Daily digest: MVRDV’s Marble Arch Mound post mortem, Biden’s PLA mandate for federal construction, and more

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Daily digest: MVRDV’s Marble Arch Mound post mortem, Biden’s PLA mandate for federal construction, and more

London’s Marble Arch Mound pictured in August 2021. (Matt Brown/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0)

Good afternoon and welcome back to the start of a fresh new week, one ripe with introspection, new mandates, and plenty of building news.

Here’s what’s going on today:

MVRDV pens a look back at what went wrong with London’s Marble Arch Mound

London’s monolithic Marble Arch Mound closed to the public for good on January 10 after a troubled six-month run. The $8 million artificial landscape was supposed to bolster tourism around Oxford Street by providing sweeping views of Westminster, but the patchy, parched mound instead read as half-finished, leading visitors to ask for their money back. Admission was later made free and Melvyn Caplan, the former deputy leader of Westminster City Council who spearheaded the project, stepped down over the inflated cost—the project was originally slated to have cost under $3 million.

Now, project designer MVRDV has released a report explaining its side of the story: Learning From Marble Arch Mound: A Premature Opening and an Execution Lacking in Love.

“As a practice, we have rarely seen such a loveless execution of our designs,” the firm writes, citing the movement of the mound, last-minute safety changes, and ignored warnings from MVRDV that the opening would be premature. And they certainly don’t shy away from assigning blame, writing:

“As architects, we held our nerve against our better judgment: nature needs time to grow, plants would get healthier with a little rain, the hill, after all, was freely accessible. But when we were finally able to travel and see the project for ourselves, the deception was obvious: there had been virtually no maintenance, making the waste of money complete.”

The Biden administration signs an order requiring PLAs on large federal projects

On Friday, February 4, President Joe Biden signed an executive order mandating that federal construction projects over $35 million make use of project labor agreements (PLAs), putting labor agreements in place before construction even starts. The President’s office estimates this executive order will affect $262 billion worth of projects and help streamline communication at every stage.

H/t to Construction Dive

Construction unemployment plunges in all 50 states

Speaking of construction, a new report released by trade association Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has some welcoming good news; the group reports that construction unemployment in every state has dropped. In December of 2020, well before the widespread rollout of vaccines, the nationwide construction unemployment average was 9.6 percent, and in December of 2021, even with the Omicron variant sweeping the country, it dropped to 5 percent. Nebraska took the top position with only 1.3 percent unemployment, while Alaska came in dead last with 10 percent unemployment, right behind New York at number 49 with 9.5 percent.

Hamptons residents are feuding over airport restrictions

The East Hamptons is a narrow sliver where millionaires and billionaires coexist, but the two groups are at odds as residents are moving ahead with plans to shut down the area’s airport and open a smaller site for landings. Perturbed by the constant sound of air travel as billionaires fly to and from their beach houses, year-round residents have voted to shut down the East Hampton Airport and replace it with a stripped-down landing site only accessible with prior permission on March 4.

However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said that decommissioning the site could take up to two years, but residents claim that if the FAA doesn’t give them permission to use an air control tower at the new airport, they just won’t have one.

H/t to Crain’s New York

Paleontologists allege Utah officials ran over and damaged ancient fossils

Paleontologists are up in arms after alleging that the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ran over fossilized tracks at the Mill Canyon Track Site in Moab, Utah. A wood boardwalk installed over the site in 2016 was intended to keep pedestrians off of the extremely fragile fossilized mud, but due to buckling, the bureau declared that it would need to be replaced. Flash forward to today, and as paleontologists sounded the alarm that the proposed concrete and steel boardwalk would be too heavy for the site, it’s come to light that the BLM has been allegedly driving heavy equipment over the area, leaving tire tracks in and over the site’s dinosaur footprints.

According to a tracker on Twitter, about 20 to 30 percent of the site has already been damaged by backhoe traffic.

H/t to Gizmodo

The world’s largest kaleidoscope is unveiled in Saudi Arabia

STUFISH Entertainment Architects has pulled back the curtain on what it claims will be the world’s largest kaleidoscope, a 131-foot-long tunnel built for the 2022 LEAP future technologies conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The tessellating tunnel warps visitors as they walk through it, but no plans for what will happen to the installation now that LEAP is over have been made public.

H/t to Archinect