News Highlights of the Week: March 3 – March 9, 2007

March 9, 2007

Compiled by James Murdock

Last month’s partial collapse of the Rafael Viñoly-designed David L. Lawrence Convention Center, in Pittsburgh, led to the local Sports & Exhibition Authority facing tough questions at a city council meeting on Monday. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that investigators are questioning a decision made in 2005 to omit protective coverings at the expansion joints where the building’s floor beams meet its frame. Since February, workers have been retrofitting these coverings— according to the original blueprints— in preparation for the Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show that opens today. (See also RECORD's coverage.)

The fate of Paul Rudolph’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield office building will come under scrutiny by the Boston Landmarks Commission at a public hearing next week, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. Labeled “one of the most controversial structures in the U.S. in some time,” when it opened 37 years ago, the building occupies a site where a developer—with the support of Boston’s mayor—wants to build an 80-story tower, New England’s tallest, designed by Renzo Piano. Look for additional coverage on our site next week.

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A group of noted architects are voicing support for Rafael Viñoly’s “Walkie-Talkie,” a 39-story skyscraper planned for London’s financial district. Preservation groups are calling the cell-phone-shaped tower “London’s ugliest and most oppressive building,” the Financial Times reported on Thursday. Among the building’s supporters are Norman Foster, whose pickle-shaped Swiss Re Headquarters earned the sobriquet “Gherkin,” beginning a trend of nicknaming skyscrapers in London. Frank Gehry, Richard Rogers, and Eugene Kohn also submitted positive statements at a public hearing on Viñoly’s tower. But a new government ordinance that helps the preservation cause will soon block skyscraper construction near World Heritage sites including the Tower of London.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the proliferation of bollards and other defensive features meant to increase stand-off distances around buildings has led to a “21st-century medievalism,” Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote in last Sunday’s edition of The New York Times. Ouroussoff rued the new features of such diverse buildings as the planned Freedom Tower, in New York City, and the Caltrans Headquarters, completed in 2004, in Los Angeles, brought on by “a society ruled by fear.”

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