Search results for "morphosis"
A lot of the people who write for us, including some of our in-house editorial staff, have critical ideas about architecture. Here’s what they said about several different buildings in 2013.
Can a new highway-cap park unite Downtown Dallas in pedestrian-friendly planning?
Alan G. Brake explores New York's newest waterfront park by Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi.
Michael Webb explores the firm's first museum, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Sophisticated expansion at the St. Louis Art Museum exhibits deferential monumentality.
Ennead's Bing Concert Hall helps build an arts district on Stanford's campus.
New performance space for the San Francisco Jazz Society achieves an elegant simplicity.
Renzo Piano creates a subtle counterweight to Louis Kahn's masterwork in Fort Worth.
Richard Meier's new federal courthouse gives downtown San Diego a new civic icon.
Brooks + Scarpa design an innovative manufacturing and research facility in Mexico.
A little more than ten years ago, Cornell University launched a Computing and Information Sciences (CIS) program. Its purpose is to meld technical and social intellectual approaches in a single department dedicated to developing innovative solutions to complicated problems. Administratively, CIS brought together three disparate but complementary disciplines: computer science, information science, and statistics. Physically, however, these fields continued to operate from separate facilities both spread throughout the Cornell Campus, as well as in rented office space in downtown Ithaca, New York. In order to create a truly cohesive culture for this otherwise balkanized program Cornell needed a new building designed for its particular needs.
Los Angeles–based Morphosis, which also has an office in New York City, delivered a 100,000-square-foot, five-story building that is currently completing construction on the corner of Campus and Hoy roads, directly adjacent to the Cornell Big Red’s baseball diamond. While in essence a simple, efficient, rectangular plan and elevation, the design features several elements—including a twisting stainless steel sun screen and a protruding arm of the upper floors hovering above the main entrance—that make it an unmistakable product of Morphosis as well as a suitable looking enclosure for a discipline forged by the realities of the digital age.
Courtesy YKK AP; Courtesy Morphosis
The protruding arm shelters the entrance, which is itself raised above street level and fronted by a sculptural display of staggered stone blocks known as the “rock pile.” The entry plaza is accessed by a ramp from Campus Road or via a staircase ascending from Hoy Field (the baseball diamond). Morphosis decided to cover the entrance with the upper floors in order to provide some shelter from Ithaca’s long and inclement winters. Indeed, throughout the project, public spaces that have been designed to promote interaction among the faculty and student body have been housed primarily inside, as opposed to in semi-enclosed or outdoor spaces, as they might be in California. The one exception is the south courtyard, which connects to the foyer of the building’s lecture hall in a subterranean level and provides breakout space for the department. This landscaped zone can be used as an informal study and gathering area during pleasant weather and also provides ramp access to Hoy Field.
For the most part, the building’s public spaces are housed in the full-height grand entrance atrium, which also houses the building’s central vertical circulation corridor. The design promotes the use of open stairways that provide views throughout the entire atrium. The idea is that this will increase the chances of the building’s users seeing and interacting with each other, as opposed to elevators, which the designers decided would limit such opportunities. In addition to circulation space, lounges (housed within the protruding arm) and conference rooms ring the atrium and the entire volume is naturally lit via a skylight.
Locating the facility’s primary vertical circulation off the atrium at the western extremity of the building allowed the architects to maximize the rest of the plan for the main programmatic spaces: laboratories and offices. The labs, which occupy the perimeters of the floors, where they enjoy daylight and views, are not like scientific wet labs with rows of benches for beakers and plenty of safety plumbing and ventilation infrastructure. Nor are they like typical classrooms with rows of desks facing a blackboard. Rather they are more in the vein of a digital startup’s office. While there may not be any beanbags or ping pong tables, the rooms are large, open plan, and informal, outfitted with workstations—large tables—capable of accommodating several students at once working on a group project.
As cold as Ithaca may be for most of the year, when Morphosis clad the building in 35,000 square feet of YKK AP’s enerGfacade unitized glass-and-aluminum curtain wall, outfitted with 1 3/16-inch high-performance Viracon IGUs, its primary concern was mitigating heat gain and glare. In order to accomplish this, the firm reused a tactic that it had developed for its Cooper Union building: a perforated stainless steel panel system that shelters the glazing, supported on outrigger fins that attach to the exterior of the curtain wall. This stainless steel screen system clads floors two through four, creating a different expression on the exterior for these levels, what Morphosis calls “the floating bar.” To open up clear views to some of the key campus features that surround the building, the architects twisted the screen system in places, so that the panels bend from vertical to horizontal and back. Thanks to this feature of the design, students will now be able to take in whatever action may be happening on Hoy Field to the south, or gaze upon the impressive neo-gothic stone bulk of Barton Hall to the north.
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In October Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall turns 10, and it’s an exciting anniversary. The dazzling building has become an international icon for the city, and for its revitalized downtown. It also remains a wonderful place to attend a concert, as most who have gone can attest. But in many ways it represents what’s still wrong with LA’s approach to building and planning.
While it pushes up against the sidewalk, the hall still stands relatively aloof from its surroundings on Grand Avenue, adding little besides its fantastic form to the streetscape, which ten years later still feels empty and alien. Its raised rear park is a hidden gem, but there’s no such luck in front of the building, where visitors are greeted with hot sun, glare, and a rather unfriendly grand stair. And the hall stands on a street that to this day does not welcome pedestrians. It lacks appropriate green space, shade, and small-scale activity needed to make this a true destination outside of concert time. Disney’s one street-side restaurant, Patina, is only for the very richest, via reservation, and there are few places (outside of the new Grand Park down the street) to entice lingering or street life nearby. Hopefully the addition of the Broad next door will add to the interest, but unless the area around it is addressed it will just become another empty monument.
In celebrating this anniversary we need to embrace the kind of architectural innovation that Disney Hall represents, but demand equal urban innovation around it. A building—no matter how stunning—is not just an object, and that’s something that always needs to be considered. And a street—even one lined with world-class museums—is not an object either.
There are many other buildings in Los Angeles with similar dichotomies between architectural splendor and urban misfortune. Morphosis’ Caltrans building down the street is a marvel, but its courtyard is often empty and the zone around it does not promote civic life. While a new master plan may change this, for now, though Union Station is one of the finest buildings in the country, it remains locked off by roads on all sides, like a moat. The Department of Water and Power, while one of my favorite buildings in the city, certainly doesn’t promote walking along its perimeter. It’s all about drive in and drive out.
In so many other cities modernist monuments stand aloof from their surroundings, standing tall amid windswept plazas and busy thoroughfares. New buildings can’t repeat these mistakes.
In contrast to Disney, Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao is more successful urbanistically because the plazas around it encourage thousands to linger, and the city has developed an urban experience around it through bridges, walkways, and cafes, that ask you to come for more than just the building. Renzo Piano’s buildings at LACMA are not his best work, but the urban spaces around them have been intelligently activated with a restaurant, a bar, a plaza, and large-scale art installations.
In the next decade we need to ensure that world-class buildings continue to go up. But also that world-class urban life goes up around them.
A New Sculpturalism, the contested, once on, then off, then on again exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary annex, has been generating heated arguments and debate since its inception. First there was the problem with the “superficial” title. Then Frank Gehry backed out. Then MOCA and the show’s guest curator, Christopher Mount, parted ways. The whole thing was in free-fall until Thom Mayne’s handpicked team—and a lot of assistants and pedestal makers—stepped in to save it.
Isn’t all of this quite possibly the best pre-opening buzz a show could ever hope to have? Time will tell. But it seems like that fighting, the back and forth, and the rush to pull it out of disarray—not to mention pushing the opening date back two months—set the show up for a rough landing.
A New Sculpturalism is about the work and the lives that go into the architecture. The blood, sweat, and time. It is work that is never absolutely finished. To be finished would equal death for a profession that must continue to reinvent itself cycle after cycle.
Here we are at the end of the Great Recession, and architecture has somehow carried on. The architects have been busy! The work continues regardless of what the world thinks. Regardless of what the title is. All the work on display, from sketchbooks to models and even the three “pavilions” that dominate the entrance could be said to have been stopped rather than absolutely finished.
Benny Chan; Marvin Rand
A case in point would be Michael Rotondi’s expressive sketchbooks, arrayed under glass and illuminated like rare manuscripts. They exhibit, in an explosive and precise hand, the font of his architecture. And just adjacent and on the wall are some playful, sinuous, and technologically fabulous pages from Neil Denari’s ruled sketchbooks. Yes. Architects can still draw.
Then there are all the islands of intricately wrought models—those LA models with the gesso and color influenced by early Morphosis et al. and leading up to cleaner, if somewhat soulless, 3D-printed distant cousins and laser-cut acrylic. This and so much more that you could pull out of an architecture office, like the huge curved glass panel prototype Hagy Belzberg has been working on, all sit under Alexis Rochas’ suspended multimedia installation, Flock of Walls where we see the architects themselves projected and hovering over their work.
All the artifacts are tools, operations, the materialization of sometimes very personal thought-worlds that, once built, can either take flight in the minds of viewers or get crushed under the weight of critique. So it goes. It’s architecture; always misunderstood and struggling with representation. So critique away! The participants can take it. Otherwise they wouldn’t be doing this. We here in architecture land already get this. The question is will the public get it? Will they even show up?
As Eric Owen Moss asked as moderator of the panel discussion on the show that took place on June 18, “Who says what architecture is? Is the architect what the architect says he is? Is it what Christopher Hawthorne says it is?”
Regardless, there are a lot of aesthetics going on in the exhibition. There is even, one could argue, a lot of beauty. But don’t look for a simplistic story that goes from A to Z. Don’t look for the coherent narrative or syllogism. It’s the circus that came to town, pitched its big top, and brought out its trapeze artists, tightrope walkers, and fire-eaters. It’s something amazing and difficult. There are many lives and careers assembled in that room. But it has to be accepted in that spirit without the expectation that it all holds together in some perfect, totalizing vision. Just enter it like you might a strange yet somehow familiar city. Step behind the curtain and allow yourself to move from one object to the next. Outside of the fact that they coexist in the same institutional context, there is no absolute narrative. That being said, the materials are remarkably similar in spirit and exhibit creative forces that mutually resonate.
Richard Powers; Iwan Baan; Roland Halbe
Sculpturalism has been critiqued for being a bunch of models and drawings in a big room. But so what? This is what happens when you put stuff in a museum. The show hardly needs any artifice or superstructure to prop it up. The work stands up.
If we didn’t already get this fact, Sculpturalism puts in high relief how LA architecture has as much to do with the ideas and struggles that emanate from the city’s practices as it does with what gets built, or not built as the case may be. It is not a bad thing to put more of this creative process under the public’s eye.
So as the negative reviews pile up and the architects shout from the balconies, what we shouldn’t lose sight of is the fact that Sculpturalism is the most ecstatic tribal dance around the bonfire of contemporary Los Angeles architecture to have been staged in recent memory. Here the arguments are loud and the fire burns ever so brightly. Let it burn, ABI Billings Index. Let it burn, critics. Let it burn in office after office. Let it burn in the schools and across the city—even if mostly at residential scale.
If we absolutely have to have an alternative title because some of the participating architects are overly-sensitive about being misrepresented, it should be called “Busy Working, Not Hiding.” And when did architects become so sensitive anyway? Was the term “Sculptural” viewed as reductive rather than open and provocative? Open to interpretation? Since when did architects become so literal? No matter what is written or said, the basic truth of the work shows that this fire we call LA architecture burns brightly no matter what forms it may take. Moreover, now that the public can get a rare glimpse into the rarefied world we call contemporary architecture, hopefully it will no longer just be the architects getting emotional. The more opportunities for the public to understand and even misunderstand what architects do, the better.
In the words of participant Tom Wiscombe, “We don’t have a name anymore. What’s important for shows like this is something that resonates, something people can identify with.”