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Archives: October 2009

Roof Collapses at Emily Dickinson’s Home/Museum


While the MoMA‘s new tower might now be going up, everything else seems to be falling apart. Daniel Libeskind‘s Denver Art Museum is finally getting fixed for leaks and Populous‘ less than a year old Yankee Stadium is starting to crack (as was its team last night — sorry, this writer couldn’t resist). Now just to the north, in Amherst, Massachusetts, another bit of architectural calamity. Homestead, the house Emily Dickinson liked to be reclusive in, suffered a blow this week when part of its ceiling collapsed. The house is part of the larger Emily Dickinson Museum, which has since closed in order to evaluate the damage and see what can be done to get it fixed. Here’s a bit:

The ceiling that fell is not original to the house, [executive director Jane H. Ward] explained — the plaster was laid over wire mesh, not lath — and was probably installed in the 1960s, when the house was privately owned. For once, an overflowing tub was not to blame. “It appears that the plaster just detached itself from the wall,” Ms. Ward said, “but we won’t really know the extent of the damage until the inspection is completed.”

NY City Council Gives Jean Nouvel the Okay on MoMA Tower


The lesson here, we believe, is as such: “when in doubt, add some shiny.” After all if it works for Jean Nouvel, it might work for you, too. After a month of wrangling, New York’s City Council has announced that they have approved the starchitect’s plans for the new MoMA tower. You’ll recall from earlier this month that Nouvel had answered calls to cut a few floors off the top and shrink the building down a bit, by instead adding reflective fins to the side. That shiny was apparently what did the trick, yet even with the okay from the city, it doesn’t sound like the very vocal forces against it being built will be backing down anytime soon. The next step, they’ve said, “would likely be a legal challenge.”

Back to the Futura: David Stark’s Decor for Tenth Annual National Design Awards

(Photos, left to right: Patrick McMullan Company and UnBeige)

David Stark has long been the go-to event designer for the Cooper-Hewitt’s annual National Design Awards gala. In recent years, he and his team have transformed everyday objects—from cushions to cocktail napkins—into colorful tableaux that popped against the walls of the white tent pitched in the museum’s courtyard. This year, with the museum in the throes of a massive renovation, the gala was moved to Cipriani 42nd Street, a York & Sawyer-designed bank turned cavernous, landmarked event space. Even with a 65-foot ceiling to contend with, Stark rose to the challenge, creating bold and graphic decor inspired by the awards program’s tenth anniversary.

To make the designers the stars of the evening, Stark designed a series of graphic patterns from the names of past National Design Award winners. Set in white all-caps Futura on the NDA’s signature cyan, the text patterns made for a striking contrast with Cipriani’s Corinthian columns, inlaid floors, and soaring, Wedgewood-domed ceiling. “The important thing is always to create elements of scale that relate to the room you’re in,” Stark told us. “Much like we’ve done at the tented venue, we played with scale by creating entry and ceiling decor elements like the fourteen-foot ’10′ at the entrance and eight-foot drumshades suspended from the ceiling. On each, the pattern was exploded to various scales so the typography can be admired for its shape as well as its message, and provide interplay with the elaborate background of the space.”

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Are You Cool Enough for Oakley’s $4,000 Carbon Fiber Sunglasses?

(Craig Saruwatari).jpg
(Photos: Oakley)

CSix.jpgWe’re skeptical when clothing and accessories that aren’t designed for use in say, combat, come tucked inside large padded cases with glossy pamphlets and instructional CD-ROMs, but buying a pair of Oakley’s newest sunglasses will get you all that and more. The price tag? $4,000. But think of it as $2,000 per eye.

Crafted from pure carbon fiber, the C Six (named in a shout-out to carbon’s atomic number!) is “the most technically innovative sunglass ever created.” Oakley explains:

Specialists in building F1 racecars, the experts at Crosby Composites of London have been producing C Six frames with meticulous craftsmanship. To make just one, five-axis Computer Numeric Controlled machines spin diamond-tipped milling heads at 10,000 rpm, shaping a 40-layer billet of carbon fiber composite for more than 24 hours.

To deal with the rigid nature of finished components, Oakley engineered spinal structures of Beta Titanium memory metal to achieve precise zones of tuned flexibility. Radial cams augment the stem mechanics, and the lenses are a showcase of the best optical technologies ever invented.

Don’t even get them started on the hexalobular bolts! And if the sunglasses look familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen them on Lance Armstrong (who sported one of the first pairs in July while competing in the Tour de France) or an armadillo. “We took examples from segmented creatures in the animal kingdom, said Peter Yee, senior design director at Oakley. “We looked at animals like the armadillo and studied how parts move and slide. It’s the same idea with armored suits—you have flexibility and function that remains protective.”

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From Machu Picchu to the Merritt Parkway: World Monuments Fund Announces Watch List

machupicchu.jpgThe World Monuments Fund has announced its 2010 World Monuments Watch, a biennial list of at-risk cultural heritage sites. The new list consists of 93 sites from 47 countries. Along with the famous and ancient—Machu Picchu (pictured), Pakistani petroglyphs, Bhutan’s fragile Phajoding monastery—the list highlights the plight of modern architecture. Fifteen sites, including Connecticut’s Merritt Parkway, date from the 20th century. Modern buildings on the 2010 Watch include Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Taliesin and Taliesin West, in the United States, and the now-abandoned Sanatorium Joseph Lemaire, in Belgium. Also making the list is Las Pozas, the “Surrealist Xanadu” created by eccentric British artist Charles James in Xilitia, Mexico. Constructed in the mid-20th century, the series of canals, pools, and architectural follies is now crumbling and being engulfed by the surrounding jungle, according to the WMF.

“With a greater number of urban centers and cultural landscapes, this year’s Watch reflects a growing understanding that heritage cannot be preserved in isolation, but rather must be addressed as part of a broad physical and social context,” explained Erica Avrami, WMF’s Research and Education Director, in a statement accompanying the 2010 list. “Not all sites on the Watch are in imminent danger. Many face challenges on the horizon, providing the opportunity to engage in dialogue and decision-making now, so as to avoid problems in the future.”

Read on for the full WMF 2010 World Monuments Watch list.

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Creating Design Controversy Where There Isn’t Any


We’ve already done one post about silly conservative crackpottery this week and we know it’s fairly passe anymore to point out the focused agenda of Fox News, but sometimes we just can’t resist. What forces our hands to type these very words is this story on Fox’s website: “Cross-Like T-Shirt Design at Penn State University Sparks Controversy.” It’s about a limited-edition t-shirt put together by the university for an upcoming game, the design of which features a vertical line crossed by the name of the school at chest level, making it look like a bit of Christian iconography. It wasn’t intended to be religious and it functions with the university’s established branding, but the story latches on to the six people who have complained to the school about all of this. From there, they talk to university staff, the designer, and students of a variety of faiths, seemingly trying to dig out some juicy quotes about this “controversy,” as described in the piece’s title. The problem is that no one seems to have much of an issue with it, at times even seeming to call out Fox’s attempt at making this non-issue story bigger than it is:

Nick Mangus, a senior majoring in East Asian studies, described the controversy as “ridiculous” and said images of crosses can be seen virtually anywhere, even in “tiles on the floor.”

“Honestly, I think it’s basically people just trying to stir up controversy over something that’s ridiculous,” Mangus said. “If you don’t want to buy it, don’t buy it. It’s that simple. You don’t have to try and force everyone else to change their ways because you think it’s offensive.”

We’re all for raising a ruckus when lines have been crossed, almost always when it involves one group trying to force the other into following its beliefs. But there’s just no “controversy” here. This isn’t a case of trying to silence Christians, despite what the headline wants to hook you with from the start. Instead, it’s just a bunch of quotes that don’t add up to much more than “Why are we talking about this?” For further reading, here are some more thoughts on the whole matter from a local Penn State blog.

MLK Jr. Memorial Just One Step Away from Starting Construction


At the end of August, we checked in with the ever-stalled Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial project, only to find that it had reached yet another roadblock. Said roadblock that time actually dealt with the lack of roadblocks, with the National Park Service demanding that some sort of terrorist-stopping objects be placed surrounding the planned memorial. At that point, it looked like we were in for another couple of years of stand-still, as nearly everyone involved or had been following its progress had grown used to. But surprise, surprise, just under two months later and the latest updated plans (now with the additional security measures) have been approved. Now just one more hurdle stands in the way before construction can begin: the building permit. Fortunately, it appears as though that will come fairly easily (but we’ve heard that before, haven’t we?). Here’s from the Washington Post:

Peter May, an associate regional director with the Park Service, said the construction permit likely will be issued in a matter of days, after a final review of the building plans. The project also must contribute to the long-term preservation of the $120 million memorial and its site, he said. The project has raised $107 million so far.

Ice House Detroit Freezes the Abandoned


Just this past weekend, a friend was talking about Roger Hiorns‘ Turner Prize-shortlisted piece “Seizure.” If you aren’t familiar with it, the quick synopsis is that Hiorns dumped gallons and gallons of copper sulphate into a sealed, abandoned apartment, waited a few days, sucked all the liquid back out, and what was left were these beautiful, blue walls of crystals. So it’s funny that piece should come up right before we’d heard about this project in Detroit starting to make the rounds here on the internet, which sort of sounds like the American version of “Seizure.” It’s Gregory Holm and Matthew Radune‘s plan to pump water into an abandoned house this winter and let it freeze, essentially creating a gigantic ice block around the structure. Throughout the process, Holm will be photographing the effects the ice has on the house, with the whole purpose of the project serving as a statement about Detroit’s foreclosure plague over these past decades. The two are currently raising money for the project on their blog, so if you’re feeling generous and dig the idea, drop them a few bucks.

Ellerbe Becket Gets Bought Out by AECOM Technology Corp.


Some big architecture business news this week. It’s been announced that the Kansas City-based firm Ellerbe Becket, has been acquired by the massive California company AECOM Technology Corp. Becket, you might recall, has come to more prominence recently for seemingly being Populous‘ only rival in the stadium building game, most recently getting handed the high-profile commission to design the New Jersey Nets Arena at Atlantic Yards after Frank Gehry got booted. The sale will apparently be good for both sides, with Becket, who will be keeping its name, having a much larger financial backing behind it, and AECOM buying a presence in the Midwest. Here’s a bit:

“One of the big-picture issues now is the global marketplace,” [managing principal Steve Duethman] said. “We have to figure out the best way to serve that marketplace and be a player in it. Joining AECOM allows us to do that.”

For instance, Duethman said, in the sports and health care design fields, which are among the Kansas City office’s strengths, the merger will allow Ellerbe Becket to expand into geographic markets that it previously didn’t have the financial resources to enter.

For Milan Party, Ico Migliore Plays the T Card

(Photos: Sara Scamarcia)

vezzoliT.jpgRemember the quintet of artist- and architect-designed covers of T: The New York Times Style Magazine in celebration of its fifth anniversary? Architect and exhibition designer Ico Migliore transformed the five special T logos—created by Frank Gehry, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Doug and Mike Starn, and Francesco Vezzoli—into giant playing cards for a T party at the Bulgari Hotel in Milan during the city’s fashion week. The evening was hosted by Janet L. Robinson, president and CEO of The New York Times Company; T magazine editor Stefano Tonchi, and Vezzoli, whose own T (at left) riffs on Man Ray‘s iconic “Tears” photo. Guests such as Tomas Maier, Frida Giannini, Neil Barrett, and Giambattisa Valli tried not to interpret the giant houses of cards as a metaphor for the media industry. Click “continued…” for an overhead shot that smacks of Alice in Wonderland—if Wonderland was full of gentlemen in expertly tailored suits.

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