Search This Blog

09 July 2008

pest control problems on Renzo Piano's new building

Yes, of course click for larger.

Remember the new Zentrum Paul Klee museum outside of Bern CH? Well, love it or hate it, it's by the Italian architect Renzo Piano.

Here's his latest building, the new headquarters of The New York Times (and, for that matter, The Boston Globe, and, for that matter, the International Herald Tribune) in Manhattan (New York City).

And it seems immediately to have a pest problem -- people (so far only male people) keep trying to climb the outside of it. Three so far.

A guy named George Willig climbed the outside of one of the World Trade Center towers, and a French guy named Philippe Petit hid on the roof of the WTC overnight, strung a tightrope between the two towers, and the next morning walked the tightrope. (When he first got the idea -- he saw a photo of the new WTC on a magazine cover while sitting in his dentist's office -- he didn't know how to walk a tightrope, but he learned.)


The New York Times
Wednesday 9 July 2008

Third Man Climbs
Times Building
and Is Arrested

by Sewell Chan

The New York Times Company is preparing to remove some of the distinctive ceramic rods
that sheathe its one-year-old building in Midtown Manhattan, after three men have used the rods to scale the skyscraper over the last five weeks, a law enforcement official said on Wednesday.

The third climber scaled the face of the building in the predawn darkness early Wednesday. After unfurling a banner about Al Qaeda and staying on the building for about four hours, the man surrendered to police officers and was arrested around 5:20 a.m.

Unlike the two previous climbers, this one — identified later as David Malone, a 29-year-old activist from West Hartford, Conn., who studies Al Qaeda — did not attempt to make his way to the roof. Instead, he unfurled a banner around the fifth floor of the 52-story building, before climbing a few more stories. Several hours elapsed during which the police appeared to alternate between trying to go after the man and waiting for him to surrender.

Mr. Malone was taken out of the building’s West 40th Street entrance in handcuffs at 5:39 a.m. and placed in an ambulance. He was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan and then to the Midtown South Precinct, where he was charged with reckless endangerment in the first degree; criminal mischief by intent to damage property; making graffiti; criminal trespass in the third degree; and disorderly conduct by creating a dangerous act.

Mr. Malone, who grew up on Bishop Road in West Hartford, a middle-class suburb of the state capital, played basketball at the Kingswood-Oxford School, a private high school where he graduated in 1997, according to local news reports.

The police received a call at 1:23 a.m. Wednesday alerting them that there was a person scaling the skyscraper, at 620 Eighth Avenue, between 40th and 41st Streets. The authorities closed off Eighth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets to traffic, as well as West 41st Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, diverting vehicles onto other streets. Sidewalks below the Times building were closed to pedestrians.

Police officers tried to catch the climber by cutting through a window on the fifth floor of the building, but after having briefly rested at that level, he had already climbed past them.

The climbing episodes have at this point become something of an embarrassment for The Times. On June 5, two men scaled the building, hours apart, reaching the roof before being arrested. The first was Alain Robert, a 45-year-old French stuntman known for climbing tall buildings; the second was Renaldo Clarke, 32, of Brooklyn, who said he wanted to draw attention to the problem of malaria.

At the time, officials at The Times said they would tighten security and take other precautions to prevent anyone from climbing up the building again.

Asked whether those measures were effective, Catherine J. Mathis, a spokeswoman for The Times, said, “While the steps we took were worthwhile, we believe other measures are needed.”

She added, “We are exploring additional measures, some temporary and some permanent, to prevent a recurrence but are not going to discuss the specific changes under consideration.”

Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said, “We have increased our presence in the immediate aftermath of this latest climb and I understand that the Times is taking additional measures to discourage or defeat further attempts to gain access to the ceramic ladder.”

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that The Times was looking to remove about 9 feet of the ceramic rods from the bottom of the curtain-like screen that encases the building. The official also said that The Times had indeed increased security coverage of the building after the June 5 climbs, but that the level of security coverage had recently been reduced, for reasons that were not immediately clear. Finally, the official said it appeared that Mr. Malone had breached one of plywood barriers that had been erected after the June 5 climbs to deter similar acts.

The Daily News reported on its Web site early Wednesday morning that it had received a call from the latest climber and that he had identified himself as David Malone, 29, of Connecticut, who had dropped out of the University of Michigan to study Al Qaeda.

According to the police, Mr. Malone spoke with Jill Coffey, a night editor at The Daily News, after climbing to the 10th floor, where he sat on a ledge for about two hours.

Meanwhile, officers from the Emergency Service Unit, the Hostage Negotiation Team and other units, upon learning of the phone call, tried to persuade Mr. Malone to come down.

“We wanted him to come down to the fifth floor and we persuaded him to do so by telling him he could talk in person with Coffey there and that apparently worked, because he came down to the fifth floor and he talked to Coffey about his bin Laden plan,” said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman.

What appears to be Mr. Malone’s Web site, called Bin Laden’s Plan, states that Mr. Malone has been “independently researching bin Laden and publicly advocating the aggressive isolation and destruction of Al Qaeda.” The site goes on to claim that Mr. Malone “has successfully predicted some of the major events of bin Laden’s war” and is now trying to warn of efforts by the terrorist network to goad the United States to invade Pakistan and Iran. (Mr. Malone did not immediately respond to an e-mail message from The Times, sent while he was still on the building, requesting an interview.)

Witnesses said the climber began his ascent near the northern entrance to the building, on West 41st Street, and made his way toward the western entrance, which is on Eighth Avenue, opposite from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

“I thought he was a worker,” said Michael Pabon, 32, who was outside the bus terminal when he saw the man begin to scale the building. “He turned up to the letter ‘H’ and climbed above it,” Mr. Pabon said, referring to the letter H in the “The” of the New York Times logo, which is made up of giant black letters affixed to the ceramic rods on the Eighth Avenue side of the building.

It was above the “T” in “The” that the climber hung a white banner with red fliers stuck to it. The banner referenced Mr. Malone’s Web site about Mr. bin Laden. Some of the red fliers were also stuck to the windows of various floors in the building as the climber went up.

Witnesses said the climber was using his cellphone repeatedly during his ascent. “He’s some kind of professional,” Mr. Pabon said. “You could see he knows what he’s doing.”

After reaching the 11th floor, Mr. Malone faced out toward the street and talked on his cellphone for several minutes. He then descended to a spot between the 9th and 10th floors. Police officers on the fifth floor had breached a floor-to-ceiling window and some were outfitted with climbing cables and hard hats. A large inflatable cushion had been placed on the sidewalk in front of the main entrance, presumably to save the man if he jumped.

The Times building was designed by the architect Renzo Piano and opened last year. Both Mr. Robert and the second climber also scaled the building using the horizontal ceramic rods that sheath the exterior — and are one of the building’s most distinctive features. The rods are intended to allow sunlight while keeping out heat, helping the building use energy more efficiently.

There is a long history of attention-grabbing stunts at New York skyscrapers. The French stunt artist Philippe Petit walked along a high wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974, a feat that is the subject of a documentary, “Man on Wire.” In 1977, the mountain climber George H. Willig scaled the south tower of the trade center.

In 2006, another stuntman, Jeb Corliss, was arrested after trying to jump off the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Prosecuting the stuntmen has sometimes proved difficult.

In the most recent cases, Mr. Robert, who climbed the Times building on June 5, faced misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, trespassing and graffiti. But on June 12 a grand jury decided to dismiss those charges, though it did allow Manhattan prosecutors to proceed with two counts of disorderly conduct against Mr. Robert. Lawyers for Mr. Clarke, who faced the same charges as Mr. Robert, said they hoped that he, too, would face only disorderly conduct charges.

On June 26, City Council members introduced a bill that would explicitly make it illegal to scale or jump from a building 25 feet or taller.

Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr., a Queens Democrat and former prosecutor who sponsored the bill, said in a statement:

We need to deter more copy cats, otherwise New York will become a Disneyland for daredevils. Soon anyone selling their book or ginsu knives will be scaling buildings and unfurling signs. We may not deter all jumpers and climbers, but they should be aware that their next stunt could take place on the inside of a jail cell.

Both The Times and the police expressed dismay at the latest stunt.

“We don’t think these antics should be romanticized in any way,” Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said, adding, “The individuals should be held accountable, prosecuted for it.”

Ms. Mathis, the spokeswoman for The Times, said, “This is a very serious matter. The climber’s irresponsible and dangerous action jeopardized his safety and the safety of others.”

Reporting was contributed by Jill Agostino, Al Baker, Jay Davies, Jennifer Mascia, Hiroko Masuike, Marc Santora and Tanzina Vega.

- 30 -


George Willig (born June 11, 1949) (aka "the human fly" or "the spiderman") is a mountain-climber from Queens, New York, United States, who climbed the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center on 25 May 1977. At the time, it was the third tallest building in the world (behind 1 WTC and the Sears Tower). It took him 3.5 hours to scale the tower. New York City Mayor Abraham Beame fined him $1.10, one cent for each of the skyscraper's 110 stories.

Before the stunt, Willig was a toymaker. He visited the towers a year before the stunt and took measurements for the equipment he would need. He made special clamps that fit into the window washing tracks of the South Tower. The clamps he designed would lock into place when they were pulled down by his body weight. They would release when he decided to raise them. Once he built the equipment, he went to the World Trade Center 4 to 5 times at night to test the equipment. He began his climb at 6:30 a.m. that Thursday morning. As he was climbing, two police officers, one a suicide expert, were lowered down in a window washing basket to try to get Willig to give up. Willig swung away from the officers so they could not grab him. Willig and the officers talked, and the suicide expert realized that Willig knew what he was doing and was not a threat. The officer passed him a pen and paper, and Willig signed it "Best Wishes to my co-ascender." Police helped him to the top of the tower, by pulling him through a tiny window hatch at 10:05 a.m. and he was arrested. Willig said he could hear the crowd cheering from ground level. His climb received plenty of attention because it took 3 1/2 hours to complete, allowing news cameras and spectators to gather. The only significant problem Willig ran into was irregularities in window washing tracks. However, he was prepared for this because he brought a little hammer to fix the irregularities. He signed his name on a piece of metal on the observation deck of the South Tower, which was still visible until the tower was destroyed on September 11.

The stunt paved the way for appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Good Morning America, The Merv Griffin Show, and ABC's Wide World of Sports. He also got jobs as a stuntman on The Six Million Dollar Man, Trauma Center, and Hollywood Beat.

In 1979, he published a book called Going It Alone (ISBN 0-385-14726-0).

During the 1990s, Willig lived in California's San Fernando Valley, working as a remodeler of commercial buildings.

After the 9/11 attacks that destroyed both towers of the World Trade Center, Mr. Willig publicly said he regretted climbing the towers, as his actions may have brought them to the attention of terrorists. But he later told CNN that that was just an initial, emotional reaction and that he was still glad to have climbed the towers.[1]


Philippe Petit (born August 13, 1949) is a French high wire artist who gained fame for his illegal walk between the former Twin Towers in New York City on August 7, 1974. [1]

He used a 450 pound cable to do so and also a custom made 26 foot long, 55 pound balancing pole. Tight-rope walker, unicyclist, magician and pantomime artist, Philippe Petit was also one of the earliest modern day street jugglers in Paris in 1968. He juggled and worked on a slack rope with regularity in Washington Square Park in New York City in the early 1970s. Petit is one of the Artists-in-Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Other famous structures he has used for tightrope walks include that Cathedral, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Louisiana Superdome, and between the Palais de Chaillot and the Eiffel Tower. Petit currently lives in Woodstock, New York. A documentary film named "Man on Wire" by UK director James Marsh dealing with Petit's WTC performance won both the World Cinema Jury and Audience awards at the Sundance Filmfestival 2008. The film also won awards at the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C.

Planning the World Trade Center Walk

Petit first received the inspiration while he sat in his dentist's office in Paris in 1968. He came upon an article on the as-yet unbuilt towers, along with an illustration of the model. He then became obsessed with the towers, collecting articles on the towers whenever possible. Petit also traveled to New York on several occasions to have some first-hand observations. Since the towers were still under construction, Philippe and N.Y.-based photographer Jim Moore went up in a helicopter to do aerial photographs of the WTC.

The purpose of having these photographs was for Petit to make a scale model of the towers to help him figure out the rigging he needed to prepare for the upcoming wirewalk. Petit and three others made fake identification cards (claiming that they were contractors that were installing an electrified fence on the roof) in order to gain access to the towers. Prior to this, Petit snuck into the towers several times, hiding on the roof and other areas in the unfinished towers, in order to get a sense of what type of equipment he needed.

To make it easier to sneak into the buildings, Petit thoroughly observed the clothes worn by construction workers and what kinds of tools they carried, as well as the clothing of businessmen so that he would blend in with them when he tried to enter the buildings. He also noted what time the workers arrived and left, so he could determine when he would have roof access. He once even claimed that he was with a French architecture magazine wanting to interview the workers on the roof. The Port Authority allowed Petit to conduct the interviews, but the real reason he wanted to be up on the roof was to make more observations. He was once caught by a police officer on the roof, and his hopes to do the high wire walk were dampened, but he eventually regained the confidence to proceed with it.

Petit and his crew were able to ride in a freight elevator to the 104th floor with their equipment the day before the walk, and were able to store this equipment just nineteen steps from the roof. In order to pass the cable across the void, Petit and his crew decided to use a bow and arrow. They first shot across a fishing line, and then passed larger and larger ropes across the space between the towers until they were able to pass the 450 pound steel cable across. Cavalettis (guy lines) were used to stabilize the cable and keep the swaying of the wire to a minimum. For the first time in the history of the Twin Towers, they were joined. The 'artistic crime of the century' took six years of planning, during which he learned everything he could about the buildings, taking into account such problems as the swaying of the towers because of wind and how to get the walking cable across the 140 foot gap between the towers.

Shortly after 7:15 a.m., without hesitation, Petit stepped off the South Tower and onto his 3/4" 6x19 IWRC steel cable. The 24-year-old Petit made eight crossings between the still-unfinished towers, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of Manhattan, in an event that lasted about 45 minutes. During that time, in addition to walking, he sat on the wire, gave knee salute and, while lying on the wire, dialogued with a seagull circling above his head.

Port Authority Police Department Sgt. Charles Daniels, who was dispatched to the roof to bring Petit down, later reported his experience:

I observed the tightrope 'dancer'—because you couldn't call him a 'walker'—approximately halfway between the two towers. And upon seeing us he started to smile and laugh and he started going into a dancing routine on the high wire....And when he got to the building we asked him to get off the high wire but instead he turned around and ran back out into the middle....He was bouncing up and down. His feet were actually leaving the wire and then he would resettle back on the wire again....Unbelievable really....[E]verybody was spellbound in the watching of it.[2]

He was finally persuaded by police officers to give himself up after he was warned that a police helicopter would come to pick him off the wire. Petit was worried that the wind from the helicopter would knock him off the wire, so he decided it was time to give up. He was arrested once he stepped off the wire. His audacious high wire performance made headlines around the world.

When asked why he did the stunt, Petit would say “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”

The immense news coverage and public appreciation of Petit's high wire walk resulted in all formal charges relating to his walk being dropped. The court did however "sentence" Petit to perform a show for the children of New York City, which Petit transformed into another high-wire walk, this time above the Belvedere Lake in New York's Central Park. Petit was also presented with a lifetime pass to the Twin Towers' Observation Deck by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. His signature was on a steel beam close to his departure.

Petit's high-wire walk is credited with bringing the then rather unpopular Twin Towers much needed popular attention and affection. Up to that point, many had regarded them as ugly and utilitarian, and the not-yet completed buildings were having trouble renting their office space.


* Philippe Petit, Two towers, I walk, (New York: Reader's Digest, 1975), ASIN B00072LQRM.

* Philippe Petit, On The High Wire, Preface by Marcel Marceau, (New York: Random House, 1985). ISBN 039471573X.

* Philippe Petit, Traité du funambulisme, Preface by Paul Auster, (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997), ISBN: 2226041230, (In French).

* Petit Philippe, To Reach The Clouds My High Wire Walk Between The Twin Towers, (New York, North Point Press, 2002). ASIN B000UDX0JA.

No comments: