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News Highlights of the Week: February 23 – February 29, 2008

February 29, 2008

By Jenna M. McKnight

The Foster + Partner-designed Terminal 3 at Beijing Capital International Airport opened Friday, reported the Associated Press. Six airlines have started flying into the 14 million-square-foot terminal, with other airlines to follow in March. The glass-and-steel structure, touted as the world’s largest airport building, is the centerpiece of a massive development project for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8. The terminal was designed and constructed in four years and cost a reported $3.65 billion. “This new terminal is the largest and most advanced airport building in the world – a celebration of the thrill and poetry of flight,” Lord Norman Foster told Building magazine. The terminal features ample references to traditional Chinese culture, from its dragon-like form to its sloping muted-gold roof to the imperial red pillars flanking the entrance. The vast interior, depicted in a slide show on The Guardian’s Web site, will house 64 restaurants and 84 shops. The terminal is expected to significantly relieve congestion at the airport’s two other terminals and, by 2020, will accommodate an estimated 50 million passengers a year.

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, a Chicago practice co-founded by alums of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) in November 2006, has won a sizable commission to design a headquarters complex for a futuristic city in Abu Dhabi, reports the Chicago Tribune. The car-free Masdar City, as it’s called, will operate on alternative energy, and the building, designed by both Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, will generate more energy than it consumes. It’s an important commission for the young practice. While the 63-year-old Adrian Smith is highly regarded for his design work on Millennium Park, Trump Tower and Burj Dubai, during his tenure as a principal at SOM, his own 50-person office, which focuses on sustainable design, once struggled to bring in solid revenue. In a separate story, the Tribune reported that last year, Smith used $250,000 of his own money to cover payroll. But recent commissions—such as the Masdar City headquarters, condominiums, office towers, a theater in Cairo, and a restaurant in Dubai—are marking a turning point. “Architecture is an old person’s profession,” Smith told the Tribune. “Especially with the large-scale projects I do, it takes so long to see and learn from the fruits of one’s labor. You get better as you get older.”

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Development in downtown Los Angeles seems to be grinding to a halt, reports the Los Angeles Times. Some 110 residential projects are proposed for the area, and more than a third of them are delayed due to the plunging real estate market, escalating construction costs and an overall shaky economy. On-hold projects include the Frank Gehry-designed $3-billion Grand Avenue complex and the $1-billion Park Fifth condo towers, “which would be the tallest residential complex west of Chicago,” according to the article. “I have the feeling that this is not a good time to be building skyscrapers, in L.A. or anywhere,” Peter Slatin of the real estate Web site, TheSlatinReport.com, told The Architect’s Newspaper. According to the National Association of Realtors, U.S. condo sales were down by about 11 percent in 2007, while residential construction dropped by almost 17 percent.

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