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News Highlights of the Week: November 10 – November 16, 2007

November 16, 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.

Click the play button to begin | Click here to download

Jean Nouvel and the developer Hines have unveiled a 75-story skyscraper to be constructed next to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, according to a November 15 article in The New York Times. The building will contain a hotel, luxury apartments, and three levels of galleries for MoMA, which sold the narrow 17,000-square-foot lot to Hines for $125 million earlier this year. Nouvel pushed the tower’s structural members to its exterior, creating open floor plates totaling 40,000 square feet for MoMA on the lower levels. This will allow the museum to rethink and adjust its programming with the hindsight gained since its Yoshio Taniguchi addition opened in 2004. As Nouvel’s structure rises, its corners twist and slope away to satisfy setback requirements. “The irregular structural pattern is intended to bear the strains of the tower’s contortions. Mr. Nouvel echoes the pattern of crisscrossing beams on the building’s facade, giving the skin a taut, muscular look,” the Times wrote. “Mr. Nouvel sees the modern grid as confining and dogmatic. His tower’s contorted forms are a scream for freedom.” The paper did not say how much this screaming skyscraper will cost, or when it might begin construction.

The Guggenheim Museum, which is preparing to construct a Frank Gehry-designed building in Abu Dhabi, has yet to meet with officials from Human Rights Watch, which is concerned about what it says are unsafe and abusive labor conditions in the United Arab Emirates. Tens of thousands of construction workers there went on strike earlier this month, as RECORD reported, but they returned to work on Tuesday, according to a wire service article appearing November 14th on enr.com. That same day, Guggenheim officials inked a deal with Emirates officials on a 15-year operating agreement for a 400,000-square-foot museum as well as education programs to be offered in Emirates universities. But a Human Rights Watch spokesperson said that the Guggenheim “has failed to respond to numerous requests for meetings” to discuss “systemic” abuse at construction sites. For their part, museum officials said “they hadn’t seen the Human Rights Watch statement and could not immediately comment,” enr.com reported.

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Will Alsop, the whimsical British architect, revealed his design for a 30-story "vertical Eden project" that will be the centerpiece of a $7 billion urban regeneration scheme in South London. The U.K.’s Building magazine reported on November 14 that the redevelopment, which Alsop termed London’s “Third City,” will contain 20,000 houses as well as dozens of public squares and miniature parks. Alsop’s tower is patterned after the Grimshaw-designed Eden Project biome conservatory in Cornwall, southern England. It will contain an indoor rain forest intended to boost tourism. A Croydon councilman commented: “Even in their formative stages, Will Alsop’s concepts appear to have already captured enthusiasm among developers, investors, businesses and stakeholders.” The article added that Croydon authorities “want to make their town London’s third city after Westminster and the City of London.” The regeneration scheme also includes a 44-story residential tower and a sports arena, but no word yet on when all these proposed projects might begin construction.

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