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News Highlights of the Week: July 7 – July 13, 2007

July 13, 2007

by James Murdock

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

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Rafael Viñoly’s “Walkie-Talkie,” a proposed 500-foot-tall skyscraper that the group English Heritage labeled London’s “ugliest and most oppressive” building, received the go ahead from government regulators this week, The Financial Times reported on July 11. A public inquiry was launched last winter in response to concerns that the cell-phone-shaped building might spoil views of the Tower of London and other landmarks. Construction could begin as early as 2008, The Telegraph wrote on July 11. The decision comes just one week after British regulators grudgingly approved another controversial skyscraper: Renzo Piano’s “Baby Shard,” a 242-foot-tall pyramidal tower in London’s Southwark district. Although Piano reduced the building’s height, one planning committee member objected to the revised scheme as “very disappointing” and “much more ugly,” according to the Web site London SE1.

The Brits are fond of nicknaming their skyscrapers and sobriquets now seem in the offing for an entirely different building type. A team led Hopkins Architects bested Thomas Heatherwick, Dominique Perrault, David Chipperfield, and others in the competition to design London’s Velopark—the last major 2012 Olympic Games venue, according to the U.K.’s Building magazine. The floating roof of the 6,000-seat velodrome resembles “a huge wave or a giant Pringle,” writes 24dash.com. Anyone else sense a corporate sponsorship opportunity?

Speaking of David Chipperfield, the people of St. Louis have some advice for the British architect as he designs a 72,000-square-foot addition to the St. Louis Art Museum: “Be bold.” At least, that’s the message that museum director Brent Benjamin has heard during four public listening sessions held in the last two years, according to a July 8 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There’s a funny dance,” Benjamin told the paper. “The building has to have a character of its own but also be in sympathy with the (original) Cass Gilbert (structure). That’s why we hired David Chipperfield. He is a modernist, but he will be respectful of the order, the proportions of the classic beaux-arts building.” Chipperfield’s design could be unveiled by the end of the year.

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If you’re designing in Japan, better stay on top of your game. That country’s high court ruled last week that architects and builders may be held liable for compensation if homeowners discover flaws—even defects, such as cracks and water leaks, that are “not so serious as to undermine the building’s foundation and structure,” according to a July 7 article in Tokyo’s Daily Yomiuri. The case focused on whether homeowners may seek compensation from architects and builders or those who sign contracts with them.

“Chicago has always been a leader in world architecture, and now it is positioning itself to become in time the soccer capital of the United States,” Santiago Calatrava told Medill Reports Chicago on July 11. He was speaking at the unveiling of a bronze sculpture he designed that will be given to the winner of The Chicago Trophy, an international soccer tournament held in that city later this month. Calatrava unveiled the trophy on behalf of its lead sponsor, Shelbourne Development, which incidentally is building Calatrava’s 2,000-foot-tall Chicago Spire condo tower.

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