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Archives: September 2010

AIA’s Billings Index Continues to Inch Upward


Very cautious optimism is the name of the game within the architecture community these days. Despite three months of showing upward movement, however slight, in the American Institute of Architect‘s monthly Architecture Billings Index, it’s only been a handful of months since the last bit of momentum was met with a sudden dip that had even the organization’s usually quite stoic and sober economist, Kermit Baker, feeling a bit glum. The current read is that the business of building industry has ticked up to 48.2 on the Index (anything over 50 means there’s growth), a move from last month’s 47.9. So while in the right direction, we’ve certainly learned from several instances in the path not to count our chickens before they’re hatched (or even before the appearance of an egg at this point). Here’s a bit from Reuters:

Project inquiries typically produce a higher reading than actual billings because multiple architecture firms bid on the same projects. Many inquiries come to naught. Project cancellations continue to be the main roadblock to recovery for the construction sector, the group said. Meanwhile, architects are more likely to win work on small renovations than on larger, new projects.

Of the four geographic regions tracked by the AIA, only the Northeast was above 50, and only the commercial/industrial sector was above that mark in August.

Post-Richard Rogers, Chelsea Barracks Gets a New Architect


Just as it seemed last year’s biggest architecture story was dying down, with Prince Charles quitting his various societies and receiving slaps on the wrist for getting Richard Rogers kicked off the Chelsea Barracks development for being too modern, the whole thing kicks back up again and just won’t let go. A post-Roger architect has been chosen for the project, Michael Squire of the British firm Squire and Partners (the firms Dixon/Jones and Kim Wilkie are also included as primaries on the project). Almost the polar opposite of Rogers with what are considered safe, client-friendly designs, the London Evening-Standard reports that critics seem already raging in preparation for the rage they’re prepared to feel when he unveils his plans for the development. The paper provides some great background on Squire’s career, which seems very accomplished and impressive, albeit it much quieter than that of a hot shot, always-in-the-press peer, which of course is and will continue to be the focus, that it’s still Prince Charles’ fault for getting Rogers kicked off. Squire, we hope, is prepared to get thrown under many, many buses along the way, which most assuredly will happen, given the history of this story.

Seattle Commissions High Line Co-Designer to Build New Waterfront


Speaking of the High Line and Michael Van Valkenburgh, although lots of cities have toyed with the idea of doing their own version of the incredibly popular New York, down and out-turned-destination experiment, like San Francisco with their Bay Bridge Park pie-in-the-sky ideas, Seattle wins the prize for not only trying to duplicate that model, but hiring one of the firms that put it into place. It’s been announced that James Corner Field Operations has beaten out Valkenburgh (along with two other firms) and won the commission as lead designer behind the city’s plan to develop and revitalize its central waterfront area (along with a team of other design firms, including the New York firm SHoP, which was brought into the Atlantic Yards fray last year). Although more landscape-based than building new buildings, for a city that’s sometimes been chided for being a little boring on the architectural front, despite its various efforts to the contrary, it’s a fantastic step in the right direction. Here’s a description of the project from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The state Transportation Department plans to replace the aging viaduct with a deep-bore tunnel beneath downtown. After the viaduct is torn down, civic leaders envision developing a world-class waterfront with open public spaces, a tree-lined boulevard, and maybe beaches from which to launch kayaks or fly kites. The canvas will be more than nine acres of new public space along the shoreline and new Alaskan Way boulevard from King Street to Elliott and Western Avenues. It has potential to connect a chain of Seattle icons: Pike Place Market; the Seattle Aquarium; Pioneer Square; the sports stadiums and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

You can download James Corner’s firm’s Powerpoint presentation about the project, here (warning: it’s around 100meg).

Michael Van Valkenburgh Wins Commission to Redevelop St. Louis Arch Grounds

Has it been more than nine months already? Back in the icy haze of early December, the planned September announcement of who would win the competition to design and develop the new grounds surrounding St. Louis’ iconic Gateway Arch seemed like but a distant, science-fiction-y future. But here we are. Although originally intended to be announced this Friday, word slipped out and so the organizers behind “Framing a Modern Masterpiece” were forced to make the statement early that landscape starchitect, Michael Van Valkenburgh, who is quickly becoming the next Frederick Olmsted, has won the competition (pdf). His plan, with help from a team that includes Steven Holl and New York’s High Line-adjacent designer James Carpenter, includes a massive new riverfront park as well as public gathering spots along the way (you can check it all out below in the video the team made for the competition). The project will continued to be documented through construction and the clock is now ticking for Valkenburgh, as St. Louis and the National Park Service is hoping to have everything finished by October 28th, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the completion of Eero Saarinen‘s Arch.

Pantone Debuts Colorful Visa Cards

It’s a Pantone chip! It’s a credit card! Stop, you’re both right! The color authority is making its iconic color samples available as Visa cards in a range of hues that looks borrowed from the Crayola “bold colors” markers box but is in fact a quintet of shades tapped by Pantone as fashionably hot—or cool, as the case may be—for spring 2011. Shopaholics can opt for blazing Firecracker (Pantone 16-1452), which the company associates not with pyromania but the spicy virtues of “cheerful, dynamic, and tuned in.” That does a pretty good job of describing sassy wunderkind Christian Siriano, who combined deep fiery red and saturated paprika tones with neutral khaki in a spring collection influenced by African, Indian, and Asian culture (think safari shorts, kimono-sleeved jackets, and of course, gowns). Cooler heads and seafaring types can opt for Regatta (Pantone 18-4039)—a cadet blue that showed up in designer Lela Rose‘s spring collection, which was inspired by richly woven Peruvian textiles, and the preptastic 25th anniversary line-up of Tommy Hilfiger. Also trending cool was Carmen Marc Valvo, who dipped into the Blue Curacao (Pantone 15-4825) for a collection designed in part to boost colon cancer awareness, which has made blue its official color. The aquamarine hue, which makes us thirsty for some Bombay Sapphire and Pantone finds “sensuous, tender, and inviting,” also found a fan in young designer Nary Manivong, who looked to his Laotian heritage and the Amish culture he saw growing up in Ohio to whip up pieces such as an ocean-toned corset wrap dress. Meanwhile, a Beeswax (Pantone 14-0941) Visa is bound to stand out in your wallet while subtly signaling to merchants that you’re “warm, sincere, and generous.” Transaction approved! The mustardish shade found a supporter in Tibi’s Amy Smilovic, who mixed graphic blacks and whites with ochre and cool grape (if you fancy a Lavender Visa) for spring 2011. She declares the must-have ensemble “an ochre top with matching ochre pant.”

IDEO Imagines the Future of Books

Although we have iPads, Kindles, and a number of other brands’ variations thereof, IDEO knows that we’re just at the very beginning of books making the transition from pulp to the pixel. And because they make their money on ideas, they’ve put together these three concepts on what they see as potential for “The Future of the Book.” If anything, watch this for the great art direction:

Suit Filed Against Kohl’s for Potential T-Shirt Design Theft

While the fashion industry ratchets up their efforts to legally be able to stop design copycats, the long tradition of large retailers selling knock-offs of work by individual designers or small shops still marches on. The St. Paul Business Journal reports that designer Heidi Panelli has taken Kohl’s to court over a t-shirt design now sold by the retailer that she claims is far too close to one she had been selling on her site for years. Seeing the two side-by-side, it’s hard not to agree with her, as just a handful of very slight changes are the only thing that make the shirts distinguishable from one another. While it’s easy to vilify the retailer in these instances, it seems as though these cases are more often a matter of poor due diligence on behalf of their buyers for not having discovered that one of the brands they order from was pushing a potential knock-off. Panelli, who stumbled across the copy of her design while shopping, is asking that Kohl’s remove all the shirts copying her work and pay damages it may have cost her business.

Atlantic Yards Report’s Plan to Turn the Development’s Story into a Book

We’ve posted our fair share about the trials and tribulations of the seemingly always rocky creation of Brooklyn’s Atlantic Yards development, from the early protests to Frank Gehry‘s removal to the disregard for public design reviews and the lawsuits that have nearly shut it all down at times. But as often as we’ve written about the project, we can’t hold a candle to Norman Oder, the man behind the Atlantic Yards Report, a blog that, since 2006, has laboriously chronicled all the many ups and downs the development has been through. Thanks to a tip from a reader, we were passed along the news that Oder has decided to quit his job as news editor of the Library Journal to concentrate on turning his blog about the Yards into a book. Though he doesn’t yet have a publishing deal for it, he’s striking out on his own in order to tell the story of this storied development. Here’s a bit from the Observer‘s conversation with Oder:

“I think the story needs to be told,” Mr. Oder said in his demure way. “It’s been told in dribs and drabs. It will be mythologized, and it will be spun, and parts of the story will get lost. The story needs to to be synthesized and made sense of. And made compelling.”

Guggenheim Announces Shortlist for ‘YouTube Play’ Video Biennial

youtube play.jpgA group that includes students, video artists, filmmakers, a Swedish rock band, and an American chess champion is that much closer to having their work exhibited at the Guggenheim. That diverse bunch is a just sampling of the creators behind the videos shortlisted for YouTube Play, the HP- and Intel-sponsored “biennial of creative video” launched in June to discover and showcase the most exceptional talent working in the realm of online video. Somehow, the Guggenheim’s curatorial team culled the more than 23,000 submissions from 91 countries into a particularly promising 125 (watch them here) that have been presented to that incredible jury, which includes Stefan Sagmeister, artists Marilyn Minter and Takashi Murakami, and filmmakers Darren Aronofsky and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. “The shortlist presents a rich sampling of the best creative video found on YouTube and is representative of the various stylistic and conceptual genres specific to this broad, ever-expanding platform,” said jury chairperson Nancy Spector, deputy director and chief curator of the Guggenheim Foundation. “The selection is diverse in technique, subject matter, geography, and professional status….We believe the shortlist reveals the abundance of creative energy this project evoked.” Up to 20 of the jury’s top choices (our fingers are crossed for Strindberg and Helium!) will be revealed and presented at a special YouTube Play event at the Guggenheim in New York City on October 21. The final videos selected by the jury will be on view to the public from October 22 through 24 in the museum’s Tower 2 gallery and viewable on the YouTube Play channel.

Betty White Named This Year’s Most Influential Designer

Back in late July, when we were in one of our moods, this writer let his frustration over this year’s overly-ironic fascination with actress Betty White get the better of him. After reading a press release about White signing up for a licensing partnership with the apparel company HoodieBuddie to create a line of clothing with White-featured knock-off art, like turning Shepard Fairey‘s “Obey” into the obvious “Betty,” more than borrowing a page from Fairey’s recognizable design, we screamed and pouted. Though they’ve since introduced a few original shirt designs, it was this video the company put together to promote the line that has softened us up a little to both their product and to the White phenomenon as well: