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News Highlights of the Week: July 12—July 18, 2008

July 18, 2008

By Jenna M. McKnight

In London, the Aquatic Centre designed by Zaha Hadid for the 2012 Olympics is making headlines. Apparently, the jury that selected the project (RECORD, February 2005) was concerned from the very beginning about construction costs and future use, yet still awarded the commission to Hadid, a Pritzker Prize winner, reports The Guardian. The jury—which was jointly chaired by architect Richard Rogers and Patrick Carter, former chairman of the English Sports Council—thought Hadid’s design faced “clear and technical organizational issues” and was not as well developed as five competing proposals, according to reports that the UK-based newspaper received via the Freedom of Information Act, The publication’s architecture critic, Jonathan Glancey, wrote a fiery blog in Hadid’s defense. “If only she had knuckled down and designed something as dull as the Olympic Stadium itself,” he says, “she would be off the hook, smelling not just of chlorine but of roses.” Glancey goes on to say the project is the “architectural saving grace of the bad-tempered, secretive and ill-mannered Olympics project.” He notes that Rogers himself faced similar criticism for a project he designed, the National Assembly for Wales (2006), which was over-budget mainly due to “political interference and ever-rising consultant fees.” Glancey writes, “The trouble is that when costs rise in such a spectacular fashion, and especially when buck-passing politicians and faceless quangoes are involved, it's easy to lay the blame at the door of the architect.”

Lincoln Center

Image courtesy Lincoln Center

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien are designing a new visitor facility for Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

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An underused space at Lincoln Center, in New York City, will soon get an au naturale facelift designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The architects are charged with transforming Harmony Atrium, a passageway between Broadway and Columbus Avenue, into a visitor center containing a café, public restrooms, a box office, and an information desk. The 7,000-square-foot project is described as a “theatrical garden” and calls for green-colored benches, stone floors, vertical tubes filled with water, and two walls covered in plants, reports The New York Times. It also features oculi to allow light into the space. Tsien says of the skylights, “They’re like very large celestial lanterns that will connect you to the outside and take you from one end to the other.” In addition, the firm is working with Pentagram and Show & Tell Productions to design a media wall for the visitor center. The $22 million project is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2009, in time for Lincoln Center’s 50th anniversary. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in association with Beyer Blinder Belle, are designing a 3,500-square-foot “urban grove” for a site across from the new visitor center.  

Construction has started on a new Islamic wing at the Louvre in Paris, the world’s most visited museum. On Wednesday, President Nicolas Sarkozy laid the first stone for the building, described by the architects as a “giant glass Muslim headscarf in the heart of Paris,” reports The Guardian newspaper. The 32,300-square-foot wing—designed by Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti—will contain exhibition space for Islamic art and is scheduled to open in 2010. France hopes it will “reconcile the secular republic with the world of Islamic heritage,” the paper says. The museum also is building a Jean Nouvel-designed branch in Abu Dhabi, slated to open in 2012 (the same year an airport expansion is scheduled to be finished, as RECORD reported this week).

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