Solar Impulse—5-City Tour: The Swiss solar-powered prototype plane, with a wingspan wider than a 747, will make a five-city U.S. flight-tour beginning May 1, with stops in Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Atlanta or Nashville, Washington DC, and New York City. The plane was disassembled, shipped to the U.S. and reassembled here. Initiator, chair and co-pilot Bertrand Piccard says there will be live transmissions from the plane and the opportunity to speak directly with the pilot. His hope: to inspire people to pioneer, explore and invent.
The venture is supported by some 80 companies. Technical flights start March 30. Those clever Swiss!
Baltimore: Earth Week arrives with B’more’s own, home-grown celebration Baltimore Green Week (April 19-27) now in its 10th year. The city of “hon” and beehive hairdos was an early adopter of the green scene: reusing empty factories and warehouses, promoting LEED certification, planting trees to promote healthier neighborhoods, and creating one of the nation’s first Mayor’s office of sustainability. Most BGW events are free or very low cost. Start with the free Ecofestival in Druid Hill Park (Apr 19) and check out everything else that week. Event schedule
Rio de Janeiro: Cidade Olímpico is having an arts boom, fueled by the World Cup (2014) and Summer Olympics (2016), sure to boost tourism and stimulate the economy. The City of the Arts (Cidade das Artes) is the new home of the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra. Another newly opened project: a branch of the Zurich-based Daros Latinamerica Collection. It’s housed in a renovated 19th-century building, and features a premiere exhibition of contemporary Colombian art. First phase of the Rio Museum of Art opened this month in Praça Mauá – once known as a decrepit port area. And since soccer is an art form in Brazil, the city’s main soccer venue is getting a complete overhaul by June 30 for the finals of the Confederations Cup.
Perhaps most spectacular is the Museum of Tomorrow, a signature project for revitalizing the port area, opening in 2014. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the museum and plaza (310 meters in length) extend into Guanabara Bay on a manmade pier – 300,000+ square feet of museum, pools, gardens, bikeway and trails. Inspired by the bromeliad (a tropical plant) the building will feature a movable roof of metal petals that open and follow the sunlight. There’s a host of green features in the project: certified wood, reuse of seawater for air conditioning, 5,000 solar panels to power the construction work. Themewise the museum addresses the past but looks ahead to 2061 (50 years ahead) to see what the planet and its ecosystems are like.
Paris: Lights Out. Whether you visit in December when the trees outside Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are roped with thousands of tiny, red lights, or enjoy a summer evening view atop the ferris wheel in the Tuileries, the light in Paris is unforgettable (both natural and manmade). A new government decree–which takes effect in July – requires shutting off lights in offices and shops, in Paris and throughout France, between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. to reduce light pollution and conserve energy. Luckily, the 20,000 lights on the Eiffel Tour (as well as the favored Christmas displays) will remain on; as for the rest, tant pis.
Environment minister Delphine Batho said in a statement, “…[It] will also cut carbon dioxide emissions by 250,000 tons a year and save the equivalent of the annual consumption of 750,000 households.” We agree with part of her assessment. Light pollution can “cause significant disruptions on ecosystems by changing communication between species, migrations, reproduction cycles or even the prey-predator relationships.” So, when will Vegas step up to the plate ? International Herald Tribune story
Ancient Cities — on the Road: Babylon, Pompeii and Herculaneum were once-vibrant places in the ancient world, but exist no more – other than as archeological sites, mounds and depositories of objects that awaken our desire to understand the past. Pompeii and Herculaneum are wildly popular Italian tourist destinations – recreated with stones, mosaics and rubble excavated from buried ruins centuries after their destruction in 79 AD from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
These sites are seriously endangered, according to a new BBC TV report, due to lack of funding and inadequate management. Lucky for us, the British Museum (London) has opened an exhibition of some 250 everyday objects, exquisite gold jewelry and casts of human remains from Pompeii that will be on view (March 28 through September).
Babylon’s Cyrus Cylinder — one of the most famous objects to survive from the ancient world – is traveling to five American cities in the next few months. Inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform writing (the earliest known writing form) on the orders of the Persian King Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) after he captured Babylon in 539 BC, it is often thought of as the first bill of human rights: it appears to encourage freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire and to allow deported people to return to their homelands.
Today, all that remains of the famed city of Babylon – which was located about 85 km south of present-day Baghdad, is a large tell (or mound) with some broken mud-brick buildings. Saddam Hussein’s summer palace overlooked some of the remains. Considered a world heritage object, the Cylinder is traveling with an exhibition of 16 objects that show the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East (550 BC-331 BC). Currently at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington DC (through April 28), The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia exhibition travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; and concludes at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa Los Angeles in October 2013. Details including travel schedule
Arcosanti and the Future: In the 1970’s, a hands-on summer at Arcosanti (you paid your own way to volunteer) was more exciting than backpacking in Europe. The desert eco-community, about 70 miles north of Phoenix, AZ, is the child of visionary architect-founder Paolo Soleri. His manifesto: “If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment,” the poster began… ‘Join us.’” In the years since its founding, Arcosanti has attracted some 7,000 people who came to learn in this “urban laboratory,” help build it and hang out. Soleri, who is 92, has recently retired from his role as director of the parent Cosanti Foundation.
So the question now is: will Arcosanti reaches its goal of being permanent home for 5,000 people in the desert, or eventually an archeological site? Read the thoughtful New York Times article (lovely slide show too).
Oslo/SFO/NYC/etc: Snøhetta is the buzzword for hot design these days. The architectural firm based in Oslo, Norway, and NYC, designed the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt) that won the Aga Khan Architecture Award. (Check out the video) It’s completing the major addition (300,000 square feet) to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) that opens in 2016.
It has just been awarded the commission for a new museum in Lascaux (France) that will give visitors a 21st century experience interpreting the famed 18,000-year-old cave paintings of aurochs, red deer and horses made by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Not last or least: Snohetta is moving ahead with a plum job: revamping New York’s Times Square – a place that a million people pass through every day.
Its design for the waterfront Opera House in Oslo (completed 2008) still has tongues wagging. The New Yorker writer David Owen says the Opera building, which was planned as part of a waterfront reclamation effort, “seems to emerge from the water…[and] has become a busy public square.”
Helsinki (Finland): No thanks! Already a world design capital with 80 museums, Helsinki has turned down a Frank Gehry-designed branch of New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Perhaps the bloom was off the rose when officials considered the $180-million cost (€140 million) and the lack of certainty that it would be the showboat Bilbao has been for Spain. Not to worry: Helsinki is putting people first with a new central city library whose design will be determined in an architectural competition. Here are beautiful designs from the six finalists. Don’t mourn for the Guggenheim: another museum branch is underway in Dubai.
Marseille (France): Heartbreaking. That’s the word that sums up what has happened after the multi-million-dollar effort to revamp the gritty port city, including neighboring Provençal towns, as the European Culture Capital of 2013. The international drug trade and related multiple murders have terrorized the community and possibly caused irreparable reputation damage. Green News reported in February on the new and restored museums and waterfront. Let’s hope the French government gets a grip on this before tourism season begins in earnest. Full story
Green Europe Capital Finalists: Bristol, Brussels, Glasgow and Ljubljana are shortlisted in the competition to be the European Green Capital in 2015. The award is an annual prize that goes to one city every year, singling out its environmental performance. An independent panel of 12 experts assesses each entry.The four cities will now go forward to present their vision, their potential to act as a role model to other cities, and their communication strategy to the jury in Brussels in May and announced at an official ceremony in June, hosted by the current European Green Capital, Nantes, France. Stockholm was the inaugural European Green Capital (2010), followed by Hamburg, Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain), and Nantes (France).Copenhagen will be the green capital in 2014.
Isn’t it great that so many European cities are qualified to put a hat in the ring?
Facebook www.facebook.com/EuropeanGreenCapitalAward Twitter @EU_GreenCapital
New Haven (Conn.): Two home-runs merit a visit to the Yale University campus as a hotbed for the arts: the completely renovated and reopened Yale University Art Gallery (free admission) and a year-long 50th anniversary celebration at the University’s Beinecke Rare Book Library. The Ennead (architectural firm) has unified space inside several museum buildings –- remarkably different styles — and added a modest 26,000 square foot addition. What’s wondrous is the collection — a total of 200,000 pieces in 11 curatorial departments– that may make it the best university gallery in the nation. Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker calls it “a triumphal march of American art.” There’s also European, African, Asian and Indo-Pacific too! Check out the New York Times story and Schjeldahl’s review (Dec 17, 2012)
Yale’s Beinecke Library celebrates its 50th anniversary with a year-long series of special events, from lectures and conferences to poetry readings and concerts. Two exhibitions explore the Beinecke’s architecture and hand-written manuscripts. All exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Worth noting: lecture by author Umberto Eco (Name of the Rose) in October. Check the events schedule.
NEXT MONTH: Japan’s National Stadium designed by Zaha Hadid; London (malling the ‘burbs); reusing old airports as cities; DC’s sustainability plan; Gary Hustwit’s book on post-Olympic venues; Pittsburgh’s 2030 District and more.