After a great summer spent in Maine and Canada we are back at the newspaper ready to soldier through the New York media wars. This week we were inspired by our fair city all over again. In case you missed the VMA awards and all the brewhaha about Kanye West, check out Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind! Jay-Z and Alicia Keys rocked the house. I suggest this as New York’s new City song. It could play on the jumbotron in Times Square and at Yankees stadium. The black and white NYC fly-over images at the back of the stage were incredible. The designer, photographer, videographer should win awards for this. Check it out.
It’s a bit of a tradition for newspapers to issue endorsements in political races, and so when we got wind that an architect was running for mayor, well, who else could we support? It being primary day, if you haven’t voted yet, we recommend you consider casting your ballot for He Gin Lee. According to the bio on his campaign site, He “was named the ‘Architect of the Year’ by New York City” in 2003 and 2004 and “is not your typical politician who sees this mayoral position as a role and opportunity to win fame or satisfy personal ambitions.” A profile in July in City Hall notes that the Korean-American architect has built numerous churches in Queens, many of which can be found on He’s firm’s website. And while our incumbent mayor has much for the design and construction of the city (for better or worse), He told City Hall that is his main reason for running: “I’d like to make a beautiful city. That is my goal.” And were he to win, he’d join some 850 fellow architect-pols nationwide.
Icarus. The Tower of Babel. We all know what can happen when humans reach too high. Well, apparently reaching too low can also have some negative side effects. In mid-August, a geothermal power plant under construction in Germany set off a trembler that registered at 2.7 on the Richter scale. A similar project in Basel, Switzerland, set off successive earthquakes in 2006 and 2007, one registering as high as 3.4. While some seismic activity has always resulted from geothermal installations, a new process which digs deeper and involves fracturing solid rock, rather than harvesting existing steam beds, both promises to increase power production and, evidently, earthquakes. The news is disheartening, considering that a report from the Department of Energy that came out earlier this year cast geothermal energy as real possibility for significantly reducing our reliance on fossil fuels in a relatively short time frame.
SHoP’s new designs for the Barclay’s Center at Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards site has probably gotten the firm more attention than any of its previous ones, including its rather controversial plans for Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. Today, Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn penned an open-letter to the firm, calling out “Mr. Sharples, Mr. Sharples, Ms. Sharples, Ms. Holden, and Mr. Pasquarelli” for signing on to “a very contentious and troubled project that faces widespread resistance from the communities it would impact—and well beyond.” Meanwhile, “Mr. Pasquarelli” sat down with the Observer to, uh, talk shop on the project and defend his firm’s involvement in the project: “We gave serious consideration as to whether we wanted to do it. And I think the thing that convinced us was, after speaking with Bruce, we were convinced he really wanted to make a great building.” SHoP and Barclay’s collaborator Ellerbe Becket will be discussing their new designs at a special hearing in Brooklyn tonight at 6 o’clock, as will DDDB, no doubt—and us. If you can’t make it for the fireworks, we’ll recount them here for you tomorrow. Or follow us on Twitter, where we’ll be live-blogging the main event.
The “in” color for homes in San Francisco these days is a dark charcoal gray. If you are boldly angular, the sober color helps camouflage you. And if you are historic, you can declare your modernist leanings by choosing to dial down any rambunctious curlicues.
Inside the several charcoal-gray houses on the tour, it was a dramatically different story. Interior design for modern homes can play it safe, or go out on a limb. You wonder: Is it going to be straight-up Eames/Noguchi/DWR? Too-cool-for-you-Italian? Zen-rock-bamboo? Z Gallerie? Or a quirky mix of industrial materials and antiques? Read More
Remember the nursery rhyme?
Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt them both, you see
They licked the platter clean.
The last two houses on this first day of the AIA SF’s Home Tours were rather like Jack Sprat and his wife. In Glen Park, the Roanoke St. house was a skinny 12 1/2 feet wide. Not too far away, the Bosworth St. house was only 42 feet deep. Each was an inspiring example of how to get out of a tight squeeze. And on this rainy day, where fall seemed to have arrived overnight, modern architecture’s ability to grab whatever sunlight there was to be had was particularly welcome.
THE PLOTS THICKEN
Did The New York Times learn nothing from its error-riddled obituary of Walter Cronkite this summer? The famous newsman was 90 years old and in failing health for some time. His obituary should have been in the can for years. And yet there were seven inexcusable errors, which prompted a lengthy correction, which prompted a lame mea culpa from the public editor, which prompted an avalanche of snarky comments from readers. Back to the question, did the newspaper learn from this embarrassment? It did not. The obituary for Charles Gwathmey, who died on August 3 (according to the Times), was revised with a correction regarding the architect’s education. Turns out, that correction was incorrect and therefore had to be corrected. A correction of a correction spun the needle right off Eavesdrop’s Cringe-O-Meter. Read More
“I hadn’t even heard about it,” Ray Kappe told us when we called him to find out about an item in Curbed the other day noting that the Santa Monica City Council had overturned a ruling by the Landmarks Commission that would have designated SCI-Arc’s original home as a historical icon worthy of preservation. Kappe, who founded the school in 1972 at a 1950s industrial building at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue [map], actually sided with the council in its decision, calling the building “messed up completely.” He said it used to sport “a pretty good 30s modern look. It had good character, but now it’s got dumb character.” That’s because at one point the landlord replaced the ribbon windows with generics, among other changes. Read More
Since My Architect, interest in Louis Kahn’s work has grown exponentially, and many of his lesser-known buildings have received greater care. Among the most endangered was the Trenton Bath House in Ewing, New Jersey. Though it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, it’s future was uncertain until 2007 when the Township of Ewing and Mercer County, NJ acquired the property and agreed to restore it, a process you can now follow on a new website.
When Forest City Ratner released new designs by SHoP Architects of the Barclays Center yesterday, it was seen as an effort to right a listing ship. But no sooner had those copper-hewed renderings hit the presses than the city’s Independent Budget Office released a report [PDF] today noting that the arena will cost the city $40 million in revenues over the next 30 years as a result of financial incentives granted to the developer. Furthermore, the city lost a potential $181 million in lost opportunities through tax breaks and incentives provided to the developer, which cost the state $16 million and the MTA $25 million, though the report also notes both will release a net gain of $25 million and $6 million, respectively, if the deal goes through.
When Boston’s Emerson College chose to open a satellite “campus” for students studying and interning in LA (it’s really just one building), the school would have been hard pressed to find a more suitable architect than Thom Mayne. After all, Morphosis has had a string of academic successes of late, including the new 41 Cooper Square in New York and the Cahill Center for Astronomy at Caltech. Indeed, some of the firm’s earliest successes were two high schools in Southern California. Now, Curbed alerts us to this latest project, complete with the above rendering. The details are kind of sketchy, though we do know there will be 224 residences in that La Defense-like box with classrooms in the inner blob, which is, like, so Thom Mayne.