In early-2009 when the whole business of architecture seemed to be coming undone under the weight of the financial crisis, with developments getting the axe across the board and layoffs and cutbacks seeming to happen every week, one project in particular suffered an above-average difficult moment: Norman Foster‘s Harmon Hotel. Planned as a portion of Las Vegas’ new money-gobbling CityCenter, builders discovered a mistake involving incorrectly installed rebar across 15 whole floors, which ultimately necessitated the already penny-pinched tower be cut from 49 stories down to 28. A year and a half later and the hotel still isn’t open and now it’s rumored that its owners, MGM, plan to have the building demolished sometime in 2012, should it be able to win its case against Perini Building, who the company claims is responsible for all of the construction problems. And proving that perhaps the building was never meant to be, Perini was already in the middle of a suit against MGM for failing to pay hundreds of millions in overdue bills. Here’s a bit of that back and forth from Architectural Record‘s great look at a very large mess:
“Talk of demolition is nothing more than a pure publicity stunt,” says Perini CEO Craig W. Shaw. “We stand ready and willing to fix it, but MGM stopped us from doing so. It’s an insurable claim, but the building is worth more to them dead than alive.”
Harmon has “substantial defective construction” resulting in “hundreds of millions of dollars in estimated damages,” MGM’s lawsuit claims. “There are no plans to open Harmon in any form whatsoever,” says MGM spokesman Alan M. Feldman. He claims the hotel “cannot be used for the purpose originally intended” due to extensive non-conforming work.
Yesterday, we posted about the Guggenheim Foundation‘s tax filings and what they said about the organization’s finances. Today we turn to news coming from one of those places that’s using a portion of the money they’re taking in: the Frank Gehry-designed, in-development Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The Art Newspaper is reporting that Thomas Krens has left the project completely, having gotten involved almost immediately after leaving his long-time post as director of the Foundation. What does this mean for the Abu Dhabi plans, and what happened to make Krens decide to leave after nearly two years and the forming of a company to help support it? No one involved is talking, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Here’s a bit:
A spokeswoman for the Guggenheim foundation confirmed by email that Krens is no longer working on the Abu Dhabi project. On the subject of the curatorial panel, she added that: “No formal group was ever officially formed. The Guggenheim is in conversations with experts from around the world who are knowledgeable about Middle Eastern art and culture and who will be called upon for their expertise.”
The glad retail tidings continue, this time with news of a design collaboration that has more immediate gifting potential. Global fashion and design e-commerce powerhouse yoox.com (which we have to thank for many a discounted Rick Owens topper and for feeding our Fornasetti addiction) has teamed with Italian design magazine Case da Abitare on “Xmas Craft,” a curated collection of design objects that will be offered exclusively on yoox.com later this month. Think of it as a highbrow, design-savvy version of Oprah’s Favorite Things.
The holiday partnership, which the Bologna, Italy-based Yoox Group is slated to announce tomorrow, will celebrate innovative approaches to traditional materials with a focus on what happens when industrial processes get a handcrafted twist. Look for linens designed by Valérie Barkowski for Bandit Queen alongside BTC’s handspun brass pendant lights and Oskar Zieta‘s award-winning powdercoated steel “Plopp” stool (pictured above) for Danish manufacturer HAY. And for your holiday table, there is porcelain a-plenty, including cups and saucers by Marco Bertolini for DMK and elegant platinum-coated bowls by Tsé Tsé Associées. Case da Abitare editors selected each item to “tempt and delight the discerning Christmas shopper,” according to Yoox. Design fans in 67 countries will have through New Year’s Eve to splurge.
Just in time for a certain famous Thanksgiving Day Parade comes news that is sure to elicit gratitude among fashion fans: designer Karl Lagerfeld will soon unveil a fashion venture with Macy’s, multiple sources told UnBeige. We hear that the national retailer has inked a deal with the Karl Lagerfeld brand, owned by private equity firm Apax Partners, for an affordably priced ready-to-wear line that will range from jeans to gowns. The new line, slated to launch with a collection for fall 2011, is also expected to include a major online component, with e-commerce as a key distribution channel.
Speculation about the venture has been rampant since early September, when Lagerfeld announced that he would not be showing his signature collection during Paris Fashion Week and instead had a fast fashion line in the works. At the time, Apax said that they were talking with several potential partners for the new “masstige” play. “I wanted this for a long time,” Lagerfeld told WWD in September. “I prefer to work in another way. I can’t compete with Chanel. I don’t want to be the poor child of myself. This has been my vision for years.”
Our calls to Apax and Macy’s were not immediately returned, but according to our sources, production of the new accessibly priced Lagerfeld collection will be handled by Li & Fung, the Hong Kong-based sourcing giant that has been on a deal spree in recent months. The global supplier, which has worked extensively with Macy’s, recently inked agreements to produce lines for stylist Rachel Zoe, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and celebrity couple Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony (for Kohl’s).
A matchup of Lagerfeld with Macy’s and Li & Fung recalls other deals masterminded by Apax, which acquired Karl Lagerfeld SAS as part of its 2006 buyout of Tommy Hilfiger. The private equity firm paid $1.6 billion to take Hilfiger private and in 2007 sold the company’s global sourcing operations to Li & Fung for $247.8 million in cash. That same year, Apax-owned Hilfiger signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Macy’s for men’s and women’s sportswear. Apax has since cashed out of Hilfiger—selling the business to Phillips-Van Heusen for $3 billion in May of this year—but retained control of the Lagerfeld brand.
Speaking of museums, financial issues, and building plans, as we have been all morning, perhaps the most uplifting story of the year that concerned all three involved the Berkeley Museum of Art and the Pacific Film Archives. After finding themselves too cash-strapped to afford a brand new building designed by hot shot architect Toyo Ito, the organization managed to remain undeterred, pressed forward, found themselves an already-built building, and hired Diller Scofido + Renfro to rehab it for them. Unfortunately, as positive as that story has played out thus far, the San Francisco Chronicle has dug into the finances behind the project and found that both UC Berkeley and the museum/archives themselves aren’t quite sure who is going to be giving them a chunk money needed to complete the project, which is somewhat troubling given that it was fundraising woes that killed off the original Toyo Ito building. Though both groups are confident they’ll find a way to get what they need, the whole situation seems very similar to what’s happening at Michigan State University, where they’re still trying to raise the last $6 million needed to finish off a museum designed by their own hot shot architect, Zaha Hadid.
In the midst of this summer’s controversy over Fisk University‘s desire to sell a stake in their large collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, which finally came to an end recently when a judge gave them the okay, though with provisions the school wasn’t thrilled with, the museum they were planning to sell to, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, somehow stayed largely out of the picture, other than it was founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. Now the Bentonville, Arkansas museum is sure to start getting a bit more press of its own, and not just because they managed to get access to a whole lot of O’Keeffes. The museum has announced that its construction should be finished by sometime next year and will officially open on November 11th of 2011. Though they’ve currently been operating in a temporary space, split between showing off plans for their permanent home and a small exhibition gallery, the museum will become a “museum” next year, when they’ve moved into the Moshe Safdie-designed complex. If you’re itching to see what it’ll all look like, their site is chronicling the building process here.
Between the Smithsonian fighting off forcing patrons to pay for tickets to its museums and San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum facing bankruptcy (a problem it’s still working through), we’ve been talking a lot lately about how times are still tough for museums. Now the NY Times has put together this brief, interesting look at the Guggenheim Foundation‘s tax filings, showing just how awful 2008 was for them (“the museum’s net assets declined by 25 percent”), how things picked up a bit in 2009, but with cuts and layoffs, still weren’t great, and how the cultural organization is hoping for a better 2010. This year has been filled with lots of high-profile partnerships and fun press, but how much of that translates into money-in-the-bank, that’s for next year’s tax forms to reveal. It’s also a good look at what it’s been paying its still-new-ish director, Richard Armstrong, who pocketed a salary of more than $600,000 last year. Here’s a bit:
The latest tax filings show that 2009 was not nearly as bad, though the numbers still offer cause for concern. Despite a round of layoffs (completed midyear), expenses exceeded revenue by more than $12 million. Contributions were down from the previous year, to $20 million. The foundation’s endowment decreased slightly, to $62.5 million from $64.4 million.
Foster + Partners inserted “a crystal spine” into the MFA’s two main volumes to create the four-floor Art of the Americas Wing, which opened to the public on Saturday.
On Saturday, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston cut the ribbon on its new Art of the Americas wing, an 133,491-square-foot addition that includes 53 (yes, 53!) new galleries, more than 500 newly acquired artworks, and one cavernous, light-filled courtyard. The $345 million expansion, shepherded to a triumphant climax by MFA director Malcolm Rogers, required nothing short of an architectural reimagining of the 140-year-old museum. Enter Foster + Partners, which the MFA selected to take on the project back in 1999 based on the firm’s “unparalleled reputation for space planning and its deep understanding of how to best present the Museum’s great works of art,” according to Rogers. The plan was to restore the logic of the 1909 Beaux Arts building, devised by architect Guy Lowell, while adding a “crystal spine”—the freestanding glazed structure that is the new wing. “We really try to be really respectful,” Michael Jones, a partner at Foster + Partners, told The Boston Globe. “I’m not saying that we don’t do something that’s quite powerful in and of itself and is a very purposeful building of its time, but it’s respectful of the existing building that it’s adding to. After all, you know, they’ve got to sit together for….Ever.”
Since resolving its brand identity crisis, Gap has been busy expanding its horizons. In recent weeks, the mega-retailer has opened its first wholly-owned stores in China (two in Beijing, two in Shanghai) and Italy (on Milan’s Corso Vittorio Emanuele) and announced plans to enter South America next fall. But the Gap store we’re most excited about is a temporary outlet right down the road from the company’s San Francisco HQ. It’s a seasonal pop-up shop (above) that features the covetable steel-framed bikes and gear of PUBLIC, the enterprise started in May by Design Within Reach founder Rob Forbes.
“I’ve been watching the growth of city bikes in Europe for almost ten years and seeing the changes here, such as the Bloomberg initiatives in New York,” Forbes told us. “I’m passionate about urban design and mobility, and want to help us get over our car addiction.” And so PUBLIC was born. The San Francisco-based company specializes in practical bikes designed for cities. Its classically styled models come in a growing range of gorgeous hues—a tangerine inspired by the ’68 Vespa that is a fixture in the PUBLIC offices, a pale blue purloined from a vintage Porsche—and boast frames that are guaranteed for life and “ride like butter.”
Word of snazzy urban bikes travels fast in the Bay Area, so it was only a matter of time before Gap came calling. “Their team visited our South Park space, liked our vibe, and asked if we’d work with them on the pop-up,” explained Forbes. “They are developing a bike share program with their staff also, and we align with their internal mission.” The deal was sealed by PUBLIC’s new more affordable models (the recently launched Public A7 and J7 each sell for $495, compared to the $550 to $890 price range of other models) and its quirky assortment of non-bike merchandise, including pretty air pumps, art, antimicrobial striped socks, and wooden deer heads.