All posts in Preservation

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Mallcore

OMA to convert historic Houston post office into mixed-use bonanza
OMA has revealed plans to convert Houston’s Barbara Jordan Post Office into an office building and mall with a rooftop farm. POST Houston will turn the 57-year-old former post office and warehouse, situated on a sprawling 16-acre site in the Theater District, into a mixed-use venue designed to attract arts and creative tenants to the previously industrial downtown Houston. According to the Houston Chronicle, the concrete-finned structure was designed by Wilson Morris Crain & Anderson and used as a post office until it closed in 2014. The 500,000-square-foot project is predominately devoted to offices (130,000 square feet for regular offices, and 20,000 for coworking), followed by a hotel and a venue (70,000 and 80,000 square feet, respectively). About 60,000 square feet of retail will be complemented by 50,000 square feet of public spaces and a 45,000-square-foot food hall. 45,000 square feet of space for arts and culture activities round out the program. Developer Lovett Commercial will use historic tax credits to convert the building. OMA Partner Jason Long is the lead on the project. On his watch, the roofs of three atria will be hacked off and replaced with ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) panels to daylight each of the spaces, while connectivity will be improved with an assortment of staircases up to the roof, that zig-zag around tiered retail on the first and second floors. Each atrium has been named after the shape of its unique stairway; the project will gain "X," "Z," and "O" atriums. More about that roof: It will feature a garden and farm spooled out over a combined 170,000 square feet, bringing the total project to 670,000 square feet. When complete, it will be one of the largest planted rooftops in the world. Restaurants in POST Houston will be able to source fresh vegetables from the garden. Chicago's Hoerr Schaudt is the landscape architect on this part of the project, which was dubbed Skylawn in a press release. Houston's Powers Brown Architecture is the executive architect, while the New York-based MTWTF is handling the wayfinding signage.
Construction on phase one began in 2016 and is expected to finish in 2020.
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Coworking Coming Soon

DesignAgency to retrofit L.A.'s historic Bradbury Building for coworking
NeueHouse, the private coworking space company in Hollywood, has announced its expansion to the iconic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. Coming this November, the up-and-coming company will cement its place in the history of businesses that have occupied the 126-year-old property.  Built in 1893, the Romanesque-office building is lauded for its Victorian-style skylit atrium—a narrow scene featuring balustrades of ornate ironwork and a series of walkways, stairs, and elevators that conjure up memories of a Parisian alleyway. It was designed by architect Sumner Hunt and is the oldest commercial building in L.A.’s central city. Following a $7 million renovation in the 1990s, square footage in the city-landmarked building has been in high demand. In recent years, it’s been home to a Chinese art gallery, an architecture and design museum, Marvel Comics, and the Berggruen Institute, among others. The police department currently holds a 50-year lease for its office of internal affairs.  Keeping this productive and inspired spirit in mind, NeueHouse has called upon local firm DesignAgency to outfit the second floor of the building with a contemporary vision that’s respectful of the structure’s historic integrity. Utilizing the entirety of the 25,000 square feet of space, the design team will have plenty of room to build out amenities for the company’s professional members, such as a gallery, lobby café, conference space, private offices, and a meditation nap room. According to DesignAgency’s founding partner Anwar Mekhayech, this is what the interior architecture studio does best.  “Inhabiting signature buildings, we create interiors that offer a sense of history, an air of residential modernity, an aura of timelessness,” he said. “At the same time, we are driven by the challenge of anticipating every need of the contemporary creative professional.”  The Bradbury Building is a fitting second West Coast location for NeueHouse given the track record of innovation and artistry that’s happened within the historic structure. Many films such as the original Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer have been shot in the five-story building, as well as music videos by Janet Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, Cher, and Justin Timberlake. According to NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt, who just secured $30 million in funding for the startup, the new space supports its main goals. “Our mission of fostering a creative system at the intersection of commerce and culture, underpinned by design-driven environments, elevated hospitality, and original cultural programming, is what sets NeueHouse apart.” NeueHouse Bradbury is the company’s third location. In 2016, the company opened its flagship office in the former West Coast CBS headquarters at Columbia Square, which is currently at capacity and boasts an extensive waitlist for membership. Its second spot in Madison Square, New York, is full as well.
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Laser Mies at the Planetarium

The Farnsworth House will get an x-ray makeover for the Chicago Architecture Biennial
All eyes will be on Plano, Illinois, the small town nearly 60 miles west of the city that’s home to the Miesian masterpiece Farnsworth House, for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial. Artists Iker Gil and Luftwerk duo, Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, are teaming up to shed new light on the pioneering international style house, lining its underlying geometries with beams of neon laser light. The laser installation, Geometry of Light, will be open to the public from October 11th to 13th for an evening walk-through like no other.  Fitted out for a tech- and social media-savvy audience, the neon-saturated installation is sure to bring attention to the Fox River site, as the home will become the next in a series of architectural icons to get the Luftwerk treatment. In 2011, the collective brought a prototype of Geometry of Light to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for its 75th anniversary. That installation was named INsite, and the artists collaborated with video designer Liviu Pasare and composer Owen Clayton Condon to create an audiovisual study of the house. INsite focused on outlining the building's geometric components and the experience of moving through the lines of the space. An INsite-style study was also conducted independently for the Farnsworth house in 2014 However, the latest iteration of Luftwerk’s fluorescent vision debuted this past February as Geometry of Light was applied to another famous Mies project, the Barcelona Pavilion. Both the Pavilion and the Farnsworth House, with their open, overtly modernist massings, appear to be viewed through an x-ray after Luftwerk's illumination, exposing the bones of the building from a fresh new perspective. The 2019 Farnsworth exhibit will also be enhanced by sound, as a “minimalist” soundtrack will be pumped through the home in sync with the visuals.  The installation is a notable part of a wave of recent publicity for the Farnsworth House, as effort mounts to attract attention towards its preservation. Situated on the Fox River floodplain, the property of the modernist monument has been inundated by water several times since 2013, and a debate has erupted amongst preservationists and the home’s current owner over whether to protect the house or to take more drastic measures: relocation. Even though the house sits on stilts, the swampy site presents structural dangers and the stilts may not prove high enough as the flooding is predicted to worsen.  “Such are the choices in an era when disastrous '100-year floods' seem to occur every few years,” a spokesperson for The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have owned and operated the structure since 2003, told the Chicago Tribune. The group even suggested the installation of hydraulic jacks programmed to physically elevate the base of the house when floodwaters rise.  Though the Mies-designed home is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Chicago Biennial's core, Luftwerk’s eye-catching installation is sure to saturate the social media airwaves come this fall.
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Eames for the Sky

The Getty Conservation Institute charts a 100-year plan for the Eames House
It’s not easy being a septuagenarian, especially when your bones are made of steel and your skin consists of little more than brittle sheets of single-pane glass. Just ask the Eames House, an icon of midcentury industrial modernism designed as a personal residence by storied design duo Charles and Ray Eames in 1949. The conservation of the breezy home, filled with the eclectic knick-knacks and thoughtful design objects that define the couple’s colorful and practical oeuvre, is the subject of a new plan crafted by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Eames Foundation, and project architects Escher GuneWardena Architecture that aims to preserve the residence for posterity. Described as an “outstanding international exemplar of postwar modern residential design” by GCI, the house, a national historic landmark, sits on a scrubby, eucalyptus-filled bluff outside Los Angeles overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally developed as part of the influential Case Study House Program initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine editor John Entenza. Organized as a pair of spartan volumes set on a landscaped terrace, the home pioneered a new approach to residential design that married soaring, interlocking interiors with industrial construction materials—steel trusses, plywood paneling, and expanses of early curtain wall glass—to “humanize” the fruits of mass production while also providing effervescent but economical accommodations. But in the decades since, those then-experimental approaches have shown their wear, despite the Eames Foundation’s laudable stewardship. GCI’s plan, like the inventive spirit that went into designing the house, will work as a global case study in its own right by piloting conservation and research approaches for stabilizing and maintaining modernist-era structures. Detailed conditions assessments, an inventory of existing elements, and long-term site stabilization strategies are being developed in conjunction with the plan in an effort to create an approach that better resembles a cohesive preservation ethos rather than a detailed to-do list for the home. As a result, the effort is focused on problem-solving tasks like replacing asbestos tiles with nontoxic finishes, adding moisture barriers to prevent indoor condensation, and examining microscopic layers of paint around the premises to develop a detailed color-coded timeline for the complex. Describing the plan, Tim Whalen, the John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, said, “While the GCI undertakes initiatives all over the world, it is critical to recognize the important organizations that we engage locally, like our work at the Eames House,” adding, “We are pleased that the completion of the Conservation Management Plan will now guide future conservation efforts.”
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It Goes to 11

Audible opens its next chapter in a New Jersey church
Audible’s “Innovation Cathedral” opened its doors on May 17, bringing 80,000 square feet of high-tech office space for 400 employees to Newark, New Jersey. The name is much more than a metaphor. The Newark–based audiobook company converted a cathedral at 15 James Street— formerly the home of the Second Presbyterian Church—and two adjacent church buildings into its technology offices. Perkins Eastman restored the landmarked exterior and the global firm Spector Group handled the interior transformation. The finished design actually unites three buildings into one. A Gothic church—erected in 1932—was connected in the back to the 108-year-old Hunter Hall, a squat former parish house, which is joined to a large brick community center that sits at the very end. As the middle building in the site, Hunter Hall was designated as the main entrance and central circulation point to reach the cathedral and community center. The church-to-office conversion involved dropping an entirely new structure within the shell of the landmarked cathedral. Thus the new office structure doesn’t touch the walls of the church. Instead, Spector Group used a series of freestanding, elevated platforms to build out space and create new vantage points. “We created catwalks and perches around the sanctuary with glass dividers so you’re able to look down from the top library floor all the way to the lower main level,” said Marc Spector, principal and owner of Spector Group. As such, the conversion preserved many of the features of the original church and adjoining buildings. The auditorium, basketball court, and bowling alley in the community center were restored, as well as the pipe organ and organ screen in the main sanctuary space. All of the original cathedral’s paneling, pews, and groin vaults were kept intact. Its stained-glass windows were minimally modified to remove overtly religious references and create a more inclusive workspace. Game areas, lounges, an exhibition area, production rooms, and a commissary floor were added. Flexibility and deference to the cathedral were the driving motivators for Spector Group’s design. The employees in the Innovation Cathedral are all technologists, with different teams assigned to specific floors. However, there are no set desks and workers can sit wherever they’d like on their floor. “We added floor space in Hunter Hall, capped by this beautiful Tiffany glass ceiling that we rear-lit to really give it presence,” said Spector. “It’s an incredible edifice, and after three and a half years of working through existing conditions, we were [still] finding treasures of structure each time we did a little bit more demolition. We had to be flexible in the design.”

Architect of Record: Perkins Eastman Architects

Interior Architect: Spector Group

Associate Architect: Bill Mikesell Associates

Structural Engineer: Silman

Contractor: Century 21

Mechanical Engineering: Goldman Copeland Associates, PC

Exterior and Interior Lighting Designer: Bliss Fasman Inc.

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Erasing History

National Trust for Historic Preservation names 2019's most endangered places
The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) released its annual list of the U.S.'s most endangered places on May 30, highlighting an often surprising group of places and spaces threatened by forces like climate change and aggressive developer schemes across the country. While a listing signals a building’s realistic peril, a listing can also aid in reviving a building, as the NTHP brings national attention to the spaces, which can help spark awareness and action. The list has been published for 32 years, and has highlighted over 300 places. In that same time period, only five percent of the listings were actually lost. Katherine Malone-France, the interim chief preservation officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said in a statement, “We know that this year’s list will inspire people to speak out for the cherished places in their own communities that define our nation’s past.” The tides of taste often bring buildings in styles like postmodernism and brutalism to the list. The youngest building selected this year is the Thompson Center in Chicago, a spaceship-shaped building of glass and steel known for its soaring 13-floor atrium. In 1985, the design was meant to allude to a new, more transparent government. However, like many of the listed buildings, the Thompson Center is in danger due to neglect and financial troubles. Often developers see these historic buildings as opportunities for more profitable high rises or denser floor plans, and swoop in on economically imperiled lots. Nashville's Music Row, a historic district listed this year, is threatened by a tantalizing proximity to the city's downtown core and its relatively low density. Developers are itching to knock down the 19th-century homes and set plans in motion for high rises and corporate office spaces, much more profitable footprints that would erase much of the music-making history of the city. Aside from development, climate change and social justice histories also play a large role in the 2019 selections; the iconic National Mall Tidal Basin is under threat from rising sea levels and unstable sea walls. Small establishments, like the Excelsior Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, an African-American social club dating from 1944, that trace the history of race relations in America, have far less attention and protection.  The eleven design landmarks that make up the 2019 list are not only aesthetically appealing, but they are also vital chapters of the American cultural, historical, and artistic stories, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to help inspire their rescue. The eleven places listed in 2019 are: Tenth Street Historic District Dallas, Texas Nashville's Music Row Nashville, Tennessee Hacienda Los Torres Lares, Puerto Rico Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah Southeast Utah James R. Thompson Center Chicago, Illinois Bismarck-Mandan Rail Bridge Bismarck, North Dakota Industrial Trust Company Building Providence, Rhode Island The Excelsior Club Charlotte, North Carolina National Mall Tidal Basin Washington, D.C. Willert Park Courts Buffalo, New York Mount Vernon Arsenal and Searcy Hospital Mount Vernon, Alabama
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Portland Cements

DLR Group’s Portland Building renovation will kill its historic status
An audit by the City of Portland, Oregon, has found that the DLR Group’s renovation of the Michael Graves–designed Portland Building is over budget and, once complete, will cause the building to lose its historic landmark status. The renovation began last year as an alternative to scrapping the postmodern Portland tower, which desperately needed waterproofing, seismic, and efficiency upgrades. The plan to overhaul the 360,000-square-foot building eventually ballooned to $195 million as DLR Group opted to reskin the tower with a unitized aluminum rainscreen designed to imitate the original facade. Because of budget constraints when the building was originally constructed in 1982, Michael Graves opted to support the building using a cheaper exterior concrete wall, but poor workmanship led to water infiltration issues. DLR Group will also replace the dark windows, value engineered in for insulation, with lighter insulated glass. However, according to the City of Portland’s audit of the renovation, a follow-up to an initial risk analysis report, the budget has increased to $214 million. It was also revealed that once the project is complete, the building will be removed from the National Register of Historic Places. According to the audit, “As a part of the local Historic Landmarks Commission reviews in June 2017, the National Parks Service and the State Historic Preservation Office alerted the City that it would remove the Portland Building from the register if the City pursued the proposed exterior design to address water leaks.” The city will have to enter into a “mitigation agreement” with the State Historic Preservation Office as well to offset the delisting, although what that entails is uncertain at this point. If the Portland Building is removed from the register as expected, the city will have the option of designating it a local landmark instead. The report notes that as the budget grew, the project team decided to scale back the renovation’s scope. While DLR Group is on track to meet the minimum waterproofing and seismic requirements, and to replace most of the building’s heating and cooling systems, several elements were eliminated from the original $195 million budget. The audit cites “furnishings, technology equipment, as well as tenant improvements for parts of the building that would otherwise be left unfinished—two and a half floors of offices, and the childcare center on the first floor” as having been “spun off” into separate projects, which accounts for the 10 percent cost increase over what was originally proposed. However, despite the fervor, Michael Graves Architecture is in favor of the changes. In a letter from 2017, the studio stood behind DLR Group's reskinning, nothing that several of their changes, including the decision to change the glass from black to clear, were part of the original design but were cut due to budgetary constraints. Work on the retrofit is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed sometime in 2019, six months ahead of schedule.
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Fractured Future

Cracks found on L.A. Times building ahead of controversial development
In January, several cracks appeared on the exterior of the historic Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. While some have suggested the fissures may be due to ongoing transit construction next door, preservationists also say they could signal a larger problem—one that could threaten a controversial, mixed-use development on the site. The Times Mirror Square project comprises the restoration of the L.A. Times’s flagship building, a 1935 structure by Gordon Kaufmann, as well as a 1948 addition by Rowland Crawford—both recently landmarked buildingsas well as the build-out of two apartments towers in place of what’s now a William L. Pereiradesigned office structure from 1973. Vancouver-based developer Onni Group bought the five-building complex in 2016 and has since been through a fraught preservation battle to move the project forward. But now, the sight of cracks have people wondering what it will mean for the mega-project’s future. “Who is responsible for this?” said preservationist Richard Schave, co-founder of historic L.A. tour company Esotouric, in reference to the cracks. “It’s the $64 million question. That number refers to the cost of phase one construction on the Regional Connector project, L.A.’s massive rail line expansion. A new station is under construction next door to Times Mirror Square and the agency building it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), may be responsible. Metro is already monitoring the cracks of the L.A. Times buildings using geotechnical sensors. Details on the severity haven’t been released yet, but some think Metro may be forced to provide data for the final environmental impact report (EIR) of the Time Mirror Square project, which is due out in a few months. Don Spivack, a former administrator at the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, said if the cracks on the structure are one to two millimeters, there’s nothing to worry about. “They may be cosmetic, not structural cracks,” he said. “But this complex has a tangled history due to its layered construction. Each building was individually engineered and connected to the others in ways that permitted passage between them. If some of those connections were not properly engineered at the time or modified later, the question stands whether or not this poses a risk to their preservation.” This isn’t the only issue. There’s a history of subsidence on buildings in the area when subways are built, and seismic activity has also likely caused them to move over the years, according to Spivak. The L.A. Times reported that, so far, cracks have been noticed in the cafeteria, newsroom, and the Pereira-designed garage of the complex. Visible cracks on the facade can be seen on the first floor of the Crawford Building (a.k.a Mirror Tower), and on its northwest facade at the corner of 2nd and Spring Streets, across from Regional Connector construction. While the idea that the building is sinking has sparked fear, Spivack and John Lorick, a former vice president at the L.A. Times, said it would be nearly impossible for that to be true. They also remarked on the overall neglect that Times Mirror Square had suffered under its last owner, Tribune Media. But, they said, any demolition and construction on or near the site could inevitably alter the historic structures—and Onni Group doesn't have a great track record with that.  “I was not completely surprised when I first read about the damage to the [Kaufmann and Crawford] buildings," said Lorick. "Although the reported damage was attributed to subway construction, I had always eventually expected to read about some accidental but irreparable damage to the Crawford and Kaufmann buildings during demolition or construction on the site because of the complex interconnection of the buildings and their foundations.” When asked for comment, the developer didn’t respond by the time of publication. The L.A. Department of Building & Safety told AN that once the project goes through the entitlement process at City Planning, inspectors will investigate any structural issues brought to light.
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Lightfoot, Lighttouch

Federal judge rejects Obama Presidential Center lawsuit as opponents vow to fight on
Four months after a district judge ruled that a lawsuit against the potential Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Chicago would be allowed to proceed—stalling construction until its conclusion—a federal judge has tossed out the case on June 11. The lawsuit was filed by the environmental group Protect Our Parks and three other community groups against both the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District, arguing that the Obama Foundation’s plan to place the OPC in the Olmsted and Vaux–designed Jackson Park was illegal. Protect Our Parks argued that, because the Center wouldn’t actually be a government-run presidential library but a privately-run museum tower, complete with parking, a training center, and 5,000-square-foot Chicago Public Library location, the land transfer from the city to the Obama Foundation was invalid. However, in a 52-page written decision (viewable here), U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey ruled that the public benefits offered by the museum would still constitute a public good, and, in his view, merit the land transfer. The OPC, according to a written statement from Blakely, “surely provides a multitude of benefits to the public. It will offer a range of cultural, artistic, and recreational opportunities…as well as provide increased access to other areas of Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry.” Blakely added that there will be no halt in construction to the Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and Interactive Design Architects–planned $500 million, 20-acre campus as a result. After the ruling, Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a statement in favor of building the OPC in Jackson Park. “Chicago is where President Obama discovered his love for community service,” wrote Lightfoot, “and the Obama Presidential Center will honor his presidency and inspire the next generation of leaders. The court today made unequivocally clear that this project may be located in Jackson Park, marking a significant step forward in this historic project and for our entire city. I am committed to ensuring that this community hub creates unprecedented cultural opportunities and economic growth on the South Side.” While this wasn’t the ruling that Protect Our Parks was hoping for, the coalition of plaintiffs has vowed to appeal. The group was hoping to force the Obama Foundation to move the Center to a privately-owned lot to the southwest. Aside from the forthcoming appeal, this isn’t the last hurdle the OPC faces. Dropping a 20-acre project into a park listed on the National Register of Historic Places requires a federal review, which is still ongoing. “Today’s ruling, while disappointing, is by no means the final word,” said Charles A. Birnbaum, president and CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, in a statement. The Foundation is an “official consulting party” in the federal review process and has made its opposition to siting the OPC in Jackson Park clear. “Though the carefully orchestrated local approvals process has been enabled by pliant municipal officials, there are still federal-level reviews underway for this nationally significant work of landscape architecture that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”
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The Spoils of Babylon

Arquitectonica’s second finished building is being torn down
Arquitectonica’s second completed project, the multifamily Babylon apartment block in Miami, is set to be demolished before July. Fears over the now-abandoned building’s demolition have swirled for years, but last January, the ziggurat-inspired complex had its historic designation overturned by Miami city commissioners. The building’s owner, former spaghetti western star Francisco Martínez Celeiro (known professionally as George Martin), wants to replace the 37-year-old postmodern Babylon at 240 SE 14th Street with a 24-story condo tower, a far cry from the existing five-story structure. The Babylon, with its distinctive stepped, fire-truck-red facade, made an immediate splash when it was completed in 1982 and helped propel Arquitectonica on towards larger projects. While the stepped profile, which is extruded through the long, narrow site it sits on, stood out when it was first erected, the building is now overshadowed by the surrounding condo towers in the Brickell neighborhood. While Celeiro originally sought to build a narrow tower on the site that could have stood anywhere from 48 to 80 stories, the 15,000-square-foot lot is only zoned for a 12-story building. Now, Celeiro is seeking to upzone the lot for a 24-story tower, but according to the Biscayne Times, that request is driving a wedge between the city and Brickell residents and urban planners, who fear the precedent will open the floodgates for other developers to request variances. The primary motivation for revoking the Babylon’s protected status seems to have stemmed from an engineering survey commissioned by Celeiro, who argued that the building was too far gone to repair, and the inexorable link the complex has to the gritty 1980’s—a drug trafficking-filled era that many are keen to forget. “This is the real history of the Babylon,” said Commissioner Joe Carollo in 2018, during the 4-1 vote to strip the building of its historic designation, according to the Miami Herald. “This is a place built on the cheap by a guy who was so high he didn’t know if he was coming or going most of the time. I’m amazed that we’re talking about this 35 years later. I’m amazed we have spent too much time glorifying one of the worst buildings in an era many of us would like to forget.” AN will follow up on this story once further details on the Babylon’s replacement come to light.
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School's In?

Former I.M. Pei–designed IBM campus in Westchester could become boarding school
The suburban corporate campus Pei Cobb Freed & Partners designed for computing giant IBM could become a private school focused on science, math, and the arts. The town of Somers, a small municipality in northern Westchester County, recently heard a proposal from a developer who wants to convert about half of the 750-acre campus and all its five buildings into a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) high school for day and boarding students. For-profit developers Evergreen Ridge told the town board that the campus's 1.2 million square feet would be converted into the school in three phases. Ultimately, the school plans to accommodate around 1,530 boarding and 270 day pupils, for a total of 1,800, lohud.com reported. Operations would kick off in 2021 with a summer program and the campus would reach full capacity three years later. Sports fields, a field house, and an arts building would be erected during the second phase of construction. The Pei Cobb Freed–designed campus, known for its pyramidal, zig-zagging buildings, was erected between 1984 and 1989. At peak occupancy, it hosted about 3,000 workers on the nine-to-five (they even had a song!). In 2016, however, IBM vacated the property and sold it to Sebastian Capital for almost $32 million. This isn't the only Pei news to emerge recently: Unless you're an architecture aficionado who's elected to live under a rock, you probably know that the Pritzker Prize–winning architect died last month at the age of 102.
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The Cultural Air Up There

Construction begins on massive Machu Picchu airport despite protests
Ground has been broken on a $5 billion airport meant to connect Peru’s mountainous Machu Picchu more easily with the outside world, but conservationists are up in arms over the impact the facility will have on the fragile world heritage site. Machu Picchu is one of the most famous Incan archeological sites in the world but is currently strained past capacity with tourists. According to The Guardian, 1.5 million visited the fortress in 2017, twice the amount recommended by UNESCO. Currently, the site is only accessible through a single runway airport in the nearby city of Cusco, and to ameliorate crowding and provide easier access to the fragile mountaintop, land is already being cleared at the town of Chinchero—between Machu Picchu and Cusco—for a major international airport that would receive direct flights. Machu Picchu sits in the 37-mile-long Sacred Valley, once the heart of the ancient Incan empire, and activists are worried that the airport (and increased tourism) would despoil the miles of paths, terraces, and other vulnerable sites in the valley. Opponents of the airport claim that the environmental ramifications would be huge, and that runoff from the construction would pollute the nearby Lake Piuray, which provides nearly half of Cusco’s water supply. Additionally, the low-flying planes and influx of tourists may damage the sensitive archeological campus. Peruvian art historian Natalia Majluf has started a petition in opposition to the airport, that at the time of writing, has 48,000 signatures. In it, Majluf cites the potential damage to the area’s canals, ritual lines, and agricultural heritage, which is a direct continuation of the Incan traditions and knowledge that originated in the valley. Majluf is appealing directly to Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra to at least reconsider the airport’s location, but according to The Guardian, the government seems committed to the project. “This airport will be built as soon as possible because it’s very necessary for the city of Cusco,” Finance Minister Carlos Oliva said last month. “There’s a series of technical studies which support this airport’s construction.”