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preservation + restoration

Chicago’s Navy Pier Redesign Competition a Draw for Teams of All-Star Architects

Looks like a major redesign to a staple location within a large metropolitan area is just the sort of thing that draws in a batch of architecture’s heaviest hitters. There was speculation that the contest to redesign Chicago’s Navy Pier, which launched at the start of last month and which seeks to turn the large space into something better and more functional than its current status as the city’s central tourist trap, would bring in some substantial and well-known talent. Cut from a list of 50, there are now eleven teams selected. Among them, as if the top names like Zaha Hadid and Rem KoolhaasOMA/SGA weren’t enough as the leaders of the teams, the groups are also made up of others high-profile firms, like Bruce Mau Design and nArchitects joining James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro getting set up with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, and Arup among the list on SHoP‘s squad. These eleven impressive teams will eventually be cut down to just five, who will then be given $50,000 each to develop proposals, which are set to go on public display sometime early next year. One thing we’d be willing to bet on is that design firm Pentagram will at least make it to the next round, if not all the way to the finish line, given that they’re included in no fewer than four different teams at the moment.

Rocky Opening to the Musee d’Orsay Briefly Delays Checking Out Its Non-White Walls

It was a bit of a shaky restart for the recently rehabbed Musee d’Orsay in Paris. Planning to reopen on Thursday after a reconstruction effort to the 200-year old former train station that cost nearly $30 million and required a closure of two years, the museum was hit by staff protests, which pushed back its opening. The NY Times reports that the staff, most of whom were security guards, were angry over planned “broad government cutbacks that see retiring civil servants – including museum workers – not replaced by new hires” and decided to use the reopening as a publicity-heavy method of getting their message across. That temporary disruption eventually lifted on Friday, giving people a first look at the addition of more than 20,000 square feet, the newly hung Impressionist masterpieces, and most importantly: get a look at the color of those new walls. Perhaps one of the more talked about aspects of the rehab effort is the museum’s decision not to go with the standard all-white gallery walls. Saying that “white is the enemy of painting” given that it can reflect light too brightly and create a subtle aura that washes out the works of art, the museum decided to go with subdued shades of green, gray, etc. Thus far, no one seems particularly bent out of shape over the decision, but the Guardian‘s Jonathan Jones has stood up for white walls in one of his most recent columns, arguing that “there are lots of whites, good and bad” and that sometimes it’s just the best color for art to exist alongside.

National Mall Design Competition Selects Its Jurors

Speaking of government-based contests as we were in that last post, we turn to something a bit more positive (or at least something that fewer people seem angry about). Launched last month, the National Mall Design Competition, which is attempting to rehab three specific areas to focus preservation efforts on (Union Square, the Washington Monument grounds at Sylvan Theater and Constitution Gardens) has now named their jurors. Picking their favorite entries for the estimated $700 million project are a list of, as was expected, luminaries from a number of fields. They include the Washington Post‘ former architecture critic, Benjamin Forgey, Pentagram‘s Michael Gericke, and architect about town, Thom Mayne. Thus far, the competition has reportedly registered more than 1,200 designers and firms from 10 countries and 30 states who are interested in participating. Out of those, the jurors will pick 58 to move forward. Here’s a bit about the process:

“In Stage I, the Jury will evaluate lead designers based on past design performance, philosophy, design intent, thoughtfulness, creativity and overall resume,” said Donald J. Stastny FAIA FAICP FCIP, the Competition Manager. “The Jurors’ professional expertise and diverse perspectives will be valuable assets in the selection process.”

The Jury will meet over three days to select the lead designers who they recommend be invited to participate in Stage II. That recommendation will be made to the Steering Committee, which will confirm that the designers met all of the requirements as stated in the Competition Manual and that there were no conflicts of interest in the Jury process.

Symposium to Offer Inside Look at NYC Landmarks

Eager for the inside scoop on retrofitting the Manufacturers Hanover Trust building on Fifth Avenue (pictured) for retail use? Want to know how Beyer Blinder Belle restored the Beacon Theater? Fancy a peek inside the restored and renovated Gracie Mansion? Don’t miss “Living With History: Restoring, Redesigning, and Reviving New York’s Landmark Interiors,” which takes place tomorrow at the Museum of the City of New York. In showcasing some of the extraordinary projects aimed at bringing historic NYC buildings back to life, the half-day symposium will highlight the various and sometimes controversial approaches to preserving the past while accommodating the needs of modern life. The presenters include architectural historian Matt Postal, Frank Mahan of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, designer Jamie Drake, and Franklin D. Vagnone, executive director of the Historic House Trust. UnBeige readers can register at the $25 member rate by clicking here and entering the discount code Living1022 at checkout.

As I.M. Pei’s JFK Terminal Is Demolished, Saarinen’s Prepares to Welcome Visitors

A Tale of Two Terminals JFK’s Terminal 6, designed by I. M. Pei of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and the TWA Terminal designed by Eero Saarinen.

On last night’s episode of Pan-Am, we learned that there was a time when a cyan stewardess uniform could not only save one from death at the hands of the Stasi but also afford entry into champagne-laden government functions (at least when President Kennedy was involved). Nowadays, dacron separates and a name badge tend to impede one’s progress, and the golden age of air travel? Its icons are being demolished. Such is the fate of Terminal 6 at New York’s JFK Airport. Designed by I.M. Pei with fetching all-glass mullions, it opened in 1969 as the National Airlines “Sundrome” and was vacated three years ago, when JetBlue decamped to the shiny, Pepsi-sponsored land of wonders that is Terminal 5.

“The boarding gates are already piles of rubble,” wrote David W. Dunlap in a recent post about Terminal 6 on The New York Times‘ City Room blog. “The main pavilion, whose white steel roof seems to float ethereally over cascades of diaphanous green glass, is expected to come down by the end of October.” But all is not lost. Eero Saarinen‘s curvilinear TWA Terminal is getting a second life. The designated city landmark has been undergoing extensive renovation under the auspices of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the direction of Beyer Blinder Belle. Next Sunday afternoon, the swooping site will welcome visitors as part of Open House New York. Arrive by 1 p.m. to catch a talk by project manager Charles Kramer of BBB and James Steven, the PANYNJ’s manager of JFK Physical Plant and Redevelopment.

Sites of Manhattan Modernism, British Brutalism Make World Monuments Fund Watch List

Today the World Monuments Fund announced its 2012 Watch List. Issued biennially since 1996, the World Monuments Watch seeks to draw international attention to cultural-heritage sites in need of assistance. The new list includes 67 threatened sites in 41 countries and territories from Argentina to Zimbabwe. Among the treasured yet endangered places in our own backyard is the former Manufacturers Trust Company Building at 510 Fifth Avenue (pictured), a modernist icon that last we heard was at risk of becoming a Marc Jacobs store. And across the pond, the WMF has spotlighted a similarly vulnerable trio of modernist sites—the Preston Bus Station, Birmingham Central Library, and London’s South Bank Centre—under the category of “British Brutalism.” And that’s just the modern architecture! The 2012 sites reach back to prehistoric times and include religious structures, cemeteries, houses, palaces, bridges, cultural landscapes, archaeological remains, gardens, and entire towns (we’re looking at you, Charleston). “While these sites are historic, they are also very much of the present—integral parts of the lives of the people who come into contact with them every day,” said WMF president Bonnie Burnham at a press conference held this morning. “Indeed, the Watch reminds us of our collective role as stewards of the earth and of its human heritage.” Download and peruse the full WMF Watch list here.

‘Loved to Death’, National Mall Design Competition Launches

Hot off the heels of the insanely fast redesign competition for the President’s Park South and the opening of the forever controversial Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the move to spruce up Washington DC’s most visited areas continue at a healthy clip. Just before the weekend, the Trust for the National Mall launched the National Mall Design Competition. Writing that the Mall “has been loved to death” and is struggling to keep up appearances since its last major preservation effort nearly 40 years ago, the competition has put a call out for redesign plans for three sites in particular: Union Square, the Washington Monument grounds at Sylvan Theater and Constitution Gardens. Unlike the aforementioned President’s Park South competition, which seemed as though it was started and finished in around an hour and a half, the Mall project will be taking its time (pdf), blocked out in a series of stages, with potentially eight teams picked between now and December, renderings out in April of next year, and winners named in May of 2012. The budget for the restoration is currently estimated at $700 million, with half coming from donations and the other from matching federal funds. Former First Lady Laura Bush, now no stranger to landscape-centric capital campaigns after overseeing her husband’s presidential library in Texas, has signed on as the Honorary Chair to help raise the money. Here’s a list of the problems that propelled the Trust into action:

  • The National Mall has been loved to death.
  • With more than 25 million annual visitors and 3,000 annual permitted events, the National Mall is the most visited park in the NPS system.
  • Pierre L’Enfant, who designed the National Mall in 1791, could not have anticipated this magnitude of use. The National Mall is not equipped to withstand this level of use or engage so many visitors.
  • The National Mall now requires more than $400 million for critical deferred maintenance and an estimated $300 million for restoration and improvement projects.
  • The last time the National Mall received adequate resources was for the Bicentennial celebration in 1976. These decades of neglect have left the National Mall in need of repair.
  • Studio 360 Tours National September 11 Memorial with Designer Michael Arad

    With much of the world’s attention this weekend on the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, our friends at Studio 360 have put together a great interview with the memorial’s designer, Michael Arad, set to photos and video of the area. Should you not have tickets to the opening this weekend, which more than likely you won’t for months upon months at the very least, this is a great alternative. Here’s the clip:

    An Architecture Folk Hero Is Born: 16-Year-Old Builds His Own Portable House

    It’s been too long since we’ve had an “architecture in hard times” folk hero. There was John Morefield, the unemployed architect who would shell out building and design advice for five cents a pop, but we haven’t really heard much out of him since early last year. Fortunately, California-based teenager Austin Hay has entered the picture. The 16-year-old has been building a tiny home on wheels all by himself in his parents’ backyard, using materials “acquired at salvage yards.” So not only does he have his youth going for him, and his green building-by-necessity practices, he’s also aware of the ongoing world-wide financial troubles and is already happy not to be paying a mortgage. With that sort of youthful insight, we expect someone to start making “I’m with Hay!” buttons and patches here any day now. Here’s a video tour of his self-made digs:

    NASA’s Office of Inspector General Issues Report on Why/How Certain Museums Were Selected to Receive Retired Space Shuttles

    Remember back at the start of the year when it seemed liked every science museum in the country was vying to get NASA to give them one of the four Space Shuttles the government agency was retiring? The campaigning to get one had reached a fever pitch by April, eventually all culminating with NASA’s live webcast where they announced the winners (the National Air and Space Museum got the Discovery, the Enterprise will make the move from the Air and Space to the Intrepid Museum in New York, with the remaining two shuttles will go to the Kennedy Space Center and the California Science Center in Los Angeles). Some of the other serious contenders, like the Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago wound up getting smaller consolation-esque prizes, like shuttle flight simulators. Now months later, with the joy and disappointment settled among the respective museums, NASA’s Office of Inspector General has released its full overview of where everything went and how each institution was selected. It’s a dense, 27 page document, but if you have the time, well worth the read to understand how much back and forth goes into a decision like this (there are three pages alone about picking the date to announce when they’d make an announcement). In the end, the report finds that while “agency staff made several errors during the evaluation process of prospective Orbiter recipients,” ultimately “NASA complied with federal law and was not improperly influenced by political considerations.” Perhaps most interesting among those “errors”, the report finds that NASA “did not provide applicants with all the information that would have been helpful to formulate realistic plans”; information such as that there was a 19-ton and $20 million difference between two of the shuttles, something a competing museum probably would have liked knowing about when submitting a proposal.