News Highlights of the Week: August 11 – August 17, 2007

August 17, 2007

by James Murdock

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Three proposals for San Francisco’s Landmark Transbay Transit Center and Tower, unveiled last week, are drawing lots of public comments—so many, in fact, that the Transbay Joint Powers Authority’s Web site briefly crashed as a result of all the traffic, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on August 14. In addition to submitting comments online, some 1,000 people saw an exhibit of the proposals at City Hall—and more than 600 of these visitors submitted written comments afterward. As RECORD has reported, San Franciscans have until September 17 to give their input on plans for a massive transit hub, plaza, and skyscraper complex downtown designed by three architect-developer teams: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Forest City Enterprises with MacFarlane Partners; Skidmore Owings & Merrill and the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation; and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Hines. San Franciscans seem most excited that all projects have a strongly sustainable focus. Each team proposes capping their skyscraper with wind turbines—“and yes, they're bird-friendly turbines.” Some people, though,fear the tower may be too tall and is continuing the Manhattanization of San Fran’s skyline the Chronicle wrote on August 8.

NBBJ and Blitch Knevel have been tapped to design a $1.2 billion teaching hospital in New Orleans for Louisiana State University. The new facility will replace the aging Charity and University hospitals and, as The Times-Picayune reported on August 14, could help “stanch the ‘brain drain’ among medical residents and faculty who have been without a flagship hospital since Hurricane Katrina.” NBBJ partner Mackenie Skene told the paper that this rare opportunity to create a teaching hospital from scratch will produce the “academic medical center of the future.” The design process is expected to begin in September and last two years, after which point construction can begin.

Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and construction contractor Fluor Corp. are being sued by the Orange County Performing Arts Center, which alleges that the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, Calif., is “less attractive and less valuable than... expected” due to design and construction flaws, the Los Angeles Times reported on August 16. The project opened last year more than $30 million over budget. Despite its generally favorable reception, the newspaper wrote, the hall contains “obstructed sight lines, cramped quarters and a lack of legroom in certain seats.” Fluor contended that Pelli supplied “sketchy or delayed plans,” but the architect complained about “contractors’ inefficient building methods.” More litigation is expected.

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As work wraps up on his addition to the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michael Graves is throwing a few punches at critics and fellow starchitects. Although his 35,000-square-foot, classically inspired addition to Paul Cret’s 1927 Renaissance revival museum has been labeled “too cautious,” he told the Detroit Free Press on August 11 that restraint is often a necessary quality for buildings intended to display art. “These are precious works, and I’m not about to put them on a sloped wall or a ramp,” Graves said. “We’re never going to have that building that stands up and says, ‘Look at me, I’m the tallest, I’m the brightest, I’m the most silver, or this and that.’” His restrained building is due to open November 10, according to the museum’s Web site.

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