The M Cube: LA’s Rebuttal

West
Monday, June 7, 2010
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LA’s City Planning and Building and Safety departments, which we could not reach last week, have finally spoken up on the now-imperiled M Cube in Venice. To remind you LA City Council on Thursday rejected designer Mark Baez’s request to allow his floating modular, glass-clad, cube shaped apartment building an exception to remain two feet above the Venice Specific Plan’s requirement of 30 feet. Baez asserted that building inspectors informed him too late that the building was too tall, that his contractor bungled the height, and that the city was nitpicking over a height limit that other buildings are able to surpass. Baez may now resort to tearing down the building instead of going through with the costly changes. City planner Kevin Jones and building and safety investigator John Kelly beg to differ. Read More

Building Hope for Haiti

East
Monday, June 7, 2010
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(Photo: Courtesy IfUD)

On Friday, at Rebuilding a Sustainable Haiti—a public symposium on planning strategies for the country’s future hosted by New York’s Institute for Urban Design—a common sentiment united nearly all of the panelists onstage, as well as those seated in Cooper Union’s packed Rose Auditorium: the scale of destruction from the January earthquake demands a transformation, and not merely a replication, of Haiti’s built environment. “Perhaps a better title for the symposium is ‘Building a Sustainable Haiti,’” Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor and founder of The Haitian Times, said in his opening remarks, which provided a background of Haitian politics from 1986 to the present and stressed the corrupt nature of the state. Read More

What Were You Thinking, Mr. Foster?

The Architect prepares to take off.

Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy assorted swells (but not very many architects) at the Hearst building for a screening of the enigmatic “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?”, a film devoted to his lordship’s extravagantly photogenic architecture and life of work. Or so it looks in this approximately 90 minute film which sweeps us from the Engadin Alps where Foster annually plows through a 26-mile mile cross-country ski marathon in tight black lycra with some 14,000 others to his redbrick childhood home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Manchester to his current home in a Swiss villa, spectacularly void of human touches, to his 1,000-plus strong office in London to the early Sainsbury Centre; the Swiss Re gherkin; the British Museum Great Court; the Berlin Reichstag, etc, etc, and of course, the Hong Kong Beijing Airport that is the largest building on earth as narrator Deyan Sudjic intones mellifluously. (The trailor below provides but a morsel of this delight.) Read More

Statues Settle In at NYC City Hall

East, East Coast
Thursday, June 3, 2010
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Mayor Bloomberg opens the Statuesque show in City Hall Park, standing before Aaron Curry's "Yellow Bird Boy" (2010).

Since Wednesday, an aluminum woman is joyfully resting in the grass of City Hall Park. Among her well-set figurative friends are a bronze giant, an octopus man, and a couple of luminous neon creatures. The new sculptures are part of The Public Art Fund’s yearly exhibit in the park, an ongoing project for more than 30 years with the aim of making visitors experience art more directly. Read More

Now Playing: Every Corner of New York

East Coast, Other
Thursday, June 3, 2010
.

Our friends over at Urban Omnibus created this delightful video entitled “Archipelago,” a sort of cinematic corollary to the current New New York show at the site’s mothership, the Architectural League. Billed as “a day in the life of five New York neighborhoods: Hunts Point, Jamaica, Mariner’s Harbor, Downtown Brooklyn, and Chelsea,” the video really is amazing for how it so succinctly captures the mind-boggling diversity of the city, revealing both the familiar and obscure to even the most stalwart local in a way so seamless that the city, for once, seems truly bound together despite all its disparity. The soundtrack alone, from Mr. Softee in the Bronx to freestyling on Staten Island to the constant sirens, is irresistible. It’s the fastest eleven-and-a-half minutes you’ll watch for some time. Almost as fast as the city it chronicles.

Tobias Wong, 1974-2010

East
Thursday, June 3, 2010
.

Tobias Wong with his Gold Pills and his CC Matches (photo courtesy Citizen:Citizen)

The Architect’s Newspaper was saddened to hear of the untimely passing of designer Tobias Wong at age 35. Wong’s friend and occasional collaborator Aric Chen captures Wong’s influences, ideas, and legacy in this statement:

Through his work, Wong helped bring forth much of what is now taken for granted in contemporary culture. Influenced by Dada and, especially, Fluxus, he questioned authorship through appropriation; held a mirror to our desires and absurdities; upended the hierarchy between design and art, and the precious and the banal; and helped redefine collaboration and curation as creative practices. Working within what he termed a “paraconceptual” framework, Wong prompted a reevaluation of everything we thought we knew about design: its production, its psychological resonance, its aesthetic criteria, its means of distribution, its attachment to provenance, its contextualization and its manner of presentation. Wong was a keen observer, an original mind, a brilliant prankster, and an unerring friend.   Read More

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California Dreaming of High Speed Rail

West
Thursday, June 3, 2010
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Yes, we will someday have high speed rail in California (Anaheim, for instance, is already nailing down its plans and San Francisco has a swanky new downtown station planned). And no, there aren’t enough innovative ideas. That’s why RailLA, a collaboration between the LA Chapters of the AIA and the American Planning Association have launched a Call for Ideas to collect more innovative thinking on the topic. Entrants are encouraged to submit designs, plans, papers, videos, models and other studies about stations, rail infrastructure, architecture, neighborhood planning and anything else having to do with effective high speed rail. In short, say the founders,  the primary goal is to show “how rail can help us recapture our individual American dream.” Wow, that’s a tall order. The top five submissions will receive $2500, and a select group of submissions will be shown off at an exhibit in downtown LA.

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In Riverhouse Lawsuit, Not Easy Being Green

East, East Coast
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
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Riverhouse (Courtesy Steel Institute NY)

Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex’s latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects’ developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues: Read More

EPA Says Chicago Needs A Flush

Midwest
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
.

(photo: ser.ddima/flickr)

The Environmental Protection Agency is urging the City of Chicago to clean up the Chicago River with the hope of meeting recreational standards, eventually even making it swimmable. The city’s relationship to the River has been evolving, as the many recent developments along it attest. But the river still serves as the Chicago’s sewage pipe, so clean-up will be an lengthy and expensive project, as this report from the Chicago Tribune details. AN recently looked at soft infrastructure strategies, including some in Chicago, that aim to mitigate storm water run-off, one of the major reasons for sewage overflow into the River. Promoting green roofs, building permeable alleys, planting trees–all of which the Daley administration has advanced–can all reduce run-off, but hard expensive infrastructure upgrades, such as the Deep Tunnel, will likely be needed to keep sewage out of the Chicago River.

James Gardner Goes Gaga for Central Park Kiosk

East, East Coast
Friday, May 28, 2010
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The "drably mansarded structure in red brick" during its previous life as a mere concession stand. (Courtesy NYMag.com)

As editors ourselves, we know writers don’t usually write the headlines. Still, we were struck by one atop a recent review by our friend and sometimes contributor James Gardner in The Real Deal, which declared, “Central Park’s Le Pain Quotidien ranks as one of the best things about New York City.” You don’t say. And yet, for all the hyperbole, the guy’s got a point: Read More

Lights Out for Chinese LED Plant in Cleveland

Midwest
Friday, May 28, 2010
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Cleveland at dusk, where the lighting is not yet as green as the mayor would like it to be. (Courtesy files.nyu.edu)

Marketplace had a downright enlightening segment the other day about the potential and peril of using sustainability as a tool for economic development. New York and Chicago have been doing this with some success, and now Cleveland’s mayor wants in on the act. But instead of simply promoting sustainability through tax credits, development bonuses, and mandates, Frank Jackson took a clever approach, saying whomever built a LED plant in the depressed Rust Belt city would get the contract to outfit it with all its civic lighting needs. It was a brilliantly shrewd move, until it all fell apart. Listen in to find out what happened.

Who Trumps Trump?

East, East Coast
Thursday, May 27, 2010
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The Trump World Tower (861 feet), Beekman Tower (867 feet), and Carnegie 57 (1,005 feet). (Images Courtesy BergProperties.com, moonman82/Flickr, Observer.com)

The Times‘ dogged development reporter Charles Bagli had a big scoop yesterday on Christian de Portzamparc’s new tower, Carnegie 57, and what it portends for a construction recovery. That said, we couldn’t help but notice a minor error in the article’s lede: “Gary Barnett, one of New York City’s most prolific developers, is about to start construction of a $1.3 billion skyscraper on 57th Street that will overtake Trump World Tower as the tallest residential building in the city.” The only problem is, Trump World Tower was already surpassed by Frank Gehry’s Beekman Tower, which topped out in November. That shimmering, Bernini-swaddled building rises to 867 feet, six feet higher than Costas Kondylis’ Death-Star-on-Hudson. We wouldn’t have mentioned this except that the errant factoid has been picked up all over the place. Read More

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