Tunnel Vision

International
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
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Detour ahead: Le Gallerie is a twin tunnel-turned-exhibition space in Italy's Dolomite Mountains. (Photography by Pierluigi Faggion)

New York’s celebrated High Line may have turned an old rail trestle into a park, but the Northern Italian city of Trento has one-upped Manhattan, reclaiming two 1,000-foot-long tunnels in the Dolomite Mountains as an experimental history museum—and a fascinating example of the reuse of abandoned infrastructure. Read More

STACKing Up

International
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
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Giving a new meaning to software architecture.

It’s seems everybody’s on Facebook and Twitter these days (us included—and if you’re not already following us, get on it!) while MySpace and Friendster have been all but abandoned. There’s the new Google Buzz, but that’s been more like Google Glitch. What all these social networks have in common is that they’re designed for people. But what if there was a social network designed exclusively for buildings? May we introduce you to STACKD. Started by the fine folks at Supermetric, who just so happened to help design Archpaper.com way back when, STACKD takes social networks out of the virtual world and transports them to the real one, a place where the burgeoning site needs our help. Read More

Architecture is Frozen Music (with Music Added)

East, East Coast
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
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Architectural designer and videographer Sandy Cole made this impressionistic video of the Diana Center at Barnard College, designed by Weiss/Manfredi. For those who don’t have the chance to see it in person, it captures the building’s colored and clear skin, its “slipped vistas” of the campus and city, and its layered interior.–The Editors

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Eavesdrop NY 04

Eavesdroplet
Monday, March 8, 2010
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Will we ever see an Architect Barbie? (Courtesy Buffalo News)

VALLEY OF THE DOLL
With either mock or earnest outrage (hard to tell), Charles Linn, deputy editor of Architectural Record, alerted Eavesdrop to an injustice that’s resonating throughout the profession. Barbie will never be an architect. It’s true, a lot of dolls aren’t architects, presumably by choice, but Barbie has, for all intents and purposes, been banned from three years of sleepless, pore-clogging charrettes and humiliating juries. Here’s what happened. Mattel, Barbie’s baby daddy, had an online contest called “I Can Be” to determine the next Career Barbie. Voters were asked to choose from a list of five nominees: environmentalist, surgeon, news anchor, computer engineer, and architect. And the winners are: news anchor and computer engineer. Read More

LEGO Fixer Upper

East, East Coast
Monday, March 8, 2010
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Fix up, look sharp: Vormann works his magic on the General Theological Seminary. (Courtesy Dispatchwork)

As most readers of this blog know, we’ve got quite a thing for LEGO building blocks, which is why Jan Vormann might just be our new favorite artist. The Berlin-based, Bavarian-born Vornmann takes the little plastic blocks as one of his favored media, which would be awesome in its own right. But then, pushing the architectural boundaries of LEGO blocks, uses them to fix real-life cracks in the city, beginning to reverse the urban decay as only a child could. He took a recent visit to New York, as we found out from NewYorkology today, though he’s also made repairs across the globe Read More

Ai Takes on Turbine Hall

International
Monday, March 8, 2010
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The Tate's South Bank space. (Tate Photography)

The outspoken Chinese architect and artist Ai Weiwei has been selected by the Tate Modern as the 11th person to create a work for its massive Turbine Hall in London. A known figure in China and the west, Ai lived in New York for many years and attended the Parsons School of Design before going on to collaborate on projects such as the Beijing National Stadium (with Herzog & de Meuron) at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and was included in the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale, where he collaborated (also with H&deM) on a sprawling installation of bamboo poles and chairs set akimbo. Read More

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

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