From Rafael Vinoly’s Jag-melting skyscraper and the Pritzker’s decision on Denise Scott Brown to Kanye West’s ambush on the design scene, here’s to the movers and shakers who made the most unforgettable headlines in 2013.
1 Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal Will Become a Hotel
In September, hotelier Andre Balazs announced his plans to transform the Saarinen-designed TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, into a hotel and bring it under his family of Standard hotels. The developer beat out Starwood and Trump for the seal of approval from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The 1962 structure, defined by its biomorphic shape and curvaceous concrete shell, is set to include a spa and fitness amenities, retail and hospitality space and a flight museum.
2 5468796 Architecture Wins the Prix de Rome
In July, the Winnipeg firm was awarded the $50,000 prize from the Canada Council for the Arts for its Table for 12: A Conversation in Architecture concept. This has enabled the firm (which co-curated Canada’s pavilion at the Venice architecture biennale in 2012) to research methods of fostering a city’s design culture. Their ongoing project involves selecting one person in each of seven cities (Mexico City, New York, Lisbon, Eindhoven, Copenhagen, Tokyo and Sydney) who will host a group of architects, artists, clients, journalists, politicians and others to discuss the cultural and economic benefits of government investment in architecture and design initiatives.
3 The Pritzker Prize Will Not Retroactively Award Denise Scott Brown
In March, two students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design petitioned the Pritzker Prize committee to retroactively recognize the role of Denise Scott Brown in her husband Robert Venturi’s 1991 honour. They appealed to Pritzker executive director Martha Thorne, calling for an official acknowledgement of Scott Brown’s 22-year contribution to the success of the Philadelphia firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. The petition was signed by Venturi himself, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Jacques Herzog, among others. In June, the current jury responded by saying it was not able to revisit the decision made by the 1991 jury; but another round of activism is demanding that the prize organization reconsider its rules.
4 Stefano Boeri Is Dismissed as Milan’s Councillor for Culture, Fashion, and Design
March also saw the dismissal of Stefano Boeri from his position on Milan’s city council. It has been reported that Boeri, the architect responsible for the city’s Bosco Verticale towers (shown) and the cantilevered beauty that is Villa Méditerranée in Marseille, and Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia butted heads over Boeri’s budget. The architect left a teaching position at the Politecnico di Milano and resigned as Abitare’s editor to take the post in 2011. Architects, designers and artists, including Bjarke Ingels, Marina Abramovic and Elizabeth Diller, penned a letter to the mayor requesting Boeri’s reinstatement. It has yet to come.
5 The Human Rights Campaign’s Red Logo in Support of Same-Sex Marriage
In March, the world watched as the U.S. Supreme Court deliberated over California’s ban on same-sex marriage and the constitutional legitimacy of the Defense of Marriage Act. Ultimately, and with good conscience, the judges dismissed the California law, lifting the ban, and deemed DOMA unconstitutional. At the same time, the Human Rights Campaign, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, shared a cleverly modified version of its blue and yellow equal sign logo, designed by Stone Yamashita in 1995. In red and pink, to symbolize love, the logo was shared by millions of equality supporters on Facebook and Twitter, with such celebrities as Beyonce and George Takei appropriating it as a profile picture. (Facebook saw a 120 per cent increase in profile photo updates with the logo).
6 Kanye West Is Really, Really Into Design
“I’m a minimalist in a rapper’s body,” the rap mogul told the New York Times in June. What’s more, he described how Le Corbusier’s sculptural Escargot lamp for Nemo Cassina inspired his most recent album, Yeezus. (So, it wasn’t all of the lights, just one.) In September, designer Peter Saville, the branding maestro behind New Order and Joy Division album art, announced he was creating a new visual identity for West. Last month, West surprised students at Harvard Graduate School of Design with a guest lecture (“I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be ‘architected,'” he said.) And at Design Miami last week he was on a three-person panel alongside Hans Ulrich Obrist, a co-director at the Serpentine Gallery, and architect Jacques Herzog.
7 Claudio Luti Announces His Ambitious Plan for Milan Design Week
Milan Design Week is equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming. Just ask anyone who’s tried to book a hotel for the April event or attempted to understand the Metro’s complicated ticketing system. So Claudio Luti, the president of the Milan furniture fair, announced plans in May to re-position the show with an overhaul of the brand, which will hopefully clarify its identity (is it Cosmit or Salone del Mobile?). Luti, who is also the owner and president of Italian furniture brand Kartell, intends to re-jig the navigation of the fair, and of Milan. He’s lobbying city council to add more subway trains to accommodate the over 300,000 visitors that descend on the city for the design extravaganza. Mercifully, he’s also tackling the exorbitantly inflated costs of hotel stays.
8 Four Firms Reimagine Penn Station and Madison Square Gardens
In May, on the heels of Madison Square Gardens’ site renewal application (which city council ended up extending for 10 years), New York’s Municipal Art Society asked SHoP Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture and SOM to reimagine the site, with concepts for a new Penn Station at the heart of the commission. Where DS+R moved the station and expanded it to include a spa and theatre, SOM added four glass towers for hospitality and culture and a swath of green space. New Yorkers remain divided on the possible re-location of MSG. The filmmaker Spike Lee, a Brooklyn native, alongside ex-Knicks team members Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier are among those who don’t want to see the venue move, while Barry Diller and Bette Midler are championing for a revitalized station. See the concept presentations here.
9 The City of Toronto and the Case of the Platner Chairs
In September, Toronto’s city council approved the $75,000 purchase of 30 replica Platner chairs for the councillors lounge. The lounge was already furnished with originals, designed by Warren Platner in the 1960s, but they required repair. The only bid to refurbish them quoted the astronomical price tag of $7,500 per chair. In an effort to keep costs down, the city requested quotes for replicas, and accepted a bid for $2,500 a chair – adding that costs could be recovered by selling the damaged originals. (We’re not sure where the bid came from, but Knoll sells licensed reproductions for about $5,300 a pop). Smelling a gravy train, Mayor Rob Ford took to the radio waves and announced the city employee who approved the $75,000 purchase had been dismissed.
10 Rafael Viñoly’s Jag-melting London Skyscraper
In September, the Uruguayan architect came under fire when reports surfaced that his 20 Fenchurch Street skyscraper (dubbed the Walkie Talkie for it’s tapered shape) was reflecting light so intense, it was melting parked cars. The 37-storey tower, slated for completion next year, allegedly warped a Jaguar’s panels, while a nearby cafe toasted a baguette and fried an egg on the sidewalk. Viñoly, who could never predict London temperatures would reach 72 degrees, told The Guardian the tower originally featured sun louvres on its south-facing facade, but a budget cut saw them removed from the plans. A screen has temporarily been installed.