Posts tagged with "Historic Preservation":

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Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda restoration reaps rewards for University of Virginia

The University of Virginia, established 200 years ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, is taking major physical strides to elevate public awareness of its historic, and also troubled past. One of its most-anticipated architectural projects is Höweler+Yoon’s upcoming memorial dedicated to the slaves who helped build the campus. The circular design references Thomas Jefferson’s nearby Rotunda, a national historic landmark and arguably the most important building on site. Constructed in 1825, the Rotunda has always served as the centerpiece of the university’s Academical Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site where Jefferson’s original structures stand. It recently underwent a multi-year, $51.6 million restoration project by New York firm John G. Waite Associates (JGWA) and is now considered a model of 21st-century preservation. The American Institute of Architects just named the building among the top projects in the country, alongside the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Smart Factory by Barkow Leibinger in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. For the university, the monumental restoration of Jefferson’s Rotunda was long overdue. Most of the buildings within the prominent Academical Village were constructed well over a century ago and designed to mimic Greco-Roman architecture, hence the Rotunda’s resemblance to Andrea Palladio’s drawings of the Pantheon. The building has had a tumultuous existence since opening in the early 19th century. In 1895, it was nearly destroyed in a catastrophic fire, leading McKim, Mead and White to complete a full-scale replica of the structure for the school. According to JGWA, the interior spaces were significantly altered during this construction. Another early-1970s renovation, completed ahead of America’s bicentennial, also compromised the architect’s original intent. JGWA addressed these issues, as well as other long-standing structural problems, throughout the four-year restoration project. The firm fixed the leaking roof, repointed the building’s brick walls, restored the facade’s metal moldings, and replaced the portico’s deteriorating column capitols with Carrara marble ones. They also meticulously restored finishes and details found on all three interior floors according to Jefferson’s initial designs. The architects removed the acoustic plaster ceiling that made up the interior dome and replaced it with perforated aluminum. Additionally, a new mechanical and storage space was built out within an excavated space in an adjacent courtyard. The building reopened in September of 2016 as part of a larger, campus-wide effort to restore the Jefferson-designed grounds, including the university’s historic Lawn.

Historic Pub Crawl

Experience the history of a few famous 
and infamous Pasadena watering holes
 and haunts. This guided tour of Pasadena’s original downtown includes stops at a handful of pubs, distinctive for their history, architecture, and beer. Tour-goer’s can delight in beer tastings plus little known facts and forgotten lore---a great way to get to know historic Old Pasadena!
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Bertrand Goldberg's brutalist River City building gets controversial paint job

Preservationists are up in arms over a paint job made by the new owners of Bertrand Goldberg’s brutalist River City condominium in Chicago. Crews are currently brightening the exposed concrete walls that line the building’s soaring atrium to a stark shade of white. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, some consider it an act of vandalism. Built in 1986, the iconic mixed-use building features a serpentine design and a lightly undulating facade full of arcing windows. Its 10-story atrium is lit by thinly ribbed glass openings on the roof. The structure is situated in the city’s South Loop neighborhood and hovers over the Chicago River on a series of plinths, making it accessible by boat. Though it's not a landmarked building, it's a staple of Goldberg’s Chicago architecture and impressive to many. Its textured grey tones are enhanced by daylight, but its new owners want to create an even more modern feel to attract residents, hence the new white color. Last month, the property was co-purchased by its new ownership, a group of real estate investors, for $90.5 million. The sale marked the largest condominium deconversion in Chicago history, According to The Real Deal, it took two years of negotiations to sort out the deal so that the owners could transform the 449-unit complex into a fully renovated rental apartment building. Painting the atrium is step one towards that goal.   Well-known local critic Lee Bey told Crain’s the decision is “a shame,” and that the building’s expression is best understood within its curved walls. “It really is a significant change to a space that Goldberg thought out very carefully,” he said. “He brings this curvilinear ‘street’ inside the building, with the sun coming in from above. He thought of it as a street in Paris.” Under its new ownership, River City is set to receive an updated lobby, a new fitness center, co-working spaces, and communal areas. The existing 250,000 square feet of office and retail space will also be upgraded.
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Chicago aims to preserve the vernacular architecture in its largest Mexican-American community

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved a preliminary designation for a dense array of hundreds of late 19th-century vernacular buildings in the heart of Pilsen, a working-class Hispanic community on Chicago’s near southwest side. The district, to be one of the city’s largest, is only a component of a plan seeking to broaden notions of preservation in Chicago, and it aims to protect culture and affordability in Pilsen and neighboring Little Village along with the historic built environment. The Pilsen and Little Village Preservation Strategy is meant to strengthen affordability requirements, provide new housing resources for existing residents, enact an industrial modernization agenda, and improve public and open space. These initiatives are an attempt to steer Pilsen and Little Village away from the type of development that displaces existing residents and threatens the nature of neighborhoods as seen along the 606, a 2.7-mile linear park completed in 2015 that has changed the character of Humboldt Park and neighboring Logan Square, as well as Wicker Park and Bucktown. The measures follow an ordinance in November that cleared the way for Chicago to purchase four miles of an abandoned rail right-of-way currently owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company for the Paseo, a linear pedestrian and bike trail first proposed in 2006. Unlike the 606, Chicago intends to follow a more careful path forward with the Paseo, taking steps to ensure that park planning will not take precedence over neighborhood-wide concerns of affordability and developer-driven teardowns. The Pilsen Historic District will intersect the Paseo at Sangamon Street, the far east end of the district. According to a report released by Cities, the International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning, monthly rent on tracts bordering the 606 increased by $201 from 2010 to 2016, double the average citywide increase of $102. During that same census period, the share of non-Hispanic whites in the population increased by 4.83 percent. The median household income of people living on property bordering the 606 jumped by $14,682, compared to a citywide $3,557. In addition to taking a proactive approach to new public space, the strategy also responds to pressure from developers looking to capitalize on the neighborhood Forbes named one of the “12 Coolest Neighborhoods around the World" because of its "streets lined with hip galleries and walls decorated with colorful murals dating from the 1970s." A strong sense of Mexican pride is articulated through the adornment of the built environment with vibrant murals, many using pre-Columbian motifs and portraits of both icons and contemporary activists to express the diasporic identity of the community. These colorful murals are at risk as buildings are bought, sold, and rehabbed, as was the case of the iconic Casa Aztlán mural that was painted over in 2017. A real estate panel targeting developers titled “Chicago’s Emerging Neighborhoods: The Rise of Pilsen, Uptown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park” is scheduled for December 12, and promises to show developers how to reposition assets in “boom” neighborhoods and capitalize on the halo effect of institutional investment. As reported by Block Club Chicago, the event faced criticism on social media, leading to a softening of the tone of the marketing materials and the addition of language addressing affordability. Included in the preservation plan is a five-year Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) pilot program that will increase required affordability requirements for large residential projects that require a zoning change within a 7.2-mile area of Pilsen and Little Village. The bulk of the proposed historic district and the Paseo lies inside the ARO pilot program area. The program will up the affordable housing requirements for new developments with ten or more units from 10 percent to 20 percent, with provisions to increase the number of family size units via financial incentives. Like the citywide ordinance, developers will have to pay an in-lieu fee if they choose not to provide on-site units. Within the pilot program area, the fee jumps from $100,000 to $150,000 per unit. Working in tandem with the ARO pilot, the Chicago Community Land Trust will provide reduced property taxes in exchange for long-term affordability, with the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, the recipient of the in-lieu fees, providing rental subsidies. Through a multi-year community-based process, the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development is looking to modernize the Little Village Industrial Corridor as an employment center while improving economic, environmental, and social conditions. The industrial corridor runs along the Stevenson Expressway roughly from Cicero to Western and provides manufacturing jobs to Little Village residents. Concurrently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the local historic district designation will protect the physical manifestation of over a century of immigration in Pilsen, a complex patchwork of worker’s cottages, commercial buildings, houses of worship, churches, and schools, most of which were constructed from 1870 to 1910 by Czech and Bohemian immigrants. Mexican-Americans became the predominant ethnic group in the mid-20th century, creating a network of ultra-local activism that forged coalitions between working class people across Chicago. Designation of the district unlocks multiple financial incentives for commercial and residential properties, including the 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit and the 25% State Historic Tax Credit, as well as Class L Property Tax Incentives and Preservation Easement Donations.
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Roche Dinkeloo's Ford Foundation Building reopens for the 21st century

Upon stepping inside the new, light-filled Ford Foundation for Social Justice, you’d never know the crisp and clean, 415,000-square-foot building felt darker and smaller just four years ago. The landmark headquarters of the formerly-named Ford Foundation was designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates in 1967 and has long been considered one of New York’s greatest architectural treasures. Its 12-story, corten steel structure featuring textured granite walls and floor-to-ceiling glass windows were emblematic of groundbreaking mid-century modern design, but in recent years the prized building has fallen behind the times. This month, Gensler’s New York office completed an extensive renovation effort to redesign and rebrand the organization’s Midtown East facility as a sustainable hub for social justice–oriented groups to commune and collaborate. The 51-year-old building was reconstructed in compliance with updated city safety codes with an increased attention to energy efficiency and accessibility. Where rays of daylight used to only trickle into the structure’s iconic, glass-clad atrium, they now sweep through the office areas and out the other side of the building. It’s arguably one of the sunniest spaces in the neighborhood and now boasts near-complete transparency. “People used to walk by here and have no idea what was going on inside,” said Darren Walker, the Foundation’s current president. “It sat here like a mammoth, making a statement of discretion and tranquility. But now, while you can see so much of the original vocabulary of the building in things like its 6-foot planning grid and innovative use of brass, it’s much more transparent and energetic.” Central to Gensler’s revamp was expanding the amount of public and meeting spaces for outside organizations from 53,600 square feet to a whopping 81,000 square feet. With more room to host global groups committed to human equity and achievement, the Foundation aims to bolster its outreach efforts while also promoting its own themes of transparency, fairness, and dignity through an inviting design. Gensler also added extra lifts, subtle wheelchair ramps, gender-inclusive signage, and updated workplace furniture to meet ADA standards—all in order to encourage diversity within the Foundation’s four walls. This idea of displaying human value through design also translates to the new open office plan that nurtures collaboration and gives employees access to coveted daylight and ample views of the lush Dan Kiley­–designed garden atrium. Jungles Studio, in collaboration with SiteWorks, rehabilitated the space to align with Kiley’s simple original vision. To combat years of overgrowth and erosion, they deepened the tree holes, improved irrigation, and restored the garden’s reflecting pool as well as the brick pavers throughout. This indoor greenhouse is visible from the workspace above now that the closed-door private offices that once lined the atrium walls have been opened up as laneways on each floor. Ed Wood, design director and principal at Gensler, said the overall design intent for the project was to create a feeling of the “new, but familiar.” Perhaps the most impressive part of the Foundation’s renovation signifies just that. During the project, over 1,500 pieces of furniture were meticulously restored while over half of the original Warren Platnerdesigned wood pieces were refinished to match their original stain. Each legacy lighting fixture, bronze accent, leather-laid item, piece of millwork, as well as the carpet and wood flooring was either refurbished or reimagined using extremely similar materials or pieces salvaged from the Foundation’s storage. The updated interior successfully transports visitors back to a time when Mad Men era-design dominated New York’s office towers without making it look cheesy and out of date. It’s actually refreshing. When the Ford Foundation first opened, it was a design marvel and a nod to the Foundation’s claim to be the wealthiest organization of its kind in the world. With this update, Gensler brought the building back to life and advanced its architectural status by not only making it a prime example of a 21st-century renovation project but by intelligently piecing back together all the iconic elements that made the interior so irresistible decades ago. The public spaces inside the Ford Foundation for Social Justice will officially open to the public in January. Its grantees and affiliate organizations will be welcomed into the new convening spaces starting then as well. The project is pursuing LEED Platinum certification. In addition to the staff, the building permanently houses Philanthropy New York, the United Nations Foundation, and the Nonprofit Coordinating Committee of New York.
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Sale of Chicago's iconic Thompson Center delayed through 2019

The State of Illinois has just signed the James R. Thompson Center up for another year of public service. According to projections introduced in the Illinois Fiscal Policy Report, the state has removed the sale of the Thompson Center from the list of planned sources of revenue for 2019. The report estimates the value of the potential sale to the state to be $300 million. Culturally and aesthetically contentious since it landed in Chicago’s North Loop in 1985, the Thompson Center, formerly the State of Illinois Building, has become an emblematic figure of the timely realities tied to preserving postmodernism. This challenge has proven traditional historic preservation practices to be ineffective, forcing the field to find new ways to define value for structures that lack the traditional bells and whistles of historic architecture, and putting the field in a situation where collaboration and creativity are key. Thirty years after designing the Thompson Center, architect Helmut Jahn worked with Landmarks Illinois to develop a super tower for a corner of the site on the heels of the Thompson Center’s inclusion into the organization’s yearly list of threatened buildings. In September, Preservation Chicago, working with Starship Chicago filmmaker Nathan Eddy, brought in Shea Couleé of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame for a lunchtime rally to drum up interest in landmarking the structure. The news of the sale’s delay into 2020 puts the future of the Thompson Center in the hands of governor-elect J.B. Pritzker, who toppled first term incumbent Bruce Rauner in November. While Rauner has been vocal about his desire to sell the Thompson Center, Pritzker has not made any statements regarding the sale of the structure. Postponing the sale will also make aspects of the Thompson Center the responsibility of Chicago’s next mayor. While the structure is owned by the state, it sits atop a vital matrix of public transit infrastructure that would be inevitably disrupted if the structure changed hands. While outgoing mayor Rahm Emanuel has stated that he would block the sale of the Thompson Center because of this, no candidate in the large field of mayoral hopefuls has addressed similar intentions—or any intentions—regarding the structure.
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Docomomo pits preservationists against each other

This November, architecture preservationists are gearing up for a fight the likes of which they have never seen. It promises to pit historians and authors against each other in a national battle royale out of which only one will emerge the winner. Who or what could be behind such conflict in America today? Docomomo, of course. The United States chapter of the international organization dedicated to preserving modern buildings is hosting an unconventional fundraiser this November that the group is calling the #DocoGames. Here's how it'll work: On Tuesday, November 27, 16 preservationists will face off in a fundraising tournament where they encourage the public to donate in support of a threatened modernist building of their choosing. Writer Kate Wagner, for instance, will be rallying for the Burroughs-Wellcome building designed by Paul Rudolph. The 16 tribunes have two hours to out-fundraise their assigned competitor, after which time the victor will advance to the next round in the tournament bracket. The participants will reach out to their followers on social media to support their cause and help them survive the competition. The games will start at 10 in the morning, and a winner will be declared at the end of the day. More information is available on the Docomomo US site here. Participants include: Jon Buono, Architect, Howard L. Zimmerman Architects Meredith Bzdak, Architectural Historian, Mills + Schnoering Architects | Director, Docomomo US Barbara Campagna, Architect, BAC/Architecture + Planning Nathan Eddy, Filmmaker, Starship Chicago Todd Grover, Architect, MacDonald & Mack Architects | Secretary, Docomomo US Gunny Harboe, Architect, Harboe Architects | Director, Docomomo US Tim Hayduk, Lead Design Educator, Center for Architecture Eric Keune, Architect, Skidmore Owings and Merrill Robert Meckfessel, Architect, DSGN | Vice President, Docomomo US Theodore Prudon, Architect, Prudon & Partners | President, Docomomo US Robert Pullum, Freelance Creative Director | Director, Docomomo US Shelby Schrank, Intern, Docomomo US Hannah Simonson, Architectural Historian, Page & Turnbull | Director, Docomomo US/NOCA Kate Wagner, Blogger, McMansion Hell Liz Waytkus, Executive Director, Docomomo US
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L.A. might repurpose its General Hospital as affordable housing

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion this week to study the feasibility of reusing the county’s abandoned General Hospital for affordable, low-income, and mixed-use housing. The motion was authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis as part an initiative that aims to establish a “Healthy Village” in and around the University of Southern California medical campus that surrounds the defunct hospital. The approved motion authorizes the County to lead a detailed feasibility study and to craft a strategic plan with relevant parties to bring the initiative to life. As the “birthplace of emergency medicine,” the Art Deco–style Los Angeles County General Hospital was considered a state-of-the-art institution at the time of its opening in 1933. The 800-bed teaching hospital played a vital role in the community and earned the affectionate nickname “Great Stone Mother,” an allusion to the building’s cascading concrete hospital wings. The New Deal–era structure was built amid the Great Depression and was designed by the Allied Architects’ Association of Los Angeles, a consortium of local architects that took on various municipal projects across the region. The hospital facility is also notable for its relationship to the Chicano Movement of the 1970s and to the community organizing that occurred in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. The exterior of the complex is also notable for its appearance in the opening credits of the television show General Hospital. The facility was replaced after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake following the passage of updated structural codes that were passed in response to the disaster. It was replaced by an HOK-designed facility that opened in 2008. The General Hospital is joined by Charity Hospital in New Orleans as one of two major abandoned Art Deco–style hospitals in the United States. In a press release, Supervisor Solis said, “We must be innovative and audacious if we want to end the homelessness crisis and simultaneously increase affordable housing in the region.” Solis added, “Today’s action to transform the abandoned General Hospital into a marquee facility will not only breathe new life into this historic building, but it will also help our most vulnerable residents regain control of their lives. When I look at this iconic structure, I see much more than an architectural gem: I envision a thriving community facility proactively helping people suffering from homelessness and other disadvantages get back on their feet.” According to the approved motion, the completed report and feasibility study will be due back to the Board of Supervisors by fall 2019.
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Google fills a historic timber hangar with its sleek new Los Angeles office

The Spruce Goose, a derogatory nickname for the Hughes H-4 Hercules, only flew once, but the largest plane ever built (entirely out of wood, to boot) continues to live on in pop culture ephemera. The plane has found a permanent home in Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation Museum, but the Los Angeles hangar where the Spruce Goose was built is getting a second shot at life. Under the timber hangar’s four-story-tall roof, ZGF Architects has completed a voluminous open office for Google that celebrates the building’s aeronautical heritage. Inside the 450,000-square-foot Playa Vista space, ZGF has restored the building’s historic Douglas fir “spine,” a series of curved ribs that support the ceiling, using wood salvaged from the hangar. Any leftover wood was used for furniture throughout the office. The Spruce Goose hangar was the largest timber building in the world when it was completed, and ZGF and engineers Arup mostly kept true to that legacy by scattering wooden finishes throughout and leaving the ceiling exposed. An enormous ship-like structure at the office’s core anchors the circulation routes and staircases to each floor, and according to ZGF, creates a “unique building-within-a-building design.” The hangar had largely laid dormant until Google took it over as a tenant, though in the past it’s served as a soundstage for films like Titanic and Avatar. In renovating such a cavernous space, ZGF punched skylights throughout the 750-foot-long building’s roof to maximize the amount of incoming daylight. The office space also features plenty of aviation-themed conference rooms, a fitness center, cafes, a 250-person event space, and aerial boardwalks that connect the first, second, and third floors. A “perception sculpture” made up of 2,800 hanging steel balls has been installed in the central atrium, that, when viewed from a specific angle, reveals the airy shape of the Spruce Goose plane. The references to Howard Hughes’s and the site’s place in aviation history is also celebrated throughout with placards and stories about the building, the Spruce Goose, Google, and L.A. Although Google has approximately 1,000 employees in the city, it’s unclear how many will work out of the Spruce Goose office. ZGF is no stranger to designing for tech giants and is currently part of the team renovating Microsoft's Redmond campus. “Los Angeles is an ideal home for Google’s newest office,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was on hand for a tour of the building over the weekend. “Our city is a hub of innovation, creativity, and homegrown talent that shaped the aerospace industry in the past and that’s redefining the tech sector today. “Expanding Google’s presence in Playa Vista connects an historic building with our dynamic future, a site that will serve as a hotbed of scientific excellence and economic success for years to come.”
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Arakawa and Gins' legendary Bioscleave House faces the wrecking ball

The Bioscleave House, designed by the late Japanese architect Arakawa and his late wife Madeline Gins, is currently listed for sale for $2,495,000 in East Hampton, New York. The experimental home is known for its peculiar design that aims to reverse the effects of aging and transform the personal well-being and longevity of its inhabitants. If purchased by a developer, the Bioscleave House, also known as Reversible Destiny, could be destroyed and replaced with a standard spec house, which could sell for up to $4,000,000 in the current market. Recently, Professors Group LLC, the anonymously-owned proprietor of the home, along with the Reversible Destiny Foundation, a nonprofit that preserves the work of Arakawa and Gins, started a campaign to save the home from demolition by devising a series of rescue plans moving forward. The current owners lack the funds to maintain the home and are being forced to sell the property. One plan involves finding a creative investor to invest in 25 to 33 percent of Professors Group to help fund the home. The firm is also looking for collectors or investors to work with them in taking apart the home and then moving it to a nearby public venue, like the LongHouse Reserve or the Parrish Art Museum. Professors Group would also sell the house to a buyer who understands and cares about its legacy and value so that they could either work with them in caring for the property or renovate and maintain the house close to its original condition. The Bioscleave House is only 50 percent built out in F.A.R., so more additions can be made on the one-acre site. If none of the rescue attempts prevail by January 2019, the house will be sold to a local developer who would likely demolish it and rebuild an entirely new structure.
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Olson Kundig's Space Needle renovations yield pristine 360-degree views 500 feet up

After 11 months of high-flying construction more than 500 feet above Seattle, a team led by Olson Kundig has completed construction on renovations to the historic Space Needle. The so-called “Century Project” nearly doubles the amount of glass coverage on the structure’s flying saucer-shaped Top House, as part of the firm’s efforts to use “subtraction as a guiding design principle,” according to Olson Kundig’s Alan Maskin, the design principal for the renovation. With this goal in mind, the designers worked to remove the uncoordinated detritus left over from previous designs, including the obtrusive aluminum pony walls separating the indoor observation deck from the open-air viewing area. The effort is geared not only toward opening up the Top House to pristine, 360-degree views, but also toward adding elements that were originally intended for the structure but ultimately were not realized. The Space Needle debuted in 1962 with one of the world’s first revolving-floor restaurants, ushering in what would become a global trend in mid-20th-century design. The original opaque revolving floor has been replaced with sheets of tempered structural glass fabricated in Germany by Thiele Glas, an upgrade that provides views straight down to the ground below. The glass floor also allows visitors to peer into the inner workings of the Space Needle itself by highlighting the moving gears and pulleys—something akin to a “huge Swiss watch,” according to Maskin—that bring the rotating floor and elevators to life. Engineering services provided by Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates were instrumental in the design’s precision-driven focus, which included seismic retrofitting and other tricky structural upgrades. Front Inc. acted as the glazing consultant to Olson Kundig For the duration of the project and collaborated with MKA to engineer the structural glass assemblies for Hoffman Construction, the project’s general contractor. Achieving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was another key concern for the renovations. The Seattle Space Needle opened 28 years before ADA regulations took effect and contained areas that were only partially accessible to disabled visitors. With the Century Project, the design team brings full accessibility to the Top House by adding a new central “Oculus Stair” that features dynamic treads that collapse into a platform that can carry individuals between levels as needed. In the observation areas, non-continuous glass benches leave ample room for someone who uses a wheelchair to get right up to the outwardly canted glass barriers that wrap the space. Here, the architects have restored visitors’ ability to peer down over the edge of the saucer, an aspect that was lost with the addition of cumbersome safety gear many years before. The 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels that wrap the observation platform were installed by specially designed robots created by Breedt Production Tooling & Design. The installation, like many other aspects of the renovation, involved navigating “wickedly complex logistics” and a nearly ’round-the-clock schedule. Hurdles for the project included accounting for significant wind deflection in the design and fabrication specifications for many components and designing nearly all components so that they could be transported up the Space Needle’s passenger elevators. Several feats of design and engineering later, the Space Needle’s new views are crystal clear and fully on display for all to see.  
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Heatherwick Studio raises the roof on a historic industrial rail yard

A 100,000-square-foot shopping center in London's Kings Cross set within a Victorian-era coal yard officially opened to the public last weekend. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, Coal Drops Yard completely transforms the former industrial site into the city’s latest shopping district, dropping dramatic, contemporary architecture within the historic brick buildings. Built in the 1850s, the railway tracks were once used to sort and unload millions of tons of coal as they arrived by train. As urban coal consumption declined, the huge cast-iron and brick structures were left neglected. The district’s cobblestone courtyards, ornate ironwork, and rugged brick viaducts survived despite the lack of use, and were revitalized over a two-year period of construction to link a new network of over 50 stores, restaurants, and cafes. Once considered the underbelly of King’s Cross, the formerly depressed area was long-known for its derelict warehouses, eerie remoteness, and later, for its mob of rowdy night-clubbers. Heatherwick Studio's restoration revived the area's distinctive character, turning it into one of Central London’s busiest and trendiest boroughs. Coal Drops Yard is centered around two cast-iron and brick structures that define the space, both fluid and highly technical. They include dramatic curvilinear roofs that rise upward and stretch out toward each other, creating a large covered outdoor space and a hub for the entire shopping district. Within the historic coal drops where incoming trains once unloaded their cargo, the individual retail and food spaces are built out to uniquely take advantage of the site's low-rise structures, Victorian arches, canal-side views, and gritty charm. Heatherwick Studio has already made a substantial impact on both Central London and Manhattan. Their upcoming projects include a 16-story landmark sculpture in Chelsea’s Hudson Yards, and an innovative park and performance space, Pier 55, along the Hudson River.