Daily digest: Cladding falls from the Hancock Center, the sad history of the Bronx’s Twin Parks North West, and more

Treacherous Towers

Daily digest: Cladding falls from the Hancock Center, the sad history of the Bronx’s Twin Parks North West, and more

Designed by Henry Cobb, the former Hancock Tower at 875 North Michigan Avenue is wrapped by a distinctive X-shaped bracing system. Unfortunately a piece of the cladding was dislodged on January 5. (Drew Hays/Unsplash)

Good morning and welcome back to the top of the second week of the new year. There’s a lot to dive into so let’s get to it.

Cladding fell off Chicago’s John Hancock Tower last week

A large piece of aluminum cladding fell off of Chicago’s iconic John Hancock Tower on Wednesday, January 5. Thankfully no one was hurt.

According to Block Club Chicago, the debris came from the second-lowest section of the X-shaped superstructure that wraps the building but was only a panel of sheet metal used to clad the actual bracing itself. According to building owners the Hearn Company and Alderman Brian Hopkins, the damage was caused by high winds and this is the first time that any piece of the Hancock building itself has been dislodged (in 2002, a stretch of scaffolding was knocked loose from the 43rd floor and killed three people). The investigation into the cause of the collapse is ongoing but has been slowed by ongoing cold temperatures and wind gusts.

H/t to Block Club Chicago

After a deadly Bronx fire, tracing the history of the Twin Parks North West complex

A five-alarm fire that ripped through the Twin Parks North West apartment complex in the Bronx and left 19 dead yesterday, January 9, was New York City’s deadliest in 32 years. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation (at the time of writing, the city is eyeing a space heater that had been running for several days), it’s worth looking back at the origins of the 120-unit, 19-story affordable housing tower.

In fact, Urban Omnibus did just that in 2013. Twin Parks North West is just one part of the much broader Twin Parks affordable housing complex which contains over 2,000 apartments across a mixture of high- and low-rise buildings. Despite the complex being lauded by the likes of Kenneth Frampton when it opened in the early 1970s, decades of neglect, the closing of public amenities, and major changes to the layout from what was originally planned (most of them budget or safety-related) led to the project being largely forgotten.

After you’re done reading about the tragic history of the building itself (including modern-day walkthroughs with the original architects, Francis Wickham, project architect, and Myles Weintraub, who participated in the Twin Parks study), it would be worth looking into the community groups are collecting both funds and practical items such as jackets for those displaced by the fire.

H/t to Urban Omnibus

Marriott will launch its own design lab in Bethesda

Marriott International is launching its own hospitality design lab in its Bethesda, Maryland, headquarters. The multinational hotel company announced the move at CES 2022 last week, stating that once its new headquarters building is completed this year, the Marriott Design Lab will occupy 10,000 square feet. The lab will allow Marriott to test modular building technologies, hotel room arrangements, HVAC setups, and other strategies before deploying them in the real world.

H/t to the Baltimore Business Journal

Republicans want to open mining in Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments

Republican lawmakers in Utah are reportedly still trying to open the 2-million-acre Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments up to mining.

In October of 2021, President Biden restored protection to both monuments via an executive order after former President Trump shrunk the protected coverage of Bear Ears by 85 percent and Grand Staircase by 50 percent, opening the rest up to resource extraction. At the time, Utah Governor Spencer Cox threatened a lawsuit, alleging that the president should have passed the matter through Congress instead and that Biden overstepped his bounds.

It looks like the state is still mulling that lawsuit over, as Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has reportedly been in touch with a law firm and is researching potential grounds for suing the administration, alleging that the executive order is against the best interest of the state and local and tribal governments. That last point, however, could be up for debate; the two sites contain the highest concentration of Indigenous artifacts in the country, and a coalition of Native tribes had sued the previous Trump administration over its rolling back of protections for both monuments.

H/t to The Art Newspaper

U.K. developers are on the hook for removing combustible cladding

Today the British government issued developers in the United Kingdom an ultimatum, stating that they’re now responsible for removing flammable aluminum composite cladding from high-rise towers. While it’s been known since the Grenfell Tower fire that killed 72 in 2017 that such cladding leaves buildings at risk, there’s been a back-and-forth between the government and building owners over who would pay for removals and reclads. Although high-rise towers will get government funding, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove has said that developers have until March to lay out how they’ll pay to remove the dangerous cladding on the remaining low-rise buildings.

H/t to AP News

Turkmenistan will finally close a crater that’s been burning for decades

Turkmenistan is attempting to finally close its ominously named “Gateway to Hell,” a crater full of natural gas that’s been burning since 1971. The 200-foot-wide, 65-foot-deep crater was set ablaze after a collapse into a natural gas cavern and has burned ever since. Yesterday, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov publicly stated that the environmental and economic impacts had been too big to ignore, and he was directing the government to try to find a way to put the fire out. Of course, this isn’t the first time it’s been attempted; Berdymukhamedov previously ordered it shut down in 2010 but the government’s efforts failed.

H/t to Gizmodo