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News Highlights of the Week: July 28 – August 3, 2007

August 3, 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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There’s a chance that funding could made available for the construction, preservation, and rehabilitation of 1.5 million housing units for the poorest Americans. The 10-year program, which would be established through the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act of 2007, is open to households earning less than 30 percent of an area’s median income. The House Financial Services Committee approved this proposed legislation, Multi-Housing News wrote on August 2, allowing the full House of Representatives to begin debating it by summer’s end. While the bill has bipartisan support, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Marketwatch.com reports that President Bush objects to the program’s funding mechanism.

The National Park Service approved plans this week for a park and memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, dedicated to the passengers and crew who died in the crash of United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on July 29 that the project’s backers now expect to kick off a $30 million capital campaign in October and will break ground on the project in 2009, with a 2011 opening date. The memorial’s design, by the Los Angeles firm Paul Murdoch Architects, was chosen from more than 1,000 competition entries.

Zaha Hadid is heading Down Under to design Australia’s most expensive, and most sustainable, housing and office complex. The $1.3 billion project, slated for Melbourne’s Docklands district, will contain four towers—including a 50- to 60-story skyscraper—as well as civic spaces. Extensive use of recycled materials and efficient water systems could earn the project an “eight-to-12-star energy rating,” The Age wrote on August 2, which is an impressive total given that the rating system, akin to LEED, currently extends to only six stars. “Docklands could do with a much greater degree of architectural sophistication,” Royal Australian Institute of Architects Victorian president Philip Goad told the newspaper. “It needs to rise above the developer schlock we now have.”

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Known for nicknaming their buildings, Londoners could be close to choosing a sobriquet for Norman Foster and Jean Nouvel’s proposed office tower, which just won planning permission from the government, but none sound too positive. Initial plans for the starchitect duo’s massive glass and steel dome—which will be virtually the same height St. Paul’s Cathedral by Christopher Wren, located just yards away—were described as “crude and oppressive” by a preservation group, The Times wrote on July 29, prompting critics to label it the “cyborg cathedral” and “Darth Vader’s helmet.” For their part, Foster and Nouvel coined the gentler nickname “clouds,” a reference to the building’s rainwater recycling system and other sustainable design elements.

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