In a new video report, Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail, Vice News investigated the risk of crude oil–carrying trains exploding as they crisscross North America. That isn't some hypothetical risk that could be realized down the road—it's already happening. Last summer, forty-seven people were killed when an oil-carrying train exploded in a small town in Quebec, and in the year since, four more trains have gone up in flames in the U.S. and Canada. With so many train lines carrying oil through the hearts of American cities, Vice highlights safety concerns for urban areas and rural alike. The problem may only get worse, the report suggests. “A continental oil boom and lack of pipeline infrastructure have forced unprecedented amounts of oil onto US and Canadian railroads,” Vice explained on its website. “With 43 times more oil being hauled along US rail lines in 2013 than in 2005, communities across North America are bracing for another catastrophe.” Vice also published a map to see if you live in a “'Bomb Train’ Blast Zone.” If you live in a city, chances are you do. You can watch Vice’s full report above.
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An abandoned, decaying Miami stadium that once hosted the likes of Gloria Estefan, Elvis Presley, and Richard Nixon may finally be coming back to life. Since AN visited the 6,566-seat Marine Stadium last year there is new momentum to revitalize the iconic venue. And just as graffiti symbolized the stadium's decline, street art could help secure its future. PBS reported that Friends of Miami Marine Stadium—the group advocating for the 60s-era venue—invited 20 street artists from around the world to cover the space in murals. Why exactly? Well, the organization is now selling prints of those murals to draw attention to the building and raise cash for its transformation. And it turns out that initiative is strongly supported by the stadium's original architect—Hilario Candela. The revenue from those pieces, though, will likely only represent a small piece of the $30 million that needs to be raised before January. Estefan recently helped chip away at that figure with a gift of $500,000. To get a sense of what the stadium could look like if that $30 million goal is met, check out these conceptual renderings below from architect and designer Arseni Varabyeu.
Nearly a month has passed now since the more than 800 people from all of the globe who attended this year's New Cities Summit in Dallas, Texas, packed up their bags, and returned home. Each is now equipped—if the Summit proved its purpose—with a slew of practical ideas on how to positively transform the urban environment, or at least a more robust list of contacts in the fields of government, business, and urban design. For those of you who missed it, the New Cities Foundation has just released an ebook recapitulating what was discussed in its many keynote speeches, workshops, and panel discussions. The foundation has also produced a four-minute highlights movie (embedded below), which captures some of the enthusiastic spirit of this international gathering of urban thinkers and doers, which is now in its third year. The Architect's Newspaper was a media partner for the Summit this year and I was on hand to moderate a panel on the subject of "Mobility and the Urban Form." The panel speakers included Mark Dixon, founder of Regus, a company that sets up remote worksites; Alex Krieger of NBBJ and Harvard Graduate School of Design; Harold Madi, Director of Urban Design in Toronto; and Lorenzo Reffreger, Head of Sales and Systems at Bombardier Transportation. The discussion was lively and each of the speakers was very eloquent about their particular areas of expertise. Together they offered a variety of perspectives on the transportation challenges that sprawling urban environments face as their populations grow and offered a number of possible solutions. Dixon, for example, raised the possibility that long commutes may be taken out of the picture altogether by the sort of remote workspaces his company builds. Madi said that in Toronto they have found a carrot and stick approach works best to encourage higher density development. Krieger pointed out that here in the U.S., in spite of what urbanism blogs tell us, the majority of urban residents are not fleeing suburbs in order to cram themselves in 400-square-foot apartments. He also said that the automobile isn't going anywhere. Reffreger said that Bombardier had in fact seen an increase in urban rail rolling stock sales in North America, and explained how the design of rail cars varies greatly from city to city and culture to culture. Each year as part of the Summit the New Cities Foundation hosts its AppMyCity! contest, which seeks out the world's best new urban app. This year the prize went to Peerby, an Amsterdam-based web platform and app that enables people to share and borrow things from their neighbors—a blender, a bicycle, a cup of sugar—in under 30 minutes. Users post what they want to borrow and neighbors get a push notification that they can respond to with a single click. Upon receiving the prize at the Winspear Opera House, Peerby CEO and founder Daan Weddepohl cheered and announced: "The world is ready for sharing!" This is just a taste of the sort of discussions and solutions that were shared at the Summit. To get more of an idea of the quality and scope of of the discourse check out the Summit highlight reel.
Today's facade designers cannot afford to ignore the question of sustainability, and in particular energy efficiency. James O'Callaghan (Eckersley O'Callaghan), William Logan (Israel Berger & Associates), and Will Laufs (LaufsED) sat down with our partners at Enclos during April's facades+ NYC conference to talk about the push and pull between aesthetics and environmental performance in building envelopes. Top AEC professionals will continue the conversation at facades+ Chicago on July 24–25. For more information or to register, visit the conference website. Early Bird registration ends June 29.
Metropolis II Los Angeles County Museum of Art 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California Ongoing Metropolis II is a kinetic sculpture by American artist Chris Burden, who is probably best known for his 1971 performance piece Shoot, in which an assistant wielding a .22 rifle shot him in the left arm. Part of LACMA’s permanent collection and on view multiple times per week, the sculpture is modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. In it, Burden used steel beams to construct an intricate system of 18 roadways—including one six-lane freeway—and several train tracks. When set in motion, miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour. Every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings. According to Burden, “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars produce in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st century city.”
The LEGO tower in Budapest, Hungary has broken the world record for "tallest structure built with interlocking plastic blocks." The tower was completed and registered with the Guinness Book of World Records on May 25th at a height of 114 feet. The previous record was 112.9 feet and was set through the combined efforts of students from the red clay consolidated school district in Delaware. According to the blog So Bad So Good, the new tower was erected by LEGO architects, who received some help from local primary school children. The tower was topped with a Rubik's cube: a Hungarian invention.
At this point, the record breaking sales of luxury apartments in Midtown are not really news. As the towers rise higher, so do the prices. This has been the trend for quite some time and it shows no signs of slowing down. With that said, did you hear about the one Downtown? Bloomberg reported that the nine-story penthouse at Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building is expected to be listed for $110 million. The top 30 floors of the tower are currently being converted into luxury apartments, but the penthouse is quite literally Woolworth's crown jewel—and it is priced as such. If the penthouse sells anywhere near its asking price, it will essentially double the current sales record for a downtown apartment. That record was set in January by a penthouse in the Walker Tower in Chelsea, which sold for $50.9 million. Obviously, the Woolworth penthouse is exceedingly expensive, but the space is about more than its nine-floors, 8,975-square-feet of living space, 584-square-foot terrace, and its views from some 50 stories up. The unit is about living inside the Woolworth’s iconic copper cupola. According to Bloomberg, "a great room and wine cellar make up the 53rd floor, and the 55th through 58th levels in the cupola include a library or media room and an observation deck at the top, the plan shows.” Despite the penthouse’s uniqueness, $110 million is still an undeniably ambitious price point for a building in Lower Manhattan—iconic or not. For those looking to spend a few million less, they can always pick up a unit a few levels down. CBS Sunday Morning recently got a look inside those under construction apartments (above video), and they don't look too bad either.
The recent 2014 Tribeca Film Festival screened a remarkable number of films on displacement. People were displaced from their homes—often forced but sometimes voluntary—for financial reasons, discrimination, landlord harassment (or irritation), and natural disasters. In the film Below Dreams, which takes place in New Orleans, a character says “Everybody needs a room.” Here are a few seekers. An arts colony of puppeteers, performers, acrobats, and magicians live in the Kathputli Colony in the Shadipur neighborhood of central New Delhi in a 50-year old shanty town built on government land. Tomorrow We Disappear follows Puran the Puppeteer, Rahman the Magician, and Maya the Acrobat as their way of life is threatened. The land they live on has been deeded to a developer who plant to build Raheja Phoenix, the city’s tallest skyscraper. What distinguishes this population is that they are working artists, not beggars. It’s a universal problem—think of the evicted residents of Carnegie Hall studios.The poignancy of their problem and the limited solutions offered are palpable. A true New York real estate and relationship story is Love is Strange (screenshot at top), where a long-time gay couple (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina) marry, promoting the firing of the main breadwinner by the Catholic school where he teaches music. Forced to sell their beloved apartment, which they bought when it went coop after decades of renting, they wind up with a mere $17,000 after the 25 percent flip tax, broker’s fee, and sales tax, so they wind up living separately, bunking in with friends and family, in very unhappy circumstances. They apply for subsidized housing, instructed to do so directly to developers for low-income apartments in mandated set-asides awarded by lottery (they qualify by making less than $20,000 between the two). By chance they score a rent-controlled $1,500/month apartment on Morton Street, but by then it’s too late for them. One Year Lease (winner Best Documentary Short) chronicles the short-lived stay of a gay couple in a Manhattan apartment they’ve lovingly fixed up. The building is owned by a persistent, unintentionally funny landlady who lives directly above, and who we only hear on the many voicemail messages she leaves. First friendly, if intrusive—she worries about their cat, wants their discards—she grows more irritated as they clearly ignore her requests/demands. They flee after one short year due to nudging. Filmmaker Casimir Nozkowski grew up at 70 Hester Street, a former Roumanian synagogue (Congregation Shaarey Shamoyim) cum illegal whisky still cum raincoat and plastic shower curtain factory that his artist parents, Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins, rented in 1967. The 1860-1880 (date uncertain) building was sold in 2012 forcing his parents to vacate. The two-storied apartment, with the railed upper balcony floor for Jewish women worshipers and the lower floor for men, round stained glass star window and skylights, is filled with art, and is a loving reminder of a rich, happy life lived here. At least the building is slated to become gallery and cafe space. Of Many is the story of a rabbi and an imam, both at NYU, who work together to catalyze multi-faith collaborations between their student worshipers. The safe space they find is rebuilding homes after natural disasters in New Orleans and Joplin, Missouri: disaster knocks down the house, and then it breaks downing barriers. The Gaza strip, however, proves more difficult. Also of interest is Beyond the Brick: A Lego Brickumentary. In addition to Bjarke Ingels talking about his Lego Towers (exhibited at Storefront) and his upcoming Lego Museum, we also meet Adam Reid Tucker, a self-proclaimed “failed architect” who is now the firm’s architectural artist. On his own steam, he crafted a architectural landmarks in Legos that was noticed by the firm which decided to create sets for sale called Lego Architecture. They now include the Willis Tower, John Hancock Center, Empire State Building, Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, Sydney Opera House and more. Other Lego projects that focus on the built environment are the MIT City Scene Project which is “visioning” Cambridge, Mass, and Zoom, an educational mapping program being used in Brazil and elsewhere. A few films make use of interesting architectural settings: In Order of Disappearance features a Modernist cast-concrete and stone house in Norway as the home of a mob boss (what is it with Modernism as a symbol of villainy?) with armchairs of molded women’s faces pointing outward and a room filled with white hand sculptures, which is contrasted with another mob boss’s headquarters in a prop rental house full of chandeliers, wooden bureaus, vitrines, and tables. A nearby unnamed city has new skyscrapers with different building tops, some stepped, some sloped, set against a snowy white backdrop. Incident Urbain features two men talking about the Dominique Perrault Building, the Biblioteque Nacional, as they wander through it. There is much discussion about the use of glass and the cinema Perrault was forced to build under protest, while the film intercuts between architectural models and the built buildings. Back home, Match begins with Patrick Stewart’s dance teacher giving instruction at Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s Juilliard rehearsal rooms at Lincoln Center. He goes home to Inwood with shots of an arched subway station entrance, a flight of pedestrian steps, and rooftops vistas of the George Washington Bridge.
The New York Public Library has canceled its controversial renovation plan by Foster + Partners, according to a report in the New York Times. The plan, which would have removed the historic book stacks and turned the non-lending research library into a circulating library, was widely opposed by scholars, writers, and architectural historians. In addition, the library planned to sell their Mid-Manhattan branch and their Science, Industry and Business Library. Now they plan to renovate the Mid-Manhattan branch and maintain the 42nd Street Library as a research library. “When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Tony Marx, the library’s president, told the Times. Foster-designed Central Library Plan would have turned the area housing the stacks into new reading room overlooking Bryant Park. While campaigning, Mayor Bill de Blasio opposed the library plan. According to the Times, the mayor recently met with NYPL's Marx to reiterate his opposition. The Huxtable Initiative (named for the late Ada Louise Huxtable), a group of architects, critics, and historians opposed the Central Library Plan, released the following statement:
It sounds too good to be true. But it goes to show that criticism can actually change things! Ada Louise Huxtable writing in the Wall Street Journal inspired us all—and particularly prompted the formation of the Huxtable Initiative (a group of architectural journalists, critics and historians) to protest the insertion of the Foster scheme in the grand Carrere and Hastings structure. Then architecture critic Michael Kimmelman put the problem on the front burner by writing about the weaknesses of the library's plans in the New York Times. Charles Warren, the architect, advanced the discussion by revealing the engineering distinctiveness of the stacks that were about to be destroyed. And then of course, there was The Committee to Save the New York Public Library, which just never gave up. When you don't have big money, you do need a lot of perseverance and people.
Despite having first dibs on the project, Rafael Viñoly is being forced to hedge his vision for London's Battersea Power Station redevelopment under pressure from fellow power players Norman Foster and Frank Gehry. Responsible for guiding "Phase III" of the project, the latter pair have rejected the two large structures Mr. Viñoly had initially envisioned lining a raised pedestrian thoroughfare in favor of five smaller structures in an attempt to "humanize the scale." Viñoly's now-sullied initial vision for Battersea. The masterplan for the overhaul will now be populated by, among others inclusions, five residential towers of American origin. Assuming the moniker Prospect Place, the quintuplet is ostensibly Gehry's debut in the British capital. The centerpiece of this grouping comes in the form of "the flower," a titanium-tinted tower that resembles a series of more angular versions of the architect's Viennese designs crammed against each other. The rippling facades of the four surrounding structures complete Gehry's bouquet. The cluster is pierced by the Electric Boulevard, a two-tiered walkway that stretches to the original power plant. The western border of the site is parsed out by the Skyline, a curvaceous apartment block by Foster + Partners. Capped by trees and gardens, the wavy structure seems to slither uneasily past Gehry's design before doubling back upon encountering the smoke stacks of the Battersea. Another aspect of the Viñoly vision that has since been jettisoned is a large reflecting pool that once lay east of the projected location of Prospect Place. In its stead Gehry is calling for a public park that will have a lecture hall and playground in its southern and northern poles respectively. Along with its grounds, the plant itself will be subject to a major facelift as well. Local firm Wilkinson Eyre is responsible for sterilizing the industrial ruin, recasting the building as a shopping, office, residential and events complex. Instead of black clouds, a glass elevator will emerge from one of the refurbished chimneys as its converted into an elevator cum observation deck. The Wilkinson Eyre undertaking is not the first drastic transformation of the plant in recent years. All in all the roughly $13 billion project is set to provide 1,300 new homes to London, of which a meager 8 percent have been set aside for affordable housing. The percentage has been labeled derisory among wholly-warranted fears that the new development will be little more than the city's latest magnet for foreign investment.
For the fourth year running, Robson Street in downtown Vancouver will play host to a public art project designed to enhance people's connection to one another and people's connection to the space. The brief for "Robson Redux "entails transforming a street that acts largely as a pedestrian thoroughfare into something more akin to a plaza or city square for the coming summer months. On today, April 15th, a jury will select one of the 79 entries to build and install in time for Canada Day (July 1st for those not in the know). Loose Affiliates' Picnurbia, 2011's winner VIVA Vancouver, a subsidiary of the City responsible for public art programming, is the host of the competition, which was inaugurated in 2011. Local design collective Loose Affiliates were responsible for that year's winning design; rolling orange turf-covered hills traversed by occasional flat walkways and umbrellas. Subsequent winners Pop-Ups and Pop Rocks and Corduroy Road were continued efforts to recast Robson as a site for gathering rather than circulation. 2012 Winner Pop-Ups and Pop Rocks While only a single design will be realized, two additional submissions will receive honorable mention while online voting will decide the recipient of the people's choice award. The winner will remain in place through the end of August. On April 3rd all of 2014's entries were displayed in a public exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Last year's winner, Corduroy Road
While Citi Bike is publicly bleeding money and senior staff, the program continues to be extremely popular on the streets of New York. The blue bikes have woven themselves into the city’s urban fabric like yellow cabs, or halal carts, or rats eating shwarma that fell off a halal cart. New data released by Citi Bike shows that the bikes aren't just being used by tourists pedaling from MoMA to the High Line—they are a viable transportation option for the city's commuters. Sarah Kaufman of NYU’s Rudin School of Transportation, Juan Francisco Saldarriaga from Columbia’s Spatial Information Design Lab, and designer Jeff Ferzoco took some of Citi Bike's data and translated it into a video to show general patterns of the program. The map represents about 75,000 rides taken over a two-day period in September. Their work, which shows purple dots zipping around Brooklyn and Manhattan, isn’t too surprising: ridership is up dramatically around rush hour and is most concentrated in the financial district and Midtown. Researchers at NYU also discovered that Citi Bike has become a viable transit alternative—especially when the MTA is experiencing delays. So, Citi Bike has become a valuable transit alternative. “For the month of September, there is evidence of ‘reactionary biking,’ in which subway riders encountering delays likely switched modes to bike share for that trip,” they explain. And as the map shows, most people using the system are yearly members. That's great for New Yorkers—a one year membership sets them back less than a month on the MTA—but it is killing Citi Bike's bottom line. The program needs to up the yearly membership fee or boost sales on daily passes if it wants to stay solvent and continue to expand. That's because, unlike other bike share programs, Citi Bike receives no public money; and New York City Mayor de Blasio says that’s not going to change. If only there was a bank—perhaps one whose name is plastered all over the bikes—that could just write another check. If only.