High Speed Ahead

National
Thursday, September 17, 2009
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Someday, high-speed rail will criss-cross the map. (Courtesy America 2050)

Someday, high-speed rail could criss-cross the map. (Courtesy America 2050)

We’ve been paying an awful lot of attention to high-speed rail of late. That’s partly because it’s a pet project of the president, as well as the various regions we cover. Well, bids were due last month for the $8 billion to be doled out in stimulus funds for high-speed rail development (after all, that kinda money isn’t going to go very far toward building any one system, let alone the dozen or so needed to begin supplanting planes or cars), and while the money will likely get split up amongst different states and localities so as not to anger any constituency, the infrastructure-oriented, RPA-affiliated group America 2050 released a report today recommending where best to spend that money, and we’ve got bad news for our colleagues on the West Coast and Great Lakes—it should go right here in the Northeast Corridor. (It should be noted the RPA, like AN is headquartered here in New York, so maybe it’s just bias at play.)

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Bureau V: The AntiPopUp

East
Thursday, September 17, 2009
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(Courtesy Bureau V)

Don't call it a pop-up.

There has been so much talk in recent years over the confluence of fashion and architecture, we won’t attempt to add to the “discourse” accept to note that Fashion Week is ending today and with it a number of cool and interesting installations around town. One of particular note was created by our friends at Bureau V—two Asymptote alums and a former DSRer—who have now made their third installation for designer Mary Ping and her Slow and Steady Wins the Race brand. We’re not exactly sure what’s going on here, as one of the principals sent over this nice photo in reference to a separate email, but Style.com puts it thusly: “[It] uses the idea of the still life to, as Ping puts it, ‘react to the temporality of the pop-up, and go back to an older tradition of talking about objects.’” If you hurry, you can still catch the installation and the objects thereon—some designed by Ping—some merely selected by her, through tomorrow at Saatchi & Saatchi’s ground floor events space at 275 Hudson Street.

The Bayonne Question

East
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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The Bayonne Bridge is currently the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world.

The Bayonne Bridge is currently the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world.

The Port Authority has released a report conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which points out that the Bayonne Bridge will begin to impose more and more restrictions on commercial shipping. Designed by master bridge designer Othmar Ammann and architect Cass Gilbert and completed in 1931, the span was at the time the longest steel arch bridge in the world, supporting a road bed of more than 8,000 feet, 1,675 feet of which hang from the arch with no intermediary support. However, its 165-foot height will no longer cut the mustard with todays larger ships, more and more of which are expected to pass through the region with the completion of upgrades at the Panama Canal to be completed in 2015. The Corps determined that the roadway could either be jacked up to 215 feet high, or, alternately, that the bridge could be knocked down and replaced with a tunnel. The Port Authority has devoted $10 million to figure out which is the best solution.

Norway Gets Fresh

International
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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Duo (all images courtesy LK Hjelle).

While Denmark, Sweden, and even Finland may better known as leaders in design, in recent years the small family-owned Norwegian company LK Hjelle has been working with the collaborative Norway Says to produce innovative contemporary furniture that should be better known in the US. The company, best known for its more traditional upholstered furniture, has embraced contemporary designs, both for seating and tables, that are practical and well made with a fresh, lighthearted sensibility. Read More

A New NYC Anthem

East
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
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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.

We Vote For He

East
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
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He Gin Lee, Queens Architect, wants your vote.

He Gin Lee, Queens Architect, wants your vote.

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.

Green Tremors

International
Monday, September 14, 2009
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The deep drilling involved in geothermal power production can induce earthquakes.

The deep drilling involved in geothermal power production can induce earthquakes.

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-ing for a Fight

East
Monday, September 14, 2009
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SHoPs new Barclays Center will be debated at a public hearing tonight in Brooklyn at 6 oclock. (Courtesy Forest City Ratner)

SHoP's new Barclay's Center will be debated at a public hearing tonight in Brooklyn at 6 o'clock. (Courtesy Forest City Ratner)

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.

Day 2, AIA SF Home Tours: The House in the Gray Flannel Suit

West
Sunday, September 13, 2009
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Mork-Ulnes house in the Haight.

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

Day 1, AIA SF Home Tours: Jack Sprat

West
Saturday, September 12, 2009
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Roanoke St. Residence by Apparatus Architecture

Roanoke St. Residence by Apparatus Architecture

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.

Read More

Eavesdrop NY 14

Eavesdroplet
Friday, September 11, 2009
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Gwathmey out front of the home he designed for his parents in the Hamptons. He was buried nearby. (Courtesy DansHamptons.com)

Gwathmey out front of the home he designed for his parents in the Hamptons. He was buried nearby. (Courtesy DansHamptons.com)

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

So Long SCI-Arc

West
Friday, September 11, 2009
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3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue, once home to SCI-Arc, is no longer worth preserving, says Ray Kappe. (Courtesy Santa Monica City Council)

“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

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