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Archive for February, 2008

general_motors_building.jpg$3 billion-one, $3 billion-two, and $3 billion- its is. A building to sell for $3 billion does sound insane but this insanity is nearing to become a reality. Larry Silverstein, developer of ground zero, has bid $3 billion for General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue, in the Manhattan District in New York.

Indeed, with its commanding view of Central Park and its Fifth Avenue address, the building is a trophy property and a symbol of New York corporate power since General Motors moved its boardroom and some 3,300 employees there 40 years ago. Since then, though, G.M.’s presence has shrunk to three floors from 26, and its contractual naming rights for the property expire in 2010.

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This week in news we find two of Frank Gehry’s projects declared obsolete- Winton Guest House in Minnesota, and Santa Monica Place mall in Santa Monica.

In early 2007, the University of California, Irvine, razed one of his buildings—a computer science center—to make way for a new engineering complex, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported at the time.Winton House

Mike and Penny Winton, the original clients of Winton Guest House, sold the guest house as well as their main residence, a 1954-vintage house by famous architect Philip Johnson, to Kirt Woodhouse, a real estate developer, in 2002. Woodhouse divided the 12-acre property into three separate lots, and was able to sell Johnson-designed residence but not one by Gehry’s . It stayed on the market for too long with no buyers.

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Building that moves. Building that generates energy. Building that is green. To some it may appear that I am describing some building from a science fiction. Well, architecture in four dimensions belongs to the real world. We are talking about Dubai’s Green Environmental Towers which has become popular as ‘the Dynamic Architecture Building’. CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A VIDEO.

Dynamic Architecture- general schemeArchitect David Fisher, Italian Architect and Town Planner, incorporated dynamics in his buildings first in Italy, followed by Dubai, London, Moscow, Paris,and Hong Kong. According to Fisher, time is the most powerful dimension of life. “Time”, says Fisher “is the dimension of relativity”. His new skyscraper, the tower in motion, is shaped by “life designed by time”.

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New York HotelsIs it fair for one architect to design 36 hotels in a prestigious urban district like Manhattan, especially when New York is home to some of the finest architects and designers of the world?

Architect Gene Kaufman is designing 36 hotels in Manhattan, including three that will share a single building on West 39th Street near Times Square, right, and three more on West 40th Street.

The developer of most of Mr. Kaufman’s projects is the McSam Hotel Group, which is based in Great Neck, N.Y. Its chief operating officer, Gary Wisinski, said Mr. Kaufman “has a wonderful and deep knowledge of Manhattan, and is well respected at the Buildings Department.”

Fred A. Bernstein of New York Times reports the architecture design trends diverting from aesthetics to economics in Manhattan.

What he brings to the table, he said, is the ability to maximize the number of hotel rooms on a given site. Recently, he said, a client showed him another architect’s plans for a hotel in Lower Manhattan; Mr. Kaufman was able to alter the plans to squeeze in 25 percent more rooms. In the current market, a mid-range Manhattan hotel room — typically 250 square feet — is worth $400,000 to $500,000 to the developer.

To hoteliers, Mr. Kaufman provides entree into the sui generis Manhattan market. But to architecture and to the city of New York, is he providing compromised aesthetics suppressed by self-centered motives of a few businessmen?

Read on: In Hotel Design, He’s Mr. Prolific

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Recession is the word nobody wishes to hear. But here it is. Economy has to go full cycle- it now has to heal itself after leaps of growth. Panic will spread. Will architects’ world feel the tremors of the recession that is going to brace the country in 2008?

Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT and ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING, advises to Resist the Urge to join the panic procession.

The profession’s learned a lot since the recession of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when giant firms laid off people by the hundreds. For one thing, large and small practices today are alive to the benefits of a diversified portfolio. The strategy is practically a business-world cliché at this point, but it seems to work. In the coming months, the going will get toughest for firms that haven’t diversified—particularly, given the subprime situation, those that specialize in single- and multifamily housing.

Layoffs may be inevitable. But it does not cost a fortune to keep talent happy and pumped up till it is boom time again.

Read on: Resist the Urge on ARCHITECTONLINE

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Dubai Superbridge 2008

Dubai is not only leading in the world’s skyscraper race, but will also now lead in Superbridge engineering. New York’s Fxfowle architects have got their designs approved for Dubai’s Superbridge. Due for construction in March 2008, 2000 cars will swift past each other in one hour on its 12 lanes once completed in 2012.

At 670 ft. tall, Dubai’s next super structure will stand higher than the George Washington Bridge (604 ft.) but fall short of San Francisco’s existing Golden Gate Bridge (746 ft.).

Read on: Dubai’s Mile-Long Super Arch Bridge

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Shekhawati Region Rajasthan IndiaHow big can you imagine an open air gallery to be? Well, here you are… 13, 785 sq. km [5130 sq. miles] of painted walls, havelis, palaces and forts in the vast expanse of the desert of Rajasthan in India. Town after town, street after street, home after home has been painted with frescoes depicting characters and stories from Indian mythology, history, vernacular culture and life, erotica, and even imaginary and hilarious depictions of science fiction!

This is the Shekhawati region of state of Rajasthan in India. Established and ruled by the Shekhawat rajputs for centuries till independence of India in 1947, it was the largest Nizamat of Jaipur State. With more than 120 villages, 50 forts and palaces, it was definitely the most happening place for architecture and art development. Few of these have been restored or remodeled to be reused as heritage hotels or museum or schools. Others have become obscure or peeled off.Rao Shekha

Why paint the walls of the towns? Neighboring Marwar region influenced the Shekhawati region a lot. The marwar community was rich, and prosperous. This was the ‘business class’! For over a century between 1830 and 1930, marwaris or the business community made Shekhawati their home, before they started migrating to other parts of India. Family names that are now associated with some of India’s big business houses, originated here. As the ultimate symbol of their opulence, the Marwaris commissioned artists to paint those buildings. Hundreds of these courtyard houses cropped up in the desert landscape, each of them covered inside out with colorful frescoes. This art was kept alive for almost 300 years. Eventually it started falling apart as more and more families from this community started settling elsewhere, and these houses were locked up to ruins.

Fresco from ShekhawatiHow? In Shekhawati, the fresco painter or the chiteras belonged to the social class of potters or kumhaars. The technique employed for the Shekhawati frescoes was elaborate, and comparable to the Italian frescoes of the 14th century. The colors were mixed in lime water or lime plaster and were then made to sink into the plaster physically through processes of beating, burnishing, and polishing. All the pigments used were prepared with natural and primarily household ingredients like kohl, lime, indigo, red stone powder, and saffron. Cow’s urine was dried up to get the bright yellow!Amusing Fresco from Shekhawati

There are instances where these frescoes were complimented with gach [mirror] work and intricately carved wood work. Some merchants and ministers even got the havelis painted in gold and silver. There are havelis which have frescoes which amuse everyone- showing King George and Queen Victoria of England in an Indian landscape! Some even illustrate modern machinery of the times such as airplanes, cars, telephones et al!


Read more:
Painted Walls of Shekhavati by Francis Wacziarg, Aman Nath
Photo credits in slide show: Pavan Gupta of Destination India.

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