Public Effect

Farewell, Not A Cornfield

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The Los Angeles Times is reporting on an open competition for the cornfield site east of Downtown Los Angeles. Historically a train yard, and most recently an installation by Lauren Bon called Not A Cornfield which, of course, was planted with corn. The open competition will close April 17th, and the 32 acres will become known as Los Angeles Historic Park. The site is in between two busy streets, with the hills of Chinatown on one side, and a warehouse no-mans land on the other. To add to the drama The Metro Goldline runs along side the park joining a twist of bridges and over passes at one end. For a city that has been maligned for it's dependance on automobiles, Freeways and the resulting sprawl. This park more than those modeled after traditional city parks, seems it can become a solution that is solidly about and for Los Angeles.

Contributed by our Los Angeles correspondant, Colin Peeples.

Inspiration From Tijuana

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The New York Times' architecture critic, Nicolai Ourosoff, has diverged from his building profile in his latest article: he interviews an architect. And, one of our favorite architects, Teddy Cruz, who we first learned about when we heard him give a brilliant lecture at the Architecture League in 2001 when he was selected to be a Young Architect. At the time, his lecture, though brilliantly researched, seemed hopelessly idealistic. Did he know that he'd have to have the building codes changed to accomplish what he was proposing? Apparently, he did:

The San Diego City Council approved the development plan last year, and Mr. Cruz expects the zoning changes to go through this fall. Planners hope to begin construction next year.

Madison Square Garden: Episode VI

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Sorry, we skipped an episode of the Madison Square Garden Relocation series. We left you at Episode IV. For those of you that missed it, Episode V included a memorandum of understanding being signed by Cablevision (owner of MSG), and Vornado and Related, all but sealing the deal to move the Garden to be part of the former Post Office but soon-to-be 21st Century rail hub. The lights dimmed as everyone cackled.

This week's installment includes a heady dénoument: the memorandum was NONBINDING. And so there are now two to five celebrity architects involved, two real estate companies, one stadium-owning company, and probably about a dozen state and federal government agencys who will duke it out to see what gets built and who will design it.

Tipped off by the even more annoyed Curbed. One thing we aren't annoyed about: even though we still aren't convinced of the MSG as part of the rail station idea (does anyone else have a big HUH? around this), we would love to see them tear down the existing MSG. We've totally gotten thrilled about that part.

The Pleasures of West 28th Street, NO MORE

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Sad news, one of our favorite places in Manhattan (and inspiration for Your Hidden City will soon be no more: The Flower District, AKA 28th Street between 7th and 6th Avenues, just got served eviction notices. En masse, apparently. MUG has the whole story.

What's truly sad is that the flower businesses haven't agreed on a new location. So the integrity of the group is imperiled, and we may not have a new flower district to look forward to.

[update bonus: sounds like there was a lot of conversation about the flower market businesses moving to Bronx Terminal Market. Can anyone confirm this? Send us a note, svp.]

Your Hidden City Grows

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Your Hidden City, the world's first open-source architectural contest, is only open for submissions for one more week! On March 10, at 5pm, we will close the Flickr pool and the jury will begin deliberating. Check out the full details at our announcement a couple of weeks ago.

If you place your entry right now, you will join 551 556 560 entries from 156 158 160 entrants. The pool is growing. The jury has its work cut out for it already, we hope you will add to the collection. Be sure to include your caption on why this is part of Your Hidden City.

Responses to Katrina

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Reed Kroloff, dean of Tulane University’s School of Architecture, and Aaron Betsky, the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, have selected and introduced some architectural responses, published in the latest Artforum. Proposals came from MVRDV, UN Studio, Huff + Gooden, Morphosis, West 8, and Hargreaves Associates. We hope this is merely the beginning.

Slice der Republik

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Okay, last post about Eastern Block projects for a while, I promise.

Slice der Republik is an interesting little website about a student project to re-use the Palast der Republik, with a Gordon Matta-Clark-inspired cutting that would do two things: cut the building into useable chunks, while opening it up to the urban fabric. And, of course, "the angled cut expresses the violence the building has experienced in the years since its closure".

Palast der Republik

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The folks at Brand Avenue have done a little more digging on the Palast der Republik, that gimongous building in East Berlin that opened in 1976 to house the East German parliament and a totally coked out disco scene. They've got some juicy photographs (one reproduced above) and a lot of links and articles about this building, whose future is, for now, demolition (as reported here a month ago). We're sorry to see it go; we were rooting for an imaginative reuse.

Detroit Demolition Disneyland

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Land+Living has an extensive piece on Detroit Demolition Disneyland, an Anonymous group who has begun covering abandoned structures in gallons of orange paint. The great thing about the action taken on these buildings is that is allows us to see what we normally would not: that the status quo in Detroit is decay. It seems to me that this public action can bring so much more weight and meaning to the problems in Detroit, rather than constantly repeating the words Sprawl and Revitalization. Over the course of one night these Orange buildings become a place again, instead of a place that used to be. DDD's work reminds me of Group operating in Los Angeles under the name Heavy Trash. They also have an affinity for the color orange, and are helping us see what normally we would not.

I highly recommend checking out Google Earth for Detroit. The extent of urban decay visible from the sky is almost unbelievable.

Contributed by Colin Peeples.

Omotesando Hills: Opening Reports

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Omotesando Hills, the Tadao Ando-designed shopping mall/old folks home complex, opened this week. Two reviews have popped up that are of interest. The first, from the New York Times', er, shopping critic, seems to think it's a quiet respite from the loud and flashy stuff that happens on Omotesando Avenue. We think that's a bit generous, but granted, we only saw it under construction.

The second is by our favorite not-Japanese-but-in-Japan blogger Jean Snow, contributing to Gridskipper as well as his own site. Jean doesn't have many good things to say about it, but he seems to be more unimpressed than anything else. His great Flickr set says a lot.

From both accounts it's clear that the building is a mall with a bunch of mall shops you will find anywhere. The part not being talked about is the rooftop garden (which is not accessable by the public), and the back side (pictured above), where the old folks live, bordering the quieter (and much cooler) hood behind Omotesando Avenue.

Madison Square Garden: Episode IV

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One of the admirable qualities of New Yorkers is that they aren't afraid to look outlandish, ambitious, aggressive, or foolish to get ahead. Unfortunately, this is sometimes played out at such a large scale, with such poor taste and timing, that only the leaders don't get the irony. A great example of this is the chilling and---how shall we put this?--totally unnacceptable conversation about moving Madison Square Garden to a portion of the McKim, Mead, and White building they didn't wipe out the first time around. We don't get how they will preserve the integrity of a post office building with a stadium. Don't. Lockhart over at Curbed (our favorite architecture blogger) calls this better than we will.

When we calm down, we will undoubtedly be tempted by the exciting idea that the existing crapfest MSG, a horrible urban object I must endure on a daily basis, will be demolished. And, the possibility that the players involved in the new Moynihan station will force the MSG folks to play nice. Real nice.

OMA OMG: Kentucky Edition

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The Office for Metropolitan Architecture is coming full circle with its Museum Plaza skyscraper in Louisville, Kentucky. You can read the local news report, some fascinating OMA archive recycleing analysis, and a link to some great process models and a video.

As usual for OMA, the building is a brilliant organization of a complex program, which ends up as an unorthodox form. Yet there's what appears to be a huge plinth/plaza in the project, and it isn't clear what the edges are like. Has OMA a brilliant solution to the plinth, too? The one part of the video that gives us a little urban chill is the one that says "Connect To Context", and a couple of stair towers appear. Uh, we tried that in the 60s and it didn't work: elevated plazas not continuous with the street level get no foot traffic. Perhaps the reality of OMA's plinth just doesn't show up on the video. We'll be looking for more.

Tropolism Contest: Your Hidden City

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After a week of very subtle buildup, Tropolism is pleased to announce the first open-sourced architectural contest, Your Hidden City.

The contest is simple: post your photos (with a caption) to our public Flickr pool (or email them to us for posting), and our jury will select their favorites in five categories. The winners will be posted to Tropolism.

The theme of the contest is uncovering the Hidden City, your Hidden City, the one you see every day. It may be in plain sight of everyone else, but it is your eye that finds the extraordinariness in a particular street corner, a unique stair, a crazy intersection, a visually arresting approach, or a particular tree in the city. The photographs can be of a beautiful (and perhaps unpublished) park, or as simple as the sun hitting a particular building at a particular time of day. Please include a caption, or a Flickr annotation, about what makes it extraordinary to you. The entries should have one thing in common: they demonstrate, to you, the pleasure of living in the city.

The jury is a set of bloggers who write about architecture, urbanism, and landscape design. They are:


Lisa Chamberlain of Polis and who also covers real estate for the New York Times
David Cuthbert of architechnophilia
Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG
Shawn Micallef of Toronto Psychogeography Society Blog
Miss Representation
Jimmy Stamp of Life Without Buildings

The 5 Categories are:


Best Hidden Place
Best Density
Best Natural/Urban Overlap
Best Unofficial Landmark
Best Building

We will keep the contest open until March 10, 2006, and post winners the week of March 20. Good Luck!

Center For Land Use Interpretation Website

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We here at Tropolism tend to avoid following the crowd. Perhaps it's the aura of Coolhunting, our publisher's website, or perhaps it's the vindication we received by not seeing Dances With Wolves when everyone else was raving about it. We still haven't seen it. Mostly, this keeps us thinking fresh, different, better.

But sometimes this tactic goes horribly wrong. For instance, on the sidebar of lotsa lotsa websites we have seen the Center For Land Use Interpretation, and never bothered to actually visit it. Well, a few months ago we did just that, and came across a database we never get tired of visiting: the Land Use Database, which is an index of "unusual and exemplary sites" in the United States that they have collected. Original photography of gems like the original site for Robert Smithson's Partially Buried Woodshed stand next to the problem-prone David Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Toledo. The agnosticism inspires us. The collective imagination, on a particular theme, inspires us as well. Do you see where we're going with this?

From Park To River

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The LA Times is reporting on another park opening in Los Angeles this past weekend. The scale is minute compared to the great park in Orange County, but the shift in thinking is gigantic. Los Angeles is cutting a new network of parks and wetlands into the existing concrete drain we call the LA river. While the river winds its way through several neighborhoods in the Los Angeles, it is dramatically apparent in the industrial neighborhoods of South LA. The park is not only improvement of the quality of life, and environment it is pointing to a shift in urban thinking and living in Los Angeles

Contributed by Colin Peeples.

High Line Progress: Construction Begins

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Contractors will be erecting protective scaffolding on Section 1 of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street this month. No date is given. This, from the Friends of The High Line press release, for the twenty seven people who didn't receive it:

Following these preparations, construction of Section 1 will include two separate scopes of work: site preparation (2006-2007), followed by construction of the access systems and public landscape (2007-2008). Site preparation will include removal and storage of railroad tracks; removal of gravel ballast; steel and concrete repair; abatement and painting of steel; repairs to the drainage system; and pigeon mitigation.

My assistant was reading between the lines and noted that FOHL reminds everyone to take their pictures by February 15th. He thinks that this means scaffolding goes up around then. Send pictures our way, and Tropolism will post them.