Search results for "Met Breuer"

Placeholder Alt Text

Curatorial Platform

Architect creates app to change how exhibitions are designed
For all the advances in technology over the past decade, the experience of curating and viewing museum shows has remained relatively unchanged. Even though digital archive systems exist and have certainly helped bring old institutions into the present, they have relatively little influence over the ways museum shows are designed and shared. The normal practice is more or less “old school” and even borderline “dysfunctional,” said Bika Rebek, principal of the New York and Vienna–based firm Some Place Studio. In fact, a survey she conducted early on found that many of the different software suites that museum professionals were using were major time sinks for their jobs. Fifty percent said they felt they were “wasting time” trying to fill in data or prepare presentations for design teams. To Rebek, this is very much an architectural problem, or at least a problem architects can solve. She has been working over the past two years, supported by NEW INC and the Knight Foundation, to develop Tools for Show, an interactive web-based application for designing and exploring exhibitions at various scales—from the level of a vitrine to a multi-floor museum. Leveraging her experiences as an architect, 3D graphics expert, and exhibition designer (she’s worked on major shows for the Met and Met Breuer, including the OMA-led design for the 2016 Costume Institute exhibition Manus x Machina), Rebek began developing a web-based application to enable exhibition designers and curators to collaborate, and to empower new ways of engaging with cultural material for users anywhere. Currently, institutions use many different gallery tools, she explained, which don’t necessarily interact and don’t usually let curators think spatially in a straightforward way. Tools for Show allows users to import all sorts of information and metadata from existing collection management software (or enter it anew), which is attached to artworks stored in a library that can then be dragged and dropped into a 3D environment at scale. Paintings and simple 3D shapes are automatically generated, though, for more complex forms where the image projected onto a form of a similar footprint isn’t enough, users could create their own models.  For example, to produce the New Museum’s 2017 show Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Rebek rendered the space and included many of the basic furnishings unique to the museum. For other projects, like a test case with the Louvre's sculptures, she found free-to-use models and 3D scans online. Users can drag these objects across the 3D environments and access in-depth information about them with just a click. With quick visual results and Google Docs-style automatic updates for collaboration, Tools for Show could help not just replace more cumbersome content management systems, but endless emails too. Rebek sees Tools for Show as having many potential uses. It can be used to produce shows, allowing curators to collaboratively and easily design and re-design their exhibitions, and, after the show comes down it can serve as an archive. It can also be its own presentation system—not only allowing “visitors” from across the globe to see shows they might otherwise be unable to see, but also creating new interactive exhibitions or even just vitrines, something she’s been testing out with Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. More than just making work easier for curators and designers, Tools for Show could possibly give a degree of curatorial power and play over to a broader audience. “[Tools for Show] could give all people the ability to curate their own show without any technical knowledge,” she explained. And, after all, you can't move around archival materials IRL, so why not on an iPad? While some of the curator-focused features of Tools for Show are in the testing phase, institutions can already request the new display tools like those shown at Vizcaya. Rebek, as a faculty member at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, has also worked with students to use Tools for Show in conjunction with photogrammetry techniques in an effort to develop new display methods for otherwise inaccessible parts of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, a history and naval and aerospace museum located in a decommissioned aircraft carrier floating in the Hudson River. At a recent critique, museum curators were invited to see the students’ new proposals and explore the spatial visualizations of the museum through interactive 3D models, AR, VR, as well as in-browser and mobile tools that included all sorts of additional media and information.
Placeholder Alt Text

Magical Thinking

Follow This Line blends Iranian sculpture and architecture at the Met Breuer
Sixty years of art from the Iranian-born artist Siah Armajani are now on display at the Met Breuer, highlighting nearly 100 pieces of quietly revolutionary collage and architectural models. Exile, the refugee crisis, and the role of public art are all addressed overtly, but not directly, in Follow This Line. The show charts Armajani’s trajectory as an artist throughout the 1960s and ’70s and his use of magic spells, propaganda speeches, public art installations, computer-generated graphics, and other ephemera to create a “language of exile.” Of particular note are the models from the 1974-75 series Dictionary for Building, of which only 150 pieces remain from what was originally thousands of compartmentalized building details that sought to create a visual vocabulary of architecture through strange, nonsensical combinations of features. Follow This Line is a phrase that constantly reappears in Armajani's work and evokes the public nature and "claiming" of urban space—it refers to the way children walking home from school would drag their pencils across walls on the way. Running concurrently with Follow This Line is an installation of Bridge Over Tree in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Empire Fulton Ferry lawn, the first staging of that piece since 1970. That example of built infrastructure deferring to nature will remain on display and open to the public until September 29, 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

About Face

The Met premieres an annual facades series to spotlight contemporary work
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s flagship Beaux-Arts facade on Fifth Avenue will soon host art for the first time in the building’s 115-year history. Installing work along the museum’s historic frontage is part of a larger slew of contemporary art exhibitions announced by the institution last Thursday. The move to display new pieces, some of them site-specific, is a clear effort by the museum to fill the void created by winding down its presence at the Met Breuer. It was announced last September that the Met would be vacating the brutalist Breuer building in 2020, only four years after its renovation and rebranding, so that the Frick Collection can temporarily continue to operate there while its flagship house-museum undergoes an upgrade. From September 9 through January 12, 2020, sculptures from Nairobi-born artist Wangechi Mutu will adorn the facade's niches. Mutu’s designs will be the first in a newly-announced annual series of installations along the building’s stone facade, which was completed in 1902 by architect Richard Howland Hunt. Although Mutu's exact sculptures have not been revealed yet, her work has previously used collage to touch on elements of diaspora, African culture, and inequality. Additionally, Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman has been tapped to create enormous, site-specific new paintings for the museum’s Great Hall, which will be on view from December 19 through April 12, 2020. Multidisciplinary Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson will also premiere Death is Elsewhere, an immersive multi-channel video installation in the Robert Lehman Wing atrium, from May 30 through September 2. Other than marking a shift towards highlighting contemporary and new pieces, the three exhibitions also make greater use of the Met’s building itself to display them. "Artists have long engaged with The Met's collection, drawing connections between contemporary practices and 5,000 years of world culture," said Max Hollein, Director of the Met, in a press release. "These projects are a manifestation of The Met's desire and ability to collaborate with artists and current artistic production in an unusual way. The Met itself, the building, and its public spaces will become temporary platforms for presenting new work, offering powerful opportunities to display contemporary art for our broad audience to experience."
Placeholder Alt Text

Font of Creativity

Angela Danadjieva remains an unsung luminary of landscape architecture
In 1967, Angela Danadjieva, a Bulgarian-born architect, found herself working in the San Francisco office of the celebrated landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. From 1967 to 1976, she worked on 20 urban design and city planning projects at Halprin’s office, driving design on some of the office’s best-known projects. Her work was integral to the office’s output, but today, Halprin is remembered in histories of landscape architecture while Danadjieva is almost forgotten. In 2019, when we’re increasingly cognizant about the vital positions of women and natural resources, it seems timely to bring attention to Danadjieva. She was enabled by the socialist privilege of women’s rights in her native Bulgaria, and Halprin’s devotion to the profession. Halprin was a giant in the landscaping field, walking in the footsteps of Frederick Law Olmsted and having learned from Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. Danadjieva won a competition while living in Paris in 1966, which brought her to San Francisco where she met Halprin. Freeway Park, which covers interstate I-5 in Seattle is their best-known project. For Halprin, it was the poetic outcome of his 1966 book Freeways and was another manifestation of his appreciation of waterfalls, while for Danadjieva, it was an opportunity to shine in Halprin’s eyes and fulfill her design ambitions. However much Danadjieva contributed as a designer, Halprin’s lead as landscape architect made him the architect in charge. But her participation in the Seattle park design can be seen as an object lesson in who gets credit for projects, particularly when one of the designers is a woman. Danadjieva was born in 1931 and was brought up in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Lofty ancient architecture adorned Sofia’s broad cobblestone boulevards, and greenery surrounded the city. But the political background for Danadjieva was highly unsettling. After a period of neutrality, the country was eventually thrust into the theater of World War II, caught between the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Allied Forces, which bombed Sofia in 1941. In 1944, the city was captured by the Soviets, and the subsequent socialist regime seems to have eased the way for Danadjieva. Women made inroads in Bulgarian culture, and the state-supported university helped to cement Danadjieva’s abilities. She studied environmental design and received a degree in architecture. In 1963 she paired off with Ivan Tzvetin to work on a Cuban urban project; they won second prize for it and she was awarded the prize by Fidel Castro. Not fully satisfied with her university education, Danadjieva chose to leave Bulgaria and attend Paris’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts between 1964 and 1966, which seems to have imprinted on her an appreciation for forms from the past. While in Paris she was employed by Denieul-Marty-Paoll. Danadjieva first became a set designer for a state film company—winning a Golden Rose (the Bulgarian equivalent to an Oscar) for The Captured Squadron—and then won the competition that landed her on the West Coast and eventually in Halprin’s office. Halprin and Danadjieva reached common agreement that she would have a creative role in his firm, and as project architect she worked on both the Freeway Park and the Auditorium Fourcourt (now Ira Keller) Fountain in Portland, Oregon. Danadjieva made clay models for the fountains’ concrete forms. Both the Ira Keller and Freeway Park fountains are exciting to the senses. When operative, primal water gushes over primordial masses that resemble brutalist waterfalls. The Ira Fountain, engineered by Richard Chaix, is built on a declivity in the road whereas Freeway Park builds over a tear in the city. Ada Louise Huxtable considered Freeway Park equal to European masterpieces. When the fountains are running crowds of people are drawn to them. There has been danger in Freeway Park—a 2005 murder—which has precipitated adding amusement structures like bandshell and food vendors. The structures around Freeway Park are not that humanistic—large metal and glass buildings like the overbearing Convention Center (which Danadjieva worked on) dwarf the park—but amid the stepped and zigzagging walkways and terraces, the rushing waterworks, and the sylvan plantings, the park is a superb haven. Both Halprin and Danadjieva claim authorship of Freeway Park. Legally, it can be assumed that it was Halprin’s design—it came from his office. While Danadjieva did make the clay models of the brutalist stonework, Halprin’s hand came into play earlier. His Portland Lovejoy Fountain of 1967, which is similar and was inspired by his Sierra watercourse drawings from 1964. And the epitome of the office’s rock and water play comes somewhat later: the Washington, D.C., Roosevelt Monument designed in 1974 but not constructed until the 1990s. Also, it was Halprin’s call at the studio to make models before drawings for the Freeway fountain. But Danadjieva’s hand seems secure at the Ira Keller and Freeway fountains because the bursting water flows over those large bold idiosyncratic forms that seem characteristic of her hand. Danadjieva said in an oral history done by Michael Apostolos in February 2010, the year after Halprin’s death:
At a few occasions he left on my board thank you notes about my work…Walking through the office at lunchtime Larry came to my desk looking at what I was modeling out of clay. Seeing my concept for Seattle’s Freeway Park he turned around and disappeared—saying nothing. I went outside for lunch. We faced each other around the block and he told me: “Angela, I am so excited seeing your Freeway Park design concept. Sorry even could not speak, needed to get some fresh air,” and at that time I saw tears in his eyes. This is how I like to remember Larry Halprin, one of the greatest appreciators of my design work.
Danadjieva is still active, working with her partner, Thomas Koenig. Her work has received numerous awards, including an Honor Award in Design from the American Society of Landscape Architects. One of their projects was an addition to the Freeway Park (a monumental endeavor, including work on the Washington State Convention Center). She and Koenig are responsible for large-scale projects such as White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, and James River Park System in Richmond, Virginia, and have earned a reputation in urban development. The pair live and work in Tiburon, outside San Francisco. She is reportedly a modern woman with old world aristocratic, courtier traits. She is elusive—very difficult to locate and interview and could not be contacted for this article.
Placeholder Alt Text

Space Oddity

Spatial Affairs Bureau runs wild over disciplinary boundaries
Spatial Affairs Bureau can get a lot done. Started in 2010, the multifaceted landscape, architecture, and design practice led by Peter Culley boasts a wide array of diverse and engaging projects in the United States and England, with offices in London, Los Angeles, and Richmond, Virginia. With a background in landscape-focused cultural projects—Culley earned his stripes at London-based landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman in the late 1990s—Spatial Affairs pursues an intellectually nimble practice by pushing project constraints toward broad ends that encompass everything from “interior landscapes” to urban-scaled configurations. As the number of commissions in hand has multiplied over the years, the practice has become well-versed in combining the advice of expert consultants with its own penchant for programmatic and spatial innovation. It does so in an effort to create layered material and historic conditions that always push back toward the landscape in some form or another. The approach has resulted in a string of under-the-radar but dramatically good-looking commissions that aim to create something greater—and more cohesive—than the typical, rigidly defined arenas of normative practice might allow. Aside from the work profiled here, Spatial Affairs Bureau has a number of other significant projects on the way, including several sustainable houses in Los Angeles, a master plan and remodel of the headquarters for advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, and a new pedestrian path and bicycle redevelopment scheme for the Richmond, Virginia, waterfront. Birmingham Markets Park As the city of Birmingham, England, looks to capitalize on a historic opportunity to create a new major civic space and park, Spatial Affairs is working to enrich a community-led proposal by laying out new residential, commercial, and public spaces in synergy with greenery and public health goals. To highlight the potential of the site, Spatial Affairs has developed an alternative approach that appropriates the leftover footprint of a redundant public market as the heart of the new parks complex. The project aims not only to meet the city's stated commercial and residential development goals, but also to use urban design in an effort to focus the benefits of rising land values surrounding the site toward community needs. Metropolitan Museum of Art Spatial Affairs Bureau has worked on several projects with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, both as a part of an interdisciplinary team that provided new outdoor seating areas for the museum’s Fifth Avenue location, and for several other projects as an independent contractor, including at the Met Breuer building. As part of its work with the Met, for example, the firm developed a pair of black metal panel–wrapped security buildings to flank the museum. Here, Culley deploys gently tapering forms designed to “respond to the classical architecture and soften the impact of larger elements as they meet the ground.” The approach was mirrored in a series of sleek bronze ticketing kiosks Culley created to help relieve crowding at both museum locations. Crosstown Arts The Contemporary Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, is an arts and culture complex strategically carved out from within the hulking mass of a landmarked—but currently underutilized—1.5 million-square-foot former Sears warehouse and distribution center. The venue includes galleries, shared art making facilities, offices, artist-in-residence studios, and a bar. These amenities encompass portions of the first two floors of the warehouse, including a 10-story light well located at the center of the complex. With a distinctive, curving red staircase and excavated flared concrete columns populating the main “hypostyle” lobby, the complex represents an attempt to breathe new social life into a long-forgotten relic. Bouverie Mews Culley is also pushing the envelope in terms of housing, especially with the firm’s proposal for a planned 5,400-square-foot arts and residential compound in North London. There, the architect is working on a ground-up duplex anchored by studio space and a sculpture court. The Passive House complex is located atop a former brownfield site and is sandwiched between existing multifamily homes, warehouses, and the Grade II Listed Abney Park Cemetery Wall. Due to the landlocked project site, designs for the complex include multi-tiered gardens, precisely calibrated frameless skylights, and an interior layout that emphasizes borrowed daylight and views between different project areas.
Placeholder Alt Text

15 Years of The Architect's Newspaper

A brief history of architecture in the 21st century
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we looked back through the archives for our favorite moments since we started. We found stories that aged well (and some that didn’t), as well as a wide range of interviews, editorials, and other articles that we feel contributed to the broader conversation. We also took a closer look at the most memorable tributes to those we lost, and heard from editors past and present about their time here. Check out this history of architecture in the 21st century through the headlines of The Architect's Newspaper:

2003

Protest: Michael Sorkin on Ground Zero

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Crit: AIA Convention (“No more weird architecture in Philadelphia”)
Crit: Spring Street Salt Shed (“In praise of the urban object”)
How institutionalized racism and housing policy segregated our cities
Chinatown residents protest de Blasio rezoning
Roche-Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grille receives landmark designation
Q&A: Jorge Otero-Pailos: Why the Met Breuer matters
Comment: Ronald Rael on the realities of the U.S.-Mexico border
Detroit Zoo penguin habitat opens
Chicago battles to keep Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from moving
Martino Stierli on the redesign of MoMA’s A+D galleries
WTC Oculus opens
Letter: Phyllis Lambert pleads for Four Seasons preservation
Q&A: Mabel Wilson
#NotmyAIA: Protests erupt over AIA's support of Trump
Snøhetta’s addition to SFMoMA opens
DS+R’s Vagelos Education Center opens
Baltimore’s Brutalist McKeldin Fountain pulverized

2017

Placeholder Alt Text

Design Below Canal

Four new spaces turn Tribeca into New York's newest design destination
As the home of AN Interior's parent publication, The Architect's Newspaper, for 12 years, Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood has steadily developed a spicy, post-work hangout scene. The latest places to pop up in our community include four chic, inviting spaces that offer commuters and locals alike the chance to savor the sweet taste of good design (at a good price) any time of day. These stunning and simple venues—a timeless tea parlor, a cozy cocktail lounge, a sunny seafood spot, and a sky-high, Danny Meyer dining experience—all opened this year to rave reviews for their food, drinks, and decor. Next time you’re in Tribeca, you won’t want to forgo seeing these inspired interiors for yourself. Primo’s Designer: Camilla Deterre 129 Chambers Street Primo’s exudes a surprising and sexy contemporary twist on Italian Art Deco. Designed by model Camilla Deterre, the striking bar packs speakeasy sentimentality and midcentury modern elements into a small, two-room space hidden inside the Frederick Hotel. Long drapes with rich primary colors and cotton velvet upholstery covering curvaceous banquets give Primo’s an aura of luxury, but the soon-to-be late-night Tribeca mainstay is more informal than it appears. The chrome-outlined bar boasts an impressive organic wine collection and serves an array of dreamy classic cocktails and avant-garde absinthe coolers that will knock your socks off. Manhatta Architect: Woods Bagot 28 Liberty Street, 60th Floor As culinary impresario Danny Meyer’s most recent endeavor, Manhatta serves as a home in the sky for delicious food and jaw-dropping views. With less glitz than you’d expect from a restaurant of this stature—it nearly covers the entire top floor of Manhattan’s first International Style building—its elegant yet friendly atmosphere overwhelms any sense of high society. Woods Bagot’s design for the French-American eatery and bar brings dark wood, weathered granite, brass fixtures, and jewel-toned Chinese paintings together to subtly create an intimate setting with an unparalleled perspective of New York. A Summer Day Cafe Architect: Savvy Studio 109 West Broadway This relaxing restaurant and raw bar transports urbanites to Italy’s Amalfi Coast with an enticing seafood selection and a maritime mood. Dreamed up by architecture and branding studio Savvy, the 1,290-square-foot space oozes summer simplicity. It’s one of Tribeca restaurateur Matt Abramcyk’s latest ventures and an experiment in stylishly crafting the sensation of leisure and calm. The concept is a nod to photographer Joel Meyerowitz’s 1985 book A Summer’s Day, with a material palette inspired by boats, seaside cottages, and industrial fish markets.
Interlude Architect: Kimoy Studios 145 Hudson Street Founded by Juilliard-trained classical pianist Josh Kim, Interlude is an Asian tea and coffee cafe that serves its signature matcha tonic and homemade baked goods in a light-filled, minimalist space, designed by KIMOY Studios. Kim combined his passions for gastronomy, design, and hot drinks to open the business (which he runs with his sister and girlfriend) this summer. The bright white marble, polished black granite, and warm wood tones found throughout the cafe were hand-selected to mimic the look and feel of a grand piano.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pirelli Believe It

Breuer's Pirelli Tire Building will be reborn as a hotel
One of Marcel Breuer's two New Haven, Connecticut buildings will be preserved and converted into a hotel. When it was finished in 1969, researchers and administrators at Armstrong Rubber worked out of the company's Pirelli Tire Building, a Brutalist structure whose office tower core is bisected by beguiling angled windows. The building—vacant since the 1990s—is now owned by IKEA and sits aside a store parking lot. IKEA is in talks with a developer to convert the I-95-adjacent concrete building into a hotel, the New Haven Independent reported. AN IKEA spokesperson told the paper that the company hasn't gone public with its plans for the structure yet. The conversion scheme were revealed at a meeting of the city's development commission. Breuer's work is enjoying a strong revival, thanks in part to renewed popular interest in Brutalism. In Atlanta, city officials are looking to revamp the Breuer-designed main library, while back in 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art restored the Whitney's former home and re-christened it the Met Breuer. (H/T NHVmod and Docomomo US)
Placeholder Alt Text

In Memoriam

Remembering Robert F. Gatje, noted architect and author, who passed away at 90
Bob Gatje, an architect who served as a partner of two AIA Gold Medalists and whose work is to be found in half a dozen countries, died on April 1st, 2018 in New York City. He was 90. The cause was a stroke according to Susan R. Witter, his companion and partner of 35 years. Bob worked with Marcel Breuer and Richard Meier as well as his own partnership, Gatje Papachristou Smith, during a career of over 50 years, largely overseas. He is best known for his role in the design of two "monuments of French Modern architecture," IBM’s La Gaude Research Center, and the ski town of Flaine. In the U.S., he was responsible for the award-winning Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Bob was president of its New York chapter from 1975 to 1976. As a student, Bob broke academic records at Brooklyn Tech and Cornell University, where he received his B. Arch in 1951. He served in the U.S. Corps of Engineers and studied at Deep Springs College, an institution to which he returned as Trustee and received its medal in 2008. He was a Fulbright scholar at the Architectural Association (AA) in London from 1951 to 1952, president of Telluride Association, and Trustee of the New York Hall of Science and the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. I first met Bob at Marcel Breuer’s office in 1960, which in those days, along with Ed Barnes and Philip Johnson's offices, was the place for a young, ambitious architect to work. The office was right above Schrafft’s at 57th Street and 3rd Avenue. Bob and his partners ran the office. Breuer or Lajos, pronounced ‘Laiko’, was not always easily understood, and was often away. Bob was the steady hand in the office, forever patient and in good spirits. I sat between Richard Meier and Paul Korelick, who went on to win the Dublin Library Competition, while in the office. Bob and Breuer made a great team. Bob had an excellent handle on design, with a strong passion for the visual product. His graphic work, as well as the several books he wrote on design, showed this. He was the author of Marcel Breuer: A Memoir, co-written with I.M. Pei, and "Great Public Squares: An Architect's Selection," a book that sets international standards for urban space. We remained good friends over the years, as he did with so many others who worked with him over the years. His friendships reached out to many, even outside the world of design. An evening at the Gatje/Witter household was always a broadening experience.
Placeholder Alt Text

By Hand

In the Met's Michelangelo show, drawing is not just a medium, but a means for thought
This has been an exhilarating year for those who cherish drawings. Following on the heels of the marvelous Thaw collection last fall at the Morgan, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s winter season opened with an extravagantly wonderful exhibition of Michelangelo drawings and designs, Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer. The show, which was sponsored by Morgan Stanley and was open from November 13, 2017 to February 12, 2018, consists of 133 drawings, sculpture, and a replica of the Sistine Chapel, each requiring scrutiny and contemplation, which isn’t easy given the crowds. Many years of intense scholarly study by Carmen C. Bambach, curator in the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Met, has culminated in a wide-ranging survey of the artist’s work, his mentors, and students. Besides offering what seems like an endless sequence of exciting images, the show highlights some important issues, not the least of which is the current devaluation of the medium as a means of visualizing and understanding the world we inhabit. While it disappears from our academies today, during Michelangelo’s day, drawing was just becoming a significant component in art and culture in the mid-15th century. The Accademia delle Arti del Disegno in Florence had just opened, and within its program, drawing assumed an important position alongside architecture, sculpture and painting. Also, the “finished drawing’ was highly prized and its worth accrued if given the designation, “dalla sua mano” (by his very hand). Alexander Perrig, in his book on Michelangelo’s drawings, Michelangelo's Drawings: The Science of Attribution, eloquently describes the emergent tendency to value the evidence of a personal language and unique vision: He writes: “But drawing is not a bone displayed for veneration. It embodies a piece of the imaginative world of its creator.” This show charts the development and range of Michelangelo’s vision. We enter his tortured, anxiety-ridden world and find that the work seems to speak to our historical moment despite the centuries that separate us, for they offer powerful insights into the human condition. And it is through the intimate touch–hand to paper–that these sights and insights are given form. Exhibitions focusing on drawings help keep the idea alive that drawing cannot be supplanted by the digital rendering. While there might be some overlap, each is capable of accomplishing different tasks in different ways. Personal finished drawings were precious then. Michelangelo gave them as heart-felt gifts to dearest friends–a gesture that wasn’t valued in monetary terms, but rather appreciated as a sign of intimacy and friendship. As Bambach discusses each of the works in the show, she addresses the contested drawings and throws her hat into the ring siding with one or the other Michelangelo scholars and connoisseurs based on her system of observation and physical evidence. The contention over the attributions of drawings by Michelangelo has a long history of scholarly literature and many unsolved problems remain. The enormous weight given to this discussion provokes a question: Why is attribution so important? Too often authentication serves to enhance value. But it is of great significance according to Perrig, who has disattributed a great number of generally accepted works. “Every misattribution tends to distort historical reality as a whole by imputing to an artist someone else’s thoughts…it saddles the creativity of the assumed creator with contradictions that did not exist, and at the same time makes the art of the actual creator appear more one-sided and insignificant than it actually was.” The exhibition proposes a broad definition of drawing as a medium but also as a means for thought. The wonderful book produced for the exhibition, written by Bambach with essays by Claire Barry, Francesco Caglioti, Caroline Elam, Marcella Marongiu, and Mauro Mussolin, does much to extend our notion of what constitutes drawing. It categorizes the many applications:  sketches, finished and unfinished drawings (a theme explored somewhat murkily in the recent exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts  Left Visible at the Met Breuer, drawings from wax models, presentation drawings, “modani” or full-scale templates, drawings for painters such as Pontormo, to execute and the architectural plans–each distinct in its application while sharing a common hand and concept-driven project. The exhibition also provides insight into the artist as a teacher. In the hand-written notes that appear on the drawings, we see Michelangelo prodding and encouraging his students. Their studies are punctuated by his urgings to “draw!” and to “be patient.” The attribution dilemma is complicated by these student drawings, some of which attained a level sufficiently sophisticated enough to confuse many scholars. The illusionistic architectural elements, such as the structure of the Sistine Chapel, offer insight into Michelangelo’s emplacement of figures. The “quadro” or designated setting was a means for both isolating and connecting the narrative. It deployed a system entirely different from the pre-Renaissance predellas which consisted of a large iconic image resting on a series of small, distinct panels that carried a thematic narrative. These isolated, elaborated altar-like structures appeared like out-scale objects to heighten faith. Instead, Michelangelo contrived an entirely novel system by melding an illusionistic architecture based on while deviating from the actual one. This structure or invented “architecture” established a realm for the figures to inhabit and in many cases against which they appeared to struggle. The result was a kind of total design, revolutionary in its time. Mauro Mussolin’s useful essay finds a evidence of this approach even in such details such as the corner volutes in the Laurentian library, that he finds key to understanding Michelangelo’s ability to contrive an organic unity. These details attest to his ability to visualize the projection of space and his stunning visual memory. Adding to this notion, the late Leo Steinberg includes a temporal element in his design process, in his discussion of Michelangelo’s last painting, “On the deepest level of Michelangelo’s visual thinking, the meaning of the historical occasions as a rite of foundation and an affirmation of faith is expressed in the tectonic character of the design.” It is an arduous task to sum up grand exhibitions of this sort–a delight to the eyes and to the spirit. It is a profound reckoning not to be missed.
Placeholder Alt Text

Preservation Accreditation

Columbia GSAPP launches country's first PhD program in historic preservation
The United States is home to numerous master degree programs in historic preservation. Until yesterday, though, there was nowhere that students could pursue a PhD in the subject. That's set to change with Columbia University's just-launched doctoral program in historic preservation, the first of its kind in the U.S. The Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation's (Columbia GSAPPJorge Otero-Pailos, professor and director of the historic preservation program, collaborated with Dean Amale Andraos and Dean Emeritus Mark Wigley to create the program. The doctoral program joins GSAPP PhD tracks in architecture and urban planning. The school explained the goals of the new program in a press release: "The Ph.D. in Historic Preservation will equip scholars to think laterally and make connections to other disciplines, as they articulate a more complete historical understanding of their own discipline, develop new theoretical frameworks, advance experimental practices, probe alternative modes of disciplinary engagement, and take part in GSAPP’s critical scholarly culture." This is not the first time Columbia GSAPP has led the field in academia. In 1964, professors at GSAPP established the nation's first master in historic preservation program. Doctoral candidates will receive a stipend and tuition remission for the five-year program. Brazilian billionare José Roberto Marinho kicked in $675,000 to endow the first fellowship. Interested? The deadline to apply for that first fellowship is March 15, 2018.
Placeholder Alt Text

Meta Guide

Seeing Rome through the eyes of Robert Venturi
Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture is not an easy book, or so we were told by Vincent Scully in the introduction to Robert Venturi’s seminal 1966 publication. The book’s release is the stuff of modern architectural mythology. When initially published, Venturi’s text signified a daring step away from modern orthodoxy. It encouraged the design community to actively participate in broad architectural discourse, to treat the past as prologue rather than discarding it as merely vestigial. The book was loathed by many. Treated as critical contraband, it was seen as incendiary and vulgar, and was perceived to be a jab to the prevailing momentum of Western architectural progress. However, to a small fraction of midcentury architects, the book was a welcome embrace of architectural inheritance. It was a permissive, if soft, manifesto allowing designers to stretch out, to embrace a messy and nonlinear practice, to get a little weird. Frederick Fisher and Stephen Harby proudly identify with Team Venturi. The first pages of Robert Venturi’s Rome, to which both contribute text and watercolor illustration, celebrate the profound influence Complexity and Contradiction had on the way they practice, teach, and understand the built environment. Reading the book as students proved to be a shared watershed moment. Fisher immediately shifted focus from art and art history to architecture, and has worked in Rome as both an architect and Rome Prize Fellow. Harby received the book from Vincent Scully in a fateful transaction that led to a Rome Prize Fellowship and a recurring teaching position in the Eternal City. Robert Venturi’s Rome is ostensibly a travel book for the architecturally inclined, exploring some, though not all, of the Roman sites referenced in Complexity and Contradiction. Fisher and Harby “propose to take the reader on a journey through time and ideas by visiting and discussing nearly thirty Roman places that exemplify Venturi’s revolutionary ideas,” and they use the Complexity and Contradiction table of contents, and supplemental quotes from the original text, as a framework for ten short tours. Unsurprisingly, by pairing buildings and urban spaces with the tenets of Venturi’s work, including “ambiguity,” “contradiction” (both “adapted” and “juxtaposed”), and the “double-functioning element,” Robert Venturi’s Rome is quickly revealed to be more complex, and yes, more contradictory, than a standard travel guide of the Fodor’s or Rick Steves variety. Fisher and Harby pragmatically outline locations and hours of operation, but eschew detailed photography for their own watercolor illustrations. The images of buildings, architectural elements, and plans are gorgeous, lovingly rendered and evocative, but leave details to be examined solely by text. Accordingly, the text often carries an unevenly distributed burden. Venturi populated Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture with more than 250 images, mixing architectural photographs and drawings with mannerist and abstract paintings, an approach that buttressed his criticism and apologia. Conversely, Fisher and Harby are successful when describing formally familiar work, like the Pantheon or Casa Girasole, but struggle when examining complicated baroque spaces, like Francesco Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.   Vacillating between highlight reel and inside baseball, the tone of the book is inconsistent. It is simultaneously a travelogue for the architecturally curious and a series of esoteric incantations relying on the erudition of the reader to spot the sly relationship between Fisher and Harby’s text and Venturi’s design exegesis. The esteem in which the authors hold Venturi—and his work—and their admiration for Roman architecture is evident. Venerating both theorist and city, Fisher and Harby note, “it is possible that, without acknowledging it, Venturi…is celebrating the fact that in the hands of Borromini and many other architects, classical language is a living, fluid thing, and not the dead language that Venturi’s modernist contemporaries would have considered it.” By design or otherwise, the publication of Robert Venturi’s Rome feels timely and in keeping with a broader revivalist spirit currently underway. It fits easily with the recent Ettore Sottsass show at the Met Breuer, the successful effort to designate Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grill as a New York City landmark, and the recognition of the glass pyramid–topped Musée Louvre renovation with an AIA 25-year award. Still, it takes a unique kind of architectural navel gazer to appreciate the meta-narrative of a book about a book by an architect designing buildings about architecture. Scully suggested that Complexity and Contradiction might shift our professional perspective from the Champs d’Elysées to Main Street. Through thoughtful analysis and vivid illustration, Fisher and Harby remind us that Rome is a complex city of interwoven Main Streets populated by both historic exemplars and idiosyncratic oddities. Robert Venturi’s Rome “evokes many levels of meaning and combinations of focus,” write the authors. “Its space and its elements become readable and workable in several ways at once.” Coincidentally, so does Robert Venturi’s Rome. Brian Newman is an architect and university campus planner and has taught at Washington University in St. Louis. Robert Venturi's Rome Frederick Fisher and Stephen Harby, ORO Editions, $25.00