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News Highlights of the Week: October 6 – October 12, 2007

October 12, 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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U2 sang “take me higher” in its 1991 song “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” and now life is imitating art—a 591-foot-tall skyscraper designed by Foster & Partners was selected for the U2 Tower at Britain Quay in Dublin. The Foster plan beat out a proposal by Zaha Hadid, but both schemes were sought as alternatives to an original tower, designed by Burdon Craig Dunne Henry, that was to rise just 197 feet. The U2 Tower is part of an effort to remake the city’s docklands district, according to an October 12 article in The Irish Times. Foster’s tilted, triangular-shaped building mainly will mainly contain residences but at its apex it will sport an isolated pod: an “energy centre” containing the Irish rock band’s “eggshaped recording studio suspended beneath a battery of vertical wind turbines and a huge solar panel.” Construction could start next year and finish by 2011.

Zaha Hadid was passed up for the U2 Tower, but she remains busy as ever. Her office unveiled plans this week for a $2 billion development intended to revitalize the Zorrozaurre peninsula in Bilbao, Spain. This former industrial district is as-yet unaffected by the transformation that has swept the city since the Guggenheim opened a decade ago, the U.K.’s Observer reported on October 9. Hadid proposes radical surgery: severing the peninsula from the mainland and turning it into an island in the river Nervión. The 180-acre redevelopment would encompass 6,000 houses, two technology centers, and a park. Hadid first suggested her island-making scheme in 2003 but locals feared such a move would further isolate Zorrozaurre from the city. They gradually came around, though, when it was learned that the concept might help overcome the risk of flooding. Due to brownfield remediation, the earliest the city could begin construction is 2010 and the project may not finish until 2030.

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A project equally as long in coming is finally entering the home stretch—tomorrow, construction crews will begin moving ancient statues from the Acropolis, in Athens, Greece, into a new museum nearby designed by Bernard Tschumi. Efforts to build a new museum date back to the 1970s and this particular scheme has been in the works since 1997. But as The Washington Post wrote on October 7, the museum represents only the latest developed in Greece’s ongoing effort to persuade the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles to the Parthenon. Tschumi’s structure centers on a concrete core with the exact same dimensions as the Parthenon, elevated on columns over ancient ruins which visitors can view through a glass floor. Above, a series of stacked trapezoidal-shaped volumes culminate in a glass-walled gallery, aligned with the Parthenon and intended to display, for now, replicas of the plundered sculptures. Describing this building as “severe,” the Post wrote that “there is something serious, sad and even aggressive about Tschumi’s design, rhetorical qualities of a long-standing grievance.” It remains to be seen if the British will be moved by its completion in 2009.

How does the chairman of Carnegie Hall select an architect? Nepotism, nepotism, nepotism—at least that’s how it appears to many observers. Sanford I. Weill has tapped architect Natan Bibliowicz, his son-in-law, to design Carnegie’s $150 million expansion into two residential towers. Weill and other board members were apparently impressed by Bibliowicz’s presentation, compared to that of another contender, and by his work on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (which, like Carnegie, is a recipient of the Weill family’s philanthropic largess). While there’s nothing necessarily illegal about this choice, The New York Times wrote on October 11, the arrangement is stoking the anger of tenants in the residential towers. As RECORD reported in May, Carnegie has long been home to artists and other creative types. “We are now in court fighting for these tenants’ lives,” a lawyer for the tenants told the Times. “‘The Sandy Weill Carnegie Hall’ is evicting these tenants in their 70s and 80s, and his son-in-law is getting paid countless millions of dollars.” For its part, Carnegie Hall responds that this legal battle threatens to derail its plans to build new educational facilities that will serve 100,000 New Yorkers.

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