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Archives: November 2010

Atlantic Yards, As Told in Song

Speaking of cursed-developments, as we were in that last post, if you thought all the kerfuffle over the Atlantic Yards project had finally ended this summer and all there was to do was to wait for Norman Oder‘s tell-all book about it, you’re so sorely mistaken. Building upon their 2008 workshop performances entitled Brooklyn at Eye Level, the theater group The Civilians, are in the middle of their run of In the Footprint, a musical all about the Atlantic Yards development. From the big protests of 2008 to the high-profile booting of Frank Gehry off the project, it’s apparently both an informative and entertaining performance. And according to outlets like the NY Times, perhaps one of the best musicals ever about eminent domain. Here’s a batch of favorite moments from our pals over at Curbed (“#4: Gehry’s original design for the arena is represented on stage by a glittery disco ball.”) The show runs at Irondale Center in Fort Greene, Brooklyn from now until December 11th.

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Las Vegas’ CityCenter Struggling to Lure Pedestrians

Paul Goldberger doesn’t think much of it, some of its hotels are trying to set its own guests on fire, and Norman Foster can’t catch a break with his seemingly-cursed contribution to it. Add to those woes some fairly poor financials and it’s just par for the course at Las Vegas’ massive, starchitect-littered, still less than a year-old CityCenter development. Now some more dire news as the Las Vegas Sun files this report on something Goldberger and other architecture critics touched on in their reviews of the multi-billion dollar mixed-used plot of glitz and glitter: that pedestrians seem to not to want to go near the place. As you can imagine, for something that’s basically just a gigantic mall you can sleep in and gamble at, this isn’t how its owners were hoping things would play out. The problem, the Sun says, is a combination of a number of things: a lack of clear signage, an imposing exterior, an uninviting entrance, too far a distance from the main thoroughfare of The Strip, etc. The paper offers the words of a number of city planning critics, including that the entrance “has all the pleasantness of an airport terminal.” The owners of CityCenter have vowed to fix the problem, adding new paths and landscaping, and mentioning that it always takes time to iron out all the details. Meanwhile, the Sun throws in more than a few examples of similar developments who even some ironing weren’t enough to fix the outcome of their ultimate demise.

Turner Prize Plans Relocation to Northern Ireland in 2013


Fresh off last month’s controversial altercation between the Tate Britain and press photographers, it’s been announced that the regularly-maligned Turner Prize has plans to once again hightail it out of London. For the third time in its nearly-three decades, the shortlisted pieces and the one eventual prize winner will be held elsewhere come 2013, when it will all be hosted in the city of Derry, in Northern Ireland. The plan for the move is largely similar when it moved just three years ago and was held in Liverpool: to show more work outside of the UK’s artistic center and to celebrate the country’s newly-annual designation of a “City of Culture” (the thinking probably also factors in that it won’t hurt to throw a bone to the people outside of London after all that attention they’re going to get for the 2012 Olympics). While they still have a little while to decide what will be involved in hosting perhaps the country’s most famous art prize, here’s a bit from the Guardian‘s report on where in Derry it might wind up:

The venue for the 2013 Turner prize exhibition has not yet been decided. However, it is likely to be staged in a new or converted space. Possible sites include the former Ebrington army barracks, which were closed in 2003.

Designated for redevelopment under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the barracks, on the banks of the Foyle, are largely 19th-century buildings covering 26 acres.

Quote of Note | Tom McGrath

“The lines are blurring now on what makes an animated film. There was a time when all studios wanted to do was make live-action versions of animated cartoons. Now animation is sneaking in through the back door. Avatar is one of the most successful films of all time. It’s not considered animation, but it really is. As much as the actors did perform in it, there were animators keyframing it.”

-Megamind director Tom McGrath at The Hollywood Reporter‘s animation roundtable, held earlier this month at Siren Studios

New Working Group to Assess Environmental, Economic Impacts of Graphic Design Supply Chain

We know: there’s nothing like the term “supply chain” (along with the residual effects of Thanksgiving tryptophan and the less widely discussed wooziness associated with large annual doses of pumpkin pie) to get you clicking right back to your Cyber Monday shopping, but stay with us here. Meet the Sustainable Design Auditing Project (SDAP), a new working group that is taking on greenwashing by uniting designers, suppliers and manufacturers, academia, environmental nonprofits and other key stakeholders to develop environmental, social, and financial metrics for the graphic design supply chain. Led by Re-nourish and partner organizations including the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, SDAP will focus not on establishing standards but on developing metrics that will tackle everything from energy use and toxicity levels to labor and employment issues and profitability. The goal is to help both companies and individual make informed decisions as they navigate the increasingly murky waters of sustainability. “There’s clearly growing corporate and consumer recognition of sustainable operations as a core element of a robust bottom line over the long term,” Jess Sand, a partner at Re-nourish, tells us. “And given that up to 80% of a product’s environmental footprint occurs at the design stage, it’s essential that designers have transparent methods of measuring the on-the-ground impacts of our work.” Learn more about SDAP and sign up to get involved here.

Architecture and the Building of Cognitive Maps

An interesting study coming out of Notre Dame‘s Department of Psychology. Investigating how architecture can affect one’s cognitive map to help them navigate and identify their surroundings, Professor Laura Carlson has published the report, “Getting Lost in Buildings,” in the journal Current Direction in Psychological Science. In it, she and her co-authors talk about how people use both a building’s features (symmetry of hallways, distances between doorways, etc.) or objects within the building (landmarks like tables or posters on walls, etc.) to function within an enclosed space. Particularly interesting to us was that they call out Rem Koolhaas‘ celebrated Seattle Central Library, which they claim is beautiful but difficult for people to operate in: “People expect floors to have similar layouts, but the first five levels of the library are all different; even the outside walls don’t necessarily line up. Normally, lines of sight help people get around, but the library has long escalators that skip over levels, making it hard to see where they go.” Unfortunately, the report itself is behind a fairly pricey pay wall, so you’ll either have to fork over that $35 to read it all or just pick up what you can in the short synopsis. Or watch the video the university put together (see below). Whatever the case, interesting to think about the relation between psychology and architecture, particularly when it involves flashy starchitect designs.

Donna Karan Catches Flak for Cleaning Staff Cuts

The post-Black Friday news about Donna Karan might wind up not being as positive as she’d like, with figures showing how many truckloads of garments the fashion house baring her name had sold. Instead, the story might turn into Karan vs. unionized labor, as word of her cleaning staff cuts starts filtering out. Pulling that standard business practice of pulling a long-time contract, laying off all the employees, then hiring a new firm who hires all those employees back at a much lower rate, the NY Daily News reports that Karan moved the contract to clean the company’s headquarters in New York from Celestial Cleaning Services to Planned Building Services, and in the process cut health care coverage for those employees and sliced their hourly pay by more than half. What’s more, according to the paper, Karan did this at a point of record-setting profits for the company and went with a firm who “has a history of violating federal labor law.” While we’re fairly positive that Karan herself had nothing to do with the switch (she’s still on the mend with a broken wrist after all), it’s the sort of story that doesn’t play out so well right in the thick of the holiday season.

Chelsea Art Museum Calls It Quits, Won’t Open Another Museum in New York

At the very beginning of 2008, we posted a story with the title “Chelsea Art Museum Breathing Its Last Breaths?” While the struggling museum managed to fight and stay afloat throughout both that whole year and the next, it appears that it has finally succumbed to financial pressures and will be no more. Back in August, the museum closed on what they claimed was simply a temporary basis while they worked out a financial plan to help keep them going, facing debts of many millions and a development company who wanted the building back. By October, things were looking even more grim, with the property’s lender being handed the deed to the building, essentially signing the museum’s death warrant (at least in what had been its long-time home). Though ever the fighters, the museum and its founder Dorothea Keeser vowed to battle on, the Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the building has been sold and the museum will have one year to operate in the space, rent free, before they have to vacate and find a new home. Keeser also told the paper that “she would not open another museum in New York,” which seems to more-than-imply that the fight has officially come to an end and the museum’s sad fate has finally been accepted. Now the questions of what happens with the museum’s art collection and if it will are start anew in, say, rural Kentucky, remain. Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Friday Photo: A Tree Wows in London

(Courtesy Claridge’s)

What do you get when you mix a swashbuckling designer, a famed Parisian fashion house, an iconic London hotel, and a squad of shimmering starfish? Dior creative director John Galliano‘s Christmas tree for Claridge’s. Unveiled yesterday in the lobby of the Mayfair landmark, the ocean-themed creation replaces a traditional holiday fir with a giant (papier-mâché) branch of pink coral ornamented with silver leaves, opalescent anemones, and shiny seahorses. “I wanted to create an underwater fantasy,” said Galliano, who first worked with Claridge’s last year on a more climatically appropriate “frozen” tree that combined icicles with chinoiserie. This year’s “Under the Sea”-themed design is a tropical tour de force that brings a bit of Palm Beach to the hotel’s art deco lobby. “Both Claridge’s and Dior are synonymous with with timeless glamour and impeccable heritage,” said Thomas Kochs, general manager of the hotel. “And we look forward to celebrating the festive season together.” Santa, however, is expected to keep his distance from the Dior tree, for fear of being impaled on its coral spikes. The tree will be on display at Claridge’s until January 5.

Macy’s Confirms UnBeige Report of Karl Lagerfeld Collaboration

Macy’s has officially confirmed our exclusive report of an imminent collaboration between designer Karl Lagerfeld and the national retailer. “Karl Lagerfeld holds a unique place in the world of fashion, an icon who is the ultimate modernist,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president, and CEO of Macy’s, Inc. “Through the decades, his style and vision have marked the history of design. It is a tremendous honor to bring his inimitable perspective to our fashion customer.” The collection will debut in approximately 250 Macy’s stores and on in September 2011. According to a report in today’s issue of WWD that credits UnBeige with breaking news of the deal, the Lagerfeld line is part of a new designer initiative that Macy’s will launch in February. Other designers and brands slated to create capsule collections for the national retailer include London-based Kinder Aggugini, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Calvin Klein, and Versace.