Search results for "Richard Meier"

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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.
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Paper Tiger
Titanic, 1978.
Courtesy The Yale School of Architecture

Ceci n’est pas une reverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman
Yale School of Architecture Gallery
Through November 4

What does it say about an architect’s career if his best-known work, the largest image in a half-century retrospective, is a photo-collage of Mies van der Rohe’s 1956 Crown Hall, sinking slowly beneath the waters of Lake Michigan? I’ll tell you what I think it says about Stanley Tigerman: He’s better as a satirist than as an architect. And it isn’t only me that might have preferred a show titled, “The Provocations of Stanley Tigerman.”

 
Stanley Tigerman with the Instant City Model, 1966.
 

Reading curator Emanuel Petit’s opening text about how Tigerman (who graduated from Yale in 1961, and has practiced in Chicago ever since) embraces “the spiritual and ethical value of ambivalence” and “resist[s] the traditional aesthete’s credo of purging art of its disturbances” I rolled my eyes at Petit’s humorless, academicizing prose, but thought, So far, so good. Here we are in the territory of the Yale-educated post-modernists, who learned from Paul Rudolph (there’s some lovely Rudolphian and Kahnian early work by Tigerman in the section “Yaleiana”) and then headed West. That Tigerman was already looking beyond the reigning architecture gods is made clear by the inclusion of a set of his early 1960s experiments in Op Art.

One feels tremendous sympathy for the rage to get out of the long shadow of Mies, which Tigerman channeled into exhibitions and publications with a sort of Salon des Refuses, The Chicago Seven. You see how cheeky (literally) Tigerman’s cartoons were, with their filigree of naked putti. I get the joy inherent in designing a work like the 1976-77 Labadie House, shown here in exquisite large-scale cutaway axonometric drawings, with its cascades of Corbusian piano-curves, its repeated spiral stairs. There’s something tender about this 1970s work. When’s the last time you visited an architecture exhibit with no photographs? It may be hard to tell the built from the unbuilt, but it is an effective statement about self-representation.

But is it the Labadie house I would want to live in? No. It is a provocation as a house, Richard Meier with a stutter, mannerist in the extreme. It is the Vanna Venturi House ten years later, richer in execution but still architecture with more head than heart. The shadow of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown hangs over the exhibition, and I feel the same way about them as I do about Tigerman: respect the mind, feel nothing for the built work. More importantly, is it a house with followers? I don’t think so.

     
left to right: Romeo & Juliet Two Towers Drawing, 1982; Career Collage, 1978; Formica Showroom—Grid Axonometric, 1986; Architoon—Houston, 1983.
 

Petit has divided the show into fancifully-named sections (even more fancifully designated with cartoony clouds in a very post-modern blue): “Drift” and “Humor,” “Allegory” and “Death.” But most of the buildings could easily come under the category “Allegory,” which makes them seem like verbal stunts. There’s Anti-Cruelty Society Addition (1979) with a dog face. The Daisy House (1976-78) that looks like private parts in plan. And to show that he continues to design in this way, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center (2000) with a dark building through which you descend, a light building through which you ascend. It may be effective as an exhibition, but seems too literal to be good, long-lasting architecture.

This sounds dismissive. I was hoping the exhibition would give me an image from Tigerman’s own architecture I could admire, and prove his importance. In an accompanying video Yale Dean Robert A.M. Stern says of Tigerman, “One of the best parts of Stanley is he’s outrageous.” But the outrages all feel past. Already the in-jokes and references from the 1970s are becoming hard to decipher, and soon the provocations and tiffs will also be history. Architecture needs shows like this so we can annotate the jokes before their meaning is gone, but that’s a narrow path to tread. It has nothing of the cheekiness and energy of the original sinking of Crown Hall.

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Going to the Chapel
Tadao Ando's Church on the Water in Tomamu, Japan.
Richard Pare

Constructing the Ineffable
Karla Cavarra Britton, editor
Yale School of Architecture / Yale University Press, $50.00

Constructing the Ineffable, edited by Karla Cavarra Britton, is a wonderful collection of intelligent essays about sacred space. For any architect who may be contemplating, or has been commissioned to design, a sacred space, this book is required reading.

Britton, who conceived and edited the book and is a lecturer in architectural history and urbanism at the Yale School of Architecture, begins the book with an intelligent introductory essay, where she raises the point that, “whereas the early twentieth century was a time when very little attention was paid to religion, the early twenty-first century has seen an enormous increase in the role and the importance of religion in every day life.” She lays the ground for her book in her prologue with Le Corbusier’s statement. “I am the inventor of the phrase ‘ineffable space,’” from an interview at La Tourette in 1961. Ms. Britton uses the introduction to pose the question answered by each of the contributors, “Is it possible to speak coherently of constructing the ineffable?”


Steven Holl's Chapel of St. Ignatious in Seattle.
Courtesy Yale School of Architecture
 
 

The book is divided into three parts. Part one encompasses a series of essays starting with “The Earth, the Temple and Today” by Vincent Scully. Scully, emeritus professor in the History of Art at Yale, points out how the rise of aggressive fundamentalism in all religions has made investigations of sacred space complex and even dangerous. Karsten Harries writes a provocative piece pointing to Johnson and Burgee’s Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California as a building that is no more sacred in detail, materiality, or place than a big box store. Miroslav Volf, the Yale Center for Faith and Culture director, addresses notions of the sacred from the perspective of memory. Mark Taylor, the chair of Department of Religion at Columbia, challenges us to understand what we see as sacred, and to distinguish this from the religious. Emilie Townes, professor of African American Religion and Theology at Yale, lists and discusses provocatively named places of worship, including the “One Way Deliverance Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God,” for example.

Part two deals with precedents, and includes essays by architect Thomas Beeby discussing Rudolf Schwarz’s book The Church Incarnate, the Catholic Reform movement in Germany, and its influence on the works of Mies. Columbia architectural historian Kenneth Frampton discusses spirituality in the work of Tadao Ando and its dialogue with geometry and landscape. Harvard professor of Religion Diana Eck discusses her work investigating temples in India and the meaning of sacred space, beginning with the city of Banaras. Finally, Jaime Lara, a History of Art lecturer at Yale, contributed the essay, “Visionaries or Lunatics? Architects of Sacred Space, even in Outer Space,” which traces a history of visionary architecture starting with the works of Boullee, the writings of Jules Verne, the Futurists, the works of Oscar Niemeyer, and ending with the Doman Moon Chapel from 1967.

   
Left to right: Peter Eisenman's Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe Holocaust Memorial in Berlin; Interior of Oscar Niemeyer's Metropolitan Cathedral in Brasilia, Brazil; Light cannons in Le Corbusier's Monastery of Notre Dame de la Tourette.
 

Part three presents essays from eight architects who have designed religious buildings: Stanley Tigerman, Richard Meier, Rafael Moneo, Fariborz Sahba, Steven Holl, Moshe Safdie, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, and Moshe Safdie. Safdie, in whose essay we have the words of a master paying attention to the small details, sets forth basic dilemmas: how the architect thinks about the site and how she/he understands the materials of the local region. Safdie relays a discussion about the Friday Mosque in Esfahan, Iran, beginning with a friend’s comment that the dome represents the Islamic vision of cosmic wholeness. To the contrary, Safdie points out: “The dome’s evolution is really a result of the fact that here, in Iran’s desert, there is no wood to make beams or trusses, only brick and stones to span. When you have no wood, you create arches, domes and vaults.” This point, seemingly obvious once stated, is striking in its intelligence, logic, and simplicity.

An impressive final epilogue by Paul Goldberger zips up the book and caps an engrossing read. Mr. Goldberger takes us through a final architectural tour and history, touching on unremarked, favorite works of architecture: the Friends Meeting House in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvannia; Plecnik’s Church of the Sacred Heart in Prague; Fay Jones’ Thorncrown in Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields in London. Perhaps it’s my undergraduate art history background speaking, but for me the book was a joy in revealing new interpretations of favorite works of architecture, discussed incisively by intelligent and insightful historians and theologians, with contemporary architects to provide a counter-point to the heavy lifting of the academics.

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Making Meaning
Courtesy Silverstein
 

2001

November
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) established.

December
[ 01 ] A viewing platform overlooking ground zero designed by Diller & Scofidio, David Rockwell, and Kevin Kennon opens to large crowds.

 

AN 02_12.08.2003 > Read full article.

“Surely, we can afford to make Ground Zero a place of peaceable assembly for everyone. Indeed, if terror demands a civic reply, what better than a solemn memorial to those lost and a space for the most fundamental exercise of democracy in space, the freedom to gather in a place that is our own.”
-Michael Sorkin, Architect




AN 14_09.07.2004 > Read full article.

“The first and most difficult problem is so obvious that it is amazing that none of the brilliant architects assembled in the design competition dealt with the issue. The site of Ground Zero slopes down 30 feet from Broadway to West Street and the Hudson. This means that the site must be dealt with as a series of platforms from east to west and that north-south cross streets like Church and Greenwich must act as a series of steps across the site. Minoru Yamasaki’s World Trade Center design for the PA completely ignored the island’s topography.”
-D. Grahame Shane, Professor




AN 16_10.05.2005 > Read full article.

“Over the past two years, the tower has gradually been stripped of its best attributes. The final blow was delivered earlier this summer by the New York Police Department, which forced a total redesign when it demanded a greater setback from the street and a heavy barricade to resist potential bombs. Now, just after the fourth anniversary of 9/11, the Freedom Tower has become a bland prism with a forbidding 200-foot-high concrete base.”
-Jonathan Massey, Historian










2002

January 17
The exhibition, “A New World Trade Center - Design Proposals,” 58 submissions by celebrated architects, draws long lines to Max Protetch Gallery in Chelsea.

April
LMDC releases Blueprint for the Future of Lower Manhattan with 15 points outlining the need for transportation, culture, commerce, memorial space, and a reestablished connection to the city grid.

July
Beyer Blinder Belle present planning studies at the Javits Center, plus two New Urbanism-inspired plans by Peterson Littenberg. All are widely reviled by the public and in the media.

August
LMDC announces Innovative Design Study, a call for qualifications. That it is not a competition is disregarded by all parties.

September
Teams are announced: THINK led by Frederick Schwartz and Rafael Viñoly; Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier, Steven Holl, and Charles Gwathmey; Foster & Partners; United Architects; SOM; and Studio Daniel Libeskind.

December
[ 02 ] The six designs are presented in the Winter Garden starting with Studio Daniel Libeskind’s “Memory Foundations,” the cheapest proposal at $330 million.

2003

February 24
On the eve of LMDC’s selection, Schwartz, Viñoly, and Libeskind appear on Oprah Winfrey Show.

February 26
[ 03 ]The New York Times announces on page one that LMDC has chosen the THINK scheme.

February 27
Governor George Pataki officially selects the Libeskind plan.

April
An open competition for the memorial is announced.

June
By deadline, 5,201 proposals for the memorial are submitted.

July
After it is reported that developer Larry Silverstein’s architect David Childs from SOM and masterplan architect Libeskind cannot be left alone in the same room, LMDC announces that Childs and Libeskind are official collaborators on the $1.2 billion office, now named the Freedom Tower by Governor Pataki.

November
Libeskind floats a 59-page treatment for a memoir: “The Foundations of Optimism: My Journey from Communist Poland to Rebuilding the World Trade Center” that will ultimately be published as Breaking Ground: An Immigrant’s Journey from Poland to Ground Zero (Riverhead Trade) in October 2005.

November
Eight finalists for the memorial competition are announced.

December
[ 04 ] Revised design for the Freedom Tower is released.

2004

January
[ 05 ] The Federal Transit Administration announces that Santiago Calatrava will design the WTC transportation hub.

[ 06 ] Libeskind’s Wedge of Light concept is displaced by and then absorbed into the transit hub.

January
[ 07 ] Michael Arad’s “Reflecting Absence,” now a collaborative work with landscape designer Peter Walker is selected for the memorial. The design does not include several Libeskind ideas, including the sunken bathtub and ramps. The focus on the tower footprints includes the names of those who died viewed through waterfalls.

March
Shortlists name potential institutions for the site’s cultural component: a 50,00-70,000-square-foot Memorial Complex (Museum of the City of New York; New York Historical Society; New York State Museum; Project Rebirth; Sound Portraits Productions); a 100,000-200,000-square-foot Performing Arts Complex (The Joyce Theater; New York City Opera; Signature Theater Company; Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Tribeca Film Institute); and a 200,000–250,000- square-foot Cultural Building (Children’s Museum of the Arts; Drawing Center; Museum of Freedom; New York Hall of Science).

July 4
[ 08 ] Governor Pataki attends the ceremonial laying of a 20-ton block of granite as cornerstone of the Freedom Tower that will be removed again in June 2006.

April
Davis Brody Bond join the Arad/Walker team as associate architect for the Memorial, eventually becoming the architects of the underground Memorial Museum.

June
Tenants selected for the Museum Complex are the International Freedom Center and The Drawing Center. The Performing Arts Complex is to house the Joyce and the Signature theaters.

August
Shortlist of six firms for the Memorial Complex is released, including Moshe Safdie and Associates; Pei Cobb Freed and Partners; Polshek Partnership; Robbrecht en Daem architects with Pasanella and Klein; Stolzman and Berg Architects; Shigeru Ban Architect + Frei Otto with Dean Maltz Architect; and Snøhetta.

August
The shortlist for the Performing Arts Complex includes ten firms: Bing Thom Architects with Meyer/Gifford/Jones architects, Gehry Partners; Moshe Safdie and Associates; OMA and LMN; Polshek Partnership; Rafael Viñoly Architects; Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Ten Arquitectos and H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; and Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.

October
Snøhetta is selected to design the Memorial Complex, largely comprised of the the International Freedom Center; Frank Gehry is to design the performing arts complex for the Joyce and the Signature theaters.

2005

May
[ 09 ]Snøhetta’s design for the Memorial Complex is circulated.

June
New York Police Department concerns about vehicular bomb forces Childs to rework base of Freedom Tower.

August
The Drawing Center withdraws over controversial plans to restrict exhibition content at the site.

September
Governor Pataki evicts the Freedom Center from the site. Officials say that the Snøhetta building will now be used in connection with the underground memorial museum.

December
Norman Foster’s design for Tower 2 is unveiled.

2006

February
[ 10 ] Debate erupts over the cost and viability of the waterfalls in the footprints in wintertime. A $175,000 prototype is constructed to resolve the issue. In the final musuem design, the names are moved to the parapets surrounding the waterfalls that are no longer viewable from within the museum now located under the footprints.

April
Silverstein cedes control of the now $2 billion Freedom Tower to the Port Authority (PA).

April
[ 11 ] National Trust for Historic Preservation puts a twin tower original staircase still on the site on the Most Endangered List before it is razed to make way for constructions of Foster’s Tower 2. Renamed “Survivor Stair,” it is given to the memorial museum.

May
7 World Trade Center opens with three tenants: the New York Academy of Sciences, Ameriprise Financial, and Vantone Real Estate. Jenny Holzer’s eight hour stream of LED poetry and prose is featured in the lobby.

June
[ 12 ] Childs unveils revised Freedom Tower with concrete base clad in prismatic glass and aluminum..

June 21
LMDC receives a $2.78 billion block grant from HUD. Concerns about costs result in construction company owner Frank Sciame being asked to convenea design review panel. He invites Rick Bell, Thom Mayne, among others to evaluate the memorial in order to bring cost down to the $500 million cap established by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki.

September
[ 13 ] Tower designs by Norman Foster, Fumihiko Maki, and Richard Rogers released.

2007

July
Freedom Tower is now called 1 World Trade Center, and Durst Organization takes over leasing.

August 18
While the Deutsche Bank building is dismantled, a fire breaks out and results in the death of two firefighters.

2008

September
[ 14 ] Snøhetta’s revised design is now for a pavilion entrance to the National Sept 11 Memorial and Museum.

October
PA announces simplified plans for the site. In addition to the scaled-back Snøhetta project, Calatrava’s transit hub is pared to essential elements but still budgeted at $3.2 billion.

2009

March
PA announces that rebuilding at the World Trade Center will create 72,202 construction jobs over 10 years and $16.4 billion in economic activity.

March 19
PA and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church that was demolished on 9/11 deadlock over negotiations to rebuild the church just east of its original site plus a $20 million subsidy.

March 26
Vantone, a Chinese real estate company, is announced to be the first major tenant for One World Trade Center.

November
Silverstein and PA wage on-going battles over financing and the leasing of Towers 2 and 3.

2010

March
[ 16 ] PA and Silverstein reach an agreement calling, in part, for the developer to raise $300 million in private investment to access $200 million each from the City, State, and PA.

August
[ 15 ] Fueled by Internet activists, an international uproar engulfs the plans of an established Tribeca mosque to move into a former Burlington Coat Factory two blocks from the World Trade Center site.

2011

May
Conde Nast Publications is announced as a tenant for One World Trade Center.

May
The prismatic glass base of One World Trade Center is scaled back. PA claims it is too difficult to manufacture, while Childs privately complains of cost cutting.

August
LMDC announces that a board for the Performing Arts Complex will be selected by the end of the year. LMDC will contribute $155 million toward the $400-500 million cost.

August
[ 17 ] One World Trade Center reaches 960 feet.

 

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Piano Forte: Inaugural Renzo Piano Award Honors Young Italian Architects
Frank Gehry is looking to sell his archive, Richard Meier opens his Queens storage room for models to visitors by appointment, and now Renzo Piano is giving back, too. On June 10, his eponymous foundation launched a new awards competition to encourage young Italian architects, a rare breed these days. To that end, the competition was open to designers under 40 with an office in Italy presenting a constructed work. The jury, composed mostly of architectural magazine editors, whittled 69 entries down to three winners who demonstrated “innovative and poetic space research.” The purse for the prize was 10,000 euros each. The top honor, handed out in June, went to Iotti+Pavarani architects based in northern Italy. Piano was particularly impressed with their recently completed Domus Technica building, a training and innovation center for a manufacturing company in Brescello, Italy. Honorable mentions were bestowed upon ARCó and carlorattiassociati. Iotti+Pavarani carlorattiassociati ARCó
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John Gautrey, MEP Man
Michael Maltzan's San Francisco State University's Mashouf Performing Arts Center.
Courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture

John Gautrey is a partner and principal at IBE Consulting Engineers, who have worked with many of the west coast’s—and the world’s—top architects, including Gehry Partners, Morphosis, Hodgetts + Fung, Michael Maltzan, Daly Genik, Randall Stout, Tighe Architects, Rios Clementi Hale, Richard Meier, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, among many others. AN’s Sam Lubell sat down with Gautrey to discuss MEP, sustainability, and the future of construction.

The Architect’s Newspaper: You seem to be the architect’s choice for MEP (mechanical, engineering, plumbing) on the west coast. How did you develop such a list of architects to collaborate with? What are you doing right?

John Gautrey: I think some of it is historical. Alan [Locke, the company founder] and I have been in LA for 25 years. I was trained at Arup and learned that engineering is there to facilitate the architect’s vision. We wanted to get back to those roots. We’re there to help them in any way we can to achieve their architecture. It’s not about imposing on it but helping shape it from an engineering perspective to make it better. You never get the perfect solution, but we can investigate it until we see that it will work. Anything is possible if you want to pay for it—not in terms of fees, but in terms of construction costs.

With sustainability being such a priority, MEP has all of a sudden become sexy. What are some of the innovations in MEP that get you the most excited?

The buzz seems to be about stacked devices, radiant systems, and chilled beams—things that are hydronic based not air based. The tradition has been to blow a lot of air at things, but to use water rather than air is a lot more efficient. You have less big things running around the building—big ducts and big fans. The challenge, as always, is that it’s new. It’s not usually a challenge with the architects, but the owners. Sometimes they’re reticent to do something new. The responsibility is on us to explain the pros and cons. There are people out there that are prepared to take that leap. There are people out there who want to take the leap not to follow some proscribed system.

What is the biggest mistake people are still making with regards to MEP? How can you change it?

LEED—anybody can walk down a checklist and include this and that. But if it makes no sense for the building, does that make the building more sustainable? No. For us, sustainability is doing the right thing for the owner of the building and for the environment the building is in. Following a prescribed checklist doesn’t necessarily lead to that. Still, LEED is fantastic in creating awareness about what sustainability is. It’s phenomenal what the USGBC has accomplished. When I talked about sustainability ten or twelve years ago, people were laughing me out of the room.




Hodgetts & Fung's Menlo Park Performing Arts Center.
Tom Bonner
 
 

How do you see things changing in MEP in the next few years?

The rest of the world is getting rid of air conditioning completely. Just open the window. Wear a t-shirt. You have the ability to control your own environment. You get used to it. I never had air conditioning in a building until I moved to the U.S. Ultimately, I don’t think you’ll have a choice.

What are the future alternative energy sources?

You need to implement the right systems for the right locale and not just force something on it. Geothermal, while great, is a difficult one because it’s very climate driven. And there’s an assumption that PV panels are great, but I think a lot of people implement them just to say “I’m green.” I don’t think you should look at sustainability like that. Is it right for the building? Is it sustainable to put materials into a building even if they don’t achieve anything?

Solar hot water is underutilized. It’s 100 percent efficient. PV, on the other hand, is 14 percent efficient. We’re going to realize that we’ve got to invest in making PVs better, and they’re going to get better all the time. Wind is great in the right location. We’re looking at wind power for High School 15 in Los Angeles with CO Architects. It’s a perfect site for wind in San Pedro. It’s got a constant nine mile per hour wind. You need a big site as well because of safety concerns.

What about self-generation?

Carbon neutrality is the next thing we’re all going to get into. That comes down to regulation, which is very hard to change. So initially it’s going to have to be building by building. To make any building energy efficient, you need to start with the building form. If you’re not prepared to do that, you’re not going to make an energy efficient building.

Let’s talk more about that. How can engineering change architecture?

We can all throw energy at a building to make it more efficient. But to maximize it, the form and materials and site have to be taken into account. Then you look at your systems. Lighting, mechanical, how the building works, how you layer the building. Can you organize your building to allow the transitory spaces, which you’re not in for very long, to be at the perimeter? Can you create buffer zones? You can start letting the internal layout inform your energy in the building. With the Morphosis Federal building in San Francisco [IBE did the feasibility study], the air conditioning is in the middle and the outside is naturally ventilated. The ventilation informs the design of the building.

What is the biggest mistake architects make?

Not involving us early enough. By the time we’re involved it’s too late to inform how the building is going to be set up. By the time you’ve got an architectural concept and the others have signed off on the site, there’s not a lot you can do. Maybe you can add some shading devices. But if we had been there earlier we could say you should have turned it like this or we could get more daylight inside the building. We like to be there on day one. I think most of the architects we work with appreciate that.

What upcoming projects are you excited about?

Personally, I like doing museums. I’m very exited that BAM (The Berkeley Art Museum) came back, even as a different design. They’re using the print works [building] now: changing it and adding to it. That presents a whole new set of challenges. Trying to control a museum environment within an existing building is tough. I’m also excited about Michael Maltzan’s performing arts center for San Francisco State. No two planes run in the same direction. To understand the balconies and shapes, you can’t figure it out from a 2D plan. You don’t have a choice but to work in 3D.

I like to be challenged by my architects. I need someone to question what I’m doing. It makes it more interesting. I get bored if there’s a simple solution right away. Ultimately, it should be a solution that you implement with the architect. I would have loved to have finished the BAM project with Toyo Ito. That was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was so intricate that just to route a duct took a long time to figure out.

Is there sometimes tension between you and your architects?

Sometimes you can’t avoid it. You just need to be willing to be involved and be available to discuss issues. If you communicate bad news it keeps things smooth. Communication is king.

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Powers of 50
Mutated Panels by Richard Meier with Italcementi and Styl-Comp Group.
Courtesy Respective Manufacturers

I Saloni, the annual orgy of furnishings, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. And along with the expected round-up of avant-garde teasers, sumptuous stunners, and thoughtfully recyclable ingenuities, there was a full spectrum of highly-sophisticated lighting designs that transformed LED solutions from dreary requisites to exciting options.

With over 2,500 exhibitors, every one of the 321,320 visitors who pile into the swoopy 2.2 million-square-foot exhibition hall—or track down the hundreds of other displays sequestered in fresco-flaking palazzi, chic courtyards, retooled factories, and drafty warehouses around the city—can find their own selection of favorites. We decided to spotlight a solid 50, basing our choice on our own quixotic standards: technical interest, elegance without fuss, knowing wit, and ecological smarts. We tore through the halls and pounded the pavement until our heels broke in hopes of bringing back some lasting winners.

Julie V. Iovine


Click to enlarge.

Horse
by Daniel R. Whiteneck

Exhibited at
Spazio Rossana Orlandi
A surreal table with hand-cast iron hooves, laminated plywood legs, and coated foam upper torso.
 

Flip Flop Story
by Diederik Schneemann

Studio Schneemann
Used flip flops wash up by the thousands on East African shores and are collected by the Uniqueco Foundation. Dutch designer Schneemann makes lamps and objects out of them.
 

Piana
by David Chipperfield

Alessi
Smartly engineered, multi-colored folding chair made of polypropylene with glass fibre in many colors.
 

XXXX_Sofa
by Yuya Ushida

Ahrend
Assembled without tools from eight recycled plastic units (pipes, rings
and studs), this two- or three-seater sofa expands, concertina-style.

Click to enlarge.

Domus chair
by Ilmari Tapiovaara


ARTEK
From a collection designed by the Finnish master in the 1940s and now reintroduced.
 

Polaris
by Frederic Gooris


AlessiLux
Part of a new collection of seven LED bulbs with a lot of personality.
 

POH
by Raphael Navot


Cappellini
It’s table, bench, and sculpture in wood by a new designer to watch.
 

Ren by Nemo
by Yasutoshi Mifune

Cassina Lighting
Three cones support stacked wooden discs that can be adjusted for different lighting effects.
 

Click to enlarge.

Sfatto
by Francesco Binfarè

Edra
It looks loose as a shar-pei puppy, feels like a cloud. Available in a range of suede, leather, and tapestry fabrics.
 

Armchair 4801
by Joe Colombo

Kartell
A reissue of the iconic Colombo piece first designed in the Sixties. Then the curves were in wood, now it’s all plastic.
 

Stool
by Fernando &
Humberto Campana

Klein Karoo
Malleable ostrich leather covers a small foldable stool that also comes
in acid green and pink.
 

Sellier Chair
by Denis Montel

Hermes
As is their custom, Hermes turns exquisitely crafted leather into high-luxe furnishings.

Click to enlarge.

Pebble
by Benjamin Hubert

De Vorm
Easy to assemble and ship, a seating collection of chairs and stools with oak legs and pebble-smooth recycled plastic seats.
 
 

Pavo Real
by Patricia Urquiola

Driade
Outdoor rattan furniture exotic in scale, detail and craftsmanship.
 

Tubo LED

FontanaArte
A borosilicate glass tube reveals and celebrates finned heat sink of anodized metal. Available in 1, 2, or 3-tube versions.
 

Lounger Round
by Christophe Pillet

Emu
Long lines and deep molding express the essence of outdoor comfort in a black or white chaise.

Click to enlarge,

Kelvin LED Green
by Antonio Citterio with Toan Nguyen

Flos
A desk lamp with a green sensor. A brush of the hand and it detects ambient light, adjusting accordingly.
 

Chouchin
by Ionna Vautrin

Foscarini
With the Japanese name and shape of a traditional bamboo lantern, now made of opaque lacquered blown glass in olive, burnt orange or grey.
 

Felix
by William Sawaya

Sawaya & Moroni
Indoors or outdoors, kitchen or reception area, this steel bench is meant to conjure Pierre Chareau.
 

Tool Boxes

Line Depping
Danish design from 1978, a stack of drawers made of solid ash within a lacquered steel frame.

Click to enlarge,

Tide
by Zaha Hadid

Magis
It’s a bookcase and shelf any way you arrange it; but not free standing.
 

Comfortable
Jean-Michel Frank Collection

Hermes
The classic armchair comes in leather, of course, but natural sheepskin speaks more to the name.
 

Brick Plan
by Rock Wang with Pei-ze Chen

Yii
The marriage of Taiwan craft and design brings forth an improbably delicate concrete and brick vase and bowl collection.
 

Balance
by Lakiya Weavers of the Negev

BCXSY
Hand-woven area rugs by Bedouin artisans using the wool of desert sheep through an initiative by the non-profit organization, Sidreh.

Click to enlarge.

Mutated Panels
Richard Meier with Italcementi and Styl-Comp Group

Interni Mutant Architecture & Design
An installation beautifully expressing the plasticity of this self-cleaning high-tech cement that now can be made an even whiter white.
 

Belisaire
by Christian Lacroix

Sicis
The fashion designer went for opulence galore in a collection inspired by Byzantine mosaics.
 

B2_Light Fields LED

Zumtobel
An LED light series noted for its uniform intensity and glare control presented in a discreet aluminum-frame panel.
 

Animal|Mineral
by Valerie Dekeyser

Exhbited at
Spazio Rossana Orlandi

A series of steel pendant lights lined with high texture materials, including peacock pelts, horsehair, and iron dust “sable.”

Click to enlarge.

Etch
by Tom Dixon

Flash Factory
Geodesic-inspired pendant of etched brass plates is digitally manufactured in a process borrowed from electronic production.
 

LED Biolite
by Makio Hasuike

Yamagiwa
Extreme flexibility in arm and head, this sculptural desk lamp is made of extruded aluminum.
 

Fred
by Roberto Lazzeroni

Poltrona Frau
Elegantly-detailed desk with saddle leather top and solid ash frame.
 

Vienna
by Jean Nouvel

Wittmann
A modular collection originally designed for the Sofitel Hotel in Vienna; available in leather, suede and 100% “scuba” black from Kvadrat.

Click to enlarge.

Tip Ton
by Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

Vitra
Ingeniously designed to tick forward to an ergonomic position for desk work or tock back to relax, the chair is also made of 100 percent recyclable material.
 

Rothko Terra
by Carlotta de Bevilacqua

Artemide
Triangular in plan, a light column offering a full chromatic scale of 40W LED to match any Rothko-esque mood.
 

Layer
by Arik Levy

Viccarbe
Acoustic panels made of foam not fabric that come in two sizes and depths to be layered in a pattern.
 

Adhoc Storage
by Bruno Fattorini & Partners

Zanotta
Flexible storage units made of light sheet metal with open compartments in red, yellow, or anthracite and closed sections with discreet folding doors.
 

Petite Gigue
by François Azambourg

Moustache
Constructed with the efficiency of a boat with beveled edge and hollow legs. In natural oak, red or black lacquered oak.

Click to enlarge.

Fortepiano
by Rodolfo Dordoni

Molteni & C
A modular system that can extend vertically or horizontally in matt lacquer, wood, and steel aluminum.
 

Story Vase
by Lobolile Ximba, Kishwepi Sitole, Beauty Ndlovu with Front

Editions in Craft
Made in collaboration with South African craftspeople beading their stories into hand-blown Swedish glass by Front.
 

Endless
By Jason Miller

Roll & Hill
Modular lighting system made of white glass sections with metal bracing in straight and bent components.
 

Haiku Sofa

Gam Fratesi
Danish design from 1975, a small sofa with a hard exterior enclosing soft inner upholstery.

Click to enlarge.

Veliero
by Franco Albini

Cassina
Bookcase designed by Albini for his home in 1939 and an instant icon of Italian design once it dressed the cover of Domus in 1941.
 

H371
by Leon Krier

Fusital
Door handle made of brass with chrome or satin chrome finish.
 

Synpase
by Francisco Gomez Paz

Luceplan
The Argentinean designer’s translation of the atomic leap rendered in luminous polycarbonate configurations.
 
 

111 Navy Chair

Emeco
The famous metal chair now comes in colorful plastic; each made from 111 plastic recycled bottles. A joint venture with Coca Cola.

Click to enlarge.

Zartan
by Philippe Starck with Quitlet

Magis
With a seat made of hemp and legs from corn husks, this chair prototype is said to be still too fragile for use.
 

3M Sunlight Delivery System
by 3M Architectural Markets Department

A newly developed system that tracks, catches and delivers full spectrum daylight throughout interior spaces.
 

Landscape
by Jeffrey Bernett

B & B Italia
A classic chaise introduced with a rocking base, with Kvadrat coverings.
 

Besides
by Massimilliano Adami

Refin Studio
Porcelain stoneware tile with structural interest and material texture.
 

Magic Hole
by Philippe Starck with Eugeni Quitllet

Kartell
Made for outdoors and available as an armchair or two-seater with contrasting “pocket” colors.

 

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Flying Down to Mexico
Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners
   
Views of the W Retreat Kenai on the Riviera Maya.
 

Richard Meier has been tapped to design two new W hotels in Mexico, with a couple of office towers thrown in. The W Santa Fe is located in Mexico City, part of a complex of three Meier-designed towers. The W Retreat Kenai is the centerpiece of a resort on a pristine beachfront site on the Riviera Maya. Both Starwood projects were co-developed with locals ALHEL and GIM Desarrollos, and are the Pritzker-prize winner’s first projects in Latin America.

The W Santa Fe is part of The Liberty Plaza development that overlooks a nature preserve on the periphery of the city. It will be one of the first LEED certified projects in Mexico City. The entire complex will also include two interconnected office buildings, bridged by a conference center. The towers will be clad in ultra clear glass with a white metal screen on the southern side. “The screen will make the building appear more white, more solid,” said Dukho Yeon, an associate partner with Richard Meier & Partners.

   
A model of the W Retreat Kenai.
 

Together the three buildings follow the curved contour of the street, creating a faceted street wall. The north office building is notched out at the top to create a large, inset multi-story porch. W Santa Fe, located in the southernmost building, is highly articulated at street level, with an extended cantilevered entrance portico, and a large conference center suspended over the double height lobby. Outdoor areas overlooking the wildlife refuge are also notched into the building, which will most likely include a VIP bar. “We wanted to create an urban approach to the building, something that relates at street level,” said Guillermo Murcia, an associate at Meier.

The W Kenai is a complex composition of floating planes and meandering paths set in a lush landscape of low mangroves. The project, which includes 180 rooms, a nightclub, fitness center, restaurant, and beach club, is scattered across the site. The various buildings and interconnecting paths will rest on stilts or small manmade islands to preserve water-flow across the marshy site. “We were thinking about the infinite horizon,” Yeon said. “The architectural object punctures the horizon line. There’s a tension between the natural and the manmade.”

     
Views of the W Sante Fe in Mexico City.
 

Visitors will enter the hotel after proceeding down a straight path with a linear fountain. A free-form wall beyond the path encloses the conference center and creates a kind of private garden. Through a living wall, visitors will enter the open-air lobby with views out to the pool and the beach beyond. Rooms face the ocean, either straight on or at a 45-degree angle and feature large outdoor porches. “The idea is a kind of floating city,” Murcia said.

The combination of hard, pure architectural geometries with looser, more picturesque landscape paths and features is unusual for Meier. “The site requires something very special,” Duhko said. The firm expects the project to open in 2014.

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Obit> Ralph Lerner, 1950-2011
Ralph Lerner, architect and former dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, died in Princeton on Saturday, May 7, following a long battle with brain cancer. A Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, Lerner resigned as dean at the University of Hong Kong Department of Architecture for health reasons and returned to the United States earlier this year. As dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture from 1989 to 2002, Lerner set the school on a strong contemporary track with wide-ranging appointments among practitioners, critical historians, and theoreticians including Liz Diller, Jesse Reiser, Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina, Kevin Lippert, M. Christine Boyer, and Guy Nordenson. “Ralph very much put Princeton at the center of the architectural map, through the programs, exhibitions, and publications he sponsored as well as by the sheer force of his personality,” wrote Lippert, a 1983 graduate of the School of Architecture and founder of Princeton Architectural Press, in an email. Lerner studied architecture at The Cooper Union and received his Master of Architecture from Harvard in 1975.  Before opening his own practice, Ralph Lerner, Architecture and Urban Design, in 1975 in Charlottesville, Virginia, he worked in the offices of Ulrich Franzen and Associates and Richard Meier and Associates, both in 1974. He moved his practice to Princeton, New Jersey, in 1984 and achieved international notice in 1986 winning the competition, designed with his wife, architect Lisa Fischetti, to design the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in New Delhi, India (still under construction). Other projects of note include the award-winning and recently opened Louise Nevelson Plaza, with Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects, in downtown Manhattan and the Lower School Building at the Princeton Charter School.
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Powers of 50
Mutated Panels by Richard Meier with Italcementi and Styl-Comp Group.
Courtesy Respective Manufacturers

I Saloni, the annual orgy of furnishings, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. And along with the expected round-up of avant-garde teasers, sumptuous stunners, and thoughtfully recyclable ingenuities, there was a full spectrum of highly-sophisticated lighting designs that transformed LED solutions from dreary requisites to exciting options.

With over 2,500 exhibitors, every one of the 321,320 visitors who pile into the swoopy 2.2 million-square-foot exhibition hall—or track down the hundreds of other displays sequestered in fresco-flaking palazzi, chic courtyards, retooled factories, and drafty warehouses around the city—can find their own selection of favorites. We decided to spotlight a solid 50, basing our choice on our own quixotic standards: technical interest, elegance without fuss, knowing wit, and ecological smarts. We tore through the halls and pounded the pavement until our heels broke in hopes of bringing back some lasting winners.

Julie V. Iovine


Click to enlarge.

Horse
by Daniel R. Whiteneck

Exhibited at
Spazio Rossana Orlandi
A surreal table with hand-cast iron hooves, laminated plywood legs, and coated foam upper torso.
 

Flip Flop Story
by Diederik Schneemann

Studio Schneemann
Used flip flops wash up by the thousands on East African shores and are collected by the Uniqueco Foundation. Dutch designer Schneemann makes lamps and objects out of them.
 

Piana
by David Chipperfield

Alessi
Smartly engineered, multi-colored folding chair made of polypropylene with glass fibre in many colors.
 

XXXX_Sofa
by Yuya Ushida

Ahrend
Assembled without tools from eight recycled plastic units (pipes, rings
and studs), this two- or three-seater sofa expands, concertina-style.

Click to enlarge.

Domus chair
by Ilmari Tapiovaara


ARTEK
From a collection designed by the Finnish master in the 1940s and now reintroduced.
 

Polaris
by Frederic Gooris


AlessiLux
Part of a new collection of seven LED bulbs with a lot of personality.
 

POH
by Raphael Navot


Cappellini
It’s table, bench, and sculpture in wood by a new designer to watch.
 

Ren by Nemo
by Yasutoshi Mifune

Cassina Lighting
Three cones support stacked wooden discs that can be adjusted for different lighting effects.
 

Click to enlarge.

Sfatto
by Francesco Binfarè

Edra
It looks loose as a shar-pei puppy, feels like a cloud. Available in a range of suede, leather, and tapestry fabrics.
 

Armchair 4801
by Joe Colombo

Kartell
A reissue of the iconic Colombo piece first designed in the Sixties. Then the curves were in wood, now it’s all plastic.
 

Stool
by Fernando &
Humberto Campana

Klein Karoo
Malleable ostrich leather covers a small foldable stool that also comes
in acid green and pink.
 

Sellier Chair
by Denis Montel

Hermes
As is their custom, Hermes turns exquisitely crafted leather into high-luxe furnishings.

Click to enlarge.

Pebble
by Benjamin Hubert

De Vorm
Easy to assemble and ship, a seating collection of chairs and stools with oak legs and pebble-smooth recycled plastic seats.
 
 

Pavo Real
by Patricia Urquiola

Driade
Outdoor rattan furniture exotic in scale, detail and craftsmanship.
 

Tubo LED

FontanaArte
A borosilicate glass tube reveals and celebrates finned heat sink of anodized metal. Available in 1, 2, or 3-tube versions.
 

Lounger Round
by Christophe Pillet

Emu
Long lines and deep molding express the essence of outdoor comfort in a black or white chaise.

Click to enlarge,

Kelvin LED Green
by Antonio Citterio with Toan Nguyen

Flos
A desk lamp with a green sensor. A brush of the hand and it detects ambient light, adjusting accordingly.
 

Chouchin
by Ionna Vautrin

Foscarini
With the Japanese name and shape of a traditional bamboo lantern, now made of opaque lacquered blown glass in olive, burnt orange or grey.
 

Felix
by William Sawaya

Sawaya & Moroni
Indoors or outdoors, kitchen or reception area, this steel bench is meant to conjure Pierre Chareau.
 

Tool Boxes

Line Depping
Danish design from 1978, a stack of drawers made of solid ash within a lacquered steel frame.

Click to enlarge,

Tide
by Zaha Hadid

Magis
It’s a bookcase and shelf any way you arrange it; but not free standing.
 

Comfortable
Jean-Michel Frank Collection

Hermes
The classic armchair comes in leather, of course, but natural sheepskin speaks more to the name.
 

Brick Plan
by Rock Wang with Pei-ze Chen

Yii
The marriage of Taiwan craft and design brings forth an improbably delicate concrete and brick vase and bowl collection.
 

Balance
by Lakiya Weavers of the Negev

BCXSY
Hand-woven area rugs by Bedouin artisans using the wool of desert sheep through an initiative by the non-profit organization, Sidreh.

Click to enlarge.

Mutated Panels
Richard Meier with Italcementi and Styl-Comp Group

Interni Mutant Architecture & Design
An installation beautifully expressing the plasticity of this self-cleaning high-tech cement that now can be made an even whiter white.
 

Belisaire
by Christian Lacroix

Sicis
The fashion designer went for opulence galore in a collection inspired by Byzantine mosaics.
 

B2_Light Fields LED

Zumtobel
An LED light series noted for its uniform intensity and glare control presented in a discreet aluminum-frame panel.
 

Animal|Mineral
by Valerie Dekeyser

Exhbited at
Spazio Rossana Orlandi

A series of steel pendant lights lined with high texture materials, including peacock pelts, horsehair, and iron dust “sable.”

Click to enlarge.

Etch
by Tom Dixon

Flash Factory
Geodesic-inspired pendant of etched brass plates is digitally manufactured in a process borrowed from electronic production.
 

LED Biolite
by Makio Hasuike

Yamagiwa
Extreme flexibility in arm and head, this sculptural desk lamp is made of extruded aluminum.
 

Fred
by Roberto Lazzeroni

Poltrona Frau
Elegantly-detailed desk with saddle leather top and solid ash frame.
 

Vienna
by Jean Nouvel

Wittmann
A modular collection originally designed for the Sofitel Hotel in Vienna; available in leather, suede and 100% “scuba” black from Kvadrat.

Click to enlarge.

Tip Ton
by Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

Vitra
Ingeniously designed to tick forward to an ergonomic position for desk work or tock back to relax, the chair is also made of 100 percent recyclable material.
 

Rothko Terra
by Carlotta de Bevilacqua

Artemide
Triangular in plan, a light column offering a full chromatic scale of 40W LED to match any Rothko-esque mood.
 

Layer
by Arik Levy

Viccarbe
Acoustic panels made of foam not fabric that come in two sizes and depths to be layered in a pattern.
 

Adhoc Storage
by Bruno Fattorini & Partners

Zanotta
Flexible storage units made of light sheet metal with open compartments in red, yellow, or anthracite and closed sections with discreet folding doors.
 

Petite Gigue
by François Azambourg

Moustache
Constructed with the efficiency of a boat with beveled edge and hollow legs. In natural oak, red or black lacquered oak.

Click to enlarge.

Fortepiano
by Rodolfo Dordoni

Molteni & C
A modular system that can extend vertically or horizontally in matt lacquer, wood, and steel aluminum.
 

Story Vase
by Lobolile Ximba, Kishwepi Sitole, Beauty Ndlovu with Front

Editions in Craft
Made in collaboration with South African craftspeople beading their stories into hand-blown Swedish glass by Front.
 

Endless
By Jason Miller

Roll & Hill
Modular lighting system made of white glass sections with metal bracing in straight and bent components.
 

Haiku Sofa

Gam Fratesi
Danish design from 1975, a small sofa with a hard exterior enclosing soft inner upholstery.

Click to enlarge.

Veliero
by Franco Albini

Cassina
Bookcase designed by Albini for his home in 1939 and an instant icon of Italian design once it dressed the cover of Domus in 1941.
 

H371
by Leon Krier

Fusital
Door handle made of brass with chrome or satin chrome finish.
 

Synpase
by Francisco Gomez Paz

Luceplan
The Argentinean designer’s translation of the atomic leap rendered in luminous polycarbonate configurations.
 
 

111 Navy Chair

Emeco
The famous metal chair now comes in colorful plastic; each made from 111 plastic recycled bottles. A joint venture with Coca Cola.

Click to enlarge.

Zartan
by Philippe Starck with Quitlet

Magis
With a seat made of hemp and legs from corn husks, this chair prototype is said to be still too fragile for use.
 

3M Sunlight Delivery System
by 3M Architectural Markets Department

A newly developed system that tracks, catches and delivers full spectrum daylight throughout interior spaces.
 

Landscape
by Jeffrey Bernett

B & B Italia
A classic chaise introduced with a rocking base, with Kvadrat coverings.
 

Besides
by Massimilliano Adami

Refin Studio
Porcelain stoneware tile with structural interest and material texture.
 

Magic Hole
by Philippe Starck with Eugeni Quitllet

Kartell
Made for outdoors and available as an armchair or two-seater with contrasting “pocket” colors.

 

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Design Currency
Tord Boontje for Moroso

The International Furniture Fair in Milan is a huge affair, attracting design talents, design makers, design dreamers, schemers, and trackers from all corners of the world who believe it is essential to their professions to be in the know about the most current matters of design. Few American architects seem to attend, which is curious given what an inquisitive and competitive bunch they usually are.

Even in a year when the slow economy has taken its toll on one of Italy’s largest and most profitable industries—furniture manufacturing is several times larger than the fashion business — innovations were on display. From the almost affordably engineer-able (organic LEDs) to the fringe of discovery (proto-plastics from insect resin), the fair thrives on possibilities made relevant. Fair newcomers 3M Architectural Markets showed off their research in developing a new delivery system that collects natural light from rooftops and then channels it to the deepest interior spaces. Stay tuned. Italcementi was there, too, touting a new formula for its smog-eating cement that’s even whiter than before—Richard Meier briefly appeared almost ecstatic.

There are always eye-opening things to see. And what’s equally impressive, the audience is whole-heartedly appreciative.

Crowds throng the fairgrounds by the thousands to check out market-ready and prototype pieces. At outside events known for agenda-setting concepts, hundreds more seek out the chance to see, for instance, German designer Werner Aisslinger’s installation of “the first monobloc chair made of natural fibers,” a sculpted throne of felt arranged alongside a ram chomping on hay. There was the great innovator Ingo Mauer’s towering moss and living coral chandelier for a client’s private chapel cum banquet hall and Shigeru Ban’s meticulously-wrought paper house, created to show off a new collection of determined-to-be classics from Hermes—with assorted Jean Michel Frank reproductions mixed in to guarantee the highest level.

No doubt about it, many Italian furnishings are a luxury and not likely to show up in the average conference room or corporate lobby, spaces in America that are both more budget-conscious and conservative about image. 

Still, seeing so much inventive design and the vast sea of people who cannot get enough of it raises a disturbing awareness of what we can expect back home—a confidence gap between the aggressive shaping and resourceful materials that American architects put into their buildings and the banal, two-dimensional furnishings with which they fill them.

Italy is enamored of good design and to spend a week there breathing in that devotion is a visceral reminder of how much design can do. There’s no need to assume that because the furniture may be too avant-garde for most practical purposes that the fair has nothing to offer. If creativity, quality, and innovation matter to an architect, there’s no place better to find it in abundance.

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Quick Clicks> Architecture in Store, Meier is Gilt-y, Clean Air Square, and Suburban Slums
Just Architecture. The Van Alen Institute announced that NYC is about to welcome its first bookstore and reading room singularly devoted to architecture, Van Alen Books, located on 30 West 22nd Street. Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects (and one of the two candidates for the next PennDesign Architecture Dean) and architectural historian Anthony Vidler will be presenting their latest books at the opening party scheduled for next Thursday, April 21. Flash Sale Curator. Curbed shows today that there is no boundary for what architects can do. A popular flash sale venue, Gilt Groupe, is having a home products sale today at noon, curated by an architect, Richard Meier. Items up for sale include "a signed copy of Taschen's Meier, a mezuzah he designed for The Jewish Museum of New York, and his Architectonic Menorah," normally sold for $1K! Breathing Times. According to Streetsblog, New York's Times Square, visited by 250,000 pedestrians each day, has become much more breathable since the 2009 installation of pedestrian plazas (find out why Bill Clinton is a fan) on Broadway. Concentrations of two traffic-related air pollutants, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, have gone down by 63% and 41%, respectively! Suburban Slumification. Business Insider identifies 18 cities (including a less-than-expected Minneapolis) where suburbs are rapidly turning into slums. In the past, cities suffered crimes and poverty during recessions, while the rich stayed away in their safe suburban havens. But not anymore. Suburban slums are growing five times faster than cities.