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News Highlights of the Week: February 24 – March 2, 2007

As a service to our readers, is browsing the Web so that you don’t have to do it. Every Friday, beginning today, RECORD’s news editor, James Murdock, offers a summary of the week’s biggest and most interesting architectural news from sources around the world.

  • Bostonians are still handicapping results of the American Institute of Architects’ so-called “Top 150” buildings in the U.S., as gleaned from a poll of adults nationwide—the results of which was the first to bring you on February 7. Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell voiced a sentiment no doubt shared by many architects who read the poll results: “Americans are old-fashioned people when it comes to architecture (compared, say, to Western Europeans or East Asians), and this is an old-fashioned list.”
  • San Franciscans can’t decide whether they love or hate their city’s new federal building, designed by Morphosis with help from Smith Group. Last weekend, The San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design writer praised its green presence as both “humane” and “dazzling.” But just a few days later, the Chronicle reported that many locals are irritated that the tower’s construction is several months late—and millions of dollars over budget.
  • One wonders what residents of Jersey City, New Jersey, will think about starchitect Rem Koolhaas’s new addition to their own skyline: a 52-story “vertical city” of condos and art studios. It is his first large-scale residential building in the U.S., The Newark Star-Ledger reported on Thursday.
  • It was more than a generation ago that preservationists in New York City coined the term “Macklowed” to describe the preemptory tactics of real estate developer Harry Macklowe, who demolished historic buildings in the dead of night before officials could step in to prevent him. Macklowe was hardly unique in doing this—and, it would seem, his playbook has been widely circulated in the years since. On Thursday, the U.K.’s Guardian reported that demolition crews had razed a row of neo-classical, 19th century buildings in Moscow’s Red Square—which included Trotsky’s meeting rooms—to make way for a luxury hotel. This example of “rampant architectural vandalism,” which occurred “in the dead of night,” perhaps symbolizes the Kremlin’s torturous slide from Communism, to capitalism, to oligarchy.
  • In Scotland, housing developer Stewart Milne Group unveiled what it described as the United Kingdom’s first “carbon neutral” house, to be introduced for mass production in June. The design features wind turbines and solar chimneys that virtually eliminate the need for traditional energy sources, The Herald in Glasgow reported on Tuesday.
  • And finally, back in Boston, it’s a house itself that’s looking for a new home. The Barnard Capen House, constructed between 1638 and 1675, has been dismantled piece-by-piece and placed in storage, awaiting a new location. Developers wanted its site in the tony Milton suburb—which it had only occupied since 1909, having been moved once before—for a new residential project. The fifth oldest home in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported last weekend, is in a remarkable state of preservation. “Many of the original features that are usually lost are still intact," said architectural historian Anne Grady.

James Murdock