The sinkhole that opened up underneath the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky has quickly become one of the institution’s most popular exhibits. Just three months after eight prized automobiles slid down Planet Earth’s jagged gullet, visitors from around the country are flocking to the Bluegrass State to see the damage. In fact, attendance at the museum has spiked since the 40-foot-wide, 60-foot-deep, hole did its thing. Visits are up 20 percent in the first quarter of this year, and over 50 percent in March. The cars have since been pried out of the earth and are now on display in all of their dirty, beat-up glory. The museum is also considering keeping the sinkhole as a permanent exhibit. If it does, the hole will either be topped with a glass floor, connected with a bridge, or made accessible with a staircase that descends down into the earth. [h/t WLKY]
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In what sounds like a flashback to the turn of the 20th century, curious New Yorkers peered inquisitively at a new horseless carriage model on display at the New York International Auto Show. The old-timey vehicle is actually a high-tech electric vehicle at the center of the heated fight to ban horse carriages from Central Park in New York City. Just feet from the buffed and polished BMWs and Aston Martins, the eight-seat “Horseless eCarriage” made its global debut. The prototype is designed as an homage to brass-era vehicles, with plenty of brass detailing, tufted leather seats, and an over-sized windshield. It even sported some classic books on New York City history tucked into a vintage glove compartment. “My distinct honor and challenge has been to design a vehicle that celebrates the nostalgia and romance of the early 1900s, while eliminating a lot of the not-so great qualities of that time,” said Jason Wenig, who designed the vehicle. He said he took the style of the time, but created a car that has the comfort and technical capabilities of today’s automobile. This prototype was commissioned by New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYClass), a group which has been leading the charge to ban horse carriages, and just happened to donate $1.3 million to Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign. As mayor, de Blasio has pledged to ban the carriages and replace them with something like the eCarriage. But doing so won’t be easy. He’s facing sustained backlash from carriage drivers, the press, locals, and even Liam Neeson who expressed his support for horse carriages in a recent New York Times op-ed. And, for now, all that backlash has reportedly stalled the mayor’s plans. De Blasio still contends that the carriages will be gone by year's end. If that does happen, it still remains to be seen if the over-size wheels of the Horseless eCarriage—or something like it—will follow in the horse’s footsteps.
Speaking of rumors, Texas Monthly spread the word that Silicon Valley billionaire visionary Elon Musk may be locating facilities for two of his future-looking companies in the Lone Star State. Musk’s SpaceX has been buying up land in Cameron County in South Texas with the implicit purpose of building a space facility on the site to launch an expedition to Mars. In more terrestrial affairs, the South Africa native is also considering building a battery factory in the state for his electric car company, Tesla Motors.
The jostle of potholes notwithstanding, motorists might find nothing unbalanced about Chicago’s public streets. But the Active Transportation Alliance points out while nearly a quarter of the city is in the public right-of-way, cars dominate practically all of it. Citing the city’s Make Way for People initiative, which turns over underused street space to pedestrians, the group released 20 proposals Wednesday, calling on City Hall to create car-free spaces from Wrigley Field to Hyde Park. Their full list is available here. It includes a protected bike lane and landscaped seating area on Dearborn and/or Clark Streets, from River North to the South Loop; a pedestrian plaza on 18th Street in Pilsen, created by a dead-end at Carpenter, Miller and/or Morgan Streets; closing Milwaukee Avenue through the square of Logan Square; and closing portions of the vibrant retail corridor on 26th Street in Little Village to vehicle traffic. “Our hope is to jump-start conversations that lead to further study and the creation of car-free spaces,” writes the Active Transportation Alliance. The civic group said the list is inspired partly by places like Navy Pier, Times Square in New York City, and existing pedestrian plazas like Kempf Plaza in Lincoln Square. A spokesman for Chicago’s Department of Transportation told the Tribune that the agency “agrees with the concept,” but wouldn’t weigh in on any of the Active Transportation Alliance’s specific suggestions just yet. The Make Way for People initiative's so-called “complete streets” have gained traction among urban planners for their inclusion of pedestrians, bicyclists, and green space within the standard two- and four-lane roads that cater almost exclusively to cars. New York has overhauled dozens of public streets and plazas in recent years. Chicago designers, including North Center-based Altamanu, have worked with the city in recent years to draft plans for pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets from Mayfair to the lakefront.
Nearly three decades after he was launched into design stardom by his biomorphic, aluminum Lockhead Lounge (above), famed Australian industrial designer Marc Newson will soon receive his first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "Marc Newson: At Home" will collect furniture, clothing, appliances, and Newsons’ 021C Ford concept car within a mock, six-room home in the museum’s Collab Gallery. Gathered from collections across Europe, Japan, and the United States, in addition to Newson’s personal cache, the objects on display will highlight the various facets of the designer’s distinctive style of flowing lines, bulbous forms, bright colors, and industrial references which helped to define an era of industrial design. The exhibition opens November 23rd and runs until April 20, 2014. Newson's signature riveted chaise lounge, both one of his most recognizable and rarest works, will be exhibited in the living room along side the matching, cello-shaped Pod of Drawers (1987), Super Guppy lamp (1987), and honeycombed, marble Voronoi Low Shelf (2008), among other works. The kitchen will contain a more attainable collection, including the curving, plastic Dish Doctor dish rack (1997), dinnerware by Noritake, glassware by Iitalla, cutlery from Alessi, and the Champagne Coffret Magnum (2006) for Don Pérignon. Newson's playful forms and vibrant colors take hold of the children's room, wherein the classic, three-legged Embryo Chair (1988), modular, plastic Bunky Bunk Beds (2010), and "Rocky" Rocking Horse create a vibrant, Jetsonian environment. To catch a glimpse of some Newson-designed clothing from G-Star, head over to the adult bedroom, which will also contain the retro Nimrod chair (2003) and transparent Atmos clock for Swiss watchmakers Jaeger LeCoultre (2008). The minimalist, streamlined Wall Hung "Invisi II" Toilet and Wash Basin (2012) take center stage in Newson's bathroom, while the 021C concept car, designed for Ford and exhibited at the Tokyo Auto Show in 1999, is housed within the garage.
In Palo Alto, California, the city council recently approved a proposal (9-0) to alter the city's building code, requiring new homes to install wiring for electric car charging stations. Pre-wiring for the 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations costs about $200, while many homes in the city sell for over $1 million. The proposal would also make it easier for homeowners to get permits to retrofit their homes for the charging stations. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr)While some fear the city is overstepping its boundaries, and that electric cars may not be the way of the future, supporters see this as a viable step closer toward more sustainable neighborhoods and cities by lowering greenhouse gases, in targeting the infrastructure of where we live first. Last year, Vancouver passed a similar ordinance requiring electric car charging stations in several types of residences. Here's a detailed checklist from the City of Palo Alto with the requirements for installing a home car charging station. And here's a roundup of which cities around the world have the most electric cars.
LACMA isn’t the only museum in town planning a significant redo in Los Angeles. The Petersen Automotive Museum, just across and down Wilshire Boulevard from LACMA, has retained Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) to imagine a radical redesign of the exterior of the museum’s home, a former department store. Museum officials have stated the time has come to finally retrofit the building to be more suitable for its program. This early design sketch, above, is just one of several that KPF has been presenting to museum directors. The museum will be selecting their preferred concept sometime in August and will be revealing the final design when it hosts a discussion outlining its goals on August 18th. KPF’s new shell treatment is just one aspect of The Petersen’s ambitious near-total overhaul, which includes updating displays and galleries and incorporating more current technology to provide what it calls “an immersive museum experience.” Judging from this initial rendering the museum’s new appearance will be a striking presence on this prominent corner and will vie for attention with Zumthor’s black blob for LACMA. Look for more details on the design at AN once the final concept is released.
The architectural climate of Miami has been red hot recently, with dozens of towers being built by some of the world’s leading architects—including all-stars Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Bjarke Ingels, and Herzog & de Meuron. And with the city's reputation for high-design parking garages, it's no secret that the Magic City has a soft spot for the automobile. Now, a new designer very familiar with the road aims to break into the Miami sky. The Wall Street Journal reported that Porsche Design Group broke ground in April on a 60-story luxury residential tower, which will feature an automobile elevator allowing each tenant to park their luxury vehicle right beside their living room. The 132-unit tower is Porsche’s first venture into residential development, and it seems to be working out, with half the units already reported sold. The building’s kicker, the car elevator, may already be familiar to Manhattanites since architect Annabelle Selldorf introduced the high-end concept to her 200 Eleventh Avenue tower in 2010. Tenants at the 641-foot, ultra-luxury Porsche Design Tower Miami will be able to pull their cars into the building’s central elevator shaft, ride up to their floor, and park in a “sky-garage” directly connected to their unit—without ever leaving their car. But be prepared to pay for that privilege. Units range from 4,200 to 17,000 square feet and will cost between $4.5 million and $25 million. In addition to the lift, the building will contain other lavish features for lovers of luxury and auto-enthusiasts alike, including a plunge pool, ocean-view ballroom, outdoor kitchens, spas, and a “car concierge” given the duty to monitor and maintain residents’ high-end rides. Even the building’s website is exclusive, forcing users to register to catch a glimpse of the renderings.
Metropolis II, opening at LACMA on January 14, is installation artist Chris Burden’s action-packed, raucous, optimistic view of Los Angeles sometime in the not-to-distant future. Eleven-hundred custom-made, die-cast cars, about twice the size of a Matchbox car, race through a multilevel system of 18 roadways that twist and turn and undulate amid buildings that seem vaguely familiar but are not replicas of any specific landmark (although, strangely, there is what looks like an Eiffel Tower). The cars whip along on a plastic roadway at fantastic speeds, producing an enormous din that echoes off the gallery walls like the incessant roar of real-life freeway traffic. HO-scale trains and 1930s-era trolley cars roll along tracks of their own, adding a cheerful nostalgia to the mix. Burden, who was smartly dressed in a Navy-blue suit, striped dark blue and cerulean shirt, and black loafers, said, “When you are stuck in traffic, think of this sculpture. That’s the future, a hopeful future, where cars will have an average speed of 230 miles per hour—as soon as Google gets its [automated] cars up and running.” In Burden’s joyously idealistic city, there won’t be traffic signals. Cars will cross intersections in a perfect harmony, effortlessly travelling through “the warp and woof of the city fabric.” Metropolis II—a name that invokes a fanciful makeover of the drab, congested present version of Los Angeles—is a boyish delight. Yet another in a long line of automotive utopias from the Hot Wheels that come wrapped for Christmas as committed to Walt Disney’s own autopia. It seems unfair, but you’re compelled to ask, where is the public transit that planners extol as our real future? What is the energy source for all these racing cars? And, most curious of all, where are all the people who’re supposed to be careening freely behind the wheels of all those racing cars?
Buried deep in a New York Times article on Fiat’s proposed alliance with sad old Chrysler is a detail that will make many architects happy. As part of the deal, Chrysler will build small cars for the American market, like the Cinquecento-styled Fiat 500. But more to the design point, Chrysler will also start building Alfa Romeos for the domestic market. As it has long been the favorite of architects—from the Italian Futurists to Craig Hodgetts—let’s hope the design of the new Alfas remains in Italy with Bertone and Pininfarina. And not in Detroit.