a decent though not totally honest and rather obvious piece on how a number of LEED buildings don’t actually save much in the way of energy. The Federal Building in Youngstown, Ohio is taken to task for “rack[ing] up points for things like native landscaping rather than structural energy-saving features.” Well, our dear friend and fellow blogger Chad Smith takes the Gray Lady to task for its disingenuity. Yes, LEED is flexible, maybe sometimes too much so, but that’s precisely what makes it so good, Chad argues, or at least so successful. To wit: Read More

Pint-Sized City

West
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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AN contributor Christina Chan sends this wee report from Irvine:

Pretend City is populated entirely by kids–this mini replica of a city is Irvine’s newest children’s museum. The 28,000-square-foot facility, which just opened its doors to visitors, has taken over a decade to come to fruition. Philanthropists Alexandra Airth and Sandra Peffer are behind the new mini-metropolis. The museum includes interactive learning exhibits geared for kids up to eight years of age.The city includes a farm where little ones can learn about the food they consume, a ATM for financial learning, a café with mock ovens and menus, and a beach that will teach about the effects of pollution. And for budding architects, there is even a construction site where kids (and perhaps grown-ups, too) can build structures with wooden planks.

Euro Bulb Ban Begins

International
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
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Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Environmentalists feel that banning incandescent light bulbs is a no brainer.

Europe’s ban on incandescent light bulbs went into effect today. A New York Times report filed yesterday from Brussels brought home the air of ambivalence that has accompanied the prohibition, relating tales of some Europeans jumping eagerly on the compact fluorescent (CFL) bandwagon, others racing out to stockpile the old bulbs before retailers run out, and still others wondering, “Why are we switching?” The european ban can be seen as a bellwether for a similar phasing out that will begin to take place here in the U.S. in 2012, which I wrote about in the editorial for our 2008 Lighting Issue. Just to recap, while there is no argument in terms of the energy savings that incandescent replacement technologies such as CFLs offer, they do come with their own problems: they cost more, come with embedded electronics, contain mercury, and, most important for designers, they do not render color as well. And, let’s not forget, in certain places incandescent light bulbs’ inefficiency is a boon.

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