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Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

So in early September everyone and their uncles in the New York architecture world jetted off as usual to Venice for the Architecture Biennale…and nothing happened? This page (marooned in Red Hook, alas) has been canvassing those fortunate enough to have attended, but it appears that there were no fireworks. No fireworks?!? All that ego abutting abroad and not even a harsh word to report? Oh, how we long for the days when Herbert Muschamp felt it was appropriate to refuse to sit near Suzanne Stephens on the flight home (and then to savage her within earshot of all), as reported two years ago in this very column. It’s truly dispiriting; what’s the point of so many bold-facers decamping to an exotic locale if there’s no payout after the fact for the homebodies?

And what’s the point of writing a gossip column if we can’t preempt coverage in our own paper? For reasons known only to a few flacks, the following news has been embargoed until October—but we feel a duty to readers and prospective Cooper Scoopers everywhere, so here goes: After an eternity spent forcing students to take a free education in exchange for a five-year B.Arch degree of dubious value outside the cube-farms of HOK or the hard-core of incestuous academe, the Cooper Union—beloved alma mater of everyone from Liz Diller toAlex Gorlin—is finally starting a proper master’s degree program. Dean Tony Vidler is mum about the graduate school until the details are made public in a proper way. Our conspiracy theory? This laudable move is a roundabout apology for the use that a notorious Cooper-owned site on Astor Place has been put to by alumnus Charles Gwathmey and his infamous undulating glass-walled “sculpture.”

Speaking of glass, the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art has claimed its most serious casualty to date. Since it opened in August, several visitors have reportedly walked into the walls of the new addition by Japanese wunderkinder SANAA—clear, floor-to-ceiling glass with nary a bird-diverting decal in sight. Recently, an unnamed middle-aged woman smashed into one wall with such force that paramedics had to be called. Museum spokespersonLynnette Werning initially dismissed the reports as a “vicious rumor” that she was “surprised had made it all to the way to New York.” Then she confirmed the shocking truth: “She bumped into the wall and had to sit down in the first-aid room for a while. An ambulance was called but she didn’t have to go away in it.” Werning then went on to defend the traffic flow analysis that underpins the design, stating “I’m about the clumsiest person in the world and I don’t bump into the walls!”

Good to know. On a happier note, New York City is no longer shamed by being an architectural backwater unfit to be named in the same breath as Tokyo, Buenos Aires or Rotterdam. No, we speak not of recent celebrated contributions to the skyline by Norman Foster or Renzo Piano; on September 20, 300-odd enthusiasts gathered at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Queens to witness the arrival of that glorious international movement, Pecha Kucha Night. At these casual, beer-centric gatherings, the brainchild of Tokyo-based architect Mark Dytham, local architects are asked to present their work in some depth but at a comically breakneck pace—20 slides, 20 seconds each—while the audience heckles and drowns its sorrows. At the New York debut, Ben Aranda (of Aranda Lasch) and Charles Renfro (of you know who), among others, spent their allotted 6-minute-and-40-second lectures enlightening a sauced and appreciative crowd. Less talk, more beer? Eavesdrop gives its wholehearted endorsement. 

Philip Nobel