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News Highlights of the Week: July 26 – August 1, 2008

August 1, 2008

By Jenna M. McKnight and Alanna Malone

Zaha Hadid has teamed up with a Brazilian footwear company, Melissa, to design a limited-edition shoe. The plastic shoe with a wedge-like heel “takes on features of one of Hadid’s grand-scale designs, with cut-out holes for the toes and diagonally sloping straps,” describes The Times, a UK-based newspaper. The shoe will be launched in September at London Fashion Week, and will be sold at the city’s Dover Street Market. The cost: 200 pounds, or about $400. Hadid is quoted as saying that despite having 30 years of design experience, “this was a very challenging project, not only in design but on the technical side.” The Guardian newspaper published a tongue-in-cheek review of the shoe, saying its embodies the problem of choosing “style over any thought for practicality.” It’s not the first time the South American shoe company has teamed up with a famous designer: Karim Rashid and the Campana Brothers have both designed shoes for Melissa.

In mid-July, Frank Gehry pulled out of his first major venture in England: King Alfred Development, a seafront mixed-use project in Brighton that has been mired in controversy since it was unveiled. Now, the developer, Karis, says the Canadian-born architect is considering getting back on board, according to The Architects’ Journal. Karis managing director Josh Arghiros told the UK-based publication that he thinks Gehry would consider returning for the chance to “tweak it the way he would want it to be.” His statement came a day after Dutch Bank INC, the project’s main investor, pulled its support—an announcement that prompted World Architecture News to declare that the “King Alfred Project is dead.” The half-billion-dollar project has encountered fierce resistance from the get-go, much like Gehry’s Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn (RECORD, May 2008). It remains to be seen whether Karis will be able to secure the necessary funding before the King Alfred Development becomes a lost cause.

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Modern libraries built in the 1970s and ’80s aren’t getting much love these days. In Atlanta, some city leaders want to build a new Central Library to replace a Marcel Breuer-designed Brutalist facility that opened in 1980, the year before the famed architect died, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The Atlanta library was really Breuer’s last work,” says Susan Piedmont-Palladino, a National Building Museum curator. “In preservation circles, that gives it a special kind of significance.” The proposed new library is the centerpiece of a $275 million bond that residents will vote on in November. John Szabo, the library system director, told the paper that while the Breuer library is worthy of preservation, “the building and spaces inside have never been entirely embraced by Atlanta and Fulton County residents." This debate comes on the heels of a proposal to replace another Atlanta library: Buckhead Library, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam (MSME) Architects, as RECORD recently reported. While the county commission has, so far, rejected a developer’s bid to purchase—and likely demolish—the building, its future is still uncertain. And in Suffield, Connecticut, the Kent Memorial Library (1972), designed by Warren Platner, recently avoided the wrecking ball. On July 22, residents voted 2,556 to 1,525 to keep the building, rather than replace it with a new facility, reports Preservation Magazine. “Some people absolutely love it; some people absolutely hate it,” says Bill Moncrief, chairman of the Suffield Historic District. “Almost no one has no opinion of it.” The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation still intends to keep the building on its list of most endangered historic structures.

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