Save Highline, And Eat Cookies

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We've always been concerned that the High Line had made a deal with the devil regarding the Rail Yards portion of the tracks. That's the portion above 30th Street. While the hoopla about a West Side Stadium was in full fur mode (way back in 2005), the Friends of the High Line were busy planning and rail banking the rest of the High Line. Of course, anyone who has worked on a design for the High Line knows that the upper 30%, which curls around the West Side Rail Yards, is what gives the High Line the ability to connect, at both ends, to the Hudson River Park, and the water. It is also the end where you can walk from street level smoothly up to High Line level. So why was FTHL giving it up?

The answer, apparently, is that they were simply biding their time. Let the big dogs tear each other to bits. Now, without a plan, direction, or powerful sponsor (or Olympic bid, for that matter) to interfere, the Rail Yards seems ripe for another fresh-faced entrant, and FTHL appears to be eager to garner political and popular support for this important piece of (potential) public space.

FTHL is holding a public gathering, where they will present possibilities for this portion of the High Line, as well as gather comments from the public. Oh, and serve their famous High Line cookies and cider. Chelsea Market Community Space, 75 Ninth Avenue, 6.30pm Thursday December 7. RSVP required, contact [email protected] or 212.206.9922.

Specifier Magazine

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This week is New Architectural Magazine Week at Tropolism. Didn't you hear?

First up is a great magazine out of Australia called Specifier. Its publication includes a lot of information on architectural building products, and relates them to projects worldwide. Kind of like Architectural Record, only not so half-assed. Specifier has only recently gone online, which is how we found out about it (thank goodness for our magazine-surfing intern). Our favorite: being able to read and see pictures of the current issue, like this article about the marvellous Metropol Parasol in Seville.

Sculpture For Living: The Dumb Never Sets

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The Sculpture For Living is a gift that keeps on giving. Not to be upstaged by the questionable architectural value of the building, the open space next to the building (between Carl Fischer and It) decided to one-up the building is crapassness. We didn't think it possible, but Manhattan Offender gives us the photographic evidence (pictured). We quote:

If you are going to restrict access from the public, then you need to have access in the first place. The 'garden in question is not accessible to the residents; there is no pathway through it. Therefore you are restricting access to the public to something that doesn't have access in the first place."
Via the fellow Sculpture For Living hatahs Curbed.

Whitney Going Downtown

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Eleven years and three star architects later, the Whitney Museum has made their committment to expanding downtown official. The sucking sound you hear is the sound of contemporary cultural institutions moving quickly away from the Upper East Side. Who is next? Guggenheim? The Met?

Of note is that the Whitney will also refurbish the original, gorgeously brutal Breuer building, after they've expanded downtown.

OMA Fun Palace In Beijing

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The New York Times is nothing if not consistent. Another article on OMA/Rem Koolhaas? Send in Robin Pogrebin for more softball pitches. The article on the MoMA show about OMA's new buildings in Beijing does give us a sense of what to expect with the show, but as usual provides little illumination on the building beyond what the architects practiced to say about it. Apparently, when an architect says they are building a fun palace, you just put it in quotes and hope someone else gets the reference. If it's a reference.

Saarinen's TWA: Looking For Life

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Preservationists have been holding their breath about Saarinen's TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, dormant since 2001, ever since JetBlue announced they were building their own terminal really, really close to it. Without doing anything to it.

The New York Times reports that the Port Authority is soliciting development proposals for the building. The high notes: Saarinen's original design and details will be restored and preserved, and you can still walk through the space ship tubes to get to the Jet Blue terminal. The low notes: what, really, does one do at an empty terminal building in the middle of an airport forever clogged with traffic? And, as Frank Sanches of the Municipal Arts Society aptly points out, how will such a huge restoration project make this an attractive development? Questions abound.

Preservationists (and Saarinen lovers, like myself) can breath out, and breath in. And hold the breath a little longer.

Arquitectonica Tries To Get On The List, In A Good Way

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You thought we'd gone away, didn't you? Well, to dispel that impression, we point you to what may be the best candidate for the Two-Dozen List since we knocked Blue to the very bottom: Arquitectonica's 184 Kent Avenue, which we think is not in Manhattan. The severe knocking Arqui took from their completely lame pomo Westin Hotel (which we mention at #24 in our List, as an example of how Blue was going to look) probably gave them the inspiration to shed the garish South Beachitecture and look at other forms of inspiration. In this case, they went straight to the heart of the lion: Mies' IIT, on top of a factory roof in, er, Brooklyn (we think). We think the results are lovely, and reminiscent of SHoP's Porter House. Arqui's project lands somewhere in the middle of our list, let's say #11 or so. We are going to update the list, and include a couple of more wicked smart projects we've been holding off posting about.

Tipped off by Curbed.

Whitney: So Over UES

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The New York Times reports today that the Whitney is not only mildly interested in expanding downtown near the High Line: they are totally interested.

Favorite near-sighted neighbor quote of the week:

Now the Upper East Siders who vehemently opposed the expansion in their neighborhood are celebrating. In an e-mail message last week to fellow members of the Coalition of Concerned Whitney Neighbors, Edward Klimerman wrote, “Hope springs eternal.”

Highline Vacuum To Be Filled By Rush Of Upper East Side Cultural Institutions

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Tropolism is making connections.

Today's relationships in news. First, the Dia Art Foundation--caretaker of rockin' artworks like the Earth Room and Broken Kilometer, in addition to an empty building on 22nd Street, and a huge factory-become-museum in Beacon, New York (it's north of the Bronx, which is north of Manhattan)--is not going to anchor the southern end of the Highline (as shown in the rendering above). One half second later, the New York Times reports that the Whitney is looking at expanding in this location. Interesting, you say, but so what?

Second news: Norman Foster's creative expansion of a building on the Upper East Side is argued over (and mostly opposed by) at a Landmark Preservation Hearing. The New York Sun captures some of the stupidest and nonsensical opposition preservation quotes ever, proving yet again that preservationists have no logical argument, only outrage, to support their positions. Speaking in support of his design, Lord Norman cited the Guggenheim and Whitney Museums, which are totally not masonry or rectangular, and which are totally in the Upper East Side.

Which leads us back to the first article. The case for the Whitney is an example of some pretty good speculation, in that the incentives for the institution to expand elsewhere are enormous. High cost of construction on the UES, lack of community support for anything you'd want to build next to a brutal Marcel Breuer masterpiece, and an aging and not hip population for neighbors would make any cutting-edge institution look for new digs. What institution will be next to consider an expansion downtown?

Preservation: winning the battle for the neigborhood, at the expense of a culturally interesting neighborhood. West Chelsea residents of the year 2046, mulling over expansion plans for the High Line, take heed.

460 Degrees Gallery

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In a record two months, what was a totally free of commercial taint artwork (at Burning Man, you know it's pure if it was there), has been done in a very similar fashion (without the burning part) at the Lexus 460 Degrees Gallery in Los Angeles! Yes, the same artist whose minions took Greg Allen for task for criticizing his Burning Man project has designed the interior of a Lexus Showroom with the same motif. There is nothing that brings us more pleasure than the knowledge that unbridled irony still lives in this world.

Of course, nailing a bunch of 2x4s together in a sculptural way is hardly new: I draw your attention to Tadashi Kawamata's work in the 1980s, work of much more powerful shape, form, and beauty than of the references we've seen this year. And of site-specific relevance. The Lexus Gallery in particular seems strangely decorative in this context: it could well be a coffee bar, or an awning for a wedding, or a kitchen sales office.

Via CoolHunting.

Public Designing Public: Gansvoort Plaza

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Streetsblog has an in-depth post about a proposal to create better streets and public spaces in the area of Gansvoort Street, Manhattan. The proposal began its life in 2005 from the Project for Public Spaces, and has grown into a full-blown presentation, including artfully rendered observations about traffic flow. What is truly wonderful is that the process is being guided by the community, who are in turn getting elected officials into the action. We are anxiously awaiting what the proposed public spaces will actually look like, and hope they use the model of the High Line for their approach. Community input is great for planning public spaces, awful at designing them.

Via Curbed.

Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village: SOLD

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Tishman Speyer Properties and BlackRock investment bank submitted a winning bid for Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village: $5.4 Billion. Some quotes from the New York Times article:

Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, called the sale a “dark day for affordable housing.” Translation: the sky is falling. First, Starbucks spread all over town, and now this. New York was so great when everyone was poor and apartments everywhere were cheap.

His son, Rob Speyer, a senior managing director at Tishman Speyer, also tried to reassure tenants, emphasizing, “There will be no sudden or dramatic shifts in the community’s makeup, character or charm.” Translation: we can't kick rent-controlled tenants out fast enough to cause a sudden or dramatic shift in the community's makeup, so relax. You'll either move or die of old age.