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News Highlights of the Week: May 26 – June 1, 2007

June 1, 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.

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Renderings and plans of the U.S.’s new embassy in Baghdad appeared on the Internet in a surprising breach of security surrounding the sensitive project. The 10 images were posted on the Web site of the building’s architect, Berger Devine Yaeger, but have been removed at the request of the State Department. “In terms of commenting whether they’re accurate, obviously we wouldn’t be commenting on that because we don’t want people to know whether they’re accurate or not for security reasons,” an embassy spokesperson said in a June 1 article by the Associated Press. The $592 million complex is set to open in September.

The Royal Festival Hall reopens this weekend after a two-year, $200-million refurbishment—and judging by reviews, including a May 26 piece in the U.K.’s Telegraph, it’s a hit. Built in 1951, the concert hall was a potent symbol of London’s rebuilding after World War II; its Corbusier-inspired design by Leslie Martin and Peter Moro is widely considered one of the era’s best Modern buildings. The renovations, overseen by Allies and Morrison, upgraded the hall’s acoustics, relocated retail spaces, and restored Robin Day-designed furniture. “Don’t come here expecting (it) to have been transformed into some whizzy, hippity-hoppity ‘iconic’ architectural experience for the readily bored,” the Guardian wrote on May 30. “The building has been brought back to life in a way wholly recognizable.”

One wonders what future reviews will be like when it comes time to refurbish Daniel Libeskind’s addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, which opens tomorrow. Although the crystal-shaped building will likely provoke “shaking of heads, rolling of eyeballs, wringing of hands, the frothing, spluttering and snorting” now, the Toronto Star wrote on May 27, history is eventually kind to even the most despised new buildings. Canadians might also find hope in a May 27 Denver Post article about the Denver Art Museum. Although attendance fell short of projections after Libeskind’s addition opened there last fall, museum directors nationwide say the city has every right to be proud. Noting that 750,000 to 800,000 visitors was “a lot of people,” Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum, said “let’s stop crying over spilled milk.”

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Frank Gehry is also accustomed to eliciting strong reactions from his work—so much so that he has chosen to wear it on his sleeve, or rather, emblazoned across his chest. The starchitect proudly dons a T-shirt whose logo reads “F*ck Frank Gehry,” according to an article in the June 4th issue of The New Yorker. (The T-shirt, though, uses the F-word’s full spelling.) The garment made its way into Gehry’s wardrobe via the limo driver of a friend of its designer, Barnaby Harris. The former Broadway stage manager has been creating similar shirts, such as “F*ck Yoga,” since 2001. Of his reaction to the shirt, Gehry said: “I thought it must have been the people in Brooklyn who are sort of angry,” referring to the widely opposed Atlantic Yards development. “But then I thought, well, it must be loving, too. So I decided it was funny, and I put it on.”

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