Daily digest: Ida deaths highlight the need for basement apartment reform, OPPO teams with Kengo Kuma for Milan Design Week, and more

Rise and Fall

Daily digest: Ida deaths highlight the need for basement apartment reform, OPPO teams with Kengo Kuma for Milan Design Week, and more

Bamboo (竹) Ring :|| Weaving a Symphony of Lightness and Form combines carbon fiber and bamboo into a spiraling slinky shape capable of vibrating to project music (Courtesy OPPO)

Good morning and welcome back to what, for many of you, is the top of the workweek after a long holiday weekend. That didn’t stop new projects from being announced, major government proclamations, or the reveal of new art projects.

Here’s what you need to know today:

After Hurricane Ida left 9 dead in New York, a new call for legalizing basement apartments

Less than one week ago, the scattered remains of Hurricane Ida bore down on New York and surrounding states, leaving behind devastation in its wake as record-breaking rainfall turned streets into rivers and, tragically, took nine lives in New York City proper. Eight of those nine were living in basement apartments at the time of the storm, sheltering in place as the city had suggested (though confusingly, emergency alerts first told residents to head to lower ground in as part of a tornado warning, then to high ground shortly after during a flash flood warning). Basement apartments in New York are popular choices for the elderly and immigrants as they’re typically cheaper than comparable above-ground units, but many are illegally converted and not fit for occupation, lacking the required number of windows, ceiling heights of at least seven-and-a-half feet, and at least two accessible exists.

Such basement apartments (the majority of them in Queens) aren’t going away despite the dangers posed by flooding, but could legalizing and modernizing the units help avoid similar tragedies in the future? A pilot program run by the city has only begun work on a handful of units since its inception (owing to a meager budget), but proponents are hoping the latest deaths will raise awareness of how pressing the issue is.

H/t to Curbed

OPPO and Kengo Kuma team up for a kinetic pavilion at Milan Design Week 2021

Milan Design Week 2021 is ongoing through September 10, and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has partnered with Chinese smartphone behemoth OPPO to realize an acoustic sculpture for the event that will remain up through September 19. Bamboo (竹) Ring :|| Weaving a Symphony of Lightness and Form combines carbon fiber and bamboo into a spiraling slinky shape capable of vibrating to project music through what OPPO calls “structural sound technology.” Using speakers, physical movement, and haptic motors, the structure will reproduce orchestral scores composed by Japanese violinist Midori Komachi and Musicity.

Nick Cave enlivens Manhattan’s subway shuttle with tile mosaics

Artist Nick Cave is debuting the first of three new mosaic murals in Manhattan’s 42nd Street connector this Friday, September 10, as part of a $1.8 million arts project to enliven the overhauled entrances and hallways leading to the 42nd Street shuttle train. Every One depicts kinetic figures in motion, all wearing Cave’s trademarked Soundsuits, swirling the fabric sculptures as they move—all rendered in colorful tile and removing the aural element of the performance. Every One will be followed by Each One at the shuttle entrance and Equal All on the platform wall next year.

H/t to the New York Times

Theaster Gates shows off Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood progress

Artist, urbanist, and educator Theaster Gates is keeping up the piecemeal revitalization of Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing through the Rebuild Foundation, and he recently gave the Chicago Tribune a tour of the St. Laurence Catholic Elementary School building, currently being converted into St. Laurence Arts & Industry. Once complete, the building will reopen as a new artist incubator complete with coworking space, studios, and free WiFi.

H/t to the Chicago Tribune

Norman Foster defends his firm’s airport projects after environmental criticisms

Sir Norman Foster has drawn plenty of flak from environmental campaigners over the last year after his eponymous firm, Foster + Partners withdrew from Architects Declare over their refusal to stop designing airports. Now, in an interview with Bloomberg, Foster doubled down on his earlier comments, stating that eating beef was dozens of times more destructive for the environment than air travel, and that only 2 percent of all CO2 emissions were generated by planes. While acknowledging that the industry could further reduce its emissions, he argued that improving global transportation infrastructure was equally as important.

H/t to Bloomberg

El Salvador is now the first country to legally accept Bitcoin

Starting today, you can pay your taxes (and every other federal bill) in El Salvador with Bitcoin after the country became the first to recognize the cryptocurrency as legal tender. The new law means that it will be easier for remittances to make their way back to El Salvador (especially important as those transactions make up 24 perfect of the economy) and is intended to help citizens without bank accounts gain access to decentralized equity. To bolster their position, the government snapped up 400 Bitcoins ahead of the law taking effect, approximately $21 million at the time of purchase.

But, as detractors have pointed out, Bitcoin’s volatility is less than ideal for a national currency. The cryptocurrency’s value has been swinging all over the place over the last year, hitting highs of $60,000 per coin—and tumbling down from over $50,000 to $43,000 each because of El Salvador’s announcement. Traders rushed to liquify $3.5 billion, temporarily freezing certain exchanges as holders looked to cash in.

H/t to The Verge