clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Potential Gehry Effect on Toronto; MoMA's Past Battles

Welcome to Curbed's weekly roundup of architecture, real estate, and urban planning-related feature stories. Please be in touch if you have a story to recommend.

1. Toronto developer and theater producer David Mirvish partnered with Frank Gehry on a condo/retail/gallery complex to be built in the Canadian city. The wealthy businessman plus starchitect equals development model may be "the shape of things to come" in Canada, but, Simon Lewsen wonders in Hazlitt, what does starchitecture really have to offer the city?

The Gehry brand works because it's at once reductive and versatile. His signature insight—that you can treat glass and titanium like putty—enables endless creative possibilities, since he molds his materials into hundreds of marvelous shapes. Every Gehry building is unique, but the idea of Gehry—the notion that a city must have one, along with, say, a Trump tower and a W Hotel—is less so. To commission a Gehry is to demand that your city be measured against international standards. It's not an investment in regional culture. 2. In a March 15, 1976, story unearthed from the archives of New York Magazine, writer Thomas B. Hess elegantly skewers the real estate expansion plans of New York City's Museum of Modern Art. The discussion might sound familiar to followers of recent MoMA debates.

Faced with such dilemmas and contradictions, the museum's trustees took inventory of their hearts and minds and refound the "sleeping" asset of air rights worth, it's said, at least $7 million. The rights derive from the generous original plan that ordained a spacious sculpture garden, which, in turn, permits the extrapolation of a space with enough room for a 40-story tower. In the late 1960s, there was a suggestion to put up an office building. The plan was dropped as unprofitable. Now, stimulated by news of the success of Olympic Tower (the Onassis-backed condominium kitty-cornered from MoMA's site), the concept has been revamped for profitable, domestic posh. 3. London's 1988 Housing Act drastically altered the balance of power between tenants and landlords, giving landlords of any property built after January 15, 1989, the right to evict tenants without justification. Tenants' rights groups say that landlords' abuse of these rights has grown in the last few years, according to CityLab:

"It's hard to say how many [evictions] relate to 'revenge' possession proceedings," says Andrew Leakey, a real estate dispute litigator with Stephensons Solicitors, a London-based law firm. (Although their numbers are going up, evictions accounted for less than 10 percent of housing relocation in London between 2010 and 2012. See chart below). Even so, Leakey habitually warns his clients that they will "potentially end up with possession proceedings," if they "complain about disrepair." A widely cited calculation by Shelter, another tenant advocacy group, estimated that 213,000 Britons were unethically evicted between 2013 and 2014. 4. Entrepreneur and Zappos owner Tony Hsieh invested $350 million in downtown Las Vegas. But a few months ago, the Downtown Project laid off 10 percent of its employees, and that was only the latest drama in a complicated story. Colin Marshall investigates for the Guardian.

But downtown Las Vegas has long lacked anything like the residential population needed for the kind of density that can by itself ensure such collision and connection. And so, until such time as that density arrives, the Downtown Project has attempted to come up with a substitute: by incentivising the building of institutions that maximise something called "collisionable hours." A collisionable hour, to the best of my understanding, is an hour you spend in a downtown social space: having a cappuccino at its perpetually vinyl record-soundtracked coffee shop, for instance, or eating at one of its "restaurant concepts", tinkering with a project in its "co-working spaces", drinking in one of its ever-more-numerous bars, taking your pet to its members-only dog park, or playing oversized chess out behind Gold Spike. Do this for an hour a day, and you'll have put in 365 collisionable hours after a year, all of which would count towards the Downtown Project's stated goal of producing 100,000 such hours per acre, per year. 5. A new exhibit at the City College of New York, reviewed in Metropolis, advocates for the completion of Antoni Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia, his famously unfinished Barcelona work:

Ranalli has little patience for those hoping to see La Sagrada Família remain a shell, arguing that they both "go against Gaudí's own wishes" and represent an actively ahistorical view of architecture as a solitary auteur's pursuit. "The idea that we believe in some kind of sacred artistry about architecture—that a building is something that only one person works on—is absurd." He notes Bramante's dome on the Duomo in Florence, or Michelangelo's Laurentian Library interior as natural developments over time. He acknowledges that La Sagrada Família has and is changing, but stressed the continuity made possible with technology's aid and those plans remaining. · Recommended Reading archive [Curbed]