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In memoriam: Henry Urbach
Henry Urbach was a born curator. He had an eye for good design; the intellectual heft to be able to judge what was not only beautiful but also meaningful or critical to both the discipline of architecture and wider society; and the gift of gab with which to articulate all of that. He was also able to put together some of the best exhibitions on architecture of the last few decades. He was a bit of a rebel and a doubter of received notions and authority, which stood him in good stead as he developed ideas through his chosen medium of collecting and showing work in and around architecture, but which often made it difficult for him to operate within larger institutional structures. His untimely death in Tel Aviv deprives us of one of the discipline’s most distinctive talents.
With two degrees from Princeton and one from Columbia, as well as a network that reached around the globe, Urbach was able to position himself during the end of the last century as New York’s primary broker of speculative architecture. He achieved that position through the work he did at his New York gallery, Henry Urbach Architecture. Picking up where the only other gallerist to have entered the field, Max Protetch, left off, Urbach assembled a stable of young designers and artists who extended the definitions of architecture. These included not only experimental architects and practices, such as LOT-EK, François Roche, An Te Liu, Lebbeus Woods, and Jürgen Mayer H., but also many artists playing with the forms and conventions of architecture, as well as photographers who both documented and penetrated our worlds.
What Urbach showed in his Chelsea gallery, tucked up into an upper level of a warehouse on 26th Street, helped to change our perception of space and place. Much of his work focused on questions of seeing and being seen, spectacle, and the intimate relation between the body and the buildings that housed or enclosed it. He worked on issues related to queer space, and his exhibitions often had a sense of the uncanny and the slightly illicit or forbidden. They burrowed into the hidden places of the city and opened up almost operatic panoramas of what the urban scene made possible.
When I was the curator of architecture, design, and digital projects at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in the late 1990s, I was one of Urbach’s most eager clients. I found in his gallery a treasure trove of what I thought was some of the most important architecture and design work being done at the time, and quite a few of his pieces made it into my own exhibitions, as well as into the museum’s collection. When I moved on to direct the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, I invited him there to curate an exhibition on the relationship between architecture and the body. When Urbach was later appointed to my old position at SFMOMA after Joe Rosa vacated it and left for Chicago, I felt that it was a perfect choice.
Urbach organized excellent exhibitions and collected important work at SFMOMA, but, in the end, clashed with the museum’s rather conservative culture. He then moved on to direct Philip Johnson’s Glass House and do more good work there, but by then, the mark of what now appears to have been late-onset bipolar disorder turned his rebellious spirit and inquisitive mind toward swings between increasing paranoia and irrational exuberance. He moved to Israel and seemed to have found a new community and purpose as an effective and much-loved teacher, but the demons that had come to haunt him (as we like to think of such diseases) ultimately got the better of him.
It is a tribute to his family and friends that they have felt it important to let us all know, in their statement about his death, about his disease. There is a difference between having a different perspective, wanting to challenge accepted notions, and seeing the potential of what is not valued or condoned and having a medical condition that skews not only your views but also your relations with other human beings. At some point, Urbach’s ability to discern what few of us could or even wanted to see, often at the heart of our chosen avocation or in the environments we loved, and to pick, highlight, and explain such work, turned into something else, something that undercut his ability to use his great talents to move architecture toward productive confrontations.
I admit to being one of those who found it impossible, in later years, to engage in what I considered normal interactions with Urbach. Not recognizing his condition, I felt alienated and confused by his ideas and modes of interaction. I am sorry that I did not work through such difficulties, as now I will never be able to do so. What is more important is that we have lost an important life, a great spirit, and an agitator for experimental architecture. For all these reasons, we will miss Henry Urbach.
Aaron Betsky is the president of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and is the author of numerous books, including Making It Modern and Architecture Matters.
One Month of Design
AN rounds up all the must-see events happening this Archtober
Elizabeth Anderson, philosopher; Sujatha Baliga, attorney; Lynda Barry, cartoonist; Mel Chin, artist; Danielle Citron, legal scholar; Lisa Daugaard, criminal justice reformer; Annie Dorsen, theater artist; Andrea Dutton, geochemist; Jeffrey Gibson, visual artist; Mary Halvorson, guitarist; Saidiya Hartman, cultural historian; Walter Hood, landscape and public artist; Stacy Jupiter, marine scientist; Zachary Lippman, plant biologist; Valeria Luiselli, writer; Kelly Lytle Hernández, historian; Sarah Michelson, choreographer; Jeffrey Alan Miller, literary scholar; Jerry X. Mitrovica, geophysicist; Emmanuel Pratt, urban designer; Cameron Rowland, artist; Vanessa Ruta, neuroscientist; Joshua Tenenbaum, cognitive scientist; Jenny Tung, anthropologist; Ocean Vuong, writer; Emily Wilson, classicist.
Protestors shut down the New Museum’s IdeasCity Bronx
In a public statement McEwen made on Twitter, she ends with a series of questions aimed to open dialogue and to keep the conversation going. “NYC Parks Department—I have no words,” she asks, “what would a functional democratic process around public space look like for New York City?” She urges for a “radical imagining” of the spaces in which we exchange knowledge outside of the academic institution, and of a place where the pain expressed by the protestors can “coexist in dialogue with the technical, creative, and spatial work involved in change.” In a statement shared via email, the New Museum told AN:View this post on Instagram
The DreamYard Project will no longer be participating in IdeasCity Bronx—based on the lack of clarity, collaboration and communication in the planning of IdeasCity Bronx, as well as the compromised integrity of DreamYard’s community-centered values. . Three months ago, we were approached by IdeasCity for the opportunity to uplift our young people and community’s work around Arts and Activism. We were asked to collaborate in organizing a panel discussion, a student performance and community-based organization /activism booths; since then, a small team of DreamYard staff members have worked diligently to organize these parts of the event, and ensure fair compensation for our young people and representing CBOs that we have asked to get involved in this event. DreamYard staff members initially created a panel discussion on the relationship between politics and grassroots movement, “Who’s Got the Power?” which centered a young DreamYard participant, and a DreamYard alumna and current staff member. Since then, IdeasCity renamed the panel discussion we were organizing, shifted the original intention of the discussion (shaped by intentional labor of Black Indigenous Queer Femmes), and was essentially handed over to another party who was not involved in the concept, the process, nor the work we do and are seeking to uplift. We do not feel safe having our young people participate, nor having DreamYard’s name further implicated in what has turned out not to be a collaboration, but something in which DreamYard’s name has seemingly been used as merely a means to an end. . We entered this collaboration in good faith, and since then have been made aware of the missteps inherent in the planning of IdeasCity. Based on the feedback from the community as well as the challenges in planning this event, we have decided not to participate in IdeasCity Bronx. . <Continued in comments>
We wholeheartedly support V. Mitch McEwen’s curatorial vision for IdeasCity over the past year, and the ciphers and convenings that have advanced thinking in significant directions. We believe it is more important than ever to continue to provide platforms for productive dialogue, debate, and healing in a challenging and divided world. Knowing this can only happen through deeper engagement, proximity, authentic and time-tested connectivity, and sustained commitment, IdeasCity will continue to organize events in the hope that, going forward, groups of every type can come together, voicing differences, but collaborating on possible futures.
Want to own a house designed by a renowned architect? Here are seven options currently on the market
While summer may be drawing to a close, daydreaming about beautiful houses has no season. For those who are particularly discriminating about architecture, and who happen to be in the market for a multi-million-dollar listing, there are plenty of options to run through. AN has rounded up seven houses designed by nationally and internationally renowned architects that are for sale right now. Do some window shopping below:Marcel Breuer’s Gargarin House I Litchfield, CT
Between 1956 and 1957, the celebrated Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer, whose masterpieces include New York’s Met Breuer museum (formerly the Whitney), designed a stunning home for Andrew and Jamie Gargarin in Litchfield, Connecticut. Sitting on 1.7 acres of gently sloping land, the low-slung house was constructed with steel, reinforced concrete, stone, and glass. Its styling is decidedly modern both inside and out, with materials and vistas that are sure to please any buyer with money to spare.
Perhaps the most unique feature in the Gargarin House I is the bush-hammered concrete fireplace. Its irregular form rises in the middle of the glass-walled living room, providing the home with one of its only architectural elements that is not strictly rectilinear. The fireplace and the storied house it occupies can be yours for $3.8 million.
Arthur Cogswell, Jr.’s Durham dream house Durham, NC
As the only house on this list priced under one million dollars (and still by only $50,000), Arthur Cogswell, Jr.’s midcentury modern design in Durham, North Carolina offers a comparatively affordable option for those looking to own property crafted by a notable architect. Cogswell is best known as a residential architect with modernist proclivities. Most of his projects have been completed for private clients in North Carolina.
This particular home is 3,259 square feet with four bedrooms and three full bathrooms. Because it has only had one owner since its initial construction, the house is remarkably well preserved. Images show that many of the rooms have maintained their original wood cabinetry, while the back deck is still covered by a geometric pergola. The room that has changed most significantly is the kitchen, which underwent a complete renovation to meet twenty-first-century standards of living. Built in 1966, the home sits on 2.33 acres and is listed for $950,000.
Steven Holl-designed Catskills getaway Middleburgh, NY
Nestled in a heavily wooded area in New York’s Catskills region, Steven Holl’s bright red “Y House” has hit the market for $1.6 million. The two main sections of the house (there is also a detached garage and a boathouse) branch off from one another to form the shape of the letter “Y”. They both terminate in outdoor spaces—balconies on the second floor and small patios on the ground floor. The roofline of the structure slopes upward toward this point, creating a volume that appears to open up to the mountain views.
Constructed in 1999, the house takes full advantage of its surroundings. From the interior, irregularly shaped windows frame the landscape in unexpected ways, while communal spaces benefit from larger, floor-to-ceiling glass. The 33-acre site also has a minimalist, glass-walled boathouse perched at the edge of a serene pond.Richard Neutra’s midcentury masterpiece Weston, CT
In the quiet town of Weston, Connecticut, Betty Corwin is selling a house designed for her and her husband by Richard Neutra in 1955. Situated on a 4.3-acre lot above the Saugatuck River, the five-bedroom Corwin House is surrounded by mature trees and lush landscaping. With many of its original finishes still intact, including the yellow kitchen cabinetry and plenty of built-ins, the home is a particularly well-preserved example of midcentury modern residential architecture. Corwin, now in her 90’s, has made only a few changes to the kitchen appliances and bathrooms.
Perhaps best known for his extensive portfolio of house projects in California, Neutra built a number of modern residential structures throughout the mid-twentieth century. Listed at $2.7 million, the Corwin House is one of the architect’s two remaining homes in the state of Connecticut, presenting East Coast buyers with a rare chance to purchase a piece of his legacy.Wine country stunner by Michael Palladino of Richard Meier Partners Santa Ynez, CA
Designed by Michael Palladino of Richard Meier Partners, this six-bedroom, eight-bathroom house sits in the Santa Ynez Valley northwest of Santa Barbara, California. Buyers of Son Sereno will have no shortage of space, inside or out. The home itself boasts 8,000 square feet of living space, while the 116-acre lot includes an olive grove and several riding trails. The scenery surrounding the contemporary structure is characteristic of this region of California—mature oak and sycamore trees dot a landscape of rolling green hills and vineyards.
Built in 2005, the building uses a combination of stucco and stone walls to support a high, curvilinear ceiling over the main living space. There is a wealth of amenities, including an attached three-car garage, two fireplaces, and panoramic views of the valley. The asking price is currently set at $7,900,000.Paul Rudolph’s Milam Residence Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
As AN reported earlier this summer, Paul Rudolph’s beachside Milam Residence outside Jacksonville, Florida hit the market for $4,445,000. With a distinctive geometric facade that lends visual depth to the building, the Milam Residence presents potential buyers with the opportunity to own something that stands out in the coastal neighborhood, where most residential architecture prescribes to a more Mediterranean aesthetic. With 6,800 square feet of living space spread between the main building and a separate guest house, there is no shortage of space, either.
While Rudolph is better known for his institutional projects, including the Yale School of Architecture’s Paul Rudolph Hall, the Milam House is still a piece of history. Built in 1961 for the attorney Arthur Milam, the residence is being sold by the family of the original owners.Rafael Viñoly-designed head-turner Ridgefield, CT
Rafael Viñoly’s most famous residential project may be his gleaming tower at 432 Park Avenue in New York City, but for those who prefer a more tranquil setting, a house he designed in Ridgefield, Connecticut is now on the market. Built in 1990 for Alice Lawrence, whose late husband Sylvan Lawrence was a real estate mogul in Manhattan, the house is a dramatic contemporary design composed primarily of concrete and glass. Designed for Mrs. Lawrence’s extensive art collection, the house comprises one part of a listing that includes a farmhouse next door and a total of 16 acres of land.
With three bedrooms, four bathrooms, and both indoor and outdoor pool options, the Lawrence House offers a taste of luxury to anyone who can afford its $9.8 million price tag.
The Chicago-based Graham Foundation has released a list of organizations that will receive its coveted Production and Presentation Grants to pursue architecture-related projects this year. A total of 54 organizations will be presented with financial support from the foundation, with no grantee’s allocation exceeding $30,000 and few receiving the full amount requested. In line with the Graham Foundation’s mission to “foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture,” awardees will receive assistance with production-related expenses for a variety of undertakings that aim to enrich architectural discourse, including films, publications, exhibitions, and lectures. Final decisions were made on the basis of four criteria: originality, feasibility, capacity, and potential for impact.
The winning projects for 2020 are split into four distinct categories—exhibitions; film, video, and new media projects; public programs; and publications—and were submitted by a wide range of institutions, companies, and non-profits. Among the grantees are Boston’s MASS Design Group, Michael Sorkin’s Terreform, the Oslo Architecture Triennale, and the University of Chicago’s South Side Home Movie Project. Several past grant recipients received funding for new projects this year, including the Museum of Modern Art for a publication on the work of Robert Venturi and Mexico City-based LIGA-Space for Architecture, which is working to highlight Latin American designers in its annual public program. Here is the full list of the 2020 recipients and their respective projects:
EXHIBITIONS (19 awards)
Àkéte Art Foundation Lagos, Nigeria How To Build a Lagoon with Just a Bottle of Wine?, 2nd Lagos Biennial
ArchiteXX Syracuse, NY Now What?! Advocacy, Activism, and Alliances in American Architecture since 1968
Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL In a Cloud, in a Wall, in a Chair: Six Modernists in Mexico at Midcentury
Chicago Architecture Biennial Chicago, IL Graham Foundation Artistic Director
Cranbrook Art Museum Bloomfield Hills, MI Ruth Adler Schnee: Modern Designs for Living
Elmhurst Art Museum Elmhurst, IL Assaf Evron & Claudia Weber
El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera Buffalo, NY Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments
Equitable Vitrines Los Angeles, CA Florian Hecker
Landmark Columbus Foundation Columbus, IN Good Design and the Community: 2019 Exhibition, Exhibit Columbus
LIGA–Space for Architecture Mexico City, Mexico LIGA Public Program 2019–2020
Madison Square Park Conservancy New York, NY Martin Puryear: Liberty/Libertà: US Pavilion, 58th International Art Exhibition
Materials & Applications Los Angeles, CA Staging Construction
National Building Museum Washington, DC Architecture is Never Neutral: The Work of MASS Design Group
National Trust for Historic Preservation—Farnsworth House Plano, IL Edith Farnsworth Reconsidered
Oslo Architecture Triennale Oslo, Norway Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth, Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019
Serpentine Galleries London, United Kingdom Serpentine Pavilion 2019 by Junya Ishigami
Storefront for Art and Architecture New York, NY Building Cycles
Toronto Biennial of Art Toronto, Canada Learning from Ice
University of Illinois at Chicago—College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts Chicago, IL A Certain Kind of Life
FILM/VIDEO/NEW MEDIA PROJECTS (4 awards)
Architectural Association School of Architecture London, United Kingdom Architecture in Translation
The Funambulist Paris, France The Funambulist Network
MASS Design Group Boston, MA The Whole Architect: Giancarlo De Carlo
University of Chicago—South Side Home Movie Project Chicago, IL South Side Home Movie Project Interactive Digital Archive
PUBLIC PROGRAMS (6 awards)
Association of Architecture Organizations Chicago, IL 2019 Design Matters Conference
Harvard University—Graduate School of Design—African American Student Union Cambridge, MA Black Futurism: Creating a More Equitable Future
Independent Curators International New York, NY Curatorial Forum
Lampo Chicago, IL Lampo 2019 Concert Series at the Graham Foundation
New Architecture Writers London, United Kingdom Constructive Criticism
University of Michigan—A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Ann Arbor, MI Re: Housing: Detroit
PUBLICATIONS (25 awards)
Anyone Corporation New York, NY Log: Observations on Architecture and the Contemporary City, Issues 47, 48, and 49
ETH Zurich—gta exhibitions Zurich, Switzerland Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse
Flat Out Inc. Chicago, IL Flat Out, Issues 5 and 6
Harvard University—Graduate School of Design–New Geographies Cambridge, MA New Geographies 11: Extraterrestrial
Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin, Germany Counter Gravity: The Architecture Films of Heinz Emigholz
Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro São Paulo, Brazil Casa de Vidro: The Bardis’ Life between Art, Architecture and Landscape
The Museum of Modern Art New York, NY Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty
Northwestern University Press Evanston, IL Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side
Paprika! New Haven, CT Paprika! Volume V
Places Journal San Francisco, CA Reservoir: Nature, Culture, Infrastructure
PRAXIS, Inc. Boston, MA PRAXIS, Issue 15: Bad Architectures
Produzioni Nero Scrl Rome, Italy Scenes from the Life of Raimund Abraham
REAL foundation London, United Kingdom Kommunen in der Neuen Welt: 1740–1972
Rice University—School of Architecture Houston, TX PLAT 9.0
The School of Architecture at Taliesin Scottsdale, AZ WASH Magazine, Issues 003 and 004
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, NY Countryside, The Future
Southern California Institute of Architecture Los Angeles, CA LA8020
Standpunkte Basel, Switzerland Archetypes: David Ross
The Studio Museum in Harlem New York, NY The Smokehouse Associates
Terreform New York, NY UR (Urban Research) 2019
University of California, Los Angeles—Department of Architecture and Urban Design Los Angeles, CA POOL, Issue No. 5
University of Florida—Graduate School of Architecture Gainesville, FL VORKURS_Dérive
University of Maryland, College Park—School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation College Park, MD See/Saw, No. 2: Difference
University of Miami—School of Architecture Coral Gables, FL Cuban Modernism: Mid-Century Architecture, 1940–1970
Yale University Press New Haven, CT Mies van der Rohe: The Architect in His Time