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News Highlights of the Week: November 24 – November 30, 2007

November 30, 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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Herzog & de Meuron has unveiled its design for the Miami Art Museum and, as The Miami Herald wrote on November 30, this new $220 million waterfront structure “looks unlike any building in Miami—or any other place.” The paper added that the “dreamlike composition, inspired in part by the houses of Stiltsville in Biscayne Bay, resembles nothing so much as a giant sandwich, pincushioned by toothpicks, in which the meat and bread have come slightly apart.” Layers of long canopies, held up by slender poles, will shelter 32,000 square feet of galleries contained in a series of blocky volumes; vines will grow from floor to ceiling, penetrating the canopy through skylights. Peter Menendez, a former museum board member and an architect with Spillis Candela DMJM, which is consulting on the design of a new park adjacent to the museum, told the paper “This is the building that will break the jinx in this city in which great architects have come and not done their best work.” Construction is set to begin in 2008 and finish by 2011.

Renzo Piano is working on a skyscraper for Brooklyn that could rise as high as 1,000-feet, making it the borough’s tallest. The New York Daily News reported on November 28 that developer Bruce Ratner, who is building Frank Gehry’s massive Atlantic Yards project nearby, has been working with Piano on the project for at least a year. A spokesperson for the developer said that the office and residential tower’s final height has yet to be determined and that early renderings, which were leaked to the Internet, are “not a reflection of what we’re considering today.” But Ratner might face an uphill battle to build the skyscraper as tall as he’d like. At least one local politician, the paper wrote, opposes any new construction higher than Brooklyn’s current tallest, the 512-foot Williamsburg Savings Bank tower.

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Rival proposals by a constellation of starchitects and developers for the redevelopment of Manhattan’s West Side railyards were unveiled last week and, this week, met with critical displeasure. Each of the five schemes seeks to cap 26 acres, stretching from the Hudson River almost to Penn Station, with a mixture of offices, residences, shops, and cultural space. The teams are: the Related Companies, working with Kohn Pedersen Fox, Arquitectonica, and Robert A. M. Stern; the Durst Organization and Vornado Realty Trust, with FXFowle and Pelli Clarke Pelli; Tishman Speyer Properties and Helmut Jahn; Brookfield Properties, which has tapped a preliminary line-up of Diller Scofidio & Renfro and Kazuyo Sejima & Ryue Nishizawa; and Extell Development, teamed with Steven Holl. But as The New York Times’s Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote on November 24, their plans “are not just a disappointment for their lack of imagination, they are also a grim referendum on the state of large-scale planning in New York City.” He added that “none of the teams have fully explored the potentially rich relationship between the railyards and the development above them, an approach that could have added substance to the plans. Nor did any find a successful way to come to terms with the project’s gargantuan scale.” The New York Sun’s James Gardner, on November 27, similarly described the proposals as “dispiriting.” But he added that “the one thing we do know is that what is finally built will probably look nothing like what is planned today. ... Fortunately, we are in the rare position to be able to say one thing with absolute certainty: Whichever plan is finally realized — and it looks as though one of them will be — it will be indisputably and incalculably better than what we see there today.”

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