The rumor has been confirmed that Greek-born, Italian-trained dynamo Olympia Kazi is taking over as executive director of the Van Alen Institute as of January 18. After a two-year stint as same at the Institute for Urban Design, where she put the spin on that org’s thirty-year mission to prove that “cities can be designed,” she will now, we presume, have a deeper pool and a wider horizon from which to launch some really big plans. Stay tuned for the official statement.
First reported in the Chicago Tribune, and today in the Wall Street Journal, officials at a group of union pension funds are vetting a plan to lend $170 million to restart construction on the stalled Chicago Spire. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the 150 story residential tower would be the tallest building in the US. The Journal piece points out that with a drastic drop off in condo construction downtown predicted for 2010 and 2011, the completion of the Spire could actually come at a time when there is pent up demand for housing. Blair Kamin previously pointed out that unions have made similar loans in previous downturns, notably providing loans for the construction of Marina City.
According to the Journal, Chicago’s failure to win the 2016 Olympics may have been the key to giving the Spire new life. The pensions had previously been looking to lend funds for the construction of the planned Olympic Village.
In a series of articles over the past week, The Art Newspaper takes an extensive look at the recently concluded art extravaganza in Miami. It reports that the scene was not as grim as last year, offering this roundup of celebrity-studded Art Basel Miami Beach: “The fair attracted its usual tribes of pop stars, fashionistas, museum directors, actresses in sky-high stilettos and dressed-down buyers, including a denim-clad Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire. Lily Allen was sashaying around White Cube, while John Taylor of Duran Duran showed interest in a Richard Prince collage at Gagosian.” But while on the subject of Miami and its art world, the paper reported on Terry Riley’s exit from the Miami Art Museum (MAM), and added a few interesting tidbits to the story. Read More
For the last three years, AIA New Orleans has invited teams of architects and artists to takeover “hidden” spaces within the city, transforming them with the latest design tech and hopefully testing the boundaries of this at-times-ephemeral place in the process. One of installations at this year’s DesCours comes from the Chicago team of Marshall Brown and Dana Carter. (Brooklynites may know Brown from his work on the anti-Ratner UNITY plan for the Atlantic Yards.) The duo has focused their gaze on the heavens, where they are harnessing the sun—through photovoltaic, of course—and transforming it for the weeklong nightly event into a constellation in no less a celestial place than Charles Moore’s Piazza d’Italia. More illuminating photos after the jump, and if you happen to be in town for the event, let us know what you think about this or any of the other 13 projects. Read More
Even Union Square, San Francisco’s high-end shopping mecca, sports the occasional empty storefront these days. To beautify a few for the holidays, the Union Square Association brought in four architecture firms to work their magic, a pro bono effort that also “highlight(s) the vibrant creativity of local architecture firms in a whole new way,” says the press release. A delightful idea–but in execution, somewhat of a mixed bag, as you will see. Read More
She still hasn’t commented on WHY she left the LA Community Redevelopment Agency (we’ve called a bunch of times…) for Oakland-based non-profit Green For All. But Cecilia Estolano did give an exit interview to the Planning Report. Here’s an excerpt. In it she discusses her changes and achievements at the CRA, including shifting the focus from “blight elimination and building shopping centers” to “creating economic opportunity.” She also takes one more shot at the state government and its “fundamentally broken finance system,” which has recently pilfered much of the CRA’s funds. Finally she makes comments about her new job that suggest it may be a much more efficient place for her to change lives of struggling city dwellers: “I’m going to help Green For All across the country, city by city by city, to utilize economic stimulus funds, federal funds, and other funds to implement organization programs, energy efficiency programs, and incorporate job training and career apprenticeship programs for poor folks.” Sounds like a pretty good gig…
NORBERT HAS LEFT THE BUILDING
Two issues ago, we brought your attention to a lawsuit in which Reed Construction Data accuses the McGraw-Hill Construction Group of industrial espionage, mail fraud, and racketeering. Norbert Young, president of the construction group, which includes Architectural Record, was mentioned twice as the alleged spy supervisor. Since then, an internal memorandum on November 9 seems damning in its terseness: “I wanted to inform you that Norbert Young has left The McGraw-Hill Companies.” That’s it. No reason given, no thank you for years of service—just the name of the person-in-charge-for-now and a boilerplate pledge to sound leadership and innovation. Cold. Read More
We knew Rem Koolhaas had a crush on Miuccia Prada, but now Frank Gehry and her have teamed up, and it’s not for a new “epicenter.” As The New Yorker details in a Talk piece this week, the Santa Monica architect was asked by his artist friend Francesco Vezzoli to design a hat for none other than walking art piece Lady Gaga, and the hat, along with her dress, were made by Prada for a benefit at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art last month. As Dana Goodyear describes it, “Gaga wore the Gehry hat all folded in on itself, a millinery version of Walt Disney Hall.” But this being The New Yorker, there were no pictures, only a drawing, so we had to see the hat for ourselves, which, thanks to Gaga Daily, we found it. Read More
Curbed LA reports that LA’s 1965 Columbia Savings Bank on Wilshire Boulevard, which we just discussed in our recent preservation feature, is now all-but doomed. On December 1 the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee approved developer BRE’s plans for a new apartment building on the site. BRE’s six story development, designed by Thomas P. Cox Architects, would include 482 apartments and have about 40,000 square feet of retail. The LA Conservancy nominated the unique midcentury structure, designed by architect Irving Shapiro, for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, but the nomination won’t be heard until next year, which is too late. City council will vote on the BRE project’s EIR tomorrow, but many sources say it’s a fait accompli. Those who want to save it can go to the meeting tomorrow and speak out.
The feature that I wrote for issue 20 is about personal rapid transit. PRT, as it is called, is a mass transportation concept that swaps high-capacity trains for small “pod cars.” These individualized vehicles run on dedicated tracks from origin to destination, bypassing all other stations along the way. Such a system is currently being installed at London’s Heathrow Airport and Foster + Partners is developing a PRT solution for its Masdar City project, but the idea has been around at least since the 1950s. In the late 60s and 70s several prototypes were developed and tested for possible urban application, but—aside from a semi-PRT system installed in Morgantown, West Virginia—none of them were ever realized. The one that came the closest was Cabinentaxi, which was to be rolled out in Hamburg, Germany. A recession in 1980 sank the project, but luckily they made this lovely film before falling into the dustbin of history. Enjoy.