Happy Friday and happy long weekend! Whether you’re staying put or heading out of town, here are a few architecture- and urbanism-related stories for you to peruse while you do you. From a proposal by Jay-Z to bring a Caesars Palace to Times Square to the latest on the search for a new Architect of the Capitol (AOC) to some not-so-bright street lights in Los Angeles, kick back, read up, and enjoy!
Jay-Z touts a Times Square Caesars Palace
Jay-Z has thrown his name in the hat of investors vowing to build a casino in New York City. In an open letter released through his agency Roc Nation, the artist strongly supported opening a Caesars Place in Times Square. His statement laid the foundation that “the winning group must have a track record of turning words into deeds—of putting New York City and its residents first.” The statement continues in saying that Roc Nation is committed to keeping Times Square “connected to all facets of culture.”
The message supports a Times Square casino claiming its ability to benefit New Yorkers, local businesses, “invest[ment] into sanitation and security,” and the development of a transit plan. The proposal also commits $115 million for “diverse theater programs that include daycare for Broadway workers and their families.” Jay-Z and Caesars are up against other potential casino-owners including Mets owner Steve Cohen, who wants to build one in Willets Point, real estate magnate Stefan Soloviev, and Hudson Yards developer Stephen Ross.
The search for a new Architect of the Capitol is underway
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is helping a Congressionally subcontracted executive search firm find the next Architect of the Capitol (AOC). The AOC, who is “responsible for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex,” serves a 10-year-long presidentially-appointed term. The current acting AOC is Chere Rexroat, who assumed the position under President Biden after the preceding AOC, Trump-appointed J. Brett Blanton, was fired for his actions during the January 6 riot and allegations that he impersonated a police officer. Last month, Rexroat cleaned house, firing a swath of the office’s leadership.
The AIA is working with executive search consultancy Reffett Associates, who is leading the selection, and congressional offices, alongside advertising the position to its own members. AIA CEO Lakisha Ann Woods said: “We are proud to have an active advisory role in the selection of an experienced licensed architect for this critical position. Our goal is to help find the best candidate who possesses the skills and attributes to successfully execute this prestigious role.”
Interested in applying? Read the full job description here.
LA DOT’s shade and light structure prototype underwhelms
Last week, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) held a press conference to unveil a new shade structure for bus stops, la sombrita. The project, designed with the local Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), features a curving piece of perforated metal attached to a street sign post, with a light at the top. Designers conducted fieldwork in Quito, London, and Hamburg, taking design inspiration for the structure that could shade during sunlight hours, and provide a safer feeling at night with solar-powered artificial lighting, which was framed as a response to gendered safety concerns. The design initiative came out of a 2021 LADOT study on how the city could improve public transit experiences for women.
We saw plenty of discussion about our “La Sombrita” pilot: the new shade and lighting structure design we’ve debuted at four bus stops. Here’s how a small structure can make a big difference for riders who depend on public transit. https://t.co/e7zgbKcFdP
— LADOT (@LADOTofficial) May 19, 2023
The project immediately took flak for what critics alleged were not gender-specific solutions, with some noting that Metro Los Angeles had previously teased plans for a more comprehensive shading structure. While the structures are small, leading to questions of whether this would provide additional shade to more than one person, a Univision report also showed how little light the structure provides at night. While defenders of the design have noted that it is a prototype, and can be installed quickly, this comes amid a larger conversation around lapsed promises to improve bus shelters, and larger systemic failures of the city’s bus system.
WMATA unveils new metro car designs
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) released designs for its new 8000 series cars, which will be in service over the next few years in the Washington D.C. area. The operationally-deficient system, which has literally been on fire (though has seen improvements), and opened a major extension last year, is moving forward with planned upgrades. Transit riders will be able to visit a popup at Gallery Place – Chinatown Station, to provide feedback on design proposals and features.
WMATA is touting a surveilled system, which will also include open gangways (which New York is also experimenting with though is commonplace in many cities worldwide), charging ports, designated spaces for riders in wheelchairs, and better announcement systems. In the design for the 8000 series, seating will be rearranged, foregoing the Metro’s classic rows for a more open plan, which will also accommodate labeled space for bikes and luggage. The digital display screens, which are already among the best in the country for a metro system, will be placed in easier-to-spot locations, and be installed more frequently within cars. WMATA is ordering 256 8000 series cars to start, and has a contract with Italian-headquartered Hitachi Rail to order 800 in total for a cost of $2.2 billion.