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architecture

10 Years after the Olympic Games

There are ruins everywhere in Athens all left over from a rather unsuccessful 2004 Olympic Games.

Olympic Games in Athens

Tunnels of Moose Jaw

The Park Hotel in Moose Jaw

I woke up early for the gold medal hockey game.  I tried to wake up Wendy and then Mark but was essentially told to go away.

One the slugabed’s awoke, we decided to take a road trip.  I told them that we were going to Waskesiu and then took Highway 11 south towards Chamberlain and then Moose Jaw.

A washroom break was needed at Chamberlain where we stopped at Bennett’s Garage.  That didn’t go so well as the bathrooms weren’t clean and the Twizzlers were stale.  It stopped the complaining and we were off to Moose Jaw.

We got to Moose Jaw just in time for a Tunnels of Moose Jaw tour.  We took the Chicago Connections tour which had our group as bootleggers out to run Al Capone’s booze down to Chicago.  The first stop was above the Java Express Cafe where were taken into a private club with a table reserved for Al Capone.  As we were about to be bothered by the corrupt Chief of Police, we were taken into Al Capone’s office and then his bedroom.  Things were okay until there was an Al Capone sighting and then we were brought into the tunnels underneath Moose Jaw where we met, Gus, one of Capone’s henchmen.

He showed us his gun collection, told us stories of gangsters, Moose Jaw, and Capone, showed up the stills, and finally led us on an escape from the RCMP who had shown up at the club with warrants.  Along the way he harassed Mark, Wendy, and several other guests, while keeping the tour fun and moving along.

Mark loved the tour as he was identified as having potential within the Capone crime family.  Oliver was a little young and was scared during part of it but in the end enjoyed it as well.

It took about 40 minutes and was worth the $40 it cost us as a family to take it.

Moose Jaw has a lot happening for it tourism wide.  There is the Temple Gardens Mineral Spa, Casino Moose Jaw, the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, Crescent Park, and a popular Western Development Museum.  Not only that but Main Street in Moose Jaw has come alive with places like Brown’s Social House.  In addition to all of these things, it has some of Saskatchewan’s best architecture.

It’s worth a visit.

No Way Up

Luxury Spanish high-rise forgot to install an elevator

No Elevator

The Intempo skyscraper in Benidorm, Spain—standing proud in this image—was designed to be a striking symbol of hope and prosperity, to signal to the rest of the world that the city was escaping the financial crisis. Sadly, the builders forgot to include a working elevator.

In fairness, the entire construction process has been plagued with problems, reports Ecnonomia. Initially funded by a bank called Caixa Galicia, the finances were recently taken over by Sareb – Spain’s so-called “bad bank” – when the mortgage was massively written down.

In part, that was a function of the greed surrounding the project. Initially designed to be a mere 20 storeys tall, the developers got over-excited and pushed the height way up: now it boasts 47 storeys, and will include 269 homes.

But that push for more accommodation came at a cost. The original design obviously included specifications for an elevator big enough for a 20-storey building. In the process of scaling things up, however, nobody thought to redesign the elevator system—and, naturally, a 47-storey building requires more space for its lifts and motor equipment. Sadly, that space doesn’t exist.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the architects working on the project have resigned, and it remains unclear exactly how the developers will solve the problem. Can we recommend the stairs?

Riversdale Condo

Riversdale Condo for Sale

The changing face of Riversdale architecture

Future Home of Saskatoon’s School of Architecture

School of Architecture

Back entrance of the K.W. Nasser Centre

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The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Commerce, known as the Edwards School of Business, opened this downtown campus in the fall of 2009. The K.W. Nasser Centre hosts programs such as the Master of Business Administration, Aboriginal Business Administration Certificate Program and Business Administration Certificate.

Land Titles Building

Land Titles Building

Greatest stadium design ever?

If Saskatoon ever gets a CFL team (and sells our financial future in the process), I hope it looks like this (with grass instead of sand).  You would have cattle grazing on the roof which would work well until they got spooked and came down over the roof during the middle of a key third down conversion.  Then again, it could liven things up a bit.

Stadium in UAE

Is this Dr. Evil’s newest secret lair? Actually, the “Rock Stadium” is a real concept for a sporting venue at Jebel Hafeet, a prominent crag located about 14 miles south of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi city of Al Ain. It’s not as ridiculous an idea as it initially may seem. Jebel Hafeet is not a barren, menacing peak like K2, but a popular tourist spot with a luxury hotel and pools fed by a natural hot spring. A stadium might fit right in geographically and socially: After all, the Emirati people love soccer (fine, football) just as much as anyone, welcoming the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009 and 2010 and the organization’s under-17 players this fall.

The stadium was designed by MZ Architects, a Middle Eastern firm with offices in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Lebanon and elsewhere. The architects started out wanting to build a stadium in the Al Ain desert, but once they visited the area they were struck by the imposing and regal form of the mountain, which reminded them of a Greek amphitheatre. So they decided the best plan would be to hollow out the stone, using natural hills for seating and a grand entrance that sinks into the ground like one of the mountain’s many caves.

New Apple HQ to cost a cool $5 billion

From Business Week

Jobs displayed several renderings of a headquarters intended to accommodate more than 12,000 employees in a single, circular building. “It’s a little like a spaceship,” he said of the massive, four-story ring, which, at 2.8 million square feet, would be two-thirds the size of the Pentagon and set among 176 acres of trees where today there are mostly asphalt parking lots. “We have a shot,” he said, “at building the best office building in the world. I really do think that architecture students will come here to see it.”

Jobs died four months later, before the final plans could be submitted to Cupertino city planners, but he had made it clear that this corporate Shangri-La would be expensive. Apple would add 6,000 trees and hide nearly all the roads and parking spaces underground. There would be plenty of cafeterias, including one that could handle lunch for 3,000 employees. Jobs highlighted the main building’s curved exterior walls. The plans call for unprecedented 40-foot, floor-to-ceiling panes of concave glass from Germany. Before the Cupertino council, Jobs noted, “there isn’t a straight piece of glass on the whole building … and as you know if you build things, this isn’t the cheapest way to build them.”

He had that right. Since 2011, the budget for Apple’s Campus 2 has ballooned from less than $3 billion to nearly $5 billion, according to five people close to the project who were not authorized to speak on the record. If their consensus estimate is accurate, Apple’s expansion would eclipse the $3.9 billion being spent on the new World Trade Center complex in New York, and the new office space would run more than $1,500 per square foot—three times the cost of many top-of-the-line downtown corporate towers.

Before his death, Jobs had hoped to break ground in 2012 and to move in by the end of 2015. Apple will start tearing down the 26 buildings on the site in June, according to another person familiar with the plan. At the company’s annual meeting on Feb. 27, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the move-in date has been pushed back to 2016. Apple declined to comment for this article.

One reason for the new timetable, say three people who have spoken to Apple personnel about the project, is that the company has been working with lead architect Foster + Partners to cut $1 billion from the budget before proceeding. Jobs and Apple first hired Norman Foster’s firm, renowned for the rebuilt Reichstag in Berlin and Hearst Tower in New York, in 2010. Apple has named a general contractor—a joint venture of DPR Construction, in Redwood City, Calif., and prefabrication specialists Skanska USA Building in New York—but has not finalized agreements with the scores of subcontractors needed to complete the job. Some contractors will be submitting bids by May. There’s so much dirt to be removed, excavating the site will take six months and require a continuous, 24-hour convoy of trucks, says a former Apple manager who heard a presentation from Foster’s firm.

Cost overruns are to be expected on large construction projects, and the scale of this one has evolved—from an initial plan to accommodate 6,000 employees, to offices for 12,000 or even 13,000 in one place. Meanwhile, $1 billion is still less than 1 percent of Apple’s $137 billion in cash reserves. Yet the multibillion-dollar budget for Campus 2 could add fuel to the debate about what Apple’s doing with all its money. Investors didn’t squawk much when Apple was dominating the smartphone and tablet market, but shares have fallen 38 percent since September amid rising competition from Samsung Electronics and concerns about Apple’s product pipeline. Now shareholders are calling for a big dividend, stock buyback, or, in the case of Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn, the issuance of a new class of preferred shares. Apple has hinted it might oblige in some way, but critics are sure to question whether curved glass is the best use of funds. “It would take some convincing for me to understand why $5 billion is the right number for a project like this,” says Keith Goddard, the chief executive of Tulsa-based Capital Advisors, which owns 30,537 shares of Apple. “This is rubbing salt in the wound, to spend at a level that most anyone would say is extravagant, at a time when they’re being so stingy on dividends.” If the stock continues to underperform, Goddard predicts, “this headquarters would perpetuate the negative story.”

A way to improve housing stock in older neighborhoods

Here is a cheaper way to rehabilitate homes in older neighbourhoods

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Buying a house for $500 would be an indisputable bargain in most places, but not necessarily in Cleveland.

So when the owner of the vacant house in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood made the offer to developer and landlord Charles Scaravelli, he paused.

A traditional rehab would cost at least $30,000, more than he could recoup by renting or selling the house.

That didn’t stop him. “Wow, it’s got a slate roof,” Scaravelli said. “I’ll buy it.”

Scaravelli’s decision, not knowing whether it would be an albatross or an opportunity, is turning out to be more than a risk that paid off for him. It also could affect the vast inventory of vacant and abandoned housing in the city and increasingly the suburbs.

Scaravelli converted the dwelling into a loft house, a rehab that cost only $10,000. He has had no problem renting the home on Schaefer Avenue for $500 a month and another on East 47th Street that he bought from the St. Clair Superior Development Corp. and converted.

Now the Cuyahoga land bank and the St. Clair Superior nonprofit are engaged in a pilot project to see whether the loft home conversions can be a way of bringing vacant houses, often the wreckage of the foreclosure crisis, back online. Demolition is the typical solution, but if an affordable model can be found to create a viable market for these houses, bulldozing doesn’t have to be their only fate.

There are homes all over Saskatoon that could benefit drastically from this treatment.

Adaptive re-use of an old baseball stadium

Do I wish that more cities would take this approach.  This…

Indy stadium 02

Into this…

Indy stadium 01

Indianapolis-based Heartland Design is working on the $22 million Stadium Lofts project, which broke ground a year ago this month. “We preserved quite a bit of the stadium,” said James Cordell, principal at Heartland, noting his belief that the project is the first conversion of a stadium to housing. “It’s just a very unusual thing to do.”

Bush Stadium’s stone art deco entrance and flanking brick walls have been incorporated into the new building, and the stadium’s steel canopy forms the roof. The existing structure has been shored up and windows added to the brick walls. To create space for a wood-frame structure housing 134 residences on three stories, the team removed the stadium’s staggered concrete seating platforms and support girders.

Bush Stadium’s unique shape, it turns out, makes for varied apartment layouts. “There are some very bizarre units in this building that we expect will appeal to young professionals and students,” said Cordell. A new glass-and-metal panel wall opens on to the former baseball diamond, with balconies overlooking the infield. Third-floor units will feature tall ceilings with exposed, original steel girders.

Dr. Larry Beasley on the OurYXE Podcast

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In case you missed it, Dr. Larry Beasley joined The OurYXE podcast on Thursday and talked about urban planning, architecture, homelessness, and fixing suburbia.  It’s a good interview and I learned a lot about how we can make Saskatoon a better place to live and work.

Janice Braden on the OurYXE podcast

Janice Braden

Janice Braden joined us for the OurYXE podcast this week where we talked for a little over an hour about the Municipal Planning Commission, architecture, affordable housing, and city building.  It was a great discussion and I learned a lot from Janice.   Next weekend we are looking at chatting with Shaun Dyer, the executive director of the John Howard Society.  We will be talking about corrections, crime, and our community.

Michael Maltzan, “Identity, Density, and Community in the Un-Model City”

 

 

In case you are wondering if Tom Brady has lost the common touch

His $20 million mansion has a moat.  Of course it kind of makes sense as Yahoo! Sports puts it.

And the moat should keep the mounted infantry attacks on the Patriots quarterback to a minimum, which should help Bill Belichick sleep better at night.

While Brady is extremely well paid, Gisele makes even more than he does (some have called her the last of the supermodels) so I am assuming the mortgage payments are going to be made.  That being said I remember being in Boston when he was first starting off his career and they had this magazine article about how he was just like everyone else.  I am just assuming that this is no longer the case, unless moats are much more common in your part of the world than they are in mine.