Daily digest: Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge undergoes first restoration in 677 years, plans for San Francisco’s $1.7 million toilet halted, and more

In Limbo

Daily digest: Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge undergoes first restoration in 677 years, plans for San Francisco’s $1.7 million toilet halted, and more

Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy (Ingo Mehling/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Happy Tuesday! While today’s news was dominated by the latest Kanye controversy, here are other headlines and happenings within the world of architecture and design. Here’s what else you need to know:

Ponte Vecchio to be restored for the first time in 677 years

The Ponte Vecchio bridge, a 98-foot-long structure spanning the Arno River in Florence, Italy, will undergo restoration work for the first time in 677 years. The stone arches which support the bridge have been weathered by flow of water and require restoration. A floating pier and scaffolding supported by two concrete cubes and four 70-kilogram anchors will be constructed beneath the bridge to take samples of the structure’s materials prior to the restoration. This platform will be moved under each segment of the bridge over a three-week period.

In the coming months, the team will remove weeds, replace damaged stones, and reinforce the wood piles, which support the jewelry stores atop the bridge. Restoration of the bridge’s minuscule details, including its molding and coat of arms, are the main component of the endeavor, which received funding from the city council. Finally, the surface of the bridge will be coated with a protective sealant to prevent further weathering.

“This has never been done before,” Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence, said in The Florentine. “Over the centuries, the bridge has undergone various changes and consolidations, the most recent after the 1966 flood, but no restoration has ever focused on the stones and decorations.”

H/t to The Florentine

California halts $1.7 million bathroom development in San Francisco

The City of San Francisco has frozen construction on a public bathroom design for the Noe Valley neighborhood that will cost $1.7 million and won’t be completed until 2025. The hefty sum would cover the estimated $1.5 million construction of a single toilet occupying a 150-square-foot space, with an additional $300,000 fee for the project’s architects, $175,000 for the project managers, and $40,000 to the surveyors. The jaw dropping price tag has prompted the State of California to temporarily hold plans to move forward on the project until costs are lowered.

In a letter to a Democratic State Assembly Member shared by The Guardian, Parks Department’s General Manager Phil Ginsburg said: “In New York City, stand-alone park restrooms can now cost between $3m and $5m. Our restroom building costs are consistent with the inflationary pressures on all San Francisco public works projects.”

San Francisco has become the world’s most expensive cities to build in given the numerous departments that must approve and oversee new developments. Additionally, the cost of building materials and labor has increased significantly since the pandemic.

H/t to The San Francisco Chronicle and The Guardian 

glass domed conservatory
Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit, Michigan (SigmaIota/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Detroit’s Belle Isle Conservatory to undergo two-year renovation

In mid-November renovations will begin on the Albert Kahn–designed Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory in the Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Bell Isle Park in Detroit. The domed botanical greenhouse, founded in 1910, is the oldest continuously-running conservatory in the United States. Of the $10 million price tag for the project, $7.5 million of the budget will come from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, and the remaining $2.5 million from a private donation.

The renovation will replace the glass panels surrounding the conservatory’s dome, clean the structure’s steel beams, and upgrade its, very important, ventilation system, to ensure the complex does not overheat, especially in summer months. To complete the renovation, scaffolding will be installed around the dome and the plants will be moved to a temporary second floor location to protect them from damage. The conservatory will reopen in May 2024.

In June, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a plan to receive public input on a project which would revamp the Belle Isle Park beloved, but forgotten zoo.

H/t to Detroit Metro Times

University of Nebraska Lincoln College of Architecture names Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg as its new dean

The University of Nebraska Lincoln has announced that Kevin Van Den Wymelenberg will lead the College of Architecture as its new dean. Van Den Wymelenberg will replace Interim Dean Sharon S. Baum Kuska.

The accomplished academic comes to the Cornhusker State from the University of Oregon, where he served as the Julie Neupert Stott Chair in Design, associate dean for research at the College of Design, director for the School of Architecture and Environment, and professor of architecture. He has over 20 years of experience in higher education administration and management, has secured more than $40 million dollars in research funding since 2004, written over 100 peer-reviewed articles, and published three books.

“I am excited to welcome Kevin to Nebraska,” said Katherine Ankerson, executive vice chancellor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, in a press release. “He brings the experience and expertise to lead the college into the future while building on its rich culture and traditions. His entrepreneurial spirit, commitment to innovation, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and interdisciplinary scholarship will complement and amplify the exceptional work of the college’s faculty, staff, and students. Not only is Kevin an accomplished educator and leader, he brings an understanding of how the hands-on learning that happens in the studio can inform relevant research that in turn further informs transformative teaching within the classroom.”

McGraw-Hill Building considers plan to add luxury residences to its top floors

The historic art deco McGraw-Hill Building in Midtown Manhattan—with the Streamline Moderne lobby preservationists tirelessly lobbied for the restoration of but sadly lost—is now considering another transformative plan. Resolution Real Estate, owner of the blue and green terra cotta, Raymond Hood–designed building, has announced plans to transform the upper floors of the office tower into luxury residences. SLCE Architects was hired to layout the large studios as well as one and two bedroom units. The residential units would occupy the the 33rd and 34th floors of the 35-story building, with the remainder of the building dedicated to commercial office space.

“It’s perfectly suited to a conversion,” said Gerard Nocera of Resolution Real Estate, the owner’s representative in a New York Post article. “It is the first skyscraper built horizontally for light and air. We are looking at the conversion of the 11th through 32nd floor for apartments and above that, two floors of residential amenities.”

H/t to New York Post