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urbanity

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.

HWKN’s Eco-Friendly ‘Wendy’ Wins MOMA PS1 Young Architects Program

“Wendy does not play the typical architecture game of ecological apology,” say the architects of their boundary-pushing pavilion, shown here in a rendering.

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city, smilin’ at everybody she sees? Who’s reachin’ out to neutralize an airborne pollutant? Everyone knows it’s Wendy! That’s right, fans of emerging architectural talent, the spiky and proactive creation of New York-based HWKN (Hollwich Kushner) has been declared the winner of this year’s MOMA PS1 Young Architects Program, besting finalists Ammar Eloueini of AEDS Ammar Eloueini Digit-all Studio (Paris and New Orleans), Martin Felsen and Sarah Dunn of UrbanLab (Chicago), and the solid Cantabrigian (Massachusetts) contingent: Mariana Ibañez and Simon Kim of I|K Studio and Cameron Wu.

Now in its thirteenth year, the Young Architects Program program challenges each year’s winners to develop creative designs for a temporary, outdoor installation at MoMA PS1 that provides shade, seating, and water. HWKN’s “Wendy,” which will debut in Long Island City in late June, is composed of nylon fabric treated with a nifty titania nanoparticle spray to neutralize airborne pollutants. This summer, Wendy will clean the air to an equivalent of taking 260 cars off the road. “Wendy crafts an environment—not just a space,” note the architects of their 5,000-square-foot creation. “Spikey arms reach out with micro-programs like blasts of cool air, music, water canons, and mists to create social zones throughout the courtyard.” And speaking of summery social zones, HWKN also was recently tapped to design a new entertainment complex to replace the Fire Island dance club, Pavilion, that burned down last year. The firm is collaborating with Diller Scofidio + Renfro on the project.

Musician Moby Launches ‘Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog’

Here are two things we didn’t know up until just a second ago: 1) that musician and longtime New Yorker, Moby, is now living in Los Angeles (apparently we must’ve missed this NY Times profile on the castle he bought in the Hollywood Hills), and 2) that, as of last week, he’s recently started a new architecture blog, the perhaps over-aptly named Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog. Thus far, it isn’t the sort of site that you’ll glean a lot of factual information from, not even such info as who the architect was who built the building he’s profiling on that day. Instead, his very well-made photos are accompanied by leisurely thoughts on Los Angeles’ architecture (all residential thus far) and where that building-of-the-day seems to fit within the city. It’s certainly an interesting, somewhat meditative departure from our usual architectural reads, but we’ve already bookmarked it and are already awaiting more. Here’s a bit of the description of his new site from his first post:

a daily (or weekly) collection of some of the random and strange and banal and beautiful architecture i see in l.a. most cities have beautiful architecture. but most cities have beautiful architecture that is prominently displayed and relatively easy to find (think: chrysler building, sacre couer, st peters, sydney opera house, etc). one of the very odd things about l.a is that the most beautiful architecture in l.a is hidden on tiny streets that very few people will ever see. and the architecture in l.a is, generally, of a very domestic and modest scale (probably facilitating it’s strangeness).

Mark Your Calendar: Shepard Fairey Does Dallas, Todd Oldham on Girard, Agnès B. Film Festival

  • Shepard Fairey does Dallas! The street artist is making his mark on The Big D with a series of murals that will be unveiled tomorrow. The citywide project is sponsored by Dallas Contemporary, which is celebrating with an “over-the-top, neon-inspired” Saturday night dance party (fingers crossed for glowsticks!). Fairey will balance DJing duties with signing merch from the on-site OBEY pop-up shop. Meanwhile, the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas are organizing an art bus tour for next Saturday, February 11. Stops include the current Rob Pruitt, David Jablonowski, and Failure exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary, several of the Fairey murals, and a studio visit with Dallas-based graffiti crew Sour Grapes. Don’t miss the bus: tickets are going fast here.

  • Lately we’ve been sleeping with a copy of Todd Oldham and Kiera Coffee’s wondrous Alexander Girard mega-monograph under our pillow, and next Tuesday, February 14, Pratt Institute welcomes the delightful Oldham for a lecture on all things Girard, from his iconic textile designs for Herman Miller and branding and environmental design for Braniff International Airways to his celebrated retail store Textiles and Objects and folk art-stuffed Girard Foundation. The 6 p.m. lecture is free and open to the public, but Pratt students get first dibs on seats.

  • As part of its burgeoning “Fashion at FIAF” programming, our friends at the French Institute Alliance Francaise here in New York have invited agnès b. (née Agnès Andrée Marguerite Troublé) to curate a month-long series of films that have most influenced her life and career as a designer, photographer, and more recently as a film producer and director. Among her picks are Godard‘s Vivre Sa Vie and Pierrot le Fou, while Valentine’s Day revelers can be transported to St. Tropez at one of three V-Day screenings of …And God Created Woman, starring Brigitte Bardot. The fashionable French fun kicks off on Tuesday, when agnès b. will appear in person to present the first film in the series, The Crime of Monsieur Lange, directed by Jean “Yes, he’s my dad” Renoir. Buy your tickets here.
  • New Documentary Implodes Urban Housing Myths

    Pruitt-Igoe. Cabrini-Green. Mellifluous hyphenates that have evoked, in turn, hope, pride, fear, terror, shame, and utter disappointment in utopias, razed. In The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, filmmaker Chad Friedrichs wades through the thicket of emotions aroused by the infamous public housing project, built in the early 1950s by the St. Louis Housing Authority, to examine what comes between optimism—for 33 pristine, Minoru Yamasaki-designed high-rises that promised to solve the problems of overcrowding in a then-booming inner city—and disillusionment, with a vertical ghetto that, just two decades later, was leveled and declared unfit for habitation. This documentary is complex and fascinating: a chilling clash of Modernist zeal, postwar urban decline, and racial tensions that plays out through an incredibly rich (and masterfully edited) collage of archival footage and the individual stories of a handful of former Pruitt-Igoe residents, who share their memories against a backdrop of optic white. “So much of our collective understanding of cities and government and inequality are tied up in those thirty-three high-rise buildings, informed by the demolition image,” notes Friedrichs in his notes on the film, now playing at the IFC Center. “Too much of the context has been overlooked, or willfully ignored, in discussions of public housing, public welfare, and the state of the American city. Pruitt-Igoe needs to be remembered and understood—in a different way that it has been—because the city will change again.”


    The Pruitt-Igoe Myth is now playing at New York’s IFC Center. Click here for a schedule of upcoming screenings nationwide.

    Helsinki Finishes Year-Long Study, Now Ready to Get Serious About Getting a Guggenheim

    Nearly a year ago to the date, you might recall a post we had up about the Guggenheim Foundation looking into building a new museum wing in Helsinki, Finland. The project, if it happened, would be the next branch built after Frank Gehry‘s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi had finally risen from the desert. But with Gehry’s project now stalled, perhaps permanently, suddenly after a year of relative silence, both the organization and Helsinki’s government are back to chatting publicly about their collaboration. Granted, it’s been quiet for the past year because the two parties spent 2011 looking into “topics including the possible mission and structure of an innovative, multidisciplinary art museum in Finland” and “the form that its exhibition and education programs might take,” but we bet the Guggenheim in particular is might glad to start the year off talking about new plans than what it’s struggling with in the Middle East. You can read the city’s full report here, and here are a few of the specifics about the museum itself:

    The report by the Guggenheim study team proposes that a museum would be built on a City-owned site along the South Harbor waterfront, where the Kanava Terminal Building currently stands. The total area of the museum would be approximately 12,000 square meters (129,000 square feet), with 3,920 square meters (42,000 square feet) devoted to exhibition galleries.

    The estimated construction costs of the building and its design would be approximately €140 million. The mid-range estimated attendance for a museum is 500,000 – 550,000 visits per year, of which approximately 300,000 visits would be by Finnish residents. Helsinki anticipates funding the project through a combination of public, private, and corporate sources.

    News in Brief: Tate Takes BP’s Money, Smithsonian Preps Rebranding, and More

    There are plenty of interesting bits and pieces going on outside of architecture as well so far this week, so let’s commence:

    After four months of a lockout of unionized art handlers at Sotheby’s, things still don’t seem to be progressing toward stability. According to a report by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the lockout has now cost the auction house $2.4 million in fees ranging from temporary employees to extra security. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the company just gave its CEO, William Ruprecht, a $3 million raise. Union representatives for the art handlers are quick to point out that their entire contract dispute totals $3.3 million.

    In Washington DC, the Smithsonian has reportedly hired Wolff Olins to help in a major rebranding. The main thrust of that effort is set to be the roll out of a new tagline next year: “Seriously Amazing.” The Washington Post reports that the organization has thus far paid $1 million “for research and creation of the slogan.”

    Speaking of rebranding efforts, the always great Brand New blog has filed its own year end list, starting with their picks for the very worst identity changes in 2011. Unfortunately, it seems to have been written before State Farm unveiled their new logo.

    And finally: so much for the potential of the Tate possible eschewing corporate sponsorship from British Petroleum following a full year of protests (and now likely more to come in 2012). The museum has renewed their contract with BP, telling the BBC, “The fact that they had one major incident in 2010 does not mean we should not be taking support from them.”

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