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News Highlights of the Week: May 12 – May 18, 2007

May 18, 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

A 300-pound chunk of marble plunged 54 stories to the ground from Canada’s tallest building, First Canadian Place, during a windstorm on Tuesday; no one was hurt. Crews are investigating which components that secured the facade panels failed, the Globe and Mail reported on May 17. Some observers, though, contend that marble was a poor choice for cladding so tall a tower, the newspaper wrote in a separate article. Designed by Edward Durrell Stone and Bregman + Hamann Architects, the 978-foot-tall skyscraper opened in 1976.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Highfield House in Baltimore will be added to the National Register of Historic Places even though it’s not yet 50 years old. The Baltimore Sun reported on May 14 that the city’s preservation commission deemed the 43-year-old, 16-story condominium tower “‘an outstanding example’ of International Style architecture.” Commissioner Donald Kann added that landmarking so young a building “may be the start of something big in Baltimore.”

Foster & Partners and HOK Sport’s remake of Wembley Stadium in London is being hailed by some observers as “the greatest on earth”—despite construction delays, cost overruns, and a leaky roof section that drenched 50 spectators during a soccer match last week, the U.K.’s Independent wrote on May 15. The building just reopened after a seven-year rehab that, at $1.6 billion, makes it the most expensive stadium ever. It also boasts the world’s largest—albeit damp—covered seating area thanks to a single-span, arch-shaped roof that is 436 feet long and visible for 40 miles. An expected 90,000 fans are due there tomorrow for the FA Cup final.

Foster & Partners is also in the news this week as observers continue to review a sale announced last week that gives the private investment firm 3i a large ownership stake in the practice. Although both parties remain mum on details, the Financial Times wrote on May 12 that 3i bought roughly 40 percent of the company’s shares—and that Foster’s firm is worth $600 million, less than was originally thought but still quite impressive. Foster himself is pleased that the deal, which included management changes, allows him to “spend more time on design,” he told The Telegraph on May 13.

 

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And, finally, John Portman decided not to appeal the local zoning board’s unanimous decision denying him permission to construct an 80-foot-tall, 27,000-square-foot McMansion in the Sandy Springs suburb of Atlanta. The architect, known for his hotel atriums, allowed a 30-day appeals period to expire, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote on May 16. Neighbors had objected that his house was too big and violated height limits. The board agreed. “I do not think the applicant’s proved our city fathers intended to have homes built more than 40 feet,” its chairman told the paper at the time.

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