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
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
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
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.
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.
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.