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The Rigorous Radical

A Barbara Stauffacher Solomon retrospective explores her lesser-known work
Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Breaking All the Rules runs through January 20, 2020, at the Architecture and Design Center of the Palm Springs Art Museum. It is not a traditional architecture, graphic design, or art exhibition, but straddles all these lines, hence the title (similar to that of a small monograph on Ms. Stauffacher Solomon published by Hall of Femmes). If you are in Palm Springs, it's an exhibition worth checking out. The Architecture and Design Center occupies E. Stewart Williams’s Santa Fe Bank Building, one of those great Palm Springs banks that took inspiration from a world-famous architect; in this case, Mies van der Rohe. The “universal space” holds several pieces from Stauffacher Solomon’s diverse career, which is hard to pin down. Although visually powerful, the narrative can be a little difficult to piece together. Stauffacher Solomon is best known for her graphic design at the Sea Ranch on the Northern California coast. She has been credited with the invention of “Supergraphics” as a result of her work there, and she got almost as much press coverage as the architects for her simple, bold moves. But that work has been largely excluded from this show, as it focuses on selections from the rest of Solomon's career. It is important to understand her story. "Bobbie" grew up in San Francisco and lost her first husband to a brain tumor at a young age. In order to make a living and raise their daughter, she moved to Basel, Switzerland, to study with Armin Hofmann. This sets the stage for Stauffacher Solomon's subsequent work in graphic design, landscape architecture, and fine art. She is always moving between the rigor and discipline of Swiss Modernism and the radical spring of groovy California. She reveals some of this in the videos on display, which provide a context for appreciating the drawings, paintings, and new supergraphic—and her own mischievous delight. A group of eight of Stauffacher Solomon's ping-pong-themed paintings takes up the most space in the museum. Immediately, the visitor is intrigued by the sound of ping-pong being played somewhere just out of sight. The paintings, the exact size of ping-pong tables, hung horizontally when originally shown in 1990 at the San Francisco Museum of Art. In Palm Springs, they are displayed vertically, which is interesting given the relatively low ceiling height. Each canvas depicts a lushly illustrated green Californian landscape complete with white lines and nets. In addition to the sound of ping-pong balls bouncing, there are several actual ping-pong tables with paddles and balls. The paddles and balls were removed in San Francisco, but here, all are encouraged to play. An accompanying selection of drawings shows these rectangular green spaces in the urban landscape.
“To ping is to sing.” “To pong is to go wrong.”
Commissioned for this show, Solomon designed a new accompanying supergraphic overlooking the Ping-Pong tables with those few words. A supersized red ball appears to hurl through space. Stauffacher Solomon's supergraphics at Sea Ranch were rooted in the severity of her mentor Hoffman’s training but also showed her rebellious side, with bold use of color and humor (find the suggestive figures in the Sea Ranch’s Moonraker Pool Center next time you visit). Her work there, painted in a few days, covered an unfinished building that had gone over budget. Since her contributions to supergraphics and Sea Ranch are well known in the design worlds, this smaller show explores less familiar aspects of her career. Following the success of her interpretation of Swiss Modern graphics, Stauffacher Solomon returned to school at the University of California, Berkeley, and worked with the overlaps of architecture and landscape architecture. She ended up painting all kinds of green rectangles, including the series that resembled ping-pong tables. Her master’s thesis was entitled “Notes on the Common Ground between Architecture and Landscape Architecture.” Her ideas later coalesced in a book from Rizzoli, Green Architecture and the Agrarian Garden. This phase depicts her evolution from almost pure graphics to landscape depicted graphically. Yet her first book from Rizzoli, and the art that accompanied this period, was still rooted in the discipline of graphic design. Her journey moves on to a series of artworks that she gathered in a second book from Rizzoli, Good Mourning California, which embraces her home state and its many quirks yet foretells its possible demise. Some of the drawings of women seem influenced by German-American artist Richard Linder. The pieces are rougher, wilder, even angry. Without watching the two videos in the exhibition, it might be difficult for the uninitiated visitor (i.e. not a design aficionado) to make sense of Breaking all the Rules. Listening to Stauffacher Solomon describe her life and work on the videos provides the necessary frame of reference. She describes her early art studies, working as a dancer at San Francisco’s Copacabana nightclub while still a teenager, meeting her future husband at 17, befriending leading bohemians, rebuilding her life as a very young widow and mother, being disciplined by Swiss Modernism, applying that discipline to California in the 1960s, becoming the darling graphic designer of the city’s architecture scene (no surprise—trying to rein in the future chaos of postmodernism), and trying to synthesize thoughts on architecture, landscape architecture, design, the environment, and everything else. It will take a different show (and larger venue) to tell Bobbie Stauffacher Solomon’s design and personal story more completely, but this is splendid first look. Be sure and play some ping-pong.
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Park, the Gathering

Tulsa's Gathering Place aims for reconciliation
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes Tongva Park in Santa Monica, California, and Hunter’s Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Gathering Place park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the product of a dream of 77-year-old billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser and of several decades-long experiments by the landscape architecture team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA). What Kaiser originally intended to be a series of riverfront “gathering spots” to activate the city has become a singular, whimsical, and lush 66.5-acre landscape that has attracted over 2.8 million people since opening last year. AN spoke with Scott Streeb, Matt Urbanski, and Michael Voelkel at MVVA about designing the park and sourcing materials both locally and globally for “the most complex topography [they] have ever done.” Taking cues from fanciful and innovative European playgrounds, their goal was to turn several desolate plots of land into an inclusive, truly one-of-a-kind environment. By many accounts, they succeeded; this summer, TIME listed the park as one of the greatest places in the world.

Beyond its ambitious design agenda, Gathering Place has also aimed to unify the historically segregated city. Tulsa was formally settled in 1836 and by the 20th century had earned the nickname “the Oil Capital of the World.” Money from the energy business flowed into the city, bringing with it a serious construction boom during the Art Deco era. Despite growing prosperity, race relations were tense. In 1921, white crowds rioted for 16 hours in the affluent neighborhood of Greenwood, then known as Black Wall Street, killing local residents and destroying black-owned businesses and buildings. It was one of the worst attacks on African Americans in U.S. history, and Tulsa still hasn’t fully recovered.

Gathering Place is being marketed as a space where the region’s diverse communities can come together. A decade ago, in talks between MVVA and the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF), key decisions were made to engage Tulsans in their vision for the future 100-acre landscape and to raise expectations of what 21st-century parks can do.

Funding

Over 80 philanthropic and corporate donors, including GKFF, funded the entirety of the $465 million park. Though built with private dollars, Gathering Place is a public park: GKFF donated it to the River Parks Authority, the city and county agency in charge of public riverfront parks, in 2014, through Title 60, a public trust law. River Parks now owns both the land and the park and oversaw the five-year construction effort.

Land

Gathering Place takes up four disparate, flat parcels of land along Riverside Drive, the adjacent four-lane commuter highway, that were purchased in 2009 by GKFF for $50 million. At the northern end was once a 35-acre estate owned by oil entrepreneur B. B. Blair. The historic Blair Mansion, built in 1952, was torn down in 2014 after a failed attempt by its previous owner to relocate the building. Two large-scale apartment complexes south of the site, totaling 494 units on 14 acres, were also demolished and its residents displaced to make way for a construction staging area. GKFF offered to pay for those affected to receive mental health services. Phase 2 of the park’s design will be built out in this location, south of the skate park (shown below) and will include a $45 million children’s museum by local firm KKT Architects, as well as a $24 million pedestrian bridge by MVVA.

Playground Equipment

MVVA and German playground manufacturer Richter Spielgeräte designed the park’s custom swings, water-play and sensory equipment, elephant slide, and four fantastical wooden castles that stand 30 feet in height. Danish design company Monstrum shaped additional wooden playscapes to look like the great blue herons (pictured here) and paddlefish found along the Arkansas River. The 160 playground structures and their installation cost about $11.5 million.

Plantings

In 2011, two years before construction began, MVVA began tagging around 600 existing trees on-site, some up to 200 years old, in an effort to monitor their health, and preserve and restore them. The firm then brought in 5,789 new trees sourced from over a dozen nurseries, two in Oklahoma and others in Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Illinois, and New York. The cohort includes over 90 species of evergreen and deciduous trees. Nearly 120 species of shrubs and over 200 species of perennials were selected as well and had to be stored in a greenhouse for up to three years before planting.

Buildings

There are three buildings on-site by Atlanta-based Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects. The ONEOK Boathouse features a roof canopy made of 130 fiberglass-reinforced plastic panels in the shape of flying sails. The rest of the three-story building, which includes a steel and concrete frame, has floor-to-ceiling glass panels that Vitro Architectural Glass created using raw material and sand from Mill Creek, Oklahoma. Williams Lodge, the 25,000-square-foot structure that serves as an entrance to the park, blends into its surrounding landscape with native sandstone from Haskell County. These massive boulders integrated into the design range from 1,000 to 5,000 pounds.

Hardscaping

There are over 20 different surface materials used at Gathering Place, including eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas sandstone in various hues. In total, the walkways used 4,500 cubic yards of fill excavated from just across the Arkansas River. The stones that flank the entrance paths are also from an in-state quarry, similar to those found in the Four Season Garden, a series of rock towers, pictured below.

Terraforming

MVVA took 450,000 cubic yards of silt from the Arkansas River to create the 40 feet of grade change in the park necessary to bridge over Riverside Drive. Ohio-based engineering company Contech fabricated a set of precast concrete arches off-site in Broken Arrowhead, Oklahoma, that support the two 300-foot-long land bridges that help the park seamlessly connect to the waterfront.

Transit

Riverside Drive was shut down in July 2015 and reopened in September 2018 after construction ended. The City of Tulsa spent $40 million to widen and reconfigure the busy highway and for other infrastructure improvements, such as stormwater drainage and replacing sanitary sewers and water lines surrounding the site.

Because Gathering Place is located just five minutes south of downtown Tulsa and immediately west of the wealthier Maplewood Historic District, accessibility is an issue for nonsuburban communities. This summer, the park began providing free shuttle transportation to underserved neighborhoods in North Tulsa, scheduled to operate every other weekend.

Water

Because of the oppressive Tulsa heat, water plays a big role in the park, and its nearly-6-million-gallon central reservoir, Peggy’s Pond, serves as a source for irrigation. To create it, MVVA had to dig down to groundwater level, integrating 70 feet of grade change within the landscape. Wetland gardens at the northern end of the park work as a biofilter to clean the water that’s pumped out of the pond. Parking lot and highway runoff is also filtered through the gardens, and then through two large cisterns and below-grade, natural filtration basins. Wells throughout the site pull up clean water and redistribute it through the pond.

Maintenance

Half of the money raised went to capital investment and the other half created a $100 million endowment for the continued operations and maintenance of the landscape for the next 99 years. GGP Parks, LLC, is a subsidiary of the River Parks Authority that operates out of GKFF and coordinates the over 450 volunteers that help the park run every day. So far, both individuals and groups have completed 11,300 hours of volunteer work. There are also 200 full-time and part-time employees who specialize in horticulture, programming, community engagement, food service, and more. An underground maintenance warehouse spanning nearly 1 acre was built to house facilities management off-site.

Labor

Columbus, Kansas–based construction company Crossland took over the build-out efforts from Manhattan Construction in 2015 when initial preconstruction, utility, and dirt work was done. Since the park’s groundbreaking, any day sees upward of 150 to 500 people laboring across 27 work zones and 12 play areas. A total of $10.3 million was paid to both contractors, and 3.7 million man-hours were worked on-site.

Security

Over the last year, Gathering Place partnered with a local charity group, John 3:16, and the Mental Health Association of Tulsa to help employees and security teams better understand how to engage with the city’s homeless community. The park is open to all and does not operate fully in the late evening or early morning, but does welcome the homeless throughout the day.

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Well Lived

Denise Scott Brown memorializes Robert Venturi
Below is a transcription of Denise Scott Brown's comments at the June 15 memorial service for the late Robert Venturi at the University of Pennsylvania's Fisher Fine Arts Library. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. It’s lovely to see you all. There are some recent friends and also people I hadn’t seen since 1960. One came up, a planner: I once said to him, “That’s not suitable for high school, it’s not even suitable for elementary school,” and I wondered what he became. He said, “well I have been the ambassador to Burundi.” That makes me so happy. He was wonderful then and obviously is now. Bill, who lived in our basement, has talked about Bob in the studio. We’d hear him say, “This is a terrible idea… but wait, let’s see.” He would rather take it up than say, “oh no, we couldn’t do that.” But he might say, “I haven’t understood the system of the building yet.” Few people knew he thought that way or knew his strong ability to go from analysis to synthesis over and again—to be extremely rigorous. But I respected him for it. I’m happy we are holding this memorial here, because the Furness library has been such an important place for us. Bob and I met here. But he had, in fact, saw Robert Scott Brown and me at a presentation our planning studio made to Lou Kahn in 1959. He was very impressed by Robert, who had stayed up one night until 3 a.m. with Bill Alonso who had taught him rent theory, so Robert could explain how roads influence the design of buildings and cities. I had merely noted that Lou Kahn had with him a young assistant. And then within two weeks Robert was killed. I went back home and returned to Penn in the fall a sad, young widow. But I graduated and started teaching in 1960, and within the first week or so there was a faculty meeting. At the AA you as a student could enter anyone’s jury. I had done this at Penn, and that was another reason Bob knew me slightly. And at the faculty meeting I did it again. “Why are you taking this building down?” I asked. I had seen in London the Horniman Museum and Whitechapel Gallery of the architect Townsend, and the Furness Library, especially its scale jumps, reminded me of them. I was very interested in scale jumps, and the Mannerism they were part of. Seen as aberrant, Mannerism was reappraised in England in the 1940s. Nicholas Pevsner, its rediscoverer, and one of his students, here tonight, and also John Summerson, guided me through Mannerism. I listened two years running to Summerson’s AA lectures on Classicism, travelled in England, France and Italy, with Pevsner’s book and Robin Middleton’s itinerary, and learned a great deal. Bob grew up in Philadelphia. He was a moony little child. His parents took him out of Quaker school when they found his desk in the corridor outside the classroom. He was apparently talking too much. An old teacher friend of his mother said, “send him to a structured and disciplined place,” That was Episcopal Academy. “I went there,” Bob said, “and went underground.” The school was suitable—structured, disciplined, but very kind. And we love Jim Squires, our client for its chapel. But there were only two little Italian boys in the school, and in history class, the teacher said, “immigrants from the North were preferable to those from the South.” Bob and I shared that. I had to put up with anti-Semitism at my prep school in South Africa. But I believe that being different—having skewed views—is useful to creative people. Our wayward eyes quickly joined forces, we shared mannerism and being marginal. This made for a very interesting five years that few knew we had shared. The going story is that Bob went to Rome, discovered Mannerism in the library, came back, and started to do it. Yes, he learned about it in Rome, but 12 days before he left. And can you imagine Bob sitting in the library when the whole of Rome is outside to explore? I’ve seen him in Rome, visited churches with him many times. And all those, they were baroque churches. He went where Giedion sent him. He saw a jillion little towns—hill towns—all over. And he got to Egypt with friends. When was the time to do all that reading? But about twelve days before he left, Jim and Sally Gresham took Bob and Chuck Brickbauer to see the work of Armando Brasini on the outskirts of Rome. He was a fascist, still living in his remarkable palazzo, and Bob visited him. Back in America, he [Bob] had lots to do. His Dad was very ill. He had to run the fruit and produce business, which we later ran together. It was three blocks from the architecture office. Long-haired, egg-head fruit merchant—that’s part of him—Princeton gentleman with a southern Italian opera background. It was these mixtures that we started with. And Dave Crane said, “Denise you should marry Bob Venturi, and I’ll invite you both to dinner.” By the time he did, we had already had dinner. We started by going to his office and seeing his designs, then he took me to a Princeton ball game. Bob went to a “ball game” by going to the library while the ball game was played, and when it was over, his friends wouldn’t tell him who had won. But in the library, I found Lutyens’ four volumes on his houses. I had had two years of lectures on Mannerism with Summerson, and had traveled to Venice using Robin Middleton’s list of buildings and paintings to see on the way to Venice and then on to Rome. And, though we had a lot to share, Bob had not seen those books. I said, “You mean you’re interested in Lutyens and you haven’t seen these?” Well, he went and bought them and within two weeks he knew them better than I did. He was thrilled with what I had learned, and I was equally thrilled with what he learned from two years of lecture with Donald Drew Egbert at Princeton. At Penn, we taught consecutive semesters of a theories course, surveying architecture, landscape architecture, and planning. Mine was an overview of them all with selected faculty from each department, introducing their field and their interests. I gave one lecture, but my role was to pull it all together. Although I was a faculty member, Holmes treated me as a TA. I had to give out photographs on boards for students to draw from, because learning to draw was part of this course, as well as learning some modern architectural classics. Soon I was getting killed by my class. “Don’t you see that we’re graduate students!” So I broke the rules and defined my job as linking theory and practice via drawing as Holmes had wanted, but having them choose their examples and analyzing them via the subject matter of the lecture to lead toward studio design problems. We shared them with each other and with Bob. He was running the Spring semester course on theories of architecture. As Holmes said, “You went to Princeton, you know history.” But the underlying message was, you didn’t go to Harvard so you won’t be staying here long, and it applied to both of us. Meanwhile, teaching together, putting our two courses together, was all sorts of fun. And that’s what Bob was mainly doing. The archive here at Penn is full of his notes. Now he sat in this library all the time, working 80 hours a week finding slides and reading on the very wide topics he used to augment the Vitruvian components of architecture from three to fifteen and giving a lecture on one each week, surveying how different eras of architecture, for example, how light was let into buildings. Robert Scott Brown and I had done a great deal of photography while traveling. We spent a month photographing in Venice, seeing what we were doing as making a record to take home to South Africa. But it grew on route to showing ideas through photography. At Penn, I used mine for teaching. Then I said, “Hey Bob, I’ve got slides that you can use for your lecture on scale.” We began sharing photographs and helpful book references. Then Bob, having seen the connections I was making between theory and studio for my course, asked me to devise equivalent work topics for his. Eventually, I did so formally by running the tutorials for both courses during the last semester, we collaborated at Penn. I ran the tutorials, the drawing and research exercises, and the link to studio. And the next place you’ll find that type of work is in the programs for the Learning from Las Vegas studio. Later I learned that when we left Penn, the performance in studio went way down, because research-design connections were no longer made. So that’s the story from one side. On the other were the planners. They were like Rabbinical students jumping up on the tables and arguing, and I argued with them. I also argued with Paul Davidoff, without leaving my seat. We occupied two small rooms across a corridor from each other in a basement studio. We merely leaned over to argue from our seats and across the corridor and groups of students would form around the doors to listen. Then we might go upstairs to the coffee machine and a larger group might form. As far as I could see, that was the only time planners and architects willingly came together. But the strength of the planning school was a wonderful strength for me and the basis for connections between Las Vegas and architecture that Bob and I later made, and things like that. Bob was fascinated by the social planners. His mother was a socialist and a pacifist, so he could hear Paul Davidoff when he said, “Why do you have to go as far as Ville Radieuse, the city isn’t that bad. It’s pretty good. It’s almost all right.” And that’s where Bob got, “Is not main street almost all right?” that comes from Paul. Bob was very open to what was going on in my West Philadelphia studio and the planning school in general. But no one else in architecture was interested at that time. So when I went to Las Vegas, Bob was the only colleague I invited to come with me. And when planning his theories course, delved with my help into urban and planning thought. And I could help with early Modernism. His research files in the archive, contain a note saying “Function and beauty, Denise.” He is not saying I epitomize both. He says, “remember what she had to say about how the early Modern functionalists saw that relationship,” and he included my information in his lecture on function. I’m more than pleased to explain to you what Bob meant and also how I saw my role of linking architecture and planning, as that of a circus horse rider as the horses spread apart. But sadly Nixonism and Reganism separated architecture and planning until connection was almost impossible to make. It still is. Other things happened, so it didn’t work that way, but architects took strongly to these ideas as published in Learning from Las Vegas and turned them creatively to their own talents to something that designers could use and love. I have wanted to show you that our first five years of collaboration were an amazingly happy time. That’s what I was so happy about. And I’m happy about the rest, though our careers were a long, slow, gently sloping motion. And Bob, for much of his career, felt like Milton in his sonnet, “On His Blindness,” where, “that one talent which is death to hide, / Lodg’d with me useless.” Bob was a frustrated young architect because he could design so much more than he was hired to do. But slowly we built up, and eventually one day, after arguing with ourselves, we realized we really had achieved what we wanted to achieve. And sure, thirty of our projects could fit into one of I.M. Pei’s, but I feel I.M., an architect I much respect, would have liked to be the architect of the National Gallery. Just before he died, Bob said to me, “I’m a very, very old man.” And he was. And he thought he would die at the age his father had died, 69. And he was happy indeed at all that had happened despite our problems. You’ve told us how wonderful it’s been having us in your lives. And I’m telling you how terribly important you are to ours.
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Weekly Alloyances

AN visits Alloy, the architect-developer reshaping Brooklyn
One of the most talked-about towers in Brooklyn is being designed—and built—at the hands of Alloy Development, the 13-year-old company responsible for residential structures like 185 Plymouth Street and One John Street in DUMBO. Led by CEO and founder Jared Della Valle and president AJ Pires, the firm has its sights set next on two projects along Flatbush Avenue in Boreum Hill—one of them which would become among the tallest skyscrapers in Brooklyn. These major developments are advancing their goal of shaping the real estate conversation in New York towards a more design- and community-centric outlook. They’re literally restructuring the skyline of the city’s most populous borough one project at a time, for better or for worse.  But getting the chance to take on an 860-foot-tall building like the one Alloy is putting up at 80 Flatbush didn’t just happen overnight. When Della Valle and Pires first started Alloy in 2006, there were hardly any companies sporting the title of architect-developer. Architects stayed in one lane and developers stayed in another, but that didn’t stop Alloy from stepping into unknown territory.  When the firm completed its distinctive 459 West 18th Street on the High Line, an 11-story residential structure with contrasting black-and-white, angular facade, both the design and real estate communities started to take notice. It wasn’t easy for Alloy to secure the millions of dollars needed for that in-demand site, but its success gave the company—then under the name Della Valle + Bernheimer—the confidence to do even bigger projects. “We chose to pursue development as a way to have more agency over the process of design and to take control of the outcome,” said Della Valle. “When you can define program and priorities because you are taking on the risk and assembling all the capital, you get more design agency from every single perspective.”  In mid-2016 alongside co-developer Monadnock, Alloy completed One John Street, a glimmering, 12-story, 42-unit sustainable structure on the DUMBO waterfront just north of the Manhattan Bridge. The team considers it a major turning point for the company because of its integration into the local community. Though it’s a luxury residential property, it housed an outpost of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for the last three years, and soon a Brooklyn Public Library annex will open in its stead.  From a design standpoint, One John Street was also a major step forward for Alloy. The firm teamed up with Brooklyn-based SITU Studio to create the one-of-a-kind sculptural panels made of concrete textured after fragments of fiberglass, pellets of beeswax, and salt granules that wrap the building’s lower core. In addition, because of the building’s noisy location next to an elevated train line, Alloy scaled up the windows and floors, decreasing the sun exposure at the same time.  Challenging themselves with innovation at One John Street also gave Della Valle and Pires the authority to cement their names alongside New York’s top developers, and its completion gave them a seat at the table.  “I find it hysterical that now we are on the same panels as the very big guns of real estate in this city like Related and Extell who have existed for a long, long time,” said Della Valle. “On the architecture side, we’ve received a lot of admiration because we’ve made design a core value of our developments. We’re not interested in repeatability.” Della Valle said that he’s met with plenty of famous architects who grill him on how Alloy makes it work. As a development company full of architects, he says the quality of the architecture and its impact on the community is most important. “We have to have economic output to achieve our work, but it’s not our reason for being.” Alloy’s office is located at 20 Jay Street, a hotspot for many Brooklyn-based architecture firms because of the old building’s large floorplate. A small firm with just under 20 employees, the team has been based in the same space since 2001. On any given day, they’re only working on one or two projects at a time and don't have to answer to any clients—ever. Things will continue to stay this way, according to Pires.  “Jared and I both live 100 feet from the office,” he said. “We’ve gotten to know every single landowner in DUMBO and there’s an intimacy of knowledge here that, when you connect it back to the risk equation, is very valuable. We’ve often had a leg up on other developers in this neighborhood because we’ve been here for so long.”  Alloy’s investment in DUMBO has long been clear and will continue with their upcoming three townhouses and 46 apartments at 168 Plymouth Street. Their proposal to take two, neighboring, century-old warehouses and turn them into condominiums was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. It will be one of the last loft conversations in the area once finished next year. However, the East-River adjacent community isn’t the only part of Brooklyn that Pires and Della Valle aim to influence.  80 and 100 Flatbush will be the duo’s first attempt at a true high-rise development. The mixed-use skyscraper at 80 Flatbush will feature 200 units of affordable housing while the proposed 482-foot-tall tower at 100 Flatbush will include a 700-seat elementary and high school (designed by ARO) for Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first English-Arabic public school in the United States. Two historic buildings will also be preserved on the site. Demolition began in October.  To go after such a massive property—the block is spread across 61,000-square feet—Alloy had to work with the city’s Education Construction Fund in planning all that the future site would entail. It’s an overwhelmingly complex project, but Della Valle and Pires see it as another decisive moment in Alloy’s own development. They’ve been able to reach this point, Pires said, because of that innate attraction to risk and their constant reliability.  “The exposure we’ve received on our past work gives us a lot of credibility,” he said. "We truly believe you have to be optimistic to be in development. The associated risk actually boosts our creativity and forces us to be more clever." 
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Getty Protection

The Getty Center survives nearby fires while Ellwood-designed home goes down in flames
Last Sunday, a wildfire spread to the approximately 656 acres surrounding the Getty Center in the hills of Brentwood, California. Named by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) as “The Getty Fire,” the blaze was reportedly caused by an errant tree branch that landed in nearby power lines amid powerful wind conditions. Miraculously, the Richard Meier-designed Getty Center, which contains museum space, research institutes, and a vast collection of priceless artworks, was virtually unscathed by the fire. Given its siting in an area commonly threatened by wildfires, the 24-acre complex was designed to be both fire and smoke-proof when it was completed in 1997. Its material palette of travertine, concrete, and steel make the entire property nonflammable, while each gallery space is a self-contained module, providing additional insulation and ventilation in the event that disaster should somehow strike. Additionally, the Getty Center’s maintenance crew is instructed to rigorously clear brush on a regular basis in its outdoor areas, which are also designed to be relatively fire-retardant. This isn't the first time the complex has fended off encroaching flames, as a similar situation (and protective response) unfolded at the end of 2017 when the center faced down the Skirball Fire. While the Getty Center remains unfazed by the fires, the LAFD has placed 7,091 residences within the Mandatory Evacuation Zone and has determined that 12 residences have been destroyed so far while another five have significant damage. One of the 12 structures lost to the wildfires was the Zach House, an exemplary mid-century home designed by Case Study House architect Craig Ellwood, built in the Crestwood Hills area of Brentwood in 1952. Its wooden construction and delicate structural frame made the home especially prone to natural disasters. “It was an early Ellwood design, but it demonstrated all his distinctive and influential ways of interpreting modernism,” said Southern Californian architectural historian Alan Hess. “Though it remains in photographs, the loss of the actual building to experience makes us poorer.”
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Not your Grandma's....

Architects carve it out to win the industry's highest pumpkin honors
Last Friday at New York’s Center for Architecture, 20 teams of New York architecture studios brought their best carving skills for a chance to take home the Pritzkerpumpkin. The Center’s annual Pumpkitecture contest was far from your run-of-the-mill pumpkin carving contest. Firms came equipped with plexiglass, metal frames, plaster, and even Pantheon models to compete for the industry’s highest pumpkin honors.  Participating firms received spook-ified names and prizes in the spirit of Halloween season. Weiss/Manfredi, for instance, became Frights Manspooky and icon.5 architects were re-christened icon.666. This year’s jury included Chen Chen and Kai Williams (founders of Chen Chen and Kai Williams), Ashley Mendelsohn (assistant curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum), Ellen Van Dusen (founder and designer at Dusen Dusen), Dr. Takeshi Yamada & Seara (artist and rogue taxidermist), and Mark Zlotsky (founder of LARD and half of the artist duo Mookntaka).  The night’s highest honor went to Quennell Rothschild & Partners, aka QReePy, for their sprouting and protruding pumpkin design. By popular vote, the People’s Pumpkin went to SITU, aka SitoOoOooOOooOo, for their spinning, animated carved pumpkin. While not every firm could claim the top prizes, many also walked away with honorable mentions for their spooky creations.  A popular theme for the night was pumpkin-takes on famous artists. LTL Architects went home with an honorable mention for Jack O’ Pollock, a machine that creates Jackson Pollock-like action paintings with a paint-filled pumpkin device. Another honorable mention went to Untitled No. 13 by Alexander Cauldron from the Architecture Research Office for a Calder-inspired pumpkin mobile. GRT Architects created a James Turrell-like glowing pumpkin, while Mitchell Giurgola’s mirrored pumpkin box was an ode to Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms. 
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Above and Beyond

NOMA Conference 2019 prepared architects to engage with a more diverse future
It was the first time Malaz Elgemiabby had attended the annual conference of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). But it turned out to be like going back to her childhood in Sudan, being surrounded by architects, designers, and builders who looked like her, and who cared as deeply as she does about community participation in design. “In Sudan, architects are women,” Elgemiabby told AN. “So I used to build buildings when I was a kid. As women [in Sudan] your responsibility is to build the houses, to design, to assess the needs of the community.” Elgemiabby went to architecture school at London Metropolitan University, seeking out its program for its emphasis on community participation in design. She first went to work in the Middle East, where she also earned a master's degree in interdisciplinary design from the Qatar campus of Virginia Commonwealth University. She moved to Cleveland three years ago to work as an architect. After doing some projects that she’s quite proud of in the city, Elgemiabby launched her own firm, ELMALAZ, earlier this year in Cleveland. But it’s also been a bit lonely at times, being an architect on a mission to bring communities into the design process. “[In Cleveland] I’m one of the few who are advocating for this type of approach to architecture,” Elgemiabby said. “I come [to this year’s NOMA conference] and I find not only a lot of black and brown architects, but I also find people who are excited about the same mission. This was really great. It’s always nice to grow your tribe.” Growing that tribe, of course, has been NOMA’s goal all along, ever since twelve African American architects founded the organization during the 1971 AIA National Convention in Detroit. This year’s annual conference, in Brooklyn, attracted a record attendance of over a thousand participants for five days of programming, including service outings, seminars, keynote lectures, student design contests, and the usual networking and socializing. Overall, NOMA membership has grown 30 percent in 2019, under the leadership of NOMA president and HOK principal Kimberly Dowdell. The organization now has more than 1,400 members, organized under 30 professional chapters and 75 student chapters across the country. Under Dowdell, this year NOMA established a new tiered corporate membership program for large and small firms that wish to support the organization—and also gain access to discounted consulting from NOMA’s curated pool of experts in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dubbed the “President’s Circle,” founding members include AIA, NCARB, Enterprise Community Partners, Cuningham Group, Shepley Bulfinch, Gensler, HOK, and Perkins & Will. But growth and progress for NOMA still come in the context of the Sisyphean task of making architecture more representative of the communities it serves. Out of 115,000 or so architects licensed in the U.S., only an estimated 2,299 are black. That context was made even more somber this year with the loss of one of NOMA’s giants, Phil Freelon, who passed away in July. NOMA renamed its annual professional design awards in his honor. Zena Howard worked with Phil Freelon for well over a decade. So it was fitting that this year’s NOMA conference programming included her delivery of the J. Max Bond Lecture, organized annually by the New York Chapter of NOMA and the AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Howard’s talk focused on the notion of “Remembrance Design,” which emerged over the past few years through her work with Freelon and others. Now principal and managing director of the North Carolina office at Perkins+Will, Howard used some of her firm's recent projects to illustrate remembrance design in action. The examples varied in scale and scope from the 1.1-acre Sycamore Hill Gateway Plaza in Greenville, North Carolina, to a 30-acre design process covering Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, to a 1.3-mile “linear museum” along the Crenshaw Boulevard transit corridor in Los Angeles. All were historically black neighborhoods, typically scarred by racially-discriminatory redlining and later the era of urban renewal and the construction of the interstate highway system. In short, remembrance design is a way of using architectural discovery as a healing process to unearth, unpack and honor painful histories in neighborhoods that have traditionally been disinvested and neglected—or worse yet, bulldozed and paved over—by the worlds of architecture, urban planning, and real estate. “It’s about engaging people who have historically not been engaged,” Howard said. “First engaging with these communities, there’s a lot of hurt. I once thought to myself you have to go get a psychology degree or something. It’s difficult sometimes to hear. But over time, you realize that the pain a lot of people have, they have to release that, you sort of have to provide an outlet for it. A lot of it at first is just listening.” Howard spoke about how that deep listening process turns architecture into more than just a design process; it elevates architecture into a healing process. It can even make the architect’s job a little easier in the end. Once you move past the pain, Howard said, some participants from the community will actually feel inspired enough to start sketching themselves. “Even if you can’t get people really to talk about something, they can sketch something, they can draw,” Howard said. “It becomes therapeutic in a lot of ways. Once you get passed that threshold you really start moving fast towards design solutions that they’re a part of.” That depth of community engagement resonated with many NOMA members, from Elgemiabby to NOMA National Board Member and SOM senior urban designer Tiara Hughes, whose childhood neighborhood in St. Louis is now a baseball field. “I understand what [Howard] was referring to that there’s trauma and feelings and emotions that we have to deal with collectively as a group,” Hughes told AN. And it certainly resonated with Dowdell, who was partly inspired to become an architect by growing up among vacant homes and boarded-up commercial corridors in Detroit. “The kind of engagement that Zena [Howard] and her team has done or is doing, I think that’s probably standard practice for a lot of architects here [at the conference],” Dowdell said. Dowdell is hopeful that more and more of those kinds of projects will come up as the U.S. and especially its cities become more and more diverse. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts people of color will become a majority in the U.S. by 2043. Dowdell views NOMA’s work as preparing architecture for that future. “We all have to be more conscious of the fact that more and more clients will be people of color, more and more government officials—people with more power,” she said. Of course, in bringing good design to more diverse places that have historically been neglected or harmed by earlier periods of development, the conversation naturally turns to how good design can risk putting new pressure on market conditions, pushing up property taxes or rents and pushing out the very residents who participate in these design processes. Howard brought up the example of Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver, British Columbia, as one where the residents and elected officials are looking to a community land trust as a policy intervention to protect those residents the project had in mind as end-users. “The thing [Howard] also mentioned, rightly so, was the thing that design can’t solve: the political and economic conditions that need to be grappled with to effectively prevent gentrification and the negative effects of gentrification,” Dowdell said. “I think reinvestment is fine, but I think when it starts to displace people who have had a stake in that community for years, decades, generations, that’s going to be problematic.”
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Radical Recollection

Friedman Benda recaps Gaetano Pesce's defining moment
A revelatory presentation of the experimental designer Gaetano Pesce is on view at Friedman Benda through December 14. Age of Contaminations is a carefully selected historical sweep provides a close reading of the idiosyncratic designer’s practice over 27 crucial years of the Italian architect's career, beginning with the asymmetrical, modular Yeti Armchairs (1968) and concluding with the otherworldly Ghost Lamps (1995), where recycled paper and polyurethane has been molded into a vaguely figural silhouette. Referencing an early peak of Pesce’s career, the title Age of Contaminations is borrowed from the artist’s installation in The Museum of Modern Art’s historic 1972 exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, where the designer conceived works for a post-apocalyptic future where humans have settled into subterranean cities to escape an unidentified fallout on the surface. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated e-catalog available for free on the gallery’s website, wherein leading authority on craft and design history Glenn Adamson provides a chronological survey and impassioned critique of Pesce’s career. Perhaps the most interesting designs on view are the least aesthetically pleasing: Dacron-filled fiberglass cloth chairsGolgotha (1972)—resemble the functional version of a Piero Manzoni painting, and the garish, slick palette of his Golgotha Table (1972) provides a visually grating yet conceptually transcendent testament to Pesce’s Roman Catholic upbringing. The designer’s relentless openness to experimentation and earnest resistance to a consistent style is manifest in one of the more striking works in the exhibition is the monumental Moloch Lamp (1971), deftly placed behind one of the gallery space’s pillars, allowing it to make an even more powerful impact once visitors are confronted with it in closer proximity. Pesce’s most famous design, the Up5 (Donna) chair and Up6 footstool make a requisite appearance just beneath the lamp’s intense metallic glow. The chair, which resembles the breasts or buttocks of the female body, is tethered to its spherical footstool, mimicking a prisoner’s ball and chain. A recent demonstration by the feminist group Non Una Di Meno (Not One Less) during Milan design week expressed explicit opposition to the design, yet Pesce insists that the work was intended to emphasize the restrictions of femininity in order to spur debate, rather than uphold traditional values pertaining to gender. Read the full show recap on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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The French Connection

Coldefy & Associés and RDAI win design competition for the National Pulse Memorial & Museum
French firm Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and the Orlando-based HHCP Architects have won the international competition to design the National Pulse Memorial & Museum in Florida. The tripartite design beat out the other five shortlisted entries which included heavy-hitting global firms like MVRDV, MASS Design Group, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.  Announced today by the onePULSE Foundation, team Coldefy’s memorial and museum master plan will be dedicated to the 49 angels—those who lost their lives—and survivors of the horrific shooting that occurred at the LGBTQ+ PULSE nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. French artist Xavier Veilhan, dUCKs scéno, and landscape design practice Agence TER will collaborate as part of the design team, while Laila Farah, professor of women’s and gender studies, as well as peace, justice and conflict studies at DePaul University, will serve as a consultant on the project.   Thomas Coldefy, principal of Coldefy & Associés, called the opportunity a beautiful, collective adventure. “This is a deeply meaningful project that reminds us how much architecture and landscape can influence our behavior and have an impact on our community,” he said in a statement. “Together, we have an opportunity to reclaim a place from terror and darkness and create a new reality, one that brings people together in celebration of joy and love.” The decision to choose Coldefy’s design, which was selected by a jury of onePULSE community members and civic leaders, was based on a month-long commentary period in which victims' families, survivors, first responders, and the public expressed their views on each entry. Led by Dovetail Design Strategies, the competition was launched in March and concluded with today’s design release. A father of a Pulse angel noted how Coldefy’s vision for the masterplan physically lit up what’s been—for three years—a dark part of the city. “The Museum has a lightness in design, but captures what the Pulse museum should be: A place to educate and bring a message of hope to the world,” he said. “...That protruding light up to the sky sends a signal to the world inviting them to come see what Pulse represented.” Towering above Orlando’s upcoming SoDo neighborhood, the open-air museum structure will spiral up and above the memorial site, allowing visitors to climb to the top, where light will illuminate the entire structure at night. The existing nightclub will remain on-site but will be sliced in half, making room for an intimate pathway through the building. A reflecting pool featuring a rainbow-colored basin will surround the club and a gathering space at the back of the memorial will provide moments of respite or quiet conversation.  The design team will also revamp West Kaley Street where the memorial and museum is located, bringing in more room for walking, biking, and public transit. Accessibility will be at the heart of the infrastructure design.  Coldefy is expected to work with the onePULSE Foundation and the community over the next year to refine the design.
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Mount Etna in New York

Bonetti/Kozerski's Pace Gallery rises over the Chelsea scene with volcanic stone and foamed aluminum
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New York's leading art galleries are in a figurative arms race; buildings upwards and outwards to accommodate museum-sized curatorial ambitions. In September, the Pace Gallery, led by Marc and Arne Glimcher, joined the fray with the opening of its new 75,000-square-foot gallery in West Chelsea. The project, designed by Bonetti/Kozerksi Architecture with facade consultancy by Studio NYL, is clad in volcanic stone mega panels, foamed aluminum, and topped with an aluminum-and-glass crown. The project rises to eight stories on the site of the gallery's former one-story location, with a boxy massing in keeping with the turn-of-the-century warehouses and former industrial sites found adjacent to the High Line. To this end, the street-facing northern elevation is broken up by rhythmically placed floor-to-ceiling rectangular windows flanked by masonry. At the cornice, the structure steps back to facilitate space for a 4,800-square-foot sculpture court located beneath a suspended two-story gallery space clad with 17-foot-tall glass windows.
  • Facade Manufacturer Island Exterior Fabricators Guardian Press Glass SA Nerosicilia Alusion
  • Architect Bonetti / Kozerksi Architecture
  • Facade Installer Island Exterior Fabricators
  • Facade Consultant Studio NYL
  • Structural Engineer WSP
  • Location Manhattan, New York
  • Date of Completion October 2019
  • System Prefabricated megapanel system
  • Products Guardian Crystal Grey SN68 Nerosicilia N3 Volcanic Stone Alusion aluminum foam panels
According to the design team, the initial material choice for the facade was concrete panels. However, concern regarding the quality of local concrete companies shifted the palette to volcanic stone sourced from Mount Etna in Sicily. The stone panels are 1-1/4" thick and were delivered with a preassembled frame of black powder-coated aluminum with a volcanic stone trim. "The volcanic stone we chose is dense and very durable and by using an oven to re-melt the surface we were able to achieve a consistent black color but with some desired textural variations," said Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski. "One of the things we like best about this palette is that it's enigmatic—it is not immediately clear to people exactly what it is." From a distance, the side elevations appear to have a passing resemblance to the porous surface of the north side's volcanic stone, in the form of deep-textured concrete. The panels, which number over 250 and were also assembled by Island Exterior Fabricators, are in fact composed of foamed aluminum and required extensive research and testing to gauge their suitability as rainscreen cladding. The use of foamed aluminum was also informed by West Chelsea's ongoing construction boom and upzoning. According to Studio NYL facade design director Will Babbington, "aluminum foam proved to be an effective material for the side elevations; lightweight and aesthetically pleasing, and an economic choice considering the elevations will be covered up by inevitable adjacent development." The glass panels that define the crown of the new gallery are, for lack of a better word, gigantic. Each IGU panel measures roughly 5'6"-by-17'10" and weighs just over 1,000 pounds. Four threaded stainless steel handle the dead load of the assembly while structural silicone provides a significant degree of bite to hold the panels in place.
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Round Three

Updated visuals revealed for Chicago's Obama Center
On Tuesday, October 29, the nonprofit Obama Foundation released the third round of renderings for the Obama Presidential Center, the 20-acre complex coming to the historic Jackson Park in Chicago’s South Side. Designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA), the $500 million project has been a long-time coming and has miles to go before it hopes to be approved for construction next year.  Deemed too heavy and foreboding when it was first unveiled in May 2017, the initial version of the central museum tower was scrapped and TWBTA went back to the drawing board only to emerge with a taller, lighter vision intended to please both President Obama and local Chicagoans. According to Blair Karmin of the Chicago Tribune, Obama still wanted the structure to be more engaging in form, hence the more faceted look revealed now.  But Kamin, in his weekly Sunday column, said the idea for the now-235-foot-tall building is still not where it needs to be:
“The design…is considerably improved, especially on its main, south-facing front. But the tower has yet to become a compelling object — or icon, to use the currently overused word — from all sides. That matters. Because when you’re planning on putting a 235-foot-tall tower in Jackson Park and dramatically altering a landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, you had better be pitch-perfect from every angle of the compass.”
One of the most notable updates to the tower is an 88-foot-tall slender cutout that reveals activity and the circulation inside. From within the building, the skinny swath of window showcases views of The Forum building to the left and the Michael Van Valkenburgh-designed landscape below. The biggest issue the architects will face now, per Kamin’s review, is rethinking the north side of the structure—what people driving southbound will see first as they enter the complex. Right now, it appears brutalist in form, with very few windows, though the building still features the elongated window mirrored on the front.  The good news is that Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, principals of their eponymous firm in New York, are experienced museum designers. In fact, their firm almost exclusively takes on cultural and academic projects, places that are open to the general public. The duo just wrapped up construction on Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art, a small and airy museum with big-gallery energy, as well as The Goel Center for Theater and Dancer at the University of Exeter. The Obama Presidential Center is arguably the tallest museum they’ve ever designed; the building houses vertically-stacked galleries inside a textured, granite-clad massing. “We design from the inside out,” Williams told the Chicago Tribune. The design team will produce a fourth version of the building before its likely 2020 groundbreaking, as the text on the upper screen wall still needs to be finalized.
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More Than a Dream

The mid-century fairy tales of Cinderella Homes
The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff: Fairy Tale Tracts in the Suburbs By Chris Lukather $35.00 “Men are forever guests in the home no matter how much happiness they may find there,” famously stated Elsie de Wolfe, the American interior decorator often credited with founding interior design as a profession. In the early 20th century, de Wolfe’s thoughts on the importance of decoration established a framework that empowered women to consider how domestic interiors shaped and reflected feminine identity, both socially and psychologically. She believed that while men may build and decorate the house, it’s the woman’s personality that will always shine through—it’s the woman who makes a house a home.  A new book by California-based writer and publisher Chris Lukather, The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff: Fairy Tale Tracts in the Suburbs, explores this complex relationship between women and domestic architecture. It tells the story of how one man, Jean Vandruff, dedicated his life to designing homes conceived around atomic age fantasies about housewives, who the homes’ advertisements called “modern Cinderellas.” The book echoes de Wolfe’s sentiment while painting a picture of the dramatic changes women began to face, both in the home and out, as the country progressed through the Great Depression, the Second World War, the growth of the American middle class, and, most importantly, the mass migration to the suburbs In 1954, seven years after the first Levittown, and many before Disneyland came to Southern California, Vandruff started designing and building communities of “storybook” tract homes in the image of a midcentury modern fairy tale. While typical tract developments were filling out landscapes across the country, they just as quickly entered the popular imagination, as, in the words of Malvina Reynolds’s 1962 song, “little boxes made of ticky tacky…little boxes all the same.”  In a catalog for the 2001–2002 exhibition held at the Brooklyn Museum, Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, the postwar single-family home was romanticized as, “a fairy-tale castle hidden away under a magic spell in a wilderness of identical streets curving past a series of identical, partially prefabricated wooden boxes.” Vandruff’s Cinderella Homes embraced this idealized notion of fairy-tale living but offered an alternative to the ubiquitous box housing that was popping up all over California. He designed ranch-style homes that didn’t shy away from color, ornamentation, or custom craftsmanship, all for a competitive price, and people camped out overnight to secure a model. Lukather’s book is the first to take a look at these homes through an in-depth collection of oral histories with the Vandruff family, Cinderella homeowners and realtors, as well as interviews and essays by Vandruff, who, at 96, is still thriving and telling tales by going door-to-door preaching the history of the 6,000 homes he created across California, Kansas, and Texas between 1950 and 1962.  The book is richly illustrated with original photographs, floorplans, and advertisements exhibiting the many variations of the ranch homes, which set Cinderellas apart from prefab war housing and other experiments of the time (Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House Program ran contemporaneously from 1945 to 1966). “I detested modern architecture in homes…so cold, rigid, simplistic, blah!” Vandruff wrote in a manifestolike list of key Cinderella features. “Architects hated Cinderellas,” he said.  Cinderellas featured high gabled entryways, large overhangs, Victorian gingerbread trim, and diamond-shaped windows with cartoonish, scalloped frames. Perhaps the most striking features of the original homes were their shake-shingle roofs and custom stone and brickwork, which flowed into the interior where a massive fireplace “anchored” the home. Vandruff cites traditional Swedish and Austrian homes as sources of ornamental inspiration.  The story of the Cinderella Home illuminates an era of U.S. history characterized by abundant self-indulgence and escapist material culture, an era when the home entered the consumer sphere as a mass-market commodity just like the automobile or the television set (which soon began to dictate the organization of a living room more so than the home builder themselves). It’s fitting that the first home opened in 1954 in Downey, California, where the first McDonald’s franchise opened a year prior.  The book displays a list of 50 architectural features originally printed in the Downey development’s brochures. Number 32 reads: “TV viewing directly from kitchens!” While the houses didn't have completely open plans, each Cinderella kitchen had a large window that looked out into the living quarters. The design feature was also heavily advertised for its other purpose: to maximize visual and verbal communication between wives and their husbands and children. For Vandruff, this was the most important design issue of all.  “This was key to a happy home. A kitchen-isolated wife is an unhappy wife…likely producing an unhappy family,” he wrote. “My constant thought was for the woman, the home-maker. Everything must be done to make her a fulfilled success.” It was, in fact, his wife Eleanor Vandruff, a former beauty queen, singer, and popular radio personality, who came up with the name Cinderella after she saw one of the first drawings and thought it to be fit for a princess.  Vandruff believed that setting women up for success (and, in turn, setting up the husband for success) meant creating spaces that appeared open and light-filled. In some models, you could stand in the front entryway and see all the way through to the back of the house. Vandruff wrote, “Wall mirrors and big clean windows added ‘space’ to any room, making it the opposite of a jail cell or dungeon,” a sentiment that anticipated the attitudes and feelings toward the home that would be put into words a few years later in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique from 1963, which dissected the psychology of the suburban housewife and ushered in the age of second-wave feminism.  Perhaps before Friedan’s book, women’s unhappiness with household drudgery was rarely discussed—it was “the problem that had no name.” But no one wants an unhappy wife. As Vandruff explained in his interview with the author, “I wanted to make a home for the woman of the household, since she spent the most time there…if she is happy, the home is probably happy…then you’re probably going to be happy too.” We now know that personal fulfillment for women involves far more than being able to watch TV while cleaning the kitchen. It is hard to theorize what life was actually like for the housewife in a Cinderella Home, as the book failed to include a single account of a female homemaker who occupied one of the tracts in such fraught times or even an account of a female homeowner today. While informative and aesthetically pleasing, the book, like the homes, was crafted entirely from a male perspective with the wife in mind—but how much was she involved?  That’s not to discredit Lukather’s important addition to the history of the rise of suburban life and the fantasy of the American Dream. Cinderella Homes, just as much as Levittown, embody postwar U.S. culture in all of its complexities—of course, the book wouldn't be complete without a chapter dedicated to Jean Vandruff’s years in the Air Force.  But just like the era itself, it’s hard not to think about something darker going on beneath the surface. Marshall Vandruff, Jean Vandruff’s son, fondly recalled memories of growing up in a Cinderella tract neighborhood and becoming “dangerously nostalgic” upon revisiting it for the book. In a way, the entire book is dangerously nostalgic. Lukather wants to tell the story of playful design, happy families, material abundance, and optimism, but only through the insight of the men who built and continue to surround themselves with the homes. What’s given less importance in the book is the atmosphere outside the home: the threat of nuclear danger, the ideological dynamic of the cold war, the uneven distribution of wealth, and rampant racism and sexism. The Cinderella Home lives magically outside of such realities. There is simply no room for those very real anxieties in the story’s fantastical fairy tale.  Leilah Stone is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor.