Tall buildings have always been a symbol for national pride and financial dominance. However, it takes a lot to not curl up like a baby lemur when looking out from this high.
It's actually kind of pretty and, yes, duh, of course bridges aren't completely fixed and immovable. But still it's a little disconcerting to see just how much these old things shift. Remember a couple years ago when that thing in Minnesota happened and everyone was all "America's infrastructure is crumbling and we're all doomed"? Can we focus some of that attention on New York's bridges, specifically those that go to Brooklyn? Because while I may never again have to set foot in that accursed and undesirable borough, I have many friends who still dwell and toil there and I'd like them to come visit me in my Manhattan palace without dying from bridge collapse on the way.
Mayor Bloomberg has a plan to improve life in the city: He's announcing that several sections of Times Square and Herald Square will be turned into car-free zones! Pedestrian malls will be set up in several areas with benches, café tables, and "colorful umbrellas." (An illustration of what's in store for Times Square is above.) Unfortunately, it's just an "experimental" program for the time being, and is only scheduled to run through the end of the year. But be sure to enjoy it while it lasts! "Colorful umbrellas" are always the first to go when another round of budget cuts come along.
Famed British architect Norman Foster has been picked to handle the renovation of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. "It's the greatest project ever," Foster told the Times in an interview. Since the building is a landmark, "its exterior, including its strip windows, will not be altered." One other thing that will also not be altered: The fact that Steve Schwarzman's name is engraved at the library's entrance. New York Public Library president Paul LeClerc says it will continue to be "noted discreetly on its facade." [NYT]
David Malone wasn't scared of climbing the 52-story Times building last month. "It was like climbing a ladder and I knew I could climb a ladder," the 29-year-old anti-Al Qaeda activist told the Daily News, referring to architect Renzo Piano's inviting ceramic rods. But, with a court date looming Tuesday, he does sound nervous about New York City prosecutors, calling the climb "the biggest mistake of my life... It caused a public disturbance and put police officers potentially at risk." One wonders if Malone realizes the other two climbers got off with basically parking tickets. And one would assume the Times isn't putting any new pressure on the court, given its own passion for breaking certain legal directives in the service of free expression. Malone even showed an almost Times-esque caution in his civil disobedience:
Oobject's latest gallery of modern buildings reinforces the reputation of Blade Runner as a visual template for modern cities. Ridley Scott's influential science fiction movie-based on a Philip K. Dick short story-imagined omnipresent video advertising and environmental collapse in the Los Angeles of 2019. It's both a relief and a disappointment that the movie's dystopian vision is more likely to be realized in Shanghai or Beijing than in America's increasingly quaint cities.
Renzo Piano, the much-hyped "starchitect" who designed the Times building, is very upset at the extremely naughty people who have been using his building as it just begs to be used — as an urban climbing wall. Now that three people have ascended the ceramic rods on the structure's facade in less than 90 days, Piano decided it was time to administer a scolding, telling the Times, "I'm frankly quite worried about this new fashion of going up on buildings... This is what I call an inappropriate use of the building." Ha ha, funny how this new "fashion" is sweeping exactly one building in New York, Renzo. Anyway, while failing to think about climbers was clearly a design screwup, Piano and the Times are hoping its a minor one that can be easily fixed:
Though they clearly aren't experts at building security, executives at New York Times Corp. read their own paper often enough to understand that three examples of something marks a trend. So, after the third stunt scaling of the building since May, the company is having many of the climber-friendly ceramic tubes removed from the building's facade. How many? Even the Times' own reporters don't seem to know, though they're guessing maybe 8-10 feet worth, measuring from a canopy used by all three climbers.
Tom Wolfe has been fighting the plan for a new building at 980 Madison, near his home on the Upper East Side, for a while now. Yesterday, he made it quite clear that he didn't want an ugly new building: "980 Madison is in the heart of the Upper East Side historic district and it does not need this additional structure. The district has been treated as a specifically landmarked area... I think it is incumbent... to roam through the great archives of architectural history, or architectural future, and come up with something that has more meaning with the Upper East Side." It's true that everybody is putting inappropriate buildings everywhere these days. (Wolfe previously vented his opinions on the original plans for 980 Madison, a skyscraper, to the New York Times.) After the jump: a Wolfe paen to skyscrapers! [Sun]
A renovation of a grand Fifth Avenue apartment by a very creative architectual designer, Eric Clough, resulted in a scavenger-hunt puzzle being built into the place. The apartment—for a young family—was secretly outfitted by the designer with coded messages, scrolls, and and an original mystery book that gave clues. It was a magical game for the kids to solve—and the parents didn't even know it was being built into their house! Who was asked to be involved? And who turned it down? Why, Brooklyn novelist Jonathan Safran Foer.
Metropolis magazine devotes its April issue to the art of the kitchen, interviewing American chefs on the design of their work spaces. Of course, hygiene is particularly important in a professional pantry. Less so at the offices of Metropolis itself; in fact, some staffers have been leaving unwashed cups in the sink. Magazine founder Horace Havemeyer III, who even discovered a food container in the sink yesterday, is determined to uphold the standards that Metropolis espouses in its pages. In a pissy email forwarded by a tipster, Havemeyer threatens to empty the refrigerator, and remove coffee and tea-for a whole week. After the jump, the email memo.
Santiago Calatrava's improbable residential skyscraper on South Street, a tower of boxes as unsteady as Jenga blocks at a late stage of the game, is dead. And the Port Authority is scaling back the Spanish architect's daring design for the financial district's PATH station. The architectural critics will no doubt bemoan the loss of New York's civic ambition, and wonder why rival world cities such as Shanghai and Dubai have taken up the mantle. (Oh, yes: authoritarian regimes, unbridled capitalism and cheap labor, but let's not go there.) Truth is that the drawing boards are littered with visions of Manhattan that were never realized. Here are my dozen favorites.
To mark the award to Jean Nouvel of the Pritzker prize, here's a reminder of the French architect's plan for an extraordinary skyscraper in Midtown. By winning the Pritzker, the equivalent of a lifetime's achievement award in the profession, Nouvel has improved the chances of the proposed 75-story tower for the Museum of Modern Art, on 53rd Street. The architect's first great building, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, resembled a high-tech recreation of a Sultan's palace; this double spire looks like it jumped from the set for The Fifth Element, missing only the flying yellow cabs darting between the buildings.