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News Highlights of the Week: September 15 – September 21, 2007

September 21, 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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Daniel Libeskind is designing an addition to New York City’s One Madison Avenue, also known as the old Met Life Building, that, at 900 feet, would make it the city’s tallest residential structure, according to a September 20 article in the Israeli publication Globes. The existing complex includes a 700-foot tower designed by Napoleon LeBrun & Sons; completed in 1909, t is modeled after the Campanile in Venice. Globes reported that Israeli developer Elad Properties hired Libeskind to add residential floors onto the landmark structure’s 17-story base, bringing it to 74 stories. New York magazine, also writing on September 20, was unable to confirm the project with either Elad or Libeksind, but noted that the big-name architect has recently hinted he is working on something at a “historic site, one of the iconic sites of New York City”—a project that another source called “One Madison.” If true, this would not be the first time that developers have had tall plans for the area. Met Life was the world’s tallest building between 1909 and 1913. And, according to a 1929 article in The New York Times—cited on Wikipedia, but RECORD verified it at the library—Harvey Wiley Corbett designed a 100-story tower for 11 Madison Avenue, just north of the Met Life building. Only the base was completed, however, before the Great Depression permanently sidelined this project.

The Swiss also have plans to add onto something tall—in this case, a mountain called the Klein Matterhorn. The peak currently reaches 12,739 feet; by comparison, the Matterhorn itself is 14,693 feet tall. According to a September 20 article in the U.K.’s Guardian, Swiss artist and architect Heinz Julen is designing a 384-foot-tall, steel-and-glass pyramid that would top the smaller mountain. Aimed at high-end tourists, no pun intended, it will include a restaurant and conference center whose indoor climate will need to be pressured like an airplane cabin. “It’s not like we’re developing an untouched mountain. Our aim is to make the mountain more attractive,” Julen said at a press conference this week, referring to the fact that the peak already boasts the world’s highest cable car. “Klein Matterhorn will become the summit of people’s dreams and allow the visitors to experience a spiritual dimension.”

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Flanked by a firmament of 14 starchitects including Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, and Zaha Hadid, French president Nicolas Sarkozy aired his high hopes for raising the cultural bar in France. Speaking at the reopening of the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, billed as the world’s largest architecture museum, Sarkozy said that he was fully committing himself to “give back the possibility of boldness to architecture,” The New York Times wrote on September 17. His plan includes making France’s major museums free to the public, and encouraging more cultural programming on television. Sarkozy added that the museum, which contains a large collection of plaster models of French churches and cathedrals, is “the place of our identity.” Although the Times noted that the institution has its critics, Jean Nouvel seemed to agree with Sarkozy, stating that “it was very important to unite—in one place—the history of the past with the one that’s unfolding today.”

New York state officials have decided to drop plans to develop two office skyscrapers on the current site of Madison Square Garden, according to a September 21 story in the New York Post, in favor of 4.5 million square feet of space to be “sprinkled” throughout the surrounding Midtown neighborhood. This revision apparently has the support of both the Related Companies and Vornado, which as RECORD reported in July are part of a team that could redevelop the area. “The state has been reviewing a proposal by a consortium of developers to create the Moynihan Station inside the Eighth Avenue side of the Farley Post Office, while moving the Garden into the Ninth Avenue side of the postal building,” the Post wrote.

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