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URBAN DESIGN

UPDATE

Newsletter of the Institute for Urban Design July/August 2004 Vol. 20 No. 4 INNOVATION AND RESTORATION ALTERNATE IN CENTRAL EUROPE In May, when ten Central European nations joined the European Union, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were among those expected to make the quickest successful adjustment. But even the Czech Republic, second in gross domestic production per capita, will take 30 years to catch up with West European countries, while Poland will take 50. Following is a report on urban design and development from five central European cities. Budapest

Budapest has always been a smart city. With the opening of the Gresham Palace Four Seasons Hotel in June, the city has re-ignited the sparkle it had when the Gressham Life Assurances Society built the building in 1903 as its headquarters in what was then the co-capital of the AustroHungarian Empire. Bela Feja, who fled Budapest in the Revolution of 1956 for Toronto, bought the landmark building in 1999 for $20 million. With his son Patrick as supervising architect, he has completed the project at a final cost of $140 million. The Gresham now stands as a model of what can be achieved with landmark restoration in Eastern Europe – and also as an example of how difficult it is. The Greshan Palace Hotel has already placed Budapest as tops in tourist facilities among 10 capital cities whose countries are entering the European Union this year. A less publicized reason for leadership from Hungary is its Geographic Information System. In 1950 when the Hungarian Regional Development and Town Planning Company was founded, it began to develop a database. In an August interview, Gabor Paksy, an architect who was among the founders of VATI, said that some 700 people worked to develop the country’s most extensive GIS information database, Terport (terportahu) as well as a Regional Information System (TelR). VATI’s websites – www.vati.hu and www.terport.hu are now beginning to provide links among planners and urban designers in the other nine central European countries now entering the European Union. Further information may be obtained from Mr. Paksy via email: vati@vati.hu

Prague

Czech Cubism, as presented at Prague’s recently opened Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in the enormous Veletrzni Palace, is making the city a destination for Modernists as well as for those who love Medieval Prague. A separate Museum of Czech Cubism, near the Powderhouse Tower in the old town, sells, as well as exhibits, flatware, chairs and other Cubist reproductions. At a bookstore next door, the huge selection ranges from Franz Kafka to Frank Gehry. Villa Muller, a suburban masterpiece completed by Adolf Loos in 1930 is now restored and open by special appointment (email: villa.muller@museumprahy.cz). The multi-level room scheme, which Loos called Raumplan, is an original solution to creating space in a limited suburban setting. From Charles Bridge to the Astronomical Clock in the main square to the recently restored Spanish Synagogue in the Josefov Quarter, the medieval old town remains among Europe’s greatest works of art. How to prevent tourism from damaging it will continue to present the greatest challenge to Prague preservationists.

Wroclaw

At the center of Wrocklaw is one of two islands on which rises a 14th century city hall and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Flemish houses and a market surround the main square. Having survived World War II intact, these and many other buildings were destroyed as the Russian Army


beat back a final German defense of the city. After the war, Wroclaw, like Warsaw, elected to replicate its historic center rather than introduce contemporary buildings. In 1945 there were no Poles in Breslau, as Wroclaw was then called. Instead it was then the German civilian population of the city that evacuated, often by foot, toward Hamburg. Then the Polish population of Liviv was evacuated to Wroclaw. At a stroke of Stalin’s pen the Polish city of Liviv became the Russian city of Liviv and the German city of Breslau became the Polish city of Wroclaw. “A history of this, the largest series of human migrations, has never been written,” says Norman Davies in his new history of Wroclaw, Microcosm (see review page 4). Today, Wroclaw is the fourth largest Polish city with a population of 700,000, including some 10,000 students. Cars crowd the roads and the historic central square is thriving. Kyiv

Kyiv became the capital of a new country in 1993 when Ukraine established independence from the U.S.S.R. For Western visitors encountering the gold domes of St. Michaels Monastery or the Gothic spires of St. Sophia, it comes as a revelation to be reminded that Kyivan Rus was the historic capital of Russia before Moscow assumed that role. For historians, Kyiv provides older treasures than most cities: Sophia Gate, 1068, St. Sophia Cathedral, 1037, Pechery Lavra (or caves) started in 1060 and developed over nine centuries into a monastic city of God. These and other cultural gems are accessible from the comfortable Hotel Rus, where Ukraine’s new businessmen make deals with Western investors and Eastern sheiks.

Odessa

Odessa inaugurated by Catherine the Great and St. Petersburg by Peter the Great are new cities. Both, having achieved greatness under the Romanovs, suffered reversals under the Bolsheviks. Now Odessa prepares to confirm its place as first port city on the Black Sea. The Potemkin Stairs, immortalized in Sergei Eisenstein’s film, The Battleship Potemkin, remain the iconic center of Odessa. Descending the 192 granite steps today, one sees on the pier ahead the Odessa Hotel, with Portman-style glass-enclosed elevators and restaurant in-the-sky, behind which lies the new Maritime Art Gallery. The gallery is sponsored by the Port of Odessa as are offices for Greenpeace. Greenpeace faces an Augean task in facilitating treatment of sewage from a million people that flows along beaches and into the Black Sea.

NEW PROJECTS

Battery Bosque, under the aegis of Warrie Price, Battery Park Conservancy, is now under construction, reports Laura Starr, whose firm Saratoga Associates developed the landscape plan in collaboration with Piet Oudoff, who is selecting more than 140 varieties of plant materials. Kiosks and street furniture designed by Weisz and Yoes are also in place. Raleigh, North Carolina is building its first mixed-use high-rise in downtown, reports Fellow D. B. Middleton, whose firm, Handel Architects, New York, designed the building. The $35 million project will include a conference center for North Carolina League of Municipalities and North Carolina Association of County commissioners. Jiangmen, China has commissioned EDAW to prepare a Jiangmen River District Master Plan, reports Susan Shoemaker who won the competition for EDAW’s New York office. Covering the 108-square-kilometer site, the master plan will provide a roadway along the river edge to stimulate the development. Among elements in the plan are an auto-free university campus and a new bridge, which will reduce travel time to Hong Kong to under one hour.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, will have its first Waterfront Open Space plan, reports Donna Walcavage, whose firm is preparing the plan for New York City Economic Development Corporation for completion in 2006 . . . Richard Dattner reports that his firm’s rehab of the 72nd Street subway includes an extension of Verdi Square Park, thus making a new gateway to the Upper West Side . . . Joe MacDonald opened a New York branch of his Cambridge firm A + O Architects this summer in a space shared with Dutch architect Winka Doubledam . . . Lee Harris Pomeroy whose recent jobs have stretched from Prague to China is now focusing on restoration of the Corgin Building as part of new Fulton Street Transit Center with office of Nicholas Grimshaw . . . Commissioner Patricia Lancaster has completed a World Trade Center related package for New York City Department of Buildings . . . Jean Gath will be leaving her New York office at Hardy Holzman Pfeifer for the Los Angeles office of Pfeiffer Partners. Fellow John Fontillas remains in New York with Hugh Hardy whose new firm is called H3 Hardy Collaborative. LA Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has moved to The New York Times.


IN MEMORIUM

HONORS

David Wallace, who died July 19, was a founding partner of Wallace Roberts Todd, the Philadelphia firm that came to be a model of successful urban design practice in the United States. His 1953 Central Urban Renewal Area Report targeted catalytic actions to strengthen downtown Philadelphia. In 1957 he moved to Baltimore where he used a similar strategy to design 22-acre Charles Center. This laid the foundation for the revitalization of the Inner Harbor. Wallace went on to successfully apply the same strategy in New York and Norfolk, Virginia, among other cities. Avoiding massive demolition, Wallace pioneered the re-use of historic structures, such as The Lord Baltimore Hotel. He encouraged mixed-use development and underground parking, both ideas that he sold successfully to the many private developers needed to bring center cities back to life. Urban Planning My Way summarizes his ideas in a 2004 book from The Planners Press. Johns Hopkins University Downtown Center will soon open an exhibit on Charles Center and the Inner Harbor. Wallace joined the Advisory Board of the Institute for Urban Design shortly after 1979 and influenced the work of younger designers through its meetings. Ignatio Bunster reports that WRT has received the ASLA firm award for 2004. The award recognizes a firm that has consistently produced a body of distinguished landscape architecture. Though not mentioned by name, Baltimore Harbor Master Plan (David Wallace), Design with Nature (Ian McHarg) and Hudson River Walkway plan from George Washington Bridge to Liberty State Park are among the firms most published work. William Rawn reports that his firm has received the AIA’s 2004 Honor Award in Architecture for Northeastern University West Campus residence halls. The residence halls, in shaping a new campus, also create a new district for Boston. Four years after master plan five of seven buildings are complete. Eight buildings are currently in design for the campus.

EDUCATION

Pittsburgh

Cambridge

Worldview Cities & Contemporary Perspectives on Architecture and Urbanism from Around the Globe is currently focusing on the Bangladesh capital city, Dhaka. Prepared by Kazi Ashraf and Saif ul Haque, the program can be viewed at www.worldviewcities.org. The Architecture League of New York is sponsoring the series and funding has been provided by Graham Foundation, NE A and New York Council on the Arts. Duquesne University in Pittsburgh is embarking on a plan that will connect with existing Forbes Avenue campus, on a bluff eighty feet above the surrounding city, via a vertical pedestrian connector building with Union Plaza, the traditional campus pedestrian entry. The plan is by WTW Architects, reports Glenn A. Schultz. Niail Kirkwood is new chair of Landscape Architecture Department at Harvard where he has taught for more than a decade, with expertise in land remediation, he can be expected to retain further development of landscape urbanism within the department rather than see it move toward the urban design program where Robert Sommer continues in charge. Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture and the Rebuilding of New York. By Paul Goldberger. 273 pages. Black/white photos. Random House, New York. $24.95

BOOKS

With this book, veteran architecture critic Paul Goldberger has invented a new genre of reportage: the people and policies required to realize urban design – in this case post 9/11 Lower Manhattan. He provides rounded portraits of key players: Alex Garvin, John Whitehead, Daniel Liebeskind. He reports accurately on how SOM architect Marilyn Jordan Taylor and Regional Plan Association Director Robert Yaro developed citizen forums that helped speed the decisionmaking process to where it stood in Spring, 2004. In a wistful conclusion Goldberger says: "It seemed for a while that the usual rules of building would be suspended . . . and that one positive effect of the destruction of the World Trade Center would be a different way of looking at Manhattan real estate - indeed, a different way of looking at the entire idea of the city . . . this could be a chance to make it better . . . not on the basis of what would make for the best short-term return for real estate."


BOOKS

This did not happen, says Goldberger, because Governor Pataki allowed Port Authority and leaseholder Larry Silverstein to continue as property owner and lease holder of the site. This seems a red hearing. The opportunity never existed to make the people owners of the site or to allow architects to make decisions outside the bounds of commercial return on investment. Ironically, the deal-making imagination that crafted a Liberty Bond program financing Lower Manhattan apartments is not mentioned. And if every new project is not a gem, nevertheless some of the world's most interesting designers are working there: Santiago Calatrava on housing as well as a Path Station, Lord Foster on a possible office tower. Light and Form: Modern Architecture and Photography 1927-1950. By Ibolya Plank, Virag Hajdu and Pal Ritook. Exhibition Catalog of National Office of Cultural Heritage and the Hungarian Museum of Architecture. 2003 ISBN 963-212-2984. Budapest, like Prague, has a stock of extant modern houses, some 40 of which are shown in this catalog. The book’s text highlights the architecture photography of Zoltan Siedner and Tivadar Kozelka. Many of the best villas are by architect Farkas Molnar . Prague: 20th Century Architecture. Edited by Michal Kohout, Vladimir Slapeta and Stefan Templ. 220 pages. Illus. Springer-Verlag, Vienna. Available in North America through Princeton Architectural Press. $32.50. Among the gems included in this new survey are: Czechoslovak Legion Bank designed by Josef Gocar who mixed Moravian art with Cubism; Villa Muller by Adolf Loos, interesting for a Raumplan that calls for several room levels within a single space; and drawings by the Slovene architect Josip Plechik of modernizing portions of Prague Castle. Microcosm: Portrait of a Central European City. By Norman Davies and Roger Morehouse. 585 pages. Pimlico, Random House, London. $40.00. www.randomhouse.co.uk/pimlico. It is astonishing to think about the four year history of post 9/11 Manhattan at the same time as Wroclaw, Breslau, Vratislvia as this 900 year-old city has been known. Sprawl and Public Space: Redressing the Mall. David Smiley, Editor. 112 pages. Illus. Princeton Architectural Press, New York. $11.95. This is the most relevant to urban design professionals in a series of five books so far produced by Mark Robbins, former director of the Design Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts and currently Dean, School of Architecture, Syracuse University. Mary L. Clark, Professor, American University Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C.; Joseph MacDonald, Urban A + O, LLC, New York, NY and Cambridge, MA.

NEW FELLOWS

UPDATE, published six times a year, welcomes contributions from members.

Institute for Urban Design - Urban Design Update July/August 2004  

Innovation And Restoration Alternate In Central Europe: Budapest, Prague, Wroclaw, Kyiv, Odessa

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