New Las Vegas megaresort City Center, which we reviewed in January (it features buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, and others) just reported its first quarter results. They weren't good. The's $8.5 billion project, owned by MGM Mirage and Dubai World (which has finally worked out a debt restructuring deal with its creditors), recorded an operating loss of $255 million, and has only been able to sell about 100 of its 2,400 luxury condominiums, according to the Wall Street Journal. MGM is also locked in a lawsuit with its contractor, Perini Building Co, for defective workmanship and overbilling. For what it's worth the company claims that it will soon begin to turn a profit on the project. Now that's a Vegas bet we're interested in following.
Search results for "Rafael Viñoly"
Update (4/21/10): Three more firms have been confirmed: Snohetta, Rafael Viñoly, and L.A.'s Frederick Fisher. This is shaping up to be a pretty diverse crew. The SF Chronicle reports that the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive has sent out letters to ten architecture firms, asking them to submit qualifications to design their new home. Adding to the three that have already been sussed out (Bernard Tschumi, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, and Will Bruder), we have confirmed a fourth: Ann Beha, whose Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire has been well-received. If that partial list is any indication, the museum is looking at a more diverse group than SFMOMA is considering for its addition, though (as in SFMOMA's case) no local names have surfaced yet. It is going to be an interesting adaptive reuse project: the old printing plant on the site will be renovated, and a 50,000 square-foot addition incorporated into the whole.
As the redevelopment of the massive Domino Sugar refinery on the WIlliamsburg waterfront continues to trudge through the city's public review process, what remains of the once mighty sweetener plant continues to deteriorate—or improve, depending on your attitudes towards street art. Following on the footsteps of the busted windows some feared would cause water damage to the main refinery building, now warring graffiti crews have set up shop on the bin building. A concrete addition from the 1960s that will be demolished to make way for some of Rafael Viñoly's 2,200 apartments, the bin building has now been bombed by no fewer than 5 graffiti writers. But it's not all bad news for the development, as it won conditional approval from Borough President Marty Markowitz on Friday, though some of those conditions are pretty steep if also in line with the demands of the local community board, which does not support the project. They include reduced bulk and density for the project; more and better subway service, especially on the L, for all those new residents; and room for a school, supermarket, and "possible artisan establishments" within the development.
Even with its generous amounts of affordable housing—30 percent of some 2,200 units, as opposed to 20 percent—the New Domino project surrounding the former Domino sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront has faced stiff opposition from the community, as we reported in Issue 02 earlier this year. The local community remains opposed to the project's density and lack of infrastructure to support all those new residents in towers designed by Rafael Viñoly that reach 40 stories, twice as tall as the iconic Domino refinery they will surround. Community Board 1 reaffirmed its opposition last night, when it voted 23-12 against the project. Our pal Aaron Short has an insanely detailed blow-by-blow over on his blog, but it all basically boils down—not unlike most of the board's decisions on land-use matters—that the project is just too damn big. Meanwhile, something even stranger is going on at the waterfront site, as the above picture demonstrates. It turned up yesterday on Curbed, the apparent work of a preservationist cum conspiracy theorist who insists the refinery's many blown-out windows are leading to structural instability and imminent collapse. To which we ask: One lump or two?
With all the notice being paid to the new U.S. embassy this week, an even bigger (physically if not psychically) project just next door was overshadowed as it won a key approval yesterday. Rafael Viñoly's massive Battersea development, which will turn the iconic Battersea Power Station and 40 surrounding acres (once on the cover of a Pink Floyd album) into a huge mixed-use community, won approval from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. According to our colleagues at BD, the CABE found the 5.5 billion pound project to be "intelligent and well-resolved." It includes more than 3,700 apartment units, 1.5 million feet of office space, 500,000 of retail, and community facilities, though an ecodome and other expensive features have been ditched on account of the bad economy. It wasn't all good news for Viñoly this week, though, as his similarly post-industrial New Domino project in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, took a lashing from the local community board. We'll have a full report on that when there's a final vote next month.
And so it begins. MGM Mirage's 67-acre, 18 million square foot, $7.8 billion CityCenter, one of the biggest developments in the history of mankind, officially opened today. It includes buildings by Cesar Pelli, Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Viñoly, Helmut Jahn, KPF and Norman Foster. We can't wait to put together our commentary. Here are some initial thoughts after our first day here: The Pros: -It's a great accomplishment for Las Vegas to finally highlight contemporary architecture instead of theme-based pastiche (Paris, Venice, Luxor, etc. etc) or high end luxury (Bellagio, Wynn, etc). This place doesn't have a theme, but the closest two are architecture and urbanism. Who knew? Whether they pulled this off is another question. -There are some architectural gems. All the buildings have their strong points: Jahn's Veer towers are the most ambitious, with their off-kilter forms, intricate and colorful facades, and tension between lightness and monumentality. Pelli's Aria, the epicenter of the development, is strongest at night when its facade glows thanks to fantastic lighting that brings out the brightness in the glassy building's aluminum mesh sunshades. Inside its highlight is the collection of large windows that open to Libeskind's Crystals, and to natural light. More critique to come.. -The collection of buildings does create a feeling of urbanity, particularly from certain perspectives. For example the view toward the Aria from the entance road, when framed by the rows of buildings on either side, is a powerful moment, particularly at night. In fact like most things in Vegas, everything is better here at night, when more people are activating the place and lights and excitement cover up any flaws. -Most of the buildings have achieved LEED Gold certification, and many even incorporate natural light and views of the (gasp) outside, a rarity for Las Vegas, where experience is tightly controlled to suck you in and even confuse you into spending money. -Perhaps the biggest pro is that this thing actually got done in such troubled economic times. A bailout from Infinity World Development Corp, a subsidiary of (we're not joking here) Dubai World is what gave it the last push when things were looking bleak. The Cons -While it's admirable that the development is seeking to be more urban than the self-contained megastructures of Las Vegas, it's not really a city center. A diversity of styles and a grouping of self-contained buildings is certainly a start. But there's very little diversity of uses, little connection to the street (or to the realities of everyday life) and to the rest of Las Vegas, very few pedestrian friendly spaces that aren't intended to suck out your money, and a chance for a real public plaza in the center of the development has been wasted in favor of a giant traffic circle. -It's great that CityCenter went for a diversity of styles, but it would have been nice if they fit together in a more logical way. Right now it's sort of an architectural petting zoo; a collection of pretty objects with limited relation to one another. -While the buildings are all solid the architecture for the most part is pretty conservative and not breaking any new ground. There's only so far that a large public corporation like MGM will go in its taste for experiment. The exception is Jahn's, which while a formal spectacle (perfect for Vegas!) doesn't feel gimmicky. Libeskind's is very edgy as well, but not much different from what we've seen him do elsewhere. Time for us to digest some more and get back to you. But here are some pictures taken by yours truly to enjoy.