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News Highlights of the Week: July 21 – July 27, 2007

July 27, 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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Rem Koolhaas is designing a 984-foot-tall skyscraper that, if built, will be the tallest in Mexico City and Latin America. Although currently it’s “nothing more than an idea on paper,” Reuters reported on July 24, the Torre Bicentenario is timed to open in 2010 on the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s war of independence against Spain. Located in an active seismic zone, the $600 million tower will contain 85 floors of office space. “One Mexican newspaper cartoonist mimicked the building, tapered at the top and bottom, as being shaped like a coffin,” Reuters wrote.

Developer Zaya Younan appears to be suffering a touch of tower envy, but he knows just how to cure it: constructing the world’s tallest building at a site in Chicago, Los Angeles, or Houston. “The U.S. is the country with the largest economy in the world, and it’s shameful that we don’t have the tallest building,” Younan told the Chicago Sun-Times on July 26. “My mission in life is to bring that crown back to the U.S.” Younan, whose real estate firm is among the biggest landlords in Texas, has yet to identify a location or an architect for his proposed skyscraper. But in order to be the tallest by a safe margin, beating giants such as the newest record-holder, Burj Dubai, his tower would need to rise some 3,000 feet. “I want it to be the tallest for as long as I am alive,” Younan said.

It seems like everything wants to be big in Texas, and now the British city of Liverpool has its own Texas-sized aspirations: a $600 million soccer stadium with a capacity to seat up to 76,000 people, designed by Dallas-based HKS. The U.K.’s Independent wrote on July 26 that the building’s “asymmetrical, futuristic design” will feature an 18,000-seat Kop—a single tier of seats—as well as suites in “presidential-style underground bunkers.” Construction could begin within a few weeks, but the city’s soccer squad must first amend its original application for a 60,000-seat stadium that was scrapped in favor of this “bigger, bolder” scheme. “Liverpool as a city is on the move and deserves world-class developments like this,” the team’s chief executive told the paper.

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The original construction contractor for Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Boston Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is alleging that “various design deficiencies” and “ICA ordered changes” led to cost overruns and a three-month delay in the museum’s opening, according to a July 24 article in The Boston Globe. George B.H. Macomber Co., a Boston-based firm that was booted from the job before its completion and is now reportedly out of business, also alleges that the ICA failed to pay for “extra work” beyond the scope of the original contract. As a result, it is suing the ICA for $6.6 million. Although the ICA has yet to respond to these charges, architect Charles Renfro told the paper “the fact Macomber went out of business in the middle of the project suggests there’s more that’s lying on the contractor’s side than the architect’s side.”

After Boston courts have finished with them, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s papers might one day end up in a museum—but if a July 23 article in The New York Times is to be believed, there’s a good chance that these starchitects will only part with their effects for the right price. That’s how Frank Gehry feels, at least. “I don’t want to give it away—it’s an asset,” he said of his archive. “It’s the one thing in your life you build up, and you own it. And I’ve been spending a lot of rent to preserve it.” Apparently he’s not alone. Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, said “it used to be architects would be so grateful that there was someone interested in dedicating space to their work, and they would donate it. Now architects view their designs as a kind of profit center.” Profit center is a polite way of describing an archive—but in the case of Gehry’s massive lifetime haul, one financial adviser characterized it as “a beast.”

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