Search results for "tag frank gehry"

Placeholder Alt Text

No More Walls!

Will Related Companies build a giant wall around Hudson Yards?
New Yorkers may have told themselves over the last year since Hudson Yards opened to the public that there could never be and will never be anything worse than the luxury mega-development—what some view as an architectural ode to capitalism. But today, news broke that things could possibly get worse. Michael Kimmelman revealed for the New York Times that the real estate giant Related Companies may build a 720-foot-long, 20-foot-high concrete wall around the western and southern borders of Hudson Yards, effectively creating a shadow over the northernmost portion of the High Line. This could potentially be part of the development's highly-anticipated second, the phase aptly named Western Yard, which will include a slew of new towers by Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Robert A.M. Stern, as well a new public school and 12-acre park designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz The landscape, or green deck as it's referred to in renderings, was initially conceived as a covering to the platform that will bridge over the existing Amtrack rail yard on-site. Renderings of the project showed the park spilling over and onto 12th Avenue at West 30th Street. But according to the NYT, recently Related has been discussing the idea of adding a parking garage under the deck instead and elevating its edge from east to west with a curved wall. Not only would a wall separate the development's veritable "front yard" from the public, but it would cast a dark shadow and potentially dangerous presence onto the High Line. Kimmelman said it best:
"Among other things, the wall would visually and perhaps otherwise obscure public access from the High Line and from the street into the yard, turning Related’s development into a man-made promontory, its occupants gazing down on the High Line’s visitors. It would also make the High Line seem the equivalent of an old city fire escape: a piece of aged infrastructure stuck to a wall."
A spokesperson for Related told NYT the idea has only been part of preliminary discussions with neighborhood representatives and that “connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods and the High Line will be critically important" moving forward.  The final decision has yet to be determined, but whatever Related does settle on will have to pass approval from both Community Board 4 and the City Planning Commission.
Placeholder Alt Text

In Memoriam

Looking back on the great architects, designers, and curators we lost in 2019
As 2019 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of the events that made it memorable. We’ve rounded up this year’s funniest, most important, and most controversial stories, as well as homages to some of the people we lost. The world is a little less bright without these iconic designers, but from the Louvre pyramid to a series of architecturally-diverse cancer care centers, their legacies live on. I.M. Pei  Louvre pyramid designer I. M. Pei passed away at 102, bringing an epic career of international acclaim to a close. Born in 1917 in Guangzhou, China, Pei moved to the U.S. to attend architecture school at the University of Pennsylvania and later MIT, following by the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He founded Pei Cobb Freed & Partners (formerly I.M. Pei & Associates) in 1955 and decades later won the 1983 Pritzker Prize for projects such as the Mile High Center in Denver, Colorado. Among Pei’s other notable projects is the National Gallery of Art, East Building, in Washington, D.C., and the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. Kevin Roche Legendary Irish-born American architect Kevin Roche passed away at age 96 in March. His namesake firm, Roche-Dinkeloo, was founded in tandem with partner John Dinkeloo after the death of their boss and mentor Eero Saarinen in 1961. A modernist architect trained by Saarinen and Mies van Der Rohe, Roche designed over 200 buildings in his lifetime including the Ford Foundation headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the Oakland Museum of California. He was the 1982 Pritzker Prize Laureate and won an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1993.  Florence Knoll Bassett Midcentury modern designer Florence Knoll passed away at age 101 this January. Considered one of the most influential furniture designers in history, her sleek and minimal pieces became commonplace throughout American postwar office spaces and later in homes. In 1955, she took over Knoll Inc, the company started by her husband Hans in 1938, which continues to manufacture furniture by designers such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, and Knoll herself, among others.  Phil Freelon Phil Freelon, one of the lead designers of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, died at 66 this July. The Durham, North Carolina-based architect founded his eponymous firm, The Freelon Group, in 1990 and was responsible for projects like Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, and Houston’s Emancipation Park. The studio was acquired by Perkins+Will in 2016 and Freelon stepped in to lead its regional office. Henry Urbach  Former SFMOMA curator Henry Urbach passed away at 56 this summer, and his friends and family are opening new dialogues on the subject of mental health in his memory. Urbach, who more recently served as director of Philip Johnson’s The Glass House, suffered from Late-Onset Bipolar Disorder. He was an accomplished curator, having started his own New York-based experimental design gallery in 1997 in which he hosted over 55 exhibitions. At SFMOMA, he accumulated hundreds of works for the museum’s permanent collection and collaborated with Diller Scofidio + Renfro on one of his most famous shows, How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now Cristiano Toraldo di Francia Superstudio cofounder and iconic Italian architect Cristiano Toraldo di Francia died in July. In his 78 years, his work helped shape generations of avant-garde designers such as Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid. Best known for starting the radical collective Superstudio in the late 1960s, Toraldo di Francia produced highly regarded drawings, videos, and lithographs through the practice, eventually exhibiting work in the Milan Triennale, the Venice Biennale, and at the Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions. Up until his death at age 78, Toraldo di Francia designed and built several projects throughout Italy and taught at various universities throughout Europe, Japan, and the U.S.  César Pelli  César Pelli passed away in July at the age of 92, leaving behind the legacy of an international firm and a monumental portfolio. Considered the father of the modern skyscraper, the Argentine architect designed some of the most famous towers in the world: the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Landmark in Abu Dhabi, and the recently completely Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. Pelli moved to the U.S. in 1952 and worked for Eero Saarinen in Michigan for a decade. From 1977 to 1989, he served as dean at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven. During that time, Pelli received the commission for the 1984 expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art, which more or less forced him to open his own studio, Cesar Pelli & Associates. After over 20 years designing projects like the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., among others, Pelli renamed his practice to Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects in honor of his long-time partner Fred Clarke, and son Rafael. Charles Jencks Landscape architect and historian Charles Jencks died this October at age 80. Remembered for his embrace of theory, built practice, and connecting the cosmos, Jencks designed whimsical gardens and earthworks that promoted tranquility and play. He is best known for founding Maggie’s, a cancer research institute named after his late wife and whose patient rehab centers have attracted architects like Steven Holl, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid. In the middle of his career, Jencks authored several books on the subject of "Post-modernism" before taking up landscape design. Stanley Tigerman Chicago architect and theorist Stanley Tigerman died in June at 88 years old. Known as a member of the Chicago Seven—a group of architects that rebelled against the doctrine of modernism—his design style was fairly eclectic in his early years, gaining a reputation as an iconoclast, until later when he adopted a more organic approach to architecture. He established his own eponymous firm, Stanely Tigerman and Associates (later renamed Tigerman McCurry Architects), in the early 1960s and completed over 175 buildings in his six-decade career. Among his most prominent works were the Daisy House in Indiana, Lakeside Residence in Michigan, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and the POWERHOUSE Energy Museum in Zion, Illinois.
Placeholder Alt Text

Preferred Street Promenade

Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade will undergo transformative master plan
Following a presentation made to the Santa Monica City Council on November 5, significant updates have been approved for the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian-only shopping street that over the last three decades has become one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. “Our predecessors were bold in 1989 and it’s time to be bold again as we reimagine the total experience of the Third Street Promenade,” said Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis in an official statement. “It’s time to reinvest in a community asset that has enriched lives and significantly contributed to Santa Monica’s prosperity." Known as “Promenade 3.0,” the master plan’s project team is comprised of local engineering firm KPFF and local architecture firms Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Gehl, which has worked together over the last year to develop three unique design concepts for the street: Improve, Adapt and Transform. ‘Improve’ would update the pedestrian experience by demolishing some of the site’s defunct retail pavilions to make room for pedestrian traffic while raising the roadway in certain sections; ‘Adapt’ calls for raising the entire roadway to curb level; and ‘Transform’ would remove and replace all existing flooring with updated materials, demolish retail pavilions, and add significantly more trees and other shading devices. All three plans include movable furniture, landscape areas and improved pedestrian crosswalks along the path’s two intersections. The City Council has expressed significant interest in Transform, the most ambitious redevelopment of the three proposals. In addition, the project team was encouraged by the Council to imagine even more transformative design gestures, which could serve to construct more zones for outdoor activities and increase opportunities for businesses operating lower-cost kiosks along the site. “Not only do we want to create an environment that gets people to come to the Promenade not just once but on repeated occasions … what’s important is that maintaining its authenticity will also make it more appealing to people,” said Mayor Davis. In its current arrangement, the Promenade covers three blocks of Third Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway, culminating in a three-story open-air mall that recently replaced the Frank Gehry-designed Santa Monica Place Mall. “When the Third Street Promenade debuted thirty years ago,” said City Manager Rick Cole, “it revolutionized the way we look at public space in Southern California.” Only time will tell if Promenade 3.0 will meaningfully bring the original design’s revolutionary qualities into the 21st century. The project will be funded by Promenade property and city owners and is expected to cost between $45 and $60 million. Once ground is broken in 2023 or 2024, construction is anticipated to take one to two years.
Placeholder Alt Text

Just Don’t

Los Angeles is at a crossroads—don’t let it become New York
Makin’ my way downtown, I zip along on my Lime® scooter through the ersatz Japanese village of Little Tokyo, past taxis, buses, and Prii, to a bustling, small-scale warehouse district on the fringe of Los Angeles’s central core. The whirlwind of scales, land uses, languages, and people is dizzying, but I finally land at my destination: Sonoratown, a lively taco spot famous for its soft tortillas, which are made with flour driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in small batches by the owner’s mom. This delirious, quasi-urban experience is one that could only happen in the messy, diverse urban fabric of Los Angeles. You are free to grab whatever pieces of the kaleidoscopic surroundings you can, and the faster you are moving, the more there is to take. Somehow, this frantic energy and free movement seem unaffected or held back by the past. The cultural critic Sean Monahan called LA the capital of the 2010s, describing it as:
...a city whose attributes anticipate collapse: flat and amorphous, rather than vertical and defined; kitsch and pop, rather than avant-garde and tech; individualistic and mass, rather than institutional and elite. You can suggest San Francisco, HQ of disruption, or New York, backdrop for protest movements (#OWS, #BLM). But both places fail to capture the spirit of the age, because they are fighting so hard to change it. They are relics of empire, unsure of themselves after a decade in which success was indistinguishable from failure… Built on celebrity, media, and lifestyle, L.A. doesn’t presume to be building the future, merely inhabiting it. It’s a pick your poison kind of place. [Go wild] at Chateau Marmont. Spend half your paycheck on inscrutable health food at Erewhon. Commute four hours so you can live in a Riverside McMansion. Drive Uber every day, write screenplays every night. Sell out, drop out, suck up, fuck up. There is no right or wrong way to do L.A.
Monahan accurately describes why Los Angeles encapsulates the present, and why it’s the most exciting place in the US right now. However, it is also important to note where the city is moving in the 2020s. With the 2028 Olympics as a finish line, Los Angeles is at a crossroads, on a path to become a different place in the next decade. But with the city already at the forefront of global media culture (The Kardashians, Moon Juice, Goop, etc.), it doesn’t need global architecture to maintain its position as a worldwide force. How it defines itself as a physical place is still up for grabs, and it should learn lessons from other hyper-globalized cities, namely New York. Tomorrow’s Los Angeles is one of layers. Moving on from its days as a bastion of mythological American modernism centered around mobility (cars), individuality (single-family homes), and triumph over nature (lawns), it will add new collectivities on to itself. These layers will arise from the constant flux of the new: Technologies and emerging social patterns meld nicely into the loose, still-codifying culture and its corresponding urban forms. It is the flickering of new, communal, car-free, publicly subsidized lifestyles against the old, car-centric, low-density, low-regulation, “libertarian” bones of the urban landscape that make it such an interesting place for urbanism today. The oft-bandied-about claim that the city is libertarian is also not entirely accurate, as California is a sea of regulation and red tape, continually votes to raise its already high taxes, and both California and Los Angeles are leading on climate action. The city is quietly building public infrastructure at a pace that vastly outpaces New York. New York’s Second Avenue Subway took somewhere between 10 and 100 years to complete three stations, and the next phase will be three stops and will be completed by 2029 at the earliest. Meanwhile Los Angeles is (optimistically) on course to build 28 new lines by 2028. This includes an airport-connection line that will allow a direct link from LAX to the city. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA is in a worsening crisis with crumbling stations and delays only getting worse, and New Jersey’s NJ Transit recently gave up on accounting for the traffic expected to reach the American Dream Mall, instead calling on private industry to complete the line, citing none other than Los Angeles’s electric rail airport connector as an example. That’s right—L.A. is leading the way in public transit. Meanwhile, Uber, a municipal car share and micro-mobility options such as scooters have already altered how people get around (many young people don’t have cars at all) and where they live, partly due to an explosion in transit-oriented development around the new metro lines. It is unclear exactly how successful, affordable, and sustainable this will be, but change is certainly underway. New transit networks both public and private, along with lower parking requirements for new construction will profoundly impact development and housing typologies in the future. But it is no secret that Los Angeles is careening toward a New York–like affordability crisis (if it isn’t there already) that goes hand-in-hand with the urban whitewash of global capital. Homelessness is at record levels and only getting worse. In response, architects are working to develop new housing typologies, from affordable prototypes and accessory dwelling units, to larger, multi-family schemes that continue to evolve with new regulations and design challenges. The L.A. River and the L.A River Greenway in the San Fernando Valley are also emerging sites of urban experimentation and reclamation/rehabilitation of greenspace. Los Angeles has a unique architectural culture and urban fabric, but red flags are emerging. First, Bjarke Ingels Group and Herzog & de Meuron, international firms that are both very popular with the New York development community, have projects downtown. Related Group (of Hudson Yards fame) has moved in and is developing a large Frank Gehry project across from Gehry’s own Disney Concert Hall. It perfectly illustrates the lower design quality of developer-led construction and echoes Related Companies’ other project, Hudson Yards: “The project is anchored by a central plaza wrapped with shopping areas and public art.” The biggest red flag might be the shortlist for the La Brea Tar Pits project. In Miracle Mile’s Museum Row, a neighborhood that already has been marred by architectural globalists—once by KPF and twice by Renzo Piano—the shortlist for the La Brea master plan is New York establishment firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, along with Danish firm Dorte Mandrup. It is a truly odd and troubling list. All three are talented firms, but their selection signals the wind turning toward a placeless architecture where, in California terms, “there is no there there,” reflecting classic donor-class aesthetics. Don’t even get me started on what director Michael Govan and the LACMA board are doing to push through their new building. Joseph Giovannini said it best:
In a sleight of hand that still has serious consequences for LACMA and Los Angeles, Govan introduced [Peter] Zumthor, the architect who presumably could achieve this world-class building, to his Board of Trustees. There was no competition, no public review or discussion, no transparency, just a shoo-in of the architect who had arrived in Los Angeles in Govan’s back pocket. “It won’t be the seventh Renzo Piano building in the country,” Govan explained to me in an interview. “We’ll have the only Zumthor.” …Had he even made it into a normal architect selection process, the jury might have concluded that he was mismatched and dangerously underequipped for the commission.
Some Angelenos say that local architects should get their due. L.A. has been defined in many ways by outsiders such as Neutra and Schindler, but also by local legends like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, as well as a younger generation like Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and a host of others who can deliver top-notch design. Los Angeles doesn't need the continental, polite, same-as-everywhere architecture that plagues institutions around the world. The architecture scene has always valued experimentation and allowed younger, more avant-garde approaches and diverse practices to gain ground, outside of the institutional weight that plagues places like the East Coast. It is not “provincial”—as some claim—to want to preserve this well-established local flavor while moving forward. In fact, what would be provincial is thinking that it is necessary to look outward for world-class architecture, or that a mythical global culture needs to be imported for the city to become a world-class place. Nothing defines the periphery like the center, and nothing makes one more provincial than defining oneself against New York. Of course, outside architects can come in and add to the culture; it just takes a bit of judgment. For instance, Spanish firm SelgasCano’s bright, breezy, kit-of-parts style seems to fit with L.A.’s pop modernist aesthetic, and Arata Isozaki’s MOCA has also become an iconic part of L.A. architecture. So let L.A. be regional and different. Don’t let it succumb to the pressures of global capital and “global architecture.” Don’t let Boyle Heights—a strong Latino neighborhood under development pressure, with several buildings already being renovated—become Hudson Yards. New York City has been ruined by capital, which was weaponized to take away the grittiness of places like Times Square, a project of Ed Koch and eventually of Rudy Guiliani. Later, technocrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg finished the sanitization of the city with sloppy rezonings of Williamsburg, West Chelsea, and Long Island City most notably, which ushered in the era of bland office towers and mega mall-like sterility. Developers like President Donald Trump and Related Companies, along with their elected enablers like Bloomberg and Guiliani have shared class interests that threaten the small-scale, local and regional urban landscapes where artists, immigrants, and the working class foment culture. How can Los Angeles be a laboratory for resisting the entropic, hegemonic cancer that is global capital, the global donor class, and the donor-class aesthetic? One tactic, and to be fair, something that the Bloomberg administration got right in places like Brooklyn and Staten Island, is downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. This is also tricky and can lead to NIMBYism, which L.A. has certainly had its share of recently. In a similar vein, Thom Mayne provocatively suggested clustering development on the Wilshire corridor in order to protect other areas. The Wilshire area has seen some development, but not at the scale Mayne has suggested. Additionally, serious and innovative criticism is needed. Critics must not fall into 20th-century modes of operating; they have to get out in front of these debacles rather than react to them. There are a host of critics operating in Los Angeles, and no one is better positioned to have an impact than former L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who is now in a unique role as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, a position where he is literally helping craft RFPs (request for proposals). As long as Hawthorne is able to be heard in the government and in the public and can surround himself with good people who will help guide L.A. through this crucial time, there is a real opportunity to have more and more expert opinions in the process that will avoid the disasters that haunt New York. This, along with more equitable and compensated juried design competitions, can help the people who make financial decisions make "better" aesthetic and cultural decisions. Regionalism, when connected to local ecology, provokes more interesting and nuanced design than a totalizing, global aesthetic. In terms of what resistance might look like outside of design review, Los Angeles is already taking on challenges in a unique way. In Boyle Heights, gentrifying art galleries have been pushed out by strong neighborhood coalitions demanding affordable housing and neighborhood services. Los Angeles could also adopt anti-gentrification policies such as rent control or downzoning to prevent the displacement of both residential and retail spaces. Many cities have adopted such plans, while Berlin and other cities have enacted rent freezes and other regulations on the housing market to ensure affordability. Los Angeles in many ways is the logical conclusion of the myth of the American West. Several time zones and thousands of miles in distance from New York and other global cities, it has historically been connected to global culture through mass media, not physical space. This isolation has left it to its own devices as an urban place. This doesn’t need to change as it grows into more of a global force. New forms and ways of living can be cultivated without abandoning what makes it a special place: its resistance to the forces of the outside. In the 2020s, defining a new localism would be quite an amazing achievement.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pitted Against the Law

Judge rules Brad Pitt could be sued over poorly-built New Orleans homes
A federal judge has ruled that actor Brad Pitt will remain a defendant in a case against his housing nonprofit, the Make It Right Foundation. Last November, the Ad Astra-star and other directors of the organization, which was founded in 2007 to build affordable homes after Hurricane Katrina, asked the court to remove their names from a class-action lawsuit filed by two homeowners who claim shoddy construction. One hundred and nine pieces of experimental and sustainable architecture from Make It Right popped up in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward through 2015, an area devastated by the 2005 hurricane and its subsequent flooding. Renowned design firms came to Make It Right to offer their services including Adjaye Associates, Gehry Partners, and KieranTimberlake, establishing a new eco-friendly, supposedly disaster-proof neighborhood. But things quickly went awry as reports of homeowner complaints surfaced regarding the structural integrity of the architecture and more (aka mold). By September of last year, Make It Right had sued its own principal architect on allegations of defective design work.  Over the last year, Pitt’s lawyers have attempted to get the actor’s name taken off the latter lawsuit by citing he had no personal responsibility for the construction—last year, the actor claimed that because he wasn't an architect or builder, he wasn't culpable for the quality of the housing. However, as the founder and main fundraiser of the housing project, Pitt was not able to separate himself from the legal battle and could face court in the coming months. 
Placeholder Alt Text

In Tribute

Colleagues gather in Chicago to remember Stanley Tigerman
The family, contemporaries, and friends of Stanley Tigerman gathered in Rubloff Auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago on October 18 for memorial service where they offered remembrances of the late architect. Amid a full house of more than 500, quotes, anecdotes, and fond memories of Tigerman were recited. Below is just a small sampling: Robert A.M. Stern:
“To a full house. “There is no one who better represented what is ethical and responsible and what is best in architecture in our time than Stanley.” “A fabulous and pathological truthteller.” “He was never satisfied with straightforward interpretation. From the start, his work typically contained a subtext that was dying to become the principle discourse, a hidden whimsy, even irrationality.”
Peter Eisenman:
“I would impersonate Stanley to get a seat at Gene and Giorgetti’s. I did this so many times that the last time I walked in the maître d greeted me with “‘Hello Mr. Tigerman.’” “After reading Stanley’s architectural memoir, Building Bridges to Burn, all of us who think we knew him should read this book. Whatever one thought of him, his work is revealed in another life.” “The architect who never had enough bridges to burn.”
Robert Somol:
“If Bob (stern) and Peter (Eisenman) and Stanley, represent what Stanley once called dysfunctional siblings, then those of my generation are Stanley’s dysfunctional children. And as such we tried to be loyal if we weren’t generally obedient. Which might not be ideal, it’s a lot better than those that are obedient but disloyal.” “When you talked to Stanley, whether you realized it or not, you were making a contract or a promise. And god help you if you didn’t keep your end of the bargain. Stanley was not one for idle banter. For Stanley his work was his bond, and that is how you have to live when you are an outsider.”
John Ronan:
“From him, I learned how to be an architect, and how you had to make your projects. I learned how to thrive on conflict. I learned the perils of fame, and the proper usage of the word fuck.” “When Stanley started his practice, architecture was still something of a gentleman’s profession, and Stanley proved in many ways, you didn’t have to be a gentleman to succeed in it.” “All of us here were shaped by Stanley in some way. We are how we are, do some less or more degree because of him. We are all now part of his family, and he is part of us… whatever the fuck that means.”
Frank Gehry:
“I’m just tempted to say ‘ditto,’ but I did write something so please forgive me.”
Placeholder Alt Text

RIP Jencks

Architectural historian Charles Jencks dies at age 80
Charles Jencks, the architectural historian, cosmic gardener, and cofounder and director of Maggie's, has died, according to the RIBA Journal. Jencks was best known as the promoter of Post-modernism (he specifically demanded an uppercase “P” and dash after “Post”), having authored the seminal The Language of Post-Modern Architecture. He was also the author of Meaning in Architecture (1969) with George Baird and continued to publish books on the subject of Post-modernism, including Radical Post-modernism, an issue of Architectural Design with FAT. Born in Baltimore in 1939, Jencks attended Harvard, studying English literature in undergraduate, and then architecture at GSD. He later moved to the U.K. and completed a Ph.D. under Reynar Banham. Jencks would stay in the U.K. for the rest of his life, owning homes in both Scotland and England. He founded the Charles Jencks Award, which recognizes “major international contributions to the theory and practice of architecture.” Jencks turned to landscape design later in life, building the Garden of Cosmic Speculation, and a series of earthworks at Jupiter Artland. After his wife Maggie died in 1995 from cancer, he founded Maggie’s, a cancer research institute whose Maggies Centres have become a notable architecture program, featuring works by Steven Holl, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid. AN will follow this announcement with a longer obituary.
Placeholder Alt Text

Bestor in Show

Barbara Bestor’s SCI-Arc commencement speech evokes L.A.'s unique architecture history
Despite its youth, the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has educated a surprising number of figures that have come to define the field. One such figure is local architect Barbara Bestor, who graduated from the school with a master’s degree in 1992 and has since designed several prestigious projects in and around Los Angeles, including the Silverlake Conservatory for Music, and the Beats by Dre campus in Culver City, and also oversaw the renovation of the Silvertop Residence, a hillside home first built in 1956 by local legend John Lautner. As the commencement speaker for SCI-Arc’s 2019 graduation ceremony, Bestor elaborated on the storied history of the city and how it directly influenced her career. “I think that, like the city of Los Angeles,” began Bestor, “our culture of freedom as architects is a uniquely West Coast culture that's actually in touch with our past history.” She then went on to recount how the unique qualities of the city that inspired experimentation among luminaries including Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Kappe, Deborah Sussman, and Rudolph Schindler, who had a “habit of driving around to job sites with a load of two-by-fours in his station wagon so that he could improvise new ideas in real-time.” Bestor then reminded the audience that the freedom afforded by the relative lack of history Los Angeles can be liberating but also daunting. “It demands that we grapple with big existential questions like ‘what am I doing here,’ ‘what's my artistic voice,’ and ‘will my voice ever be part of the larger architectural conversation around the world?’” Bestor’s way of first navigating the city’s creative landscape was to work on houses, coffee shops, clothing stores, kitchen renovations, and several other small projects. “Even the most pragmatic and mundane programs,” she explained, “contain some freedom for the architect to create extra value, ideas about gender politics, fun experiments, and so on.” Bestor ended her speech by advising her listeners, “whether you’re staying here in L.A., or going off to Mexico City, or Beijing, or Seoul,” to “take that sense of freedom with you… You are all now West Coast Architects... part of this great, living tradition of experimentation and innovation.” It seemed fitting that, following her speech, an honorary M.Arch degree was presented to Frank Gehry, an architect who has called Los Angeles his home since 1947 and found a career by tapping into the experimental spirit of the city recounted by Bestor.
Placeholder Alt Text

New Kids on the Block

Deborah Berke and Barry Bergdoll join the Pritzker jury
Two new members have been selected to sit on the jury of The Pritzker Architecture Prize. Barry Bergdoll and Deborah Berke have joined the Pritzker Prize Jury as it prepares for the 42nd announcement of the annual award in 2020.  Barry Bergdoll is currently a Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University and president of the Center for Architecture. With a Ph.D. in Art History from Columbia University, his work focuses on modern architectural history and theory, particularly of Germany and France. Bergdoll also held an illustrious career as the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from 2004 to 2017. His recent co-curated exhibitions at MoMA included Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive with Jennifer Gray in 2017 and Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 with Carlos Eduardo Comas in 2015. Deborah Berke has served as Dean of the Yale School of Architecture since 2016, the first woman to hold that position in the school's history. She has been an adjunct professor at the institution since 1987, in addition to founding the award-winning Deborah Berke Partners in New York. Some of the firm's notable works include the Rockefeller Arts Center at SUNY Fredonia, the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York, and the Cummins Indy Distribution Headquarters in Indianapolis. Berke’s awards include the 2019 Medal of Honor from the AIA New York Chapter and the 2012 Berkeley-Rupp Prize at the University of California at Berkley, among others.  The Pritzker Prize, whose past laureates have included Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando, and Zaha Hadid, is internationally recognized as the top award in architectural excellence. Last year’s award was given to Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. The forthcoming 2020 Pritzker Prize will be awarded next spring. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Foundational Theory

MOCA digs up its past in its Foundation exhibition
Celebrating 40 years since its founding in 1979, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles has unearthed some of their best hits for this latest exhibition: The Foundation of the Museum: MOCA’s Collection. To be specific, the show takes place in The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the museum’s first official building, a former police car warehouse renovated by Frank Gehry in 1983 with all the rawness the architect’s work was known for in that era. The exhibition on display, organized by senior curator Bennett Simpson and assistant curator Rebecca Lowery, reveals a collection that will remind its visitors of the radical spirit that once led the museum’s founders to hire an architect as nonconformist as Gehry in the first place. Institutional critique and curatorial transparency appear to be the two uniting forces grouping the artworks on display: In any part of the museum, one can hear the critical voice of performance artist Andrea Fraser from the three television sets displaying her video works peppered throughout the exhibition; one room is a nearly standalone installation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (Portrait of MOCA), which serves to challenge the self-aggrandizement of the museum itself in plain text. Perhaps most impressive is the recreation of Chris Burden’s Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, for which the artist dug into the museum’s floor to literally expose the concrete foundations of the museum’s building. First presented in the very same spot in 1986, the piece allows visitors to see the guts of the building for themselves, turn around, and see the other pieces of the exhibition with a fresh perspective. Curators Simpson and Lowery should be applauded for their decision to juxtapose Burden’s piece next to Gordon Matta-Clark’s Office Baroque, the product of the artist’s excavation of a corporate office building. Separate from any curatorial mission, the pieces from other notable artists, including locals Mike Kelley, Laura Owens, and Ed Ruscha, are a delight to see under a single roof.
Placeholder Alt Text

Smoke and Mirrors

A look at the flimsy architectural stage sets of William Leavitt
When reflecting on the recent art and architecture scene of Los Angeles, a familiar cadre of names will typically come to mind; Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, John Baldessari, and Thom Mayne, to name a few. But beyond the figures that have famously channeled the city’s flair for the dramatic into their creative work, there is at least one artist that has made the spotlight his artistic subject while avoiding it for himself altogether. William Leavitt, now 78, has been quietly producing art about the uniquely modern spectacle of Los Angeles and its built environment since the late 1960s. Leavitt was stunned by the scale of Los Angeles and the hold the movie industry had on the city when he arrived in 1965. Part of a generation that reacted against the plain functionality of modernism in favor of a burgeoning commercial language designed for mass appeal, Leavitt continues to produce illustrations and sculptures which pay special attention to the architecture and interior design aesthetic present in the soap operas, furniture showrooms and suburban basements of the time. Like Ruscha and Gehry, Leavitt was an out-of-towner fascinated by the hastily constructed buildings that popped up around Los Angeles during the 1950s and 60s. But that would be selling Leavitt’s inspirations short. The artist skillfully conflated the kitsch and thinly veiled constructions of mid-century America with the sparse beauty of stage set design employed in so many of Hollywood’s movie studios and independent theatres. In 1988, he wrote about the first time he visited the backlot of a movie studio: “I loved the deception of going up to one of those perfect houses and opening the door and seeing that there was nothing but canvas and 2x4s holding it up. I thought that was spectacular: all the bricks were made of composition board.” The unique balance of image and reality on display throughout the city’s built environment is Leavitt’s primary source of inspiration. While the minimal stage sets of movies and plays are designed to appear more complete to their audiences fixed in place, Leavitt invites his audience to study his sets up close and in the round. As Ann Goldstein described his work, it “tak[es] into account the theatrical potential of the ordinary” while “considering the significance of every detail - location, lighting, atmosphere, props, and sound - and, like a set designer, he assembles a scene where every element plays a role.” One of his most well-known installations, California Patio (1972) is a sculpture depicting an entire setting: a freestanding sliding glass door between blue curtains framing a truncated woodchip garden. The materials of the entire piece might well have been purchased at a local hardware store, yet they become more than the sum of their parts; the 2x4s holding up the structure are more cleanly nailed and the sandbags more delicately placed than what is typically hidden from the screen or the stage. Leavitt’s illustrations, meanwhile, are reminiscent of those used by art directors to describe a stage set to a production crew. In Electric Chair (Interior) (1983), for example, efficiently depicts a sparse basement in which function and utility might be easily be confused for one another.
Placeholder Alt Text

Proactive Design

Michigan high school upgrades campus to combat potential active shooters
The K-12 team at TowerPinkster is aiming to physically slow down school shooters through its $48-million renovation and addition to Fruitport High School in Western Michigan. The 189,822-square-foot project recently garnered national headlines because of its push to enhance safety within the 64-year-old institution, which previously featured narrow corridors and cramped gathering spaces.  TowerPinkster, an architecture, engineering, and interiors firm with expertise in educational spaces, worked with the National Institute of Crime Prevention to learn the most effective ways to secure the school’s campus, which is slated to reopen in 2021. By building on 143,879 square feet of new space that connects to the older structure, the design team was able to create a two-story, curved academic wing designed to reduce the sightlines of a potentially armed attacker. Each teaching space was conceived with “shadow zones” along the door-side walls where students and faculty can hide without being seen. Shatter-proof safety film was specified to cover the few windows that do look into the classrooms. In addition, cement block “wing walls” were added to stick out next to all doors and act as further barriers.  Currently under construction, this build-out is the fourth attempt to update the school since its opening in 1963. TowerPinkster has envisioned a new set of offices, an auditorium, media center, woodshop, cafeteria, and common area for Fruitport HS as well. The entry experience is also changing. Located at the opposite end of the classroom corridors, and looking directly at the parking lot, a staff member at reception would be able to see anyone walking into the school at any given time. They would also have the ability to lock down all classrooms, the vestibule door to the office, and the office door to the school using a three-button system.  At a time when some experts are saying the key to school safety is in the design of fully transparent and inclusive learning spaces or pushing for gun reform, TowerPinkster didn’t wholeheartedly embrace breaking down Fruitport’s mid-century brick structure and replacing it with a more contemporary school. Closer attention was paid to the security strategies and, according to Matt Slagle, director of K-12 design at the firm, it was all about striking a “balance between security and a welcoming presence.” He told The Washington Post his team wanted to make the school feel open, but not too open; secure, but not as secure as a prison.  Along with adding ample barrier elements to the school’s many open spaces, the idea to include curved hallways was one of the biggest safety-increasing design moves. Fruitport’s academic wings will be crescent-shaped and short, even though they won’t appear to be so from the ground. But non-linear connection points aren’t always the smartest way to ensure protection in a highly populated environment. In 2003, it was reported that it took police over seven hours to capture a gunman that had entered a new business school building at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. SWAT team members blamed the architect, Frank Gehry, for the hide-and-seek game that ensued and for not being able to get a clear shot. And, as critics are pointing out on social media, those shadow zones and wing walls could also be taken advantage of by the shooter to more easily hide.