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Aug. 24, 2007 

After several redesigns, financing problems and months of speculation that Garrett Kelleher, executive chairman of Shelbourne Development Ltd., would not go ahead with Santiago Calatrava’s ambitious design for the 2,000-foot-tall "Chicago Spire," construction is underway on the project, according to the Chicago Tribune. The design -- which required a change in city zoning for height and would make the building Chicago’s tallest, topping the Sears Tower -- takes advantage of "the new esthetic freedom made possible by the structural undergirding of the latest generation of supertall skyscrapers," according to the Tribune. Calatrava’s vision has the building appear to twist as it rises, with each floor shifted two degrees from the one below it -- a conceit which, in true Calatrava fashion, is practical as well as esthetic, serving to deflect the Windy City’s famous gusts.

Completion date for the 150-floor condo tower is 2010.

If the idea of an exhibition of "radical lamps" sounds like the set-up for a joke, think again -- "Provoking Magic," Sept. 14, 2007-Jan. 27, 2008, at the Cooper-Hewitt could be the sleeper hit of the fall. Focusing on the work of German lighting designer Ingo Maurer (b. 1932), the show brings together site-specific light installations made for the occasion, along with 150 designs culled from Maurer’s four decades of work. It also marks the debut of the designer’s 2007 creations.

Among the exhibition highlights (so to speak) are a set of "animated, whispering portraits" of Andrew and Louise Carnegie; Rose, Rose on the Wall, a domestic installation that adjusts color and brightness according to a visitor’s mood; a recreation of Maurer’s Where are you, Edison,…?, a hanging lamp that projects a hologram of Thomas Edison’s original 1879 light bulb; and Tableaux Chinois, which uses live goldfish and mirrors to generate a swirling pattern of light and shadows.

Also sure to attract buzz for the Cooper-Hewitt is "Piranesi as Designer," Sept. 14-Jun. 20, 2007, which claims to be the first show to focus on 18th-century Italian visionary Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s influence on the worlds of architecture and decorative art. Organized by John Wilton-Ely, the exhibition offers 100 original etchings and objects by Piranesi. It also explores the effect of his ideas on contemporary design -- Piranesi is best known, of course, for his "Carcieri" engravings of labyrinth-like imaginary prisons, which had much currency with the postmodernists -- in the work of figures such as Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Daniel Libeskind, Robert A.M. Stern, and Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown.

It’s bad enough that denizens of Williamsburg have to put up with hideous subway ads that make use of the area’s former creative cache to market the unaffordable glass-box condos taking over the area (a new low was an ad for the No. Twenty Bayard complex, which used a faux Andy Warhol panel design with a beaming Hassidic man and an African-American woman, and the slogan "Radically Chic, Chicly Radical"). But recently, residents are accusing Brooklyn architect Robert Scarano of also playing havoc with the neighborhood’s lifeline, the L train.

According to the Brooklyn Paper, Scarano -- who won two 2006 awards from the National Society of American Registered Architects, for the "Myrtle Condominiums" and "York Street Studios" complexes, respectively (he reportedly has some 200 other projects in the works in New York) -- drew the ire of Williamsburgers when workers building his nine-unit development on North 7th Street punched a hole into the Bedford Avenue subway station last month. A stop-work order was issued on the project -- dubbed "The Modern Williamsburg" and marketed as "the pinnacle of luxury in the heart of Williamsburg" -- on July 27.

Among other things, Scarano is credited with "pioneering the use of mezzanines to get around square-footage limitations in the city’s zoning laws," according the Paper’s report on the incident, and only last year "agreed to surrender his right to ‘self-certify’ his designs," meaning that he now consents to get city approval before going ahead with his ideas. Though Scarano blamed contractors working on the building for the snafu, Evan Thies of the community board’s environmental committee was quick to note that "the architect decides what work is necessary or possible at a construction site."

The fashions of Argentine designer Carola Besasso should provide a breezy kick-off to 2007’s Sante Fe Design Week, Oct. 12-14, at the Santa Fe Indian School. Besasso sells her designs through her Dam boutique in Buenos Aires -- a city that Design Week director Naomi Woodspring notes shares with Santa Fe the designation of "creative city" by UNESCO, an honor that inspired the entry of New Mexico’s capital into the "design week" sweepstakes in the first place.

The events of Santa Fe Design Week focus on "sustainable design," and Woodspring’s line-up includes Nike’s "corporate responsibility" director Lorrie Vogel and Blue Skye Consulting’s Jib Ellison, who has worked with Wal-Mart to help develop more environmental-friendly policies, as well as Design for the Majority author Leslie Speer. Other events include "B(u)y Design," an expo of Santa Fe design businesses, and "Puro Belleza," a curated showcase of design products from the area.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Woodspring is under pressure to improve the event after mixed reviews last year, with the city council cutting its budget from $300,000 to $200,000. Woodspring says she hopes to lure 6,500 visitors. See

Contrary to earlier reports about the presence of a fully-functional Louis Vuitton shop at the upcoming "© Murakami" show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Oct. 29, 2007-Feb. 11, 2008 [see Artnet Design, Aug. 9, 2007], it seems not to be true that there is no commercial partnership between the museum and the luxury leather goods company. According to show curator Paul Schimmel, though the store itself is indeed a "commercial readymade," selling specially designed Murakami/Vuitton goods with no profit to the museum, Vuitton is supporting the gala opening on Oct. 28. Early reports had focused on how MOCA didn’t want to present the appearance of a commercial partnership because the institution receives public funding. 

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