Preserving The Changes

National
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
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The Medina County Courthouse in Hondo, Texas, will remain as-is after a battle between restorationists and preservationists.

In the world of historical preservation, when it comes to restoring a building, there is often the difficult question to answer of when does history begin and end? So many of our significant elderly structures have undergone numerous renovations and additions, such that stakeholders can easily come to loggerheads when deciding exactly what to protect and what to discard. Just such a drama has recently played out in Hondo, Texas—a little town west of San Antonio—where county commissioners have decided to not restore their courthouse to its original 1893 condition. While the project, which was to receive funding from the Texas Historical Commission (THC), would have restored an 1893 clock tower, it also required demolishing two wings of the building that were added in 1938-40 by the Works Projects Administration (WPA).

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Kingsbridge Conundrum

East, East Coast
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
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That's a lot of empty space to fill. (Courtesy Bing Maps)

What to do with the Kingsbridge Armory, empty for more than two decades? That was the question the Related Companies answered with a proposal for a new mall, which was resoundingly rebuffed last year by the City Council, in part because that mall would have lacked union labor. The question of what to do with the mall was implicit in Related’s offer, as well, the suggestion being that without the mall, the massive nearly 600,000-square-foot building would continue to sit empty for more decades. Well, Bronx Borough President Rueben Diaz, Jr., one of the pols that led the fight against the mall, thinks he has an answer of his own, as the Observer reports, or at least he hopes the taskforce he’s appointed to come up with a solution does. As Diaz put it in a statement: Read More

Trapping Carbon In Concrete

National
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
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A sample of Calera concrete (©Jim WIlson/NYT)

The New York Times reports on a company called Calera, which says it can capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power plants and inject it into concrete. The company is pretty secretive about the process, but says that it combines carbon dioxide with seawater or groundwater brine, leaving calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, which are used in making cement. Many are skeptical that they can do this on a large scale, though, and others wonder about new environmental problems, like the creation of harmful acids. But if their claim is legit it could be a major boon to environmentalists and to the construction industry. This could be construction’s version of the Bloom box, which is essentially a little power plant in a box. What other inventions will transform our industry? Any ideas? Please chime in..

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A Day at the Park

East, East Coast
Monday, March 22, 2010
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New York's newest park, Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Click to launch slideshow)

We’ve already mentioned the opening today of Pier 1, the first piece of Brooklyn Bridge Park. But for those of you less concerned with park governance and public-private funding mechanisms—most of you, really—than with the actual park itself, herein is our guided tour (click the photo above to begin). While the rain may have dampened the mood of some New Yorkers today, not here in the park, which seemed brighter for the downpour, verdant as Ireland and twice as lucky for having opened after a 25-year struggle. The park, and even this first sliver of it, is magnificent and majestic, a transformative place so different and particular—not unlike the High Line—that it can change your entire perception of the city. Dan Kramer, chair of the BBP Conservancy, agrees. “When I walk around, I get the same feeling I get walking around the High Line” he said at today’s ribbon cutting. “This park feels like it was always here, like it always belonged here.” Read More

Visiting A California Ghost City

West
Monday, March 22, 2010
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Our good friend Alissa Walker reports on Good’s blog about a trip this past Saturday led by BLDG BLOG author Geoff Manaugh to California City, a giant unbuilt city in the Mojave Desert, about 2 hours from LA. The trip was part of Obscura Day, described by its founders, Atlas Obscura, as “a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your home town.  California City is about 80,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1958 by developer Nat Mendelsohn, who hoped to eventually make it the third largest city in California. Unfortunately that never happened. He only managed to corral about 10,000 people. The rest is just a desert carved with an empty grid of dirt streets. Walker points out that the streets, with names like Oldsmobile Drive, still show up on maps. More of the 70 strange places visited on Obscura Day included a visit to Berkeley’s spooky Bone Room, a tour of the Integatron sound chamber in Joshua Tree,  and a visit to Baltimore’s Museum of Dentistry. Read More

Earning Their Stripes

East
Friday, March 19, 2010
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Slade Architecture's rags-to-riches table for DIFFA's Dining By Design. (Slade Architecture)

How quickly they grow up. No sooner had James and Hayes Slade sprung from the chrysalis of their Emerging Voices lecture than they spread their wings at one of the city’s toniest design-and-dining events. Joining the likes of David Rockwell and Vicente Wolf, not to mention Cindy Crawford and Ralph Lauren, Slade Architecture debuted their variegated talent with a tape-covered dining room at DIFFA’s Dining By Design gala. Read More

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Leading the Charge

Midwest
Friday, March 19, 2010
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Toni Griffin, Detroit's new planning director.

In an effort to contain costs and regain some control of the Motor City’s destiny, this month Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will announce the details of a plan to clear largely abandoned sections of the city and reinvigorate more stable neighborhoods. Signaling the importance of this controlled shrinkage plan, Time is reporting that Detroit has hired Newark’s urban planning director Toni Griffin to lead the effort. Griffin is one of the best known planners in the country, and she’s been working to reestablish planning principles and guide renewal in New Jersey’s largest city. A graduate of the Harvard GSD, prior to her time in Newark, she worked for SOM Chicago and for Washington D.C.’s planning department. In Detroit, Griffin’s salary, as well as those of some of her staff, will be underwritten by the Kresge Foundation. Her job will no doubt be a difficult one. Residents have previously fought neighbhorhood clearance and scuttled earlier shrinkage plans.

The SFMOMA Shortlist: We Can Dream

West
Friday, March 19, 2010
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IwamotoScott has done installations inside buildings, like Voussoir Cloud, pictured. What if they did the actual building?

The upcoming $480 million SFMOMA expansion is a big deal, and the names that have been bruited about are certainly Big Names. But you can also hear the rumblings: Why no local firms? And especially why so few women in the mix?

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Riverside Redo

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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Extell downsized near the water, but the density remains about the same. (Courtesy Curbed)

Typically, developers don’t do any more work than they have to in New York, given how much work it takes to build around here, and input at the community level is even rarer. The architects and renderings usually make the rounds of the community boards during the public review process, and that’s about it. Which is what makes Extell Development’s approach to their Riverside Center project so interesting. Not only has the developer made a number of presentations to community since announcing the project in 2008, but it appears Extell has even made some concessions, according to Curbed. As the image above shows, the heights of the three buildings facing the water have been reduced considerably, though those nearer to West End Avenue have been slightly increased. Read More

Rise of the Archi-doc

East
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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Archi-docs (TM) seem to have become an ever-more popular film form, from My Architect to Sketches of Frank Gehry and Snakebit. Starting tonight, the National Buildings Museum in D.C. is hosting an entire film festival dedicated to the archi-doc. The festivities kick off tonight with a screening of Moving Midway, about one relatives plans to move the family’s plantation home away from the sprawl encompassing it while at the same time selling the land to developers while others—including some former slaves—try to stop the move. On Monday, there is the debut of A Necessary Ruin, the work of LA-based filmmaker Evan Mather about the destruction of Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, the largest free-span structure in the world at the time of its completion in 1958 with a diameter of 384 feet (trailer above). And a week from tonight, Read More

$1K per Square Inch

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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It's not exactly one-of-a-kind, but for a thousand bucks, this model better be special. (Courtesy eBay)

Who says starchitecture is dead? While most projects, high-profile or otherwise, are still on the rocks, the market for boldface design remains strong. How do we know? That rinky-dink model of Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street that we mentioned last week, well, the eBay auction for it closed just past nine o’clock this morning. After 43 bids, the final price was an astonishing $1,166.11 (if you factor in the 30 bucks for shipping). Seeing as how that’s more than some East Village apartments, we’re going to take this as a leading indicator of better times ahead. Or maybe it’s just further proof of the problems that got us here in the first place.

Defacing Hejduk

International
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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Hejduk's Kreuzberg complex in happier days. (Courtesy architectureinberlin)

The late John Hejduk, dean of Cooper Union, a member of the Texas Rangers, and an influential member of the New York Five, built very few buildings, preferring to leave architectural ideas on paper. But he did build several housing projects in Berlin as part of the influential IBA program, and now one of his finest projects, the Kreuzberg Tower from 1988, is being defaced by its new owners in the name of “improvement.” Kazys Varnelis sends word that a petition is being created to protest this destruction. The effort is being led in part by Hejduk’s daughter Renata, an architectural historian who urged the new owners to halt the work, but apparently received a rude response. According to architectureinberlin, Renata explained: “I tried everything I could to get them to stop and at least consult with the Estate and other architects who were interested in helping to preserve them. They were completely uninterested and felt their facade changes would be much better than the original.”  Help save the tower by spreading the word, signing the petition, and putting pressure on the new owners to reconsider their actions. You can see the terrible plans after the jump. Read More

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