To celebrate the upcoming 10th anniversary of New York City's Hearst Tower topping off, Lord Norman Foster let a drone loose inside his iconic work. In a video produced by the tower’s namesake, the Hearst Corporation, Foster marvels at how drone technology opens up an entirely new perspective on the 46-story structure. Someone needs to introduce this guy to Martha Stewart. “There are so many aspects which make this project unique,” says the Pritzker Prize–winner, dressed in a green corduroy blazer, “the idea that you’re using the most up-to-date technology, something that literally didn’t exist ten years ago to capture the building now, ten years on—that’s, I think, very symbolic.” The drone travels past James Carpenter’s cascading Ice Falls sculpture, through some editorial floors, and even into Gayle King’s office, who pretends to be on a phone call with fellow CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose.
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International outdoor advertising and street furnishings firm JCDecaux and Zaha Hadid Architects have proposed a new billboard design for a busy London intersection. The Paris-based JCDecaux has quite the history of collaborating with high-profile architects and designers—Peter Eisenman, Robert Stern, Gae Aulenti, Philippe Starck, and Lord Norman Foster among them. From an improbable aerial view, the project looks promising. But on the ground, its aesthetic traction is questionable. The design is a retread, both in its resemblance to defective tires and with regard to Hadid's canon of mobius-like creations. The pedestrian experience—no pun intended—doesn't look to be enhanced, either, even though the proposed structure is narrower than the existing advertising kiosk. Could a case be made that such eye-catching, animated structures might contribute to distracted driving? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. The U.S. Department of Transportation conducted a study that concluded digital billboards are no more distracting than stationary signage. But an investigation by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute came to a very different finding, which led to the removal of all such advertisements.
For years, the Pritzker Prize has been the gold-standard in architectural recognition. It’s like the Super Bowl ring, or the Oscar for Best Picture, or whatever Joey Chestnut wins for downing 60-some hot dogs at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest. (It’s gotta be a sash, right? It’s probably a sash.) This is the hallowed ground where the Pritzker lives. But it could soon be trumped in a big way. In a big enough way that even knighthood can't quite compare. Hear that, Sir Norman Foster? Local Catalonia radio station RAC1, reported that Antoni Gaudi—already known as “God’s Architect”—could be beatified within the next year by Pope Francis, making him the patron saint of architects. The Local, an English-language news outlet in Europe, reported, "the campaign has been headed by the Pro Beatification for Antoni Gaudí Association, who for the past ten years worked hand in hand with the Vatican compiling hundreds of documents about Gaudi’s life and testimonies by those who knew him.” Gaudi was born in the mid-19th century in Catalonia and went on to create some of Barcelona's most celebrated work. If you're not familiar with his work, ask your cousin who went on the free Gaudi walking tour while studying abroad. Beatification is the third step out of four in the full canonization process, but as the Local noted, while Gaudi will probably reach the veneration stage, "the fact that there’s no proof yet he carried out a miracle may prevent him from being fully canonized.” With construction on one of Gaudi's most famous landmarks—the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona—carrying on now for some 132 years, there's no word yet from Vatican officials as to whether simply finishing the cathedral will count as a miracle. [h/t Huffington Post.]
When Frank Gehry’s renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is complete, the iconic institution won’t necessarily look like one of his signature works—at least from the outside. The architect isn't touching the icon's Beaux-Arts exterior, but is, instead, transforming the museum’s interior to improve circulation and boost gallery space. But even then, Gehry’s work won’t be all that “Gehry.” AN recently toured the museum’s exhibit on Gehry’s masterplan and got a chance to hear from the man himself about the museum renovations. On the tour, Gehry explained how he reimagined the building’s interior with a distinctive signature, but one that is inspired by the building’s DNA. “I think if it’s built, you’ll know somebody like me was here,” he said. This renovation has been a long time coming. And it will be a long time still before it's finally realized. The idea to update the museum was born in the 1990s and completing Gehry’s entire overhaul could take 10–15 years more. “If they wait five years, I’ll be 90,” Gehry said. “So for me, get going.” Given his age, and his storied career, AN asked Gehry about what else he wants to accomplish. “I’m so superstitious,” he said before explaining that he wants to increase his involvement in arts education. He mentioned his participation in the Turnaround Arts initiative—a presidential program, which aims to close the achievement gap through arts and music education. He told a story about going into a school in California and teaching kids how to plan and imagine cities. Gehry added that children are often marginalized in “ghetto schools.” “That’s what I’m interested in, that kind of stuff," said Gehry. "I am also designing a sailboat." Which, of course seems entirely appropriate given his predilection for sailing. He does, after all, already own a boat called FOGGY, which stands for his initials: Frank Owen Gehry. These days, it seems, every starchitect needs a boat in his or her oeuvre. Hear that Zaha and Norman? Frank will see you at the regatta.
In Las Vegas, you win some and you lose some. Lining up as what must be one of the biggest busts in Sin City history, the exceptionally-botched, Foster + Partners–designed Harmon Hotel, now has a date with the wrecking ball. The stubby 27-story tower—it was originally supposed to measure 49 stories but construction problems stunted its growth—never opened and no one ever checked in at what would surely have been a posh front desk. As AN reported in 2011, the Harmon Hotel was in the midst of a bitter lawsuit to allow demolition to proceed as some were claiming the structural deficiencies were enough to make even the shortened tower structurally unsound and at risk of collapse:
After discovering deficient steel reinforcing in early 2009, MGM left the foreshortened tower an unfinished shell but is now moving to implode the structure citing safety concerns. Alan Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs at MGM, said the company had submitted an engineering recommendation and demolition action plan to Clark County, Nevada detailing the structural shortcomings of the Harmon. “The city asked us to respond to the engineer’s report to determine the best way forward,” said Feldman. “We decided the best move is to take the building down.”The Harmon Hotel is part of MGM's $9 billion mega-development, CityCenter, which features buildings by Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Vinoly, Helmut Jahn, and others. The Harmon Hotel sits adjacent to Libeskind's ultra-luxury shopping center, the Crystals, which AN profiles in a past retail feature. Now, MGM has resolved that lawsuit and on April 22 received court approval to proceed with demolition of the tower. According to a report in Architectural Record, there won't be a dramatic, Las Vegas–style implosion. Instead, the hotel will be taken apart, piece by piece, over the next year.
The New York Public Library has canceled its controversial renovation plan by Foster + Partners, according to a report in the New York Times. The plan, which would have removed the historic book stacks and turned the non-lending research library into a circulating library, was widely opposed by scholars, writers, and architectural historians. In addition, the library planned to sell their Mid-Manhattan branch and their Science, Industry and Business Library. Now they plan to renovate the Mid-Manhattan branch and maintain the 42nd Street Library as a research library. “When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Tony Marx, the library’s president, told the Times. Foster-designed Central Library Plan would have turned the area housing the stacks into new reading room overlooking Bryant Park. While campaigning, Mayor Bill de Blasio opposed the library plan. According to the Times, the mayor recently met with NYPL's Marx to reiterate his opposition. The Huxtable Initiative (named for the late Ada Louise Huxtable), a group of architects, critics, and historians opposed the Central Library Plan, released the following statement:
It sounds too good to be true. But it goes to show that criticism can actually change things! Ada Louise Huxtable writing in the Wall Street Journal inspired us all—and particularly prompted the formation of the Huxtable Initiative (a group of architectural journalists, critics and historians) to protest the insertion of the Foster scheme in the grand Carrere and Hastings structure. Then architecture critic Michael Kimmelman put the problem on the front burner by writing about the weaknesses of the library's plans in the New York Times. Charles Warren, the architect, advanced the discussion by revealing the engineering distinctiveness of the stacks that were about to be destroyed. And then of course, there was The Committee to Save the New York Public Library, which just never gave up. When you don't have big money, you do need a lot of perseverance and people.
This week, the Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York announced the inaugural Isamu Noguchi Awards to recognize like-minded spirits who share Noguchi’s commitment to innovation, global consciousness, and Japanese/American exchange. The first recipients of the award are architects Norman Foster and Hiroshi Sugimoto. "The Isamu Noguchi Award serves to establish a dialogue with Noguchi’s profound legacy of innovation," Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon said in a statement. "We are honored to celebrate Lord Norman Foster and Hiroshi Sugimoto, whose exemplary work we believe demonstrates principles similar to those that inspired Noguchi.” Motohide Yoshikawa, Ambassador of Japan to the United Nations, will present the award during a special ceremony at the Museum’s annual Spring Benefit on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.
Despite having first dibs on the project, Rafael Viñoly is being forced to hedge his vision for London's Battersea Power Station redevelopment under pressure from fellow power players Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. Responsible for guiding "Phase III" of the project, the latter pair have rejected the two large structures Mr. Viñoly had initially envisioned lining a raised pedestrian thoroughfare in favor of five smaller structures in an attempt to "humanize the scale." Viñoly's now-sullied initial vision for Battersea. The masterplan for the overhaul will now be populated by, among others inclusions, five residential towers of American origin. Assuming the moniker Prospect Place, the quintuplet is ostensibly Gehry's debut in the British capital. The centerpiece of this grouping comes in the form of "the flower," a titanium-tinted tower that resembles a series of more angular versions of the architect's Viennese designs crammed against each other. The rippling facades of the four surrounding structures complete Gehry's bouquet. The cluster is pierced by the Electric Boulevard, a two-tiered walkway that stretches to the original power plant. The western border of the site is parsed out by the Skyline, a curvaceous apartment block by Foster + Partners. Capped by trees and gardens, the wavy structure seems to slither uneasily past Gehry's design before doubling back upon encountering the smoke stacks of the Battersea. Another aspect of the Viñoly vision that has since been jettisoned is a large reflecting pool that once lay east of the projected location of Prospect Place. In its stead Gehry is calling for a public park that will have a lecture hall and playground in its southern and northern poles respectively. Along with its grounds, the plant itself will be subject to a major facelift as well. Local firm Wilkinson Eyre is responsible for sterilizing the industrial ruin, recasting the building as a shopping, office, residential and events complex. Instead of black clouds, a glass elevator will emerge from one of the refurbished chimneys as its converted into an elevator cum observation deck. The Wilkinson Eyre undertaking is not the first drastic transformation of the plant in recent years. All in all the roughly $13 billion project is set to provide 1,300 new homes to London, of which a meager 8 percent have been set aside for affordable housing. The percentage has been labeled derisory among wholly-warranted fears that the new development will be little more than the city's latest magnet for foreign investment.
It’s a battle of the starchitects in Mexico City—and the Brits are leading the pack. Out of the seven finalists short-listed to design an expansion for the capital city's airport, Benito Juarez International, four hail from the UK: Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Pascall+Watson. They are joined in the final round by Teodoro González de León with Taller de Arquitectura X, SOM, and Gensler. All of these teams are being led by Mexican practices, and construction could begin later this year. The multi-billion dollar expansion should accommodate 40 million annual passengers at over 70 new gates. The airport's current cheese-grater-like facade in Terminal 2 was completed by Serrano Arquitectos in 2008. The envelope's many circular windows are used to maximize natural daylight within the terminal year round. [Via Architects' Journal]
In life, by all accounts, William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, was a good man. In death, however, this portly, English-born idealist has turned nasty—if the good sports fans of Philadelphia are to be believed. But Norman Foster has a plan to appease the spirits. The trouble all started when a Bronze statue of Penn was placed atop the tower of Philadelphia’s Second Empire–style city hall, which, upon its completion in 1901, was the tallest structure in town. It maintained that status, and Penn his supremacy, until the erection of One Liberty Place in 1987, which stood some 400 feet taller. As soon as Penn’s perch was eclipsed, Philadelphia was plunged into a 25-year drought during which none of the city’s professional sports franchises won a championship. Many began to speculate that the founding father had cursed his progeny. To appease the peeved spirit, upon the completion of the even taller, Robert A.M. Stern–designed Comcast Center in 2007, a miniature statue of the great man was placed atop the building’s highest beam. A year later, the Phillies won the World Series. Now, to keep old Penn happy, the statue will be moved to the top of an even taller tower designed by Foster + Partners, which is currently under construction.
Lord Norman Foster’s pickle-shaped 30 St. Mary Axe building in London, widely known as “the gherkin,” has been featured in an advertisement for a UK chemist that sells erectile dysfunction pills at £6 a pop. The print ad for Lloyds Pharmacy features the interrogative headline “Lost the perk-in your gherkin,” illustrated with a photo-shopped image of a drooping 30 St Mary Axe. The ad goes on to exhort readers not to “let a hard day stop a hard night.”
The Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Florida has unveiled a new master plan including galleries and public spaces designed by architecture firm Foster + Partners, under the direction of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Lord Norman Foster. The new Foster design will upgrade the museums 6.3-acre, art deco–inspired campus and gardens first designed in 1941 by Marion Sims Wyeth. The new plan relocates the main entrance on South Dixie Highway to the west, allowing visitors to once again see through the entire building, capturing views of the Intracoastal Waterway beyond the Norton via a new, transparent grand hall and refurbished glass and iron courtyard doors. The new entrance will be defined by three double-height pavilions, unified with the reworked existing wing by a shared palette of white stone. These pavilions will house a new state-of-the-art auditorium, event space, and a "grand hall"—the social hub of the Museum. Foster's design includes a new museum shop and restaurant with al fresco garden seating which, like the new pavilion spaces, can operate independently of the Museum for events on the Norton’s campus throughout the day and at night. A metal roof canopy will float above the pavilions, shading the entrance plaza. The canopy structure will be gently tapered to visually reduce its profile—a technique he previously employed in Marseilles, France—while providing stability to withstand hurricane-strength winds. The canopy’s gentle luster will cast diffuse patterns of light in an abstracted reflection of the people and flowing water below. A linear series of pools with fountains and a row of hedges between the pools and Dixie Highway will mask the sound of traffic and create a tranquil setting at the entrance plaza. A curved opening in the roof will accommodate the branches of a mature ficus tree and a light well above the lobby will illuminate and define the new entrance. The master plan will be implemented in several phases, beginning with the reconfiguration and extension of the existing museum and the new public amenities within a lush garden setting. Two new wings for galleries can be added to the east in later phases of the long-term master plan.