News Highlights of the Week: June 2 – June 8, 2007

June 8, 2007

by James Murdock

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

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The Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards project scored a significant victory in court this week when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against developer Forest City Ratner, which is seeking the use of eminent domain to seize a dozen properties at the Brooklyn site where it plans to build the $4 billion mixed-use complex. “Plaintiffs have not set forth facts supporting a plausible claim of an unconstitutional taking,” wrote judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, according to a New York Times article on June 7. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they will appeal his decision.

Jean Prouvé’s Maison Tropicale, a prefabricated aluminum-and-steel Modernist house on stilts, sold for $4.97 million at the Christie’s International auction house in New York City. Built in 1951, Maison Tropicale spent much of its life in the Republic of Congo until three years ago when French dealer Eric Touchaleaume restored the house from its rusty and bullet-scarred condition. Buyer Andre Balazs, a hotelier, told Bloomberg on June 6 that the house “belongs back in the tropics,” although he has yet to pick a new location for the mobile residence. Maison Tropicale joins an exclusive handful of residences to be sold at auction as an art object. The others are a townhouse by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House.

The Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) is asking would-be members of its ruling council to reveal their political party affiliations. The move comes in response to the organization’s presidential election last year, during which it was revealed that a candidate belonged to the British National Party, a far-right group opposed to immigration. But the U.K.’s Guardian reported on June 4 that RIBA’s disclosure request is drawing criticism from members who liken it to McCarthyism. “What happens if there’s someone with terrible views who isn’t a member of a party?” wondered Colin Kerr.

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Glenn Murcutt, the Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect, finds himself in what his construction contractor describes as “a shitfight” with the developer of a $25 million eco-tourism hotel down under, The Australian wrote on June 2. Murcutt claims that in addition to being owed money for the Moonlight Head project, his designs have not been followed properly and that he has never been treated so “shabbily.” For his part, developer Mark Banning-Taylor complains that the architect failed to supervise construction and that some windows in the hotel can only be reached “if you’re a gorilla.” Murcutt is threatening to disassociate himself from the project, although Moonlight Head is already being praised by some as “quite a work of art”—and one of its completed lodges was rented to the tune of $2,500 a night.

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