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Archives: November 2011

Porsche Design Group to Build Tower in Miami, All-Glass Car Elevators Included in the Price

While the American architecture and construction businesses might be on something of an emotional roller coaster over the past few years, with massive dips in billings met with occasional, but unfortunately never very lasting, boom periods (we remind you of the latest numbers from the AIA‘s Architecture Billings Index), the one thing the industry might have to hold on to is that Porsche will just keep building more and more massive projects. Just a few days after the automotive company announced that it would be building a large complex and test track for itself in Los Angeles, as well as a huge new headquarters in Atlanta, its been unveiled that its Porsche Design Group arm will be building, with developer Gil Dezer, a new residential tower in the Miami area, in Sunny Isles Beach. The Miami Herald reports that the 57-story building will cost an estimated $650 million to build, with each unit coming in somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million. What does that amount get you, and why is a firm who is most well known for designing consumer goods now behind a large architectural project? Two words: glass elevators. The tower is set to feature lifts that will not only take them to their condos, but do so while they’re sitting in their cars. Here’s a bit:

Here is how it will work: After the resident pulls over and switches off the engine, a robotic arm that works much like an automatic plank will scoop up the car and put it into the elevator. Once at the desired floor, the same robotic arm will park the car, leaving the resident nearly in front of his front door. Voila, home!

Fingers Pointed in a Number of Directions Over Beijing Airport’s Latest Roofing Incident

In case you missed it as you were prepping to travel or start your two day cooking, drinking and eating frenzy, Beijing’s Norman Foster-designed airport was hit by another very large gust of wind. While non-hurricane winds don’t usually rip open the roofs of buildings, in this case it did, for the second time in less than a year (it happened before last December), removing metal plates and insulation, which slid and blew onto the surrounding area, including a runway. Given that this wing of the airport is only three years old, opened to showcase modern China for Olympic visitors, the blame game fall out has begun, with some blaming the architecture, others pointing at China’s often perceived construction oversights, with speed coming before safety and security, and most recently, with the organizations who worked to build Foster’s design now blaming the two roof tears on poor building materials. Here’s a bit from the executive chief architect of Beijing Architectural Design and Research Institute, talking to the Wall Street Journal:

“While architects designed the general look of T3, suppliers made special designs to makesure the metal panels used on the roof could resist strong winds,” he said.

“The metal roof technology used to build T3 was a mature one that has stood tests for more than 20 years,” he said, adding he personally believed that this could be more of a quality-related issue.

Actor B.J. Novak Admits to 1997 Prank on Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

We hope you had a very nice holiday and a long weekend, and we realize that you’re probably a bit grumpy at being back to the grind, so let’s start off a bit gently with something fun, shall we? Over the weekend, at a fundraiser at his alma mater high school, the actor B.J. Novak, of NBC‘s The Office, confessed to a prank he’d pulled on Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts more than a decade ago. Boston Globe recounts the great story of Novak and his friends deciding to re-record the audio guide given out to guests visiting the museum’s popular 1997 exhibition, “Tales from the Land of Dragons.” To make it more convincing, a friend with a thick Eastern European accent provided the narration, and the pranksters swapped the tapes after legitimately paying for tickets and audio guide rentals. It’s a great, fun story, and something we wish we’d thought of when we were 17. Here’s a bit:

“The first three minutes of the tape were completely accurate … but about 3 minutes in, the tour started getting a little weird. The guy started injecting his personal opinions. He’d say, ’Personally I think this painting is a piece of crap,’” Novak recalled, using a heavy, vaguely Eastern European accent and laughing along with the audience.

“Quietly remove the glass and inhale the rich aroma of the paint,” the faux narrator said. “Ah, that is good stuff!”

If you’re curious, or want this all verified before you believe it, here’s the original article that appeared in the Globe (pdf) in 1997 after the prank tapes were discovered.

Joe Zee’s All on the Line Returns with Designer Drama, Powder Blue Velvet

“They’re leggings,” explains designer Angelo Lambrou, fondling a mud-colored puddle of jersey. “They’re awful,” concludes Joe Zee. The peppy Elle creative director doesn’t pull any punches in All on the Line, the reality-TV series in which he attempts to help fashion designers rescue their ailing businesses. In the show’s second season, which premieres tonight on Sundance Channel, Zee kicks off each episode with a kind of sartorial quickfire challenge: the embattled designer must whip up something on the spot (or at least in 72 hours) for a special guest style arbiter such as Rachel Roy or Mark Badgley and James Mischka. Having conquered that initial task, it’s onto the main event of creating a capsule collection for the scrutiny of big-time buyers, but not before Zee steps into the studio to offer guidance on a triumphant relaunch. The first season saw one featured designer seal a deal with Nordstrom, but success is anything but assured. In tonight’s season opener, Lambrou, who has carved out a niche in the custom bridal business, struggles at every turn. Midway through the episode, Zee pronounces his designs “complicated but still boring.” We won’t spoil the ending for you, but be warned: powder-blue velvet is involved.

Awards in Store for Paul Smith, Donna Karan, and Oscar de la Renta

Three fashion designers are clearing space on their shelves for a virtual cornucopia of awards. First up is that wizard of stripes, Paul Smith (that’s “Sir Paul,” as of 2000), whose vast retail empire one cannot truly appreciate without visiting Japan. On Monday, Smith will receive the outstanding achievement award at the British Fashion Awards in London. The special award celebrates the achievement of a designer whose work “has had an exceptional impact on global fashion,” according to the British Fashion Council, which has previously honored Smith as an exceptional menswear designer (1997/1999), classic designer (2001), and contemporary designer (2003).

Meanwhile, back on our shores, Parsons The New School for Design is gearing up to honor one of its own. Donna Karan, who famously failed draping (apparently the second time was the charm), will be recognized along with philanthropist Sheila Johnson at the 2012 Parsons Fashion Benefit on May 1. “Parsons gave me my start in the industry, and to be able to support future designers is incredibly important to me,” said Karan in a statement issued by the school. “I am particularly excited to be honored with Sheila, who has been so instrumental to the success of Parsons, as well as to celebrate the first graduating class of the new MFA in Fashion Design and Society.” The new graduate program was made possible by the endowed Donna Karan Professorship.

Another design legend will get his due from the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Couture Council, which will honor Oscar de la Renta with its 2012 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion. Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at FIT, describes the designer as “a true fashion superstar who has long served as one of the greatest ambassadors of American style. His clothes, which draw on the heritage of Spain and the French haute couture, as well as on the dynamism of contemporary New York high fashion, convey a sense of luxury and drama that have earned him acclaim throughout the world.” De la Renta will receive the award at a luncheon in September.

Ai Weiwei’s Assistant Investigated for Pornography, Internet Supporters Go Nude (or Nearly) in Show of Solidarity

With artist Ai Weiwei gaining ever-more international praise and growing more vocal in speaking out against the Chinese government, as well as vowing to fight against the tax evasion charges he’d been hit with, it felt like it was only a matter of time before his perpetual sparing partner hit back. Now it looks to have either just happened or is but the first step in the return volleys. The government has reportedly taken in his assistant for questioning over one of the artist’s pieces, “One Tiger, Eight Breasts,” which featured Weiwei and four women, all nude, sitting in a studio. Claiming the assistant was spreading pornography on the internet, he was ultimately released, but now Weiwei believes that this might be the next major charge leveled at him by the government (an initial charge of distribution of pornography was brought up during his mysterious, three-month detainment this summer, but the authorities seem to have wanted to focus more on the tax charges). Since his assistant’s release, in a show of solidarity, a number of fellow Chinese artists and other international supporters have uploaded nude photos of themselves individually or in groups, including one “with images of Ai’s head superimposed over their genitals and nipples.” In response to this latest effort by the government, Weiwei has said, “If they see nudity as pornography, then China is still in the Qing dynasty” and has called upon his allies to harass state-run media outlets and those paid by the government to denounce him online, by providing their phone numbers on his Twitter feed.

Archeologist Argues Sex Pistols Graffiti As Important As Ancient Cave Paintings

Since Werner Herzog’s 3D film Cave of Forgotten Dreams was such a big hit earlier this year, should we now expect a follow up, wherein the adventurous director travels to the wilds of central London and dares enter a small apartment? If you’re a certain professor of archeology at the University of York, you apparently might consider it. The Telegraph reports that a handful of cartoons drawn by John Lydon (or Johnny Rotten) of the Sex Pistols have been discovered behind a cupboard in what are now offices. The archeologist in question is Dr. John Schofield who has compared the find with the cave paintings at Lascaux in France, or at the very least, perhaps even more important than the “lost early Beatles recordings” the BBC found in the mid-90s. In that case, Schofield is careful to remind that a producer at the time of that finding said the discovery was “like finding Tutankhamen’s tomb,” so his comparison to ancient cave paintings shouldn’t sound so absurd. That said, the Guardian‘s Johnathan Jones isn’t buying any of it. Writing that “archeologists should know better” and that anyone from that field who agrees with the importance of the find is merely doing so “to provoke their own profession” without really understanding that modern culture constantly “glorifies the immediate.” In a general sense, his argument seems to boil down to: why stoop to pop culture’s level when there’s legitimate, albeit less sexy, work to be done? Our personal addendum is that, while we genuinely like Lydon’s drawings, and realize their importance to the comparatively very recent history of music, isn’t it a bit premature to label something a major archeological find when the guy who drew them is still alive, and could likely redraw the same cartoons today?

More Issues, Delays for September 11th Museum


While the National September 11th Memorial was met record demand, received generally positive reviews, and has already had more than half a million visitors, that doesn’t mean the rest of the larger project is progressing along as smoothly. In a story nearly as old as when the rebuilding effort began, and a slowness you might recall 60 Minutes once called “a national disgrace,” there’s been yet another slowdown in the construction efforts on the Snohetta and Davis Brody Bond-designed museum portion. The Wall Street Journal reports that the two bodies overseeing the effort, the Port Authorities of New York and New Jersey, have “stopped approving new contracts and extensions of existing contracts,” all stemming from disagreements with the foundation behind the project, as well as financial issues, which have seemingly plagued the development from the very start. This latest series of hurdles seems to indicate that once again the opening of the museum will be pushed back from its original planned opening date next September.

Chronicle Books Treats UnBeige Like Family (or Friends, at Least)

One of our favorite purveyors of all things bound, Chronicle Books has its Friends and Family Holiday Sale running through Wednesday, November 30, and Chronicle thinks of UnBeige as family (or at least a bookish buddy). All the good little UnBeige girls and boys can get a whopping 35% off all purchases and—because Santa has plenty of extra room on the sleigh this time of year—free shipping. Just use promo code “FRIENDS” at checkout. Might we suggest the Unhappy Hipsters book, It’s Lonely in the Modern World, or perhaps Pantone gurus Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker‘s colorful tour through the 20th century? And even the most grizzled Scrooge will be charmed by this look at the life of Boo, world’s cutest dog.

5 Things You Need to Know This Week: Talkin’ Turkey

In this week’s episode of “5 Things You Need to Know This Week,” we talk with a veteran Butterball turkey expert, introduce our very own 5 Things Muppet, discuss Black Friday deals, and think up interesting things to talk about while watching football. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

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