Leading the Charge

Midwest
Friday, March 19, 2010
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Toni Griffin, Detroit's new planning director.

In an effort to contain costs and regain some control of the Motor City’s destiny, this month Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will announce the details of a plan to clear largely abandoned sections of the city and reinvigorate more stable neighborhoods. Signaling the importance of this controlled shrinkage plan, Time is reporting that Detroit has hired Newark’s urban planning director Toni Griffin to lead the effort. Griffin is one of the best known planners in the country, and she’s been working to reestablish planning principles and guide renewal in New Jersey’s largest city. A graduate of the Harvard GSD, prior to her time in Newark, she worked for SOM Chicago and for Washington D.C.’s planning department. In Detroit, Griffin’s salary, as well as those of some of her staff, will be underwritten by the Kresge Foundation. Her job will no doubt be a difficult one. Residents have previously fought neighbhorhood clearance and scuttled earlier shrinkage plans.

The SFMOMA Shortlist: We Can Dream

West
Friday, March 19, 2010
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IwamotoScott has done installations inside buildings, like Voussoir Cloud, pictured. What if they did the actual building?

The upcoming $480 million SFMOMA expansion is a big deal, and the names that have been bruited about are certainly Big Names. But you can also hear the rumblings: Why no local firms? And especially why so few women in the mix?

Read More

Riverside Redo

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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Extell downsized near the water, but the density remains about the same. (Courtesy Curbed)

Typically, developers don’t do any more work than they have to in New York, given how much work it takes to build around here, and input at the community level is even rarer. The architects and renderings usually make the rounds of the community boards during the public review process, and that’s about it. Which is what makes Extell Development’s approach to their Riverside Center project so interesting. Not only has the developer made a number of presentations to community since announcing the project in 2008, but it appears Extell has even made some concessions, according to Curbed. As the image above shows, the heights of the three buildings facing the water have been reduced considerably, though those nearer to West End Avenue have been slightly increased. Read More

Rise of the Archi-doc

East
Thursday, March 18, 2010
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Archi-docs (TM) seem to have become an ever-more popular film form, from My Architect to Sketches of Frank Gehry and Snakebit. Starting tonight, the National Buildings Museum in D.C. is hosting an entire film festival dedicated to the archi-doc. The festivities kick off tonight with a screening of Moving Midway, about one relatives plans to move the family’s plantation home away from the sprawl encompassing it while at the same time selling the land to developers while others—including some former slaves—try to stop the move. On Monday, there is the debut of A Necessary Ruin, the work of LA-based filmmaker Evan Mather about the destruction of Fuller’s Union Tank Car Dome, the largest free-span structure in the world at the time of its completion in 1958 with a diameter of 384 feet (trailer above). And a week from tonight, Read More

$1K per Square Inch

East, East Coast
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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It's not exactly one-of-a-kind, but for a thousand bucks, this model better be special. (Courtesy eBay)

Who says starchitecture is dead? While most projects, high-profile or otherwise, are still on the rocks, the market for boldface design remains strong. How do we know? That rinky-dink model of Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street that we mentioned last week, well, the eBay auction for it closed just past nine o’clock this morning. After 43 bids, the final price was an astonishing $1,166.11 (if you factor in the 30 bucks for shipping). Seeing as how that’s more than some East Village apartments, we’re going to take this as a leading indicator of better times ahead. Or maybe it’s just further proof of the problems that got us here in the first place.

Defacing Hejduk

International
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
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Hejduk's Kreuzberg complex in happier days. (Courtesy architectureinberlin)

The late John Hejduk, dean of Cooper Union, a member of the Texas Rangers, and an influential member of the New York Five, built very few buildings, preferring to leave architectural ideas on paper. But he did build several housing projects in Berlin as part of the influential IBA program, and now one of his finest projects, the Kreuzberg Tower from 1988, is being defaced by its new owners in the name of “improvement.” Kazys Varnelis sends word that a petition is being created to protest this destruction. The effort is being led in part by Hejduk’s daughter Renata, an architectural historian who urged the new owners to halt the work, but apparently received a rude response. According to architectureinberlin, Renata explained: “I tried everything I could to get them to stop and at least consult with the Estate and other architects who were interested in helping to preserve them. They were completely uninterested and felt their facade changes would be much better than the original.”  Help save the tower by spreading the word, signing the petition, and putting pressure on the new owners to reconsider their actions. You can see the terrible plans after the jump. Read More

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Angels Flight In Black and White

West
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
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Angels Flight Circa 1910, Courtesy Dace Taub

Our friends at Curbed LA reported that Downtown LA’s legendary funicular Angel’s Flight finally re-opened yesterday after a 9 year hiatus (it closed in 2001 after an accident killed a tourist). The Victorian-era Flight, known as the “world’s shortest railway,” at 315 feet, was built in 1901 and has seen several iterations, the latest of which is being operated by Angels Flight Railway. It received its LA Public Utilities Commission safety approval earlier this month, so we consider it safe enough for our intrepid transit expert Alissa Walker to try it out. Stay tuned for her upcoming essay on the ride. To help you wait it out, check out a couple of our favorite photo compilations,  here and here, of the Flight when it was first built. Especially fun to look at the now-defunct Victorians of Bunker Hill, the ornate masonry buildings, the city trolleys, and the great Victorian outfits.

CA Expert: Recovery, But Not Till Year End

West
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
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UCLA's Jerry Nickelsburg.

California’s recovery is underway, but don’t expect the state’s construction activity to return to pre-recession numbers any time soon. That was the message from Jerry Nickelsburg, a senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, at the Allen Matkins Construction Trends 2010 conference held in Downtown LA last week. Nickelsburg confirmed the national recession did end last summer, with the nation’s gross domestic product up nearly 6 percent in the last quarter, but financial markets still are healing, he said. Read More

Swallowed by the Green Monster

East
Monday, March 15, 2010
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The Rose Kennedy Greenway has yet to take root, at least not from a land-use perspective. (Danielle Walquist/Flickr)

The Rose Kennedy Greenway was supposed to transform downtown Boston, and while the Big Dig has had some impact on traffic, its above ground success have been far fewer, at least in the three years since the project was completed. At least two major developments have been forestalled because of competing demands on the Greenway’s open space, which itself has not been a smashing success, and now the Boston Globe reports the demise of yet another cultural institution that had been planned for the 1.5-mile park. The latest loss is the New Center for Arts and Culture, an $80 million project designed by Daniel Libeskind that was meant to foster diversity and dialogue between disparate groups. Other of the glassy, glitzy victims—blame falls largely on poor fundraising due to the economy—include a new YMCA, Garden Under Glass, and the Boston Museum, which has since relocated to a different site where it also struggles to get off the ground. After the jump, a graphic from the Globe breaks the blunders down. Read More

Less is More on Lakeshore

Midwest
Monday, March 15, 2010
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Photographers and videographers William Zbaren and Robert Sharoff interviewed architect Ron Krueck about his firm’s restoration of Mies van der Rohe’s  towers at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive, better known as the Lake Shore Drive apartments. Krueck, a principal at Krueck + Sexton Architects, calls the towers “revolutionary” for their time for their delicacy and lightness. The video is accompanied by beautiful photographs of the exteriors and grounds.

Origami On Steroids

West
Friday, March 12, 2010
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Last night, thanks to our friends at deLab, we were lucky to check out one of the coolest paper structures ever assembled, called Fat Fringe. Hung from the ceiling of the new Fix Gallery in LA’s Pico Union, the die-cut canopy was put together by a team of loyal contributors who sliced, punched, and folded the structure (made up of 800 inter-connected origami-like components). The project was organized by LA gallery and arts incubator Materials and Applications, and was developed by designers Lisa Little and Emily White of the firm Layer. The wavy collection of white paper seems to morph into hundreds of fluttering shapes and it’s especially fun to see how light tries to make its way through, glowing, reflecting, and creating beams of light and mesmerizing shadows in the process. Layer will create another ambitious installation (this time made of more durable materials than paper ) for M+A’s outdoor courtyard this summer. Check out more pictures of Fat Fringe via deLab’s Marissa Gluck below: Read More

Restroom Raves

West
Friday, March 12, 2010
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The colorful bathroom at Déja Vu Erotic Lounge

Finally, the roundup we’ve all been waiting for… Las Vegas Weekly just shared its five favorite Vegas nightclub bathrooms. Yes, the toilet has always been a particularly rich muse for design in Sin City, and let us tell you these ones don’t disappoint. The Vanity Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for instance, has  flat screens over the urinals, faux reptile-skin walls, and giant blinking eye graphics. Another favorite is the loo at Déja Vu Erotic Ultra Lounge, where unisex (yes unisex) restrooms, hidden behind a waterfall, have LED lights that change color inside stalls with glass doors that fog up when locked. The ladies stall at the Mix Lounge at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay offers floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the glittering Vegas Strip. Who knew you could have so much fun in a Vegas Bathroom? Well, scratch that. A lot of people do..

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