Cities have been under siege this year with the COVID-19 pandemic – but urban centers have been around, through thick and thin, for 5,000 years as places for trade, business, leisure and pleasure. Athens, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome were all devastated by pandemics. Later, Cairo, Canton and Harbin were deeply affected. Europe survived two rounds of the Plague. The US survived epidemics of smallpox, yellow fever, and polio.
Some analysts predict the current trend of migration from cities to smaller towns during the pandemic is the wave of the future — but we’re optimistic: The trajectory for growth and density will give us new cultural riches, places to explore, reasons to visit, with innovations in cities and urban centers worldwide.
We’re looking ahead with great projects in Lisbon, New York, Oslo, Philadelphia, Chicago, Singapore, and Dubai.
A New Twist on Airports As Temporary City?
Most of us don’t relish the time we spend at any airport on our way to or from vacation, business or home. But, increasingly, the one-time glamour of travel decades ago is in the amenities you might find in any city, now incorporated into international airports and hubs from Singapore to Schipol, Denver to Vancouver, Hong Kong to Munich. Museums, aquariums, special art installations, botanic gardens, IMAX theaters, yoga studios, luxury hotels and more are transforming airports into temporary cities for long layovers, a weekend away, or a few hours of entertainment.
What’s Old Is New –TWA Hotel
When Trans World Airlines (TWA) went out of business in 2001, it left behind an iconic brand associated with the glamour and fun of an earlier era, including its one-time owner, the reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. It also left behind the TWA Flight Center –at what is now JFK Airport in New York — an international hub designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen.
Now you can step back in time to the 1960’s at the TWA Hotel, which has transformed the 1962 architectural icon into a first-class way station for travelers – and those who want a weekend getaway at the airport !
All by itself, this is a thrilling building ! Preserving the look and feel of the original terminal, the hotel is outfitted with midcentury modern furnishings, martini bars, an infinity pool (for soaking, not laps), the world’s largest hotel gym, and soaring views of takeoffs and landings behind ultra quiet windows. Nearby is the 1958 Constellation airplane, with a renovated cabin that has been transformed into a cocktail lounge where you can also take a turn at the controls. If all this isn’t enough, there’s the Presidential suite, an homage to TWA’s eccentric owner Howard Hughes.Beyer Blinder Belle conducted the project, with a pair of beautifully executed hotel wings by Lubrano Ciavarra Architects in a meticulous restoration.
Washington Post art critic Phil Kennicott writes: “Saarinen’s structure elicits delight and kindles old hopes. It is light and full of promise and it seems to offer the visitor nothing but choices, to go up the wide central stairs, down the side halls, to settle into the sun-drenched sunken lounge or wind your way up to the restaurants and bars above, to move or to sit, to explore or to dream.”
Transformative Art at LaGuardia
New York’s La Guardia Airport is getting an $8-billion makeover that includes the arrivals and departures hall of the new Terminal B, likely to open by the end of 2020. Here’s the best part: $10 million has been set aside for new, site-specific art installations that will give you more to see and experience.
Rick Cotton (New York Port Authority is LaGuardia’s owner) says in a New York Times story: “La Guardia of the past has been a third-world experience, which Governor Cuomo’s vision for the airport is to totally reverse.”
Jeppe Hein, Sabine Hornig, Laura Owens and Sarah Sze are the four internationally recognized artists who’ve been commissioned to create large-scale permanent art for the space, under a joint partnership by the Airport with the Public Art Fund. Two of the artists (Hein and Hornig) are based in Berlin; Owens in Los Angeles and Sze a New Yorker.
Cotton says he hopes aspects of the art “would come to symbolize the airport and become a reference point for travelers, almost like the clock in Grand Central.”
Best of the Best: Singapore
A twist on bringing “nature” to urban environments greets you at the new Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore: a waterfall some 40 meters tall, in fact, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The water pours through an oculus in a steel and glass roof down to a climate-controlled indoor forest. The airport is designed by Moshe Safdie’s architectural firm; the water feature by Buro Happold, and the indoor forest by Peter Walker and Partners landscape architecture firm. Called the Rain Vortex, it can funnel water at a 10,000-gallon per minute rate, to keep up with Singapore’s vigorous thunderstorms.
Here’s a good way to remain tranquil while waiting for your check-in! There are 200 varieties of rainforest-friendly plants in terraces surrounding the water, with paths to walk and relax–in an airport!
More Airport Art
Check out the art you will find at airports in Denver, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Atlanta and San Francisco in this Washington Post story (Left: A 30-foot stallion by the late artist Luis Jimenez is on-site at the Denver International Airport)
Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport features the 16×24 foot mural of Prince, “I Would Die for U,” on view near Terminal 1, through December 2020.
Philadelphia: More Parks, More Culture
Philadelphia is ready to beat its own record as the most park- and cultural site-friendly city in the US. Local government and philanthropies have dedicated millions of dollars to upgrade Philly’s historic squares and access to former industrial waterfront piers as leisure sites and year-round attractions.
Calder on the drawing board…
It’s not a museum, not a garden: It will be a unique “sanctuary” –indoor and outdoor space, with gardens and galleries designed by the international firm Herzog & DeMeuron — on Philadelphia’s museum-rich Benjamin Franklin Parkway, to showcase the works of Alexander “Sandy” Calder (1898-1976), a multifaceted artist and one of the world’s most foremost sculptors.
Three generations of the Calder family from Philadelphia –all artists – are represented on the Parkway, including the well-known statue of William Penn atop City Hall, along with 250 sculptures that adorn the building, by Calder’s grandfather. Calder’s father designed the Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Square. Sandy Calder’s mobile Ghost hangs in the main hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Calder’s oeuvre—from the minute to the monumental – exhibits an infectious good humor and playfulness: his jewelry for collector Peggy Guggenheim in Venice; the Calder “Circus” at the Whitney; and a panoply of traveling stabiles and mobiles in such venues as Amsterdam, Washington DC and elsewhere.
The 22,000 pieces Calder created include mobiles, stabiles, standing mobiles, wire sculptures, and monumental outdoor works, as well as oil paintings, works on paper, toys, pieces of jewelry, and domestic objects. A selection of works owned by the Calder Foundation will be on display in the new Philadelphia sanctuary.
Grandson Alexander S.C. Rower and CEO of the Calder Foundation says, of the $45-million sanctuary project, “It will be on a very human scale, more of an experience of a series of living rooms instead of a large museum gallery…. I’ve given Jacques [DeMeuron] the responsibility of creating a new way that the public can engage with art; to figure out how we can get people closer to the way the artist is trying to communicate.”
Read about the artist: Timing couldn’t be better for the new second part of Jed Perl’s two-volume Calder biography– The Conquest of Space: The Later Years: 1940–1976. (The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898–1940 published in 2017.)
Wait, there’s more…
Philadelphia is booming with remade outdoor spaces – the Rail Park at the former Reading Viaduct in center city and the Cherry Street Pier on the waterfront are two recent additions.
The Rail Park –one of the next generation of greenways popping up around the US – made its debut on June 2018 in Center City, part of a three-mile-long stretch of obsolete rail lines built and formerly used by the Philadelphia and Read Railroad companies.
On the central Delaware River, the Cherry Street Pier – opened in 2019 — is a year-round, mixed-use public space. It’s the shell of a century-old municipal pier, but with a very contemporary vibe: artists’ studios, market, public forum, a garden and food concessions.
A DIY Park Kit in a Truck: For the 43,000+ vacant lots in Philadelphia, many in under-resourced neighborhoods, there’s now a “kit” designed by Jefferson University professors that provides the design elements – as well as easily-accessible items to have delivered in a van – to build your own park and make a park. This eliminates the multiple delays, equipment costs, and regulations that could make it difficult to install one in many neighborhoods.
Matisse is King in Baltimore
Baltimore sisters and collectors Claribel and Etta Cone amassed some 500 works by the great 20th-century Fauve artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954 , including the famous Blue Nude (1907) and Large Reclining Nude (1935), then gifted their horde to the Baltimore Museum of Art. More of the Cone cache arrived – some 700 pieces – by bequest in 1949, making it what may be the world’s largest Matisse collection.
Now comes a fitting new enterprise – a “brain trust” — for the exhibition and study of Matisse’s work: the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies at the Baltimore Museum, supported by a $5 million gift from the Ruth Carol Fund, and slated for opening in 2021. Jay Fisher, a Matisse scholar and longtime curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art, will serve as the center’s first director.
The Cone sisters, daughters of a Baltimore textile magnate, spent abundant time in Europe, getting to know uber collector Gertrude Stein (there may have been a romance), Pablo Picasso, Matisse and their contemporaries. The sisters’ collecting habits were expansive – including more than 100 pieces by Picasso, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and others.
Chicago: Adding to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Legacy
The Chicago region is rich in dozens of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, where the famed architect spent his early years of his career in the Oak Park suburb.
Now plans are underway for a 2,000-square-foot visitor and education center to adjoin his former home and studio (built in 1889) – already open as a public museum that attracts 90,000 visitors a year. It’s one of five properties under the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust that operates public programs and tours.
Dezeen reports: “The extension is intended to be built with simple materials, including pale brickwork walls and large expanses of glass, intended to complement a “snaking masonry wall” that wraps the existing property.”
Chicago architect John Ronan got the nod for the design, which includes reception hall and gift shop, as well as an educational hub for design classes, artist showcases and private events. The plan also includes an outdoor plaza connecting the grounds of Mr. Wright’s home and studio to the center with walkways and terrace areas, and a lawn for outdoor community events and lectures.
A New Twist in the Middle East
There’s the Turning Torso in Malmo Sewden, Milan’s Generali Tower (lo storto), London’s Gherkin, and the Marilyn Monroe (Missisauga, outside Toronto)
Some 30 buildings and complexes worldwide – from Moscow to Shanghai, Panama City to Guayaquil(Ecuador) –are notable for their distinctive twisting, curvy or gravity-challenging forms that showcase extraordinary engineering acumen, not to mention a highly visible place on the skyline. Several. were created by star architectural firms Calatrava and Zaha Hadid.
A new twist: the Dynamic Tower in Dubai. On track for construction in 2020,the 80-story apartment complex is an original. Every floor will rotate, giving each of 200 apartment owners “the best view,” a 360-degree view of the Dubai skyline. Another important aspect: wind turbines and solar cells will help power this ingenious project , making it what architect David Fisher calls “a green power plant.” Each apartment unit is a prefab that then will slide into place during construction – another green idea that can reduce waste. There’s a waiting list of 1,100 for these very pricey digs! Read the Daily Mail
Another twist near Oslo: A bridge ? A musem?
It’s both! 43 miles outside Norway’s capital city Oslo is the Twist, a new kunsthalle that spans the Randselva River with two distinctive galleries. Designed by the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), it’s part of Kistefos, a sculpture park/museum complex for contemporary art that incorporates a scenic environment, preservation of industrial buildings and their heritage.
What you’ll find here: Outdoor installation by British sculptor Anish Kapoor, Icelandic Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and others; coupled with a 200-foot-long structure that looks and feels like sculpture and offers two distinctive exhibition spaces for Norwegian and international sculpture.
Bjarke Ingels explains it this way (see the video): The structure is full of dualities, bringing together the two sides of the river, with both vertical and horizontal spaces. It’s introverted and extroverted. One space is tall and vertical, has no daylight and no view; the other a panoramic room with sidelight windows allow you to interact with nature. The third “room” is a twisting space where seemingly there’s no ceiling, walls or floor. The 200-foot-long overpass lifts over a rushing river.
The team used “sticks” (their term), all vertical pieces, twisted like a deck of cards to creative a world of curves from straight elements.
Lisbon: The Newest European Green Capital
Lisbon, Portugal, is the first southern European city to win the prestigious 2020 competition as a European Green Capital — a showcase of smart, sustainable practices that make it attractive for residents, business and tourists.
Stockholm, Hamburg, Nantes, Copenhagen, Oslo are among the other Green Capitals since the competition premiered in 2010. Check out capitals to visit !
- Here’s just a few reasons why – if you’re green friendly — you’ll love spending time there:
- Nearly ¾ of locals live within 300 meters of green space – all that green is great for biodiversity too.
- Walking, hiking, biking (and public transport) make it a people-friendly port city that also helps reduce car use.
The city boasts 90 kilometers of bike lanes linking the city, its green areas with the Vale de Alcantara green corridor.
- Bike sharing features electric bicycles that make it easier to travel through some of the hillier parts of the city.
- Monsanto Park has received the Sustainable Forest Management Certification.
- There’s a full fleet of electric cars, over 500 charging stations, and every city light is highly efficient LED.
Lisbon was the first capital in Europe to sign the New Covenant of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy in 2016, after achieving a 50% reduction in C02 emissions (2002-14); reducing energy consumption by 23% and water consumption by 17% from 2007 to 2013.
Keep these cities in your plans when travel is safer and readily available. Some of these destinations are temporary closed for public health safety.