While the internet wrung its hands this week over the potential curses that could be unleashed by opening an ominous black sarcophagus in Alexandria, Egypt, an Egyptian-themed tragedy was occurring several thousand miles away just outside of Chicago. The Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth, Illinois, a six-story recreation of a pyramid (complete with a moat) caught fire and may need to be torn down. The house was originally built in 1977 by contractor Jim Onan and his wife Linda as a private residence ostensibly to channel the magical energies that pyramids attract, according to their website. Though the 17,000-square foot pyramid sits on a private “island” complete with a triple-pyramid garage and 55-foot-tall guard statue of Ramses II. Inside, the Onans decorated with copious amounts of gold trim and even installed a replica of King Tut’s tomb. The house was originally covered in 8,000 24-karat gold plates, costing an extra $1 million, but neighbors complained that the gilded structure was reflecting too much light. The building later opened to public tours and had become a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, a fire broke out on July 17 that, judging from the photos, appears to have burned away an entire face of the building. According to Gold Pyramid spokesperson Yolanda Fierro, the pyramid sustained heavy water damage during the firefighting effort. The owners have estimated the cost of damages may total up to $3 million, and the building might have to be taken down. According to Fierro, the current homeowners have pledged that if the building is razed, they will rebuild the pyramid bigger than before.
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Quick: What's the best pyramid in the world? If you're an architect with strong feelings on this topic, there is now a very specific corner of the internet where your voice will be heard. Facebook's Socially condensed fully-built enviromemes (SCFBE), one of the social media platform's many genre-specific meme pages, recently launched a competition to determine the world's best pyramid. Now in its second month, the Pyramid Showdown pits the typology's best of the best against each other, March Madness–style, in fourteen successive rounds. Informed by hyped-up but accurate descriptions of each pyramid, users advocate for their choice in the comments section, and the winner is posted a few days after voting begins. Readers can vote in the current matchup here. The inaugural round paired the Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid, a bluesy baroque sporting goods store in the former Memphis Grizzlies stadium, against the Borobudur Temple, an eighth- and ninth-century Buddhist site of worship in Java, Indonesia. The post, embedded below, garnered 37 comments and 758 reactions. (Full disclosure: I follow SCFBE, and I've liked posts in the Pyramid Showdown, but I have never voted in the competition.) The Showdown officially launched mid-December and voting is now open for Round 8, pictured above. Users are now debating which item in the all-fiction pairing—Blade Runner's Tyrell Corporation headquarters or Shimizu TRY 2004 Mega-City Pyramid—will proceed to the quarterfinals. A casual poll of The Architect's Newspaper (AN) editors reveals that, though there's no lack of prizes in the profession, there are few active online communities where architects and architecture aficionados can gather to intelligently evaluate the built environment (happy reacts only; many have tried but few are able to consistently crank out the dank building memes we crave). Here, the thrill of competition adds an extra-enticing layer to the discourse. To learn more about the Showdown, AN reached out to SCFBE's creators to discuss the inspiration for the competition and the state of the art of architecture memes. According to the page's co-creators, Mara Iskander and Abdalilah Qutub, the competition was inspired by the popular bracket meme format, as well as a general desire to see if one pyramid in particular would sweep the competition. (In the interest of integrity and impartiality, AN will not reveal which pyramid the creators hope will win.) But why pyramids, and not another typology? "Pyramids possess an ethereal quality that recedes into the unknown, but is immediately understandable," Iskander and Qutub said, over Facebook Messenger. "Many of the pyramids (like Golod’s, any of the temples or tombs) we chose are more than buildings, the form itself becoming a vassal for the desires and needs of a culture, and the way these forces are located within or beyond them. We also wanted to challenge the typical view of what a pyramid might be, beyond reality (the Tyrell Corp HQ for example) or even the platonic form. We’d considered other typologies (20th century architects, places of worship, constructivists, etc) but decided that this one had the greatest meme value for upset victories, and allowed us to choose a heterogeneous set of contestants." "There are hundreds of listicles ranking Pritzker Prize winners, [but] there is only ONE PYRAMID WINNER," they added. Of course, there are many more pyramids than the 16 featured in the showdown, but Iskander and Qutub tried to balance familiarity with surprise parings for maximum meme-ability. To formulate the brackets, the pair separately made a list of 16 structures, combined them, and narrowed down the list for the final iteration. That's why superstar pyramids like the Great Seal are paired with lesser-knowns like Via 57 West, BIG's tetrahedron Manhattan apartment building (the Great Seal owned BIG's building in Round 6). Iskander, who reads, writes, and administers Non-Philosophical Antinomemes, started SCFBE when she saw there were a few groups—but no meme page—specifically for architecture. Qutub, a former architecture student at CUArch who co-moderates Form and Function Memes for Architectural Teens, joined soon after. Though its content is irreverent, the group name hints at its sincere origins. "[SCFBE] was named after the constructivist idea of the ‘social condenser’ in reaction to uninformed takes on modern architecture in various Facebook groups. It was odd to see people uncritically embrace and trash buildings while obscuring the reasons why they would form those aesthetic judgements behind absurd, ahistorical arguments—like equating ornament to care for the poor, and any sort of modernism as counter to that, completely ignoring the genealogies of the various classical styles they’d promote," Iskander and Qutub said. Occasional contributors ("clout consultants") include Joe Janizek and Alston Boyd, the duo behind SCFBE's Jeanne Gang/Chief Keef mashup video. If you're reading this and feel ready to vote, the quarterfinals will begin as soon as the last bracket wraps in a few days. Iskander and Qutub said that other favorites like the Bosnian pyramid claims, Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Ramiel, and NERV headquarters may appear in a bonus round, so stay tuned.
China is no stranger to unashamedly ripping off landmark Western structures—the country has replicas of the Eiffel Tower and several renditions of the White House. However, this time they have copied one of their own architects, I. M. Pei, with a 1:1 duplicate of the Louvre in a Shijiazhuang theme park. The latest addition to the country's collection of replica Parisian architecture lies among overgrown shrubs and unkempt grass in an obscure amusement park in Hebei province. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it sits adjacent to an ancient Egyptian Sphynx. China has already created "Little Paris" in Yuhang, Hangzhou, Zhejiang (East China), which features more mock-Parisian style architecture replete with Tower de Eiffel (though not the real one, obviously). Is this latest piece of "mockitecture" a tipping point or a simply one of more to come?
Remember the Battery Park City wheatfield? Conceptual artist is back with a horticultural pyramid in Queens
[Editor's Note: Socrates Sculpture Park on the Queens waterfront installed The Living Pyramid, a public sculpture by Agnes Denes in May, when this article was originally published. They have just announced that they will extend the life of the sculpture through the end of October. The work is Denes’ first since her iconic Wheatfield – A Confrontation in 1982, sited on a waterfront landfill in what is now Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. Do not miss this chance to see this important artwork before it comes down next month.] Monuments of pre-civilization feats in construction and engineering, pyramids are the latest muse of conceptual artist Agnes Denes who, in 1982, transformed what is now Battery Park City into a two-acre wheatfield. Titled Wheatfield - A Confrontation and featuring the backdrop of a construction site and jostling Manhattan skyscrapers, it’s not difficult to surmise Denes’ intentions. Likewise, her latest project, Living Pyramid resonates with a rebellious call to the wild. Made from soil and thousands of seeds, the pyramid will be erected in late April at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens. On May 17, the public is invited to plant the seeds, which, by early June, will have bloomed into wildflowers and leafy plants. Living Pyramid itself will remain on view until August 30, when cooler weather begins to encroach once again. The sculptural exhibition is Denes’ first major exhibition in the city since Wheatfield, although her work has been displayed at New York City’s prime museums including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum. “What [pyramids] all convey is the human drama, our hopes and dreams against great odds,” Denes said in a press release. “Transformed into blossoms, the pyramid renews itself as evolution does to our species.” Long a fixture in Denes’ work, pyramids are also central to her exhibition In the Realm of Pyramids: The Visual Philosophy of Agnes Denes on view at the Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects from March 14–May 9.
Daniel Libeskind is the latest high-profile architect to unveil a pyramid-shaped skyscraper, this time in Jerusalem
Jerusalem's municipal committee has approved the construction of The Pyramid, a 26 story building by starchitect Daniel Libeskind that will become the city's second tallest building. Libeskind worked alongside Israeli architect Yigal Levi in designing the 344-foot-tall luxury high-rise that is set to break ground by 2019. The structure will be built above the ruins of Israel's century-old Eden Theater and across from the famed Mahane Yehuda Market, also known as The Shuk. The Pyramid's facade, with its half-stone, half-glass tessellated panel and embedded Star of David, is placed atop colossal colonnades that connect shops located around a public plaza. The tapering characteristic of the Pyramid gravitate towards the sharp, open tip that will serve as both a roof-top observatory and a restaurant. Besides retail, the project features 200 apartments and a boutique hotel. "The Pyramid mediates between ancient traditions and myths, while providing a 21st century reinterpretation of that great form,” Libeskind said in a statement on his website. "The design complements the context and gives the neighborhood a vibrant public space in the heart of the ancient city." The project was proposed by Libeskind and Levi back in 2011 with a different design. The original included a curved, wave-shaped tower with Jerusalem-style gates. "We want to bring to the city center the revolution that Mamilla spurred in its area," Levi told Hareetz in a 2011 article, referring to the luxurious mall on the Alrov Mamilla Avenue strip. "There are a lot of new projects in the city center, but they don't create a meeting place where people can linger and meet." Jerusalem is currently in the midst of a transformation into an even more bustling business and tourism region with at least eight other high-rise projects proposed since 2011, spurring some architects, politicians, and urban planners to caution that so much development could damage the city's known historic heritage. Pyramidal shapes have been growing in popularity for high-rise design in recent years, with Bjarke Ingels' under construction Via "courtscraper" under construction in Manhattan and Herzog & de Meuron's pyramid tower in Paris moving forward.
One of the most interesting buildings to ever rise in New York City is getting closer and closer to the finish line. We are of course talking about W57—Bjarke Ingels' pyramid, or rather, "courtscraper," on Manhattan's Far West Side. The rental building topped out at a peak of 450 feet last year, and now its curtain wall is steadily cloaking the building in a serrated wall of glass. The building was slated to open this year, but according to developer Durst's website, that has been pushed back to early 2016. Take a look at W57's progress below, courtesy of construction-watching blog Field Condition which recently stopped by the site.
About 10 years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, Florida started talking about tearing down one of its most well-known piece of architecture: a 1970s-era, inverted pyramid at the end of a city pier. The city would then replace that pier head with a more modern, but still architecturally significant, statement. So, a few years back, a design competition was launched, and it resulted in some of the most ambitious designs we’ve ever seen from a competition like this. The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) created a massive, spiraling loop, West 8 designed a sea urchin–shaped pavilion, and Michael Maltzan Architecture envisioned The Lens, a massive circuit of bridges and pathways that connect into an angled canopy—or lens—that faces back toward the city. Out of that short-list, Maltzan came out on top, but nothing ever materialized and the inverted pyramid is still standing. Long story short: voters overwhelmingly rejected the $50 million plan at the polls, a new mayor was elected, and then, this fall, a second, more public-facing, competition was launched. Now, eight designs from that competition have been unveiled. While the teams competing aren't as well-known as those in round one, their designs are no subtle gestures. Each team received a $30,000 stipend for its work, meaning the second competition has already racked up nearly a quarter million dollar bill. That's on top of the millions of dollars poured into the first competition that didn't really go anywhere. All of the new plans come with extraordinarily splashy renderings (literally, there are dolphins splashing around in one), and long, detailed plans. One proposal is even paired with a video set to Frank Sinatra’s "Somewhere Beyond The Sea." Following public input, the City Council will approve one of these plans next spring. A St. Petersburg official told AN that funding for the pier has already been allocated and would not have to go back before the voters. For this round, each team was asked to work within a construction budget of $33 million. And now onto the proposals for round two: Prospect Pier FR-EE with Civitas + Mesh From the architects: Prospect Pier celebrates our unique geography, culture and history as a subtropical, waterfront city. In a reinvented Pyramid that looks to the future, it builds upon the Pier’s assets – a strong form floating over the water. Our vision is a journey that begins downtown, passes through a vibrant park and becomes a magical stroll over water before ascending through active, public spaces culminating in breathtaking views of city, sea and sky, high over Tampa Bay. Destination St. Pete Pier St. Pete Design Group From the architects: The St. Pete Design Group's concept provides the perfect marriage of historic icon and modernized, functional pier; a pure, crystalline pyramid is surrounded by fun, contemporary elements and activities within multi-leveled layers of shade. Varied attractions that will keep residents and tourists coming back include a larger Spa Beach, multiple dining options, a children's zone and a spectacular waterfall. Come fish, play, relax and remember. Discover the New St. Pete Pier. The Pier Park Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers, ASD, Ken Smith From the architects: The ASD/Rogers Partners/KSLA design honors St. Petersburg Pier’s robust, eclectic history while transforming it into a 21st century public place. It is a hub for activity; not only at the pier head, but all along its length. Flexible programs engage tourists and community alike – from children to seniors, nature lovers to boaters, fishermen to fine diners. The Pier does not take you to a place – the Pier is the place. It is THE PIER PARK. ALMA Alfonso Architects From the architects: The Soul of the City. Cultural Icon. Just as the Eiffel Tower image alone can conjure up an entire cultural experience by merely representing a fragment of the City, the Pier transmutations over the years have served as the symbol and spirit of the place that is St. Petersburg. Our project will recapture the past, embrace the present, and look to the future ALMA: The Soul of St. Petersburg. Blue Pier W Architecture and Landscape Architecture From the architects: The vision for the St. Petersburg Blue Pier lagoon park is a grand civic gesture bringing the pier, bay and natural landscape closer to the city. Blue Pier acts as a unifying element uniting the Bay with the City along a new axis of recreational and economic activity. Starting new allows us to set a new sequence of events in motion to make the pier even more successful and relevant for the coming century. rePier Ross Barney Architects From the architects: repier is a vision of St. Petersburg as a catalyst for more environmentally-friendly, physically-engaging, and socially exciting urban living. repier adds opportunities to engage with the water, creates marine habitat, provides places to snack and sit in the shade, and builds a social space that also generates electricity. repier projects progress and hope and provides St. Petersburg with a place that is useful and loved. The Crescent ahha! - New Quarter From the architects: The crescent as a metaphor for the growth of our community. A gathering place for the people of St Pete; a place for learning and play. A place that is self sustaining. How does one have a pier experience without actually being on a pier? Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?" - Frank Scully Discover Bay Life VOA From the architects: “Discover Bay Life” respects the past and looks to the future by transforming the upland park and pier into a new destination for St. Petersburg. Just as life on the Bay continually transforms, so does life at “The Pier”. Three destinations - Bay Life Park, the Pier, and the Marine Discovery Center - become one unique destination for locals and visitors to discover and enjoy year around.
When we talk about the batch of luxury towers coming to 57th Street, we’re typically talking about very tall, very skinny, very glassy buildings. But not, of course, when it comes to W57—Bjarke Ingels' very pyramid-y addition to the street he calls a "court-scraper" for its combination of the European courtyard building with a New York skyscraper. Last time we checked in on Bjarke's pyramid—sorry, Durst would prefer we all call it a “tetrahedron”—it was only a few stories high. That was back in June, and since then, the sure-looks-like-a-pyramid has topped out at 450 feet and crews have begun installing its facade. Field Condition, a site that tracks construction projects around New York City, recently visited the tower and documented all that progress. When W57 is completed next year, it will contain 709 rental apartment (20 percent of which will be below market-rate) and 45,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The structure will also have a massive courtyard cut into its sloping side.
For many, work by American artist James Turrell is instantly recognizable. Using light and basic geometric forms as the material of his compositions, Turrell subtly alters space and perception for visitors, creating weight and depth through visual experience that evokes meditation and contemplation. Turrell's work is at its height when gazing skyward. Multiple iterations of his Skyspace series have appeared around the world framing a dramatic slice of the heavens in his pristine geometry. The work is, essentially, a skylight: an opening above a room or pavilion for viewing the sky above, but to reduce the work to its function would disregard the transformative power of a simple yet moving experience. In each installation, a confined aperture begins to decontextualize the sky, featuring the color and texture of what is seen as an element of the art. A few weeks ago, a new Turrell Skyspace was completed at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The work, entitled Twilight Epiphany, features Turrel's unique understanding of perception while building dramatically upon prior installations. A gently-sloped pyramidal mound carpeted in turf rises from the surrounding courtyard. A knife-edged white square floats above the hill, appearing as a horizontal plane without vertical dimension, into which a square aperture has been cut. From the top edge of the pyramid, LED lights wash the underside of the ceiling plane in color. To receive the full experience of the light compositions, visitors enter the structure from the two opposite sides, either decending down a ramp into an interior void or ascending staircases to sit in a ring around the outside rim of the pyramid. "If you take a photo of the sky in this skyspace, the color you see in the opening is not actually going to show up in your camera because in fact it is not there," Turrell said in a statement. "This is a gentle reminder that because we give the sky its color and then change the color of the sky, we create the reality in which we live." Besides the surreal light shows, Twilight Epiphany has been designed as an acoustics-conscious performance space. Twelve speakers are embedded in the pyramid's interior walls, offering musicians a chance to compose for the unique space, fitting since the pavilion is located alongside the Shepherd School of Music.