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The Theater of Disappearance

Adrián Villar Rojas brings a surreal dinner party to The Met rooftop
Spring is finally here, and sure as daffodils, new art has sprouted on the rooftop of The Met. Last year, Cornelia Parker enlivened the roof with a creepy house, and this year, Argentine artist Adrián Villar Rojas has created The Theater of Disappearance, a surreal dinner party that questions how cultures are presented and objects contextualized in New York's largest encyclopedic museum. Among the sculptures, there's a lot to catch the eye: At one table, disembodied arms make owl eyes over a figure who's contemplating a shapely object in his own hands. Behind that, a backpacker stares wearily into the middle distance, holding a figurine with two others on his shoulders who seem to be standing guard. There are art experts who could easily identify the artifacts Rojas used, but The Theater of Disappearance is more about the radical juxtaposition of the objects, their decontextualization collapsing history and human culture into one exuberant tableau. To develop the works, Rojas spoke with curators, researchers, conservators, and others in charge of specific collections, scanning suits of armor, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art, and carved figurines from the Americas. There are almost 100 objects re-collaged among body scans of real, contemporary people—work boots and puffy vests and canvas sneakers and all. "Rojas took on the colossal, heroic task of investigating the museum's collecting processes from a personal, socio-historical viewpoint, laying open his re-interpretation of the collection, which has been liberated from the usual underpinnings of curatorial interpretation," said Sheena Wagstaff, the museum's Leonard A. Lauder chairman of modern and contemporary art. "In the process, he holds up a mirror to what we do at the museum, questioning the ideological stance of the museum, and in particular, how we choose to present cultural histories over time." The 16 black and white clay sculptures are, in part, a reference to The Met's early days, when the museum exhibited plaster casts of artifacts it couldn't acquire. Outside the museum, Rojas looked to Jorge Luis Borges's "On Exactitude in Science," which in one paragraph details a kingdom that loved maps so much it created a 1:1 scale representation of itself, a map so unwieldy that it disintegrated into spectacular pieces, left to drift in a desert. Rojas, according to a press release, positions the museums as the desert, "a scale-model theater of disappearance." Beyond sculpture, the artist designed the outdoor space down to the very last detail. He collaborated with the museum on a new bar and extension of the pergola, new benches, plantings, as well as a patchwork gray stone patio and an industrial hatched-metal floor near the rear of the terrace. The typeface for the exhibition, and wayfinding signage on the rooftop, was designed by Rojas, as well, in order to create a completely immersive experience. The Theater of Disappearance is on view April 14 through October 29, 2017. For more information on the exhibition, visit metmuseum.org
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Not-So-Pyscho

Cornelia Parker’s Psychobarn brings a haunting beauty to the Met Rooftop
Looming in a corner on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a new structure that looks like it’s been there forever: its mansard roof tattered, its blood-red siding weather-beaten, its porch crumbling. It looks haunted. It looks familiar. It looks like—it is—the house from Psycho. Cue the theme music, right? Well, no. Under the bright-blue sky of a perfect spring day, with Central Park stretching out in every direction, it looks a lot less menacing than it does in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller. Actually, it seems pretty harmless. But so did Norman Bates.

The tree-house-sized installation, Transitional Object (Psychobarn), was created by Turner Prize–winning artist Cornelia Parker, who has previously used architectural fragments in her work to explore themes of memory, transition, and transformation. Psychobarn plays with our preconceptions, and its menacing exterior belies a surprisingly wholesome origin. Daunted by the skyline, Parker decided to create a small domestic structure to contrast the city’s glass and stone towers. Looking to Edward Hopper’s paintings for inspiration, she found her answer after learning that his 1925 House by the Railroad was the model for the iconic Bates residence in Hitchcock’s masterpiece. To re-create the house while cultivating tension between the familiar and the unfamiliar, Parker used repurposed wood and rusted metal salvaged from an old red barn slated for demolition. She built her house like Hitchcock built his: A stage set that looks whole only from the right perspective. The metal scaffold behind its facade is clearly visible from half of the rooftop. Like its cinematic inspiration, Transitional Object (Psychobarn) is part fiction and part reality.

Hopper, Hitchcock, barns, Cornelia Parker, stage sets—I love all those things, which makes it all the more frustrating that I don’t love Psychobarn. The work’s title is a reference to psychoanalytical theory related to the emergence of a child’s identity independent from his parents. Perhaps it’s appropriate then that Psychobarn struggles to separate itself from a rich artistic heritage. It’s clever, I guess. Funny, even. But it doesn’t quite transcend the role of pop-culture punch line to become something greater, something that offers more profound insight, which Parker is certainly capable of producing. She first came to my attention with her pieces Mass and Anti-Mass—two nearly identical, large black cubes composed of charred wood fragments suspended at each end of a large gallery space—Mass is the remains of a church that burned down after a chance lightning strike; Anti-Mass is a church that was burned down by arsonists. It’s a challenging and provocative piece that I still think about often. Psychobarn has none of that power or complexity. There is no hidden psychosis.

I’m not saying that I need to have a deep emotional experience on the Met rooftop. This is, after all, a summertime installation that’s only 50 feet from a bar. It should be fun, and it is. But previous Met rooftop installations managed to be fun while also transforming our perception of the roof, the museum, or even the entire city. Dan Graham and Günther Vogt’s phenomenal Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout (2014) and Tomás Saraceno’s Cloud City (2012) come to mind. These interactive installations distorted, refracted, and re-presented the skyline to the rooftop revelers at the Met. Psychobarn aims for a similar populist appeal (and it will surely capture hundreds of likes on Instagram), but unlike those previous projects, it doesn’t need to be experienced to be appreciated. It gains nothing by being on the Met’s rooftop. Worse, the rooftop gains nothing by having it. Originally, Parker wanted to build an entire barn on the roof. That would have been a transformative experience. Imagine stepping out of the refined galleries of the city’s greatest fine arts museum into a dirty, hay-filled, chicken-clucking space. Alas, it proved unfeasible.

Don’t let this deter you from making a pilgrimage up to the Met rooftop this summer. There is that aforementioned bar up there that, for the duration of the installation, will be serving Hitchcock-themed drinks. I recommend the Corpse Reviver (gin, Cointreau, Lillet, and absinthe). Like any good cocktail, the thoughtful blend of ingredients results in something that’s more than the sum of its parts. I just wish I could say the same for the art.

Transitional Object (Psychobarn) is on view through October 31 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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On View> Dan Graham’s Rooftop Pavilion at the Metropolitan Museum Reflects on Public Space
Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 5th Avenue, New York Through November 2. 2014 One of the great gifts bestowed on New York in the summer is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s roof garden. You are thrust into Olmsted’s Central Park from a promontory surrounded by the perimeter skyline on all sides. The trick with the rooftop art commissions is to play with the space, the views, and the interrelationships between the two. The goal is to make the viewer see them differently—you want to feel like the rooftop is your personal terrace in the sky while sharing it with others in a magnificent secret shared space. Dan Graham’s Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout plays with what he calls this “leftover space” of rooftop by framing the viewer's “elliptical experience” with various man-made and natural elements: glass, steel, stone, hedgerows, chairs, and ForeverLawn (definitely not AstroTurf). Stepping from the fake grass that covers the rooftop—green mixed with yellow and brown in different blade thicknesses—one climbs almost imperceptibly onto a slightly-raised platform of granite slabs that forms a square. These pavers support a sinuous bisecting slab of steel-trimmed, S-shaped, mirrored glass, a staple of modern skyscrapers, that is supported on the east and west sides by hedges, that, as Graham noted, demarcate property lines. If you enter from the north side, you can gaze through the glass barrier to those on other side and to Central Park South beyond. When you approach from the south side, you are struck by the reflections of the skyline behind. It’s a concave/convex funhouse, where one is constantly catching glimpses oneself. Graham has been working with “pavilions” for a long time, and Hedge Two-Way Mirror Walkabout feels like a more rural version of his much-missed Rooftop Urban Park Project (1991) atop the Dia Center for the Arts on West 22nd Street. You want to sit on the lawn and have a picnic. At the Met, Graham worked with Swiss landscape architect Günther Vogt, who also designed the stainless steel moveable chairs with recycled rubber coating manufactured by Burri. On the museum’s second floor are related projects by Graham which attest to his long-standing interest in architecture and public space. A 20-minute video called Two-Way Mirror Cylinder inside Cube and a Video Salon (1992), commissioned by Dia, investigates atria, shopping arcades, and winter gardens, both historical and contemporary ranging from the Crystal Palace, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the Ford Foundation, Citicorp Park Avenue Atrium, Charles deGaul airport,  Parc de La Villette, World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, and the IBM Building. Graham narrates, as he does in Two-Way Mirror Hedge Labyrinth (1991), a short video centered on a pavilion installed at a private home in La Jolla, CA, where he muses on the city—how landscape architecture redefines it, how the labyrinth is a metaphor for it, and how two-way mirrored glass’ transparency and reflectivity mimics it. Graham’s concerns with movement and time, human interplay and asymmetrical procession, all take place on a mirrored stage.
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Top of the Rock

Neil M. Denari Architects unveils a sculptural rooftop office space in El Paso

Los Angeles–based Neil M. Denari Architects (NDMA) has unveiled plans for a 10,000-square-foot office and gallery addition slated for the Sotoak Realty company in the Union Plaza District of El Paso, Texas.

The adaptive-reuse project aims to add a sculptural rooftop pavilion to an existing three-story red brick warehouse. The proposed addition cantilevers 18 feet over an adjacent street and features a red aluminum panel soffit designed in homage to the region’s clay-rich soils.

For the project, the designers have created a north-facing window wall that will capture daylight, a feature that compliments an interior light well connecting a rooftop terrace with the building’s main stairs and a lower level gallery. Renderings for the project depict a bright open office area flanking a cluster of executive suites, with perforated metal panel window walls lining the eastern-facing portions of the space. The project is currently entering the construction documents phase, according to the Texas-born Neil M. Denari, principal at NMDA.

The project is expected to be completed in 2020.

Architect: Neil M. Denari Architects Client/Developer: Sotoak Realty Location: El Paso, Texas Expected completion: 2020

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Concrete Evidence

Ultrathin concrete roof to cap a net-positive energy rooftop apartment
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A full-scale prototype of the design was the culmination of a four-year research project by ETH Zürich, and now the thin-shell integrated system's concrete roof is under construction. The razor-thin assembly, built over the course of six months, tapers to an impressive one-inch thickness at the perimeter, averaging two inches thick across its more than 1,700 square feet of surface area. The ongoing project, sponsored by ETH Zürich, NCCR Digital Fabrication, and Holcim Schweiz, will lead to the completion of a rooftop apartment unit called HiLo, which will offer live-work space for guest faculty of Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology.  
  • Facade Manufacturer Jakob (cables); Bruno Lehmann (rods and cable-net components); Blumer Lehmann (timber); Dafotech (steel supports + plates); Bieri (fabric cutting + sewing)
  • Architects supermanoeuvre; Bollinger+Grohmann
  • Facade Installer Marti (general contractor); Bürgin Creations (concrete); Holcim Schweiz (concrete development); Doka (scaffolding)
  • Facade Consultants ETH Zürich (Block Research Group, Mathematical and Physical Geodesy, Automatic Control Laboratory)
  • Location Zürich & Dübendorf, Switzerland
  • Date of Completion 2017-18
  • System thin shell concrete with integrated systems
  • Products custom assembly of concrete, steel cable net, polymer textile formwork, heating and cooling coils, insulation, and thin-film photovoltaic cells
The rooftop structure rises about 24 feet high, encompassing 1,300 square feet. Innovations in thin-shell building techniques were explored by the Block Research Group, led by Professor Block and senior researcher Dr. Tom Van Mele, together with the architecture office supermanoeuvre. The team purposefully avoided wasteful non-reusable formwork, opting instead to develop a net of steel cables stretched into a reusable scaffolding structure. The cable net supported a polymer textile that forms the shell surface. According to ETH Zurich press release, “this not only enabled the researchers to save a great deal on material for construction, they were also able to provide a solution to efficiently realise completely new kinds of design.” The construction technique leaves the interior floor area below the roof relatively unobstructed, allowing interior construction work to proceed concurrently. Altogether, this method is expected to condense construction to eight to ten weeks. Block Research Group and NCCR Digital Fabrication were able to digitally model dynamic forces wet concrete applies to the lightweight cable net and textile formwork, so that the overall geometry and structuring of the surface can be calibrated to produce an accurate result. This level of optimization is perhaps most evident in the capacity of the reusable formwork system to hold around 25 times its own weight (20 tons of wet concrete will eventually load onto the formwork).
Experts from Bürgin Creations and Marti sprayed the concrete using a method developed specifically for this purpose, ensuring that the textile could withstand the pressure at all times. Together with Holcim Schweiz, the scientists determined the correct concrete mix, which had to be fluid enough to be sprayed and vibrated yet viscous enough to not flow off the fabric shuttering, even in the vertical spots. The innovative concrete structure offers more than a new method for constructing concrete shell structures: it’s aim is to be an intelligent, lightweight energy-producing system. This is achieved by careful assembly of multiple layers of building systems. Two layers of concrete sandwich together insulation, heating and cooling coils, while thin-film photovoltaic cells wrap the exterior surface. The residential unit, enclosed by this roof system, and an adaptive solar-shaded facade, is expected to generate more energy than it consumes.  “We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction” said Block in a press release. Because we developed the system and built the prototype step by step with our partners from industry, we now know that our approach will work at the NEST construction site.” You can view progress at the Dübendorf, Switzerland construction site via live webcam, accessed here.
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Winter is Coming

Rooftop ice rinks are the new High Line
Just in time for the cold weather to set in, a new trend in urban entertainment is heating up: rooftop ice rinks. The Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. will open a skating rink and lounge on November 16, giving guests and visitors another reason to visit its rooftop bar and a new way to take in views of the nation’s capital, 14 stories above the street. “There are other skating rinks in the District of Columbia, but there isn’t another hotel in D.C. that has a skating rink on the roof,” said Debbie Johnsen, the hotel’s digital marketing director. The hotel's management team was looking for a way to attract people to its Top of the Gate rooftop bar during the winter months, and decided adding a rooftop rink would do that, explained general manager Jeff David. "We were brainstorming about how we could keep the popularity of the Top of the Gate going–how we could extend it for 12 months of the year," he said. "This was almost a no-brainer." Becoming a popular ice skating destination is perhaps an unexpected direction for the Watergate, which is known for its association with the 1972 break-in of the Democrat National Committee headquarters in the adjacent Watergate office building. The hotel marks its 50th anniversary this year, after closing in 2007 and reopening last year following a $125 million, six-year renovation. The hotel's oval rink, called Top of the Skate, measures 70 by 20 feet and can accommodate 40 to 50 skaters at a time. Open during the winter months, it offers views of the Potomac River and the city’s monuments while patrons enjoy S’mores, mulled wine, and German-style pretzels in the lounge. The rink also features a skate-up bar so guests can order a drink without leaving the ice. The Watergate’s rink is the latest in a series of rooftop ice rinks that are opening around the world, often as part of hotels. These rinks constitute a new trend aimed at rejuvenating cities by giving people another reason to come downtown in the winter months, when tourists tend to visit in fewer numbers. They also represent a relatively low-cost, creative use of previously dormant urban space. Their appeal is unmistakable; they combine two things many people like: skating rinks and rooftop bars. For patrons, they offer vistas that ground-level rinks don’t have and a new way to socialize, combining entertainment and exercise. For hotels, rooftop rinks are photogenic and provide a new experience to draw patrons. They’re ideal settings for “selfie” moments that can later be posted on Facebook, further promoting the hotel. The Watergate even has an ice skating package, which includes skating and skate rentals and a reduced room rate for skaters who want to stay overnight. Some rooftop rinks are made with real ice. Others, including the one at the Watergate, are made with synthetic ice, composed of interlocking polymer panels designed for skating with conventional metal-bladed ice skates. The synthetic ice panels don’t add as much weight to a roof as actual ice would and require less maintenance. They can also be installed in a relatively short time and dismantled when the season is over. Europe’s highest rooftop rink opened last winter atop the 354-meter OKO tower in Moscow’s commercial district. London got its first rooftop rink on November 2, when Skylight London opened at Skylight Tobacco Dock in East London. Located on the 10th floor of the Penning Street parking garage, where a croquet court was, the rink doubles as a rooftop bar, complete with cocktails and chocolate fondue. In Toronto, a division of the Molson Coors Brewing Company built a temporary, 100-foot-by-45-foot rink atop a 32-story office building for winners of its #AnythingForHockey contest in 2015. There was so much interest the rink was later opened to the public for group bookings, but it was eventually dismantled. Other rinks prove that winter temperatures aren’t a requirement to enjoy this amenity. Las Vegas has The Ice Rink at Boulevard Pool, a 4,200-square-foot rink on the roof of The Cosmopolitan Hotel, where skaters can take in views of the Strip from four stories up. Construction also began this month on Atlanta’s Skate the Sky, a 3,500-square-foot rink 10 stories above Ponce City Market on Ponce De Leon Avenue. Capable of holding 90 to 100 skaters at a time, it’s scheduled to open November 20. “I don’t think there’s another rooftop skating rink anywhere in Atlanta or maybe even in the Southeast," Brett Hull-Ryde of Slater Hospitality, which will operate the rink, told Fox5 in Atlanta. “We’re happy that we’re getting this opportunity to show people another way to have some fun."
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Rising Up

The Contemporary Austin gets a striking new rooftop addition
In December of last year, New York–based Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis Architects (LTL) completed its renovation of The Contemporary Austin-Jones Center which, among other improvements, includes the freshly inaugurated Moody Rooftop pavilion. The $3 million dollar renovation responds to the enormous growth of the institution and its popular public programming as well as the increasing scale of Austin’s architecture. This project is one in a series of designs that the organization has commissioned in recent years including the ongoing master planning of its sculpture park at Laguna Gloria by Cambridge, Massachusetts–based landscape architecture firm Reed-Hilderbrand. Since the museum opened its downtown location in 2010, the roof deck has been a central feature of its public engagement strategy and often hosts outdoor film screenings and music performances. This upgrade allows The Contemporary to hold larger events with more control over the open air roof space. LTL designed a deceptively thin roof canopy that hovers 23 feet above the original structure with stark white curtains that can be drawn to enclose the space for year-round use. The museum also moved its administrative office to Laguna Gloria, thereby allowing for Jones Center to double its ground floor area for exhibitions and upgrade its mechanical systems to accommodate a more diverse range of art installations. The building is situated along Congress Avenue, Austin's central thoroughfare, with a direct view to the State Capitol, making the museum one of the city’s most visible cultural institutions. Coincidental with the re-opening of the museum was the installation of a text artwork by artist Jim Hodges that wraps the edge of the roof. The piece consists of 27 seven-foot-tall block letters reading “With Liberty and Justice for All” lit from behind and encased with iridescent mirrored surfaces. The eponymously titled piece is in the public gaze at all times and will reportedly remain in place for three years, though the architect re-designed the roof to potentially mount the letters permanently. Earlier this year, directly following the presidential inauguration, both the building and the art were the backdrop for the Women’s March in Austin, underscoring the social responsibility that cultural institutions have to shape a city’s identity. With cooperation between distinctive architectural design and timely public artwork, the museum aims to vault itself from a sometimes scrappy nonprofit to a growing powerhouse among national art institutions.
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Walking Under Sunshine

SITU Studio designs a “Solar Canopy” to popularize rooftop solar systems in urban areas
A recently developed product, the Solar Canopy, may solve many of the problems related to having solar panels on residential urban rooftops, according to a recent press release. The Solar Canopy, a collaboration of Brooklyn-based architecture and design firm SITU Studio and Brooklyn SolarWorks, is a raised platform of solar panels. The project’s development also included Solar One, an advisor, and Laufs Engineering Design (LED), a structural engineering consultant. This approach to incorporating solar panels on rooftops in New York City attempts to resolve concerns such as fire code regulations, rooftop obstructions, and wind and snow loads. The Canopy has a minimum size requirement of 6’ wide x 9’ high, based on requirements set forth by the Department of Buildings (DOB). The product was initially designed for brownstones and row-houses in Brooklyn but can be produced in larger sizes. Aluminum, with its solid-but-lightweight properties, was chosen for the Canopy's frame. “The buildings might not [stand the test of time] but [the Canopy] is built to really last,” stated T.R. Ludwig of Brooklyn SolarWorks in an interview with AN. The Canopy consists of standard components—trusses, beams, and angled columns. A T-extrusion is used to attach the structure securely to the roof. Using a parametric formula, these components can be easily reproduced to yield a customized Canopy, potentially double the size of a rooftop solar system. A video included in a press release, seen below, shows the assembly of the Canopy. The Solar Canopy will hopefully allow homeowners to save considerably in energy costs. Tax credits from the Federal government, the State of New York, and the City of New York can be used to cover 60 to 90 percent of the cost of a rooftop solar system. Ludwig told AN that it is possible for homeowners to take out loans to have the product installed and that affordability is one of the project team’s priorities. Brooklyn SolarWorks has a background in solar finance. So far, ten Solar Canopies have been installed in Brooklyn with several others going through the permitting process. The product will likely be available for commercial use in the fall of 2016.
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Cornelia Parker puts a “Psycho-Barn” on top of the Met
Esteemed British artist Cornelia Parker has placed an ominous looking barn on the roof of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The installation, according to Parker, was inspired by Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad painting. Under its official title, The Roof Garden Commission: Cornelia Parker, Transitional Object (PsychoBarn) is the fourth rooftop installment the Met has overseen in what is becoming a yearly occurrence. When speaking of the rooftop feature, Parker says that she was "daunted" by the skyline surrounding the site. As a result, Parker, who's from Cheshire in the North of England, says that she wanted to place an "incongruous, domestic house" on top of the Met. Initially, Parker had planned for a much bigger traditional red barn, however, she quickly realized that these were "far too big." The result is a sinister looking barn, dubbed "PsychoBarn" due to its similarities with the infamous Bates mansion used in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho. In fact, that is in part from where Parker drew her inspiration. When reading into Edward Hopper's House by the Railroad she discovered that the painting inspired Alfred Hitchcock to use an eerily similar barn structure for Bates mansion in his epic, Psycho. Likewise, Parker's creation is equally ominous. Formed from a deconstructed red barn, a prominent image in American architecture and indeed Hopper's work, the PyschoBarn rises 30 feet on the Met's rooftop. While it hardly makes a dent in the New York Skyline, it's a welcome variation on the typical imprint new builds have on the cityscape today. A closer look reveals that the barn is incomplete. Instead, it is two facades merely held upright by scaffolding and supports, emulating how Bates' mansion was constructed on set for Psycho. The successful deception of being a real barn is Parker's way of blurring authenticity and illusion through the process of assumption. “When you round the corner, you might think it’s the house from Psycho, or you might think it’s a red barn,” Parker said. “It’s cognitive dissonance. You oscillate in between two things—one is cozy, the other malign.” She added, “It’s not a one-liner.” On their website, the Met says: "The piece flickers between the physical reality of the barn and the cinematic fiction of the house, bringing up their respective ties to comfort and discomfort. Neither entirely real nor completely false, it vacillates unnervingly between its identities." “The title of Parker's work alludes to the psychoanalytic theory of transitional objects used by children to help negotiate their self-identity as separate from their parents.” Sheena Wagstaff, the museum's Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of modern and contemporary art, also said: “Cornelia has developed an astonishing architectural folly. It intertwines a Hitchcock-inspired iconic structure with the materiality of the rural vernacular." “Combining a deliciously subversive mix of inferences, ranging from innocent domesticity to horror, from the authenticity of landscape to the artifice of a film set, Cornelia's installation expresses perfectly her ability to transform clichés to beguile both eye and mind."

https://youtu.be/sifBPSaJjfE
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Gehry’s leaked plans for Facebook Seattle show a rooftop park with curving trails and fire pits
Last February, Facebook announced the company was moving its Seattle offices. The company has hired Frank Gehry to design its new Dexter Station space in the burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood. Now, we the floor plans have been leaked, revealing more detail surrounding the always-amenity-rich tech offices. Last week, GeekWire obtained blueprints of the Gehry Partners–designed outdoor areas and a photo of a model of the interior. The plans show a rooftop park with a curving, looping trail (the younger cousin to the nine-acre park on Facebook's Building 20 in Menlo Park, also designed by Gehry). There's a fire pit, meeting and covered dining terraces, as well as a barbecue prep area, all spread over three rooftops. "The over-the-top amenities are the latest demonstration of the lengths to which Facebook and other tech companies are going to recruit and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market for top-notch software developers," wrote GeekWire. Facebook Seattle is currently working out of Metropolitan Park.  The company is expected to move into its new space by the middle of next year, and have enough room to grow to 2,000 employees. In 2010, they started with just two.
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Metalsa Center
Brooks + Scarpa designed this new manufacturing and research center in Mexico.
Courtesy Brooks + Scarpa

The company Metalsa exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that is lifting Mexico financially and reducing the flow of immigrants to the US. Founded in Monterrey in 1956, the company has grown to become a global manufacturer of automotive frames and components for companies from Ferrari to Ford. “Out of the blue,” as Brooks + Scarpa principal Larry Scarpa recalled, “we received a call to compete for the design of their new research facility and, after interviewing, we won the job.”

Located on a 100-acre, government-sponsored technology research campus adjoining Monterrey Airport, the Metalsa Center for Manufacturing Innovation joins the facilities of other international companies, and branches of UT Austin and two Mexican technical universities. The site has a secure perimeter, but the constraints were few beyond a 125-foot height limit and a mandate that all equipment be concealed. Metalsa already has a manufacturing plant of several million square feet in Monterrey, the commercial capital of Mexico. Here the goal was to create a showcase of sustainability and an ideal work environment that would embody the ideals of the firm and impress visiting customers. Phase 1, comprising 16,500 square feet of warehouse, research lab, and office space, has been completed. In phase 2, these facilities will expand to the north and east, increasing the square footage to 55,000.

   
 

Inspired by the jagged mountains around Monterrey, the architects created a steel-framed block with sharp-peaked lanterns that draw in natural light from the north like the saw-tooth roofs of factories. A projecting canopy suspended from a cantilevered roof is clad in perforated and etched aluminum. It shields the glass curtain wall of the reception area and two-story office wing. A layer of polycarbonate behind the aluminum plates provides insulation and diffuses the shadows cast by the openings. Behind this public face, walls clad in aluminum panels enclose the open 60-foot-high warehouse, bathed in natural light from above, where chassis and other components are tested. This is a secure area, where proprietary information is concealed from prying eyes, and access is tightly controlled. The same concern for privacy was applied to the second floor laboratories in the office wing, and the architects calibrated the openings to balance the competing claims of protection and transparency. Tilted oval windows provide discreet glimpses of the labs and the warehouse.

 
   
 

In contrast, the open office areas have an easy flow, and the architects designed the triangular tables with splayed legs. These, like the building, were locally sourced and fabricated. Scarpa intended for Metalsa to make the aluminum skin, but it proved cheaper to go to another factory in Monterrey. He was also challenged to reuse the structural frame that a local architect had designed before Metalsa decided to hire a more prominent designer.

Sustainability is a hallmark of Brooks + Scarpa buildings, and here the challenge was extreme. The temperature routinely tops 100 degrees in the summer, and once reached 118 degrees in April. Passive technologies are combined with rooftop solar panels. The building is cooled and warmed by tapping into the city water supply and feeding pipes through a heat exchanger to exploit the difference in temperature between the water and the earth. Gray water is stored in a cistern below a sunken garden to the north and the public spaces open onto this green oasis through a roll-up industrial door in the exposed glass curtain wall. Like the visionary workplaces created in the early years of the modern movement, Metalsa combines efficiency, humanity, and expressive design in exemplary fashion.

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Brooklyn Children’s Museum Rooftop
Courtesy TMA

Brooklyn Children’s Museum Rooftop Canopy
Architect: Toshiko Mori Architect
Client: NYC Department of Design and Construction
Location: Brooklyn
Completion: Summer 2012

Rafael Viñoly’s lemon yellow tile-covered Brooklyn Children’s Museum makes a big statement in a mostly brownstone neighborhood. A new rooftop canopy, designed by Toshiko Mori Architect (TMA), aims to make the three-year-old building even more active and accessible. The canopy with an EFTE skin covered in a dot matrix frit will allow the rooftop to be used for lectures, concerts, and other events, including the museum hopes, in the blazing hot summer months. The designers say the frit is meant to mimic the dappled light of a tree.

Starting from four points on the roof, the curved structure forms a perfect arch spanning 75 feet. “There’s a reason they used similar forms in cathedrals,” said Joshua Uhl, a senior associate at TMA. “They are incredibly efficient.” The structure, composed of six-inch diameter tubes, is light enough that the architects didn’t need to reinforce the roof. The four corners of the structure system form small seating areas arranged around circular storage bins. The bins house round yellow foam cushions that can be used for seating underneath the canopy.

Though the museum was only just completed in 2008, its bathrooms and a theater will also be renovated by Mori.