Manslaughter

East
Monday, March 8, 2010
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The May 30th, 2008 crane collapse on East 91st St.

Today, the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has handed out an indictment to two companies, their owner, and a crane mechanic in connection with the 2008 collapse of a tower crane on East 91st St. that killed the crane operator and a worker. New York Crane, J.F. Lomma, James Lomma, and former employee of New York Crane, Tibor Virganyi, face charges of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter, as well as charges of assault and reckless endangerment. “Today’s indictment is an important step not only in holding these defendants accountable for their conduct, but should send a message to the construction industry that that profit cannot be put ahead of safety,” said Vance in a statement. New York Crane also owned the tower crane that collapsed on March 15 at the Azure condo on East 51st St. That incident was even more catastrophic, demolishing a building and killing seven people. The two collapses exposed corruption and bribery within the DOB’s crane unit, forced the resignation of then-Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, and gave rise to a study of construction oversight and safety.

The Dispersion

East, East Coast
Friday, March 5, 2010
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The Functionality's temporary installation, "Feel It, Take It" disappeared last weekend.

“We all have day jobs, and we don’t all live in the same city, or even on the same continent,” said Andrew Lyon, one of the six members of the multi-disciplinary design collective The Functionality. “But we all have a shared desired – to make something.” Lyon was standing beside Colin Harris, a civil engineer and fellow member of The Functionality. Huddled together against the cold last Saturday, the three of us barely fit inside W Project Space, a diminutive storefront gallery on a grubby block of Division Street, in a neighborhood that’s become a kind of lightning rod for just the kind of art practice the Functionality seems interested in pursuing: work that’s categorically messy, temporary, and site specific. Here, in the tiny storefront there’s a sixer of beer on the floor, half empty. Late ’90s hip-hop issues cheerfully out of the tinny speakers of a portable boom box. Honestly, anything louder would overwhelm the space. It’s like being invited to an art opening inside a VW Bus. Over our heads hangs the reason for the gathering: a seductively tactile, monochromatic felt membrane entitled “Feel It, Take It,” designed and installed by The Functionality for a span of time as brief as W Project Space is small.
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Hell? Yes.

East
Friday, March 5, 2010
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The New Museum and the offending art work. (photo: dominiqueb/flickr)

I’ve never loved the New Museum Building, in part because I know what SANAA is capable of achieving.  The Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art, which was completed in 2006 (preceding the New Museum by about a year), is a truly original building, technologically inventive and formally stirring.  A one-story structure, it soars–far higher than the New Museum’s teetering tower ever will. And yet I appreciate the New Museum for what it is: an ethereal, sculptural presence, a kind of apparition.  It never looks better than it does at night, glowing, hovering, seemingly unconnected to the city grittiness around it. Its facade is gauzy, gossamer, “less like a wall than a scrim,” as Paul Goldberger wrote in the New Yorker. Which is why the decision to place a heavy, kitschy artwork on the façade  is so infuriating. When the museum opened in 2007, the artwork–a rainbow hued sign that declares Hell, Yes!–was described as a temporary adornment. Now, according to the museum’s communications director, Gabriel Einsohn, it is a “semi permanent” installation; the museum has no plans to remove it. Read More

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Gagosian Explosion

West
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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Gagosian Gallery is apparently trying to take over the world, with locations in New York, London, Rome, La Jolla, Hong Kong, and another coming to Paris. Its latest project is Richard Meier & Partners’ expansion of its Beverly Hills gallery which Meier originally designed in 1995. The new space adds 5,000 square feet to what was a 6,600 square foot building. We were able to step inside the project, which opened today on Beverly Hills’ swank Camden Drive, and we weren’t disappointed. The extension combines Meier’s signature pristine white walls and abundant natural light (long acid-etched skylights on both sides of the space are semi-opaque, but still reveal the color of the sky) combined with the grittiness of a wonderful existing barreled vaulted wood truss roof, which was discovered when the firm removed the ceiling from the building’s former tenants, Umberto’s Hair Salon. A huge translucent glass and aluminum sliding door at the street also lets in glowing light, and provides an easy entry for oversized works.

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Lost in Penn Station

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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Moynihan Station is meant to adress the deplorable architecture of Penn Station, but its greatest fix could be to the confusing signage. (Courtesy NYMag)

With any luck, Moynihan Station will finally get off the ground thanks to last’s months grant of $83 million in stimulus funds. Having gone through what seems like dozens of iterations, it’s unclear exactly what shape the new station will take, but we do have one piece of advice for whatever cabal of designers takes up the massive project: Don’t forget the signs. While no hardened New Yorker would admit to getting lost in Penn’s warren of tunnels and concourses, Slate‘s Julia Turner uses the underground mess as Exhibit-A of bad signage for her series running this week and next about just how important wayfinding is in our increasingly confusing world. As Turner puts it, signage is “is the most useful thing we pay no attention to.” Read More

Carnegie Turns the Page

East
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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The St. Agnes branch has gotten a model makeover. (Photographs by Elizabeth Felicella)

At the turn of the last century, the industrialist Andrew Carnegie offered grants for 67 library branches in New York City, a boon for book-lovers across the five boroughs. More than a century later, however, many of these aging buildings are more than a little dog-eared, and the New York Public Library has been working to reclaim them as bright community hubs. The latest of these spaces to be revived, the St. Agnes Library on the Upper West Side, is back in shape after a two-year, $9.5 million restoration that library officials see as a model for the system’s Carnegie legacy. Originally designed by the New York firm Babb, Cook and Willard, the 1906 building had suffered typical alterations: Dropped ceilings occluded architectural details, and skylights were covered over, dimming interior reading rooms. Read More

Highway to Isolation

Midwest
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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David Sunberg/Esto

Multidisciplinary teams are working to rethink the grounds surrounding the Eero Saarinen-designed Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the St. Louis Arch, to improve its connectivity with the city and the riverfront. An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is calling on the teams to substantially rework I-70, which creates a barrier along the park’s western edge. Read More

Alessandro Magris, 1941-2010

International
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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Superstudio's Alessandro Magris is pictured fourth from the left.

Peter Lang called this morning with the sad news that Superstudio member Alessandro Magris has died in Florence, Italy. Born in 1941, Magris joined the group in 1970 after graduating from the University of Florence, and was responsible for the general organization of the Superstudio office. He continued a practice long after the demise of Superstudio, specializing in the restoration of historical monuments and residential and commercial renovations. He is the brother of Roberto Magris, also a member of Superstudio, who died in 2003.

Fresh Look at Fresh Kills

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Fresh Kills Park takes shape, as mounds of capped gardbage are transformed into rolling hills. CLICK TO ZOOM (Courtesy NYC Parks&Rec)

It will be decades before the 2,200-acre Fresh Kills Park will be totally completed in Staten Island, making it the second largest in the city after Pelham Bay Park and almost three times as large Central Park. Some time next year, limited sections of the park are expected to open to the public, but for those who can’t wait, the city’s Parks Department is guiding private tours through the Field Operations-designed landscape starting next month. Uh, make that May—even though the tours were just announced yesterday, they’re filling up so fast that all the April spots are already taken. The tour season runs through November and will afford visitors breathtaking views of the city and what was once the world’s largest landfill. To sign up, visit the park’s website or—what else—call 311. Should you fail to make it out for a tour, you’ll find a small one after the jump. Read More

Canapes Chez Judd

East
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Judd's loft at 101 Spring Street. (Courtesy The Judd Foundation)

It may be the original glass house in New York. Many years before Richard Meier’s Perry Street glass towers opened up domestic rituals to the public’s gaze, Donald Judd was living and working in one of the finest cast-iron buildings in Soho. The huge windows opened up his minimalist aesthetic to the public beginning in 1968, when he purchased the building and practically defined the “loft” look of New York for the public. Now openhousenewyork is offering a rare visit for a small group on March 11, with a tour of the building and meal catered by Christina Wang of the French Culinary Institute featuring “Swedish and Mexican” hors d’oeurves—Judd’s favorite. To reserve your place, contact OHNY.

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Times Square Paint Job

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Some people have complained (us included) that while Transporation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has done a wonderful job carving pedestrian space out of the streets and parking lots of the city, they could stand to be better designed, more aesthetically pleasing spaces. Nowhere was this more true than in Times Square, where, when the Crossroads of the World were shut down last summer, traffic cones and beach chairs proliferated. Three weeks ago, when Sadik-Khan and the mayor announced they were making the Broadway closures permanent, better designs were promised. Sort of. As Sadik-Khan put it back then:

It can be very simple. I’ve seen amazing things done in the Netherlands with nothing but polka dots. And we did a lot already with nothing more than epoxy gravel.

Read More

Gateway Of India

International, Other
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
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Built in 1911 to commemorate a visit from King George V and Queen Mary, Mumbai's Gateway of India is now welcoming a wealth of American architectural talent.

The past ten years have seen an impressive amount of economic growth and infrastructural development in India, and the nation is becoming more and more a well established market for American architectural talent. This trend doesn’t seem to be changing as we embark on a new decade. One sign of that is the September 2009 opening of an office in Mumbai by structural engineering firm Leslie E. Robertson Associates (LERA). Founded in 1923 in New York City, LERA has contributed its services to many of the city’s iconic structures (such as the World Trade Center) and has designed buildings all around the world, but this will be its first foreign office. A release by the firm cited a “growing workload” and the need to “facilitate client relations” as key reasons for the opening. LERA will join a number of other American architecture firms that have recently opened branches in the subcontinent, including HOK and Perkins Eastman. See some of the projects LERA has worked on after the jump.

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