Science Fiction and the City

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Geoff Manaugh over at BLDGBLOG interviews Jeff VanderMeer in a transcription that follows Geoff's architectural imagination, swinging between hard urbanism stats to sci-fi geek. We are fascinated as much by his questions as by Mr. VenderMeer's replies. Also of note: incredible, as usual, illustrations.

WTC Tower Review

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Nicolai Ouroussoff writes a balanced critique of the three building designs announced for the World Trade Center site in today's New York Times. He makes an important point about the Maki/Rogers corridor on Cortlandt Street as being an important approach to the Memorial (if it is going to be lined with a vertical mall). And he slams Foster's building too:

"A vertical notch cut into each of its facades creates deep, brooding shadows; the top is sliced at a sharp diagonal that tilts toward the memorial pools below. One assumes that this is intended to imbue the structure with a quasi-mystical significance, but it’s a cheap gesture."

Daily Dose Double, Part 2: Holy Rosary Church Complex

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Daily Dose points out the Holy Rosary Church Complex by Trahan Architects. More astounding that such a gorgeous example of religious modern architecture is found outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is that the complex is almost entirely out of concrete and glass. More on brywhit's Flickr stream., who is also the author of the picture to the left.

Daily Dose Double, Part 1: 40 Bond Street Mockup

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Daily Dose has posted a couple of wonderful posts lately. First of all, the completely-unreported-by-New-York-blogs news that the Herzog and DeMeuron designed 40 Bond Street, here in Manhattan, had put up some kind of construction mockup of the glass trim. The speculation from the photographs is well-documented by DD. We add that the original press on this was for a "cast glass" exterior, not a curved float glass element; the mockup looks like the prismatic effect of cast glass is lost by having curved glass. Perhaps this was just a test of an option under consideration.

WTC Small Towers Unveiled

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Today, Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center, announced the designs for the smaller towers at Ground Zero. The designs are by Lord Foster, Richard Rogers, and Fumihiko Maki.

We'll tell you a secret: even though we always knew the "Freedom" Tower was going to be a snorefest, we thought that Foster, Rogers, and Maki (particularly Maki) would come in through the side door and kick up the architectural refinement on The Site. We were wrong. Click on Continue Reading for our comparisons and comments.

Uchronia, So Totally Not At PS1

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Greg Allen calls it out: Uchronia, a Burning Man structure designed by Jan Kriekels and Arne Quinze, of Belgium, and built by a bunch of volunteers in the desert, is so totally not like anything at PS1 in the last few years. Hippies.

Via Archinect.

Alessi Disaster

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From our Los Angeles correspondant, John Southern:

Last week when I was in NYC I stopped by to see the new Alessi Shop in SoHo only to find it was still under construction. I stepped inside, pretending to be "the guy from the architects office", only to find myself in the middle of a small crisis that was unfolding. A guy who was probably the PM was getting schooled by another gent, whom I took to be the superintendent (or a building inspector). The gist of the argument, from what I could gather, was that the super was going to shut the job down for work violations. Scuttlebutt aside, for those of you who haven't been there yet, the opening is scheduled for the end of August...I'd say it's going to be a little longer. The fat guy blocking my shot is the superintendent, who oddly enough, closely resembles FOG from the rear. The PM was behind me in the street sobbing into his cell phone. It was all tragically beautiful.

Tropolism does not condone deception to get access to a jobsite.

Spanish Architecture Blog

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As if El Tropolismo wasn't enough, we have come across Urbanity.es, a blog about urbanism and architecture in Spain. Spain, land of El Croquis and Quaderns and a large and thriving architectural press (the center of said press in the Spanish-speaking world), deserves a corresponding number of architecture blogs.

Our favorite entry so far: this one about an MDRDV apartment building in Madrid, pictured above.

Stuy Town and Peter Cooper Village: FOR SALE

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Metropolitan Life dropped this bombshell right before the Labor Day news cycle (Curbed is on vacation this week, nuff said right there): Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village are up for sale. All 80 acres of prime Manhattan real estate, all 110 apartment buildings, all 11,000 apartments: yours for $5 billion. While we're sure the bulldozers won't be coming in anytime soon (the lawsuits alone are going to keep the neighborhood as is for years), we are counting on approximately 2 architectural competitions, 135 developer-requested housing schemes, 1 tasteful exhibition at the AIA Center For Architecture, several dozen symposia at New York University, one tasteful symposium at Columbia University, 580 posts on Curbed, and 23,820 comments on said posts.

And don't forget: there will be one large new shiny development, probably with no restored street grid (easier to keep in the 'luxury' ethos), definitely with some new buildings, and definitely priced as cutting edge-luxury. In short, New York will never be the same.

The housing complexes were the brainchild of Robert Moses, built in 1947 for returning WWII veterans, and served as a model of public housing throughout the city. The idea: get the insurance companies and banks involved in slum clearance! The project is also entered into architectural history books as an example of housing projects that "worked".

One question we pose to our readers: will the developper make a quick return on this? The New York luxe housing market has cooled in the last year, and with all the new luxury apartments still coming to market, I wonder if this is the kind of investment that looks good in 2006, but looks like a colossal mistake in 2007. We'll keep an eye on it.

High Line Construction Progress: Phase 1 Section 1 Completed

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We usually don't like reposting press releases, but this one from the High Line is unusually detailed.

The first phase of construction, removal of debris and nonstructural concrete, has been completed for Section 1, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street. This phase included removal and storage of all the original rail tracks, which were tagged and mapped so that some can be integrated into the design of the new High Line landscape.

The contract for the next phase of construction has been awarded, through a public bidding process, and work is set to begin in September. The scope of work for this phase will include lead paint abatement, repainting of the structure, concrete and steel repair, and the installation of drainage systems and pigeon deterrents on the underside of the High Line. During the lead paint abatement process, the construction team will use a mobile containment structure to protect surrounding areas while sandblasting.

This phase of construction is expected to continue into summer 2007, after which the next phase, construction of access points and the public landscape atop the structure, will begin. The first section of the High Line is scheduled to open in 2008.

The Abandoned Pods, Part 2

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A month ago we pointed out something posted by our friends at Tranism about some abandoned housing pods outside of Taipei. It was our response to the craze over some overhyped pods in a recent New York City loft conversion. We got several dozen emails asking us more. We asked for more. Tranism has delivered more; see their site for many more pictures, and the unusual (for western cultures) reason for its abandonment.

Toledo Glass Pavilion Opens

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Last week saw the opening of the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art. Sanaa, the Japanese architectural firm led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, designed the curved-glass-walled structure. It joins one of Frank Gehry's early lead-coated-copper-clad structures at the Museum. The New York Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff writes a great description of his tour of the building, which includes a moment of frisson from his visit to Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan.

Also of note are the slideshows posted by the Museum throughout the pavilion's construction. They are a wonderful document of the construction process for a Sanaa building.

Iowa University's New Art Building

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Iowa University's New Art and Art History Building is "opening" on September 8. At least that's what the press release said. The building appears to be knitted into its site the way only a Steven Holl-design building can be: smartly entwined with a touch of fussiness. We aren't complaining, the two pictures in this post (above and after you click Continue Reading) indicate something special. The slideshow at UI's website is more complete, yet also shows some skylights and stair details that appear to be a tad overdesigned. Overall, a gorgeous building. I'd want to study there. Or walk by it every day.