Posts tagged with "The Economy":
Touchstone Architecture/Columbia River CrossingEveryone seems to be talking about infrastructure and green jobs, which are expected to be a big part of any Federal stimulus package. One tension, however, is that a lot of infrastructure projects, especially highways, are anything but green. Here's one plan that attempts to reconcile this discrepancy, a wind turbine-equipped bridge planned for Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. The schemes, designed by Florida-based Touchstone Architecture, would integrate vertical turbines into the structure, powering lighting and toll stations. It's difficult to evaluate the project as energy generation capacity has yet been estimated. It's important to note, however, that this project is not pie-in-the-sky. The proposed Columbia River Crossing would integrate car, train, pedestrian, bicycle traffic, including Interstate-5 and a light rail line to Clark College in Vancouver, Washington.
Touchstone Architecture/Columbia River CrossingThe Crossing is be one of hundreds of projects vying for federal funds, but advocates hope the green bells and whistles will help it stand out from the crowd. (The Oregonian via Planetizen).
<bobs>/flickrAmid the anxiety, speculation, and real hardship caused by the ongoing economic downturn, the provocative thesis of this Washington Post article stands out, which, if correct, could hold a silver lining for architects. Reporter Elizabeth Razzi interviews housing historian Virginia McAlester about how previous periods of economic declines shaped consumer demand for housing. The answer is simple and somewhat obvious: the demand for small houses rises. Her predictions for this cycle are less so. While McAlester argues the downturn of Depression through World War II, and the resulting shortage of materials, led to the construction of smaller houses, specifically Levittown and its progeny, she argues that this cycle could lead to a different landscape. While she argues that McMansions, with their multiple gables and double height foyers, will fall out of fashion, they will not be replaced with rows of modest Cape Cods repeated in endless rows. She argues that some McMansions will be converted into multiple unit “manor houses.” New construction, she argues, will likely be more compact, attached and more closely located to shopping and other amenities. While a spokesman for the National Association of Homebuilders refutes some of McAlester’s predictions, he agrees that highly energy efficient houses will be increasingly in demand.
deatonstreet/flickrWhat could this mean for architects? While many architects design lavish, over-scaled homes, speculative builders, who rarely employ architects, dominate the McMansion segment of the market. Architects have for the past twenty years, been increasingly designing mixed-use buildings and districts, as well as compact, urban, and green projects. So it seems logical, then, that developers who are looking to salvage their unfinished subdivisions or respond to future demand may give enterprising architects a fresh look.
Jim Graham, senior director of public affairs, General Growth Properties, Thursday said: “South Street Seaport is among a group of properties for which General Growth is seeking partners, investors or buyers. We intend to continue working with the City of New York on a plan for the property’s development that they and the community will embrace.”In the end, the project's fate remains up in the air at the moment, like so much else in the development world. Which is all the more reason not to jump to any conclusions. As for the other two properties involved--Baltimore's Harbor Place and Boston's Faneuil Hall--the latter may have just become worth a little bit more, having been recently honored with the 25 Year Award by the AIA.
What we're seeing, as a result of the credit freeze, is a lot of projects, even a lot of good projects, being put on hold. Once the credit markets begin to unfreeze, though, a lot of this work will come back. You know, "Okay. We got our financing back in place, why don't you get back to work on this." It's very disconcerting because these sudden seizures can be very unexpected. It's hard to own and manage and know how to cope.Hence the layoffs, largely unforeseen, plaguing firms nationwide, a problem we've noted before. Though Baker was not speaking specifically to the Gehry/Atlantic Yards layoffs, he said he was seeing the same sort of "payroll activity" at many of the dozens of firms he surveys to put together the billings index. The upshot to all the bad news, Baker said, is that it is possible that, as credit becomes available again, a number of projects could come back online:
There are some projects that do make sense in this economy. Obviously, the list of ones that don't make sense has gotten longer and the list of projects that do make sense has gotten shorter. But there was a time when even those projects could not get financing. I expect that to change at some point, hopefully in the near future.And while financing could very well turn around for the project, as Baker speculates, the Observer is not so sure it will. Furthermore, the Daily News reports today that Gehry and Ratner may not be on the best of terms, as the architect has not been paid for what the paper reports are still unfinished Phase One designs. Still, the point is that, while the layoffs could be another possible death knell for Atlantic Yards, they could also simply be the economizing of one of many architects in dire straits at the moment. As for Gehry's office not returning phone calls--something the Daily News and others see as a sign that the project is faltering--don't read too much into that, either. The firm is notoriously press averse, even on the most laudatory pieces, almost never returning phone calls.
Architect Richard Meier, who lately has become known for designing costly Manhattan apartment buildings, seemed somewhat more disturbed by the news. “I don’t know how to deal with it or what it means. Certainly, it’s going to have a serious effect on my work here.”
When asked just how long our economic troubles might last, Mr. Meier said, “Hopefully, two or three more hours.” Then he tilted his head back and took a swig of Champagne.
Things must be so bad for Meier that word has even reached John Stewart. In a segment last night entitled "The Economy & You," which explores the impact of the crisis on "real people," the Daily Show host quipped that a hypothetical Dick Fuld (the former chief of Lehman Brothers) would probably ride out the financial crisis, though there might be "some cutbacks."
"Richard Meier's not going to be designing your eighth house," Stewart said. "You're probably going to have settle for Norman Foster." Someone had better pour poor Richard another glass of bubbly.
(The line comes around the 2:15 mark. Video via HuffPo.)