Posts tagged with "Politics":

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Russia and America cross-pollinate at the Canadian Centre for Architecture

My in-laws are Russian. In fact, they are Muscovites. And they have a very convincing way of narrating their still-fresh memories of life in the Soviet Union. I have not been to Russia since their daughter and I traveled along the canals that connect Moscow to St. Petersburg fifteen years ago. We do not discuss politics much when we visit her family in New Jersey. I have learned that there are differences of perspective, but that those don’t really matter. We have not discussed Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Still, I am quite sure that we would all agree, at some level, that such things are essentially trivial too. Eating a Russian dinner in New Jersey doesn’t feel strange, and despite the fact that this family is in the U.S. because of geopolitics, the very idea of personalizing those politics does seem odd. Upon further reflection, however, there might be no other way to connect memory to history. Only after traveling to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal to view the exhibition of Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture, did I realize that personal view of geopolitics also has a history. The exhibition collects an enormous array of architectural objects and documents that trace the ideas, materials, people, trends that moved between Russia and America over the course of more than a century. Indeed, nations have relationships, almost like people do. And the Russian relationship to America, or more precisely Russians’ views of Americanism (America, as they saw it) is Jean-Louis Cohen’s curatorial theme for the exhibition. Cohen is personally involved in these geopolitics as well, but more on that later. In the forthcoming exhibition catalog, Cohen refers to the work of Reinhart Koselleck, a mid-20th century German practitioner of conceptual history, or Begriffsgeschichte. This historical method hinged on the changing definitions of cultural terms over time, which he called “the semantics of historical time.” The language that binds expression to understanding, according to this theory, is the thread that historians use to enter a period distant from them in both space and time. This is Koselleck’s concept of a “space of experience” that Cohen has drawn into the galleries at the CCA, to understand the contradictory nature of Americanism in Russian architectural culture. This concept, therefore, offers an empathetic entry into an alien world of Russian modernism: We must first accept the various Russian conceptions about America to enter their changing space of experience—in other words, to personalize geopolitics. Of course, generalizations about America were not and are not unique to Russians; they were produced alongside the American Revolution, probably even earlier. Cohen begins the catalog’s introduction and the exhibition’s wall text with the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who explicitly set “Anglo-Americans” and Russians into an incipient geopolitical rivalry, one based in their declared difference from traditional European values. Tocqueville’s theorization of American character for Europeans has, since, become the basis for most claims of national character. Indeed, Cohen is quite clear that Russian Americanism was always mediated by non-Russian interpreters. He and Hubert Damisch wrote on Américanisme et modernité (1993), and a Russian translation of Hugo Münsterberg’s book, Die Amerikaner (1904), appears in one of the beautiful cases designed by MG&Co. [interstial] The cases are crucial to building Cohen’s space of experience: they require close reading and immersive engagement. MG&Co’s beautifully designed curtains serve as transitions between the galleries, each focused on a theme. They also enclose six digital projections—one on each side of three thresholds—chosen to reflect on the contents of each gallery. The gallery walls and the curtains are color-coded, as are the cases that carry the essence of the show: models, drawings, and an overwhelming assembly of books and journals. The general impression is of density. In each one of the cases are numerous objects that reflect on one another, offering a guide from one object to the next. This composition feels like inhabiting a three-dimensional book; galleries are the chapters and the cases are subchapters within. The surprise for this reader came after turning around from the cases, as I faced the walls where the narrative of the chapter played out again, but now at a higher speed. The experience is hugely rich: There are places to stop and read, places to move and scan, and places where connections can be made as one watches a film, such as that of Colonel Hugh L. Cooper, an American engineer, dedicating a Russian hydraulic damn on the Dnieper River. In addition to all this content, Studio Folder (“an agency for visual research,” according to their website) has composed a set of maps that illustrate the connections between Russia and America. Lines describe the “routes of architects, intellectuals, artists and politicians who traveled across the two continents, between 1813 and 1991.” The endpoints of each line are sometimes surprising (Des Moines, Fort Wayne, San Antonio: Baku, Yalta, Novosibirsk) and sometimes not (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.: Leningrad, Moscow, Kyiv). The maps make evident the fact that Americanism was more than a generalization, more than political rhetoric, more than a literary fantasy. In fact, as Cohen has made clear in his selection of themes and objects, the very history of industrial infrastructure, from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, was shaped by its transposition across the globe. The gallery named “Modernization of Czarist Russia” focuses on the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition and 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, sites that represent industrial exchange between the two countries as well as others. But this gallery also reveals the Maxim Gorky’s anguish in his book In America (1906), where he described the Americanism of New York City as “getting into a stomach of stone and iron, a stomach that has swallowed several million people and is consuming and digesting them.” The negativity abates in the third gallery, as the Gilbreths’ Motion Study is traced through the work of Alexey Gestev’s Central Institute of Labor, Ford’s tractors being built in the Putilov plant in Leningrad, and Albert Kahn’s company training over 4,000 Russian architects, draftsmen, and engineers from 1930 to 1931. The exhibition traces a dialectic between Russians attracted to American modernity and those who found it repellant. Often times, these oppositions are enacted simultaneously. The gallery focused on the avant-garde shows this opposition: Adaptations of Hollywood (Buster Keaton and Charley Chaplin) in Russian movie-making are set against the disparaging words of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who found New Yorkers as beset by a “dormant and flaccid rural mindset.” Or, there are those examples of Russians who sidelined American influence altogether—the Nikolay Ladovsky’s Vkhutemas pedagogy or and El Lissitzky’s horizontal skyscrapers. Geopolitical borrowing moves its target when it is politically strategic. Some Russians chose other influences despite the continued interest in American factories and the culture industry. Among the most impressive objects in the exhibition is the model of Boris Iofan’s Palace of the Soviets (1934). The image commonly associated with this winning entry for the international design competition depicts the building from below. A military parade marches in the foreground and fighter planes fly behind Lenin’s figure, who stands atop the neoclassical birthday cake of a building with a book (Das Kapital?) in his left hand, while his outstretched right hand points upward. It was the first time seeing Iofan’s design from above in his wooden model. Despite the monumentalizing efforts in drawing, Stalin’s architects could not overcome a model’s capacity to domesticate political bravado at a toy-like scale. In the sixth gallery, model airplanes are hung from above as though they have escaped from Iofan’s drawing. Some documents below them display the Soviet capacity to build flying warcraft that equaled or exceeded their American counterparts (even if based in their industrial espionage). One object stands out on the wall, drawn from Cohen’s father’s collection of Soviet memorabilia. As a French reporter, he kept a brochure distributed in a 1947 airplane shows. That object opens a clear “space of experience,” an empathetic encounter with Russian Americanism mediated by the Cohen family history. It is touching to think of all those events that historians trace through their narratives that may also be passed along in bedtime stories. In this respect, geopolitics is as historical as it is personal. The CCA, this winter, offered a unique platform to explore the richness produced by the mixture of memory and history, as well as the rigor and beauty of historical documents that display the critical role of architecture in constructing geopolitics. In a recent book by Keith Gessen, which has nothing to do with architecture, the protagonist makes connections among his life, his family’s travails, and the academic study of Soviet history. He sees the Russian tendency to borrow other nations’ advances as an addiction that finally leads to Gessen’s own suffering. I leave you with these musings as they so beautifully summarize the clarity afforded by interweaving human memory into a historical narrative.
“Suddenly everything I have been looking at—not just over these past months in Moscow, but over the few years in academia, and over the past fifteen years of studying Russia—became clear to me. Russia has always been late to the achievements and realizations of Western civilization. Its lateness was its charm and its curse—it was as if Russia were a drug addict who received every concoction only after it was perfectly crystallized, maximally potent. Nowhere were Western ideas, Western beliefs, taken more seriously; nowhere were they so passionately implemented. Thus the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew the old regime; thus the human rights movement, plus blue jeans, which overthrew the Bolshevik one; and thus finally this new form of capitalism created here, which had enriched and then expelled my brother, and which had impoverished my grandmother and killed Uncle Lev. You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.”
Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture runs through April 5.
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YIMBY Act passes House of Representatives, could pave the way for more affordable housing

Last Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Act, which directly addresses the affordable housing crisis currently felt throughout the country by streamlining affordable housing production and zoning for high-density single-family and multifamily housing. The piece of legislation, H.R. 4351, was first put forth in September 2019 by Dennis Heck and Trey Hollingsworth, the US Representatives for Washington’s 10th congressional district and Indiana’s 9th congressional district, respectively. They introduced the bill at the time by stating that the US currently faces an estimated shortage of seven to ten million housing units, significantly more than at any other time in the country’s history. “America is missing millions of homes, and solving our nationwide housing crisis will require federal, state and local governments to work together towards this shared goal,” Heck said in a press statement. In response to that monumental challenge, the bill proposes several efforts to reduce the hurdles currently associated with affordable housing production, including the reduction of minimum lot sizes, increasing development in areas close to transit centers, and allowing for the construction of duplexes and manufactured homes in areas currently zoned for single-family homes. Increasing the allowable floor area ratio in multifamily housing areas and providing incentives to produce adaptive reuse projects are just a few of the measures listed throughout the bill that could dramatically improve the housing crisis. Many of the measures included, in fact, are similar to those in other, smaller bills passed throughout the country, such as SB-13 in California, which streamlined the process to produce accessory dwelling units in an effort to increase the state's housing density. Prior to receiving approval from the House without opposition, the YIMBY Act received support from multiple nonprofit organizations dedicated to the affordable housing crisis, including the American Planning Association, the Congress for New Urbanism, the Council for Affordable and Rural Housing, and Habitat for Humanity International. Hollingsworth said in a press statement that its bipartisan passage "signals strong support across the aisle to reform our nation’s housing regulations at all levels of government.” The YIMBY act must still pass the Senate and ultimately receive a presidential signature before being signed into law.
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Expansion of San Francisco’s transitionary Navigation Centers threatened

Amid several efforts by California lawmakers, architects, and activists to provide more homeless housing in the Golden State, a group of San Francisco-based Republicans, led by former Republican candidate for mayor Richie Greenberg, have made a concerted effort to scale back the city’s commitment to its homeless population. The San Francisco Department of Elections released a new proposed measure last week titled “Limitations on Navigation Centers.” The measure targets Navigation Centers, a unique temporary housing model developed in San Francisco that offers a ‘pathway to housing’ for those with priority status through Coordinated Entry who stay until housing placement. The first Navigation Center opened in March 2015 and led to the construction of several others, prompting outcries from wealthier residents of the city that included lawsuits and crowdfunding efforts to halt further construction. Last year, the nonprofit group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA), argued that the construction of the 200-bed Embarcadero Navigation Center, for instance, would potentially endanger nearby condominium owners and tourists. If added to the November 2020 ballot, the new measure could profoundly limit the operations of each Navigation Center by requiring their presence to become more temporary and reduce the number of beds in each to a maximum of 100—currently, the six operating Navigation Centers have as many as 200 each. According to Curbed, the measure could also thwart Supervisor Matt Haney’s goal of opening centers in all 11 of the city’s districts, making the waitlist for a bed, which is currently over 1,200, exponentially greater. Despite a recent SF Chamber of Commerce poll that demonstrated 69 percent of voters would approve of a Navigation Center in their neighborhood, Greenberg went ahead with proposing rollbacks. “It's just a tragedy now,” Greenberg told Fox and Friends. “But this is San Francisco. This is not anything new. This is classic San Francisco, where the downtrodden are celebrated and coddled.” While he reportedly abhors “the homeless, the drug addicts, and mentally ill roaming the streets,” his efforts to reduce the initiatives of the Navigation Centers would only exacerbate the issue he claims to be against by making housing even more difficult for the city’s homeless population to acquire.
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Andy Byford resigns as head of NYC’s subways

Andy Byford, president of MTA New York City Transit, has quit. The British transportation expert was hired to turn around the city’s ailing subway system in January of 2018 after pulling off a similar feat at the Toronto Transit Commission. Now it seems that clashes between Byford and Governor Andrew Cuomo have reportedly led to the former’s departure. The system did improve markedly under Byford’s tenure. On January 20, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) released the latest update on its Subway Action Plan, demonstrating improvements in station and track cleanliness, a 10,000-delay-a-month reduction for the fourth month in a row, and an on-time performance rate of 72.6 percent, the highest in four years. Still, despite all of the tangible benefits of his work, this isn’t even the first time Byford has resigned from the MTA; he briefly quit and then rejoined the agency last October. The friction between Byford and the Governor had reached an all-time high and Byford claims that he was being forced to organize conferences at transportation conferences at the Governor’s behest, rather than doing his job. That came after Governor Cuomo swooped in last January to preempt Byford’s 15-month plan to shut down L Train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn for repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel with his own preferred alternative. According to the New York Times, Byford and Cuomo didn’t speak for four months after that, though relations had seemingly thawed since then. Byford’s announcement that he was leaving came during an MTA board meeting earlier today, and even his staff reportedly only learned it was happening through Politico. Immediately afterward, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson took to Twitter to try to woo Byford back, trying to kickstart the “#BringAndyBack” hashtag and calling his departure a crisis. So, farewell to the transportation official that railfans were so enamored with that they nicknamed him the “Rail Daddy.” He’ll live on as long as the MTA continues to run in-station ads for its new OMNY contactless fare system; Byford lent his dulcet voice to an audio announcement about the upgrade that has been running since January 7.
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New York's original offer for Amazon HQ2 included an extra $800 million

Nearly a year after Amazon abruptly canceled plans to build its second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, new information has surfaced revealing that New York officials offered $800 million more in incentives and grants than initially disclosed to lure the tech giant to the state. Documents revealed from a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by The Wall Street Journal showed that the $2.5 billion deal also included reimbursements for construction costs, additional tax credits and grants, and even the potential for the state to pay some Amazon employees' salaries.  After the company's much-publicized courting process to find a (suspected) home for HQ2 in 2017, the decision to split the project and place one headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and the other in Queens was met with immediate pushback from New York residents and as local politicians. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district borders the potential HQ2 site, strongly opposed the deal to give away billions to the tech giant, while others worried that the influx of thousands of tech workers would raise housing prices and displace locals. Yet, New York’s deal still seem to pale in comparison to other offers—New Jersey topped the list at $7 billion in incentives.  State officials defended the inflated offer, citing initial expectations of a larger HQ2 in Queens. “Throughout the negotiating process, we sharpened our incentive package and ultimately secured a better return on investment for the state and the biggest economic development opportunity in New York’s history,” Matthew Gorton, a spokesperson for Empire State Development, told the Journal. The new information reignites debate about the cost versus benefit of Amazon’s nixed plans. Supporters claim that the revenue and investments from the online retail giant—over $27 billion in 25 years by some estimates, as well as thousands of jobs—would have made the initial subsidies a small price to pay. “I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes, because it would be a great economic boost,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo jokingly told reporters during the bidding process. Criticisms over the state’s eagerness to appease Amazon at whatever cost, however, ultimately prevailed. 
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Love in a Mist (The Politics of Fertility) deftly blends design with pregnancy politics

We might look back on 2019 as a year of perpetual crises, should we survive their enduring damages. The Amazon rainforest burned for weeks under a far-right populist in Brazil, as land long-held by indigenous peoples was effectively cleared for cattle. At the moment of writing, there is ongoing, large-scale and violent civil unrest in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iraq, and Iran. Even limiting our attention to the American news cycle, as we often do, it's difficult to cultivate hope for a future which, per the U.N. Emissions Gap Report, may not exist without significant infrastructural change. Millennials are increasingly opting not to have children, if not for financial insecurity, then out of an acute anxiety over the diminished prospects for life on earth. The contested appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court (to pluck one item from the trash fire of this year in American politics) has ensured a bleak outlook for the future of Roe v. Wade as well. Women dressed as Atwood’s handmaids protested a stylized dystopia of forced birth that is, in some ways, already real for poor women in states with no practical access to abortion services. Architects often feel called to address these political terrains as the conceptual and material grounds for design solutions, as if architecture is not already implicated and architects are not human actors also living under these same existential conditions. The objects in need of solutions are so immense, so out of scale, and so tangled in intersecting forces, that it’s difficult to do more than call attention to them—to try to express the unspeakable. Love in a Mist (The Politics of Fertility) is an ambitious show currently on view at the Druker Design Gallery at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design that acknowledges the urgency and complexity of an endangered reproductive future. And yet, it reaches for hope in the face of possible extinction. Conceived by the architect Malkit Shoshan, the show assumes an activist posture to address a nuanced set of concerns around the body, fertility, and seemingly detached environmental crises. By assembling research, activist artifacts, artistic works, and a deep bibliography of feminist texts, Love in a Mist locates resistance and hope in interconnection and its enunciation. As Donna Haraway pleads in her science-fiction work Children of the Compost, cited in the exhibition text, we can and must articulate new forms of relation to each other and the earth—it’s a matter of inter-species survival. The domination (and depletion) of the environment and the control over human reproduction are intimately entangled, Shoshan argues. At the fulcrum of fertility (engineered by synthetic hormones or controlled through conservative legislation), women and nature are recognized as mutually domitable objects. It’s a problematic alignment, but the show works through that tension with care. The exhibition was instigated as an urgent response to the sharp increase in anti-abortion legislation known as “heartbeat bills,” some of which were signed into law in Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Georgia this year. The exhibited work builds on the scholarship of Lori Brown, whose study of the landscapes of U.S. abortion access is presented in takeaway texts and series of infographics. From this legal ground, the sequence of the show quickly expands that predicament to an ecological scale with research on the history of synthetic estrogen. Diethylstilbestrol, or DES, had been prescribed to women suffering miscarriages beginning in the 1940s. Understood to reduce pregnancy complications and loss, its harmful effects weren’t known until the 1970s, when DES was linked to clear-cell carcinoma in women and girls. DES had also been used as a growth hormone in livestock feed and caused breast and cervical cancer in those consuming estrogen-laden poultry and meat. Introduced into the agricultural ecology, DES contaminated the surrounding land, water, and plants. Hyperproduction is an acceleration of death. The content of the exhibition is organized into four distinct chapters: Reproductive rights, accelerated growth, extinction, and compost. This framework is spatialized into a linear sequence of four wood-framed greenhouses, beginning with the heartbeat and finding its way out through the compost bin. The greenhouse is the primary architectural device in the design of the show, also by Shoshan. She acknowledges it as a “natural container” for the content on view; it’s an obvious reference to the greenhouse effect, and also a literal technology for the cultivation and control of nature. The framing also stands in for the less discernible spaces of fertility that Love in a Mist tries to access—including brick-and-mortar and mobile clinics, crisis pregnancy centers, and state legislatures, as well as fields, forests, and swamps. Multimedia work enlivens the information-rich exhibition environment. A video by Desirée Dolron shows swamps in Texas overtaken by a disruptive weed. Audio recordings of Northern California woods by Bernie Krause over nearly 30 years testify to a depleted “biophany.” Diana Witten’s documentary Vessel shows the travels of Women on Waves, whose portable abortion clinic is also represented in the show. Yael Bartana’s trailer to What if Women Ruled the World fantasizes an international government of women against an apocalyptic backdrop. Tabita Rezaire’s Sugar Walls Teardom is a vibrant video document in the compost section which acknowledges the contribution of black womxn’s wombs to advancements in biomedical technology. The work, in the end, is thoroughly documentary but it maintains an effective pulse. Rather than directly taking up representational concerns, as feminist exhibitions so often do, it leans into the artifacts and techniques of fertility politics. For that reason, the distinct outlier of the show is a figural womb sculpted by Joep van Lieshout, a Dutch architect who also collaborated with Rebecca Gomperts on the Women on Waves clinic. It makes a static object of a living organ, one we’ve come to understand as influenced by so many external forces. Love in a Mist finds recourse through the living. Named for a flower whose seeds were once ingested for their abortifacient properties, the exhibition puts as much faith in the home remedy as in the clinical procedure. Making kin, to borrow Donna Haraway’s prescription for earthly survival, must remain a matter of choice. The exhibition is on view through December 20.
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Former oil lobbyist confirmed as new Secretary of the Interior

The United States Senate voted 56-41 this week to confirm former fossil fuel lobbyist David Bernhardt as the new Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt previously served as the deputy to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in late 2018 amid a firestorm of ethics scandals.

With the confirmation vote, Bernhardt assumes stewardship of over 500 million acres of federally-owned lands across the country. The New York Times reported that due to his central role in crafting policy initiatives while working as Deputy Secretary, Bernhardt’s influence is already being felt across the country. Changes at the Department of Interior during the first two years of the Trump administration include shrinking several national monuments that had been expanded under President Barack Obama, including the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, as well as allowing for oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve, the nation’s largest pristine landscape. While working under the former Interior Secretary, Bernhardt also pushed for increased oil exploration activities off the nation’s coasts. A plan for how and where to develop additional fossil fuel resources off the nation’s coasts is due next year. Bernhardt takes over at a pivotal time for the Department of Interior, which runs the Bureau of Land Management as well as the National Parks Service (NPS). According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the NPS is suffering from over $11 billion in deferred maintenance costs, a nasty backlog that was fully on display during the 2019 government shutdown, when raw sewage and trash piled up across many national parks. According to the group, 18 percent of the maintenance backlog amount relates to the NPS’s building stock, which is in serious disrepair. NPS roads and water treatment facilities are also awaiting much-needed upgrades. Bernhardt himself has been plagued by ethics investigations and questions regarding his ties to former lobbying clients, but the concerns were not enough to halt his confirmation. Prior to his role in the Trump administration, Bernhardt served as Solicitor of the Department of Interior for President George W. Bush.
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Storefront for Art and Architecture's latest show spotlights the infrastructure of tyranny

At what point do urban interventions designed to protect the public shift to stifling their freedoms? How do hostile urban interventions enable repressive regimes to control the public? A new show at the Storefront for Art and Architecture and an accompanying walking tour through Lower Manhattan look to put the physical artifacts of tyranny on display. From March 28 through May 4, State of Tyranny will expand on Theo Deutinger’s book, Handbook of Tyranny. The exhibition will explore the design of tyranny through seven categories, from walls and surveillance cameras, to hostile architecture meant to dissuade public gatherings, to less tangible means of controlling the flow of people and information, such as passports. The shaping of public gathering spaces by big government or well-moneyed corporate interests to head off public protests and dissent is a well-known tactic that State of Tyranny will examine by placing physical artifacts front and center. Videos and detailed descriptions of these objects, which seek to directly or indirectly control human behavior, will supplement and add further context to these items. The Tyranny Trail, a walking tour hosted by artists and activists, will take visitors from the Storefront’s gallery at 97 Kenmare Street all the way down to the World Trade Center Memorial. Every tour will highlight both obvious and subtle methods of control, from concrete barriers to spiked benches meant to prevent the homeless from sleeping on them. The Tyranny Trail serves to remind that many design choices nefariously seek to influence the behavior of the public. A map of the trail will also be posted at the Storefront so that visitors can explore the Tyranny Trail at their convenience.

Architecture of Power: Short Story Contest

You are invited to the Architecture of Power Short Story Contest. $500 Grand Prize

Welcome to 2019; polarizing political views are an ever-present reality and it doesn't seem to be improving. Whether you live in the US or on the other side of the globe our environments are actors in the theater of influence. What happens when design becomes part of the equation? Write a short story that puts into narrative how architecture affects the lives of people in power and those on the fringes of society.  Standard: $24.99 55+ and Active-duty Military: $19.99 Student: $14.99 Grand Prize: $500 + Bonus Deadline: February 28th 11:59PM PST Winner awarded: March 31st
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Miami approved David Beckham's soccer stadium site in ballot vote

In yesterday’s midterm elections, Miami residents voted to approve a referendum that brings David Beckham’s Freedom Park soccer complex one step closer to fruition after a five-year battle. According to The Miami Herald, the referendum gets rid of competitive bidding for the property where Beckham and his partners now want to build, a 131-acre site near Miami International Airport currently home to the city-owned Melreese golf course. On the ballot, voters were asked whether or not the local government would be allowed to change bidding laws within the city charter to secure a no-bid deal at the massive public green space. About 60 percent of voters endorsed the measure, solidifying the chances that the $1 billion project, designed by Arquitectonica, will actually get built. The city can now begin to negotiate a 99-year-lease for a minimum of $3.5 million per year with Beckham’s Miami Freedom Park LLC, a group jointly-owned by Sprint chief executive Marcelo Claure, and business brothers Jorge and Jose Mas. The developers plan to use 73 acres to build a 25,000-seat stadium for Miami’s future Major League Soccer team, Inter Miami CF, as well as 750 hotel rooms, and at least one million square feet of office, retail, and commercial space. The referendum also calls for Beckham’s group to financially back a 58-acre public park near the complex, which will cost about $20 million to construct. The Miami Herald reported that critics of the decision to build the mega-project are defending the value of the golf club’s youth and mentoring programs. Concern is also rising over the toxic dirt that sits underneath the parkland, which was contaminated by an old municipal incinerator. The city will likely have to approve a serious land remediation plan before moving forward with negotiating final lease terms. Now that voters are behind the goal to build at Melreese, Beckham’s team will have to find a new vision for the nine-acre plot of land it owns in Overtown, Miami, where the soccer star previously wanted to develop a stadium designed by Populous.
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Senator Gillibrand and her Republican challenger spar over Syracuse's I-81

The fight to bring down an antiquated elevated highway in Syracuse, New York, is among the controversial issues being highlighted in the race for one of the state’s  U.S. Senate seats. On Monday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told The Post-Standard she supports the effort to replace a portion of Interstate 81 with a street-level grid—a position she’s never spoken out on before. “Given where the stakeholders are—and given what I have heard from the community in the last several years,” she said, “ I really think the community grid is the better approach to not only revitalization, but to support all members of our community.” For years, higher-level politicians have shied away from taking a stance on the decade-long debate to fix one of Syracuse’s greatest transportation issues. The 1.4-mile highway viaduct cuts through the heart of the city’s downtown, segregating the community physically and economically. As of last year, it reached the end of its functional lifespan and is no longer safe for the thousands of cars that traverse it each day. Syracuse-based community groups, university leaders, and local politicians have spoken out about the dire need to address I-81. Some have come out in favor of any of the three proposed options—an underground tunnel, street grid, or rebuilt overpass—while some have stayed quiet. So far, Gillibrand is the most influential person to state her opinion. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Representative John Katko, R-Camillus, have declined to comment. “I disagree with the tunnel folks because I think you’re just going to have a bypass of downtown,” Gillibrand told The Post-Standard. “Unfortunately, when you don’t invest in a downtown long-term, your city becomes less attractive. If you create thoroughfares and routes to skip downtown, what you get is boarded up storefront and you get a hollowing out of cities.” It’s no coincidence Gillibrand is speaking out just weeks away from the Tuesday, November 6, election for her U.S. Senate seat. Her Republic challenger, Chele Farley, criticized her decision to pick a proposal.  “I think it’s a little offensive for me to make a decision for Syracuse,” Farley said in a reactionary statement. “Let Syracuse decide, but then it’s my job to get the money and bring it back so the project could get funded quickly and it could happen.” Of all three options, the underground tunnel could prove the most expensive at $3.1 billion—another reason why Gillibrand doesn’t back it. A new elevated highway would be around $1.7 billion, while a boulevard, or community grid, would cost $1.3 billion. Most of the funds will be supplied through the federal government via President Trump’s recent infrastructure rule that places priority on interstate highway projects. But some worry Syracuse’s failure to unite on a decision will prevent the city from getting the money it needs on time. Gillibrand and Farley will face off in a televised debate this Thursday at 1:30 p.m. on WABC-TV. Whoever wins the Senate seat will take on the task of pushing the project forward based on the community’s final decision. The New York State Department of Transportation is now working on a new environmental impact study surveying the three options. It’s set to be published in January when a public commentary period will open.
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Tonight! Join AN's Matt Shaw in exploring energy, politics, and architecture in New York

Tonight, Monday, November 9, at New York's AIANY/Center for Architecture, AN Senior Editor Matt Shaw will be moderating a book talk between Janette Kim and Erik Carver, the authors of The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform, a new book released by Princeton Architectural Press. Stop by at 6:00p.m. tonight for light refreshments and beautiful drawings alongside a discussion about the future of ecologically minded architecture and urbanism. The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform is equal parts architect's handbook and toolbox for effecting environmental change with the built environment. The book maps different approaches to energy management and performance to examine their implications for collective life. Underdome catalogs a spectrum of positions argued for by a diverse cast including economists, environmentalists, community advocates, political scientists, and designers. In turn, it highlights in architecture questions of professional agency, the contemporary city, and collective priorities in the face of uncertain energy futures. Check it out on our events page here.