Posts tagged with "Preservation":

Placeholder Alt Text

French researcher "quarries" on site for a new type of recycling and restoration

“The mass-production of rubble constitutes one of modern architecture’s main legacies,” said the French designer and researcher Anna Saint Pierre. So much of what gets built gets demolished, or decays and needs to be restored or renovated. She explained that “The building sector accounts for 50 percent of natural resource consumption and almost 40 percent of waste production within European territories.” To help combat this waste she’s developed a new technique of in-situ recycling called Granito. The concept is to “quarry” materials on-site, taking stone from surrounding demolished structures and pulverizing it for use in new aggregates—by reusing these materials on location there’s no need for transportation. An architect at the French firm SCAU, Saint Pierre is putting Granito to the test on one of the office’s Paris projects. Saint Pierre’s proposal is to take 182 tons of unwanted granite panels from the extant structure, an office block also designed by the firm and opened in 1997 as the headquarters of Télédiffusion de France, and grind, sort, and reincorporate the material into terrazzo floors for the new building, a co-working space. Saint Pierre says that the granite and terrazzo floors, visible from the street, will act as “a fifth facade.” In addition to working to create terrazzo, she’s also been using in-situ recycling to create gabion walls, including for a future housing project. Since announcing Granito earlier this year, Saint Pierre has worked to tweak the process to become more energy efficient. “This project highlights the impact that the ever-shortening life of tertiary real estate programs has on the life and death cycle of the materials used,” Saint Pierre said. In this manner, Granito is not just a practical solution, but also a commentary on issues of architectural preservation. “Granito investigates new modes of memory transmission through [the] in-situ transformation of rubble,” she explains. “It’s an alternative to both ‘tabula rasa’ approaches or strict restoration.” Granito, “investigates site-specific loops of remembrance,” and understanding just what “in situ” might mean in this context is key to understanding the purpose of Granito. It’s about “the existing site, its memory, and its mutation.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Preservationists rally to save the prison where Oscar Wilde was persecuted

The Reading Prison in Berkshire, England, has been put on the market and cultural figures are rallying to save the building where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated between 1895 and 1897. The Grade II-listed building closed in 2013 and is under threat of redevelopment after the U.K. Minister of Justice put it up for sale earlier this month. The local council and Reading’s member of parliament, as well as other cultural figures, are working to develop a bid for the site.  “Sadly the Ministry of Justice put the gaol on the market and hopes to sell it to the highest bidder," said Matt Rodda, the Labor MP for Reading East, according to The Art Newspaper. "This decision risks this wonderful Victorian building being gutted and turned into luxury flats." The building’s association with Wilde makes it irrevokably an important site of LGBTQ+ history and heritage. Wilde was arrested in 1895 for “gross indecency,” a crime enforced by the Labouchere Amendment and largely used to prosecute men for homosexuality. Because sodomy laws were so difficult to enforce, the amendment instead enforced a blanket term that made such arrests much easier. The amendment wasn’t fully repealed until 1967, a time when widespread LGBT rights and advocacy were just beginning to gain traction. The prison has been described as a “Mecca for LGBT people wordwide" by the Reading Borough Council. A 2016 exhibition Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison, exemplified the building’s importance through a showcase of art by Ai Weiwei, Marlene Dumas, and Wolfgang Tillmans. A well-known admirer of Wilde, Patti Smith, paid homage by reading De Profundis, a 50,000-word letter Wilde wrote to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, while he was incarcerated in Reading.  “It’s a hugely significant space,” said Joseph Galliano, CEO and co-founder of Queer Britain, the national LGBTQ+ museum. “We are losing heritage and cultural spaces to commercial redevelopment which will never be recovered,” he told Euronews. The Ministry of Justice promised in a statement that they would “seek the best outcome for the taxpayer.”  Illustrating the artistic legacy produced under unfortunate circumstances, the following is an excerpt from Wilde’s De Profundis:

“When first I was put into prison some people advised me to try and forget who I was. It was ruinous advice. It is only by realizing what I am that I have found comfort of any kind. Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else - the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver - would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one's own experiences is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

Placeholder Alt Text

The Nonument database is saving forgotten 20th-century buildings

Nonument is committed to not only recording but celebrating the 20th century’s most important non-monuments. Founded in 2011, the multidisciplinary artist and research collective has amassed a record of built spaces that stand, if barely; forgotten by time through decay, technological or political changes, Nonument is preserving them even as they fall out of favor in a changing 21st-century society.  Rather than present “a glorified collection of obscurities” or focus purely on architectural styles, founders Neja Tomšič and Martin Bricelj Baraga seek to develop a deeper understanding of public space and art, and how politics shape these spaces in our world today. In partnership with Mapping & Archiving Public Spaces (MAPS) project, the collective has a goal of cataloging more than 120 forgotten sites around the globe and bring them back into the public eye.  Created by the Museum of Transitory Art, MAPS shares many of the goals of Nonument: its mission “aims to identify, map and archive public spaces, architecture, and monuments which are part of our cultural heritage, but are not yet identified as such.” And that’s where Nonument began. NONUMENT01 was a response to the demolition of a Brutalist icon, the McKeldin Fountain in Baltimore. A decision made with limited public engagement or input, the fountain had been an important gathering point for protestors and creatives, and the visual centerpiece of McKeldin Square. Upon its removal in 2016, Lisa Moren, a professor of visual arts, enacted the first art installation of Nonument, debuting an augmented reality app that allowed users to recreate the fountain on their screens, and interact with memories like protest signs and koi fish to discover their stories. The app and its launch event at the site continued the legacy of the lost monument and its role within the city, setting a precedent for Nonuments of the future. The database is just one component of Nonument. Case studies on architectural theory and live art, and performance events like Moren’s, are also an integral part of the collective’s mission, making it more than just an encyclopedia of degrading buildings. While the act of listing the monuments breathes back a certain degree of life, critical discourse and real-life opportunities for interaction with the listed structures completes a circle of study and renegotiation with the space they occupy—aligning with the overarching goals of the group.  From nuclear power plants in Austria to stone sculptures in Serbia, the database is set to become a comprehensive collection and research resource for the 20th century, and continue to unearth the stories that matter, and rewrite the rules for sustainable management of our cultural heritage. 
Placeholder Alt Text

$50 million restoration of Buffalo estate designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is finally complete

On July 22, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a two-decade, $50 million restoration of a significant Frank Lloyd Wright urban estate in Buffalo is finally complete, including the Martin House. Wright completed the complex for Darwin D. Martin, the head of the Larkin Soap Company, in 1905. The buildings on-site include the Martin House, which is connected to a glass conservancy via a 100-foot-long glass pergola, as well as the Barton House, a residence for Martin's sister and her family. A carriage house and a gardener's house (added in 1908) are integrated into the estate via formal English gardens that merge with more naturalistic landscape elements. While work on the homes wrapped last year, the restoration of the one-and-a-half–acre grounds was completed just this month. Bayer Landscape Architecture, a firm based in Honeoye Falls, near Rochester, led the project. Its most significant undertaking was the remake of the floricycle, an intricate scheme of 20,000 plantings that radiated out from the Martin House in a series of nesting hyperbolas. Originally, the bulbs, trees, and shrubs were spaced to provide visual interest from March through November as they grew and bloomed in a rhythm. The firm also redid the formal decorative border around the pergola and beefed up the grounds' plantings to revive the outdoor "rooms" and the wild-by-design clumps of shrubs and trees that had faded over the years. Bayer worked with the City of Buffalo to coordinate street tree planting along Jewett Parkway and Summit Avenue, the two roads that abut the property. Wayfinding, lighting, and a new cafe area rounded out the landscape improvements. The project is part of New York State's Buffalo Billion, an economic development initiative that targets the metro area. "The Darwin Martin House is one of Western New York's most iconic attractions," Cuomo said in a press release. "The restoration of the historic landscape is an outstanding addition to this important piece of Buffalo's growing architectural tourism industry." In the same release, Kevin R. Malchoff, president of the Martin House board, noted that the property is the first work of 20th-century architecture among the state's 36 historic sites. Overall, the preservation effort was funded by the National Historic Landmark Program and New York State Historic Site, with New York State kicking in $29 million, a little over half of the total project cost.
Placeholder Alt Text

Preservation easement perpetually secures Eliot Noyes’s New Canaan home

0The family of American architect Eliot Noyes has signed a preservation easement with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to protect the legacy and original design intent of Noyes House II through future ownership. Under the terms of the easement, the house must be kept in good repair and obtain permission from the Trust before making any alterations. Located in New Canaan, Connecticut, a town with an architectural stockpile of modern gems like Philip Johnson’s Glass House, Noyes House II is a testament of the town’s remarkable architectural exploration during the mid-20th century. Eliot Noyes (1910-1977) studied architecture at Harvard under Walter Gropius and was the first Director of Industrial Design at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and a founding figure in Aspen’s Design conference. He was well-known for including design and architecture as an extension of corporate identity, also a member of the “Harvard Five” a group of architects including John M. Johansen, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, and Philip Johnson. The first home Noyes designed for his family in 1947 no longer exists but was planned with the intention of expanding his family’s footprint. Now known as Noyes House II, the diagram of the home features one wing devoted for rest and a parallel wing designated for gathering. An outdoor, open-air courtyard joins the two functions in the center. “Our family is proud to establish this easement with the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to ensure the longevity of this house’s remarkable design. Preserving this house is our contribution to the larger story of New Canaan as a nexus of design representing new ideas,” said Fred Noyes, son of Eliot Noyes. The Noyes House is privately owned. At this time, only the family may grant access.
Placeholder Alt Text

Kengo Kuma will build off of a historic facade in Seattle

Kengo Kuma & Associates has gone to great lengths to preserve and highlight a century-old Gothic Revival building in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood, proposing a mixed-use skyscraper that accentuates the ornate frontage of the five-story structure. According to designs submitted to the city for review earlier this year, the 42-story tower will fill most of the lot on the corner of Second Avenue and Virginia Street, receding slightly from the street to allow the facade of the 104-year-old Bebb & Gould’s Terminal Sales Annex building to protrude. Certain elements in the design of the skyscraper itself will also make reference to Seattle’s storied gothic and art deco architectural heritage.

Kuma’s initial designs for the tower, which were produced in collaboration with Ankrom Moisan Architects and the landscape architecture firm Berger Partnership for developer Pacific Virginia, indicate that the majority of the building’s floor space will be dedicated to condominiums. A coworking space and a hotel will occupy most of the first fifteen floors, while the first floor will house several lobbies and a restaurant. Much of the interior of the Terminal Sales Annex will be converted into amenity spaces for the hotel, which will accommodate the historic building’s existing floor plates.

The telescoping mass of the skyscraper is reminiscent of Seattle’s art deco traditions and aligns with the form of the Terminal Sales Annex below. In order to avoid completely overwhelming the landmarked structure in scale, the lowest massing on the Second Avenue frontage is only four stories tall. The setbacks will also create a small plaza at the corner of Second and Virginia, which could be used for seating and greenery. Renderings show sand-colored bands extending upwards on the facade of Kuma’s tower, likely an attempt to mimic the vertical lines and stonework on the Terminal Sales Annex.

While further details on the appearance of the skyscraper and the schedule for its construction have not been released, it seems certain that Seattle will be witnessing a highly involved form of facadism. In lieu of dismantling the interior of the Terminal Sales Annex or engulfing its street frontage in a wall of glass and steel, Kuma & Associates and its collaborators have created something that balances the needs of their client with respect for the historic significance and vulnerability of the site.

Placeholder Alt Text

Le Corbusier's final project opens to the public with Mon univers

To even the most casual observer, Le Corbusier has become a household name. His lifetime achievements in brutalist architecture, city planning, and pilotis represent his tireless search for modernism, and now, more than a half-century after his death, the Swiss architect’s legacy is being reconsidered with the public reopening of his final work, the Centre Le Corbusier, in Zurich. Originally named the Heidi Weber Museum, or “La Maison de l’Homme,” Le Corbusier designed the museum for his friend and patron Heidi Weber. A tireless devotee to the architect and his other forays into art, Weber envisioned displaying her large collection of Corbusier-designed objects in this purpose-built building. It is the only museum exclusively dedicated to an architect as a visual artist and includes his paintings, sculptures, furniture, tapestries, and collages, among other media. The museum recognizes the building itself as central to the collection and narrative as well, as many of Corbusier's artistic ideas are manifest in his final body of work—despite being one of his only buildings composed almost entirely of glass and steel. The building aligns with many modernist ideals and aesthetics. The structure was prefabricated, with the steel parts cast in foundries off-site and installed in the largest pieces possible. The primary color scheme is a nod to the De Stijl, a popular Dutch movement focusing on color founded after World War I. Corbusier also manages to integrate his signature concrete elements in the highly stylized inner staircase and in the fabrication of an external ramp. The concrete is raw and textured, and the lines of the formwork are visible for posterity. Warm wooden elements on walls and on the stairs add a soft contrast between the natural and manufactured materials of the building, as seen in his famous works at Ronchamp and the Maisons Jaoul. Le Corbusier died the same year he completed the design for the museum, however. The building was completed two years later in 1967, but only after the chaos of the unexpected death and the assemblage of a new construction team. The building faced further complications after its final opening, as its sole proprietor, Heidi Weber, struggled to maintain the museum both physically as well as programmatically, with the building often only sporadically open as Weber juggled logistics and operating costs. In 2014 Weber’s 50-year operating term came to a close, and the city of Zurich began its search for a replacement that would celebrate Le Corbusier’s legacy and final work in the way the architect envisioned. The Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, a specialist institution for art and communication, was selected in 2019 and both city and museum agreed to invest in inside-out renovations. Local architects Silvio Schmed and Arthur Rüegg were selected to head up the project, and the pair collaborated on the restoration process while adhering to preservationist principles. The opening exhibition, Mon univers, runs through November 17 and achieves the exhibition vision of the famous Swiss architect and his patron—an impressive and comprehensive collection of Corbusier’s art and objects acquired on world travels, coupled with both a photographic exhibition highlighting the architect himself by René Burri.
Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago’s Thompson Center is up for sale

Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker has signed a law that authorizes the sale of Helmut Jahn’s controversial postmodern icon, the James R. Thompson Center. Postmodern buildings have only recently become eligible for landmark status, a fact that highlights the need to preserve significant buildings that have years to go before reaching a minimum of 50 years old. The center is located prominently in Chicago’s Loop at 100 West Randolph Street, where it takes up an entire city block, with a Chicago Transit Authority “L” train station nestled underneath. Stout and glassy, the massive building opened in 1985 as the home of state government offices. It was named after Illinois’s longest-serving governor, James R. Thompson, who chose Jahn’s then-futuristic design. Aiming to invoke ideas of “an open government,” Jahn designed a glass-encased 17-story atrium and a large exterior plaza in a bid to create contemporary large public spaces. Chicagoans either love it or hate it. The story of the Thompson Center is a political saga that could end in a daring feat of conservation or a sad finale of destruction. Preservationists have been rallying and petitioning for the building to achieve landmark status since the first mention of its possible demise in 2007, when Governor Rod Blagojevich said he was interested in selling it. However, since the building is known for its major maintenance issues, like heating and cooling problems and physical deterioration, it will likely be demolished rather than repurposed. The Architect’s Newspaper's Midwest contributor Jamie Evelyn Goldsborough reached out to major figures in the Chicago architecture and preservation community for their takes on the controversy. Alexander Eisenschmidt, designer and architectural theorist, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture: Jahn’s Thompson Center is certainly a quintessential Chicago construct. Not so much for its often cited but rarely understood postmodernism, but because of its urban and infrastructural theater. In fact, reducing it to its material, color, and formal palette (its architecture) diminishes its public function (its urbanism). After all, the building is a subway stop, an elevated train station, a pedway intersection, an interior marketplace, a food court concourse, an exterior plaza, and the list goes on—a kind of city-extension that inhales and breathes public life. In an age of ever-expanding privatization, aggressive outsourcing, and shrinking government investment in public services and facilities, the sale of the Thompson Center is yet another instance of the lack of inventiveness and a blind belief in quick fixes (not unlike Chicago’s disastrous parking meter sell-off). But it’s also a mistake for architects to focus on preservation. There is the potential for crafting solutions for a productive (even lucrative) re-, dis-, mis-, trans-, and cross-use of this piece of the city. John Ronan, architect, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture: The State of Illinois Building should be saved (and repurposed). It's one of the few good examples of postmodern architecture in Chicago from a period of architectural history that was not particularly kind to the city. Bob Somol, design critic and theorist, professor and director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago: The debate over the shaky future of a once-futurist ruin raises paradoxical questions about postmodern preservation and the ongoing privatization of the public realm. What happens when a rhetorical ruin becomes a literal ruin within 30 years of its completion, when a project that inaugurated a mixed public-private model of government itself falls victim to economic expediency? Helmut Jahn’s 1985 Thompson Center was an awkward building at an awkward time, appearing after faith in public monuments had waned, but before the rise of iconic spectacles. It was the James Stirling building that Chicago never got, typical of many atrocities of the ’80s that attempted the shotgun marriage of high tech and historicism. The Thompson Center remains Chicago’s only legitimate heir to this thankfully aborted legacy. And for all of these reasons and more, we should keep the starship boldly going. Stanley Tigerman, architect: I don’t want to comment about it, because I will say something bad. Ellen Grimes, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: It’s our own lesson in John Portman/Jon Jerde postmodernism, repurposed for retail politics. I love it! It makes the ’80s urban in a way that didn’t happen with similar buildings of the period. There’s nothing like floating up the escalator from the Red Line into a monumental atrium that smells like burgers and falafel. To save it, [Governor] Pritzker should use it as the emblematic policy initiative in reforming the state’s pathetic finances. He should landmark it, lease it to a casino/hotel operator, and send the profits straight into the state’s underfunded mass transit budget. (Imagine playing the slot machines as you get off the train.) That way, we get to keep the thing, and get some money out of it, and it’s climate friendly. And Thompson gets the monument he deserves. Iker Gil, architect, editor-in-chief of MAS Context: It is a significant building with a truly remarkable interior public space. Unlike most buildings, here we have one that welcomes people and celebrates public space. We need to think beyond its current state of neglect and envision its potential. It can become a vibrant 24-7 space with the addition of expected and odd uses that can be combined unconventionally. The building has unique characteristics and it should remain a unique place, but, as Tim Samuelson would say, the building is in a period of aesthetic limbo. It’s not old enough to be appreciated; there is no historic perspective. Given time, care, and a programmatic overhaul, it would find its place in the history of the city. Chicago can’t afford to continue to demolish unique buildings only to replace them with generic ones for a quick economic return. This practice won’t solve Chicago’s structural issues, and the city will lose its assets and identity. Nathan Eddy, filmmaker, Starship Chicago: The Thompson Center shouldn’t just be an official landmark for Chicago; it should also be listed on the National Register of Historic Places alongside Adler & Sullivan’s Auditorium Building or the Chicago Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe. I defy anyone to stand in the Thompson Center’s launchpad rotunda and not be moved by that magical, mirrored-glass cyclone of space. It courses with power and drama and excitement and an expansive, glittering optimism. It doesn’t look dated to thousands of young people who gasp when they walk into it—to them it looks like the future. Are we really prepared to give up this prime, publicly owned forum in the civic heart of Chicago for a bargain-basement price? To be replaced with what?—a mute glass box designed not by an architect but by some false acceptance rate algorithm? And perhaps—if we’re good—a handful of half-hearted privately owned public spaces? Sounds like small plans to me. Judith De Jong, architect and urban designer, associate professor and associate dean for academic programs at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago: Built 20 years apart, and each very much of its respective time, the Brutalist Netsch campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the postmodern Thompson Center are unlikely bedfellows. However, both are hard-to-love forms of architecture that are seemingly out of style, and both once modeled important new forms of public access to public institutions that are perhaps even more important today. The Netsch campus, which opened in early 1965, was a new model of an urban public university, making higher education accessible to a wide range of new audiences. Rather than mimic the pastoral forms of the traditionally rural public university (the model of which was the University of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson), Walter Netsch and his team from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill sought to materialize a new expression of public education through urban and architectural design. Conceptualized as a pebble dropped in a pond, representing “knowledge spreading out,” the dense inner rings of campus contained the shared lecture halls and classroom buildings, flanked by the library and the student union, while outer rings contained discipline-specific buildings. The campus was connected throughout by raised walkways—human highways designed for a projected enrollment of 32,000 students—that came together in a great public amphitheater called the Circle Forum at the literal and conceptual center. Photographs of the campus at the time show the Forum’s use as an important space of daily life. Buildings were also carefully arranged to shape urban parks and plazas for public student life across the site. The Thompson Center, which opened in 1985, was a new model of access to urban public government. Rather than mimic the classical grandeur of the Illinois State Capitol Building, Helmut Jahn and his team from Murphy/Jahn Architects materialized a new expression of state governance through an enormous interior atrium—a lopped off rotunda—limned by 16 floors of the mostly open offices of public employees. The atrium was intended as an active, new, year-round public “plaza” in the middle of downtown, enabled by “retail” government services like the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as shops, a food court, and integrated access to the Chicago Transit Authority trains. At the Thompson Center, government was meant to be as accessible and transparent as the building itself. As experiments in new forms of public institutions, both UIC and the Thompson Center had their issues, all of which were or are solvable, should the political will exist. At UIC, complaints about the walkways, framed through concerns about maintenance, safety, and a lack of “green,” led to their eventual demolition in the 1990s, taking the Circle Forum amphitheater with them. Likewise, the environmental and maintenance issues at the Thompson Center are well-documented, and just as Netsch provided possible solutions to issues at UIC that were ignored, Jahn has provided possible options for the Thompson Center that are being ignored. But whereas at UIC the form of the campus was diminished by the loss of the Circle Forum, its overall organization and many of its original buildings remain basically intact. Moreover, UIC continues to be a state institution, and as such, the architecture and urban design remain a powerful symbol of public access to higher education. While I believe strongly that a robust public life can and does occur in privately owned spaces, which could perhaps be the case at the Thompson Center should it be sold to a sympathetic owner, much more is at stake here. In an era of relentless privatization, where public institutions are under sustained attack, the sale of the Thompson Center would be a significant blow to the idea of public access to state government, and raises a much more fundamental question: Is the public institution, rather than its architecture, going out of style?
Placeholder Alt Text

Chicago moves to modernize as city overhauls building codes

On April 10, under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago City Council approved an overhaul to the Chicago Building Code, the first update since 1949. This announcement has invigorated the local design, construction, and real estate industries as it brings the building code in line with national standards and promises greater affordability, sustainability, and innovation to modernize the city. It’s a big win for architects building in Chicago. A couple of major takeaways from the update:
  • A wider range of building materials will be allowed for construction,
  • New sprinkler system and seismic requirements will enhance safety,
  • Cost-effective construction of single-family homes will be incentivized,
  • There will be greater opportunities to convert existing basements and attics into livable space,
  • Additional flexibility for rehab work will be provided, encouraging the preservation of existing buildings,
  • The permitting process will be streamlined,
  • Newer methods and approaches to construct green buildings will be allowed, and,
  • The city will adopt International Building Code standards, making it easier to follow Chicago-specific code requirements.
Chicago’s code changes are meant to improve and encourage new building projects of all sizes by increasing affordability towards materials, construction, and even time spent in the permitting process. A clear emphasis has been placed on making residential projects more accessible and achievable, a potential boon for the real estate industry. It is evident in the city’s lack of new construction—single-family, two- and three-apartment housing typologies have slowly died-out in Chicago—that home renovations and historic rehabs have been difficult to achieve when abiding by Chicago’s existing code. Existing buildings that previously had no hope for a realistic update were felled either by demolition or vacancy, leading to even deeper issues around housing, safety, and social issues. Previously, if an owner added more than 25 percent to the building’s square footage, then the whole project had to comply with new construction building codes no matter if it were a single-family, neighborhood home, or downtown skyscraper. To alleviate such issues, the new code will offer more flexible requirements to differentiate between a project type and its appropriate needs. Moreover, the reduction of the minimum ceiling height requirement and added options to meet light and ventilation requirements will boost accessory dwelling units. Chicago’s need for a more cohesive, citywide strategy to approach affordable housing is more apparent than ever. These changes could attract more investment from the average Joe and developers as projects appear more achievable than resource-sucking and expensive. Within her first days of office, new Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed Chicago’s development community with a strapping message: “Developers can no longer skip their responsibilities by taking tax dollars but leaving it to someone else to solve our affordable housing crisis.” With these code changes, it’s expected that more developers will take on affordable housing projects, a dire need in Chicago and most other cities. Still, developers will need to grapple with the political explosiveness that surrounds gentrification. Neighborhoods like Pilsen and Logan Square are known to fight new construction and developer-led projects, whereas others, such as Garfield Park, struggle to attract interest. The city has anticipated potential drawbacks with the new code and has allowed themselves flexibility in altering it as challenges arise. The overhaul will be gradually phased in, and the first phase is expected to be implemented in Fall 2019, with further phasing between December 1, 2019, to July 31, 2020. Read and download the full ordinance here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Arquitectonica’s second finished building is being torn down

Arquitectonica’s second completed project, the multifamily Babylon apartment block in Miami, is set to be demolished before July. Fears over the now-abandoned building’s demolition have swirled for years, but last January, the ziggurat-inspired complex had its historic designation overturned by Miami city commissioners. The building’s owner, former spaghetti western star Francisco Martínez Celeiro (known professionally as George Martin), wants to replace the 37-year-old postmodern Babylon at 240 SE 14th Street with a 24-story condo tower, a far cry from the existing five-story structure. The Babylon, with its distinctive stepped, fire-truck-red facade, made an immediate splash when it was completed in 1982 and helped propel Arquitectonica on towards larger projects. While the stepped profile, which is extruded through the long, narrow site it sits on, stood out when it was first erected, the building is now overshadowed by the surrounding condo towers in the Brickell neighborhood. While Celeiro originally sought to build a narrow tower on the site that could have stood anywhere from 48 to 80 stories, the 15,000-square-foot lot is only zoned for a 12-story building. Now, Celeiro is seeking to upzone the lot for a 24-story tower, but according to the Biscayne Times, that request is driving a wedge between the city and Brickell residents and urban planners, who fear the precedent will open the floodgates for other developers to request variances. The primary motivation for revoking the Babylon’s protected status seems to have stemmed from an engineering survey commissioned by Celeiro, who argued that the building was too far gone to repair, and the inexorable link the complex has to the gritty 1980’s—a drug trafficking-filled era that many are keen to forget. “This is the real history of the Babylon,” said Commissioner Joe Carollo in 2018, during the 4-1 vote to strip the building of its historic designation, according to the Miami Herald. “This is a place built on the cheap by a guy who was so high he didn’t know if he was coming or going most of the time. I’m amazed that we’re talking about this 35 years later. I’m amazed we have spent too much time glorifying one of the worst buildings in an era many of us would like to forget.” AN will follow up on this story once further details on the Babylon’s replacement come to light.
Placeholder Alt Text

Construction begins on massive Machu Picchu airport despite protests

Ground has been broken on a $5 billion airport meant to connect Peru’s mountainous Machu Picchu more easily with the outside world, but conservationists are up in arms over the impact the facility will have on the fragile world heritage site. Machu Picchu is one of the most famous Incan archeological sites in the world but is currently strained past capacity with tourists. According to The Guardian, 1.5 million visited the fortress in 2017, twice the amount recommended by UNESCO. Currently, the site is only accessible through a single runway airport in the nearby city of Cusco, and to ameliorate crowding and provide easier access to the fragile mountaintop, land is already being cleared at the town of Chinchero—between Machu Picchu and Cusco—for a major international airport that would receive direct flights. Machu Picchu sits in the 37-mile-long Sacred Valley, once the heart of the ancient Incan empire, and activists are worried that the airport (and increased tourism) would despoil the miles of paths, terraces, and other vulnerable sites in the valley. Opponents of the airport claim that the environmental ramifications would be huge, and that runoff from the construction would pollute the nearby Lake Piuray, which provides nearly half of Cusco’s water supply. Additionally, the low-flying planes and influx of tourists may damage the sensitive archeological campus. Peruvian art historian Natalia Majluf has started a petition in opposition to the airport, that at the time of writing, has 48,000 signatures. In it, Majluf cites the potential damage to the area’s canals, ritual lines, and agricultural heritage, which is a direct continuation of the Incan traditions and knowledge that originated in the valley. Majluf is appealing directly to Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra to at least reconsider the airport’s location, but according to The Guardian, the government seems committed to the project. “This airport will be built as soon as possible because it’s very necessary for the city of Cusco,” Finance Minister Carlos Oliva said last month. “There’s a series of technical studies which support this airport’s construction.”
Placeholder Alt Text

French Senate declares Notre Dame must be rebuilt as it was before, quashing competition

The French Senate has seemingly dealt a blow to French president Emmanuel Macron, approving a bill that requires the damaged Notre Dame Cathedral be rebuilt as it was before and from the same materials, wherever possible. On Monday night, according to French newspapers Le Monde and The Local, the Senate approved a Notre Dame reconstruction bill first passed by the lower house of the French parliament, the National Assembly, but precluded altering the cathedral. Senators added a clause stating the cathedral must be repaired to its “last known visual state” and use original materials, with exemptions allowed in extenuating circumstances for newer materials. The Senate agreed with the National Assembly that an oversight body headed by the Ministry of Culture would need to be created, but took out text from the lower house’s bill that would have, as per Macron’s request, allowed the reconstruction to sidestep environmental and preservation laws. Both houses of French parliament will now need to hash out the final text of the bill before it can move forward, but whatever they ultimately agree to will form the groundwork for the reconstruction process. If the Senate’s additions hold, it would be an explicit rebuke to Macron and Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. Two days after a fire ravaged Notre Dame on April 15, Macron pledged that the cathedral would be rebuilt by 2024, in time for the Summer Olympics in Paris, and that timetable may still hold. A competition to replace Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s downed timber spire from the mid-19th Century was also announced, and architects all over the world took the opportunity to imagine a Notre Dame topped in glass, parking lots, greenhouses, and more. Opposition to rebuilding the Parisian cathedral using modern materials and bypassing the existent preservation standards gathered steam, and over a thousand architects, historians, curators, and other interested parties have signed a petition calling on Macron not to rush the reconstruction.