Didya Hear the One About Pitetsbkrrh?

East
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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Ask anyone from Pittsburgh (present company included) what the blinking light atop the Grant Building is, and they’ll quickly respond, “Easy! It spells out Pittsburgh in morse code.” Well, not exactly. Turns out a local grad student who also happens to be a ham radio operator was up on Mount Washington for the annual 4th of July fireworks (of which we have the best, courtesy the great Zambelli family). While he waited for the lights to go off, he was watching the red flashing light atop the Grant Building–the city’s first skyscraper when it was completed in 1929 and a wonderful art deco achievement by Henry Hornbostel–when he noticed something that didn’t belong. Read More

Drinking in History

East
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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Evolution of the Speakeasy, Barney Gallant’s “Speako de Luxe,” 1933 (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

Evolution of the Speakeasy, Barney Gallant’s “Speako de Luxe,” 1933 (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

Last night, the Museum of the City of New York hosted the first installment of their summer long prohibition-era themed parties on the newly renovated Polshek Partnership-designed terrace overlooking Central Park. Read More

An Urban Place to Park the Kids

Midwest
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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(photos by Brian Newman)

(photos by Brian Newman)

Architect and writer Brian Newman recently took a walk through St. Louis’ newest urban park and sent this dispatch.

Before setting foot in St. Louis’ downtown City Garden, which officially opened to the public last week, before you come across the bright red Keith Herring totem or Tom Otterness’ bulbous bronze Gepetto, even before you see its verdant paths and shaded lawns, you see the packs of happily damp children, wrapped in beach towels. There are children everywhere in City Garden, swimming in fountains and splashing under limestone framed waterfalls, playing in front of a huge interactive LED video wall and climbing on any one of the almost two dozen sculptures installed throughout the park. Read More

I Brought My Pencil

East
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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The fenestration of the East Harlem School was designed to let in ample daylight while creating a sheltered environment for the students. (Courtesy www.freelandarch.com)

The fenestration of the East Harlem School, seen here from a typical classroom, was designed to let in ample daylight while creating a sheltered environment for the students. (Courtesy www.freelandarch.com)

We have covered the East Harlem School a few times, once in a studio visit we did with the architect, Peter L. Gluck & Partners (09_05.21.2008), and once in our 2009 favorite sources issue (specifically here). Now construction on the project has been completed and Gluck has sent us some images of the finished product. According to the architect, who also provided construction management services, the school was built for $330 per square foot. Gluck also reports that his firm returned $500,000 to the client in unused contingencies. See what $330 per square foot will get you in Manhattan when your architect is also your CM after the jump. Read More

LA City Planning Smackdown

West
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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Only two weeks into his term, new LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has raised eyebrows after sending a sharply worded letter to the LA City Planning Commission over its approval of 40,000 square feet of billboards and outdoor signs on the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Last year, LA city council agreed to sell signage rights for the Convention Center to AEG, the owner of Staples Center and LA Live). Trutanich had opposed the move, and in his letter said that by “acting in haste,” the commission “undermined and jeopardized” the work of his office. Their decision to ignore his request, Trutanich also wrote, amounted to “an unfathomable lack of courtesy,” especially at a time when the city is trying to reduce sign numbers. He also added, “I will not hesitate to act in the future if it appears that you are aiding and abetting unlawful conduct despite my contrary advice.” In response LA Planning Commissioner Sean Burton told city council yesterday that he found Trutanich’s language “disturbing and frankly a little bit frightening.” He also said that Trutanich’s statement was “inappropriate” and “sounded like a threat.”  This is getting good…

The Rumble in Aspen

West
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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Frank Gehry sat down with Tom Pritzker earlier this month at the Aspen Ideas Festival, of which a video was just posted on the Internet, and re-posted above for your viewing pleasure. How we found out about this was through the all-things-Ratner-Gehry-and-Times-related Atlantic Yards Report. Never one not to parse everything related to the above three–and our hats off to him for doing so–Norman Oder discovered the one contentious conversation of the otherwise lovely affair, when Gehry called no less eminent urban thinker Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces “a pompous man” for daring to question (admittedly repeatedly and somewhat annoyingly) Gehry’s placemaking skills. Yowza.

Read More

Times Square Time Lapse

East
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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My In Detail piece in the current issue is about Eleven Times Square, a speculative office tower at the corner of 8th Ave. and 42nd St., which was designed by FXFowle and is now in the final stages of construction. Lucky for you and me, Plaza Construction had the site photographed everyday for the past two years or so from the same vantage on a nearby tower, and has compiled these daily progress photos in the above stop-action video. There is much to admire in the presentation, but pay close attention to the erection of the structural elements. (Hint: The Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop goes up first.) Read More

California: From Bad To Worse

West
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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Just when it looked like things might be getting better, the California construction outlook for the year, it appears, has gone from bad to worse. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2009 California Construction Outlook: Mid-Summer Update, the state’s budget crisis has had a nasty effect on our industry, “reducing state tax revenues and worsening the state’s construction declines.” The report says that construction starts for the state are expected to drop 22% in 2009 to $36.5 billion. Here are some of the sobering figures in the report: Read More

The Big Bad Box Store?

East
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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Big blue and bad? (Courtesy Gothamist)

Big blue and bad? (Courtesy Gothamist)

Yesterday, the Bloomberg administration announced the winners of its eighth annual Neighborhood Achievement Awards. Among the honorees was the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership for the Placemaking Award, the Bronx Library Center for the Development Award, and IKEA Red Hook for the Norman Buchbinder Award for Neighborhood Beautification. The latter makes sense, as it sure is a nice park, but we also thought it a bit ironic considering what we saw earlier that day on Archinect, namely an Atlantic article calling the big blue designer retailer the “least sustainable company on the planet.” Read More

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Whither BP?

West
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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When BP opened their eco-friendly Helios House gas station on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, it was touted as the future of such facilities, and a coup for a brand whose image was all about conservation. The station, designed by Office dA and Johnston Mark Lee, featured a metal-clad, geometric design, low-flow toilets, solar panels and a floor made of recycled glass, among other features. (it didn’t, however, offer alternative fuels..) But it appears that BP may not have had such high regard for their endeavor. A recent drive-by revealed that the station, still unchanged, was no longer a BP but an Arco. Yes, Arco, the Wal Mart of gas. One of the helpful guides at the station explained that BP actually owns Arco, and that the change of label was “an internal business decision,” whatever that means. Looks like green marketing just took one on the chin.

Chasing One Manhattan Plaza

East, East Coast
Monday, July 13, 2009
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Some day, all this could be yours, as far as the eye can see. (epicarmus/Flickr)

Some day, all this could be yours, as far as the eye can see. (epicarmus/Flickr)

The financial crisis has officially hit architects. No, not in the way you think. We’re talking about banks selling their marquee properties, namely the news today, delivered by the Observer, that JPMorgan Chase may be selling its former headquarters building at One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Designed by Gordon Bundshaft of SOM under the auspices of then-bank president David Rockefeller, the building, which also features an Iasmu Noguchi rock garden, was named a landmark by the LPC in February of this year. Maybe that helped auger the sale, which could include 22 buildings and which the bank continues to deny. (See, we care about commercial real estate, too, and not just famous houses.)

Trouble for Chiofaro?

East
Monday, July 13, 2009
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KPFs proposed Boston Arch (left) and the neighboring Pei Cobb Freed-designed Harbor Towers. (Courtesy KPF).

KPFs proposed Boston Arch (left) and the neighboring Pei Cobb Freed-designed Harbor Towers. (Courtesy KPF).

A double whammy came last week for Boston developer Don Chiofaro’s Boston Arch project, which we first wrote about last month. On Thursday, The Boston Business Journal ran a story suggesting Chiofaro was stuffing the BRA’s mailbox with letters supportive of his KPF-designed project, while the following day it reported that the aquarium the project was meant to improve feared for the worst.

The letters are part of the redevelopment authorities public comment period, and among them was one from the president of the Boston Aquarium who wrote that, according to the Journal, “the project threatens the long-term viability of the Aquarium.” Read More

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