Search results for "Richard Meier"

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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.
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Eating Champ & Starchitect Celebrate Damn Good Advice
Massimo Vignelli and George Lois. (Courtesy Phaidon) During festivities for the launch of his book Damn Good Advice (For People With Talent), legendary art director and advertising guru George Lois announced that he will donate his professional archive to the Vignelli Center for Graphic Design Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. At the launch, a star-studded guest list including Massimo and Leila Vignelli, architect Richard Meier, and competitive eating champion Kobayashi packed NYC's Art Directors' Club. The addition of Lois' work bolsters the archive's reputation as a world-class resource for design researchers.
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Architects Design Fashions for A+D Museum's Celebrate Fundraiser
This Saturday, LA’s A+D Museum will host its annual fundraising banquet, Celebrate. This year's event will not only include music from KCRW DJ Raul Campos (himself a trained urban planner) and some impressive celebs (including our favorite architecture fan Moby), but it will feature a runway show with custom clothing and accessories by architects and designers like Richard Meier, Neil Denari, Predock Frane, BMW Designworks, Karim Rashid, Robert A.M. Stern and  many others. The runway show and live auction will be hosted by LA humorist Charles Phoenix and by Frances Anderton, host of KCRW’s DnA. Click on a thumbnail to see the slideshow of the uber fashions.
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Zahner, Zaha's Schumacher, CASE, and More: Facades Conference 2012
Fabrikator Brought to you by:

Architects and fabricators discuss creating facades in the digital age

Yesterday The Architect’s Newspaper and the Ornamental Metal Institute of New York presented their first-ever educational conference at McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York. More than 250 professionals and students attended the event, themed Metals in Construction, which addressed facade design in an age when skilled collaboration between architects, consultants, and fabricators can more than ever affect a building’s performance and longevity. The day began with a presentation by Bill Zahner, who spoke of his company's forward-looking work with metal facades, then moved into discussions covering everything from new retrofit strategies to the latest projects from Zaha Hadid Architects with the firm's director, Patrik Schumacher. The day also included the official announcement of a new international alliance of academics, professional designers, hardware and software developers and digital fabricators. Born out of a regional organization known as Tex-Fab, the group will be called Digital Fabrication Alliance and offered a look at the kind of minds it will be bringing together at future events with a panel discussion with Phillip Anzalone, Anna Dyson, and Erik Verboon. Read on for AN's coverage of the day's events:
  • Who Architects, engineers, facade consultants, fabricators, and design professionals
  • Location New York, New York
  • Status Conference
  • Presenters The Architect's Newspaper, The Ornamental Metal Institute of New York
6:00PM Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects wrapped up the conference with a lush panorama of photos from the firm's portfolio. It was a real world anecdote of the behind the scenes BIM programing that was on display throughout the day. Schumacher set the tone by telling the crowd, "It's important that the expressed structure gives the whole project credibility." Before BIM, Schumacher recalled the early days of the firm of exploiting the "physics of the hand movement" through a "huge array of french curves," many custom made so as to satiate Zaha's desire for a "literal translation of the hand sketch." Before BIM, Schumacher recalled the early days of the firm of exploiting the "physics of the hand movement" through a "huge array of french curves," many custom made so as to satiate Zaha's desire for a "literal translation of the hand sketch." From the London Olympic's Aquatic Center to under-construction images of the Rabat Grand Theater in Morocco, the slideshow idealized the Zaha aesthetic where, in Schumacher's words, "you draw people into a tight curve to release them into a wider curve." But Schumacher said that the raison d'être of parametricism is to fight the Fordism of Modernism--and not just in the environment, but in society. "That era produced a handful of standards, a unified consumption standard: same car, same house, with everyone isolated in particular cells with everybody ticking away like little beavers," he said. He added that such production created zones separating society, which is virtually impossible in today's interconnected world where "hyper dense" communication is integral to the profession instead of "industrial clusters." "That need to transform, that's our repertoire," he said. "Architecture is where association and connections can make a difference." 3:15PM Anna Dyson, of the Center for Architecture Science and Technology, spoke about the latest developments in the HeliOptix solar panels, glass panels that harvest energy while allowing light to flood into a building's interior. Part of the presentation included a more detailed rendering HeliOptix wall intended for the SHoP-designed FIT building planned for an empty parking lot on 26th Street. After the lecture, Dyson confirmed that FIT is still hoping to close a $52 million gap left after City backed away from its share of the $148 million proposal. The solar panels have continued to develop over the past twelve years to about 83 percent efficiency for heat and power production--compared to 14 to 25 percent for a standard panels. We have the last three generations to show you here, but for proprietary reasons we can't show the last iteration (but check it out at the upcoming Smartgeometry workshop in Troy, NY where it'll debut next). 2:20 PM Representing what he called "the largest real estate organization in the world," GSA's Dirk Meyer said that  despite the organization's size, it's not what it used to be. The GSA had 70,000 employees in 1970 and now employs 12,600, of which the Public Building Services represent a mere 6,000. As such, the Feds literally must do more with less. But despite the cuts, the Design Excellence program keeps design standards high. "I walk into a Richard Meier courthouse in Islip, and I am in awe," he said. "It makes me proud to be a federal employee." When asked by AN's Julie Iovine whether he's concerned if a shift in government policy might further whittle away at the program, Meyer diplomatically demurred, "That question's way beyond my pay grade." Nevertheless, he looked to the future, particularly when it comes to facades. While acknowledging that the conference was metal-focused, he noted that glass facades remain a big concern at GSA. He quoted Walterloo University's John Straube who said "No glazed system that is presently available can come close to the level of performance delivered by a simple and relatively opaque wall system." Meyer said that glass mitigation concerns differ greatly for federal buildings--what's needed to sustain impact from a hurricane is different from sustaining impact of a blast. Consultants are hired for blast mitigation, water mitigation, bird mitigation… With his eight-year-old in the audience, Meyer indicated it might not be a bad idea for the next generation to look into becoming glass consultants. 12:45PM SHoP's Jonathan Mallie presented a detailed PowerPoint of the Barclays Center that was riveting not just for the building's millions of rivets, but for an iPhone app that allows the client to check in on placement progress of the building's 12,000 weathered metal panels. Allowing such client attention to detail may or may not always be a good thing, said Mallie. The firm is now reexamining how transparent the process should be in order to avoid unnecessary micro management.   11:00 AM ENCLOS's Mic Patterson delivered a presentation covering the current state of retrofitting affairs. While the company's work deals with some masterpieces of Modernism, Patterson expressed serious concern about the sustainability of new designs as well. Regarding older buildings, Patterson noted that there's no better place to talk about it than the conference's locale, at the McGraw-Hill building in Rockefeller Center. "Air infiltration is a huge problem, these buildings never did perform well to start with," he said. But Patterson's criticism wasn't limited to the past. He noted that while new facade designs have kept up with digital technology, they're often not designed to be retrofitted. He encouraged architects and manufacturers to take future retrofits into consideration in the design. He added that while today's architect has a million types of glass to choose from, most new glass is not recyclable. The glass may be designed to help attain LEED certification, but ultimately it doesn't make the sustainability cut if it ends up in a landfill. 10:00 AM Collaboration, the Facades and Digital Fabrication Conference sponsored by The Architect's Newspaper and the Ornamental Metal Institute of New York, got off to an intriguing start this morning with Bill Zahner's presentation of an otherworldly facade produced for the Sisters of St. Theresa in Kansas City. While Zahner showed couture projects from Gehry and Mayne, it was the humble lace-inspired facade that got the tears. As the nuns' Italian history was steeped in lace-making, the direct riff created for the client making them weep. "'We think you were sent by God,'" Zahner recalled them saying. "And I kept thinking, 'How am I gonna put that on my resume?'" On a more serious note, Zahner talked about the precision inherent in using negative patterns on metallic facades. "When you talk about selling voids here we're really selling nothing," he said of the of cutout patterns. But where the seams of the patterned panels meet provides the greatest challenge. "If you don't have it precisely located, it really ruins the design," he said. 8:00 AM The AN editorial team is on hand for the Collaboration: Facades and Digital Fabrication conference, now in progress at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center in Manhattan. We'll be live blogging and tweeting @archpaper with hashtag #facadeconference throughout the day, so check back and follow us on twitter for updates!
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Mitikah Tower
Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Mitikah Office Tower
Architect: Richard Meier & Partners
Client: IDEURBAN/IDCity
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Completion: 2014

Richard Meier & Partners have released plans for Mitikah Office Tower, located in the Delegación Benito Juárez in Mexico City, as part of a mixed-use master plan designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and developed by by Mexico City–based IDEURBAN/IDCity. The site incorporates commercial, residential, hotel, and office space into the existing residential community; a retail plaza to the north and an elevated highway to the south flank the tower while its translucent base makes the lobby visible from all approaching angles.

   
 

At 34 stories, Mitikah Office Tower will function as a visual transition between the commercial space of the development site and the highway and neighboring residential areas. The tower’s facade is composed of curtain glass; its low thermal emissivity panels maximize natural daylight while reducing solar energy intake. The south- and east-facing facade wraps around the tower, creating, as design partner-in-charge Bernhard Karpf describes, “a modern interpretation of Aztec forms.” Meier associate and project architect Ringo Offermann further explained that the history of Mexico City and geometric Aztec forms inspired the more sculptural southern facade of the tower, which faces the property line, while the northern facade defers to the collection of buildings within the master plan.

On the 19th floor, an orb-like conference pavilion and sky garden carve out a void in the floors immediately above, covered by a narrow brise-soleil that hangs off the south facade.A restaurant and bar on the top floor will provide a destination for visitors and a six-story parking garage underneath accommodates parking for the rest of the site. This is Meier’s third recent project underway in Mexico.

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Keeping Up the Good Fight
Richard Meier's Federal Courthouse in Islip, Long Island.
Douglas Palmer / Flickr

An unofficial 1962 memo entitled Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture is perhaps the most important piece of public policy to include architecture since the 1902 McMillan Commission. The memo will celebrate its 50th anniversary on May 23 but few architects have ever heard of the document. It seems to have been the sole creation of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who at the time was an assistant secretary of labor under Arthur Goldberg. Goldberg was concerned about Washington D.C.'s growing federal bureaucracy and lack of adequate modern office and court room space (no major government building projects had been started in the capital since the 1930s), and he asked Moynihan to outline the problem and suggest some solutions. The result was something much more far reaching than the Secretary expected from the ambitious young New Yorker, and it may also explain why not much happened with it for thirty-plus years. In the 1960s as today, the General Services Administration handled all government building design and construction projects, but they also selected their architects. The results of this policy were that few buildings were built of any architectural merit (with some exceptions, like Mies van der Rohe’s 1964 design for Chicago's federal courthouse), and many were even considered eyesores in their communities.

Moynihan suggested that the government begin encouraging the country's best architects to submit designs and plans for federal projects. And in order to attract the best architects, he further suggested moving away from any notion of an official government style. As legal writer Daniel Brook pointed out in Legal Affairs journal (2005), Moynihan suggested that "It should be our object to meet the test of Pericles' evocation to the Athenians: ‘We do not imitate—for we are a model to others.’ Federal architecture, should embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought.” Fifteen years later, when Moynihan was elected senator from New York, he introduced a bill to require juried design competitions for federal projects, but the bill never made it out of committee.

The 1962 Moynihan memo did eventually lead to the creation in 1994 of the GSA’s Design Excellence program under its farsighted deputy director Ed Feiner. It was Feiner who, hoping to establish a proper selection process to ensure a higher quality of architecture, seized on Moynihan’s memo as the basis for the program. The program under Feiner and now Casey Jones has been responsible for drastically upgrading the quality of federal architecture and infrastructure projects all over the United States. This GSA policy has instituted juried competitions and peer review procedures that have produced an unprecedented number of important projects (at least since the time of Jefferson, Latrobe, H.H. Richardson and McKim, Mead and White). It is exactly the type of federal program that current groups like the Tea Party are itching to axe from the Federal budget.

Let’s hope this will not happen, but should the Tea Party and their Republican allies in Congress take political control in next year’s national elections, what they hope to delete from government includes banning HUD from spending money on the support of “ill-defined rubrics, such as ‘sustainability,’ ‘livability,’ ‘inclusivity,’ and ‘equity,’” according to an excellent policy paper President Barack Obama and The Forgotten Urban Agenda written by Greg Hascom in the environmental news and commentary website Grist. Under such circumstances, staying the course of good design will be even tougher than it was in Moynihan’s day, but just as essential, if not more so.

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Taking Stock
Residence by Thomas Phifer on Fisher's Island in New York.
Scott Frances / Otto

New York-based OTTO Archive, a new photo licensing agency specializing in architecture and design, takes the photographer’s mantra “You are what you shoot” seriously.

Eight well-established photographers have signed on with OTTO, launched in October by Bill Hannigan and Thea Vaughan. The partners, both veterans of the syndicating superpower Corbis Images, founded their first licensing agency, AUGUST Image in 2007 to represent the work of portrait and lifestyle photographers. The same year, they also started Vaughan Hannigan, a small artists management agency through which they met Scott Frances, an architectural photographer of works by Richard Meier, Thomas Phifer, and Kengo Kuma, among other well-known architects. It was by managing Frances’ career that the duo identified what they felt was an underserved market in licensing archival architectural photography. Soon after, Hannigan and Vaughan created OTTO, a name chosen both for its connection to their first company—August, the eighth month—and for the pleasing graphic symmetry built into a palindrome.

“It’s a very tailored, very tight roster. We have an elite bunch,” said Vaughan of OTTO’s photographers, who in addition to Frances include Richard Barnes, Ty Cole, and Michael Moran, to name a few in a hand-picked group that Vaughan guessed might grow to 20 but no more than 25. OTTO’s emphasis will be on presenting curated portfolios of work developed through the duo’s hands-on approach. If photographers who join OTTO have archival images already licensed by other agencies, say ESTO, OTTO plans to acquire selected images as those contracts expire.

On a crisp, minimalist Web site, users register at no cost in order to view photographers’ portfolios. But Hannigan and Vaughan have no intention of sitting back and letting potential clients discover them through a Google search. While the company is small, with only four fulltime staff, it promises a vast global reach thanks to partnerships with agents in more than a dozen cities around the world.

For Scott Frances, it’s this reach, agility, and proactive attitude that sets OTTO apart in archival licensing, a field with few players. “They can sell globally and quickly, and they’re not waiting for the phone to ring,” said Frances. With today’s publishers constantly hunting for content to fill newer channels like Web sites and iPad apps, high-profile architecture photography has the potential to stay relevant and earn residual fees for years. “Photographing a Richard Meier building isn’t like photographing a tube of lipstick or a dress,” said Frances. “One thing about architecture and design imagery is that good architecture has a long life.”

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Activists Press On for AIDS Memorial at Triangle Park
On the eve of World AIDS Day, dozens crammed into the City Planning building in downtown Manhattan where the Rudin Organization presented plans for the former St. Vincent’s Hospital site at a Universal Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) hearing.  The commission is set to vote on the plan on January 24, but over the last few months yet another issue has emerged at the long contested site. Activists from the Queer History Alliance continue to press for an AIDS Memorial to be placed at a proposed park across the street from the former hospital, which was considered ground zero during the height of the AIDS crisis. The so-called Triangle Park has played an interesting role throughout the ULURP. Privately owned by the Rudin family, the park, along with the old O’Toole building, holds air-rights integrated into the development plan across the street where the Rudins want to build a multi-use project that includes housing, retail and a school. The park sits atop an underground storage space. The Queer History Alliance would like to turn the park into a memorial and the storage space into a museum. Rudin representatives expressed concerns that ranged from above ground access via elevators and stairs, to a Certificate of Occupancy for an underground museum, and adjustments to the environmental impact study. Earlier this year, Queer History's Christopher Tepper and Paul Kelterborn, both urban planners, began lobbying for the memorial and by September the group announced a partnership with Architizer to sponsor an international competition for new designs, despite the fact that the Rudins had already retained landscape architects M. Paul Friedberg and Partners for the project. On Monday, Architectural Record signed on as a co-sponsor. The deadline for the competition is January 21 with winners announced on February 1eleven days after City Planning’s vote. Tepper said that the competition would seek to combine passive recreation with memorializing. “We don’t want a park that is designed independently from a memorial,” Tepper said in a telephone interview. “It’s about marrying those two ideas.” He added that the group is looking for a “thoughtful place holder and flexibility so that the design process can work its way through.” By proposing the memorial, the Queer History Alliance threw the latest monkey wrench into the Rudins' five-year odyssey, which saw the collapse of St. Vincent’s, an unrealized Pei Cobb Freed design, the preservation of Albert C. Ledner’s Maritime Union Building (aka-the O’Toole Building), and new design proposals for the Triangle Park, seen by many as a new gateway to Greenwich Village. The jury for the competition includes many arch-world stars, but jumps beyond borders. Michael Arad will chair. He is joined by Record's Suzanne Stephens, landscape architect Ken Smith, novelist Kurt Andersen, MoMA’s Barry Bergdoll, Elizabeth Diller, the High Line’s Robert Hammond, GMHC’s Marjorie Hill, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and Richard Meier. There has been some pushback from residents. While the community board supported the notion of the memorial, it also held reservations about using the below ground space. At a meeting in September one resident pointed out that the Village already has an AIDS memorial in Hudson River Park. Nevertheless, the board favored the memorial, as did Borough President Scott Stringer. At the hearing, Rudin executive vice president John Gilbert pointed out that the project encompassed practically every major urban issue, from education, to preservation, to housing, and open space. "All well meaning policies collide here," he said of the site. No matter the outcome of the competition, any commemoration would need support from the Rudins, as they own the property. Earlier M. Paul Freidberg designs did include gestures towards memorializing the AIDS crisis and the Sisters of Mercy who worked at St. Vincent’s through discrete pavement markers. But a discrete plaque is not what the Queer Historians have in mind. “No way is that type of marker commensurate with 100,000 New Yorkers who have died,” said Tepper.