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News Highlights of the Week: October 20 – October 26, 2007

October 26, 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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Frank Gehry’s so-called “Ohr pods,” 40-foot-tall cylindrical structures whose warped metal forms resemble the eccentric pottery of the 19th century Mississippi artist George Ohr, have been fabricated and construction bids are set to go out by the end of the month, the Mississippi Sun Herald reported on October 21. The four pods will contain galleries at the Ohr O’Keefe Museum of Art, which is building a new campus for itself in Biloxi, Mississippi. Two of the pods had been partially installed as of August, 2005, but these unfinished sections were destroyed—along with other structures at the campus—during Hurricane Katrina. “The Ohr pods were particularly vulnerable because they were being erected and were standing individually rather than tied together as one composite structure,” Joey Crain, of Guild Hardy Architects, a local firm working with Gehry on the museum, told the paper. Installation of the new pods should be complete by December, at which time work on the rest of the new museum will proceed. Construction costs were estimated at $30 million before the storm; this could change after the new bids have been received.

More details are coming to light about the redevelopment of Penn Station in New York City. The $14 billion scheme includes remaking McKim Mead White’s 1913 Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue into both a rail terminal, dubbed Moynihan Station, and a new arena for Madison Square Garden, the New York Daily News reported on October 24. The existing Garden, across the street, will be razed and the current Penn Station, on Seventh Avenue, will be remodeled and connected via underground tunnels to the new Moynihan hub. Although the Empire State Development Corp.’s plan also calls for 7 million square feet of office space, it remains to be determined whether this will be located above Penn Station or spread throughout a 24-block redevelopment district surrounding the site. RECORD reported in July that a skyscraper taller than the Empire State Building was to be built at Penn Station, but it appears that this element might be dropped. Financing for the entire scheme has yet to be worked out, the Daily News wrote, but work on Moynihan Station could finish by 2011 and the upgrades to the existing Penn Station by 2018. “This is one of the most significant... civic and infrastructure projects of our generation,” Robert Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, told the paper.

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BMW, the German car-maker that once boasted it manufactured the “ultimate driving machine,” opened what one might term “the ultimate selling machine” near its headquarters in Munich this week—the BMW Welt, a showroom and vehicle delivery center designed by the avant garde Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. The U.K.’s Observer wrote on October 22 that the building “takes the form of a swirling, double-coned vortex of steel spinning out of the ground and apparently supporting the billowing 3,000-tonne steel roof, which is in fact held up by 11 slanting, tapering concrete columns.” Some 45,000 BMW car-buyers a year, among the 850,000 visitors expected annually, will enter the coned vortex to collect their new automobiles from one of 20 car-sized turntables. Likening the BMW Welt to a 21st century cathedral and location for a “benign brainwashing,” the Observer added: “Here, consumerism is raised to a kind of sacred ritual in a building that, in its own modern way, matches the ambition of the highly theatrical and technically brilliant baroque and rococo abbeys rising from the Bavarian landscape.”

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