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Newsletter of the Institute for Urban Design January/February 2006 Vol. 22 No. 1


Mexico City

Twenty years after the earthquake of 1985 devastated the CBD, Ricardo Legorreta is completing a new arcaded public square with two towers that bind the development to Alameda Square to the north and the historic center’s low-rise buildings to the south. When opened next year, Juarez Plaza will cap the city’s 20-year effort to heal a natural disaster with greater loss of life than that faced in current Gulf Coast hurricane disaster. The Upper Courts of Justice, at 18 stories, will have an upper patio. The Foreign Affairs Secretariat, at 23 stories, will continue the arcade, which, in a next phase, will connect to a Holocaust Memorial Museum and which fronts on a pool and public plaza. The former Corpus Christi Church has been refitted by Legorreta as the archive for the Public Notary Office. Two additional 19th century structures, being retrofitted for restaurants and shops, will have entrances onto the newly named Juarez Square also. A large pool of moving water, designed by Vincent Rojo animates the square. An ambitious exhibition of Legorreta’s work will open in May in the Monterrey Museum of Contemporary Art, also designed by Legorreta. The show closed in January in Mexico City where it had been housed in the Antiguo Collegio de San Ildefonso, a 19th century former school, sensitively restored by Legorreta in 1992.

Chapultapec Park

In another move to make Mexico City more sustainable, Chapultapec Park is being restored. The rehabilitation is being carried out by landscape architect Mario Schjetnan, winner of Harvard’s Green Prize in 1996 for restoration of Xochimilco Park. The Mexico City Mayor appointed Mario Schjetnan, groupo de diseño urbano, to prepare a plan for the park in 2004. During the 40-year grip of the PRI on Mexico City government, the responsibility for the park by city, regional and national agencies became unclear. Vendors crowded entrances, trash receptacles overflowed and rodents outnumbered people on Sunday afternoons. Under the administration of a new Mayor, the park is now supported by the City Center group, which represents city residents and by a new park conservancy, which raised some $50 million for Stage 1. The modern Chapultapec Park was opened in 1908. It contained the fort defended in 1847 by young cadets against an invading United States Army. It also contained the Mexican President’s house at the edge of the park, which gives the park the dual function of political center and urban refuge. It also functions, like Museum Mile along Fifth Avenue, as home for some ten cultural facilities. Its restoration is budgeted at $200 million and it will be completed in 2008.


As plans move forward this spring on the conversion of Pemex, Mexico City’s largest oil refinery site to a giant park, Schjetnan’s groupo de diseño urbano will face the greatest challenge in its history. A symbol of oil in Mexico City, the Pemex refinery over the years became surrounded by new neighborhoods. In the conflict between oil and people,

the government closed the refinery twelve years ago. Now President Vincent Fox has approved conversion of the site to a huge park. Some 50 petroleum engineers and other autonomous University of Mexico consultants, coordinated by Schjetnan’s office, have concluded that the 1,400,000 square feet of contaminated soil can be successfully removed with 55 meters of new earth providing the base for the proposed park. Pemex is agreeing to provide $20 million (U.S. dollars) to clean the site in 2007-2008. With water the theme of the new park, President Fox is proposing a National Aquarium for the park. A Museum of Energy will be housed in a disused energy building. And a 3,000-seat auditorium will complete the ensemble of public buildings planned for the site.



San Francisco

From Brunswick, Maine to Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station in Concord, California, the National Base Closing Program is viewed, on the one hand, as a threat to jobs, on the other, as an opportunity to reuse land within or close to urban population to make for more sustainable cities. Two of the most promising are Bayonne, New Jersey Harbor proposal and in San Diego, the 16acre U.S. Navy Broadway complex to civilian activities along downtown waterfront. The 430acre Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne is being replanned as a 6,700-unit housing development at a final build out cost of $3 billion reports John Clarke of Clarke, Caton Hintz, lead designers in consultation with Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut, Kuhn and DMJM+Harris. The new community will extend two miles into New York Harbor and will include five distinct neighborhoods. The plans most attractive element is its accessibility to New Jersey Light Rail and to ferry transportation across Hudson to Manhattan. The 6,700 proposed housing units will include rental apartments, condos and townhouses. Rosel and Developers, Morristown, NJ, developer. The project is expected to generate some 3,000 jobs, the equivalent of jobs lost with the base closing. The San Francisco Transbay Joint Powers Authority may soon issue an RFP for an International Design Competition for a Transbay Terminal, reports Crystal Barriscale, HOK, San Francisco, who is working with the Authority to finish preliminary development plans before launching the proposed competition. The 600,000 square-foot terminal, called The Grand Central of the West, will also include an 850-foot tower for the South Market neighborhood. The project is slated for completion in 2013. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC will be designed by ROMA, San Francisco, reports Boris Dramov from that office. Environmental assessments for the project were carried out by EDAW, San Francisco.


Los Angeles

Terrance Riley, Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, MOMA, moves to Miami in March to become director of the Miami Art Museum. From his new position he will amplify the city’s reputation as a World Center for Design and Art . . . Carmi Bee, RKTB, reports that The Towers, at 105th Street and Central Park West, New York, is now almost half sold, with Columbia University having bought many units for student housing. The block square “castle building,” which anchors the new tower, was built in the 1880’s by Sloan-Kettering as New York’s first cancer hospital. The castle-like cylindrical towers were thought to discourage germs. The project has had many lives in a 25-year development history. Victor Calliandro worked on the project before leaving New York for Wisconsin in 1992. Now Chicago developer Daniel McLean may fly back to New York in spring when final phases of project are completed . . . Lee Harris Pomeroy has returned from Shanghai where he entered a competition proposal for a structurally innovative tower for the new Binhai seaport city . . . Leoni Manhardt-Zech is working at Goethe House, New York, in February to plan an exhibition on Austrian architect Karl Swanzer, three of whose buildings have been photographed by Sigrid Neubert, and are available from Springer Verlag . . . Gail Goldberg replaces Fellow Con Howe as Director of Los Angeles City Planning . . . Theoharis David has helped to launch a Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus, the first in the 9,000 year history of the European Union Nation island. David is currently serving as President, Congress of International Modern Architects . . . Allen Swerdlowe is new chair of Site Planning Committee, New York New Visions.


The Design of Cities. By Edmund Bacon. Penguin Books, NY. Revised edition 1976. Paper.

James Pratt Remembers Bacon His City, His Book

I found myself in his office on a Saturday morning, sent by Oskar Stonorov. I was looking for a speaker about planning for Dallas, my own city. His office floor and couch were strewn with pairs of mockup pages. He saw his visual ideas as communicating better if he related them across opposite pages. If he could have published an accordion book as the ancients once did, he would have been happier. The book made from the layouts continued his credo of how to design cities.


Years later in Washington when the design of Pennsylvania Avenue was a hot topic, I walked with Ed the entire length of the Avenue. We examined the intersections of each crossing, debating ideas to improve it and how to flatter the monuments fronting it. We passed Lafayette Park but did not stop. Hours later we found ourselves in Georgetown. It was dinnertime, and I was grateful that I would not be propelled further up the Potomac. Three years later he showed me his vision for Philadelphia, where Society Hill’s new town homes, transition between the 18th century-scaled buildings and the River high-rises. We had lunch on top of one of Kling’s Penn Center buildings overlooking Bacon’s spaces around City Hall. Back on the street, Bacon showed me how he had gotten daylight to be brought down to the subway.


Learning that my wife and I, in 1966, would be in Rome, he invited me to his symposium, “The City as a Work of Art” at the American Academy. After sessions we careened, never ambled or strolled, down the Janiculo to reexamine Roman piazzas. He organized trips to the violet-strewn axis from Vignola’s villa at Caprarola to its small palace on top of the hill, then to Lanti and Bomarzo, while our wives followed at a slower pace. We drove to the Villa d’Este, talked shop while eating deserts at La Sybilla. We also took a weekend drive to Urbino under drifting snowflakes to see the old structures and places of the Counts of Montifeltro and a brand new school of Gian Carlo de Carlo, draped down the side of a hill. Over many years he came to Dallas to see his brother. One such weekend he asked for a tour of Texas courthouse squares, and we went looking for “points demarking vertical space” as well as horizontal “shafts,” two of his favorite expressions. He looked at Ioah Ming Pei’s new ten-acre public space before the new Dallas City Hall and in 1976 pronounced, “Ioah Ming always designs squares too big. You need to put a building across one end of this one to give the space the right scale.” A football player just-votedMayor responded to Bacon’s luncheon speech on downtown Dallas: “I didn’t understand a thing he said.” He was later invited down to lecture by Dallas cultural mavens, who made him a “Fellow” and listed him on their letterhead along with Holly White and Christian Norberg-Schulz. But in a subsequent visit, his blunt candor caused them to remove his name from their list of anointed.. He probably never knew, and certainly did not care. In 1980, for his 70th birthday, a party of friends and family cruised on the Schuylkill River. He still had irrepressible energy to dance. His wife, Ruth, the quiet rock around whom he danced, produced children of both sexes, all self-propelled and successful with Bacon’s steely focus. Never one to pull punches, he critiqued a partially finished Plaza that I had designed in 1990 in Dallas. He pointed out that I had made an important mistake, not spending enough money on its edge containment. He was right. The last time we met, I arranged to spend the day with him in Philadelphia. Meeting at the 32nd Street Station, he walked me through the post-Bacon additions to Penn Center, pointing out the wrong design decisions recently made, and then on to Market East. There the rail station had brought together the two lines, as he had championed, and a convention center had been built just beyond the Reading Market, together with a hotel, which put visitors in an ideal close relationship to the center of the city.


He was a most articulate planning voice: abrupt, vigorous, energy-laden, sometimes called an egomaniac. His depiction of the evolution of city design in his book Design of Cities, now almost 40 years old, was the first to chart the rich evolution of conscious design of Eastern as well as Western settlements over millennia. Today it is still the only such encompassing work, a bible for the design of human settlements. As such it is a lasting guide for designers and a monument to Bacon’s genius. Penguin should be urged to reissue this book.


Legorreta + Legorreta New Buildings and Projects: 1997-2003. Color illus. 300 pages. Rizzoli International Publications. 2004. Hardcover. $65.00.

San Jose Emeryville Bilbao

Among the 35 projects shown in this, the second volume of Legorreta’s work, the ones with emphasis on urban design include Visual Arts Center in Santa Fe, the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and the Chiron Life and Sciences Center, Emeryville, CA, all located in the United States where his work is enthusiastically accepted. Victor Legorreta, who became a partner in his father’s practice in 1991, gives an additional burst of energy to projects recently completed including The Sheraton Abandoibarra, Bilbao, the Centro Latino, Dallas and Parque Europe, Madrid. At an exhibition of Legorreta’s work, which closed in late January in Mexico City, included brochure by Comex, a paint manufacturer, is producing nine colors, especially prepared by Legorreta and available for purchase by design professionals. Ten Landscapes: Mario Schjetnan. Edited by James Grayson Trulove. Introduction and text by John Beardsley. Extensive color illustrations. 123 pages. Rockport Publishers Inc., Glouster, Mass. 2002. Paperback. $25.00. Landscape Urbanism, the topic of an Institute Fellows program on October 28, 2004, was made more accessible to a popular audience with a 2005 MOMA show curated by Fellow Peter Reed, now Deputy Director of MOMA. But Mario Schjetnan, Mexico’s premier landscape architect, exemplifies in his 21-year practice, called grupo de diseño urbano, how landscape urbanism provides a fresh approach to shaping cities. In his introduction to Schjetnan’s work, John Beardsley, Harvard, says that he has been influenced by colonial architecture on one hand and, on the other, by modernists including Lawrence Halprin at Berkeley, Louis Kahn at U. Pa., Luis Barragán in Mexico City. His paternal grandfather came to Mexico from Norway and stayed. Schjetnan’s father taught at UNAM and now Schjetnan teaches Landscape Architecture at University of Texas, Austin.

Mexico City Oakland

Of the ten projects covered in this book Xochimilco Park is the most ambitious and won Harvard’s 1996 Green Prize in Urban Design. Schjetnan here was able to restore a system of lakes and canals that had existed since pre-Aztec times. Malinalco House, where Schjetnan lives weekends with his family, is built on a coffee plantation. Cobbled pavers slow percolation of storm water. Union Point Park, Oakland, formerly a shipyard, has been converted by Schjetnan to an urban park.

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Institute for Urban Design - Urban Design Update Jan./Feb. 2006  

Legorreta Designs Juarez Square, Schjetnan Rehabilitates Chapultapec Park Both in Mexico City

Institute for Urban Design - Urban Design Update Jan./Feb. 2006  

Legorreta Designs Juarez Square, Schjetnan Rehabilitates Chapultapec Park Both in Mexico City

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