1. Blair v. Donald
Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin’s distaste of a sign on Donald Trump’s Chicago tower made for some peppery Twitter exchanges from both sides. The sign, which reads “TRUMP”, in 20-foot-tall steel letters, was deemed to ruin the 96-story building, said Kamin. Trump called Kamin a “third rate architecture critic” and believed he had been fired, a claim Kamin rapidly responded to by mentioning his absence from the Chicago paper due to his Harvard journalism fellowship.
2. Chicago's Second Sign-Gate, Wrigley
The Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ $575 million revised plan to update Wrigley Field and the surrounding areas turned sour as a lawsuit loomed over the stadium’s signage, which according to a group of neighboring rooftop club owners, violated their contract with the baseball team. The plan was brought under revision as Wrigley Field obtained city landmark status that protects numerous historic features. "It's not about money. It's about monopoly. The Cubs want to own it all," said Tom Moore, an attorney representing the rooftop owners. "They're now asking you to facilitate their bully tactics." The rooftop owners, who pay roughly $4 million to the Cubs, claimed the planned signs for the outfield would block views from their perches, which violates a 17 percent revenue contract between the owners and the team. In the end, the club owners assured they wouldn’t move forward with a lawsuit, and in response to concerns of the National Park Service, the Cubs have modified their proposal for outfield signs (surely to receive the federal tax credits).
3. Oakwood House
Raleigh, N.C., architect Louis Cherry, FAIA, landed himself in a four-hour court hearing with Raleigh's Historic Development Commission (RHDC)over the modern design of his own home, situated in Raleigh’s historic Oakwood neighborhood. Cherry, who designs modern buildings, like the N.C. State University’s Arboretum, kept the area’s historical context in mind for his home’s blueprint, yet envisioned a sleek home finished with unpainted North Carolina cypress. The RHDC approved his design, but the real battle started once construction was almost completed. His neighbor, who owns a 2008 faux-traditional house, filed an appeal to the Board of Adjustment (a division within the RHDC), claiming the house was not compatible with the local style. At this point, Cherry faced a harsh reality: the halting of construction, all the while spending money maintaining it to keep damage afar (which he did), and possible demolition or readjustment of the designs. The case became so convoluted that a local organization, the North Carolina Modernist Houses, started a defense fund to assist Cherry and his wife in paying their legal fees. An opposition group was formed, perpetuating tensions within the neighborhood. The couple was able to move in their home this November, slightly over a year after construction began in 2013. Long story short, the house was completed; nonetheless, if the outcome had turned out in the neighbor’s favor, a precedent would have been set regarding neighborly taste subjection.
Thinking about setting myself up as an AirBNB rental. Surely my neighbors and The Raleigh City Council will approve.
— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) November 25, 2014
Good thing they didn't tear me down, but then again I bet my story would have made a great bluegrass song. #IBMA
— Oakwood Modern House (@ModernOakwood) October 3, 2014
4. Frank Lloyd Wright School CEO vs. the School Board
Future architects beware! The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) changed its by laws in 2012, which in turn could force the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture to lose its accreditation in 2017. The school, part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, dates back to 1932 and was first accredited in 1992. Accreditation is essential and required for all U.S master’s programs in architecture per the National Architectural Accrediting Board. HLC’s changes require the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture to incorporate as a higher education institution (it is currently considered a multifaceted institution that is not focused exclusively on higher education), meaning the foundation would have to continue funding the school while ceding its governance. In an ARCHITECT interview in August, Foundation president Sean Malone said: "The foundation would simply be responsible for whatever funding is necessary to sustain the school but could not, in correlation with that funding, have any direct governance or operational control." One of the school’s Board of Governors members, Jerry van Eyck, said in an ARCHITECT interview in September that the school was on the path to closing its doors. In early December, the school launched a fundraising campaign, with the goal of raising $2 million by late 2015 in order to become separately incorporated. An institutional nadir!
5. Frank Gehry, FAIA v. 98% of the built environment
Frank Gehry, a man needing no introduction, makes perpetual headlines for his designs. More recently, the architect's Fondation Louis Vuittonopened in Paris and the 85-year-old acquainted a journalist to his middle finger during a conference in Oviedo, Spain. In town to collect the prestigious Princess of Asturias prize (an annual Spanish award given for notable achievements in the arts, science, humanities, and public affairs), the Pritzker Prize winner was jet lagged and later apologized saying the journalist "caught me at a bad moment". The journalist in question asked whether Gehry’s designs are just about spectacle, leading Gehry to embark on a critique of today’s architecture. "In this world we are living in, 98% of everything that is built and designed today is pure shit," Gehry said. "There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else. They are damn buildings and that’s it." Alas, they just don’t make them like they used to.
6. Skanska v. FCRC re: B2 BKLYN
Hopes for three new residential towers in New York built in record time vanished when construction halted on Aug. 27. Project developer Forest City Ratner Cos. (FCRC) and project contractor Skanska went at each other throats’ (mainly in court) when Skanska stopped construction on the Atlantic Yards development site, which sits next to the Barclays Center sports and entertainment arena in Brooklyn. The project, B2 BKLYN, designed by SHoP Architects, was supposed to be one of the first high-rise projects built using landmark modular construction technology and required a nearby factory in which 60 percent of the residential modules’ construction process would be completed. Leaving over 150 local workers jobless, the project has blown past its initial $117 million and a mere 10 stories of the planned 32 were built in over two years. In the end, FCRC Modular, LLC purchased Skanska Modular, LLC’s stake in the modular factory, but the legal feud surrounding B2 BKLYN is still alive and well.
7. Zaha Hadid Lawsuit
In the June issue of The New York Review of Books, Martin Filler wrote an article that claimed Zaha Hadid, Hon. FAIA, was unconcerned regarding the deaths of workers during the construction of her Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar. In fact, not a single death occurred during the construction of the building, as that phase hasn’t even begun. Hadid claimed that her quotes in the story had been pulled out of their context, and she sued, claiming defamation of character. In her lawsuit, the world-renowned, Iraqi-British architect not only sought a withdrawal of the article from publication, but also damages from the defendants, full payment of legal fees, and "any further relief as justice may require." The suit was dropped, and Martin Filler issued a letter on Sep. 5, apologizing for his factual error.