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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.
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.”
New York Times
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.
The Art Newspaper
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.
Los Angeles Times
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.”
New York Times
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.
This home in Phoenix that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright had been threatened by demolition but has now been purchased.
A house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright here for his son was sold on Thursday, guaranteeing its preservation after it had been threatened for months with demolition by its owners, who had planned to replace it with new homes.
The deal closed after at least one offer to buy the property had fallen through. Its former owners, Steve Sells and John Hoffman, principals at 8081 Meridian, a local development company, bought the property for $1.8 million in June and several times raised the price as the controversy over the potential demolition intensified.
Fernanda Santos and Michael Kimmelman
New York Times
Oscar Niemeyer liked curves.
The Brazilian architect, who rose to prominence in the 1940s, and died this past week, pushed the limits of concrete. He took a material that had historically been used for slabs, beams and pillars and sculpted it into arches and curves of every kind. At a time when modernist architecture was characterized by ‘rational’ right angles, Niemeyer took his inspiration from Brazil’s beaches, rivers, ocean waves, and women. (He was always mentioning the women.)
Seen today, many of Niemeyer’s designs still feel like they come from the future, or at least the future that was promised by the space age. In tribute to the architect, Wired presents some of our favorites.
When London had a wobbly bridge, we did everything in our power to tame it.
The mildly thrilling sensation of the Millennium Bridge‘s metallic deck undulating beneath our feet was apparently too much to bear – it was closed, two days after opening. 20 months, 90 dampers and £5m later, it reopened, with the leaden stillness of a concrete road bridge.
The French, it seems, are a little more adventurous.
Plans unveiled by Atelier Zündel Cristea could see an inflatable trampoline bridge let you bounce all the way across the Seine.
In their response to an ideas competition for a new bridge in Paris, which called for “a new icon or landmark” to add to the 37 bridges that already span the Seine, the architects wrote:
“It appears to us that Paris already has the bridges and passages necessary for the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic across its waterways. Our intention is to invite its visitors and inhabitants to engage on a newer and more playful path across this same water.”
A sloping lawn lined with linden trees focuses attention on a niche carved in granite at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. It holds a bronze bust of the U.S. president who led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. The 1933 sculpture is by Jo Davidson.
The four-acre Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park finally completes a memorial to the 32nd U.S. president — almost four decades after architect Louis Kahn finished the designs.
The park brings fantastic life to the long-neglected site at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, the narrow stretch of land in the East River that once housed lunatics and chronic- disease sufferers before luring others to chunky gray highrises with spectacular views.