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Feu! Feu!

New report details what went wrong the night of the Notre-Dame fire
Apparently, Notre-Dame Cathedral was more likely to collapse than we were led to believe on April 15, when a historic fire sent not only Paris but the world into a state of mourning over the potential loss of a beloved architectural landmark.  The New York Times has discovered, after reviewing hundreds of documents and completing a series of interviews with church officials and leaders from the fire security company responsible for Notre-Dame, that there was a major miscommunication about where exactly the flames had started. According to the report, when the fire alarm went off at 6:18 p.m., the guard sent to check on the warning went to the wrong building—the sacristy, not the attic—which seriously delayed the response effort.  It took 30 minutes before anyone realized what was happening. By the time the guard climbed up to “the forest,” the famous attic constructed of aged timber beams holding up the roof, the fire was unstoppable. Failure to identify the location of the blaze in time was only the first misstep in a series of errors that night.  The NYT found another critical reason why the damage was so bad; the fire warning system was “so arcane that when it was called upon to do the one thing that mattered — warn “fire!” and say where — it produced instead a nearly indecipherable message.” Reporters uncovered archival documents in a Paris library detailing the lengths at which the cathedral staff and fire protection experts had taken over six years to put the alarm in place, but it was simply too old and too slow. Not only that, but Notre-Dame’s attic didn’t contain any sprinklers or firewalls.  Perhaps one of the most unfortunate causes of the blaze was the newness of the employee who communicated the location of the fire to the guard. The NYT reported that it was only his third day on the job, and he had just started a double shift manning the presbytery room, which contained a complicated control panel that alerted him to smoke anywhere in the complex. There’s debate over whether he understood the alert and whether he communicated it correctly. Recent staff cuts at Notre-Dame had left him solo, according to The Telegraph. The cathedral’s spire had fallen an hour into the fight against the blaze, and the fire was so all-consuming that all firefighters on site were ordered to return to the ground where, after realizing the wind was pushing the fire towards the northern bell tower, they switched their efforts to save that structure instead. By 9:45 p.m., things were under control.  This NYT report sheds light on the various elements that caused the fire at Notre-Dame to get so far out of control. By chronicling the night’s events, hour by hour, we can now see how fragile the cathedral truly was, and how close we were to losing it forever—and by some estimates, still are. An official investigation by the French government is still ongoing to determine the cause of the fire, though it’s believed that no malice was intended. As of yesterday, parliament has approved a bill to reconstruct Notre-Dame by 2024, meaning the $954 million collected in donations following the fire will go directly to the restoration. According to the Senate, the building will be rebuilt to historical accuracy, though it will be a while before that can begin. Work on reinforcing the structure is currently proceeding very slowly and the project’s chief architect says it could still collapse if the flying buttresses aren’t shored up properly, CNN reports
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Three's Company

Pelli Clarke Pelli's massive tower complex will transform the Toronto skyline
A 4.3-million-square-foot, multi-tower development by Pelli Clarke Pelli could reshape the Toronto skyline as it is expected to become the largest mixed-use project in the city. Located in Union Park in the shadow of CN Tower, the $3.5 billion complex will bring 3.3 million square feet of offices, 800 residential units, and 200,000 square feet of high-quality retail to the city. The Union Park complex is an arrangement of three glassy towers on podiums: two are designed as near-mirror images, and the third will include housing with units specifically designed for families. A featured amenity of that third tower will be the 8,5000-square-foot daycare facility. Eric Plesman, executive vice president of North America, Oxford Properties, said the project would bring, “tens of thousands of jobs to Toronto … [creating] a progressive new workplace and community for working and living.” The development also allows the developer the opportunity to construct an adjoining two-acre urban park over the extant Union Station Rail Corridor, in an aim to deliver public green space to downtown. Additionally, the podium levels will feature large office floor plates of an estimated 100,000 square feet each. The project team includes Adamson Associates as Architect of Record, OJB Landscape Architecture, and developers Oxford Properties Group. Oxford is no slouch to the ground-up neighborhood development game or decking over railyards, having partnered with developer Related Companies in 2010 to build the 26-acre Hudson Yards in Manhattan. The sprawling project is currently accepting community input before being submitted to the Toronto City Council for formal consideration.
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Forensic Architecture

The Evidence Room embodies the architecture of Auschwitz at the Hirshhorn
According to Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt, a Dutch author and architectural historian, constructing Auschwitz was “the greatest crime ever committed by architects.” Known for his work in what he coined as “architectural forensics,” van Pelt famously testified in the landmark libel case filed in Britain’s High Court of Justice in 2000, David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt. The evidence he gathered by studying the efficacy in the design of both the gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau helped prove that the infamous concentration camp was intentionally designed by German architects to systematically kill over one million Jews during World War II. In tandem, it denounced the British Holocaust denier who filed the complaint and secured the widely-held belief that the horrific human massacre had actually happened. That trial inspired van Pelt to tell the story in his 2002 book, The Case for Auschwitz, which became the basis of a special exhibition commissioned for the 15th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016. That seminal show, The Evidence Room, is now on view for the first time in the U.S. at the Hirshhorn National Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washingon, D.C. The exhibition depicts van Pelt’s body of proof in the sculptural form of 65 wall-mounted plaster casts that replicate the blueprints, bills, survivor’s drawings, photographs, and artifacts he acquired on the construction and operation of Auschwitz from 1941 to 1943.  The ghostly, all-white installation also utilizes materials such as steel and wood and features three, full-scale building elements, dubbed “monuments,” that were part of the original killing rooms at Auschwitz. There’s a gas chamber door, which notably hinges outward and proves that architects revised the entryways of the on-site morgues to become gas chambers. There’s also a wall hatch and ladder, which guards climbed to throw the cyanide gas down into the chambers. Lastly, on view is a floor-to-ceiling gas column through which the deadly pesticide Zyklon B was routed down into the two underground chambers.  Though Nazis blew up the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other concentration camps in an effort to destroy evidence of the Holocaust at the end of WWII, van Pelt’s archival documents from the trial argue the truth of these atrocities point-blank: that the architecture was predetermined for mass killing. The Evidence Room is an immersive experience originally designed three years ago by van Pelt and his colleagues at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, including Donald McKay, Anne Bordeleau, and Sascha Hastings. This iteration of the installation was organized by the Hirshhorn’s assistant curator Betsy Johnson, in collaboration with The Evidence Room Foundation, a new nonprofit that will maintain and fund the exhibition. The version of the show at the Hirshhorn will run through September 8.
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Futuro on the Roof

This strip club's VIP room is a long-forgotten Futuro house
I first encountered a Futuro house in a lavish palazzo during Milan Design Week in 2016. It was part of Louis Vuitton’s exhibition Objets Nomades. Fifty years, ago, a futuristic prefab house hit the market in the U.S.A. Originally designed in the 1960s by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, the portable houses featured built-in furniture, a full bedroom and bathroom, heating and air conditioning, as well as a living room and dining room. The fiber-reinforced fiberglass shell was punctuated by oval windows—an iconic shape now associated with futuristic design (and UFOs). But despite its place in design history, very few Futuro houses remain. There are around 60 of the houses left, which have become a mix of residences, tourist-draws on Airbnb, and museum pieces, among other quirky uses. The most exciting might be in Tampa Bay, Florida. Suuronen's company stopped production in 1975, partly due to rising production costs in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis. One house, a display model used in Clearwater, ended up in the hands of local Futuro dealership manager Jerry DeLong, who also happened to also own “2001 Odyssey"—a local strip club. The spaceship first appeared in ads in 1971, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The club was making big money until the mob pressured DeLong to sell, and, according to the Tampa Bay Times, fell under the ownership of “the Trafficantes,” or the crew led by Santo Trafficante Jr. Several years later, in 1974, Pasquale “Pat” Matassini bought the club, but Matassini was later convicted of distributing $1 million in counterfeit cash, and in 1992, was accused of having ties to the Tampa crime family because he owned a bar called Godfather’s on Trafficante-owned land. These days, according to the Tampa Bay Times, "the spaceship is entered via a carpeted staircase from the first floor of the club. There’s a curved bar in the center, serving soft drinks and water. Black lace curtains hang over leather booths that wrap around the mirrored walls. The ceiling is adorned with glow-in-the-dark constellations and a disco ball." the Futuro house has become 2001 Odyssey's VIP room." Well, this is one possible “future,” but probably not the one Suuronen imagined for his visionary design. For more on where the other remaining Futuro houses have landed, check out thefuturohouse.com.
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Austrian Influence

Resident Alien will chronicle the contributions of Austrian-American architects
Adolf Loos is widely known for setting the stage for the modernist movement in architecture, and the Austrian architect and theorist is arguably one of the most influential practitioners ever born. At the height of his impact in the late 19th century, when he designing structures both in Austria and what’s now the Czech Republic, Loos began writing seriously on the subject of minimalism and why architecture should do without ornamentation.  Richard Neutra was coming of age at the same time, along with his would-be close friend Rudolph Schindler. Both Vienna-born men had hugely successful careers designing modernist homes in Southern California—structures that were undoubtedly guided by the teachings of Loos.  An upcoming exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is shining a light on the distinct cultural contributions that Austrian-American architects like Loos, Neutra, and Schindler have made over the last century in the United States. On view starting in September, Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America will feature numerous practitioners whose expertise not only changed the profession but in some cases, the American zeitgeist. Think Victor Gruen, inventor of the mid-century American shopping mall Curated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Architecture professor Stephen Phillips and Cal Poly Pomona professor Axel Schmitzberger, the exhibition will break down the impact of the migrant architects through three ethereal categories: Cloud Structures, Media Atmosphere, and Urban Terrestrials. The organizers will rely on the help of designer and UCLA professor, Julia Koerner, as well as B+U co-founder and SCI-Arc professor Herwig Baumgartner, to chronicle the works of their Austrian predecessors in America. Both young architects will also be featured in the show.  According to a press release, Resident Alien will bring a much-needed dialogue about the momentous immigration architects made from Austria to the U.S. during the modernist period, and why it so heavily affected American architecture. The curators will also explore the concept of bicultural heritage and how it has been, and is currently, communicated through space, technology, art, education, and more today.  While details on the makeup and materials of the exhibition haven’t been released yet, the other contemporary architects represented will include Carl Pruscha, Hans Hollein, Peter Trummer, and Mark Mack, as well as the partners at Coop Himmelb(l)au, Barbara Imhof of Liquifer Systems Group, Maties Del Campo and Sandra Maninger of SPAN Architecture, and Andrea Lenardin of A-L-M Projects, among others. The late Raimund Abraham, who designed the Austrian Cultural Forum's New York building itself, as well as Liane Zimbler, the first European woman to get an architecture degree, will also be featured. Resident Alien will run through February 2020. 
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Spatial Contract

Hashim Sarkis announces the 2020 Venice Architecture Biennale theme
How will we live together? That’s the seemingly simple, yet poignant, question posed by Hashim Sarkis, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning and curator of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, and also the title of the show set to start next May. Though it’s nearly a year away, Sarkis announced that it’s time for architects to think about their role in creating a new, collective "spatial contract"—one that is inclusive and addresses two of the most pressing needs in both advanced and emerging economies today: social housing and urban connectivity.  “We need a new spatial contract,” Sarkis said in a statement. “In the context of widening political divides and growing economic inequalities, we call on architects to imagine spaces in which we can generously live together: together as human beings who, despite our increasing individuality, yearn to connect with one another and with other species across digital and real space; together as new households looking for more diverse and dignified spaces for inhabitation…and together as a planet facing crisis that require global action for us to continue living at all.” In order to build societies where we can successfully live together, according to Sarkis, architects need to engage with and enlist the expertise of those outside the design profession, such as artists, politicians, builders, social scientists, and journalists. Everyday citizens are also key to designing spaces that are truly for all people. National participants of the 2020 Biennale will be asked to introduce creative solutions made in tandem with these other stakeholders. Architects will act as both a “cordial convener and custodian of the spatial contract” in the execution of these projects, as well as in the real world.  Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Architecture Biennale, said this way of thinking and of curating the summer design event has been slowly building over the last few years. “The Biennale Architettura 2018 has brought our attention on free space,” he said, “an essential element of our living that has been omitted in so many recent developments. With Hashim Sarkis we will try to expand our horizon to all these issues raised by our living together. Living together means first and foremost awareness of [the] potential crisis and old and new problems that do not get appropriate solutions, nor often appropriate attention, in the spontaneous development of our economies and societies and that require enhanced attention and an extensive and courageous planning capacity.” The purpose of the biennale is to help unify contributing countries around the new spatial contract charged by Sarkis. Since 2020 is considered by some to be a milestone year, it’s imperative, said Sarkis, that architects look to the collective imagination of leaders across every profession to prepare for the occasion.  Starting May 23rd, 2020, the National Participants of the biennale will showcase their own work in the individual Pavilions located at the Giardini and the Arsenale. A series of Collateral Events, presented by international institutions, will also be held in Venice alongside the exhibition through November 29, 2020. Interestingly enough, no information on what the U.S. will be contributing in 2020 has been released as of yet. While the design team for the American Pavilion has, in the past, been chosen in May of the year before the Biennale, the State Department waited until September 2017 to release their choice for the 16th Biennale.
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Out of Season

Investors blame Isay Weinfeld’s design for the closing of the new Four Seasons Restaurant
The iconic new Four Seasons Restaurant has officially closed after reopening less than 10 months ago and following a $32 million renovation. In 2016 the original and much-venerated restaurant was forced to relocate because the owner, Aby Rosen, would not renew its lease. Now, investors are reportedly pointing fingers at design flaws as the cause of failure. The original restaurant was located in Mies van der Rohe’s New York-renowned Seagram Building. The interior, designed by Philip Johnson, remained nearly unchanged since 1959, and in 1989 it received an interior landmark designation from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Four Seasons Restaurant carries hefty, modernist roots, although, in recent years, Rosen has been caught trying to make changes to the space without prior approval from the LPC. With the guidance of architecture critic Paul Goldberger, Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld was selected to design the restaurant's new home at 42 East 49th Street. A New York Post article claims that, according to unnamed sources behind the scenes, the restaurant's well-heeled investors are blaming its failure on two private dining areas on the second floor that were supposed to attract high dollar events. The article names large columns, blocked views, "disagreeable" furniture, and construction delays as design-related issues leading up to the restaurant's demise. Meanwhile, owner Alex von Bidder mentioned to the New York Times that he, “thought the new restaurant was great, looked great and had a great team in place.” Nevertheless, investors made the decision to close. AN reached out to Isay Weinfeld for comment and received the following response: “I could not be prouder of our designs for the Four Seasons Restaurant. But I respect all opinions, including the silly ones.” The restaurant is owned by Alex von Bidder and members of the Bronfman family, and previously Julian Niccolini. In the same year that the restaurant announced its move, Niccolini pleaded guilty to sexual assault but remained a co-owner. Since the re-opening and in the wake of the #MeToo movement, critics and the public have scrutinized the restaurant for still involving Niccolini. In December 2018 he was finally forced to resign.
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Outta my cubicle!

Divvy up office spaces with these highly adaptive modular systems

Flexible operable wall systems can create virtually endless configurations to divide space up for solo and group work.

Tek Vue Teknion

This wall panel system features thin-profile frames linked together by a single glass wall section. Tek Vue is offered with pivot or barn doors and accommodates different ceiling heights for placement nearly anywhere on a floor plan.

glassSTACKWALL Carvart

This translucent glass wall system is available with framed and frameless partitions, and can be positioned open, partially open, or closed to create various integrated work and gathering spaces. It can be combined with different hardware and architectural glass in a wide array of finishes, patterns, colors, and textures.

Koan Lualdi

Pairing glazed glass panels with vertical wooden slats makes this sliding system warm to the touch. It can be customized with Lauldi’s range of handles as well as different wood and glass finishes.

Acousti-Clear Modernfold

This acoustically rated, glass and aluminum panel system divides space and absorbs sound simultaneously. The collection features three operable partition applications: automatic, motorized, and demountable.

Spazio Rimadesio

This glass partition system is uitable for a range of applications, from conference rooms to closets, and features flexible components for custom configurations. Spazio is made in Italy and available for purchase in the United States at DOM Interiors.

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Stranger Sites

For season three of Stranger Things, they built an entire mall
The angular mid-80s architecture of a derelict shopping center in Duluth, Georgia, has garnered fame in recent weeks after the release of the third season of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. Avid fans of the show may recognize that Gwinnett Place Mall—an actual mall located in a suburb of Atlanta, was transformed as the setting for major moments that take place in Hawkins, Indiana’s newest attraction: The Starcourt Mall.  Production designer Chris Trujillo spoke with The L.A. Times about the search and intense-build out for Starcourt Mall, as well as why the writing team chose to center the plot on the all-too-familiar, small-town-gets-big-mall storyline. In the interview, he said it made sense to showcase how Hawkins was changing with the introduction of the mega-shopping center, right alongside how the main characters were themselves changing. No longer little kids who saved the world, everyone was growing up facing their own relationship and materialist concerns. Much of teenage life in Midwestern America at that time was spent at the mall.  After investigating a dozen structures built from 1984-85, the production team settled on Gwinnett Place Mall, a 1.3 million-square-foot space that, during its first 16 years of operation, attracted people from all over Georgia as well as neighboring South Carolina. By 2001, with the opening of both the Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf Mills, the space began its slow descent into obscurity. Now, thanks to the production team’s massive retrofit—gutting and rebuilding nearly 40 stores and restaurants—as well as a slew of tweets from curious fans that tried to sneak a peak of the set last year, the mall has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity.  According to Trujillo, most of the filming inside the 34-year-old mall took place around its food court, a gem of 1984-era interior architecture with a soaring atrium and vaulted geometric ceilings. It was the showpiece of the mall, he told the L.A. Times. But more than that, the large, two-story interior gave way to the “dynamic camerawork” that the Duffer brothers are famous for.  In an effort to make the Gwinnett Place Mall truly feel like a time warp set specifically for the horror sci-fi series, the production team not only recreated the facades of iconic retail spaces with all period-appropriate signage and window displays, but in some cases, the entire stores themselves were redone. From Orange Julius to the Gap, Radio Shack, and JC Penny, the brief moments these places popped up on screen helped paint an authentic picture of 1980s consumerism. One of the most-filmed spots within Starcourt Mall was Scoops Ahoy, the made-up ice cream shop where Steven Harrington works. Trujillo called that project, which was built entirely from scratch, “our special little baby.” Spoilers ahead: In that ice cream shop is where Steve, Dustin, and newcomer Robin decode secrete Russian messages that lead them to discover there’s a world-ending operation taking place beneath their feet—the portal to the Upside Down is being reopened. That importance to the overarching plot helps explain why so much attention was paid to the layout of the mall. Apart from a scrapbook found on location with old images of the Gwinnett Place Mall from its heyday, the inspiration for the build-out came from the memories of staffers on the production and decoration teams. Most people on the team's leadership grew up in the 80s and 90s and made decisions for Starcourt based on what they remember it felt like to be in those spaces as a kid.  “There is a homogeneity to the architecture of malls,” Trujillo told the L.A. Times. “They’re all calibrated to be similar spaces. We had to be somewhat specific about the regionality, but I definitely brought a lot of my childhood and teenage memories of hanging out and working in malls.” Though the set is closed to the public and is already being dismantled, according to one reporter who chronicled his visit for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), that hasn’t stopped fans from trying to take photos of the interior through fences. As a focal point of “Stranger Things 3,” Gwinnett Place Mall will forever live on in memories of fans forever, despite its soon-to-be demolition. The AJC reported in February that a sports stadium developer plans to build a mixed-use complex with a 20,000-seat cricket arena on the site.
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Survive and Thrive

Akoaki is blending design disciplines in Detroit
Upon their arrival to Detroit, partners Anya Sirota and Jean Louis Farges took four years to understand the complex landscapes and narratives that co-exist within the city. At the time, Detroit was fully entrenched in “ruin porn” and the design interest of the city followed a fascination with degradation or a re-imagination to building new. Cultural assets (like the industrial design of cars and jazz music) once thrived in the city and continue to have national and international range. Often though, the direct impact upon the residents is nonexistent. Akoaki [pronounced ak-o-ak-i] is compelled to research fields of architecture and art and their relationships to equitable redevelopment. By embracing the power of aesthetics and form-making, the couple peels away normative tropes of social practice. Beginning with aspirations to include aesthetics, beauty, and pomp creates pieces that do not comply with age. Often feeling burdened by good taste, Akoaki’s aesthetic quality tries to be bigger and badder. Imaging Detroit Supported by a Research on the City grant from the University of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, Imaging Detroit is, in a nutshell, an international film festival and pop-up agora. The project investigates the many ways Detroit has been portrayed over the last decade, be it film or publications. Sirota and Farges, along with a suite of collaborators, researched the way people construct narratives around the city and responses to those narratives. A major challenge of the project was how to stage an event in this context without contributing to a proliferation of ruin porn and social degradation. The goal was to create true conversation and a positive impact while staging a public debate and open speculation. The 36-hour event transformed Perrien Park into a civic space with screenings, conversations, exhibitions, food, and leisure—a true ephemeral urbanization. Detroit Cultivator In collaboration with the six-acre Oakland Avenue Urban Farm (OAUF), Akoaki is designing a master plan that combines agriculture, culture, business, and ecology to envision a landscape that is both economically and ecologically sustainable. The project required navigating through major issues regarding land ownership, pressure from developers, and water access. After working with the University of Michigan Law School and a team of “moral investors” to secure the land, a business plan was created with volunteers from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. The plan prioritizes the farm’s productivity to create a source of income and a flexible space for neighborhood entrepreneurs. As a result, the master plan features existing structures that will eventually become public amenity spaces; for example, a shoe-shine parlor will reopen as a multi-tenant commercial space and performance venue. Rather than keeping the farm purely agricultural, Sirota and Farges sought to activate other existing uses through building and site interventions. The project is an experimental urban prototype, though Akoaki is working to ensure the farm can become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. Jackson, Mississippi Sirota and Farges’s experience working on Detroit Cultivator has set them up to discover a similar food-related project, this time in Mississippi. Supported by a $1 million public art grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Fertile Ground: Inspiring Dialogue about Food Access” brings together architects and artists with chefs, gardeners, food policy experts, and local institutions to facilitate a year of community-engaged interventions. Ultimately, the project aims to establish a nonprofit research lab on food access that will operate on a permanent basis to sustain the momentum that is created. While Mississippi is known for its agriculture, a majority of the food grown in the state leaves, and Jackson is full of “food swamps”—a plethora of fast food options as opposed to fresh food. Rather than return to the “idyllic” past of farming (an image that is not necessarily representationally positive to everyone), Akoaki has formulated a “neo-rural” environment that deserves an aesthetic value and brings together aspirations of the city. Midtown Cultural Center Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Connections organized a year-long competition in an effort to connect Detroit’s most significant cultural institutions. The winning entry includes Akoaki and their assembled team of landscape architects, urban planners, and technology-experts. The announcement of the winning proposal displays how Detroit’s participating institutions and stakeholders carry a willingness in allowing an open-ended framework a chance to succeed. The plan that Akoaki and team are working on will take issues of mobility, environmental sustainability, and stormwater stewardship into consideration. Overall, the project requires a sensitivity to placemaking in order to avoid displaced cultural queues and gentrification. When finished, the project will create a unified, dynamic, and inclusive space that facilitates connections between the Cultural Center and the Midtown neighborhood.
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No Flower Power

London's mayor blocks Foster + Partners' Tulip tower
London mayor Sadiq Khan has today dismissed plans for the so-called "Tulip Tower" designed by Foster + Partners, describing the building as "unwelcoming" and "poorly designed." The news signals a U-turn by authorities who had so far given the project the green light through planning, with the full go-ahead having been granted on April 2. Chris Hayward, chairman of the City of London planning committee had then called the tower a "truly unique visitor attraction." “One of my key objectives ... has been to enable the continued transformation of the City of London into a place which welcomes members of the public on weekends as during the week,” he added. Despite this, the Tulip had come up against ardent opposition. “This building, a lift shaft with a bulge on top, would damage the very thing its developers claim they will deliver – tourism and views of London’s extraordinary heritage," Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England told The Guardian in April. “The setting of the Tower of London, a symbol of the city not just to millions of Londoners but to the whole world and one of our most visited places, will be harmed. It has already been damaged by the Walkie Talkie and it would be a great shame if that mistake was repeated.” Furthermore, criticism was also aimed at Foster + Partners for the tower in the wake of the firm officially declaring a climate emergency (along with more than 500 practices.) "What better statement of action could there be than if Foster + Partners withdrew its involvement from that most grotesque fuck-you to a sustainable future, The Tulip?" argued Will Jennings in the Architects' Journal. Mayor Khan appears to have headed these warnings, and today a mayoral spokesperson issued the following statement: “The Mayor has a number of serious concerns with this application and having studied it in detail has refused permission for a scheme that he believes would result in very limited public benefit. In particular, he believes that the design is of insufficient quality for such a prominent location, and that the tower would result in harm to London’s skyline and impact views of the nearby Tower of London World Heritage Site. The proposals would also result in an unwelcoming, poorly-designed public space at street level.” If built as designed, the Tulip was set to be 984 feet tall and boast an observation deck offering visitors 360-degree views of London. Its steel-framed bubble-like tip would have also comprised a gondola system, with patrons riding glass pods across the facade akin to a Ferris wheel. In response to this article's original publication, a representative for the Tulip's project team reached out with the following comment: “The Tulip Project team are disappointed by The Mayor of London’s decision to direct refusal of planning permission, particularly as The Tulip will generate immediate and longer-term socio-economic benefits to London and the UK as a whole. We will now take time to consider potential next steps for The Tulip Project.”
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I Was a Circus Horse Rider

Denise Scott Brown reflects on balancing architecture and urbanism
This interview of Denise Scott Brown is excerpted from Your Guide to Downtown Denise Scott Brown, an exhibit held at the Architekturezentrum Wien in Vienna, now available in book form via Park Books. The interview was conducted on May 22, 2018, before the passing of Robert Venturi in September, and revised on May 7, 2019, by Denise Scott Brown and Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum. Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum: What are your great achievements? Denise Scott Brown: I had to live through a difficult childhood, not given to self-esteem. I had to live through the tragedy of my [first] husband’s death. I had to find the gumption to do the things I needed to do and thought I couldn’t. Somehow I got through all that and made an oeuvre I feel proud of, sort of. Having said that, I think I’ve managed to find a way to live with uncertainty, which was difficult for me. And perhaps I’ve managed to help some others do that. Along with Bob, I think I’ve worked through issues of form and design and communication and brought all that together into “a beautiful table with four legs”—comparable to Vitruvius’s three-legged table. Out of that, I’ve tried to draw a beauty, but an agonized beauty. And the kinds of people I seem to associate best with are the ones with a certain striving for the same. That’s one side. On the other, I’m happy to have helped to define advocacy architecture and to have practiced some of it. I’m happy to have helped promote women in architecture. And now I end my career by trying to sum up what needs to be summed up. But I’m missing the thing I became addicted to, which was design. That was my great joy—but it was complex with me. I’m also very, very happy to have lived beside Bob and to have managed the sturm und drang—and to have jointly brought out work we could both be proud of. And to have produced a son who’s having a great career, who has found his passion, who will go on finding passions. We worked in this house all our lives. Now that it’s a home office, you find someone working in every room, tucked in a chair here or there. One of them said, “I’ve never been in a house where everyone there both lives and works.” So I’ve called this our Peaceable Kingdom—mostly peaceable. JET: The retirement that others look forward to is not the retirement you want for yourself? DSB: I’ve got too many things to do! All these people come to talk to me and I love talking to them. They ask why I don’t make room to smell the roses, and I say, the roses are right on my drawing board! I’m returning to the things I began early in life and had to leave off because of professional work—and hindsight makes them better. When he asked, I told our financial adviser: “Bob and I won’t go on cruises. We just want to go on being elderly academics.” He replied, “Well, if you do go, please consider going on a tramp steamer and not by the QE2 [the Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner].” So I keep asking myself, am I buying the QE2? We’ve tried to donate money to charity as much as we could. One great opportunity was an unexpected windfall. One day a voice on the phone with a South African accent asked me: “Is this Mrs. Ventuuuri?” He said I had an account in South Africa, produced from a very small investment my father had made for each of his children in 1945. By 1985 it had become a tidy sum. JET: This sounds like such a scam! DSB: It was a scam. He was a bounty hunter. He said, “You have to sign this document and let me take a third of the money.” And I realized there was nothing else I could do, so I signed—and he disappeared. The rest of the money waited in the account. I wanted it to go to students at my old school—some student whose teachers thought she could do better, a B-student who could be an A-student. When I was there, I saw our headmistress take kids who were, let’s say, raw and rough, and after they were with us a few years they would get into medical school. She believed academic intelligence is one kind of intelligence but not the only kind. She had ways of teaching people and maintaining students’ self-esteem. And she did it for me—she discovered things about me that she really appreciated and her appreciation really helped me grow. I hoped the school would still be like that, with that sense of community. So the school did what I requested: They found Gugu Ndlovu, daughter of a Zulu teacher. And she finished there and did very well, and when she applied to all the medical schools in South Africa, she got into every one. And for me...it was... [Silence. Denise cries. She clutches her dress with her hands, looking down.] Funny things are...moving. Some things are moving... So, anyway, nevertheless, I didn’t hear from the school for a while. But recently I met a young South African woman traveling with her Venezuelan boyfriend, both going back to South Africa. And I said, please, would you go to my school and talk to them? We arranged for the money to be placed with their bursary fund, to quickly go where it’s intended. And when that money is given, it should be given in the name of Robert Scott Brown. And so this is solved at the end of my life. It’s a nice story.
I have been a circus horse rider between architecture and urbanism most of my life. But reining together animals that have been tugging apart over five decades has made for a bumpy ride. My role as an architect and planner takes in more than physical planning or urban design. I have also penetrated beyond both architecture and planning toward the social sciences at one end and art and iconography at the other. When you have all these systems and all their functions and all their rules, it helps to understand Mannerism. Because these systems have to bend, some more and some less, to get something that works—but it’s also a way to look for beauty. That’s my view of functionalism. It has a moral component I uphold but an aesthetic component I love.