Two weeks ago we reported Las Vegas city officials and outside consultants are proposing a new downtown. Now farther north in Reno, local developer Don J Clark Group has unveiled plans for a new downtown. Their proposal centers on both physical infrastructure (a large park, water reclamation, building a tower downtown taller than the current 42-story Silver Legacy Casino Resort) as well as virtual (gigabit internet). "The project is aimed at finding a creative solution to a variety of distinct challenges that the city of Reno...has faced over the course of the last half of the century or so,” Colin Robertson, partner and director of communications and strategy for Don J Clark Group told Nevada Public Radio. Dubbed the West Second Street District, the over $1.2 billion development is planned for north of the Truckee River and west of Virginia Street downtown. The site is currently 17 acres of infill. Renderings reveals the biggest project for downtown Reno to date: 1,900 residences (condos, apartments with 20% affordable units for those making 80% of the median income), over 250,000 square feet of retail space, 450,000 square feet of office space, river access, three acres of green space, public art, and more. Thirty buildings could be built over the next ten years, with the first, a mixed-use commercial and residential building, at 235 Ralston. "The developers will take the unusual step of paying for $49 million in infrastructure and other services. If the project increases property taxes by $100 million over the next decade, the city will repay the cost; if it does not, the developers will," explained Nevada Public Radio. "Cities usually pay for infrastructure for redevelopment, but if property values, and therefore property taxes, don't rise in value as much as expected, the city loses money but must still make the bond payments for infrastructure improvements." More renderings below, and here is a look at prior Reno redevelopment projects, both unbuilt and realized. Don J Clark Group will now see whether Reno approves the $100 million deal.
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In an act that preserved more than a million acres from development, President Obama designated three new national monuments in California, Nevada, and Texas. While the monument in central Texas protects an archeological site where Columbian Mammoths fossils were unearthed, and Berryessa Snow Mountain, the California location, staves off potential suburban encroachment, it is the Nevada monument that holds the most excitement for those with an interest in Land Art. Located about 150 miles north of Las Vegas, the Basin and Range National Monument contains within its borders City by Michael Heizer, the sculptor behind Levitated Mass. The artist began working on the piece in the 1970s and in the decades since, he’s sculpted dirt, rocks, and concrete into a mile-long geometric structure reminiscent of an urban form. In January, AN reported that the pristine desert plain where the was under threat when Nevada Senator Harry Reid’s Garden Valley Withdrawal Act failed to pass. Now, the land and more than 800,000 square miles of adjacent federal property in Garden Valley will remain unspoiled and free from industrial activity. LACMA director Michael Govan is a vocal supporter of Heizer and City. In May he and Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, penned an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, making a case to protect the Nevada landscape and the artwork. “Designating the Basin and Range National Monument achieves two remarkable outcomes—a world-class artwork would endure into the future as it was envisioned, surrounded by sublimely beautiful open country; and a majestic Western American landscape would remain unspoiled for future generations,” commented Govan in a statement from the museum. This past spring Govan and art critic Dave Hickey discussed the importance of artwork operating at the scale of landscape. The ambitious undertaking provoked comments from Hickey, which were captured in a Huffington Post report. “Artists are all the time trying to occupy ordinary spaces... But to do a city? That is really cool,” he said. “It means that you can walk along one area and take a right and see some absolutely strange thing that you have never seen before, and walk along there until you see something else you've never seen before.”
Every architect has horror stories about construction quality on job sites. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC) union wants to prevent that, investing $250 million for a training center in Las Vegas to teach and certify their workers. The group has been building the International Training Center, just outside McCarran Airport, over the past several years, and recently completed phase five of the complex, bringing its total size to almost 1 million square feet. The facility features more than 70 classrooms, its own dorms (with 300 guest rooms), and training shops fitted with facilities like scaffolding mock ups, concrete form making stations, a pile driver pit, flooring stations, glass curtain wall mock ups, turbine pit, a robot zone, and even a tank to practice underwater welding. Third year apprentices from around the country train here for two weeks at a time. They include general carpenters, interior systems carpenters and drywallers, millwrights, floor coverers, millworkers, cabinetmakers, framing and residential carpenters, pile drivers, lathers, scaffolders, roofers, and workers in forest-product and related industries. The UBC sponsors more than 200 training centers across North America (there are about 3,500 full- and part-time instructors associated with the UBC), but this is by far the largest. “Our job is to make sure our members are trained and ready,” said Bill Irwin, executive director of the Carpenters International Training Fund.
According to a report in Las Vegas Weekly, the Conservation Lands Foundation is pushing to make a project by land artist Michael Heizer, of "Levitated Mass" fame, a national monument. The newly threatened City installation is a still-incomplete collection of giant abstract structures stretching for more than a mile into the Nevada Desert. The move came after the failure of Nevada Senator Harry Reid's Garden Valley Withdrawal Act, attempting to keep the land—and more than 800,000 square miles of adjacent federal property in Garden Valley—free from mining. Critics have complained that it's a convenient tool in the effort to keep the area free of industrial activity, but conservationists argue that the unspoiled area as a whole is worth saving. “These are two of the most scenic valleys in Nevada, two of the most undisturbed, least-roaded, and least populated portions of the state and therefore the country," Brian O’Donnell, executive director of the Conservation Lands Foundation, told Las Vegas Review Journal. Heizer, who has been working on the piece since the 1970s, plans to open it to the public once it's complete. Made of dirt, rocks, and concrete, City considered by some to be the largest piece of land art in the world. But since the artist hasn't allowed visitors, many assertions about the piece remain unclear.
Prismatic pyramid evokes desert mirage by day, Aurora Borealis by night.Given that their pyramidal acrylic installation at this summer's Burning Man was inspired in part by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it seems safe to say that the architects at Red Deer "get" the festival's vibe. "We try to get very intimate with our sites, so it was interesting to approach one that we hadn't been able to visit," said founding director Ciarán O'Brien. "Some of the primal forces we could see at play there were the heat of the desert and the way people interact with structures. Specifically, for us it was about light in all its forms." The UK firm worked closely with the structural engineers at Structure Mode to design a transparent six-meter-tall structure comprising interlocking equilateral triangles, while New York Institute of Technology professor Charles Matz contributed an integrated light display based on the Aurora Borealis. "All kinds of imagery came to mind that held to the desert landscape," said O'Brien. "By day, the concept evoked a mirage; by night, a kaleidoscope. One is ephemeral, a non-place; the other is specific, a beacon." Called Luz 2.0, the Burning Man installation is only the latest iteration of an ongoing exploration of the relationship between matter and light. The project began as a response to a commission for a band pavilion. "Red Deer's original idea was a scaffolding framework that would be clad in some reflective material," recalled Structure Mode's Geoff Morrow. "We suggested going one step beyond that and building an acrylic pyramid, to make it much more special." The clients canceled, but the designers applied for grants, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and debuted Luz at Secret Garden Party 2013 in Abbots Ripton, England. The first Luz featured a touch-sensitive floor screen-printed with a colorful pattern that appeared to change shape under different lighting conditions. For Burning Man, Red Deer omitted the floor "so that you interacted with the playa landscape," said O'Brien. Red Deer and Structure Mode jointly developed Luz 2.0's reciprocal modular system. "It was really interesting investigating how all these different connections could work, what different shapes could work within a three-sided pyramid," said Red Deer's Lucas Che Tizard. "The system we use is composed of equilateral triangles, but it actually gives us more than just pyramids—you see hexagons as well." The architects worked first with hand sketches, then transferred their ideas to SketchUp before moving to 3ds Max, Rhino, and Vectorworks to finalize the structure and start to explore how the modules would connect to one another. Structure Mode analyzed the design's structural stability in Oasys' GSA Suite. Red Deer flattened the final design and emailed the files to the CNC cutters. At that point the three-dimensional installation "became a flat pack kit," said O'Brien. "Part of the challenge was that each of these pieces should be human-sized, so that they could be built by a small team using basic tools in desert conditions." To simplify installation, Structure Mode developed a streamlined bolt-and-nut assembly based on furniture-making connections. "In a way it's kind of low-tech, but it looks high-tech," said O'Brien. The UK contingent shipped Luz 2.0 to the Nevada desert in three crates. The components took longer than expected to arrive: though they had hoped to begin installation on Monday, the architects were forced to wait until Thursday. Nonetheless, the on-site crew managed to assemble the pyramid in just two days using hand drills. Matz's team, meanwhile, arrived on site with the electronics, including custom hardware based on 3D models sent to them by Red Deer. The installation of the lighting system "came together seamlessly," said O'Brien. "We were somewhat concerned about voltage, but it worked out." The only disappointment involved the Mogees sensors, designed to trigger changes in the light show as visitors climbed on and around the pyramid. They worked well in a small-scale test, but "unfortunately the settings didn't translate to the seven-meter structure," said O'Brien. "I can't say it fully fulfilled that brief." Red Deer and their collaborators will soon have another shot at realizing the vision behind Luz 2.0. As befits the installation's emphasis on the immaterial—not to mention the ethos of Burning Man itself—the architects plan to re-erect the structure elsewhere. "We've had quite a few offers from various benefactors, but we haven't figured out what would be best," said O'Brien. "Right now it's in storage in Reno, awaiting its next move."
Five state capitals will get help from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop green infrastructure that could help mitigate the cost of natural disasters and climate change. Resiliency, whether it be in the context of global warming or natural and manmade catastrophes, has become a white-hot topic in the design world, especially since Superstorm Sandy battered New York City in 2012. EPA selected the following cities for this year's Greening America's Capitals program through a national competition: Austin, Texas; Carson City, Nev.; Columbus, Ohio; Pierre, S.D.; and Richmond, Va. Since 2010, 18 capitals and Washington, D.C. have participated in the program, which is administered by the EPA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In each city, EPA will provide technical assistance to help design and build infrastructure that uses natural systems to manage stormwater. Here's a bit on each of the new projects via EPA:
· Austin, Texas, will receive assistance to create design options to improve pedestrian and bike connections in the South Central Waterfront area, and to incorporate green infrastructure that reduces stormwater runoff and localized flooding, improves water quality, and increases shade. · Carson City, Nev., will receive assistance to improve William Street, a former state highway that connects to the city's downtown. The project will help the city explore how to incorporate green infrastructure through the use of native plants, and to enhance the neighborhood's economic vitality. · Columbus, Ohio, will receive assistance to develop design options for the Milo-Grogan neighborhood that use green infrastructure to improve stormwater quality, reduce flooding risks, and encourage walking and cycling. · Pierre, S.D., will receive assistance to redesign its historic main street, South Pierre, in a way that uses green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff and improve resiliency to extreme climate conditions. · Richmond, Va., will receive assistance to design options for more parks and open spaces, and to incorporate green infrastructure to better manage stormwater runoff on Jefferson Avenue, a street which serves as the gateway to some of Richmond's oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
Capped by a protective steel mesh screen, tresARCA house is built for indoor/outdoor living.There are two ways to live with Las Vegas’ harsh climate. The first, epitomized by the hermetically-sealed tract houses ringing the Strip, rejects the reality of the desert in favor of air conditioning and architecture evoking far-off places. The second strategy embraces the environment for what it is, and looks to the natural world for cues about how to adapt. In their tresARCA house, assemblageSTUDIO took the latter approach. Glass and granite punctuated by a folded steel screen surrounding the second-floor bedrooms, tresARCA’s facade is a meditation on the resilience of the desert landscape. “The mesh screen idea came from looking at various shadow patterns in the desert and the idea of the cracked desert floor,” said principal Eric Strain. On a practical level, the screen catches heat before it reaches the bedrooms, allowing daylight to filter in without raising the interior temperature. Aesthetically, “the idea was that the home sits at the base of the Red Rock Mountains, the background scenery is the stratification and the layering of the Red Rock Mountains,” said Strain. “To not copy, but [to] suggest that layering is where the folding nature [of the screen] came from.” JD Stairs fabricated the screen using mesh from The Western Group. The company, which provided the home’s other non-structural steel components, including fencing and the vault-like front door, was tapped for the job partway through the design process. Having never built something of this scale, they staged several full-scale mockups, at one point renting a parking lot to lay out the entire structure. The screen floats an average of 1 foot 6 inches away from the bedroom walls. At each of the screen’s nodes—points where multiple panels intersect—adjacent panels are bolted in pairs around 3/8-inch plate steel fins, which in turn are connected to 3 ½-inch-diameter steel pipes extending from the wall. The result, in which triangular panels of mesh fit together to form diamond-pointed projections of varying sizes, resembles an abstracted rock outcropping, a geometric transition between earth and sky. The remainder of the facade is clad in granite, by Tuscany Collection, and glass, by Fleetwood Windows & Doors and Sawbuck Design. Fully retractable doors open all of tresARCA’s public spaces to the outdoors, where the house’s blocky massing creates protective crevices of shade and cool air. The language of layering and natural textures extends from the exterior to the interior walls, which feature blackened steel panels and Shou Sugi wood, among other materials. tresARCA’s challenge to the conventional division between indoors and out is particularly potent in the Nevada desert. Where others see a choice between sealing themselves inside or moving somewhere else, assemblageSTUDIO sought a third way, said Strain. “We tried to convince people that you can live outside in Las Vegas when it’s still 110.”
Things didn't work out for installation experts Ball-Nogues Studio at MOCA's New Sculpturalism show, but the firm has rebounded nicely. They've just completed mounting one of their most ambitious works yet: a 70-foot-tall upside-down replica of William Pereira's Transamerica Pyramid, for the show Modernist Maverick: The Architecture of William Pereira, on view at the Nevada Art Museum in Reno, NV. The installation, made out of chain link and stainless steel plates, hangs from the ceiling via steel cables attached to the museum building's structure. "We distilled it to its barest essentials. It looks like the ghost of the building," said Ball-Nogues principal Gaston Nogues. Each chain could only be attached at a specific point, so the hardest part was fine tuning the model, stretching and moving each possible iteration, added Nogues. "It's quite labor intensive to make sure it looked flat, and that each chain had the right tension," he said. The show, which opens next week, runs from through October 13. It looks at many other noted Pereira projects, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the University of California, San Diego Geisel Library, and the Theme Building at LAX.
Each year, we're continually amazed at the pop-up architecture that rises in Nevada's Black Rock Desert for Burning Man only to be destroyed in one grand flash of fire. What's equally awe-inspiring is the pop-up city that forms around the festival. We just came across this time-lapse video of the rise and fall of the city of Burning Man, which shows how the urban form, like the installations, slowly builds before igniting in the night and fading away. Set against the black of the desert night, the video shows how active and dynamic the site really is when the sun goes down. The festival comes alive with the darting about of lights around fixed centers of music and art. At the end, the calm of an abandoned desert returns for another year. [h/t Lost at E Minor.]
For the second year in a row (check out last year's report here) we'd like to share some of the most amazing, ridiculous, and inspiring architecture of Burning Man, which just wrapped up in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. And like last year the Playa's temporary installations didn't disappoint; displaying an aggressive level of imagination and ambition for Burning Man's 25th anniversary (has it really been that long?). The theme this year was Rites of Passage, although we're not sure the artists here are interested in following any rules. Photographer Michael Holden was on the ground to document the event. Here are our favorites from Burning Man 2011: The Burning Man By Rod Garrett This year the Burning Man—the symbol of the festival—was perched atop two pinnacles divided by a chasm. Four semi-pyramids surrounded the structure, creating alcoves for performance. Of course at the end of the festival the installation was torched. Tower of Transformation by Joe Arnold, Estes Park, CO This is one of the projects that really adhered to the festival's theme. According to its creators the Tower of Transformation represents the passage from "our self-imposed limitations to a world of pure, unbounded possibility." Formed by two very different sculptures connected by a hyperbolic frame, the base of the sculpture contracted inward and was covered with battered armor plating and rusty chains representing "the defenses that bind us in self-doubt and self-censure." The top is a lotus blossom that opened outward and upward representing "pure potentiality and possibility." The Temple of Transition by Chris Hankins, Diarmaid Horkan, and the International Art Megacrew, Reno, NV, Dublin, Ireland, and Aukland, NZ Described by its creators as a "place where we both remember and look ahead," the installation consists of five smaller temples surrounding a larger central temple. Each temple contains altars, shrines, decorated archways, windows, and walkways, each "exploring a different phase of life," and promoting "peacefulness, reverence, and reflection." Orgasm by Bryan Tedrick, Glen Ellen, CA One of several sexual-themed installations, Orgasm was a rotating 20' x 8' steel vessel that was filled with wood and burned. The shapes that form the vessel included a phallic inner basket made of stainless steel and an outer receiving structure (yes, it was meant to look like a vagina) made of regular steel. When the interior was set on fire the coming together of male and female represented an orgasm. Enough said. AURORA by Charles Gadeken, San Francisco, CA Like the secret portal in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the installation AURORA represented the "secret clubhouse," the portal from a practical reality into a real life fairy tale. A metaphorical weeping willow tree rose 30 feet into the air, its trunk and copper leaves reflecting sunlight across the desert. The trunk was both solid and transparent, created from tubing bent in sinuous lines joined together with thousands of hand curved rods. The roots rose out of the ground, creating resting places for people to sit. At night, the sculpture's branches were lit with bands of green, yellow, red, and amber light. Tympani Lambada by Flaming Lotus Girls, San Francisco, CA Tympani Lambada essentially represented the inner ear transformed into a physical installation through a steel armature, flame effects, LEDs, and sound effects. AND MORE....
Earthshaking Costs. The cost of an earthquake goes well beyond the financial, as the world witnessed with the disaster in Japan, but preventative measures do cost; Architizer cites a report by California Watch that warns of cost-cutting and corruption in the cash strapped state, boiling down the numbers and creating clear cut infographics to illustrate the need and function of base isolation and mass dampers. Bring Me Your Tired One Arm Bandits. With all due respect to our Nevada brethren, New Yorkers are somewhat chagrined to learn that the Post Office will not fix their goof of putting an image of the Las Vegas rendition of Lady Liberty on a new stamp rather than an image of the original in the New York Harbor. Officials say the teenage version will stay, prompting Ed Koch to sound off to The Times "...the post office is doing a stupid thing.” Riverfront Fortress. With tax day looming, don't try to go postal with the IRS in Philly. You won't stand a chance. The agency has taken over the main branch of the old Post Office overlooking the Schuylkill River. The WPA-era grand limestone edifice took on $252 million makeover, and Philadelphia Inquirer critic Inga Saffron is not impressed. Saffron says the building, heralded as the new gateway to University City, keeps the gates closed by overdoing security measures (via ArchNews). Kaboom! NBC affiliate in the Bay Area has footage of the demolition of the last remaining WWII-era military hospital in California (via Curbed).