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Grand Army Plaza, at the corner of 58th Street and Fifth Avenue in 1927, with the Sherry-Netherland and Savoy-Plaza Hotels. (Photo: Museum of the City of New York/Corbis)

In 1916 Grand Army Plaza opened at the southeast corner of Central Park, designed by Carrère & Hastings as a grand outdoor room in the manner of a French garden — New York’s version of the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Designated a landmark in 1974 and considered by many to be one of the most formal public spaces in the city, the plaza has nonetheless fallen into disrepair — its bluestone surface cracked, the gilded statue of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman eroded.

Now the Central Park Conservancy is proposing a $2 million restoration of the plaza’s trees and pavement. The work planned is what that nonprofit organization says it can afford, having raised $1.5 million.

But preservationists and others say the plan does not go far enough, and that the plaza should undergo a complete overhaul that restores historical details like the original lights, benches, balustrades and columns, which have been changed or removed over the years.

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Robin Pogrebin
New York Times

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Munich’s newly extended Lenbachhaus Museum, now open to the public following a four-year renovation Photo: Nigel Young / Foster + Partners

Munich’s standing as one of Germany’s major cultural centres has been consolidated this month with the reopening of the city’s renovated Lenbachhaus Museum. Dating from 1891, the building originally served as a studio and villa for the artist Franz von Lenbach and was gradually extended over the last century to become one of Bavaria’s most important galleries; it regularly drew an audience of 280,000 people per year, with its ‘Blue Rider’ collection of early twentieth-century Expressionist paintings among its best known works.

Having outgrown its origins, the building has just completed a four-year renovation plan overseen by Lord Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners architectural firm. As part of the project, the gallery’s original buildings have been restored and a new wing has been added to house Lenbachhaus’s growing art collection.

The newest space is composed of a series of small galleries which display the ‘Blue Rider’ collection, with the more intimate rooms intended to replicate the domestic scale of their original setting in villa Lenbach.

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John O’Ceallaigh
Telegraph

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Tracks run under the James A. Farley Post Office, which is across Eighth Avenue from Penn Station and the Garden (Photo: Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

The New York City Planning Commission last week took a significant but fatally flawed step toward improving the lives of millions of New Yorkers and others who use Pennsylvania Station, the nation’s busiest transit hub.

The commission voted on Wednesday to limit to 15 years the permit that allows Madison Square Garden to operate atop the station. The commission urged the arena to seek a new home while the railroads using the station — Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — plan improvements for when the Garden is gone. The Dolan family, owners of the Garden, had asked that the permit, which expired this year, be renewed in perpetuity.

The City Council now has two months to vote on the ruling, or it becomes the law on its own. The Council should not let it stand.

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Michael Kimmelman
New York Times

British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI
British Antarctic Survey’s Halley VI sits on a floating ice shelf. Photograph: AP

It is no coincidence that many of the buildings in the first exhibition on architecture in Antarctica, shaped like caterpillars or icebergs, on stilts or stubby legs, will look like science-fiction illustrations – the storms, blizzards, extremes of temperature, darkness and howling winds they have been designed to withstand are so extreme that conditions have been likened to those on Mars.

The British Council is to launch Ice Lab, the first major international touring exhibition on buildings designed to allow human beings live, work, and relax safely in the coldest place on earth.

Vicky Richardson, head of architecture and design at the council, said the new wave of Antarctic research stations showed great inventiveness in design and engineering. In the same way that scientists from around the world collaborate in Antarctica, these buildings are made possible by co-operation between nations, so it is highly appropriate that the British Council should be commissioning this exhibition.”

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Maev Kennedy
The Guardian

The People's Daily office building in Beijing
The People’s Daily office building in Beijing. Photograph: Imaginechina/Rex Features

Beijing’s building boom has already spawned a wealth of novelty forms, with a stadium in the shape of a bird’s nest, a theatre nicknamed the egg, and a TV headquarters that has been likened to a giant pair of underpants. But the official People’s Daily newspaper might have trumped them all with its new office building, which appears to be modelled on a colossal phallus.

Photos of the scaffold-shrouded shaft have been circulating on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging site, to the authorities’ dismay, with censors working overtime to remove the offending images. “It seems the People’s Daily is going to rise up, there’s hope for the Chinese dream,” commented one user. “Of course the national mouthpiece should be imposing,” added another.

The 150m-tall tower, located in the city’s eastern business district, appropriately near OMA’s pants-shaped CCTV headquarters, is the work of architect Zhou Qi, a professor at Jiangsu’s Southeast University.

“Our way of expression is kind of extreme,” Zhou told the Modern Express newspaper, “different from the culture of moderation that Chinese people are accustomed to.” He explained the design was inspired not by part of his anatomy, but by the traditional Chinese philosophy of “round sky and square earth” – the tower tapers from a square base to a cylindrical top. He claimed that the elongated spherical form was designed to recall the Chinese character for “people” from above. The fact it might look like a male member from below was clearly a secondary concern.

Cleaner-minded commentators have compared the building to everything from a steel-framed penguin to an electric iron, a giant juicer and an aircraft carrier. But perhaps Zhou should take solace in the fact that his tower joins a long tradition in architecture – from the thrusting Dionysian columns of ancient Greece to the sturdy stone linga of Hindu temples.

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Oliver Wainwright
The Guardian

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The American Folk Art Museum (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

After impassioned protests from prominent architects, preservationists and design critics, the Museum of Modern Art said on Thursday that it would reconsider its decision to demolish its next-door neighbor, the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, to make room for an expansion.

n a board meeting on Thursday morning, the directors were told that a board committee had selected the design firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro to handle the expansion and to help determine whether to keep any of the existing structure.

“We’re going to try to create the best building we can create,” Jerry I. Speyer, the real estate developer and MoMA chairman, said in an interview. “Whether we include Folk Art or not, as is, is an open question.”

That question, MoMA said, will be guided by the extension’s architects. “The principals of Diller Scofidio & Renfro have asked that they be given the time and latitude to carefully consider the entirety of the site, including the former American Folk Art Museum building, in devising an architectural solution to the inherent challenges of the project,” said Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director, in a memo sent on Thursday to his trustees and staff. “We readily agreed to consider a range of options, and look forward to seeing their results.”

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Robin Pogrebin
New York Times

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Say good bye? Lacma’s main campus, on the right, could make way for a new expansion by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor

No one could accuse Michael Govan of being unambitious. The director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) is launching a $650m capital campaign to fund the construction of an expansive new home for the institution along Wilshire Boulevard. The new museum, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, would require the demolition of much of Lacma’s main campus, including three 1965 buildings by William L. Pereira—the Ahmanson, Hammer and Bing wings—as well as the 1986 Art of the Americas addition by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates of New York, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Julia Halperin
The Art Newspaper

Perot Museum
The Perot Museum in Dallas uses a frenzy of forms. (Mark Knight Photography)

It’s remarkable how slow — and disjointed — architecture can sometimes appear.

For nearly a decade, younger architects have pushed for a new agenda in the profession. They’ve been loudly (and rightly) critical of the expensive, highly mannered and sometimes self-indulgent trophy buildings turned out by some of the world’s most prominent architects. And they’ve helped bring different and more public-minded priorities to the fore.

And yet the trophy buildings keep coming.

One of the pricey, preening old breed opened recently in Dallas, stranded among surface parking lots across a wide freeway from the city’s mirrored-glass skyline. The $185-million Perot Museum of Nature and Science, designed by Thom Mayne and the Culver City firm Morphosis, is a largely windowless crypt, a cube lifted dramatically above the streets around it and wrapped in puckered and striated precast concrete panels.

It is a thoroughly cynical piece of work, a building that uses a frenzy of architectural forms to endorse the idea that architecture, in the end, is mere decoration. Mayne’s design appears to put innovative architecture on a literal pedestal — or a plinth, to be exact — while actually allowing it to become peripheral, noticeably separate from the heart of the museum and its galleries.

The building’s apparent radicalism is tacked on, its braggadocio paper-thin. Like many of Mayne’s recent buildings, it is a work of architecture without the courage of its convictions — convictions that are shouted, naturally, at top volume.

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Christopher Hawthorne
Los Angeles Times

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A preservation fight has erupted over LG Electronics’ plan to build a headquarters that would compromise the Cloisters museum’s view across the Hudson River. (Photo: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)

After John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated land for the Cloisters museum in northern Manhattan, he went a step further in the 1930s and bought the cliffs across the Hudson River in New Jersey to preserve the museum’s pristine view of the Palisades.

Now his grandson Larry Rockefeller; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owns the Cloisters; and other groups are fighting to preserve that vista, which they say is threatened by a new corporate headquarters to be built in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

As designed, the headquarters for LG Electronics USA, a major employer and taxpayer in that borough, would be 143 feet tall and rise several stories above the tree line.

“The Palisades really rests at the heart of the conservation legacy, if you will, which our family has left, and is leaving, to America,” Mr. Rockefeller, 68, said in a telephone interview from the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, which his family also helped preserve.

“No one’s opposed to the building per se,” he continued. “I’m certainly not. It’s just the design of it being tall and so visible.”

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Robin Pogrebin
New York Times

Renzo Piano
Renzo Piano: ‘The best things in life are always a little dangerous.’ Photograph: Sebastien Bozon/AFP

What are the most important things that the Shard does for London?

Bringing attention back to Southwark. I thought this was a good idea from [former mayor] Ken Livingstone, that you balance the energy of the City by putting something strong on the south bank, in the more poor part of the city. If you are driving around, bicycling around, walking around, you have a new orientation point. I receive many messages from people about this: it is a kind of lighthouse in London. It is quite a surprising element, and providing surprise and wonder is not essential, but it is not a bad thing to do.

It will be the first publicly accessible tall building in London. You have others, but they are not as accessible as this. We have been talking about this from the beginning – making a vertical city, one that does not shut its doors in the evening, that is alive 18 hours a day.

It will change with the weather. I always thought this tower will be a sensor of the city, reflecting the mood. What the Shard does for London is a list of things. I was aware of risks with the project when I took it on, but the best things in life are always a little dangerous.

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Rowan Moore
The Guardian

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