Friday, July 30, 2010

A Museum That Says Bond. James Bond.

And it's located in the tiny town of Momence, Illinois.
Gensler has just revealed the design for a museum housing the world's largest collection of vehicles used in James Bond films, backed by the prestigiously named Ian Fleming Foundation. But it's not in London, Monte Carlo, or even Russia (with love), it's in tiny Momence, Illinois, located 50 miles outside of Chicago. Mysterious? Indeed.
While not the first museum devoted to Bond (there's a James Bond Museum in Keswick, U.K.), the Museum of Bond Vehicles + Espionage itself has a double mission, if you will. The museum could help revitalize Momence, a 3,000-person city that missed the development boom from Interstate 57 when it chose to locate 20 miles to the west. "If this draws in 20,000 people a year, like they're planning on, Momence will see a major resurgence," says Gensler's design director for the project, Brian Vitale, who notes that the museum could have easily been located somewhere like Chicago or Vegas. "They're going through a lot of hurdles to make sure it stays here."

[Note how the right-side edge of the panoramic window echoes the "7" in "007"]
The museum is not a shiny new building dropped into Momence's historic downtown, but rather a former car dealership in a residential area. The undercover location is paired with cues from the Bond character: It makes a statement, yet is slightly enigmatic. "We wanted the building to say something," says Vitale. "But it also had to feel like a building that he would go to." The most revealing detail is the front window with a specially angled corner that resembles a "7," preceded by the double "0"s which are graphics made from all the film names and actors who starred in them. The building is cloaked in simple black, horizontal corrugated metal, perhaps like a
suave yet understated suit, but also with one very important Bond-like feature, says Vitale. "It always appears as a silhouette."

That the museum be a good civic resident as well as pay homage to Bond was important to its founder, Doug Redenius, who is a postal worker in Momence in addition to serving as vice-president of the Ian Fleming Foundation, which houses and maintains the Bond vehicles. When Vitale first arrived in Momence, he had a very Bond-like moment as Redenius revealed the collection. "They took us to two metal barns in the middle of the cornfield and opened the doors and there were all the cars I've ever dreamed of as a kid," he remembers. Among the goods are the Lotus Submarine Car used in The Spy Who Loved Me, the Aston Martin Volante seen in The Living Daylights, and Bond’s BMW R 1200 C Motorcycle used in Tomorrow Never Dies. Redenius has become such a prominent collector that producers often call him when they're finishing a Bond film; some vehicles have even been donated to the collection.

Vitale, who is partial to the Roger Moore Bond but also enjoys Daniel Craig's character, borrowed some of Bond's understated cool when designing the building. "It's a good lesson for designers--use restraint," he says, although not to say he wasn't caught up in the thrill of it all, just a little. "It's impossible not to hum the theme song as you're working on this project."
The museum is planned to open in 2012, in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No.a

Monday, July 19, 2010

World’s 10 Largest Construction Projects

Engineering News-Record, a sister publication to Architectural Record, has released its list of the 10 largest construction projects around the globe. The projects range in scope and purpose, from creating a vacation hot spot in the Persian Gulf to diverting water to quench North China’s thirst.
The projects here have been ranked by cost, based on U.S. dollars. Costs are not adjusted to reflect the significant differences in purchasing power among countries.

1. South Valley Development, Egypt
$90 billion

In an attempt to disperse densely populated areas in the Nile Valley, the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation has embarked on a 2,300-square-mile reclamation project in the Saharan Desert. The project calls for channeling water to the arid region in hopes of transforming it into inhabitable land. The first major component, completed in 2003, was the Mubarak Pumping Station, which is the world's largest pumping station. With the capacity to handle 25 million cubic meters per day, the station pumps Nile River water into the 72-kilometer-long Sheikh Zayed Canal and its various branches. While some aspects of the South Valley Development are complete, much work remains, and most of the land meant for farming sits empty. Still, Egypt hopes the region will someday house six million Nile Valley transplants.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

2. Jubail II, Saudi Arabia
$80 billion
Already one of the industrial centers of Saudi Arabia and the world, Jubail is getting an $80 billion expansian, courtesy of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu. The 22-year project, dubbed Jubail II, will double the city's population to over 300,000. The scheme calls for up to 100 industrial plants, an expanded port, several new highways and railways, an 800,000-cubic-meter desalination plant, and an oil refinery capable of producing 400,000 barrels a day. Jubail II also will include three new residential districts, each of them spanning 10 square kilometers and accommodating 50,000 residents. The entire project is slated to be finished in 2024.

Photo courtesy Bechtel

3. Dubailand, Dubai
$64 billion
Dubai has something to say to "everything's bigger in Texas." Already home to the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and the world's largest man-made harbor, Jebel Ali port, Dubai decided to turn its attention to amusement parks. Spanning 278 square kilometers, the $64 billion Dubailand, developed by Tatweer, will be three times larger than Walt Disney World. It will have six components: theme parks, sports venues, eco-tourism, health facilities, science attractions, and hotels. Its superlative features will include the world's largest hotel,
AsiaAsia (6,500 rooms), and one of the largest malls, Mall of Arabia (10 million square feet). Dubailand is scheduled to be finished by 2025, although much of the project is now on hold.

 Photo courtesy Wikipedia
4. International Space Station, Space
$60 billion
Located in low earth orbit at an altitude of 360 kilometers, the International Space Station has been circling Earth every 92 minutes since 1998. The project was created through a partnership of five space agencies representing 15 nations. All-in-all, the countries collectively will spend $60 billion on the continued construction of the station (over half of the money is coming from the U.S.). Ultimately, it will include four laboratories and a dozen other habitation, service, and cargo modules. The structure’s main truss stretches 310 feet and its photovoltaic arrays are equivalent in size to two football fields. The 19-year project is nearing completion; the final three components—the Permanent Multi-Purpose Module, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and Nauka—will be

5. South-to-North Water Transfer Project, China
$58 billion
Drought-prone North China is home to half the country's people but only 19 percent of its freshwater resources. To alleviate water shortages, the government is undertaking the largest water diversion project in history. Water from four of China's largest rivers—the Yangtze, Yellow, Huai and Hai, all of which flow from west to east—will be carried north by three canals, each over 600 miles long. The government has already begun construction of two canals, with one nearing completion; the third however, is still in planning. The 48-year-long, $62-billion project will have major impacts, both social and environmental. It will require the relocation of 300,000 people, and scientists have raised concerns about potential flooding, increased sediment, and poor water quality. The entire system is expected to supply 44 billion cubic meters of water annually when completed.
Photo courtesy Construction and Administration Council Of South-to-North Diversion

6. Yas Island Mixed-Use Complex, Abu Dhabi
$39 billion
Aldar Properties is quickly transforming the 25-square-kilometer Yas Island into a major vacation destination. The island is located 20 kilometers from Abu Dhabi's city center and 20 kilometers east of Saadiyat Island. The project's first major component is Yas Marina Circuit—a Formula One racetrack with a 5.8-kilomenter course that hugs the marina and runs under the curvy Yas Hotel, designed by Asymptote. Another centerpiece of the development is Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, designed by Benoy Architects. Slated to be the world's largest indoor theme park, it will include a 6,300-square-meter display of famous Italian landmarks, including the Colosseum, Venice, and the Amalfi Coast. When completed in 2010, Yas Island is projected to draw 300,000 visitors.

Photo courtesy Aldar

7. Songdo International Business District, South Korea
$35 billion
A new urban center is rapidly taking shape in Incheon, Korea, a port city 30 miles west of Seoul. Work is under way on 100 buildings across 1,500 acres reclaimed from the sea. When Songdo City is finished in 2016, its population is expected to reach 65,000. Several major aspects of the master plan already are finished, including three projects by Kohn Pedersen Fox: Convensia Convention Center, an international school, and the 100-acre Central Park. KPF also designed the 65-story Northeast Asia Trade Tower, slated to open next year; at 305 meters, it will be South Korea’s tallest building.

photo courtesy Wikipedia

8. Sellafield Nuclear Site, England
$30 billion
Sellafield is the U.K.'s primary nuclear-fuel reprocessing facility. Located in Cumbria, 70 miles north of Liverpool, the plant covers 700 acres and employs 11,000 workers. Perhaps most notably, it is home to world's first commercial nuclear power plant, Calder Hall, which ended its 47 years of duty in 2003. In 2008, Nuclear Management Partners Ltd. (a consortium made up of Amec, URS and Areva) was hired to operate, clean up, and ultimately decommission Sellafield. The process will take more than a century. By 2120, the NDA expects the Sellafield site will have achieved brownfield status.

9. Saadiyat Island Entertainment and Leisure Destination, Abu Dhabi
$27 billion
If all goes as planned, Saadiyat Island will be a 27-square-kilometers cultural paradise by 2018. The owner, Tourism Development & Investment Co., is selling land plots on the island to private investors under the premise that they will develop them in accordance with a masterplan created by Gensler and Skidmore Owings & Merrill. The glitziest drawing card will be four cultural venues connected by canal: a Louvre branch designed by Jean Nouvel, a Guggenheim branch by Frank Gehry, a performing arts center by Zaha Hadid, and a cultural heritage museum by Foster & Partners. The development also will feature a beach district with hotels and luxury residences, and a marina district with businesses and a maritime museum designed by Tadao Ando. Completion is slated for 2018.

Photo courtesy Tourism Development & Investment Co.

10. Great Man-Made River Project, Libya
$27 billion
As part of a massive water-transfer scheme, Libya has been working since 1985 to irrigate 387,000 acres of arid land and provide several major cities with water. Twenty-five years in, the Great Man-Made River Authority has irrigated around 50,000 acres of land, despite several pipeline blowouts. The project calls for extracting water from sandstone aquifers deep beneath the desert and piping it to the country's coastal regions. Three phases of the project have been completed; phase four is under way. Work should be finished by 2030.

Photo courtesy Price Brothers Co.

Future of air travel: giant floating hotels

The giant, vertical airship powered by natural energy and dubbed the Aircruise, is a hotel in the sky designed to carry travellers in style and luxury.
It is many travellers' desire to reach out a tiny aeroplane porthole and touch the clouds.
It could soon become a reality with a giant, kite-shaped airship that may herald a new era of luxury transport.
On the Aircruise - a towering airship packing 330,000 cubic metres of hydrogen gas, capable of lifting 396 tonnes - travellers will be able to float through the clouds, literally.

Design company Seymourpowell has unveiled a new transport concept, the Aircruise - a giant, vertical airship powered by natural energy and designed to carry travellers in style and luxury. Photo: Seymourpowell
Design director Nick Talbot says guests aboard the airship can “bathe in the clouds” standing on an open air promenade deck, the size of a standard football field.

Mr Talbot, who has worked on the interiors of the world's first private spaceship to be launched by Virgin Galactic, said the concept of Aircruise is almost a romantic, philosophical statement.
In Brisbane this week to address a conference on Tourism Futures, Mr Talbot said the Aircruise was born of his desire to create the antithesis of a hurried, crowded passenger jet.

With London-based design and innovation company Seymourpowell, he set out to challenge the traditional mode of air travel on the premise "slow is the new fast".
"It kind of intuitively felt like a bit of a shame that the act of travelling seemed to be becoming devalued. It was all about just getting there," Mr Talbot said.
"We looked back at the very romantic days of travel with big ocean liners [that] were unbelievably elegant and delightful ways to get around.
"And the journey itself was in fact the destination."

Airships had their heyday in the 1930s with the famous German zeppelins, until the ill-fated Hindenburg, but there has been renewed interest in the concept with advances in materials and clean propulsion technologies.
"We thought, 'How can we reinterpret that for the 21st century?"' Mr Talbot said.
The result was the silent and pollution free Aircruise, towering 265 meters from base to tip, which could theoretically ferry 100 guests from London to New York in a leisurely 37 hours, occasionally dropping down to a few hundred feet to allow travellers to "smell the roses".

"None of us know how to stop, but there is a slow move - hundreds of millions of people just want to slow down a bit and actually enjoy life," Mr Talbot said.
"This is about accessing that [desire] to ... actually enjoy the journey.
The Aircruise combines solar power with a primary hydrogen drive for a cruising speed of around 145kmh.
It straddles the concepts of a cruise ship and a hotel floating 12,000 feet in the air, with 50 rooms, including a penthouse and four duplex apartments.

"There is a three-level cocktail bar at the bottom of the ship, with a thing that we call a Moon Pool - effectively it's a transparent floor - so on sunset you can sit there with your chums, sip a cocktail and look at the earth passing by underneath you, like [you're] a goddess," Mr Talbot said.
The Aircruise will also house six flight crew including two flight engineers, while 14 support staff will operate the hotel.
The airship will virtually leave no carbon footprint. Four envelopes, which extend from the main cavity of the airship will contain 330,000 cubic metres of hydrogen gas, and will be fitted with solar panels.
Seymourpowell's early Aircruise designs attracted the attention of Korean giant Samsung Construction and Trading - the primary contractor of the tallest man-made structure the Burj Khalifa in Dubai - who commissioned Seymourpowell to produce a detailed computer animation.
The challenge is now to create a building material to support such a large structure in the air.
"If they could do that they would have developed a whole new way of constructing buildings," Mr Talbot said.
Tourism Futures conference convenor Tony Charters said the Aircruise concept was particularly significant for Australia.
"We're in an era where it is crucial is to make us think about what the future options might be for accommodation and transport," Mr Charters said.
"Air (travel) is a very important source, particularly for a country like Australia, as it is our lifeline to our markets overseas."
But he acknowledged that cost is the key inhibitor here.
"The price of carbon and the price of fuel will be very important in those financial decisions," he said.
"But I hope it will help the Australian industry push forward with creative and innovative ideas."
Mr Talbot will hold a brainstorming session and workshop in Brisbane on Thursday with several tourism operators and Tourism Queensland.
"I don't know if Aircruise will ever be built," Mr Talbot said.
"The fundamental reason for the project was just to get people to think about the way we travel and the way we're going to travel in the future.
"Even if it isn't an Aircruise maybe it will be something else - some other mode of transport - that sort of captures the spirit of Aircruise; much more gentle, much more delightful, and just a bit slower.
"I hope it happens, but who knows."

Friday, July 2, 2010

A glimpse of a car-friendly urban future, courtesy of--no surprise--a car company

A glimpse of a car-friendly urban future, courtesy of--no surprise--a car company.

Visions of the future have long revolved around the automobile, from the ubiquitous flying car of sci-fi flicks such as The Fifth Element to the garbage-guzzling, Mr. Fusion–retrofitted DeLorean that Doc Brown pilots through time in Back to the Future.

So a car company sponsoring a competition to dream up a vision of the future actually seems to make a lot of sense. The Audi Urban Future Award is a contest among six international architecture firms to envision futuristic cityscapes, circa 2030, with an emphasis on, ahem, personal transportation. ("Audi is confident that there will be cars in the city of the future," the competition Web site declares.)

The winner of the competition will not be announced until the 12th International Architecture Exhibition, which begins August 29 in Venice, but the firms met May 28 at a conference in London to present their preliminary concepts. Some are fantastical, such as Standardarchitecture's vision for the future of Beijing, where the firm is based. The "harmonious Beijing" (pictured) is ringed by pillarlike buildings known as "metamountains"; the roads become conveyor belts that transport people around the city—whether on foot or inside Audi-branded pods.

The New York City–based firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro imagined a future in which transportation and housing are more closely entwined. Riffing off the concept of the recreational vehicle, the architects proposed that in the future an increasingly mobile population may want to have a modular, portable personal space to bring along with them in the form of a shoebox-shaped modular unit. Audi could, according to the concept statement, "provide new ways of living, working and moving within the city
beyond the categories of the car and the house." Buildings might become scaffolds, essentially, with slots to accommodate the units.

Other firms eschewed grand visions of the city to focus on the vehicle itself. Barcelona's Cloud 9 loosely conceived of a vehicle that is both light and flexible—a bubble with soft skin and photovoltaic dots that generate energy. The Bjarke Ingels Group of Copenhagen turned to the long-running fantasy of
the driverless car, which in this case is also presumed to be clean-running. The firm's concept statement ponders how a city might look without traffic and automotive pollution but skirts the details, noting that foretelling the long-term future is a tricky business—witness the nonarrival of the flying car.

But what the heck? It's fun to prognosticate, and there's a cash prize. The award comes with an endowment of 100,000 Euros, or about $120,000—enough for two Audi A6s with a nice option package.