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News Highlights of the Week: May 5 – May 11, 2007

May 11, 2007

by James Murdock

Editor’s note: You may read the news digest below or listen to it, plus other news headlines from ArchiecturalRecord.com, as a podcast by clicking this link.

Click the play button to begin | Click here to download

The newly restored Griffith Park Observatory isn’t the only architectural gem to dodge the bullet of this week’s wildfires in Los Angeles. Just outside the park are Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House as well as residences by Richard Neutra, R.M. Schindler, Gregory Ain, Craig Ellwood, and Raphael Soriano—what the Los Angeles Times described on May 11 as “one of the most important concentrations of residential architecture anywhere in the country.” Although the fire is now largely contained, culture critic Christopher Hawthorne points out that buildings face a long list of other potential dangers in a city where real life is often more violent than the movies.

The wait for Santiago Calatrava’s much anticipated bridge over the Grand Canal in Venice just stretched a little longer. Engineers decided to erect a mock-up of the structure this week to test whether or not it is too heavy for the canal’s banks to support, the U.K.’s Independent reported on May 9. The test will add $1.4 million to the project’s price tag, which had already more than doubled to $13.5 million. If all goes well, the real bridge could be in place by the end of summer.

Despite economic crises that have an “uncanny history of association” with such projects, the race to be the world’s tallest skyscraper is very much on throughout Asia and the Middle East, The New York Times wrote on May 8. In Shanghai, Japanese developer Minoru Mori had hoped to be tops with a 1,614-foot tower—until delays allowed the 1,671-foot-tall Taipei 101 to surpass it. But Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s Burj Dubai, reaching a staggering 2,300 feet, looks set to be tallest of them all.

“Self-described architecture junkie” Brad Pitt said that he’s “hoping” and even “crying” for a political leader to make a Kennedy-like pledge that solar power will be the standard within a decade, USA Today reported on May 10. He made these remarks in celebration of the groundbreaking this week on five sustainable houses in New Orleans (although the actor was filming in Prague at the time). The first of 18 planned for the city’s Ninth Ward, the houses will generate 100 percent of their electricity with photovoltaic cells. Pitt helped select their design by Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen, of Workshop/APD in New York City, according to project manager Global Green USA.

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