News Highlights of the Week: March 31 – April 6, 2007

April 6, 2007

Compiled by James Murdock

AA investor watchdog group is questioning Norman Foster’s recent buyback of shares in an employee trust, which occurred prior to the proposed sale of his practice to private investors. The U.K.’s Telegraph reported on April 1 that the deal could net Foster “hundreds of millions of pounds.” But the Employee Share Ownership Centre wants to investigate how the trust was valued, and whether or not all of Foster’s employees knew of its existence. The Telegraph reports that Foster’s practice is estimated to be worth as much as $1 billion.

The Boston Globe came out swinging in favor of developer Steve Belkin’s proposal to demolish Paul Rudolph’s noted Blue Cross/Blue Shield Building and construct an 80-story skyscraper in its place. In an April 1 editorial, it argued that newer, mediocre skyscrapers have undermined the 1960-vintage building’s place within the streetscape—and that Belkin’s tower, designed by Renzo Piano, “seems like a good deal.” But in an exclusive, RECORD reports today that Piano was willing to save part of the Rudolph building—which contributed to his split from Belkin last month.

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Jean Nouvel bested 97 competitors to win the commission for a new orchestra hall in Paris, the Associated Press reported on April 5. Called the Philharmonie de Paris, the 2,400-seat hall will occupy a site in the Parc de la Villette and be home to the Orchestre de Paris. It is scheduled to open in 2012.

Londoners have a partial chance to redeem an architectural crime as serious as the
demolition of New York City’s Penn Station. The developer British Land signed a $2 billion deal to redevelop Euston Station, the Guardian reported on April 6. This “unloved” architectural “eyesore” designed by in-house British Rail architects was erected after the original, 1837 structure by Philip Hardwick was demolished in 1962. Many observers will be disappointed to learn, however, that that building’s the most beloved feature—its entry archway—will not be recreated.

Lastly, another item for the hell-freezes-over department. In Los Angeles, a nascent preservation movement could be stirring to save the acres of Mediterranean-style tract houses built during the 1980s and 1990s in Orange County. A Los Angeles Times op-ed piece argued on April 4 that these “unsexy,” uniform dwellings “served Southern California well” by freeing suburbanites to pursue other symbols of “personhood, prowess, and worth”—like the Nissan 280ZX sports coupe. But before you laugh, note that this idea has global traction. RECORD reported in a news digest last month that British preservationists are pushing for similar measures.

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