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1925–2018

Barry Bergdoll, Robert Miller, Jennifer Bonner, and more remember the late Robert Venturi
Robert Venturi passed away at age 93 on Wednesday, and there has been an overwhelming response from the architecture community. From dedicated disciples to former intellectual foes, many architects and critics have taken a moment to recognize how deep and impactful Venturi’s legacy really is. We collected some of those tributes here. Adam Yarinsky: Complexity and Contradiction was truly revelatory for me, as I read it at a moment in my early undergraduate education which coincided with beginning to learn about architectural history and also how to ‘read’ architectural drawings. I never saw it as a prescriptive handbook about making postmodernist forms but rather, in the examples of his work included in the back of the book, as a means of acknowledging architectural practice as critically engaging history (and more generally culture) through design. The idea of thinking about design as part of a constellation of relationships is the progeny of the understanding kindled through his work. Winka Dubbeldam: Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction from now over 50 years ago, was and is a groundbreaking architectural publication. For me it was the book that started my interest in philosophy and critical thinking (theory) in architecture. Venturi was such an important thinker and architect and his work and books influenced so many people in their careers. I personally was very lucky to have met Bob and Denise early on, when I was a young faculty member at Penn and was asked by the then Dean Gary Hack to present my student’s work to the Board of Overseers. I was excited and nervous to note that Bob and Denise both were on the Board, but they were excited to see the work, and we had a great conversation after the presentation. Our thoughts and warm wishes are with Denise.
Barry Bergdoll One of the first books I bought as a freshman in the 1970s was Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, a proud use of my brand-new MoMA student membership (my first copy has its members $2.96 tag). Venturi opened my eyes to seeing architecture, and to seeing modernist architecture. Far from a manifesto for an as-yet-to-be-named postmodernism, it was a love letter to architecture and a primer in ecumenical appreciation of things as seemingly distant as Lutyens and the vernacular.  My copy must be like so many others—a palimpsest of underlinings and marginalia. Dialogue with Venturi continues to this day, his thoughts as fresh as they are of their moment of origin. Catherine Ingraham: I typically write notes when I know I will reread a book. But I have no notes for Robert Venturi who, in concert with Denise Scott Brown, wrote Complexity and Contradiction and Learning from Las Vegas, even though I refer to these books on numerous occasions. Why? Because these texts, coupled with the architectural experimentation they inspired, are still on the main list, still live material embedded in the brains of those of us—young and old—who ran parallel with that epoch. This work made seminal contributions to the difficult category of American architecture and it will continue to contribute to the long, complex, game of the discipline and practice. Robert L. Miller: In time, I believe, the built work and projects of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and VSBA will claim an even higher place than the justly praised writings and theories. There may be no better way to honor Venturi’s memory in these next few days than to look again at one of these projects—ideally a built work, on site and in context, and with some of his incomparable drawings for it. This is an architecture that is at last comfortable with real modern American culture, not 1920s or 1950s modern but an unembarrassed, information-rich modern architecture of now.
 
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Rest in Peace, Robert Venturi🕊

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Jimenez Lai: Robert Venturi’s life and work, together with Denise Scott Brown, inspired us to treat architecture as a platform upon which one can learn “everything." The inclusive mindset Venturi lived by offered us the opportunity to view architecture as an embodiment of human communications that demands all of us to look harder and learn something from every aspect of the everyday around us. Venturi’s disposition towards “everything” as intellectual fodder opened the doors to us to reevaluate the aesthetic framework of the “ugly” or the “ordinary”—whilst enjoying a sense of a humor about it all. We are indebted to Robert Venturi for our continuing desire to keenly observe the world around us, and the sense of lightheartedness from which we tell our stories. Thank you, Mr. Venturi, for shepherding in the qualities of the messy, complex, awkward, and clumsy, so that we can embrace the perfections and imperfections of everything around us. Most importantly, thank you for leading the way to show us that architecture may or may not look like architecture, and architecture communicates on the behalf to the humans inside and outside the architecture. Jennifer Bonner: "I like elements which are hybrid rather than 'pure,' compromising rather than 'clean’, distorted rather than 'straightforward,' ambiguous rather than 'articulated'.... I am for messy vitality over obvious unity." – Robert Venturi (Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture) Robert Venturi gave us the intellectual, the ordinary, and humor in architecture. An undeniable force that has moved several generations, Venturi and Scott Brown showed us a different way of reading architecture. His “non-straightforward” architecture is infectious and especially so for a 17 year old from Alabama who lived in Las Vegas the summer before entering college. My first book to read on the subject of architecture was Learning From Las Vegas. Thank you.
Craig Konyk: Surely an important watershed moment. Ideas carry forward long after we articulate them. He and Denise will forever share the immortality of ideas. Adam Nathaniel Furman: It is almost incomprehensible to lose Robert Venturi, so important and central was his spirit for those practicing in my generation. A thinker, teacher, architect, and writer who played a vital role in massively expanding the notion of what academic architecture was, and could be, and how architectural history and our contemporary environment could be looked at with eager and appreciative eyes, and vivid, intellectually curious minds. May his legacy keep flowering in a thousand different receptive places… Joan Ockman: Robert Venturi’s contribution to the architectural culture of the last third of the twentieth century was original and profound. Equally a thinker and a maker, his early books Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) and Learning from Las Vegas (1972, with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour) were instrumental in articulating the set of ideas that would soon be coined as postmodernism. Projects like the Vanna Venturi House and Guild House translated his theories into built form. While other architects recognized the failures of late modernism by the 1960s, Venturi was among the first to produce a body of work that launched architecture in a genuinely new direction.
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Off Pitch

A new house in Atlanta raises the potential for roof-oriented design
A new exhibit at the Yale School of ArchitectureAdjacencies uses a multi-media approach to tell the story of various strange and tactile projects from 14 emerging firms around the country, and the show highlights a one-of-a-kind, ground-up residential project that’s set to open in Atlanta later this fallHaus Gables, designed by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, is a single-family home under construction along the Atlanta Beltline and a playful and surprising reinvestigation of the architectural zeitgeist using an exaggerated roof plan. The house is broken down in detail at Yale through a series of bright models, drawings, and ephemera that unveil her design philosophy for this inspired and irregular building. According to the architect, the project was influenced by Le Corbusier’s free plan and Adolf Loos’s raumplan—both residential design methods that called for unconventional interior spacing. Bonner’s aim was to “rework the spatial paradigms of the past” by organizing her architecture solely around the roof. She designed Haus Gables, a 2,100-square-foot structure, with six gable roofs that form one elongated canopy. The unique shapes of the resulting ceilings produced an interior filled with oddly-sized rooms, catwalks, and double-height spaces that are confined to the steep ridges of the pitched roofs. The idea for Haus Gables formed out of a 2014 course she taught at Georgia Tech School of Architecture, according to an interview with Curbed Atlanta. Bonner worked with students to imagine designs centered around individual architecture components. This exercise led Bonner to create her massive Domestic Hats exhibition for Atlanta's Goat Farm Arts Center, for which she studied Atlanta’s various roof typologies and created 16 models with alternative roof forms that challenged traditional domestic design. While Adjacencies provides a behind-the-scenes look at how Bonner specifically conceived the Haus Gables project, the real-life version is nearly complete on an 18 foot-wide plot of land in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward. Not only is the design itself unusual, but so are the materials specified for the project. Most notably, it features a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure, the second of its kind in the United States, and prefabricated components that were quickly put together on site over the last year.   Haus Gables, once complete, will also include extensive faux finishes on the exterior and interior. From the black terrazzo to the marble and brick, nothing will be real, but everything will be cost-efficient. Bonner even plans to conceal the CLT in an effort to mimic, yet bring a contemporary twist, to the Southern architectural tradition of DIY and “faking it.” An inside look at the production of Haus Gables will be on view in Adjacencies, curated by Nate Hume, at the Yale Architecture Gallery through November 15. Bonner will give a gallery talk alongside the other featured designers this Thursday, September 13, at 6:30 p.m.
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Wicked Good

Boston’s emerging designers get spotlight in design biennial
Winners of the fifth Design Biennial Boston can be viewed on The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston. Aimed to celebrate and give exposure to up-and-coming architects and designers from the New England region, the Biennial is on view until October 18th. This year, it consists of four installations which vary in themes, materials and artistic style. In order to bring their ideas to life, Design Biennial Boston has provided each winning team with $10,000 and access to cutting-edge fabrication equipment provided by sponsor Autodesk BUILD Space. The four winning teams, selected among a pool of designers from New England, were called upon to create installations echoing the region’s unique qualities and reflecting on the Greenway’s Playful Perspectives theme. The works by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy of DESIGN EARTH, Daniel Ibañez of Margen-Lab, and Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest of ULTRAMODERNE entertain ideas of rigid to free-flowing forms, local materials, economic trends, and global impacts all representative of the region. Another Axon by Jennifer Bonner of MALL (pictured above) is an installation comprised of a colorful array of twelve minimalist trees. A play on traditional architecture and design rendering, the installation uses common building materials such as vinyl siding, stucco, and artificial turf to challenge perceived building ideas. Primitive by Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest of ULTRAMODERNE is a geometric disposition of lines juxtaposed with rough materials: rugged cedar columns canopied with a thin aluminum shroud. The relationship between the shapes create an experience of existence within an abstracted, delicate grove. Blue Marble Circus by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy of DESIGN EARTH is a spherical, plastic monument highlighting the correlation between humanity's actions and the degradation of the ecosystem. The installation, as the name suggests, is a deep-blue plastic sphere which through form, color and material refers to the iconic symbol of environmental awareness. Ways of Wood by Daniel Ibañez of MARGEN-LAB is a compilation of logs that serve as public seating. The logs draw a visual connection between different states in timber's industrial process, from raw material to its highly polished state as a designed object. The installation aims to initiate a conversation on North America’s timber extraction industry and serve as a reminder of the often forgotten natural source of timber.
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The Sublime Triangle

Fate of HUD imperils revitalization of an iconic Miami neighborhood

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

“Made in Opa-locka” (MOL) is an urban revitalization plan—developed by Bonner+Stayner, a collaborative made up of Jennifer Bonner of the Boston architecture firm MALL and Los Angeles’s Christian Stayner of Stayner Architects—for Miami’s Opa-locka neighborhood.

The plan was made possible by President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 under the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which sought to address an overabundance of housing and monocultural zoning regulations that, over time, have stifled economic development in the neighborhood.

The 4.2-square-mile neighborhood was originally developed as a speculative suburb by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss in 1926. Colloquially called “The Triangle,” Opa-locka is best known for its Moorish-inspired architecture: The community was designed by local architect Bernhard Muller and inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. Muller, who was educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, designed the homes and public buildings with sculpted stucco forms, domed roofs, and tall minarets. Today, twenty of the original Moorish Revival structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Opa-locka Thematic Resource Area. In recent decades, however, the neighborhood has suffered from long-term disinvestment and the effects of structural poverty.

MOL was formed by the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation—a local nonprofit started in 1980 that has developed 145 single family homes for low-to-moderate-income first-time homebuyers and built over 2,500 units of rental housing in the community since its inception—as a plan to stem population loss and facilitate economic revitalization.

Bonner explained: “MOL acknowledges that building more housing in Opa-locka wasn’t going to work. In fact, there was a surfeit of housing in the community already, as people were escaping to other parts of Miami if they could afford it.” Instead, the architects embarked on a mission to modify existing single-family residences and other structures in the neighborhood in order to create the conditions for greater economic potential. “The housing had to be connected to small-scale commercial activity,” Stayner added, “and that commercial activity needed to be networked, both to benefit the existing residents and to change Opa-locka’s image as Miami’s mecca of crime, churches, and crumbling Moorish architecture.”

The architects designed plans to convert an abandoned church at the edge of the neighborhood into a performance space and movie theater. The church’s hollowed-out nave was infilled with a raked set of stepped platforms that could be used as amphitheater seating, while a corner of the building was sliced off and replaced with a length of glass wall to add a public dimension to the structure. The seating platform conceals beneath it an Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant community bathroom, as well as a space that can be used to house a small lending library, historical exhibitions, and a coffee kiosk.

The designers also envisioned converting an existing home into an after-school-program headquarters and business incubator. By removing, repurposing, and reconfiguring the home’s interior partitions, Bonner+Stayner could create a flexible office setting. They populated the space with different assortments of custom office furniture that could be used to facilitate a variety of programming, and envisioned the space transitioning from a business center during the day to a tutoring facility at night. Here, too, a corner of the building has been lopped off and replaced with an expanse of glass. The MOL plan includes other so-called “micro-enterprise” zones, such as a bicycle repair shop, laundromat, hair salon, and recording studio, aimed at diversifying the functionality of the neighborhood.

Currently, the project is languishing as changes in the presidential administration have cast an uncertain future for not just the project itself, but the existence of HUD in general. After a divisive and starkly anti-urban campaign, former surgeon Ben Carson was nominated and confirmed to lead the agency. Carson is seen by many as being unqualified to handle the reins of an expansive bureaucratic entity tasked with overseeing the United States Federal Government’s programs for home ownership, low-income housing assistance, fair housing, homelessness alleviation, and distressed neighborhood and housing development. The new secretary is also seen as a skeptic of the very programs he has been tasked with leading. Regarding Carson’s appointment as relating to the future of the MOL project, Stayner said, “The future of the project hangs in the balance due to the new administration’s moves to dismantle [HUD] by appointing a skeptic of the anti-poverty programs that HUD oversees, and likely eliminating the funding that will see the project finished.”

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Well-Grounded

Eleventh edition of SCI-Arc’s academic journal Offramp hits the internet
The Southern California Institute for Architecture (SCI-Arc) released the eleventh edition of its yearly academic journal Offramp this week. This time, the journal pursues the theme of “Ground” and lists SCI-Arc director and CEO Hernan Diaz Alonso as Editor-In-Chief. In a brief for the issue, Alonso puts forth the following provocation: “Issue #11 of Offramp aims to momentarily divert our critical gaze away from the architectural object in order to reflect upon its other: the ground. In a world increasingly resistant to dichotomies between human activity and the natural environment, how should architects conceive of sites, territories, topographies and other manifestations of ground?” The online-only, submissions-based hodgepodge of neo-postmodern eye candy is made up of ten articles supported by heady text and flashy imagery. The issue features an interview with Tom Wiscombe by Zachary Tate Porter, 2015-2016 Design Theory Fellow at SCI-Arc and founder of Office of Contingent Affairs, a thought-experiment of extruded sandwich-inspired buildings by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, a review of Jorge Otero-Pailos’s “Ethics of Dust” by Carolyn Strauss of Slow Research Lab, and a musing on color and background by Erin Besler and Ian Besler of Besler and Sons. The eleventh issue also hosts essays by Nora Wendl, Florencita Pita, Neyran Turan, Alexander Robinson, Stephen Nova, and Benjamin Flowers. Current and past issues of Offramp can be accessed here.
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One-Night Stand

Art and architecture takes over a motel in L.A. for one night only
One-Night Stand LA (ONSLA) is holding its second annual pop-up art show May 14th at the Holiday Lodge Motel in Los Angeles’s Westlake neighborhood. The tongue-in-cheek name comes from the ephemeral nature of an exhibition that brings together dozens of various emerging art and architecture practices in one courtyard motel for one night only. “This event was in response to social media,” Anthony Morey, co-founder of ONSLA said in a press release for the event. “Instead of viewing work online, like most of us already do, we decided to hold an annual event to give people an opportunity to see work in person.” The show was conceived by Morey, William Hu, and Ryan Tyler Martinez as a platform for a wide spectrum of artists and architects to “explore vices, provocations, tendencies, or questions that kept them awake at night” in 2015. Aside from holding the exhibition for a single night, the organizers also pledge to show a featured practices’ work only once, aiming to establish a rotating door for new creative suitors for the L.A. arts scene that opens once every year. Last year’s show featured the work of 20 emerging creative practices, many with ties to the organizers’ alma mater, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) including Mike Nesbit, Besler and Sons, and Sarah Newby. As a result, that year's program showcased a provocative array of digital media-heavy installations, including virtual reality projections and cuddling robots. This year’s show promises more of the same, with ONSLA exhibiting work in each of the motel’s rooms as well as in various locations scattered across the site. 2016's happening is guest curated by Duygun Inal, Debbie Garcia, and Jonathan Crisman and focuses on the theme of “Rendezvous,” that, according to the curators, “encompasses a lot of feelings coming with an expectation but being open to anything that may or may not happen.” Curators Inal and Garcia told AN via telephone, "We are excited to see a lot of construction processs-based work this year. We like to showcase work that maybe isn't cool yet or might never be cool, but that's part of the point for us." With featured work from 30 artists and architects, including works by Andrew Kovacs, Jennifer Bonner & Volkan Alkanoglu, Weather Projects, and Sophie Lauriault, One-Night Stand LA’s promises to bring a sampling of experiences, new and to the city’s art-design scene.    
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Computational Ecologies: Inside the 2015 ACADIA Conference in Cincinnati
The 35th annual conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) took place in Cincinnati (at Peter Eisenman's infamous DAAP Building) in late October. The international conference is a three-day long academic event presenting peer-reviewed research and experimental work of 50 computational designers, students, and architects. Topics range from material science, biomimesis, geomimesis, robotics, environmental parametrics, and ecological urbanism. The conference was bookended by a series of three-day workshops at the beginning of the week, and a one-day post-conference hackathon, organized by Site Coordinator Brian Ringley (Woods Bagot/Pratt Institute). The workshops provided a range of projects catering to both students, industry leaders, and design professionals. Topics covered ranged from CNC machining to Interaction Design (IxD) to BIM analysis and optimization. Tools featured in the workshops included Processing (Java), Dynamo (Autodesk), and Rhino/Grasshopper. The conference presentations and discussions were distributed between downtown Cincinnati (Deborah Berke's 21c Museum and Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center) and the University of Cincinnati two miles north of downtown, where a large portfolio of signature contemporary architecture has been built largely within the past decade. Keynote lectures by Stefan Behnisch, amid.cero9, Francois Roche, and Nader Tehrani were spread throughout the daily sessions. A curated exhibition of installations debuted during the conference, expanding on the ‘computational ecologies’ theme. The exhibition, titled ECO-DIVERSITY: Computation and Identity, will be open to the public through December 6, 2015. “This year’s event was smaller than last year’s Los Angeles-based conference, however the quality of papers and discussions remains at a high level,” according to ACADIA President Jason Kelly Johnson. Ringley saw the conference as a “unique way to showcase innovation embedded within the historical richness of a post-industrial Midwestern context.” Local flavor from this year’s conference included an evening coordinated by Matt Anthony’s Cincinnati Made initiative at a 25,000-square-foot renovated 1850s brewery in the heart of Over-the-Rhine’s brewery district—a neighborhood which contains the country’s largest historic district. Outside the brewery, Giacomo Ciminello showcased his People’s Liberty–funded "Spaced Invaders" projection-mapped video game, an ongoing art project calling attention to underutilized urban spaces in the city. A full list of organizers, sponsors, and participants can be found on the conference website. Papers will soon be added to an open access platform CUMINCAD, a digital library of 8,300 PDF full papers. Next year’s conference will remain in the Midwest: It is coming to Ann Arbor’s Taubman College at the University of Michigan. The theme will be Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers and Cognitive Machines. -- Organizers for "ACADIA 2015 COMPUTATIONAL ECOLOGIES: Design in the Anthropocene" include:
  • Lonn Combs, Technical Chair
  • Chris Perry, Technical Chair
  • William Williams, Site Chair
  • Mara Marcu, Exhibitions, Website, Social Media
  • Brian Ringley, Workshops and Social Media
  • Stephen Slaughter, Site Related Events and Publications
  • Ming Tang, Website, Site Related Events and Publications
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MCASD Keeps Going

Selldorf Architects breaks ground on controversial San Diego museum expansion
After a summer filled with dueling op-eds, petitions, and general outcry from members of the international architectural community, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and New York City–based Selldorf Architects have officially broken ground on a controversial $95 million expansion to the museum’s campus in La Jolla, California. The Times of San Diego reports that the groundbreaking occurred Thursday of last week and quotes Selldorf Architects founder Annabelle Selldorf as saying: “This is a special place in the world. But the collection of the museum inspires equal awe. Giving home to this beautiful collection is an incredibly vital thing to do.” The project aims to more than double the size of the museum by adding 37,000 square feet of new spaces to the complex, which was last expanded by Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA) in 1996. The designers aim to achieve this task by adding a new ocean-facing wing along the southern end of the complex, reorienting the museum’s entry and adding a slew of much-needed gallery spaces in the process. The project also aims to renovate the existing 35,000-square-foot original complex, which was initially designed by famed California architect Irving Gill and was expanded several times during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s by local architects Mosher Drew. The reorientation of the museum’s entrance has been seen as controversial by many in the international architecture community, including Denise Scott Brown who has spoken out against the addition. Scott Brown contends that the entry VSBA designed was derived from the “careful study and understanding of La Jolla’s urban form” in a widely-circulated petition, and that as a result, the plan deserves to be preserved. In several phone calls with The Architect’s Newspaper, Scott Brown has explained that she does not see Selldorf’s addition and the preservation of the VSBA elements as mutually exclusive, however, and hopes that a way can be found to retain the logic of the existing entrance while fulfilling the needs of the growing museum. The existing entry arrangement is a chief design contribution from Scott Brown—who aside from being an architect is also a celebrated urban planner—and it is considered an integral aspect of the VSBA addition and its guiding postmodern ideals. The elements that are being retained by the Selldrorf team relate more directly to the bombastic, iconographic forms VSBA is best known for and include the museum’s so-called Axline Court, a starburst-shaped atrium topped by neon-lit archways. According to Selldorf, her team is dedicated to celebrating the many lives of the museum and has worked hard to retain key elements of the VSBA design. Regarding the entrance, Selldorf told AN this summer, “Our task was to add an entrance that people could find,” while adding, “Not everybody thought we should be so determined to keep [the VSBA-designed] portions, but we are doing a lot of work to have those elements retain a significant presence in reinvigorated building.” The proposed renovations have exposed a critical and long-running schism in preservation thinking over not only which types of heritage are worth preserving, but perhaps as significantly, over the scope and scale of what is considered fundamental to postmodernism and postmodern design in architecture. The question here, as with many preservation-related projects, is whether surface-level decoration—neon lights, flamboyant archways, and textured materials—convey the essence of a work enough to allow for fundamental changes in use and organization or whether true preservation requires more. The question has gained greater urgency in the weeks following the death of Robert Venturi and amid a growing climate of uncertainty for not only VSBA’s works, but for elements of postmodern heritage in general. According to Scott Brown’s interpretation, the project’s plan—inspired by the double-coded logic of medieval European town squares and urban economic theory—is as important to MCASD’s status as a postmodern work as the building’s more visually-aggressive elements, highlighting the fundamental disagreement at hand. Either way, Scott Brown’s petition and the global outcry have not been enough to cause thinking on the project to shift significantly. Site work has been underway at the complex over the last few months as crews worked to remove a monumental pergola associated with the VSBA addition. Last week’s official groundbreaking indicates the project is moving forward at full-steam. Despite the demolition of the colonnade, the La Jolla Historical Society was able to salvage one of the two pergola structures and has since installed the fiberglass and steel assembly in a nearby garden that is free to the public and open for visitors. Selldorf Architects’ additions are scheduled to be completed in 2021.
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“Bob ain’t here to make another one“

Frank Gehry remembers Robert Venturi and VSBA’s work
Last week, architect Frank Gehry spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper regarding the recent passing of postmodern hero Robert Venturi at age 93. Venturi passed away on September 18 and in the days and weeks following, architects, scholars, and critics from around the world have offered poignant remembrances of Venturi and of his work with partner Denise Scott Brown and their joint firm, Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA). The pair is largely responsible for ushering in the postmodern architecture movement during the 1960s, a ground-shifting development that rocked established architectural discourse through convention-challenging buildings and radical publications alike. The developments helped to open a new realm of architectural expression, an opportunity generations of later architects—Gehry included—have exploited in order to explore new horizons in architectural and urban design. Over the telephone, Gehry explained that though he and Venturi feuded publicly from time to time, he felt much admiration for the late architect. Gehry said, “Bob Venturi is one of my heroes in life,” adding, “as is Denise.” With recent high-profile demolitions in mind, Gehry voiced support for preserving VSBA’s work, explaining that “maybe it’s a time to reflect on the issue (of preservation) that Denise has brought up,” a reference to Scott Brown’s recent efforts to bring awareness to the increasingly imperiled nature of some of the firm’s lesser known works, like the firm’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego expansion. Gehry explained that while “it’s hard to lose Bob [Venturi], what he [and Denise] gave us are insights created over a lifetime” that will live on in VSBA’s remaining built work. Specifically, Gehry offered praise for VSBA’s Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London. The groundbreaking work—a 120,000-square-foot expansion of the historic gallery that was built in 1991—was recently listed in England’s National Heritage List as a structure with Grade I significance. Regarding the project, Gehry said:
“Their project in London—Sainsbury—I go there and I marvel at it. I’m not a Classicist or an Originalist, I’m not into that, but those columns in the back, at an angle, a slight angle, it does something to your perception. Yeah, I have Venturi love in me.”
Gehry went on to postulate that when it came to the preservation of postmodern-era structures, architects and clients are both often at a loss, especially when budget-driven clients are setting priorities. While acknowledging that “culture changes, people are different,” Gehry admitted that “I don’t know that we understand [postmodern architecture], really, or how to deal with it.” With a note of finality, Gehry added, “Bob ain’t here to make another one, though.”
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Inside the Architects’ Studio: California Designers Put Out the Welcome Mat
AN's first-ever studio tour at our new West Coast digs in the American Cement Building was a rousing success, with hordes of visitors streaming through the concrete-veiled structure's eight architecture offices, including DRDS, Kelly Architects, Platform For Architecture + Research, Stayner Architects, Studio Bonner, Synthesis Design + Architecture, WROAD, and VA Design. In addition to beautiful displays of work (and beautiful views of the city) architects also rolled out a taco truck and multiple DJs. In case you didn't get to visit, here's a slideshow of the scene and of some of the architects' work. Enjoy! (Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow.)
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Technical Support
Tom Bonner

On September 14 Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum reopened its doors after a $30 million makeover. The renovation, carried out by local firm Rios Clementi Hale, enhances the theater’s look and comfort. But most importantly it brings the theater’s somewhat makeshift technical operations into the 21st century.

The renovation was made possible through a $4.9 million allocation from LA County with the addition of donations from several individuals, foundations, and corporations.

The 745 seat circular theater clad in an abstract precast relief by Jacques Overhoff was built in 1967 by modernist architect Welton Becket. It makes up one third of Becket’s original Music Center in Downtown LA’s Bunker Hill, along with the Ahmanson Theater and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Visible changes include a new raised entrance hall, a much larger lobby including better views of its signature Abalone tile mosaic, and a swanky new below ground lounge. The renovation also incorporated new lighting, improved sightlines to the stage, new staircases, new and larger bathrooms, and a fairly conservative but more comfortable décor, including widened seating, new carpeting, and new zebrawood wall paneling and walnut trimmed ceilings. The theater’s dominant colors are now olive and brown, replacing a mostly blue palette.

But the most radical changes to the theater took place backstage, where supporting the cramped, outdated theater’s productions had often been a supreme challenge.

“I thought to myself how can you work here?” said Jennifer Reynolds, a senior associate for Rios Clementi Hale, commenting on the mazelike hallways of the former backstage spaces.

Improvements here include a larger loading dock, more space directly behind the stage, a new green room, new dressing rooms, a new hair and makeup studio, and new prop and wardrobe rooms. Much of this new space was made possible by relocating the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to the building’s roof. Work also included installing new electrical systems; new ceiling panels and baffles for better acoustics; new catwalks; a new sound mixing booth; and the addition of elevators replacing a difficult system of ladders and steep stairs.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, said Reynolds, was working within the constraints of the theater’s circular shape, which resulted in an endless series of tight wedges. But the firm was able to navigate the geometrical challenge successfully.

“We called it a Swiss watch. It didn’t want to change, but we changed it,” said Reynolds. “The people who work here are giddy.”