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Nifty, Gifty: Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Lincoln Center Inside Out

Diller Scofidio + Renfro excels at inversion, masterly flipping concepts of public and private, nature and structure (see also: High Line, The). The interdisciplinary design studio’s transformation of New York’s Lincoln Center is revealed in the pages of Lincoln Center Inside Out: An Architectural Account, hot off the Damiani presses. Falling somewhere on the continuum between art book and architectural diary, the monograph chronicles the extensive redevelopment project through photographs, drawings, renderings, texts, and interviews. Upping the book’s giftability quotient are the series of 30 gatefolds: large-format photographs by the likes of Iwan Baan and Matthew Monteith that open up to stories and ephemera documenting the spaces shown in the images.

In Miami? So are Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro. The trio will be signing books today at Design Miami from 1-2 p.m. before heading across the street to chat with Ari Wiseman, deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, as part of the Art Salon series at Art Basel Miami Beach.

This is part of a series of elegantly wrapped December posts about desirable goods that we suggest you purchase with the laudable yet vague intent of giving to others and then keep for yourself. Got a “nifty, gifty” idea? Tell the UnBeige elves: unbeige (at)

Previously on UnBeige:
Nifty, Gifty: Rodarte’s Out-of-This-World Ornament
Nifty, Gifty: Crate&Barrel 50th Anniversary Teapot

Christian de Portzamparc’s One57 Gets Turn in Hurricane Sandy Spotlight

Ze crane! The flaccid crane at One57, slated to be the tallest residential property in Manhattan.

Sandy came, she saw, she conquered–and she made a global megastar out of a building project that already had garnered plenty of buzz among New York real estate mavens and architecture buffs: One57, Extell’s 1,000-foot mixed-use tower designed by Christian de Portzamparc. On Monday afternoon, as the storm winds strengthened, the crane at the construction site buckled with a boom that those in the vicinity at first mistook for a thunder clap. Cut to a frightening shot of the crane’s top portion dangling like a limp tree limb and poised to plummet 90 stories below to the Manhattan thoroughfare of West 57th Street.

On TV, the injured crane and the luxe tower-in-progress got almost as much airtime as drenched, windbreaker-clad correspondents and, as coverage wore on and darkness set in, provided rain-pelted reporters with a few moments of respite from the cameras. CNN’s Piers Morgan located a “crane expert” and then pressed him to concur that a total collapse was imminent. Donald Trump chimed in on Twitter. There were no mentions of Portzamparc (or of Tomas Juul-Hansen, who is masterminding One57′s interiors), only of the “several billionaires” that had already purchased condos in the 95-unit building. Meanwhile, the crane is hanging in there. “Our hope is that tomorrow they’ll be able to find a way to pull it in, and then cable it to the building so it’s not going to fall,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press conference today.

In Brief: Thom Browne’s Silver Spectacular, Bridget Riley Honored, Incense and Holograms for Frieze

• Madcap madras meets spaceman chic in an elegant Parisian garden? Only Thom Browne could pull off that improbable combination and garnish it with giant silver Slinkys (“spring has spring”), from which his glimmering models emerged in a rainbow of exploded prepster motifs (watch a video of the presentation here). Providing a spectacular close to the spring 2013 menswear shows marked the start of a busy July for Browne, who heads to the White House Friday to join the other 2012 National Design Award recipients for a luncheon hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Here’s hoping that Browne dons a sample from his latest collection for the festivities (might we suggest look #18, at right?).

• In other National Design Awards news, the Cooper-Hewitt has selected this year’s Design Patron: Red Burns, an arts professor and chief collaborations officer for the interactive telecommunications program at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She is being recognized for her role as founder of ITP and for her innovations and achievements in the field of communication technology, the museum announced yesterday. During the 1970s, as head of NYU’s Alternate Media Center, she designed and directed a series of telecommunications projects, including two-way television for and by senior citizens, telecommunications applications to serve the developmentally disabled, and one of the first Teletext field trials in the United States (at WETA in Washington, D.C.).
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BMW Guggenheim Lab Seeks ‘City-Forward’ Ideas

How would you transform a public space in your city to make it more comfortable? The BMW Guggenheim Lab, freshly installed in Berlin (the second stop on the project’s six-year global tour), wants to know. The joint initiative of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the BMW Group has partnered with the “reasonable people who give a damn” at GOOD to launch a worldwide, online call for forward-thinking, imaginative, and downright wacky (OK, “unconventional”) ideas to improve urban comfort. So put on your most aerodynamic, stylish, and sustainable thinking cap, grab a fresh Moleskine, and get to proposing—in three to five sentences—changes to public spaces in your corner of the world. Factors to consider: the community, environment, architecture, landscaping, and any other aspects that would affect the experience of the space. GOOD and BMW Guggenheim Lab curator Maria Nicanor will select their favorite ideas to be featured on the GOOD and BMW Guggenheim Lab websites (although we plan to hold out for a deal on a 3 Series Convertible). Submissions, which can include an image of a sketch or model that corresponds to the idea and shows how your idea would be implemented, will be accepted through Tuesday, July 17.

In Brief: Polaroid Project, Best Urban Open Spaces, Neil Gaiman Addresses Grads, Intern for David Stark

Dueling bathing beauties: Boo George traveled to Oslo to photograph Norway’s “It” couple, Iselin Steiro and Anders Danielson, for the cover of T: The New York Times Style Magazine. At left, George Hoyningen-Huene’s 1930 photograph “The Divers, Paris.”

• Got Polaroids? The Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, in connection with MIT and London-based publisher Thames & Hudson, is at work on a major project on Polaroid photography. Slated to open at MIT in late 2015 and then travel internationally, the show will cover Polaroid-related art, science, and technology. “This is a call for submissions,” William A. Ewing, who is curating the art aspects of the project with Barbara Hitchcock, told The Art Newspaper recently. “It demands the best of the best material. This is not a community project, we want the stuff that can hold its own against the art of the period—and it was a long period, from 1950 to 1990.” Deborah Douglas and Gary Van Zante are in charge of the project’s science and technology aspects.

• Five finalists have been selected for the Urban Land Institute‘s Urban Open Space Award, a competition that recognizes “an outstanding example of a well-used public open space that has spurred regeneration and the transformation of its surrounding community.” Two NYC projects—the High Line and Pier 25 at Tribeca Section in Hudson River Park—made the final five, along with Railroad Park (Birmingham, Alabama), RiverWalk Urban Waterfront Calgary, Alberta), and Tanner Springs Park (Portland, Oregon). The winner, to be announced in October, will receive a $10,000 cash prize, and if we know this group, they’ll blow it all on bulbs and shrubs.

• Author and graphic novelist Neil Gaiman delivered the commencement address and picked up an honorary doctorate at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Among his advice for the graduates: make mistakes. “If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something,” said Gaiman last Thursday. “And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the ‘a’ and the ‘o,’ and I thought, ‘Coraline looks like a real name…’” Watch the full speech (his first-ever university commencement address) here.

• Event designer extraordinaire David Stark has taken to the web in his search for a star intern. He has partnered with Apartment Therapy on its “Design is not Taught” contest. In addition to a three-month internship with David Stark Design and Production, the winner will have the opportunity chance to work with Stark one-on-one to edit and curate his or her portfolio. The intern’s final project? To single-handedly design Apartment Therapy’s holiday party. Click here for details.
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Can the Smith Center Revive Downtown Las Vegas? Inside the $470 Million Cultural Center

In Las Vegas, when people refer to “culture,” it usually involves French-Canadian acrobat savants, ersatz monuments, or dancing fountains, but change is afoot. This month, Sin City welcomed the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, a megaproject that was set into motion during headier, pre-recession days. We dispatched writer Doug McClemont to try his luck at getting an inside look at the newly opened cultural complex, and he came up trumps.

Photos: Steve Hall/HedrichBlessing

Most narratives of current state of things in Las Vegas include “overbuilt” or “downturn” in the very first sentence. Indeed, since roughly 2006 the fortunes of the legendary desert oasis have changed for the worse. Visitor spending in the destination city is on the decline, the housing market remains troubled, and MGM’s shining new star City Center, a 72-acre sprawling complex of hotels, gaming, condos, and high-end retail at the heart of the Strip, posted an operating loss of $45 million in the fourth quarter of last year. So this might seem a strange moment to be celebrating the construction of a new $470 million cultural center on the outskirts of the (still more beleaguered) downtown area. But then again Las Vegas—that ultimate paean to pastiche and panache—is not known for its introverted ways.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, a lavish art deco-influenced, multi-purpose complex that features music, visual art, theater, and education opened earlier this month. It dominates a 61-acre site in a former rail yard that is now called Symphony Park. “All of the budgeting was done in the old economy,” according to architect David M. Schwarz, “the Center was built in the new.” As a result, the architects were able to utilize high-end materials and avoid troublesome cost-cutting concerns when creating Las Vegas’s newest addition. A 170-foot tall bell tower with 47 imported bronze bells is just one opulent feature of the inviting collection of buildings.
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BMW Guggenheim Lab’s Opening in Berlin Cancelled Due to Threats and ‘Elevated Risk’

Apparently the city of Berlin isn’t as welcoming of branded art projects as New York is. The BMW Guggenheim Lab, which was met with relatively positive marks when it premiered this past August in the East Village, was expected to next move to Germany, where all 2,200 square feet of the mobile structure, designed by Tokyo’s Atelier Bow-Wow, would set up shop beginning in mid-May and run through the summer. As announced back in January, the site selected to host the next stop on a planned world tour was the Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, “known for its engagement with social action and public art” and “centrally located.” Unfortunately for the traveling exhibition, they didn’t expect massive push back from left-wing activists. Bloomberg reports that due to numerous threats, “elevated risk,” and planned protests, the Lab has decided to cancel its plans and move elsewhere. Where that “elsewhere” might be (somewhere in Germany? Or moving out of the country entirely?) hasn’t been announced yet.

James Corner Field Operations’ Team Wins Chicago’s Navy Pier Redesign Competition

Anymore when a large urban landscape project is in the works, you could fairly safely guess that New York’s High Line co-designers, James Corner Field Operations, would either be on the short list or had just won (it’s even been speculated that all the High Line enthusiasm could be the next “Bilbao effect”). And so it has happened again, right here in Chicago. Back in September you might recall, the organization behind the city’s Navy Pier, which juts out into Lake Michigan and offers spectacular views of the skyline and therefore should be an inviting experience but is, instead, a soul crushing tourist trap, announced plans for a major, let’s-actually-make-this-place-inviting redesign competition. The original list included teams upon teams of industry heavies, which was then whittled down, somewhat surprisingly, to some less household name teams. In the end, this week it was revealed that James Corner’s group, which also includes Bruce Mau Design, nArchitects, and Ed Marszewski, along with twelve other firms, has won the project. We were initially very excited, but then reason prevailed in the form of the Tribune‘s Blair Kamin, who writes that the project provides both “great promise — and peril” given that “pier officials’ historic tendency to favor pragmatics over aesthetics” which “could undercut a thoughtful conceptual plan.” If you’ve been to Navy Pier at any point, you’ll likely come to that worry as well. And with a relatively small budget as well, we’ll hope for the best, but we’ll do so with fingers tightly crossed. Here’s Corner and Co.’s lengthy presentation video from back in February, and here’s the quicker, animated plans:

There’s an App for That: NYC Subway Art

Eager to show your visiting relatives that Matt Mullican mural but can’t remember at which New York City subway station you saw it? Seeking clues to the imminent apocalypse in the Mayan motif-laden ceramic tiles that greet 6 train passengers at 103rd Street? In need of cheering up by the roly-poly crew of Tom Otterness bronzes that frolic beneath 14th Street near 8th Avenue? There’s an app for that. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has teamed with the ace navigators at Meridian to put the 237 works of contemporary art found throughout the New York City Subway, Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels in your pocket, provided that said pocket contains a smartphone loaded with this app. The entire collection of MTA-commissioned artwork is organized by subway (or railroad line) and by artist, from Alice Adams to Joe Zucker. In addition to information on the background, inspiration, and significance of each work—and sometimes video and audio clips featuring the artists—Meridian is touting “turn-by-turn” directions, although they won’t be of much use until reliable cell phone service comes to the subway.
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When Crowd Sourced Design Competitions Go Wrong

If you aren’t living in Chicago at the moment, there’s a good chance you might have missed the city’s first major design scandal of the year. First, the City Clerk’s office announced a winner for the annual contest, open only to students, to design the next year’s city sticker (a “city sticker,” for those outside of Chicago, is a sticker you have to buy every year for $75, on top of your registration, that allows you to park on city streets, even at meters, without getting a ticket). The 2012-2013 sticker seemed like those before it: an innocuous, hand-drawn, rough-around-the-edges affair. However, worries started circulating that maybe there were hidden gang signs being flashed therein. So the City Clerk, Susana Mendoza, decided to pull the win away from the 15-year-old who designed it, promising to pay the $1000 bond prize money herself to lessen the blow, and bumped the runner-up to first place. Then, of course, the runner-up decided she didn’t want to win like that, and asked that her illustration not be used. So here we are today, with the City Clerk’s office announcing that it “has decided to design the 2012-2013 vehicle registration sticker in house.” All of that explained, it seems to us that this perfect storm is why crowd sourced, open invitation design competitions, no matter how adorable and child-enlightening they might seem, have the potential of backfiring in a very public way. And how much of the city’s money could have been spared if they’d just gone in-house or hired-out in the first place? Of course, the whole thing could have been worse, like in Vermont.