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Dr. Strangelove Finds Home In Cold War Relic
Burrowed 50 feet into a mountain near Washington, D.C., a once secret, nuclear-blast-proof bunker has been transformed into the Library of Congress’s new National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. The facility, seen here during construction, opened today (top). A team of designers and engineers from BAR Architects and SmithGroup added a three-story window all along the bunker’s main elevation to help infuse interior spaces with daylight (middle). Public spaces, including the building’s lobby, are located closest to the window wall (above). Openings cut into the former bunker’s concrete, blast-proof walls allow daylight to penetrate deeper into the building (right).
The nonprofit Packard Humanities Institute purchased the decommissioned bank bunker at Mount Pony in Culpeper, Va., for $5.6 million in 1998 and then funded its $155 million transformation, donating the facility to Congress last week—the largest gift ever made to the legislative branch. The 415,000-square-foot complex now provides space for preserving 6 million items from the library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. These items were previously scattered throughout seven locations nationwide.
BAR’s Earl Wilson says that one of the key design challenges was ensuring that librarians and conservationists have access to daylight. Although 80 percent of the structure is below grade, the designers located “people spaces” near a curving, three-story-tall window along the building’s rear elevation, opposite the main entry. Openings punched into the 16- to 18-inch-thick concrete, blast-proof interior walls help channel natural light into the inner rooms.
drinking ditch water
Niemeyer emerged, from obscurity and a lazy education, as one of the most original and talented of all Modern movement architects, with a highly informed and almost intuitive understanding of the possibilities of reinforced concrete construction. In his native Brazil, steel was far too rare and expensive for use in the majority of buildings, while concrete was not only cheap, but it could be stretched to unimagined limits while being poured and moulded by relatively unskilled labour. In concrete construction, Niemeyer could see a way of shaping an architecture that would not only be modern, but would also echo the Brazilian landscape he loved, and which he drew, increasingly, in the guise of curved female forms.
His chance to shine came in 1936 when Gustavo Capanema, the idealistic Brazilian minister for education, commissioned Lucio Costa to design the country's first Modern building, a headquarters for the health and education ministries in central Rio. Costa and Capanema decided to seek the advice of Le Corbusier, the greatest of all Modern architects. The famous Swiss-French visionary and architect flew to Rio. "In the Graf Zeppelin," says Niemeyer, referring to the magnificent 237-metre German airship that, between 1928 and 1937, made 143 impeccable transatlantic flights. "I went to meet him," he adds.
Le Corbusier descended from the air, "a mighty god visiting his pygmy worshippers," says Niemeyer. Or so it seemed. The result of Corbu's trip proved to be unexpected. He made two designs for Capanema's ministry: one idealistic, for an unobtainable site by the ocean, the other a low-rise building that somehow failed to capture the idea of the new Brazil and the new Brazilian. "We wanted to do something very special," says Niemeyer, "perhaps to show that we were something more than primitive Indians dancing colourfully for visiting Europeans and Northern Americans."
Working for nothing, and reliant on his family - his father was a graphic artist, his grandfather a Supreme Court judge - Niemeyer transformed the Corbusier scheme into the serene high-rise building that adorns central Rio today. A National Monument, it has since been renamed Capanema Palace. Le Corbusier had been deeply impressed by Niemeyer's burgeoning talent. Although rigid by Niemeyer's later standards, the palace abounds with curves inside; its exteriors are decorated with romantic wall tiles, depicting scallops and sea horses, and shaded by deep sun-louvres. Immensely photogenic and a superb fusion of art, engineering, landscaping and architecture, this confident new building was ecstatically received in 1943.
SIESTA KEY - Joe King could not restore his beloved Twitchell house to the way Sarasota School Architects designed it, nor could he keep the home in the same spot.
So he did the next best thing.
He documented that the historic house stood steps from Big Pass on Siesta Key. He photographed it inside and out, created detailed drawings of the building that is among the first in the Sarasota School of Architecture and the first by architectural great Paul Rudolph.
King and a work crew carefully took it apart, sorting through different crowbars for the ones that would not crack the cypress, salvaging Ocala block that had not cracked under 66 years of weathering.
Then he shipped what could be salvaged to Bradenton.
If you want to enjoy the unmistakable ambience of a real New York diner, head to Wyoming. The Moondance Diner, whose iconic, crescent-shaped sign has long beckoned hungry pedestrians on the western edge of SoHo, is heading to the small town of La Barge, Wyo.
venice beach container house project
Coke, adding to all those slogans, must now be the only soft drink in the world with its own shrine: a tabernacle for the faithful, constructed by its creator. I can’t compare the New World of Coca-Cola — as this 92,000-square-foot, $97 million museum calls itself — with the old (which opened in 1990 and closed in April, a month before this resurrection). But if you want to have a Coke and a smile, and you don’t mind being engulfed by an enormous commercial (at $15 for adults), this museum offers its own puzzles and pleasures.
It stands in Atlanta’s once-blighted downtown, on a 22-acre plot that the company purchased in the early 1990s. Coke donated nine of those acres for construction of the Georgia Aquarium, which opened next door in late 2005. Then, in October, the company announced it would donate 2.5 acres to the City of Atlanta for a civil- and human-rights museum. Nearby CNN offers tours of its headquarters. Media, liberty, fish and Coke. Maybe only fish spoils the composite image.
MARSEILLES, FRANCE — It was called "Unité d'Habitation," but this massive apartment block overlooking the lavender-strewn hills of Provence and the glinting Mediterranean does not prompt a unity of opinion, even sixty years after it first opened — least of all amongst its own inhabitants.
Upon the 1952 opening of this rough-textured concrete high rise slab — home to 1,600 residents — the never-shy Marseillaises dubbed it "La Maison du Fada" —Provençal dialect for "Crazy House," or even better, "Cuckoo Coop."
There were reasons for these sentiments, as Unité d'Habitation was bigger than any other single apartment block in France. In a tour-de-force of architectural ingenuity, Le Corbusier designed no less than 24 different unit types, accommodating everyone from single seniors to families with 8 children in a demonstration project that was duplicated in five other European cities, including Firminy to the north and Berlin.
With technical assistance from the Getty Conservation Institute and funded in part by a $2.5-million, five-year matching grant from the Getty Foundation, "SurveyL.A.: Los Angeles Historical Resources Survey Project" is an ambitious effort to identify, catalog and ultimately protect not just its physical "built history" but to provide a sharper portrait of Los Angeles and how it came to be.
Of course, L.A. has history — a distinct if not variegated one. But its "City of the Future" moniker has, over time, done more ill than good in bolstering a civic sense of self, leaving Los Angeles ambivalent about its connection to the past and its complex evolution. "There's been a growing sense that the city is going to change and with that a growing realization that there is importance in historic preservation," says Ken Bernstein, manager of the city's Office of Historic Preservation. "It's part of a natural maturing of the city — or coming of age of the city. And it's become important to catalog what makes Los Angeles Los Angeles."
He was the poet of the skyscraper, the coiner of the phrase "form follows function," the man his draftsman Frank Lloyd Wright called "beloved master." The late, great Chicago architect Louis Sullivan soared to the heights of his profession at the turn of the last century, but died penniless and without work. Last year, as Chicago celebrated the 150th anniversary of his birth, three of his buildings in the city were destroyed or severely damaged by fire.
So there is something profoundly satisfying, even healing, about the just-completed restoration and reinvention of the last building Sullivan designed before his death in 1924, the Krause Music Store, 4611 N. Lincoln Ave. It's a beloved little building with an over-the-top facade of pale green terra cotta -- and a dark past, its new owners believe, that has finally been exorcised with the help of some unorthodox rituals.
A few years after the building opened in 1922, its namesake owner killed himself in his second-floor apartment. For decades afterward, the architectural gem muddled through life as a funeral home. Bodies were embalmed in the basement, then hoisted up to the first floor chapel by a special casket elevator.
To follow the Tiger Stadium debate (or the drawn-out fights over the old Madison-Lenox Hotel in 2005 and the vanished Hudson's store in the '90s), one might think that preservation is an ugly and divisive process that pits building huggers against cold-hearted developers and city officials.
In reality, preservation is bankable, realistic, widely accepted -- and key to the revival of Detroit.
Preservation of older buildings accounts for almost all of the revival in Detroit's Midtown and a good deal of the downtown revival.
The trend toward downtown loft living? That's almost entirely focused on renovating older office buildings for modern residential use.
Nearly two years after Katrina, New Orleans is still floundering. Enter Edward J. Blakely, the veteran planner named as the city’s executive director of recovery management in January. It’s the job of a lifetime, but one fraught with political peril and hindered by entrenched ways of doing business that predate the disaster. Nevertheless, Blakely moved quickly after his appointment, unveiling a recovery plan two months later that concentrates on developing 17 economic clusters around the city.
The blunt 69-year-old seems uniquely qualified for this rather thankless job. Currently on a leave of absence from his position as chair of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Sydney to lead a 17-member team in New Orleans, Blakely guided recovery efforts in Oakland following the 1989 earthquake and later ran for mayor, narrowly losing to Jerry Brown. Recently, executive editor Martin C. Pedersen spoke to the native Californian about the future of the Big Easy, his role in shaping it, and the pitfalls of business as usual.
Inside a rock-solid Bronx warehouse, John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres walk quickly through a darkened maze of rooms crammed with file boxes, wooden crates and plastic-wrapped furniture that was last called modern 40 years ago. They stop at a partly hidden door, turn the key and push it open with an appropriately spooky creak.
The room is filled with bodies.
They are not dead. Nor are they alive — though they live in vivid memory. They are life-size sculptures of real people from a Bronx that is long gone.
Dr. Melfi: "What are you afraid's going to happen?"
Tony: "I don't know! But something. I don't know!"