Search results for "Richard Meier"

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Engel & Volkers Headquarters
Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Engel & Volkers Headquarters
Architect: Richard Meier & Partners
Client: Engel & Volkers
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Completion: 2015

Richard Meier & Partners has unveiled its design of a new hybrid building in Hamburg that will serve as the headquarters for Engel & Volkers, an international real estate company. With this commission, the firm has integrated residential, commercial, and office space into one cohesive structure, while also taking a nuanced approach to the German courtyard building.

Richard Meier & Partners’ mixed-use building was selected in an international competition topping submissions by Foster + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects. The challenge, Bernhard Karpf, associate partner-in-charge, said was to create a hybrid building that was “like a city in itself,” which creates “property lines” that carves out distinct areas for rentals, offices, and shops, but still comes together in a unified and coherent design.


The building's façade will have geometric accents and floor-to-ceiling glass. In response to the trend of what Karpf describes as “overly articulated” buildings in Hamburg, the firm decided that “instead of making a lot of noise from the outside of building, we would make some noise from the inside.” In the center of the complex is an enclosed atrium that will provide a shared circulation space and also host events and exhibitions. A staircase, folding from the upper floors to the atrium, adds a sculptural element to the space.

Karpf anticipates that they will use a simple material palette for the interior—such as concrete and wood floors—that plays off the mix of natural and artificial light. The firm is working with a façade consultant to develop an insulated façade with adjustable sunshades between the glass to meet Europe’s stricter energy requirements and make the building as sustainable as possible. Construction will likely begin by the end of this year and is slated for completion by 2015.

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Sandy Turns Westbeth into Wetsbeth
The courtyard inside the Richard Meier-designed Westbeth, 1967-1970.
Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Yesterday was the last day that artists in Westbeth Artists Housing—many of whom have lived and worked there for several decades—could retrieve their work from their flood-soaked art studios and storage spaces. Whatever artworks, materials, and archives, which had included works by Isamu Noguchi and Richard Meier, remained in the wet and mold-ridden basement by the end of Wednesday were hauled out and considered trash. As a crew of volunteers in protective gear cleared out the rooms, a couple of artists sorted through the clutter to find years of work damaged by the surge of water that filled the basement during Hurricane Sandy.

“I lost at least 30 pieces,” said sculptor Dave Seccombe. “I don’t know what to say. It is just a mess.”

Many important works of art and architecture were damaged in flooding at Westbeth.
Nicole Anderson / AN

In the courtyard of the building, renovated by Richard Meier in the late 1960s, artists dried out their canvases and textile work in the sun. Conservation groups came by to advise artists on how to salvage and preserve their remaining artwork. Safety issues, however, have forced building management to expedite the clean-up process, and as a result, a fair amount of unclaimed work was discarded.

“They are weighing people’s art with safety and health,” said George Cominskie, President of Westbeth Artists Council.

Carl Stein of Elemental Architecture is the architect for the building (and worked with Meier in the ‘60s when he was a student) and said that among the work that was lost was of Richard Meier prints, known as as-builts, from the original project. But luckily, Executive Director Steve Neil scanned many of the prints a few years ago and Richard Meier & Partner Architects archived the originals.

Textiles by Susan Berger dry after the flood.
Nicole Anderson / AN

“We did have many of them, and, at Carl Stein's strong and repeated urging had them digitized a couple of years ago,” said Neil. “Since then, a few rolls have turned up that we didn't know about and which may have been lost in the flood, but I would estimate we have three-quarters of the drawings at least. They have been a lifesaver, as you might imagine.”

The archivist at Richard Meier & Partner Architects estimates the value of the 73 prints donated to Westbeth, which includes 22 prints of architectural and structural drawings and 51 sepias of electrical drawings, at $15,000.

Stein points out that while the financial loss of the prints is nominal, the “importance as informational tools was very significant.”

Two of the noguchi-designed sets that were damaged in the flooding at Westbeth.
Courtesy Something in the way and Noguchi Museum

The Martha Graham Dance Company just moved to Westbeth this summer and was not as fortunate. All of the costumes, sets, and production materials, dating back to 1926, were submerged in 10 feet of water--including iconic, original sets designed by Isamu Noguchi, which were considered groundbreaking modernist theatrical designs, as well as costumes by Halston, Oscar de la Renta, and Calvin Klein. The company estimates a loss of around $4 million, but the flood insurance will only cover $30,000.

“For those of us who have been in those costumes and danced on those sets, it is like losing a loved one,” said artistic director Janet Eilber. “The upside is Noguchi made those sets to be used. He would say ‘art should be useful.’”

The company has moved all the boxes of sets and costumes to a storage space in Yonkers, and with the help of conservators from the Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian, is figuring out what can be saved.

“The dance world deals with how ephemeral dance is. It isn’t like a painting you can store,” Eilber said. “We’re sort of lucky in this case that dance is not tangible and the dances are safe and ready to be performed.”

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In a White Room
Regen Projects.
Joshua White

“Today, Los Angeles is to New York what New York was to Paris in the 1950s,” said Perry Rubenstein, the latest Manhattan art dealer to recognize LA’s concentration of creativity and open a satellite there.

Like Matthew Marks Gallery and L&M Arts when they opened LA outposts, Rubenstein invited a local architect, Kulapat Yantrasast, principal of wHY Architecture, to fashion inventive variations on the white cube, giving it a strong sense of place within a gritty location. Los Angeles-only galleries like Blum & Poe, Regen Projects, and Samuel Freeman Gallery have taken a similar design approach.

Meanwhile, in recent years the LA art scene has branched out from affluent Santa Monica and West Hollywood, with clusters of galleries filtering into Chinatown, Culver City, and now the studio district of Hollywood. Their migration in search of affordable space has mimicked the march of galleries in New York City, from Madison Avenue to Soho and then to Chelsea and the Lower East Side.

Samuel Freeman Gallery.
Amy Stoner

What makes this urban experimentation so exciting for architects as well as the art world is clients’ passion for collaboration and excellence—rare qualities in a city where much new construction opts for expediency. Regen Projects owner Shaun Regen spent years searching for the ideal space in which to consolidate her activities. “When I first met Michael Maltzan about this project, the criteria were very simple: great proportions, beautiful light, and flexible space,” Regan recalled. She settled on Hollywood for its urbanity, history, and the opportunity to have a roof terrace overlooking the hills and city. Maltzan shared her enthusiasm. He designed an irregularly massed, white stucco block that plays off the form of a soaring Bekins storage facility a block away. The layered interior features a sweeping top-lit gallery flanked by a narrow street in front, with intimate rooms to the rear.

Matthew Marks Gallery.
Joshua White

Yantrasast pursued a similar course in remodeling a film storage facility for Perry Rubenstein a few blocks away. Rubenstein wanted something different from the generic big boxes of New York’s Chelsea district—a space that was “grand, but gracious and human in scale; visually dynamic and quietly poetic.”

Matthew Marks found a former upholstery shop on a residential street a mile to the west of Perry Rubenstein’s gallery and hired Venice architect Peter Zellner to design the freestanding building. He then invited Ellsworth Kelly to add a wall sculpture. The artist superimposed a black bar atop the blank white facade. This powerful artwork complements Zellner’s gallery, a serene white volume lit from a grid of six deep-set skylights.

Gagosian Gallery.
Joshua White

Young LA gallerist Samuel Freeman recently relocated from Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Center to Culver City, two blocks from Blum & Poe. (After first moving to the neighborhood in 2003, Blum & Poe assumed new quarters in 2009, designed by California-based Escher GuneWardena Architecture.) Warren Wagner of W3 Architects exploited the trapezoidal corner site to create exhibition spaces of varied sizes, each with glass sliders that open to an inner courtyard. He clad the exterior in white stucco and cold-rolled steel. Each gallery is ideally proportioned, and clerestories and skylights pull in natural light from different directions, giving the rooms a residential quality.

Meanwhile, the world’s most successful gallerist has returned to his roots. Larry Gagosian, who went from selling posters in Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood to running a global empire, recently commissioned Michael Palladino, a Los Angeles design partner of Richard Meier + Partners, to extend the Beverly Hills gallery his firm designed in 1995. With the addition seamlessly joined on the street facade, the building bears a new interior incorporating a bow-truss ceiling vault flanked by skylights. These forms, in turn, play off the upturned curve of the original structure, complementing its ethereal precision with simpler, earthier forms.

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Richard Meier Reinterprets Bauhaus Modernism in New Tel Aviv Luxury Tower
Architect Richard Meier is stamping downtown Tel Aviv with another luxury landmark, “Meier on Rothschild,” a mix-use residential, commercial and office complex towering 39-stories over Tel Aviv’s White City. Located on Rothschild Boulevard, the tower is Meier’s  modern take on Bauhaus architecture that characterizes the city, where two- and three-story buildings defined by minimalist and functional architecture and marked by smooth white curved exteriors are common. Meier on Rothschild was first proposed in 2005, drawing initial opposition from locals. It was a year after Meier on Rothschild broke ground in 2010 when Rothschild, becoming a new home to an array of chic residential towers, was home to a different crowd less accepting of the tower. In the summer of 2011 social justice protesters pitched dozens of tents on the boulevard demanding for affordable housing, underscoring the rising residential developments on Rothschild that cater to wealthy foreigners. The tower's 147 residential units range in size up to 8,450 square feet and feature ten-foot ceilings and up to 540 square feet of outdoor space offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean and Jaffa. The tower also includes a spa and a trendy rooftop deck with two pools, a hot tub, lounge chairs and a wine cellar. Meier said the building is “focusing on materials that are light, elegant, and transparent,” to exploit Israel’s sunlight. Prices vary from $1,100 to $1,700 per square foot, with the penthouse priced at $3,000 per square foot for a total of $50 million, making it the most expensive residence in Israel. Meier on Rothschild is currently halfway completed and is expected to be finished in early 2014.
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Cultural Calamity
Conceptual rendering of a future METRO station (lower left) on the current site of the A+D Museum.
Courtesy METRO

Since its inception, Los Angeles has struggled to build a cultural presence to put it on par with the country’s other great cities. While it has largely succeeded from an institutional point of view, ushering in some of the country’s most revered art museums, it has not always done so on a building level,with architecture and urbanism that often falls flat.

The city’s three largest art institutions—LACMA, MOCA, and the Getty—have a checkered relationship with architecture and with the city. LACMA, which was built by compromise (architect William Pereira was chosen over Mies van der Rohe and Edward Durrell Stone),waslargely torn apart by a 1986 addition by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer. The museum is still trying to put the pieces together and recently commissioned Renzo Piano to design one of his less successful cultural projects, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, on the west side of its campus. (His Resnick Pavilion and adjacent restaurant and bar have been muchmore successful.) Museum director Michael Govan started talking with revered Swiss architect Peter Zumthorin 2009 to rethink the campus, but so far that effort has nothing to

show for itself.

The same year as LACMA’s addition, 1986, MOCA commissioned one of the world's great architects, Arato Isozaki, but got one of his worst buildings, a placeless composition that hardly distinguishes the museum on Grand Avenue. The Getty, meanwhile, got what was an architectural triumph by Richard Meier in 1997, but its hilltop location left it sequestered in a literal ivory tower high above the fray of the city.

Now, as the Metro (LA County’s transit agency) purple line subway extension comes down Wilshire Boulevard, LACMA is continuing this legacy, essentially looking the other way as a number of cultural institutions—including the A+D Architecture and Design Museum, Edward Cella Art and Architecture, Steve Turner Contemporary gallery, and arts group For Your Art—across the street get bulldozed in favor of a subway construction staging ground and a new station. (Disclosure: I am a boardmember of the A+D Museum.)

Originally the stop, which is now set for the very site of the A+D Museum (conceptual renderings were just released), was to emerge from LACMA’s May Company building, the perfect solution, since it’s on the same side of the street as the area’s biggest draw, LACMA. But since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) agreed to build its new museum inside the landmark building the plan was scrapped, a move that METRO seemed all too happy to accommodate. Other alternatives, including several

feasible sites west of Fairfax (among them the parking lot of the unused Johnie’s diner and the site of a 99 cent store), were thrown out as well.

According to a lengthy report by the Miracle Mile Residents Association, the small cultural organizations remain the targets largely because of LACMA’s real estate interests in the area. The report positsthat the value of a parcel LACMA owns just east of this new portal (which it is set to develop with METRO) will skyrocket when a station is built next to it. Of course the decision to tear down the buildings on what is, for now, LA’s museum row, came as a result of many other factors, including proximity to other forms of transit, underground infrastructure, and so on. But at the end of the day the decision reveals an obvious set of priorities. LACMA, the Peterson Automotive Museum, and the future AMPAS museum are left standing, and greatly enhanced by the new subway, while several smaller arts institutions will soon be gone. The big thrive and the small are left to fend for themselves. Real estate interests, especially those of larger cultural institutions, and political maneuvering shouldn’t trump the city’s cultural life.

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The Suburban Avant-Gardes
Philip Johnson's Robert and Mary Leonhardt House, Lloyd Neck, 1954-56
Ezra Stoller / ESTO

Long Island Modernism 1930-1980
Caroline Rob Zaleski
W.W. Norton, $80.00

Architecturally many people assume nothing happened on Long Island, New York, between the Gold Coast era of the North Shore—the Gatsbyesque mansions that strung the coast of Long Island Sound—and its current state of sprawl: the endless suburb, served by the Long Island Expressway and the Long Island Railroad, shading up or down to white or blue collar, ranging in building style from tract mediocre to pretentious pastiche. There were the pretty, expensive parts—the beach communities on the South Fork, like the Hamptons—where you found architectural experimentation, or at least architects building for themselves, but the rest of Long Island was a punchline delivered in a commuter-train conductor’s voice: “Freeport, Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Massapequa, Massapequa Park!”

Long Island Modernism 1930–1980, by Caroline Rob Zaleski, has arrived to prove that notion impressively wrong. The 25 architects under discussion are not names you would readily associate with Long Island—Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Some of the names, like William Lescaze, Wallace Harrison, and Edward Durell Stone are only slightly less prominent. And some, like Jane Yu and A. Lawrence Kocher, deserve more attention.

The book is a result of a field study of modern buildings being conducted for the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. Zaleski, an architectural preservationist and historian, is the director of that survey and an important advocate for Long Island’s modernist heritage.

The Levitt and Sons office building in Lake Success, New York designed by Edward Durell Stone (left). Richard Meier's Alvin & Joan Weinstein House, Old Westbury, 1971 (right).
Ezra Stoller / ESTO

Many of the projects detailed here were responses to the two great showcases of modern ideas in Flushing Meadows, Queens: the World’s Fair of 1939 with its theme of the “World of Tomorrow” and the World’s Fair of 1964 built in reflection of our nascent Space Age.

The A. Conger Goodyear House, designed in 1939 by Edward Durell Stone, is an important transition piece from the European mansion mentality of the North Shore, “Newport on the Sound,” to European modernism. (Zaleski fought successfully to save it from demolition in 2002.) Goodyear, heir to a timber and railroad fortune, left his wife and four children back in Buffalo in 1938, moved to New York, and made his entrance into North Shore society by buying 110 acres on the highest hill in Old Westbury and putting a generously fenestrated, white brick house there. An art collector, patron of the avant-garde, and self-declared Futurist, Goodyear was also the first president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His architect, Stone, making his entrance into modernism, had lately worked on the art deco-fication of the Waldorf Astoria, and Radio City Music Hall.

Stone had a long affluent run on Long Island, which paralleled his public career as the architect of note on commissions like embassies and performing arts centers. His Lloyd Harbor house for Gabriele Lagerwall looks like a literal cross between his embassy in New Delhi and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Zaleski rises to the occasion, as architectural writers so often don’t, when pressed into play to give social context to builders and their buildings. The book is a fascinating history as well as field study. Gabriele Lagerwall, later to become “the Baroness,” is, in Zaleski’s description, “the sometime companion of numerous very rich men.” (And you thought people moved to Long Island because the schools were good.) In 1961, she buys 32 acres from the Colgates, and hires Stone, himself a member of her own international set, to design the perfect house: “a gilded getaway for a high-toned, insouciant crowd.” He does. The Villa Rielle, as it is known, has a central atrium with a large reflecting pool, where Miss Lagerwall entertains guests during the cocktail hour by taking a swim with them, the Holly Golightly of Long Island.

Richard Meier's Richard Maidman House, Kings Point, 1971-76.
Ezra Stoller / ESTO

Smaller, adventurous architectural outings are also important chapters of their own. There are several early attempts at prefabricated homes included: Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher's Aluminaire House, which Wallace Harrison and his wife Ellen purchased to live in while they put up their own house in Huntington in 1932. Frey had worked in Le Corbusier’s studio; Kocher was the managing editor of Architectural Record. The Aluminaire House, sleek on paper, was difficult to construct, leaked, and the Harrisons, after eight years in it, dubbed it the “Tin House,” for its quintessential ramshackle quality. Kocher, personally, was interested in starting an “American Bauhaus,” on Long Island, and corresponded pleadingly with Gropius about it, introducing him to deans stateside until he inadvertently landed him a job at Harvard, not Columbia. The Fort Salonga Colony, 20 acres Kocher purchased near Northport, became the site for his own weekend house, the Canvas Weekend House (this time, cotton duck for walls, not aluminum), and in lieu of a school, he talked three other families into purchasing lots and putting up “experimental” houses. The Canvas House, one room on stilts, got lots of press understandably—it looked like a toy-train version of the Villa Savoye—but without electricity, it was basically a modernist lean-to.

David L. Leavitt’s Box Kite House was a more successful adventure. Designed for an advertising executive, Bill Miller, on Fire Island in 1956, Leavitt (who was the architect on Russel and Mary Wright’s Dragon Rock; the self-promoting Wrights cut him out of the credits as the years went by) engineered a stacked structure of unfolding balconies which doubled as protective shutters off-season and Mylar walls braced in a lattice of outrigger cables that made it look like a box kite. The defiant little house—which looked like it might take off—stood bravely until it burned down from a stove fire.

Philip Johnson's Eugene & Margaret Farney House, Sagaponack, 1945-46 (left). Jane Yu's Bert & Phyllis Geller House III, Lawrence, 1978 (right).
Ezra Stoller / ESTO and Paul Warchol Photography

And Jane Yu’s house for Bert and Phyllis Geller III in Lawrence, designed in 1978, was not only a model of innovation, but a telling architectural-world morality tale. The Gellers had already built two houses on Long Island and a showroom for their shoe company in Manhattan with Marcel Breuer. Yu, who worked in Breuer’s office as an interior designer, oversaw the showroom. When the Gellers decided they needed a new house, something smaller as they were closing in on retirement, they asked Yu, not the Great Man, to give them something simple, and quickly. Perhaps the Gellers suspected, like many who have worked with famous architects, that Breuer couldn’t do simple and quick.

Yu came up with an elegant off-the-rack house: stock cedar siding, concrete blocks to suggest passages of stonework, factory-made windows. And she specified solar panels on the roof for the hot-water heater.

It is a very sweet, economical, livable design. Yu got no attention for it. The Gellers encouraged her to keep quiet about it, so as not to offend Breuer. When the mayor of Lawrence admired the house and suggested she submit it for an AIA Long Island award, Herbert Beckhard, who was responsible for the house commissions in Breuer’s office, and who was a member of the AIA award committee, refused to consider it.

Zalenski has acknowledged that her book is a kind of sequel to Long Island Country Houses and eir Architects, 1860–1940 by Robert B. Mackay, Anthony Baker, Carol A. Traynor, and Brendan Gill. Mackay is the director of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, which sponsored Zalenski’s initial study.

One doubts there will be a sequel to Zalenski’s book. Most of Long Island—if not the rest of suburban America—has become a postmodern mash-up now. We could easily have been learning from Long Island, as well as Las Vegas, when modernism failed at home. Zalenski’s examples are like ruins in a park. It’s sad, but heartening, to see them restored to freshness in these pages.

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Koons, Meier Among Design Selection Team for Tappan Zee Replacement Bridge
Jeffery Koons, perhaps best known for his quirky stainless steel glossy sculptural reproductions of balloon dogs, has been called upon by Governor Andrew Cuomo to help decide what the new Tappan Zee bridge will look like. Koons, along with Richard Meier, winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, and Thomas Campbell, Metropolitan Museum of Art Director, were named to the selection design team that will provide counsel on the construction of the Tappan Zee replacement bridge.  Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the decision in a press conference Wednesday. Meier’s most notable work includes the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and the Jubilee Church in Rome. The design team will offer advice on the bridge’s aesthetics and visual compatibility with the surrounding nature. “Another day, another big step toward creating a new bridge to replace the Tappan Zee which will be stronger, safer, better as well as one which will live up to the beauty and splendor of the Hudson River,” said Cuomo in a written statement issued earlier in the day. “For this project we are creating a different kind of selection team… a team that combines technical experts, architectural experts, local experts, as well as artists to ensure the new bridge is the best choice and fit for the region.” Cuomo will appeal for a 2.7 billion dollar federal government loan for the 5 billion dollar bridge, which has an anticipated construction date starting in early 2013 and expected completion date of 2017. The deteriorating current bridge, the longest in New York, was constructed in 1955 and crosses the Hudson River at one of its widest points between Westchester and Rockland counties.
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Ending Soon> Architecture for Humanity's "I Love Architecture" Auction
You'd better hurry if you want to snag some artwork from your favorite starchitects like Bjarke Ingels, Richard Meier, or Daniel Libeskind, there's only a few hours left to bid on items in Architecture for Humanity's fundraising acution, "I Love Architecture," which ends tonight at 7:00 p.m. The organization, which coordinates sustainable development projects, is dedicated to design that "creates lasting change in communities." Architecture for Humanity acknowledges that many are not able to afford the expertise of an architect yet the help of an architect could contribute greatly to their community. The organization aims to raise $150,000 auctioning sketches donated by notable architects. Among the 60 contributors who have provided original sketches to be auctioned are Renzo Piano, BIG, Michael Graves, SHoP, Paolo Soleri, and Fumihiko Maki. To learn more about the contest visit the organization's website or view the sketches.
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Laurie Olin
Rendering of OLIN's Constellation Park in LA's Century City.
Courtesy OLIN

Laurie Olin, recent winner of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Gold Medal, has worked on transforming public spaces around the world with Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, Cesar Pelli, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, among many others. He sat down with AN West Coast editor Sam Lubell to discuss his award, his training as an architect, and his thoughts about landscape urbanism and the state of public space on the West Coast.

Laurie Olin.
Courtesy OLIN

The Architect’s Newspaper: Describe the role of landscape architects in the development of cities.

Laurie Olin: The great anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss said cities aren’t an architectural problem, they’re a cultural landscape. That might be troubling to some architects. But the aggregate is that this is a problem beyond the individual single project or single structure.

Most people still think of architecture as being about a building. In the mid-20th century we divided everything up into a bunch of different disciplines. Most architects had, through their training, the limitation of being building-centric. So my generation, a bunch of us, had to go find a way to work on something that intrigued us more, which was the ensemble. We didn’t stop liking architecture; we started liking other problems and other pursuits. And so we had to take on systems. Systems aren’t just transportation and social systems, but they’re also natural systems. And, it turned out, for most of my career, landscape architecture has been the only discipline at the table that represents the natural world.

In the last decade or so, many architects have become deeply engaged in ecology and energy and systems—the way landscape architects have always been, which is good and healthy and proper. And so we now realize cities aren’t just architecture. For a long time people tried to solve something called urban design. Some people tried to make urban design a discipline. We in landscape architecture would argue that urban design isn’t a discipline, it’s an activity that lots of disciplines do together. It’s ensemble work. None of us can control it and none of us can do it all. So if you have a real ecological point of view, then you can do architecture, you can do landscape architecture, you can do planning. But you can’t do it all in your office.

It’s one of the things we do when we play together well. I find that it’s good for me to work with other people who know more than I do about something else. Together we can do something better than we can do by ourselves.

And you think architects are more open to that than they were ten years ago?

All the guys I work with, yes. They’re interested in what I do, but they just can’t do it all themselves. I don’t want to try to do a lot of the stuff that they’re doing. And I worked in architecture and I was pretty good.

You’re trained as an architect?

I am. I have a BArch from the University of Washington. Then I worked for some of the top architects in Seattle and then moved on to Ed Barnes’ office in New York. But I wandered off. It wasn’t that I was unhappy. It was that I was more in love with something else.

There are a lot of people from my generation who came to landscape architecture from architecture because it was seeing the limit of one’s field and seeing the potential of another. It was like when Paul Klee decided not to be a musician when he was a student in Germany. It was because he knew his limitations as a musician and he didn’t know what his limits were in art.

It seems like a huge advantage to have that knowledge. You can transform cities.

Cities are very natural formations. And they’re very organic. We can help direct the change. But no one person, no one architect, no one landscape architect, no one planner, no one agency or mayor directs it all. They can get a chunk for a period. It’s like a forest. It’s the big bundle of problems for our time. We’re becoming more urbanized. Around the world, cities are growing everywhere. We like to be together. We need to be together. So learning how to make cities rich and fecund and great places to be so we’re comfortable and healthy and happy is the biggest problem we face. The only way we’ll not go crazy is to build beautiful, rich, life-enhancing cities. It’s challenging to convince developers and officials that building those spaces that are not buildings are equally important if not more important for cities.

It’s what we have in common. The majority of open spaces in cities are streets. That means the street system is too important to leave to transportation engineers. They’re way too important to leave to just moving traffic. So I’m interested in cities because they are the design problem for a habitable planet.

You are working on projects all over the world.

Yes, but there are large chunks of the world we’re not in and shouldn’t be in. I think we need to work in places where we can be effective and we actually understand the culture somewhat. A lot. We need to be able to be effective and not just some colonial exploiter that’s mining the place. I think we need to be working on a model that’s a better model than the discredited models of our own culture. At the moment I have a couple of projects in France and one in London and one in Toronto and a few on the West Coast.

What about LA? It is the most park-poor city in the country right now.

For a long time with West Coast cities, at the end of the street there was the country, there was the ocean, and the mountains. They didn’t pay attention to what they were doing with their cities because they could get out of them so easily. But as they became too big, then the mess they had made became obvious. So now it’s very hard to go back and rip up old parts and do good public and civic space at the right scale.

In LA, I always think of the title of Roger Trancik’s book, Finding Lost Space. I love that phrase. Because there’s so much lost space in cities. A lot of our projects have been finding those and transforming them.

OLIN's redesign for Columbus Circle, New York City.
Peter Mauss/ESTO

What’s a good example?

Columbus Circle in New York City. There never was a social space there until we said it could be done. People thought we were nuts. Who would go out in the middle of a five-way intersection with Central Park right next to it? Well, you go there and it’s full of people. It’s a place that never existed. You can make these places that people need if you make them right. We just did a little park in Portland, Oregon, that’s full of people.

But one of the problems in Los Angeles is there’s this wonderful tradition of lush private space and absolutely squalid public space. Private splendor, public squalor. There are a lot of rich people in Los Angeles and a lot of money sloshing around that’s never been very civic. I can’t think of another city that has so much money yet has so few patrons of the public realm and of public art. I’m astonished. The movie industry. Those people spend vast fortunes on themselves on silly stuff, and yet they could do it so easily. I’ve always been troubled by that aspect of Los Angeles.

When Ricardo Legorretta and I did Pershing Square, which everybody hates now, we gambled on the fact that Anglos would come down from the towers and Hispanics would come over, and of course they haven’t. The citizens group that was the client collapsed and went away. One of the biggest disappointments of my life was our thinking that we knew what we were doing in that situation and we didn’t.

Did you argue with Legorretta over adding more green to Pershing Square?

I didn’t argue with him, but I should have. We were doing a place in the sun. It was heavily influenced by Latin America. But nobody wanted to come.

People don’t use parks in downtown LA. If there was a good one I think they would. They’re starting to move back. I think the LA River plan, if that happens, will help. I think the notion of some of the little infill spaces, making nice spaces next to where people are, is very important. If one were to build a few pieces of really superb public landscape, people would come. But they have to be put in a good place.

Can you talk about your new office in LA?

Yes, we have a new office in LA. We’re in Hollywood. So after all these years of resisting the West Coast we’re finally here. We have a little park called Plummer Park under construction now in West Hollywood. We have Constellation Park in Century City. We’re also working on a master plan for the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.

We’ve worked with a lot of firms in LA. We worked with Richard Meier on the Getty. We work with Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale. I work with Frank Gehry all the time. I love Frank. We’ve done three plans for Grand Avenue and they’ve all failed miserably. Right now I’m working with him on a new house. He had one going in Venice for a while. He dropped that but now he’s doing a house in Santa Monica.

Los Angeles is one of the great world cities. Everybody knows it. And it has money and it has energy. It needs some direction, something physical. The transience of things gets on your nerves.

It seems like the merger of landscape and architecture is a fascinating new direction, especially when you have less open space.

I see that a lot of projects that are like what we’ve tried to do are now getting done. Even in America. When I was working with ZGF on a conference center in Salt Lake City, it’s an enormous space. The roof is six acres. Four acres of which is an alpine meadow, and the sides are like a canyon with native vegetation. It’s beautiful. We’ve been working on structures for over 30 years, but now it’s the new normal.

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Richard Meier Retrospective to Debut in Mexico City
Richard Meier Retrospective The Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil Revolución 1608, San Angel, Álvaro Obregón Mexico City Through August 26 The Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil will present a retrospective of the Richard Meier's most emblematic works. The exhibition includes artifacts from throughout Meier’s career, including models, original sketches, renderings, and photographs. Iconic projects such as the Smith House, The Getty Center, and the High Museum of Art will be exhibited. Also on display are unbuilt competition proposals for the World Trade Center Memorial, the New York Avery Fisher Hall, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, as well as ongoing projects in Mexico. Meier writes in a statement, “Mexico City is an amazing and fascinating city full of history and great architecture. It is a pleasure and honor to have our work on display in a city where we are about to start several new architectural projects.”
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Wanted: Neighborhood for Aluminaire
  The Aluminaire House is homeless once again. Built in 1931 for the Allied Arts and Industry and Architectural League Exhibition, the house introduced prefabricated design methods espoused by Le Corbusier to an American audience. Corbu disciple Albert Frey designed the house with A. Lawrence Kocher, onetime editor at Architectural Record. After more than 100,000 visitors passed through, the architect Wallace Harrision snapped it up and placed it on his estate to be used as guest house. The building later was featured in Hitchcock and Johnson's 1932 MoMA exhibition and in their book The International Style. Eventually, the house came under the care of the New York Institute of Technology and onto their former Islip campus. Last month, the house was dismantled once again and handed over to the newly formed Aluminaire House Foundation, run by architects Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting of Campani and Schwarting Architects. It would seem that the repetitious reassembly and dismantling has inadvertently supported the modular mass production theories of the house’s designers. With that in mind, the foundation is looking for a low-rise high-density site on the outskirts of New York City where the house might not necessarily be an aesthetic fit, but a theoretical one. In a telephone interview Schwarting said that that a place like Forrest Hills Queens, where Kocher once lived, might be an interesting notion, in so much as this too was middle class housing for a planned community. The group has also identified a site in Sunnyside Gardens, which was arose in nearly same period of the Aluminaire, but was built in a stripped-down colonial revival style.  But Schwarting noted that, like Sunnyside's housing stock, the plan for the house was to be as repeatable as the multiblock redbrick abodes found there. “They were both looking at housing problems at the same time,” said Schwarting. “They’re visually very different, but they were addressing the same issues.” The group has looked into other locales and entities. They’ve been in touch with Barry Bergdoll at MoMA. “It’s fairly demanding in putting the house back together the way it was,” said Schwarting. “With a museum it becomes an art object and I don’t think we need to go that far.” Giving the house over to a public entity such as the Parks Department would involve all negotiating a caretaker situation with a department that is already stretched to the limit, as was demonstrated in the recent Poe Park Visitor Center debacle.  They even talked to Richard Meier as he did the layout for the Houses of Sagaponac development, but that deal fell through, which was probably a fortuitous. “We hope to return to the house to the agenda of the early modern movement,” said Schwarting. “If we can put it in a reasonable setting, where its original intentions for affordable housing are reflected, that would be ideal.”
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Seagram and Lever to Get a Swanky New Neighbor
L&L Holding Company, owners of a midcentury office tower at 425 Park Avenue, are looking to build a new, high design office tower on that site. It would be the first new office tower built on Park Avenue since the 1980s. Some of the biggest names in architecture are competing for the job: Ateliers Jean Nouvel, Ateliers Christian de Portzamparc, Herzog & de Meuron, Foster & Partners, Zaha Hadid Architects, OMA, Maki and Associates, KPF, Richard Meier and Partners, Rogers Sirk Harbour + Partners, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the center for urban real estate at Columbia, is running the competition for L&L. "This competition of ideas is the first step in the process of realizing a globally advanced, bespoke skyscraper that will both complement Park Avenue’s existing architectural treasures and make its own indelible mark in the world’s most timeless office corridor,” he said in a statement.