News Highlights of the Week: April 26 – May 2, 2008

May 2, 2008

By Jenna M. McKnight

The two-year-old, Richard Meier-designed Ara Pacis museum in Rome may face the wrecking ball if the city’s new leader has his druthers. Gianni Alemanno, who this week became Rome’s first right-wing mayor since Mussolini, says the building is “to be scrapped,” although he didn’t indicate when, according to Reuters. The glass, marble and steel building—completed in 2006 in the historic city center—houses the 2,000-year-old Ara Pacis altar, which commemorates the pacification of France and Spain. The museum’s design has incited critics; a former culture minister declared the building “an indecent cesspit by a useless architect,” according to an article in the London-based The Times. Meier told The Times he would travel to Rome to confront Alemanno in person and was surprised by the mayor’s plans to demolish the museum. He added: “I am told it is the third most visited building in Rome after St. Peter’s and the Colosseum.”

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Renzo Piano will design an auxiliary site for The Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan’s vibrant Meatpacking District. On Wednesday the museum released plans for a new six-floor, 185,000-square-foot building on Gansevoort Street, near the High Line, a historic elevated railway that’s being developed into a park. The building will include indoor and outdoor exhibition space, an education center, a café, and a 175-seat theater. The New York Times says Piano’s design—which features a dramatic entrance that cantilevers over a public plaza—is “a striking departure from the ethereal glass creations that have made him a favorite of the art-world cognoscenti. Its bold chiseled form won’t appeal to those who prefer architecture to be unobtrusive.” Piano, a Pritzker Prize winner, is featured in RECORD’s May issue for receiving the Gold Medal in Architecture from the American Institute of Architects. 

The head of the General Services Administration, Lurita A. Doan, stepped down this week after a troubled two-year tenure. On Tuesday, the White House asked Doan to immediately resign after she was accused of “improperly mixing government business with politics and trying to steer government contracts to her friends,” according to an article in The New York Times. In one January 2007 incident, she allegedly made comments in regards to how her agency could help unseat Democratic members of Congress—a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from taking actions that could influence an election. Doan became the head of the GSA, which manages government-owned buildings, in May 2006. The agency’s deputy administrator, David L. Bibb, will serve as acting chief.

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