The American Institute of Architects today released a letter from more than 350 different associations and companies expressing opposition to efforts by special interests to gut energy conservation requirements for federal buildings.
The letter, which is addressed to Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, was released one week ahead of the scheduled mark-up of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee May 8.
That legislation, introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would promote greater use of energy efficiency technology in commercial and residential buildings and by manufacturers.
For the past four decades, as cities faced financial pressures, high-rise public housing met its decline. Cities throughout the country demolished public housing that was failing financially and socially, like Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Housing Project whose demolition was completed in 2011, to make way for mixed use developments that encouraged economic and social diversity by way of the HOPE VI Program. This strategy resulted in the uprooting and relocation of former residents who faced uncertainty throughout the process.
The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) stands out among housing authorities in the United States due to its size – 179,000 units in 2,600 buildings across the city – and the fact that the buildings are relatively well maintained. NYCHA has avoided resorting to demolitions to deal with its issues, instead resorting to special police services that costs NYCHA a purported $70 million a year. Over the past decade NYCHA has been underfunded by approximately $750 million causing backlogs in necessary repairs.
To address the mounting costs of public housing, New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg has proposed an infill strategy that would attract developers onto NYCHA land and create a new layer of commercial space and residential units in public housing developments. The goal over the next five years is to develop methods of preservation for the housing development and promote mixed-use and mixed-income developments to generate income for NYCHA.
More on the plan after the break.
Britain’s Education Secretary Michael Gove and the Department for Education have released blueprints for the baseline design for schools that they believe “demonstrate good practice that can be achieved within [a] set cost and area allowances.” The government’s goal is to reduce the cost of new school buildings from the previous £21m to less than £14m each for the replacement of 261 of the most run-down schools in the country.
These new schools, however, will be 15% smaller than the ones designed originally under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) program, potentially compromising important spaces such as corridors, assembly halls, canteens and atriums. Many teachers have expressed concern for these changes, as they could lead to congestion, bad behavior among students and would “undermine attempts to maximize the value for money of school buildings by making them available for community functions after hours.”
Architects and the architecture community at large are also worried about the design implications of such a standardized school building prototype – how will it interact with the existing school buildings and how could restricted design affect Britain’s educational system?
More after the break…
Scheduled to be the tallest tower in China and the second tallest building in the world by 2015, Kohn Pedersen Fox’s 660-meter-high Ping’an International Finance Center has received a major unexpected set back. Following an industrywide inspection conducted last week, Shenzhen government officials have discovered a low-quality sea sand has been used by developers to create substandard concrete for KPF’s supertall skyscraper and at least 15 other buildings under construction.
Although sea sand lures contractors by costing significantly less than standard river sand, it contains a deadly mixture of salt and chloride that corrodes steel in concrete and threatens the structural integrity of a building over time.
According to Bloomberg, Shenzhen’s Housing and Construction Bureau found 31 companies violated industry rules and ordered eight of them to suspend business for one year in the city for using substandard sea sand to make concrete.
The Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial saga continues, as Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) proposed legislation that would forego Frank Gehry’s controversial design and eliminate federal funding. Although Bishop’s radical bill would save $100 million in future funding, it ignores any possibility of compromise.
In response, the AIA stated:
“There’s a price on everything in New York, and the air is no exception.” - Ross F. Moskowitz, Strock & Strock & Lavan
All of us are familiar with the practice of buying and selling property in the form of land, residential and commercial space, but the buying and selling of the air surrounding these spaces is a concept well-understood by few. With the recovery of the condominium market in New York City, residential development is at an all-time high, and this means taller and even more luxurious towers are fighting each other tooth and nail for the best possible views of the city. Because of this, the price of air above and around these potential developments is becoming more and more expensive, since a room with a view is worth a whole lot more than one without. Is it possible that these empty, vertical pockets are now worth more than the ground below them?
Read more about New York City’s air rights to find out.
“The works of our artists, architects, and preservationists provide us with another language of diplomacy. A transcendent language that allows us to convey values that are at once uniquely American yet speak to all of humanity. Increasingly in this world, art and architecture help us maintain our sense of openness and liberation.” — Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, April 12, 2010
An embassy is much more than a building or a work of architecture; it functions as a symbolic representation of countries’ relationships to one another. It represents the universal language of diplomacy – “communicating values and ideals, extending well beyond any moment in time”. An embassy has the difficult task of representing two diametrically opposed concepts: security and openness. The former typically overpowers the latter in importance, which is most probably why when we think of foreign embassies, it conjures up images of stately monolithic buildings surrounded by tall fences and menacing guards or “bunkers, bland cubes, lifeless compounds”, according to Tanya Ballard Brown of NPR’s All Things Considered.
More on the design excellence of embassies after the break…
“Let’s dump the word “zoning,” as in zoning ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but zoning increasingly has become a conceptually inappropriate term, an obsolete characterization of how we plan and shape growth.” - Roger K. Lewis
Zoning, a concept just over a century old, is already becoming an outdated system by which the government regulates development and growth. Exceptions and loopholes within current zoning legislation prove that city planning is pushing a zoning transformation that reflects the current and future goals and needs of city building. To determine how zoning and land use needs to evolve we must first assess the intentions of future city building.
Planners, architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of sustainability and livability. For example, the AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. New York City has come up with Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design and its Zone Green initiative in regards to updating its zoning resolution. In addition, Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens and it is safe to assume that many other cities will follow this precedent.
So what is it about current zoning codes that makes it so outdated? Follow us after the break for more.
In response to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ decision to reject landmark status to Prentice Woman’s Hospital for the second time in three months, the two preservationist groups challenging the City of Chicago have withdrawn their lawsuits. This eliminates the last barrier standing in Northwestern University’s way to demolish the historic, Bertrand Goldberg structure for a new biomedical research facility.
“We felt that we had done as much as we possibly could to demonstrate the significance of the building and ways to reuse,” stated Christina Morris, a senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We just couldn’t see that we’d have any other outcome.”
For many, this news is disheartening as architects and preservationists from around the globe have fought in solidarity for much of the past year in an attempt to illustrate the importance of this one-of-a-kind structure.
More after the break…
After an “arduous” public review and a heated debate over affordable housing, New York’s City Council has unanimously awarded final approval to BIG’s tetrahedral-shaped West 57th apartment building in Manhattan. As reported by Crain’s New York Business, a compromise has been made to include 173 affordable housing units within the 32-story, 750-unit residential building and the neighboring industrial building that will be converted into 100 additional rental apartments. As you may recall, the community board and Councilwoman Gail Brewer initially threatened to “torpedo the project” if the apartments were only made affordable for a 35 year period. However, Durst apparently won them over by contributing one million dollars into an affordable housing fund.
“The good news, which is the mantra of my office and community board No. 4, is there will be, yes, by law, 35 years of income-restricted affordable housing,” stated City Councilwoman Brewer, who represents the area.
When applying “major surgery” to a beloved, 20th century “masterpiece”, you’re going to face some harsh criticism. Such is the case for Norman Foster, as the legendary British architect has been receiving intense backlash from New York’s toughest critics for his proposed renovation to the New York Public Library. First, the late Ada Louise Huxtable exclaimed, “You don’t “update” a masterpiece.” Now, the New York Time’s architecture critic Michael Kimmelman claims the design is “not worthy” of Foster and believes the rising budget to be suspect.
More on Kimmelman’s critique and Foster’s response after the break…
Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint five individuals to key Administration posts, including architecture’s very own Michael Graves, stating: “These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles. Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
The five individuals include:
Although the 2012 London Olympics concluded last August, RIBA president Angela Brady and New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray continued to lead a fierce campaign against the strict International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules that forbid architectural practices who contributed to the design and construction of the venues from promoting their work. Months later, a compromise has finally been met and the architects will now allowed to discuss their contributions freely.
Brady said: “The majority of architects and designers we were standing up for in the campaign were young small businesses who just wanted to be able to promote their work. It’s great that they are now able to speak freely about their contribution.”
As we published yesterday, iconic Chinese artist, designer, and dissident, Ai Weiwei has just had his architecture design firm shutdown by the Chinese government. But this scuffle is only the latest of Weiwei’s many brushes with Chinese law. Seemingly since birth (“I was born radical“), Weiwei has been mixing art and politics to speak out against censorship in his country. Which is why he is the subject of a fascinating new feature-length documentary by Alison Klayman: ”Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.”
As the documentary description explains: “Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention.”
While working as a journalist in China, the director, Klayman, gained unprecedented access to Ai while filming. Since being released, the documentary has gained many accolades, including the Sundance 2012 Special Jury Award for Spirit of Defiance.
You can find out more about the documentary, including if it’s playing at a theater near you at its website. And you can keep updated on Weiwei’s struggle at the Never Sorry Facebook page and on Twitter, @AWWNeverSorry
Screenshots from the trailer of “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” after the break…
After 81 days of detention without cause, a year-long travel ban extended for claims of internet “pornography,” and a $2.4 million dollar fine imposed for supposed tax evasion, Ai Weiwei has now been accused by the Chinese government of failing to re-register his architecture design firm, Fake Cultural Development Ltd.
According to Weiwei, the accusation, which will result in the company’s shutdown, is unfounded: because the government confiscated the documents necessary for registration during his tax evasion investigation, he couldn’t possibly have re-registered the firm.
Weiwei, who you may know for his work on the Bird’s Nest and on this year’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, has openly spoken out against the Chinese government’s censorship (even publicizing the number of schoolchildren killed during the 2008 earthquake due to shoddy, corruption-fueled construction). It’s these kinds of dissident acts that have led to a “campaign of persecution to silence his activism.”
Despite the escalating action taken against him, and imminent threat of arrest, Weiwei has vowed not to pay the fine that has been imposed on him. As he told Reuters: “If they shut down the company, then entities to pay any fine will not exist. I feel this waives any penalties for the company.”
Sunland Park, N.M– Martin Resendiz, mayor of a small community near Las Cruces, admitted earlier this month to signing contracts with a San Diego–based parking design firm while drunk. The company, Synthesis +, is suing the city for nonpayment. Resendiz claims the contracts were never valid since the City Council did not approve them.
“The day I signed … I had way too much to drink. It was after 5 p.m. and I signed it (the contracts) and I didn’t know what I was signing,” Resendiz wrote in response to questions from Synthesis+ lawyers. “My sister had to pick me up.”
“Again, this was after two or three hours of us drinking, not exactly the best time to do business, not exactly the best time to read over legal documents, which he (Soltero) did not portray at any time to be legal documents,” Resendiz said in a deposition.
Soltero is a Synthesis+ executive. The deal is worth over $1 milllion; the drinking happened at Ardovino’s Restaurant in Sunland Park.
A minor transatlantic controversy erupted last month after UK “architecture minister” aka Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport with responsibility for architecture and the built environment John Penrose apparently compared architects with other negatively-stereotyped groups, noting architects are “just one of those groups people love to mock.” The comments were part of a longer blog post about Rowan Atkinson, Dreamland, and VisitEngland’s new Smartphone-based marketing campaign.