The Block Party
With furniture shops, design ateliers, and new architectural developments, the Meatpacking District is a bona-fide design destination
Abe Gurko is the organizer of the inaugural Meatpacking District Design Week events.
From its humble origins as home of New York's meatpacking companies to its days as the prowling ground for transvestite hookers to its present guise of Clubland, USA, the Meatpacking District has never been short on personality. One of its presently evolving identities is that as a designer hotbed. According to Abe Gurko, who is organizing the first series of design events in the Meatpacking District during ICFF this year, The neighborhood has never gotten together to say We're fabulous. Come see us not just at night but during the day, too.'' Gurko, who in the past few years has organized off-site events during ICFF at the Chelsea Hotel and at Drive-In Studios went on, This is the first year that we're claiming the neighborhood as a design destination..
From Saturday, May 20, to Monday, May 22, the Meatpacking District Design Week will present a series of events, exhibitions, and lectures amid the backdrop of the area's new architectural developments. For example, a panel discussion on Women in Architecture on Monday, May 22, will include Clodagh, the designer of the Caledonia, a new apartment complex attached to the High Line, and Amale Andraos, a partner of Work, which is in the process of converting a complex of historic Meatpacking District buildings into Diane von Furstenberg's new flagship store.
The neighborhood's well-known clothing boutique's are also being folded into the mix: A model of the neighbhorhood's centerpiece, the High Line, which recently began its transformation into a public park, will be displayed in the windows of the Carlos Miele boutique, itself an innovative interior designed by New York firm Asymptote. And Stella McCartney's shop will display the latest offerings of London-based Established & Sons, founded by former Wallpaper publisher Alasdhair Willis (who is also McCartney's husband).
Paola Lenti's Bliss textiles will be on view at Karkula.
The idea for the Meatpacking initiative arose in conversations between Gurko and Kip Kotzen, the director of the Vitra store on Ninth Avenue, and John Erik Karkula, who runs his eponymous furniture shop on Gansevoort. Gurko convinced Annie Washburn and David Rabin of the Meatpacking District Initiative, a group that represents the neighborhood's businesses, to support the effort.
My shop and other design-related shops in the area typically do something during ICFF,, said Karkula, but we have never been connected in any way.. This year, his store, as well as kindred local shops Vitra and Design Within Reach, will anchor Design Week. Karkula will present a Best of Milan exhibition, which will show recent work by Paola Lenti and Mooi. And in front of his shop, Gansevoort Street will be filled with an open-air design fair organized by London event promoters Designersblock.
The Meatpacking event is mostly about creating an atmosphere for the design industry,, said Gurko. We're interested in promoting the culture and people of design, rather than straightforward business interests. What's going on in the Meatpacking District is not at all like a trade event..
The veteran events planner continued, To me, New York Design Week needs to evolve even further.. As of press time, Gurko was still putting the finishing touches on a dense program that takes advantage offand shows offfthe venue-rich district. New York City is an important player on the international design scene,, he observed. Organizing these events is the only way to make design become a citywide interest..ANDREW YANG
Dumbo Takes Flight
Now in its fourth year, bklyn designs gathers the best of brooklyn's furniture design talent in dumbo, giving local makers a boost and nurturing a community
Bklyn Designs was conceived by Christine Abbate, left, Karen Auster, right, and Kenneth Adams (not pictured).
The settlement of Brooklyn's industrial fringe by designers is old news, but until BKLYN DESIGNS started four years ago, no one could be sure of the scope or character of the borough's creative output. Kenneth Adams, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said, We knew that there was a critical mass of designerssin particular of furniture and furnishingssand that it was time for Brooklyn to mount a unique event around it.. Adams brought on Karen Auster of Auster Events, an events-planning and market-research firm, to conduct a market analysis of emerging business sectors. Auster found that, indeed, Brooklyn had a high concentration of furniture designers, noting that the main clusters were in DUMBO, Red Hook, the Navy Yard, and Williamsburg..
So Adams, together with Auster and Christine Abbate, founder of Novitt, a Brooklyn-based communications firm specializing in architecture and design, developed the concept for a trade fair of sorts, open to contemporary furniture and furnishings designers based in or whose work is continued on page 20 dumbo takes flight continued from page 19 made in Brooklyn. As a sign of its success, BKLYN DESIGNS now finds itself fending off companies from outside the borough that want to participate. We've had people from Manhattan trying to sneak in the showwand from other states!! laughed Abbate.
This year's event, which runs May 12214 and is held in locations around DUMBO, near the Brooklyn Bridge, is the largest yet, with 54 exhibitors, including 23 first-timers. BKLYN DESIGNS is not like ICFF and we don't want it to be,, said Dania Ahmad of Novitt. It has a very community feel to it, but also a high level of professionalism.. This stems from the show's organization: BKLYN DESIGNS has an advisory board that includes Thomas Schutte, the president of Pratt Institute, Jen Renzi, senior editor of House & Garden, Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design, and Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum. Moreover, the show is juried and has a dedicated trade day, to keep its emphasis on quality contemporary design. Some of the exhibitors also show at ICFF but in general, the show is more for smaller companies. It's also more affordable (at $1,500 per booth, compared to ICFF, where a comparably sized booth costs $7,200). Most of the Brooklyn exhibitors are just making the leap from custom- and small-batch production to larger collections. When the companies become bigger, they can move on to ICFF or other shows,, said Adams.
Sunset Parkkbased furniture designer Rob Day will introduce his first collection, R.Day, at BKLN DESIGNS.
The organizers made a conscious decision to hold the event the weekend before ICFF, an interesting move given the urge of other off-site events to attract the attention of international design media that flock to New York for the main event. In this sense, BKLYN DESIGNS is really home-grown, by locals, for locals. Of last year's roughly 5,000 attendees, one quarter was trade, and three quarters were general consumers. I just ran into one of our exhibitors who told me he's still busy from custom commissions that he got from regular people coming to the event last year,, said Auster.
The Chamber of Commerce puts approximately $50,000 toward BKLYN DESIGNS, which is also funded by admissions, booth fees, and sponsors-led this year by appliance company Bosch/Thermador/ Gaggenau and Two Trees Management, which is developing a large portion of DUMBO. The Chamber's funds actually come from a program called Brooklyn Goes Global, a state-funded initiative dedicated to providing marketing assistance to Brooklyn manufacturers. Previously, the program, which has been around for ten years, had focused on more traditional manufacturing. But it became clear that the manufacturing base was changing,, said Adams. When we started, people came out of the woodwork, pun intended,, said Adams.
For Adams, one of the most gratifying aspects of the show is the degree to which the show has helped identify and foster a community. The show has helped anchor a very important sector of the economy,, he said. And the designers have come together, socializing, helping each other, pointing each other to resources, exchanging ideas on how to run their businesses..
BKLYN DESIGNS includes a full roster of events, including lectures, exhibitions, and parties. For more information, go to www.brooklyndesigns.net. CATHY LANG HO
The Good 'Burgers
Altoids Living Spaces is a strong sign that Williamsburg's design scene has come of age
Dave Alhadeff, left, and Jason Miller, right, are curators of this year's Altoids Living Spaces show.
Williamsburg design has come into its own, and for Jason Miller, it is a culture that is distinct from others in the city, or even the country. One of the main characteristics of people who move here is that they tend to be makers of things, whether it is art, music, or design,, said Miller, himself a designer. I don't think there are such large communities of makers in other places. It's no coincidence there is a bigger pool of design talent here than anywhere else..
That talent will be on display during Design Week in May, when Altoids Living Spaces opens at the local event space Supreme Trading. Miller put the show together with Dave Alhadeff, who opened a design store called The Future Perfect in the neighborhood three years ago. The show will include the work of about 30 young designers, many of whom live and work in the area. Along with The Future Perfect, the Living Spaces show has been one of the agents helping to define the local design culture and give it a more public face. It grew out of an event called Joint Venture that Alhadeff had worked on with the designers Ruby Metzger and Bart Bettencourt in 2003. (Joint Venture has subsequently been combined with Firstop, which is a series of open studios, events, and public art projects throughout Williamsburg that will also run during Design Week. See events guide for more information.) Altoids' sponsorship of the show has allowed Alhadeff and Miller more leeway its production. The support has also inspired the Altoids Designer of the Year Award, which comes with a purse of $2,500 and the chance to design a limited-edition Altoids tin. Miller's one-time boss Karim Rashid is the award's celebrity judge.
For Miller and Alhadeff, who both attended the Milan Furniture Fair last month, it is what happens off the trade show floorrin the events and exhibitions that often spring up around the fairssthat is the most interesting and provocative. After all, these fairs happen at convention centerssthey'll be selling tape there next week,, laughed Alhadeff. The buzz that circulates throughout Milan is something that they want to recreate with Living Spaces.
Courtesy Altoids Living Spaces
Michael Andrulewich's Axe Table II (top) and Jun Aizaki's Foam Chair are two of the pieces featured in the Altoids Living Spaces show.
ICFF remains at the heart of Design Week, but these Williamsburg happeningssalong with those in DUMBO and the Meatpacking Districttare providing more opportunities for large manufacturers, small workshops, custom woodworkers, textile designers, graphic designers, architects, and fashion designers from New York and beyond to rub shoulders.
Living Spaces is submissions-based, and is open to U.S. designers, no matter where they live and work. So while its sensibility reflects the Williamsburg design scene, it isn't just an exhibition of that work. The show isn't about that culture, but it is very much a part of it,, said Alhadeff. But what characterizes that culture? For Miller, Williamsburg style grows out of middle-class suburban American culture. Though this isn't necessarily a shared background for all locals, it is the general baseline for the general sensibility one will see in the show. There is a Williamsburg aesthetic,, said Miller, And you see it not only in design but in clothing and elsewhere. Altogether, it makes sense.. ANNE GUINEY
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The Block Party
Renzo Piano completes his first New York commissionn the three-year, $106 million renovation and expansion of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Julie V. Iovine observes how Piano preserves the intimacy of the original but risks losing some of its immediacy by making it a crowd-pleaser. Photography by Dan Bibb.
On April 29, a transformed Pierpont Morgan Library rejoins the Manhattan museum scene, a landscape much-altered itself, both physically and psychically, since the Morgan closed for renovation three years ago. In that time, the beloved, ebulliently gaudy house-museum has undergone a vast makeover by Italian architect Renzo Piano who, when commissioned for the job in 2000, had an avid insider following and has since become a bona fide international superstar. Meanwhile, the newly gargantuan Museum of Modern Art has shown that critical skepticism has no bearing at all on popularity. Culture in general has taken a drubbing at Ground Zero (Drawing Center evicted; Frank Gehry's performance hall aborted; Snnhetta's Freedom Center nullified), underscoring the reality that no one puts particular stock any more in the power of art to uplift. J. P. Morgan would have been mortified.
After all, the Morgan Library was the rich man's sanctum and treasure horde turned tenderly over to New Yorkers so that they might be bettered through contact. And people have been passionate and personal about the place ever since. In the early 1990s, Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic at the The New York Times, described the experience of visiting as both tranquil and intense. Who wouldn't be entranced by the McKim, Mead & White portico and rotunda, the lavish H. Siddons Mowbray murals, the brocaded walls and gilded swags? John Russell, former art critic of The New York Times, dreamed of being locked overnight inside its walls. It's no surprise considering what it contains: drawings by Rembrandt, da Vinci, DDrer, and Degas; three Gutenburg bibles; one of only two extant copies of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur; Mary Shelley's own annotated copy of Frankenstein; architectural plans by Inigo Jones; etchings by Piranesi; JRR Tolkien kvetching in letters about the Hobbit; jeweled bindings; illuminated manuscripts galore; and on and on.
Piano was charged not with enlarging but rather, as he put it, rebalancing and rethinking the institution which had grown somewhat haphazardly over the years into a three-plus-building sprawl. He called his method micro-surgery.. Adding 75,000 square feet, even with more than half of it underground and the rest in the shape of a glazed- shed-covered piazza plus pavilions jimmied around the extant buildings, is hardly micro. The medical analogy is, however, apt because like cosmetic surgery, Piano has masterfully preserved the original while partially smoothing, even immobilizing, its vital lifelines.
The grand covered piazzaa or atrium is the centerpiece of Renzo Piano's design for the expanded library
Two balconies extend into the space, and some staff offices overlook it, but are glazed for acoustic privacy.
The Morgan Library is new and improved all right; in fact, Piano (with the local collaboration of Beyer Blinder Belle) has rendered it perfectly into one of the most au courant of building types: the destination museum. Whether Piano's Morgan has the power to incite passionate allegiance, much less a desire to be locked inside overnight, is more doubtful.
It could not have been an easy job. Bartholomew Voorsanger tried in 1991 with a $40 million expansion and courtyard. And let's not forget the ill-fated invitational competition of the late 1990s with Steven Holl Architects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which was abruptly cancelled. Piano had declined to participate but offered his services in case perfect solutions didn't materialize. Now, 15 years and $106 million laterrVoorsanger's and a few other minor additions razed without a traceethe library has been transformed again. Voorsanger's glass court might have been unloved, but it could not be considered a total failure; it did brisk business in party rentals, netting as much as $15,000 for evening events. Piano's renovation is not about adding square footage but, as director Charles E. Pierce, Jr., said in 2002, about providing greater public access.. The Morgan's new high-impact spaces are bound to be in great demand (and the fee for rentals sure to be higher))a goal that many institutions have come to share.
Piano's scheme is sublimely serene. He has treated the Morgan's three main buildingssan 1852 Renaissance Revival brownstone, the 1906 McKim mini-Met and its pared down twin, the annex of 19288as the corner anchors to his central focus, a glass-enclosed, light-filled piazza.
At the edges of the atrium space, he has inserted several elements, varied in scale, homogenous in material, and visible as connective tissue between old and new. The inserts are made of rolled steel panels painted off-white (press materials say they are rose-hued but on a sunny afternoon it looked powdery white to me). The largest piece encompasses the new entrance on Madison Avenue, which leads through a spacious cherry-wood clad tunnel directly to the piazza. A new gallery and reading room are located on the floors above this entrance volume. The smallest addition is a 20-foot cube, containing a gallery, tucked between the original McKim library and the annex. Though it's been cited in earlier articles as a climactic moment in Piano's design, it does not have the inscrutable impact promised by its perfect dimensions, at least not for this visitor. And curators may be hard pressed to take full advantage of its modest space in any way other than as a showcase for one singular item at a time, albeit, displayed to shine in all its glory.
Before making a beeline for an unoccupied caff table in the piazza, visitors will be tempted to descend a wide stair gaping downward at the lip of the entrance passage. Those who give into the urge will view a steel-encased treasure-holding vault sunk three stories into Manhattan's bedrock schist. Neat. Sunk below, too, is a new 280-seat performance hall. One enters at the top row of a steeply inclined auditorium baffled in slightly curled chips of cherry wood. The space is more elegant than expressionistic, a wonderfully intimate spoken-word stage.
J. P. Morgan's wood-paneled music room (below, right) will now hold the bookstore.
So what's missing then? Crowd-pleasing (event-friendly) piazza and caffécheck. Sculptural object cubeecheck. Cool performance space, naturally. A fancy restaurant and much-expanded shop are a quick detour right off the entrancee good plan. Oh, yes, the collection. Barely encountered. To actually find the prizes for which the library is so well known, one must wander a bit. A narrow vaulted passage to the right and set back from the entrance leads past an old elevator bank to two spacious galleries (and a gallery hall, once the museum entrance) in the old annex. In the far corner off the piazza, J. P.'s original library and study have been restored to full robber-baron Rococo style. And then there's the new gallery on the second floor of the entrance pavilion. For the inaugural greatest hits exhibition, some 300 objects will be on display through out the museummthat's less than 0.09 percent of the 350,000-piece-strong collection. So much for increased public access.
The vast majority of the new 75,000 square feet of space is underground, and accessible via a staircase located just past the entrance.
The new Morgan oozes the calm elegance of masstige modernism. On a smaller scale, it employs many of the same moves as Yoshio Taniguchi's MoMA, such as a vertically compressed, horizontally expansive entrance giving way to breathtaking volume. Instead of procession, the experience is more like scaling levels and discovering views of where you were a moment ago. Whereas Taniguchi used bridges, Piano has two balconies alongside a Hyatt-esque glass elevator peering over the piazza. Both capture unexpected and refreshing views of the buildings beyond (though the balcony off the reading room is accessible only to those with reading room passes).
And like the Museum Tower coming down to ground undisguised in the main lobby of MoMA (as if to holler, Don't forget me!!), so too do the three old Morgan buildings reveal themselves in the new atrium space. It's a little bit like catching a glimpse, from the knee down, of a giant whose head is in the clouds. While MoMA is all about pumping visiting hordes out of the central chamber into the building's arteries and galleries, Piano, despite having been called a poet of circulation,, seems content for people to stay put in the voluminous piazza. Unquestionably, the Morgan will become a cool place to meet and hang out (although at the moment, the only seating seems to be at the caff's tables). The light filtering in through complex but not particularly high-tech skylights (another Piano trademark) will be delicious. Staff offices have been allocated generous spaces in the 1852 Italianate brownstone with some walls sheered off and glassed over in order to give some lucky employees vistas of their own; a conservation studio is tucked up and out of the way at roof-top level.
The new Morgan is purre-perfect, blemish-free. People will flock to get in. And yet on a recent sunny afternoon, the piazzaasurrounded by limestone, electronically shaded glass, powder-coated steelllooked deadly calm. The Morgan has acquired a seamless, beautiful new mask. What may be lost is the quickening, possibly even vulgar, feeling of excitement that one man wanted to impart to others by sharing his precious treasures with the world.
Julie V. Iovine writes frequently for The New York Times and other publications. She is the features director at Elle DDcor and architecture critic for AN.
6 Original Library
7 Staff Offices
8 Reading Rooms
9 Performance Hall
The Pierpont Morgan Library
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects
F. J. Sciame Construction Co.
Robert Silman Associates
Curtain Wall: Front, Inc., Gartner
Acoustics: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, Kahle Acoustics
H. M. White Site Architects
Lighting Designer: Arup
All renderings courtesy respective firms The development of the Queens waterfront is modeled after that of Battery Park City. Now on the drawing boards are (from left to right) residential highrises by V Studio/Walkergroup, Arquitectonica, Perkins Eastman, and Handel Architects.
The future skyline of Queens bears a superficial resemblance to Jersey City: More than a dozen tall buildings are planned to rise along the Queens Waterfront and, as a result of Special District zoning, many others are in the works in Long Island City and Hunters Point. As D. Grahame Shane reports, the Department of City Planning's surgical approach to zoning is stimulating strategic development throughout the borough, promising a series of dynamic urban patchess as well as some awkward seams.
While New Yorkers witnessed an epic battle for the top-down control of the World Trade Center site, replete with power players channeling Robert Moses, the New York Department of City Planning (DCP) has been quietly leading an urban planning revolution with a small-scale, bottom-up approach throughout the boroughs. The unveiling last month of Richard Rogers Partnership's design of a massive mixed-use project on the Queens waterfront for Silvercup Studios portends a dense, monumental future for the low-scale, still-industrial area. But various rezonings throughout Queenssincluding Long Island City, Hunters Point, and a dozen other neighborhoodssare in fact setting the framework for more incremental development in the borough, encouraging a unique fabric of mixed uses, spaces, scales, densities, and textures.
From its colonial beginning New York was part of an archipelago, a network of small patches of European settlements connected by boats, New Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Hoboken, and Harlem. The large open spaces of Queens have always attracted those unable to find accommodation in Manhattan, from the farmers and fishermen of the colonial period to the industrialists of the 19th and 20th centuries who deposited their ports, factories, warehouses, oil refineries, cement plants, and more in the marshy headland bound by the East River and Newtown Creek. With its evolving transportation linkssbridges, tunnels, ferries, and raillheavy industry thrived in the area. The huge spaces that were carved out by industrial uses have taken on new meaning today, with Manhattan's squeezed housing market and changed attitudes about commuting. Suddenly, the rust-belt patches around Long Island City are attractive real estate.
In 2001, the Museum of Modern Art's temporary move to LIC highlighted the area's nascence as a cultural district. The same year, the Group of 35, a panel created by Senator Charles Schumer representing public and private interests, issued a report calling for the creation of a new business district in LIC, suggesting 15 million square feet of office space and citing the benefits of a planneddthough sadly now defunctt?word-class intermodal transit stationn at Sunnyside Yards. (The yard has a small LIRR stop and a ferry terminal nearby; the plan for the hub would have folded in stops for Amtrak, NJ Transit, and the MTA, whose routes all cross there.)
The intensification of development in Queens has actually been in process for some time. In 1984, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PA) took over a large portion of the Queens docklands and, together with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), created a 74-acre development patch under the auspices of the Queens West Development Corporation (QWDC). QWDC follows the Battery Park City model of development (also created by the ESDC), with phased parcels bid to separate developers. Two buildings have been completed (one by Cesar Pelli, 1998, and another by Perkins Eastman, 2001), and more than a dozen more are planned. Though far from complete, Queens West already appears to be isolated and out of scale with its surroundings, despite well-intentioned efforts to create open spaces and waterfront views.
By contrast, the DCP has adopted a more targeted approach to the rest of Queens, with timely responses to particular urban actors in particular locations. The DCP is actually building on an approach that was pioneered in the 1960s by Mayor John Lindsay's Urban Design Group (members included Jonathan Barnett, Alexander Cooper, Jaquelin Robertson, Richard Weinstein, and Richard Dattner), which abandoned masterplanning on a city-wide, regional scale and introduced Special District zoning. Based on a 1916 zoning ordinance addressing skyscrapers downtown, Special Districts under the Urban Design Group began as relatively simple mechanisms to protect small residential communities like Little Italy and Chinatown from large-scale development. Later, the concept was applied to create a Theater Special District, to protect Broadway theaters and allow the transfer of their valuable air rights to neighboring sites. This system of controlled zoning patches evolved into a complex, three-dimensional, multifunctional, incentive-based design methodology that paved the way for Cooper and Eckstut's 1978 masterplan of Battery Park City.
Under Amanda Burden, who has been planning commissioner and director of the DCP since 2002, Special Districts zoning has evolved further still, to encompass micro-patches of upzoning, downzoning, mixed-use, and historic and industrial preservation. Her LIC Mixed-Use Special District was in fact her first exercise, and presaged similar strategies in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, East Harlem, and Chelsea.
This finely calibrated approach to zoning can be seen in three of current hot patchess of development in Queens:
Queens Plaza Special Improvement District
Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Adult Entertainment Zoning of the late 1990s exiled some of Times Square's porn shops, strip clubs, and prostitution to this long-neglected industrial gateway. Few paid attention to the area, until 2000 when Michael Bailkin and Paul Travis of the Arete Group tried to buy two large sites, including a large city-owned garage, at the junction of Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue. The same developers bought the air rights to part of Sunnyside Yards. Their moves prompted the DCP (then directed by Joseph Rose) to devise the Queens Plaza Special District (approved in 2001) that featured incentive bonuses and Urban Design Guidelines that called for broad setbacks, new parks, and ground-floor retail to enliven the street. The lots that Arete sought (which have since gone to Tishman Speyer) were upzoned to Floor Area Ratio (FAR) 12, signaling a dense future for LIC.
The city has also responded to pressure from public interest groups, like the Municipal Arts Society, the Regional Plan Association, and the Van Alen Institute. The latter organized the Queens Plaza competition in 200112002, which addressed the need to do something about the gloomy stretch of roadway beneath the noisy Queensborough Bridge. In 2002, the city selected Margie Ruddick as a lead consultant (on a team that initially included Michael Sorkin and Michael Singer) to develop a landscape design that would improve the public spaces, lighting, traffic flow, and general streetscape of Queens Plaza. Ruddick, who is now collaborating with Marpillero/Pollak, described her intention to make the left-over spaces legible as a landscape that helps you get from one place to another, making connections across the space under the bridge.. Her scheme emphasizes improved circulation; bicycle and pedestrian paths and crossings abound. Near the waterfront section, she has planned a cathedral-like space under the bridge, which will act as a seam between the planned Silvercup West project and the Queensbridge Houses, a massive housing project built by the New York City Housing Authority in 1941. The plan is currently under review by the Fine Arts Commission.
Long Island City Mixed-Use Special District (2004)
Compared to the crude zoning of Queens Plaza, the LIC Mixed-Use Special District is more finely textured and varied. The DCP divided the area into three sub-districts, which form a triangle around a gritty industrial core that will be preserved: The Long Island City Core Sub-District is a small enclave driven by developers and already contains Citigroup's skyscraper at Court Square, the borough's first tall building. This very compact, high-density patch (zoned at FAR 12) has many tax incentives and has already attracted a second Citigroup tower and United Nations Federal Credit Union building, both under construction. The 1989 Citigroup tower, with its interior cafeteria and attached car park, never sponsored street life. Under the revised Urban Design Guidelines, both the new buildings will have street level retail to foster pedestrian activity and new plantings, furniture, and parks. The neighboring Jackson Avenue Mixed-Use Sub-District (approved 2004) borders the Sunnyside Yards. Here, warehouses and factories, like the 254-unit Arris Building, are being converted to residential lofts and offices. The upzoning to FAR 7 and Urban Design Guidelines under study by the Volmer Group are aimed at remaking Jackson Avenue into a densely built commercial boulevard, containing 3 million square feet of offices stretching from Court Square to Queens Plaza's subway node. The aim is to create a vibrant street life, with cafes, restaurants, and stores,, said Burden. The plan calls for widened sidewalks, tree planting, kiosks, seating, and night lighting.
The density on Jackson Avenue decreases in the Hunters Point Mixed-Use Rezoning Sub-District (approved in 2004). Individual urban actors predominate in this area, with small-scale housing, auto-body shops, galleries, and artists' studios. Burden saw this area as containing the soull of LIC. Fearing the large scale of development on the nearby waterfront, residents have been organizing themselves into groups, like the 49th Street Block Association and the Hunters Point Community Organization. The city downzoned this patch within a general FAR 5 intended to protect the arts area around the P.S.1 cultural center.
Queens Waterfront (1980s to present)
The small-scale flexibility of LIC's new mixed-use subdistricts is nonexistent on the waterfront. As a state agency, the ESDC formulated Queens West with almost no community input, though pressure from Hunters Point residents did ensure that a continuous landscaped riverfront would be publicly accessible.
The completion of the 42-story City Lights tower by Cesar Pelli for Manhattan Overlook Associates (1998) and 32-floor tower by Perkins Eastman for Avalon Bay (2001) have skyscraper-shocked local residents into paying attention to what is happening to the rest of the waterfront. Local groups are starting to pressure the QWDC to break down Queens West's 1980s masterplan and work at a smaller scale. To deflect criticism, in 2004 the ESDC revised Phase II of the 1980s masterplan, which includes seven buildings by Rockrose, with designs by Arquitectonica and Handel Architects. Last year, State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan was quoted in the Queens Chronicle as saying, I think it is appropriate and past due time for Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg to review the plan for Queens West and begin a dialogue with the community as to the importance of affordable housing for the work soon to be scheduled on the southern portion of the site.. The southern portion, known as Queens West South (Phase III), was most recently publicized as the site of the proposed Olympic Village, with a winning masterplan by Morphosis. Though New York lost its Olympic bid, the exercise offered a vision of the area as a new vibrant neighborhood.
Burden is currently negotiating with Frances Huppert, the design director of the ESDC, to get the corporation to break down the scale of their development into more manageable patches, including mixed-income housing, which could link to the surrounding Hunters Point Special District. Burden also hopes that a pedestrian bridge across Newtown Creek can someday connect the Queens West esplanade to the waterfront planned for Greenpoint-Williamsburg.
North of Queens West lie two of the hottest patches in Long Island City. The first project is River East, a scenographic, set-piece street of mixed-use townhouses and lofts with two glass-skinned 30-story towers at the riverside, designed by Jay Valgora and developed by Vernon Realty. The buildings bracket a street that frames a view of the United Nations. Beyond River East lies an empty Con Edison site, and next to that is Silvercup West, the expansion of Stuart and Alan Suna's film and production studios. The Sunas took advantage of an extension of the upzoning of the Queensborough Bridge Plaza Special District to create a 2-million-square-foot, hyper-dense, mixed-use matrix of film studios, roof gardens, office and residential towers spread over 6 acres, unveiled by the Richard Rogers Partnership last month after the plan received its Uniform Land Use and Regional Planning Review (ULURP) letter of certification. The scheme offers a 40-foot-wide riverfront esplanade designed by the Laurie Olin Partnership that will link to Margie Ruddick's Queens Plaza landscape scheme (see sidebar).
Queens waterfront demonstrates the limits of the patchwork approach, where heterogeneous patches are connected by a weak link, the waterfront.
The advantage of a patch-by-patch approach is its specificity and its ability to capture the dynamic of relationships between various actors in various patches. The complex narratives of LIC actors and their efforts to shape their sites shows that there are multiple ways to develop a patch, ranging from top-down utopian masterplan that is fixed and inflexible to the bottom-up approach where every actor has a distinctive voice in the polyphonic dialogue. Long Island City shows this range, and it is to the DCP's credit that it has tried to deal with each situation individually. Eventually, an emergent system of urban design will be able to provide the means of balancing and managing the flows between the fragments. Until then we will have to rely on our intuition to sense the flows between the patches in the emergent ecology of the urban archipelagos that constitute our cities.
D. Grahame Shane is an adjunct professor of architecture at Columbia University GSAPP. He is the author of Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design, and City Theory (john Wiley, 2005).
Development Descends on Queens
Courtesty Department of City Planning
1 Silvercup West
Owned by Alan and Stuart Match Suna and designed by Richard Rogers Partnership, Silvercup West is a $1 billion mixed-use project spread over 6 acres, and includes residential, commercial, cultural, and civic spaces, in addition to 1 million square feet of film-production studios.
2 River East
44402 Vernon Blvd.
Developed by Vernon Realty and sited on 6 acres just south of Silvercup West, River East will contain 1.2 million square feet of residential and commercial space. Rows of townhouses will lead to two 30-story towers on the river and a newly landscaped esplanade. The WalkerGroup of New York and its in-house V Studio, led by architect Jay Valgora, are masterplanning the site and designing the buildings.
3 Queens West
The Queens West Development Corporation (QWDC), a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation, has divided their large waterfront site into four development phases.
Phase II, contracted to Rockrose Development Corporation will contain seven buildings with 3,000 residential units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space. The first two buildings have been designed by Arquitectonica; one will be completed in May, and the other broke ground this month. Handel Architects have designed a third building, with construction to begin late 2006. Arquitectonica will design at least one more building, and the other two are as-yet uncommissioned.
Avalon Bay Communities is developing phase I, just south of Rockrose's. Its first residential tower was completed in 2001 and the second broke ground early this year, and will be completed by May of 2007. Both were designed by Perkins Eastman. A third lot on Avalon Bay's site will likely serve as either a public park or a branch of Queens' Public Library.
Phases III and IV, located partially on the Olympic Village site, have no developers attached, but will likely see the type of mixed-use projects as the first two phases. The QWDC is considering keeping parts of the Olympic site plans.
4 Power House
50009 Second St.
Cheskel Schwimmer and CGS developers will add 100,000 square feet to the former Pennsylvania Railroad Power House's existing 150,000, converting the structure into a residential complex. The new building, designed by Karl Fischer Architect, will contain 190 condominiums.
5, 6 The Gantry
5515 49th Ave. and 48821 5th St.
The Milestone Group, based in New York City, will develop an existing warehouse into 64 condos, designed by local firm Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects. The Gantry will be ready for occupancy early this summer.
7 50th Ave. and 5th St.
Developers Joseph Escarfullery and Joseph Palumbo are planning an 11-unit, high-end co-op on the site of a current parking lot.
8 5549 Borden Ave.
535 Borden LLC has been working with New York architect Juan Alayo to develop a 12-story, 132-unit residential building. The project's backers are presently closing on the sale of the lot to another developer. The sale includes the architectural plans, which, as of now, will remain unchanged.
9 East View Condos
10040 46th Rd.
The East View Condos are in development by owner Henry Khanali and the New York architecture firm Bricolage Designs. The ground-up construction will be five stories, with an as-yet undetermined number of units, and should be completed by the summer of 2007.
10 41143 47th Ave.
No information available.
11 Vantage Jackson
10050 Jackson Ave.
This 13-story building is being developed by the Lions Group with Emmy Homes, and will contain 35 to 40 units.
12 10063 Jackson Ave.
MKF Realty is planning a 40-unit building just west of the Polaski Bridge. Completion expected in early 2007.
13 Badge Building
10055 47th Ave.
Bricolage Designs is designing an eight-story ground-up building that will be attached to an exisiting and soon-to-be-refurbished four-story factory, which once manufactured medallions and badges. The building complex will contain 44 condos; interiors will be designed by Front Studio. Badge Building Development LLC is a group of independent investors led by the building's current owner, who has been sitting on the property for the last ten years.
14 12201 Jackson Ave.
Hentze-Dor Real Estate is developing a 35-unit rental on an irregularly shaped lot on Jackson Avenue.
15 Echaelon Condominiums
13311 Jackson Ave.
Ron Hershco of Jackson Realty LLC is planning a 52-unit condominium designed by Newman Design Group of Cold Spring Hill, New York. Occupancy is scheduled for late spring of 2006.
16 Venus Site
Queens Plaza North and 24th St.
Developer Moshe Feller is reportedly working on a condo building that will house 320 units.
17 24415 Queens Plaza North
Karl Fischer Architect is planning alterations to an existing 50,000-square-foot office building for an unnamed developer.
18 42237 Crescent St.
Owner Ruben Elberg of Royal One Real Estate and Karl Fischer Architect are planning a 16-unit condominium building with two ground-floor commercial spaces. Completion is expected mid-2007.
19 42259 Crescent St.
Adjacent to 42237 Crescent Street, the same developer-architect team will build another residential project with retail space. 42259 Crescent will be slightly bigger, at 24 units, and completed by early 2007.
20 45556 Pearson St.
Rosma Development of New York is set to build a 20-story project on a 30,000 square-foot site, creating 120 condos that should be ready by 2007.
21 Arris Condominiums
27728 Thompson Ave.
The Andalex Group is planning an $80 million conversion of a 1920s warehouse into a mix of 237 lofts and 17 studios. Costas Kondylis and Partners is completing the design, which will involve a total overhaul of the interiors as well as exterior restoration.
22 Vantage Purves
44427 Purves St.
Another development in the area by the Lions Group and Emma Homes Partnership, the Vantage Purves will have 57 units.
23 42251 Hunter St.
A small group of investors under the name 42251 Hunter Street LLC is developing a seven-story condo building with Manhattan firm Israel Peles Architects.
24 41123 Crescent Street
No information available.
25 The Queens Plaza
41126 27th St.
The Developers Group of New York is planning a 10-story, 66-unit condo building just north of the Queens Plaza Improvement Project.
26 27714 41st Ave.
41st Avenue Property LLC, with Queens-based architect Surja Widjaja of Maison Design, is planning a 24-unit, 8-story residential building.
27 Gaseteria Site
Northern Blvd. and Queens Blvd.
Oil company Gaseteria has partnered with Lowe Enterprises Real Estate to develop a site bordering Long Island City's Sunnyside Yards into a mixed-use complex with a projected 400 housing units, in addition to office and retail space.
1 Silvercup West
2 United Nations Federal
24th St. and 45th Dr.
With a tentative completion date of this September, the $65 million United Nations Federal Credit Union building, designed by HLW international, will be the second all-commercial highrise in Long Island City, after the 1.4-million-square-foot Skidmore, Owings and Merrilll designed Citigroup tower, completed in 1989.
3 Citigroup, Phase II
Citigroup is several months into the construction of its second office buidling in the neighborhood, next door to its 48-floor tower, the tallest building in the boroughs. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, the second building will be significantly smaller, at 475,000 square feet and 14 floors. An estimated 1,800 Citibank employees will be housed in the new building, which will be completed in 2007.
4 Queens Plaza Municipal Garage
Tishman Speyer recently signed a 99-year lease for the city-owned parking lot, and plans to raze the lot to build an office building with underground parking. Recently upzoned to 12 FAR, the site could accept 1.5 million square feet of development.
5 QP Site
Tishman Speyer is razing several low-scale commercial buildings and a parking lot, the former site of the QP flea market, and likely building office space in addition to that across the street at the Queens Plaza Municipal Garage. The lot is owned by businessman Bill Modell.
6 Gaseteria Site
Queens Plaza Improvement Project
In 2001 the Department of City Planning began implementing a plan to improve Queens Plaza, the boulevard that runs from Sunnyside Yards to the Queensborough Bridge. The plan includes extensive infrastructural improvements, including new roadways and subway station renovations, as well as an extensive landscape scheme by Philadelphia-based Margie Ruddick, which would extend a lush, pedestrian-friendly esplanade to the East River waterfront.
produced by Jaffer kolb, with research by jesse finkelstein, teresa herrmann, and stephen martin.Silvercup City
Silvercup West by Richard Rogers Partnership. The north tower (closer to the bridge) will house offices while the two south towers will contain 1,000 residential units. On the north corner, Rogers plans a public, outside escalator. The towers' x-bracing echoes the structure of the Queensborough bridge. Sound stages fill the base of the complex, which will also have ground-level retail and restaurants.
The history of Silvercup Studios shows why the city is right to encourage small entrepreneurs and big businesses alike. It wasn't long agoojust over 25 yearsswhen Silvercup founders Stuart and Alan Suna, with their late father, Henry, bought Silver Cup Bakery for Henry's sheet metal business. The brothers, who both trained as architects, later stumbled on the idea of renting the former factory's vast spaces as sound studios, because such spaces were scarce in New York.
With Silvercup West, their new development down the street, the Sunas are building more than just sound stages; they're building a mini-city, a massive mixed-use complex designed by Richard Rogers Partnership. Stuart Suna explained that they chose Rogers because they felt his high-tech design aesthetic matched their program: high-tech production studios in an industrial context. He added, We read and admired his books on the ecology of cities, like Cities for a Small Planet.. As an infill, high-density, mixed-use project near a transit hub, Silvercup is already sustainable in a sense.
The complex is comprised of four big boxes, with double-stacked sound stages totaling 1 million square feet. Three towers rise from the studio volumessone commercial and two residentialland the studios will be topped with roof gardens. All told, Silvercup will bring 1 million square feet of studio space, 665,000 square feet of retail and office space, 100,000 square feet of cultural space, and nearly 300,000 square feet of residential space to the area. The project also includes the preservation of a historic terra cotta factory, which produced the cladding for the Woolworth Building.
The scheme offers several civic gestures, such as a publicly accessible waterfront esplanade designed by landscape architect Laurie Olin that will link to Margie Ruddick's Queens Plaza park underneath the bridge. Stuart Suna boasted of riverfront cafes and ground-floor retail that would animate the esplanade, as well as an outside escalator to a rooftop terrace or caff, echoing Rogers' original intention for the escalator at the Georges Pompidou Center.
Despite its tasteful and civic moves, the complex is not without design problems: the towers encroach on the bridge; the base volumes are essentially superblocks; there is an extreme scale shift between Rogers' blocks and the terra cotta factory; and the largest rooftop garden will be will be closed to the public. But the Sunas and Rogers seem to be responsive to criticism. Already, they acceded to Amanda Burden's request for the corners of the towers to meet the street rather than float above blank boxes, giving more identity to the street. A good sign. DGS
Emerging Voices 2006
The Architectural League's Emerging Voices program, now in its 25th year, showcases the nation's most promising architectural talent.The eight firms picked by the Architectural League as this year's Emerging Voices are an eclectic group, representing the breadth of the profession. Their portfolios run from techno-savvy commercial work to modernist residences and sculptural installation art. We wanted to convey a broad cross-section of what young architects are doing in this country,, said juror Ali Tayar, principal of New Yorkkbased Parallel Design. I think [this year's winners] strike a balance between those doing architecture in a traditional wayywith a client, a site, a real buildinggand those doing conceptually driven work..
Wendy Evans Joseph, president of the board of directors at the Architectural League, observed, In some years, the winners are concentrated on one coast or specialize in one thing, but this year there was a tremendous range of talent with an emphasis on regional concerns.. Interestingly, most of this year's winners are foreign-born; perhaps it is their expatriate status that heightens their sensitivity toward their adopted contexts.
The 2006 Emerging Voices share another crucial characteristic: The common bond between the winners is the intensity of their explorations and the rigor of their work,, said juror Adam Yarinsky of New Yorkkbased Architectural Research Office (ARO). Also, given the nature of the series, we were looking for firms with a cohesive story to tell.. During the month-long lecture series that accompanies the honor, the eight firms will have a chance to present their distinct takes on contemporary practice.
Lecture Series:March 2
Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang
Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo
457 Madison Avenue
457 Madison Avenue
Thomas Bercy and Calvin Chen
Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena
457 Madison Avenue
Lecture series sponsored by USM.
Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena/
Escher GuneWardena Architecture
Los Angeles, California
Jean Ogami / Courtesy Escher Gunewardena
Left: Escher GuneWardena's Jamie House is sited on a very steep hill in Pasadena, California. To maintain a modernist box, the architects lifted the house on a concrete platform to avoid having to mold it to the landscape.
Right: In 2001, The firm used Electric Sun 1, a tanning salon in Los Angeles, as a chance to create kinetic light sculpturess that echo the nature of the business.
Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena founded their firm in Los Angeles in 1995 and immediately began working on the Jamie House in Pasadena, an involved project that took five years to complete. The young firm was eager to take on smaller and less complicated commissions, and quickly built a portfolio that includes a series of tanning salons, a restaurant, and a gallery, all in their adopted home of Los Angeles. (Swiss-born Escher studied architecture at the Eidgennssische Technische Hochschule in Zurich and Sri Lankan GuneWardena received his degree at California State Polytechnic at Pomona, where they both currently teach.) They've only recently returned to residential work, with several projects now on the drawing board, including the construction of Dwell Home 2, the winner of an invited competition sponsored by Dwell magazine in 2004 to design a sustainable house for the Los Angeles area. The firm has also completed work on a number of high-profile existing buildings such as an addition to a Hollywood Hills house designed in 1959 by Richard Neutra and the restoration of John Lautner's Chemosphere in Los Angeles; Escher is the administrator of the John Lautner Archive in Los Angeles. We are primarily interested in coming up with what we believe is the simplest solution to a complex problem rather than making a formally complex solution,, said Escher.
I like the idea of people reinterpreting history and not trying to reinvent the wheel. Their Jamie Residence in Los Angeles is reminiscent of the work of John Lautnerrit's a concrete and glass box that sits on big, straightforward concrete pylons. It reminds you of Lautner's materiality, and its strict geometry is very contemporary..
There is a conceptual dimension to EscherGunewardena that is compelling and seems to transcend the seemingly conventional nature of the projects. At first glance, the Jamie House might seem to be a contemporary take on a Case Study house, but I think there was another agenda here. There is a stereotype that everyone in California is dealing with everyday materials and casualness, but this house is more than that..
They were working within a very typically California condition, and so they embraced cantilevered outdoor spaces, clean, modern forms that both respond to and engage with the landscape..
Teddy Cruz/Estudio Teddy Cruz
San Diego, California
Bottom: Paal Rivera / Courtesy Estudio Teddy Cruz
Above: Cruz is designing new mixed-use developments based on the adaptive reuse of existing structures and recycled materials. The model above shows a proposal for a community in Tijuana.
Below: He also designed a temporary pavilion and information center in San Diego for inSite_05, an initiative involving notprofits and cultural organizations that activates public space through guerilla installations in the Tijuana and San Diego area. this structure is in the process of being moved to Tijuana and converted into a residence.
Teddy Cruz has built a practice around research and advocacy in the border territory between Tijuana and San Diego, where he has lived off and on since 1984. As the Guatemala-born architect noted, While my work is based on trans-border urbanisms, most of our projects have to do with housing typologies.. Through his research Cruz targets specific issues that inform the relationship between the two regions, with their sharply contrasting economies and cultures. Tijuana has built itself from the waste of San Diego, rising from debris like old tires and garage doors,, Cruz explained. He has worked closely with local nonprofits such as San Ysidroobased Casa Familiar to advocate the exploration of residential typologies that are suitable for new immigrants, as well as programs that would provide civic empowerment through micro-loans and other economic incentives. His work has earned him numerous awards, including a Rome Prize in 1991, two P/A Awards (2001 and 2004), and several AIA awards. He was recently given a tenured position in the U.C. San Diego's studio arts program.
He's the only one addressing social concerns that remind me more of architecture in the first half of the 20th century, when architecture was trying to make a better world, not just interesting shapes. His community-based work requires some incredibly tedious analysis, but at the same time he uses it as a basis for creating visually interesting work..
In a way, there's a relationship in spirit between Cruz and Samuel Mockbee's Rural Studio, in that neither tries to apply a conventional notion of architecture to an unconventional situation. Rather, they see what the potential of the situation is. [Cruz's work] uses architecture as a frame for development..
I love that Teddy Cruz's work isn't just about developing its conceptual basissit's not one of those flippant, of-the-moment fads..
Calvin Chen and Thomas Bercy/Bercy Chen Studio
Mike Osborne / Courtesy Bercy Chen Studio
The Annie Street Residence, located in Austin, Texas, was finished in 2003 and soon after certified by the City of Austin's Green Building Program. The self-described design-build firm remained involved in all aspects of construction on the project, because, as principal Calvin Chen observed, There is no long tradition of craftsmanship in Texas; there are no cheap and good-quality contractors..
Calvin Chen and Thomas Bercy established Bercy Chen Studio in 1998, just after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. They began by designing small residences, though the scale of their projects has been growing in step with their experience. Their methods, however, remain unchanged, according to principal Calvin Chen. We started as a design-build firm, a very hands-on operation,, he said. We always wanted to be involved with construction because we love the immediacy of the building site. We will always remain a design-build firm.. While the firm's work is mostly located in and around Austin, they have so far resisted what Chen describes as the quantity-over-quality Texas mindset. We want to produce work that's driven by ideas,, he said. They are currently working on a 100-unit condominium building in Austin and a resort near Mexico City.
I feel as though Bercy Chen connects to the recent history of modernist architecture while bringing something fresh to it. Their Annie Residence is like the Eames House, but with something more..
Their buildings are comprised of volumetrically simple spaces, but light and color play into them. They play up reflections, colors, and textures, with surfaces ranging in quality and form. They're using a base type and manipulating it skillfully, into their own interpretation..
We wanted to acknowledge the rigor, intensity, and quality of the work from the standpoint of material, detail, form; it is highly resolved and very mature..
Jeanne Gang/Studio GANG
Left; Tak Katayama Right: Greg Murphey / Courtesy Studio Gang
Left: In 2003, Studio GANG designed an installation for the National Building Museum's Masonry Variations exhibit. The firm devised a structural system that would support a curtain-like wall of thin stone tile, which was rear-lit to emphasize its delicacy.
Right: Studio gang designed and built the outdoor Starlight Theater for Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois, over the course of three summers (2002204). It features a pitched roof with mechanically operable panels that open and close depending on the weather.
After working as a senior designer at Booth Hansen Architects in Chicago and the Office of Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, Jeanne Gang founded Studio GANG in 1997. According to Gang, who holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Harvard, Our firm is very research-driven and analytical. We begin with the constraints and criteria of each project, and try and find something of architectural interest.. Her projects demonstrate the desire to rework conventional approaches to materials and space. For the exhibition Masonry Variations at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., in 2003, Gang was asked to imagine the future of stone as an architectural building material. Her response (pictured) was to create a seemingly cloth-like curtain of 622 interlocked stone tiles, each cut down to 3/8-inch thickness and hung from the ceiling. I knew stone had to be made lighter in order to work in the future,, explained Gang. The project was only realized after extensive testing and experimentation. Studio GANG was featured in Architectural Record's Design Vanguard 2001 and the firm's work was featured in the exhibition at the U.S. pavilion, Transcending Type, at the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale.
It seems to me that Studio GANG is trying to respond in an ingenious and constructive way to varying contexts and trying to make things that do more than one thing. Their spaces have multiple purposes that work well over the seasons and over time, and become more animated as they age..
The installation she did for the National Building Museum was beautiful and inventive. When you look at the installation, you don't connect the material, which is basically flat and hard, to a double-curved structure. The project was suggestive of skin and of architectureeit connected skin to structure..
Jeanne Gang has a very strong range of work and a unique ability to execute varying scales for varying niches in terms of program. Her craft extends from installations to large-scale projects, like her Starlight Theater. I love her emphasis on craft and skill..
Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo/ Lead Pencil Studio
Courtesy Lead Pencil Studio
Left: While at an artists' residency in Wendover, Utah, Han and Mihalyo made Cleft Footing (2000), an 8-footttall sculpture of tumbleweed collected from the region's arid landscape.
Right: Minus Space (2005), an installation at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, was comprised of two parts: The ceiling is made of a fibrous fabric from which a visqueen and plexiglas form hangs, via thin wires.
Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo met as students at the University of Oregon, where they both received their BArch degrees and where they also studied sculpture. After graduating from architecture school we kept a separate art/studio space. We both went through the whole trajectory of internships, entry-level office work, et cetera, but we always kept the art studio,, said Han, who was born in South Korea. In 1997, the two opened an independent office and began to design commercial spaces and residences, all the while continuing to work on installation projects. In 2000, Han and Mihalyo (a Washington native) won an artist's residency at the Center for Land Use Interpretation's Wendover, Utah, complex, where they were able to pursue sculptural landscape work. After that, the firm was invited to participate in other installations, including a group show at the Center of Contemporary Art in Seattle. Now, we do about half site-works and half architecture,, said Han.
Their installations are environments that are fully architectural in their own right. While some of the site-specific projects are clearly meant for temporary occupation, you can easily imagine them becoming more permanent for specific clients. It's a very inventive body of work, elaborating on how we perceive things through space, light, color, and texture..
If we were going to honor people who did installations, for me it was important to recognize work that was connected to architecture, as opposed to work that veered only toward art. Lead Pencil Studio's installations clearly test architectural ideas..
They don't necessarily do conventional architecture, but are engaging architectural issues and issues of space and perception. Emerging Voices doesn't have to be defined singularly within the tradition of conventional architectural practice. These kinds of practices can really bring the sensibility that we bring to our work to the perception and habitation of space..
George Yu/George Yu Architects
Los Angeles, California
Left: Josh White / Courtesy George Yu Architects
Left: In 2004, George Yu designed Blow-Up for the SCI-Arc Gallery. The installation used 17 inflatable vinyl bladders,, each 20 feet tall and 20 feet in diameter as sensors that would generate sound when activated by touch.
Right: A workspace for Sony's Design Center, built in 2005, uses a white epoxy floor and pale plaster wall panels to create a bright and open environment.
Hong Konggborn George Yu came to Los Angeles by way of Canada, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Urban Geography at the University of British Columbia before going to UCLA for a graduate degree in architecture in 1985. Established in 1992, his office specializes in commercial architecture, which he uses as a point of departure to study the urban environment. Our goal is to use our projects as a form of research to ask questions about the nature of the building type they represent, and not just in a strictly formal and aesthetic sense,, Yu explained. For example, in Vancouver, malls are really interesting because they have gone from the conventional landlord/tenant model to a condo-type model where spaces are sold to retailers as property. I'm as interested in looking at leasing models as at architectural models.. While Yu's work shows a strong design sensitivity, his primary interests lie in the relationship between businesses and their environment, which he explores through integrating new technologies into his designs.
For me, it seems that he's interested in thinking about projects from the bottom up. He uses work like the IBM business center as a way to rethink traditional formats. It's great to see architects wanting to question typologies, to give a project a form and organization and logic, and in his case, a very strong materiality. All of his projects are in one way or another about research: Some are on a programmatic level, some are on a tectonic level..
George Yu's work was shockingly new to me. His work is extensive, the quality is overwhelming, and what I found amazing is his range of scales. He represents a condition where someone can balance technology and invention with materiality and execution. Technology, more than anything, really becomes part of his projects..
Cambridge, London, and Paris
Left: One of dECOi's few built projects, the Glaphyros apartment in Paris, completed in 2003, features an 8-by-6-foot aluminum screen whose form is based on a mathematically generated algorithm of three intersecting waves.
Right: In 1996, dECOi designed a prototype residence for a Malaysian developer who wanted a project that was technologically advanced but not gadget-heavy. Each panel's dimensions, as well as their etched decorative ornamental patterns, were mathematically generated; no two are the same.
London-born Mark Goulthorpe established his studio, dECOi, in 1991 in order to pursue a number of design competitions. His practice is now is dedicated to exploring new technologies through collaborations with professionals in other fields, such as mathematics and computer programming. dECOi's built work is largely composed of smaller residential projects and showrooms located primarily in France, Malaysia, and the UK. Of this year's Emerging Voices, Goulthorpe, who maintains offices in Paris and London, has the strongest international presence: In 2002 he designed the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and in 2001 he won Taiwan's FEIDAD international digital design competition. In addition to his practice, Goulthorpe is an associate professor at MIT, and divides his time between the School of Architecture and the Media Lab.
I think he's one of the leaders of the digital design movement; he brings an incredible amount of expertise and craft to his work. His projects are facilitated by computation as a tool, which is crucial to both their fabrication and realization, and the result is masterful. One of the benefits of the digital revolution will be to re-empower architects as master builders. In a way, he represents a master digital builder. He's very craft-based but he uses the digital medium for fabrication all the while understanding what the local trades are doing. He is thinking through this whole array of tools that we have..
I appreciated the human condition Goulthorpe incorporates into his tech-based projects. He uses interactive and reactive devices like breathable materials and rainskins, i.e., surfaces that react to water..
Mimi Hoang and Eric Bunge/ nArchitects
New York, New York
Left: Jorge Pereira / Courtesy Narchitects
Left: nArchitect's winning design for the Museum of Modern Art/P.S.1's 2004 Young Architects program formed bamboo into an undulating canopy; the material started out green and tanned over the course of the summer.
Right: The 2006 Switch building, located in New York's Lower East Side, is the firm's first ground-up project; it is a seven-story condo-development with an art gallery on the first floor.
Mimi Hoang, who was born in Saigon, and Eric Bunge, who was born in Montreal, met as graduate students at Harvard and formed nArchitects in 1999. They soon began winning design competitions, including the Museum of Modern Art/P.S. 1's Young Architects Program in 2004, for which they created a massive arched bamboo canopy. It's the firm's largest installation to date, though they also did a sizable floor-piece at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York (2000) and an interactive wall at Artists Space (2005). Both Bunge and Hoang teach (at Parsons and Yale respectively), and while their exhibition work is highly conceptual, their portfolio contains realized projects as well, including several interior renovations and a penthouse addition in lower Manhattan. Their largest project to date, the Switch building, a seven-story, ground-up residential lowrise in the Lower East Side, will be completed in September of this year.
For a young firm, it's interesting that they are building. And they are doing so in ways that are driven by the specifics of each project. Their work is programmatic and conceptual at the same time. In their P.S. 1 project, for example, they were thinking about a traditional material, bamboo, that has so much energy to it, but also it has sensory properties such as smell..
nArchitects represented, for me, a way of practicing architecture in New York. Here, you don't get to do a house till you're 45; architects tend to experiment longer and then when they do build, their ideas are fairly well worked out. Their bamboo structure for P. S. 1 reminded me of Frei Otto's timber lattice for the Mannheim Garden Exposition, which was also this orthogonal grid that distorted into warped planes. To me, it's interesting when people pick up ideas that others have left off, and take them further..
Their projects display inventiveness and an ability to define the terms of the project in an unexpected way. In the Switch building, the transformation of the outer surface creates a special element in each apartmenttthe bay windowwbut also changes the perception of the facade..
Modernism's focus on individual artistic expression has led to extraordinary buildings like Louis I. Kahn's Yale art gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Visual Arts. Each represents an attempt by its architect to try what had never been done before,testing the limitsof architectural form and building technology. Their progressiveness, however, made them more susceptible to depredation. And unlike most preceding architectural styles, with their familiar materials and construction techniques, modernist buildings require unique analysis and solutions as novel as those that brought them into being. The recently completed renovations of the Yale Art Gallery and Wexner Center and the Guggenheim's current facelift bring them into the 21st century while providing an opportunity to revisit landmark moments in architectural history.
Left: Lionel Feininger / courtesy Yale Unversity Art Gallery Archive. Center: Ezra Stoller Esto. Right: Jeff Goldberg Esto
Yale Art Gallery
1953, Louis I. Kahn
Left: Patty Carr Studios / both images courtesy Yale university Art Gallery archives
Left: View of the Yale Art Gallery staircase, 1952.
Right: View of the building from the north or garden side, ca. 1953354.
BY JOSEPH GIOVANNINI
Something about modernist buildings keeps them from aging with grace. They do not look better patinated by time, nor more picturesque when barnacled with accretions. Their purity does not accept the accidental event that might add character on a traditional building. Their abstraction is a demanding, high-maintenance mistress who would prefer to stay forever unblemished.
The Yale Art Gallery by Louis Kahn, finished in 1953, will be receiving its AARP card in a couple of years. The half-century has not been kind to this landmark of modernism, even though Yale is well-practiced at maintaining its rich architectural patrimony. The university's benign neglect has, over the decades, taken its toll on the gallery, which was not only a seminal work by an American master, but one that kicked off Kahn's career and Yale's historic turn to modernism. It was the flagship building that set the precedent for other Modernist buildings at Yale,, said Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery. We also think of it as a great artwork.. Kahn's gallery is a masterpiece of understatement.
On Chapel Street, its undecorated brick facade meets the Italianate Gothic Swartwout building, a part of the museum complex, and defers to its elegant arches. Kahn's brick, austere in its planarity but gentle in its coloring, is a foil to the decorative complexity of the adjacent wall, and a datum of simplicity for the new gallery itself: A stairway up to an entrance between two planes of the bronze-colored brick cleanses the visual palette, and prepares the visitor for the nearly devotional space within.
Kahn was a master of environmental tone, which he modulated through his choice of materials and his handling of light. Just beyond the entrance, the architect achieved a nearly religious aura in the cylindrical concrete stairwell, where a triangulated staircase rises up to light that suffuses the interior of the drum. The cylinder and a nearby prism of smooth-faced concrete block, which contain a service core of bathrooms and an elevator, were the only forms articulating the gallery's otherwise-open loft space. He conceived the ceiling as a tetrahedral space frame made in concrete, which floats out, freespan, to the glass-and-steel perimeter walls.
Over the decades, two forces eroded the integrity of the design. Pressed for room, the museum started cannibalizing the interiors, adding offices and storage areas within the galleries; the sunken sculpture garden was roofed over in the same desperation for additional square footage. The encroachments reduced the purity of the galleries and obscured the geometric clarity of the concrete cylinder and the block prism. The divisions of space started to impede the way you saw the building,, said Reynolds. Administrators also plastered sheet rock over the concrete block service core and the entire south wall, diminishing the sense of material gravity in a space whose tone was defined by the sobriety and light-absorptive qualities of concrete.
The spatial distress inside was matched by the cumulative failure of the glass facade. By today's standards, the original wall system was elementallsupported simply on a solid steel frame that conducted cold in and heat out. At dew point, condensation formed, and anticipating the water, the architects actually detailed a gutter pan at the floor that would catch condensate running down the steel. In theory, the radiators next to the pan would evaporate the water. Over the years, however, the water corroded the steel. Furthermore, each bay of the window wall did not have enough tolerance for expansion so the glass wall deformed the edges of the concrete slab, which in turn resisted the pressure, sending bending forces back into the wall. Numerous panes of glass failed.
Yale hired the New York firm Polshek Partnership to restore the building in the first phase of a larger program to create a master plan for the arts district on the campus. Though Kahn's gallery was the youngest of the three buildings that make up the Yale Art Gallery, it was the neediest. The environmental systems, toooHVAC, lighting, communications lines, securityyalso needed to be updated.
In what must be the most gratifying aspect of the restoration, Duncan Hazard, partner in charge, and project manager Steven Peppas removed the structures squatting in the galleries to reveal the loft-like spaces. At the same time, they peeled the sheet rock off the smooth-faced block, reestablishing the materiality of the wall and its tonal impact. The architects also removed the roof over the original sculpture garden, which when restored, will be occupied by a site-specific piece by Richard Serra.
The window wall was the most tortuous problem in a difficult project,, attested Hazard. The troublesome steel frames are being recreated in aluminum, with the same profile, but with a thermal break. We built in more allowance for expansion in the connections,, said Hazard.
Another difficult task was updating the building systems. Kahn laid the electrical conduits, HVAC ducts and lighting tracks over the tetrahedral ceiling before pouring the concrete floor slab above, and the architects found it difficult and labor intensive to replace or rework the ducts and conduits within the closed cavity. They managed to snake in new sections of light track by using short sections. Cables for security systems and communications that had been surface-mounted over the years were also laid up into the cavity. The dimensions in the cavity between the ceiling and floor above offered little forgiveness.
What director Reynolds called the absolute simplicity and minimalist sensibilityy of the building was the root of the problems in its restoration, which is scheduled to be complete next year.
It's amazing how difficult the project has been,, noted Hazard. Buildings from the 1950s and 60s are tremendously difficult to work with because there's no place to hide anythinggthere's no pochh, as in traditional buildings. In modernist structures, everything is simple and exposed, making it very difficult to bring in new services. Maintaining that purity is very tough when trying to bring it up to 21st century standards..
The architectural archaeology in this extensive $44 million restoration yielded insights into Kahn's design. You could retrace his design process and see how he figured things out,, said Hazard. He was working out certain details for the first time, like corner conditions, where he turned the interior back to accommodate a window..
There are brilliant solutions, like placing a heating pipe at the bottom of a cavity in the wall at the front of the building, so that the heat would rise and lift the moisture out of the wall,, added Peppas. That wall looks as good today as it did when it was built..
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the restoration is the controversy latent in the confrontation between the imperatives of restoration and today's curatorial expectations that the white box is the best viewing environment. Properly restored, Kahn's galleries are not white boxes. Kahn's spaces have an almost preternatural serenity about them that are unusually conducive for seeing art, but in their materiality and character, they are not neutral. In Yale's desire to restore the building to Kahn's intentions, the university is assuming a radical position that critiques the white box in the same way that Kahn himself posited his original critique. In general, museums like white hanging walls made of sheet rock,, said Hazard. We're not going to have that..
The museum, instead, is going the full nine yards, recreating Kahn's pogoo wall, a moveable wall-panel system with adjustable poles, spring-loaded at top and bottom, that hold the panels in place by compression. The architects are also uncovering the long south wall (opposite the north window faaade) to reveal the original smooth-faced block. They will add a discreet hanging rail so that pictures will hang on wires. We're interested in expressing Kahn's original materiality,, said Peppas.
The effort at restoring a national architectural treasure also masks the controversial fact that fully half the perimeter is glazed. Windows, of course, are usually discouraged or at least minimized in contemporary galleries. The architects have, however, invented a solution that satisfies curatorial demands for protecting art: They simply conceived the interior as a light bank that receives a safe, calibrated amount of light over the year. Motorized black-out shades will drop after closing hours, eliminating a source of deleterious light. Light-permeable scrims over most windows further reduce the total amount of light banked. Scrims over windows in spaces where collections, such as sculpture, can tolerate light, will be left open.
Far from being simply a feel-good restoration of a known and celebrated architectural quantity, the restoration of Kahn's art gallery resituates the building in the polemic about what constitutes a desirable or optimal viewing environment. The gallery exemplifies a persuasive argument that there are valid alternatives to the supposed neutrality and objectivity of the white cube. Fifty years later, Kahn weighs in again with his brilliant argument about designing for subjectivity in space.
joseph giovannini is a writer and architect who divides his time between New York City and los angeles.
The Yale Art Gallery while under
renovation last year.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1959, Frank Lloyd Wright
Kathryn Carr SRGF, New York
BY DAVID D'ARCY
It took seventeen years to get the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum built on Fifth Avenue. For the five decades that the museum has been standing, exterior maintenance has consisted mostly of painting. Now the spiral is covered with scaffolding, and the exterior is finally being studied for eventual repairs that are projected to finish in late 2007. The extent of the work is yet to be determined, but the price has been set at about $27 million, ten times what it cost to build the inverted spiral that opened in 1959.
The project is still in its study phase, said the architects from Wank Adams Slavin Associates LLP (WASA), who will do the preservation work. In March 2005, sensors were placed on the building's exterior to measure contraction and expansion. In December, the paint was stripped off to reveal the concrete walls underneath: vast Twombly-esque abstract surfaces with scratched patterns and cracks that look like beginnings of Clyfford Still crevices. Architects are now studying these mostly vertical cracks, and trying to determine their causes before any repairs begin.
It was a challenge when it was built almost 50 years ago. If we had to build it today, it would still be a challenge, because of the geometry of the building, the construction techniques, and the use of concrete to the extent that it was done here,, said project architect Angel Ayon of WASA.
Part of the building's uniqueness stems from Wright's goal to make its form a continuouss uninterrupted pattern of circles, spheres, and a ramp that spiraled upward. Those continuous elliptical walls that we all know about are walls that he didn't want to put expansion joints in. As a result, there is a lot of cracking,, Ayon noted.
The 6-inch walls are made of Gunnite, a sprayed concrete mixture. Our goal is obviously to keep as much original material as we can and then to do a minimal intervention, first to understand exactly what's wrong, the extent of the damage, and then how to repair it in the least obtrusive way,, said Ayon. A lot of the work we do is based on having done similar buildings. You develop a tool chest of problems and repairs. This building is so unique that we have to approach it from scratch..
Cracking had been a problem since the concrete was poured, Ayon said, noting that Wright had used a vinyl-based paint called the cocoonn in the hope that the coating would breach the cracks. Yet cracks were always visible, as were abrasions, bubbles, and craters in the concrete under the paint, even 12 coats later, in 2005. In the 1990s, studies based on limited samplings examined the cracking. What's different now is that the team can remove the paint and study the extent of the cracking,, Ayon said.
Structural engineer Robert Silman, also part of the team, doubts that the cracks pose a structural risk: The risk is only that, as a crack opens, water gets into it and the water can cause corrosion of reinforcing steel. Over a long period of time, it's a maintenance headache. Will it cause a collapse? Not likely.. Silman said that a laser survey, underway as this article goes to press, will indicate where the building could be under stress.
Exterior cracking is the most visible problem. The terrazzo floors on the interior ramp are also cracked, the rotunda suffers from condensation (an annoying dilemma for anyone operating a climate-controlled space), and the front of the building, on the upper levels of the spiral near the skylight, is moving forward for reasons not yet known. The sidewalk, which Wright embedded with stainless steel circles (which, like the building, are landmarked), is also set for renovation. It was repaired in 1992 as part of the renovation that included the museum's expansion below ground.
The momentum for repairing the exterior seems to have come from one individual, Peter B. Lewis, the former chairman of the Progressive Corporation, who has now contributed $15 million to the project. Lewis was chairman of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation from 1998 to 2005, and he donated a total of some $90 million before resigning his chairmanship in a dispute with Guggenheim director Thomas Krens. Lewis thought that Kren's expansion policies were draining the foundation's resources. It is the building, after all, that is the museum's most valuable work of art,, said Lewis.
Lewis was always an admirer of the Frank Lloyd Wright structure but he was also, he noted, always conscious of how badly the toilets worked.. Lewis offered $15 million towards the renovation, and the board subsequently came up with an additional $5 million. But it still isn't clear whether that will be enough. Lewis said last spring. The building needs a lot of work, and whether $20 million is enough remains to be seen..
The insurance mogul was right. An additional $7 million came from New York Cityyabout $5 million by early 2005 and an additional $2 million around the time of last November's mayoral election. The project is overseen by the Paratus Group, the firm that Lewis designated as owner's representative which reports to Lewis and Guggenheim vice president Mark Steglitz.
When the project was initially conceived, a strong and comprehensive maintenance program wasn't in place,, said Jon Maass, an architect with the Paratus Group. The repair policy up to this point was, If it's dirty, if it's faded, if there are cracks, add more paint to it.' What will be part of this project is not only fixing what's underneath the paint, but designing a more comprehensive maintenance program for the museum. The public may see more maintenance on the building on a regular basis as opposed to just putting more paint on..
The official story from the Guggenheim is that the broader renovation proceeded in stages, beginning with the construction of the current tower on the northeastern corner of the site and the renovation of the Frank Lloyd Wright interior, opened in 1992, which was followed by the renovation of the below-ground theater, now named the Peter B. Lewis Theater in recognition of his $15 million gift for that project. The exterior was always next, say Guggenheim officials.
There was never a sense that this was urgent, in the way that the interior restoration was. It looked fine,, said Anthony Calnek, a Guggenheim spokesman. Every time you scraped away the old flaking paint and repainted it, it looked pretty good. It was sort of the last thing that needed to be done. You go from the most urgent thing to the least urgent thing.. Yet the architects working on the building say the exterior was disfigured, with cracks widening just above the entrance, and hardly looked fine..
Once the work is done, sometime in 2007, the Guggenheim will open an exhibition devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright and the building, organized by junior architecture curator Monica Ramirez-Montagut.
Yet the experts stress that it's still uncertain what they'll be celebrating. The exterior finish now is pretty rough and ready. You could see a lot of blemishes through the paint,, said Robert Silman. When the sun struck the building at a very flat angle, all of these blemishes showed. To me it's not very handsome. I don't think there's a paint that would cover them. It doesn't look at all like the interior spiral, which is beautifully smooth, like sour cream. The ramp wall is just gorgeous..
I can't imagine that Mr. Wright wouldn't want the outside to look like that as well, but it never did,, Silman said. Will our repairs be invasive enough that it's going to require us to do some kind of patching of the outside? What will that patching look like under the paint? We don't know what we have to do yet, if anything..
david d'arcy is a regular contributor to the art newspaper.
The Guggenheim Museum's scaffolding follows the curve of the spiral.
Wexner Center for the Visual Arts
1989, Eisenman Robertson Architects
Jeff Goldberg Esto
BY JAYNE MERKEL
When Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Visual Arts at Ohio State University opened in 1989, admirers lined up to get the architect's autograph, a series of famous artists performed, and the Ohio State Marching Band paraded from the new art center to the football stadium.
When the Wexner Center reopened last fall after Arup's three-year, $15.8 million renovation, the architect was nowhere to be found. A series of performances took place, and supporters of the institution came from miles around, but there was no parade. Architecture, it turns out, is a complicated business. Having a famous, challenging building had been deemed worth the inconvenience and expense, but having this particular famous, challenging building was also, obviously, a mixed blessing.
How could a 13-year-old, $43 million building possibly require a three-year, $15.8 million renovation, largely financed with state funds ($14.8 milion from Ohio Sate University, $1.3 million from the Wexner Center Foundation) at a time of rising tuitions and cuts in student loans?
A university press release cautiously explained why: The new curtain wall system results in significant improvements over the original, both in terms of light levels in the galleries and in temperature and humidity controll[It provides] a threefold improvement in air filtration over the original, which was built to the best 1980s standards. The new system also specifies thermal and condensation resistance tests that were not widely available in the 1980s. The skylight was entirely redesigned, including its unusual dual-directional slope, to better manage rainwater and protect the exterior seals and glazing gaskets. The new curtain wall framing systemmsignificantly improves the thermal performance of the curtain wall. The curtain wall and skylight glass have been upgraded from the best material available in the 1980s (1-inch dual-pane glass) to contemporary high-performance material (1 5/8-inch heat-strengthened, low-iron triple-pane glass, with inert argon-filled air spaces, reflective coatings, and other features). The new glass reduces visible light to curatorial standards via transmission and diffusion filters and removes ultraviolet light via PVB interlayers. It also benefits the temperature and humidity control in the galleries..
We are not talking about an ancient hut sheathed with animal skins here. Surely building technology has not leaped forward so dramatically in a decade and a half that such drastic measures should be necessary? What the press release did not say was that all this was necessary because the roof leaked badly, the original curtain wall subjected works of art to ultraviolet glare, and the inside temperature could shift as much as 40 degrees.
And while innovative buildings do often encounter technical difficulties, not all innovative buildings do. Eero Saarinen's, for example, have survived astoundingly well for over half a century even though almost every one used new materials, structural systems, or technologies. On the other hand, university officials are rarely wild men. If they decided to make an investment of this kind, they must have decided that the building was worth its weight in gold.
The Center for the Visual Arts (as the project was initially called before Leslie H. Wexner pledged $25 million) was not a building created to house an existing institution. It was conceived to create energy on and draw artistic activity to a campus known more for its football team than anything else. Ohio, unlike other midwestern states, does not have one major dominant university, like as in states like Michigan. Instead, there are half a dozen state schools with various strengths and appeals. Ohio State is the biggest research university and has many solid departments, but its flat, spread out campus is not very lively, and the school was not known for academic excellence or artistic daring. Also, Columbus did not have major art museums like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. The Wexner Center has helped change all that.
Peter Eisenman (who was practicing with Jacquelin Robertson at the time) won the commission to design the center (with capable Columbus architects Trott & Bean) in a highly publicized national competition in 1983, edging out finalists Arthur Erickson, Michael Graves, Cesar Pelli, and Kallman McKinnell & Wood. It was Eisenman's first major building. And since his scheme and that of his old friend Michael Graves were easily the two most successful, it amounted to a contest between modernist and postmodern approaches and a duel between friendly rivals.
Working as a critic in Ohio at the time, I was initially attracted to Graves' entry, which was eminently sensible, occupying an ugly underused site, elegant, and dignifiedda proper museum on a proper site. But Ohio State didn't need a museum. It didn't have an art collection and was not likely to get one. It needed an energizer, something to get people excited about the arts and about life on campus, and the Eisenman Robertson scheme did just that.
It slashed between two existing buildings (2,500-seat Mershon Auditorium and Weigel Hall, which has a 770-seat theater) at a 12 1/2-degree angle, aligning itself with the city grid beyond the campus confines instead of the campus grid, which is slightly ajarrtherefore, symbolically at least, tying together town and gown. It resurrected the crenellated towers from a medieval-style armory that had once occupied the site, but the scheme housed most of the facilities in a glass-walled cruciform grid where sloping corridors overlap with exhibition spaces.
The building definitely stands out on the campus, in an interesting and inviting way. And its wider impact was enormous. When it opened, schemes with shifted grids appeared on student drawing boards throughout the nation.
Although it was not suitable for the exhibition of many works of art, Syracuse University architecture dean Mark Robbins, who served as the Wexner's first curator of architecture and also showed his own work there, said, I liked the active quality of the space. As an artist, I liked being able to play off the errant structural system. The building was flexible when we mounted exhibitions that had been organized for more traditional spaces..
The only thing that rankled him was that there was not enough space for the staff. It had been cut from the budgettnot surprisingly. The original budget for the center was $16 million. By the time it was completed six years later, it had cost almost three times that.
Some of the practical problems at the Wexner are attributable to the fact that when it was built, it had no strong client voice, as represented by a museum director or curators to insist on appropriate light levels and other criteria.
Eisenman has often suggested that once he has finished a project, he is finished with it. New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin seemed scandalized at his apparent lack of remorse for the many leaks and faults in the Wexner; an article dated September 18, 2005, quoted him as saying of his buildings, Once they're up, they lose any magic for me..
The energetic current director, Sherri Geldin, also finds it mysterious that the architects did not consider these things. But she said, Still, I love this building. It has made so many things possible.. It seemed essential to correct its deficiencies. And correct they have: some of the most important elements of the new Wexner are indistinguishable from the old. According to principal Nigel Nicholls of Arup, his firm went to great pains to make sure that the curtain wall, which is so central to Eisenman's design, looks no different from its predecessor, though it functions in a much more efficient fashion. They maintained the notational system Eisenman developed for the glass panels, in which the panes darken or lighten depending on what is behind them, but reduced the overall light levels inside. Nicholls explained, There was too much light inside from day one, so we kept the relationship of one shade to another while shifting them all down the scale..
The Wexner Center story dramatically raises the question: What does a building need in order to be considered great, important, or significant? Is it enough to be interesting, or does it also have to be, as Mies believed, goodd? Architecture, especially greatt architecture, really needs to be both.
Jayne Merkel was architecture critic of The Cincinnati Enquirer in the 1980s and reported on the Wexner Center competition for Inland Architect.
During its three-year renovation, the Wexner Center for the visual Arts' curtain wall (below) had to be redesigned to reduce light levels in the galleries and to stop water damage. Arup was charged with making it look as similar as possible to its 1989 appearance.
Dennis Finnin / Courtesty New York Public Library
With the new Bronx Public Library Center, Richard Dattner, master
of the background building, moves toward center stage, writes Thomas de Monchaux
Bronx Public Library Center
Architect: Dattner Architects; Richard Dattner, principal; Daniel Heuberger, project architect;
Robin Auchincloss, William Stein, George Cumell, Joon Chom, project team
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates Geotechnical/Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Robert Derector Associates Landscape Designer: MKW & Associates Lighting Consultant: Domingo Gonzalez Design Construction Manager: F. J. Sciame Construction
Courtesy Dattner Architects
Central Park Adventure Playground, 1967
You owe Richard Dattner. If you're an architect and urbanist, or just a client and connoisseur, and have ever tried to describe a particular kind of public space that starts at the sidewalk and goes as far as your imagination will take it; and if you have ever used the word, streetscapeeto describe it: you owe him. That's because Dattner, whose 40-year-old New York practice has been concerned largely with the public and civic, copyrighted the term in the 1970s. It was part of a patent he took out on a line of street furniture, which included a prefabricated fiberglass booth whose hemispherical lozenge geometry still adds a certain miniature modernist grandeur to the work of taxi-dispatchers, cops, and others throughout the city. Once you recognize this booth, you see it everywhere, from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to JFK Airport. But it is also so ubiquitous that it has become almost invisibleejust another part of, well, the streetscape. Dattner is philosophical about the fate of the word, concluding, Well, you can't really own something like that.. The term may belong to him, but Dattner will be the first to tell you that the landscape of the street belongs to everybody. Especially in New York.
Courtesy Dattner Architects
P.S. 380, Williamsburg, 1981
It is the fate of much of Dattner's New York work to integrate itself seamlessly into the streetscape and cityscape. His portfolio includes unconventional playgrounds on the West side of Central Park; vast infrastructural complexes like Brooklyn's 26th Ward Sludge Treatment Facility and Manhattan's East 16th Street Con Edison Service Building; the park atop Upper Manhattan's giant North River Pollution Treatment Plant; and public schools like TriBeCa's P.S. 234. A project now on the boards, a grass-roofed Queens Borough Library Branch in Long Island City, is designed to be literally unseen from adjacent residential towers, despite a strong presence at ground level. His is an indispensable body of work, but in the absence of a signature style, it is also an invisible one.
Courtesy Dattner Architects
Modular Ticket Booths, 1974
His approach did not develop this way through a lack of exposure: Dattner has enountered icon-making architects in his time, both as a student and as a teacher. After study at MIT, he had a stint as a student at London's Architectural Association in the late 1950s where he learned, how to do more with lesss from John Stirling and Alison and Peter Smithson. Some twenty years later, he conducted a second-year design studio at Cooper Union and had a very independent-minded and energeticc student called Daniel Libeskind. But in his own work, he has taken what he calls an existential approachh to questions of form, style, and material. Look at Renzo Piano,, Dattner says. Each project is crafted and sensitive to its circumstances. Polynesia is different from the New York Times. Within our office we aspire to that level of thought..
Courtesy Dattner Architects
P.S. 234, Tribeca, 1988
Critical assessment of the results has been varied, generally colored by the low expectations that, especially in New York, greet the public commissions that have made up the bulk of Dattner's work. For instance, Architectural Record found his 1983 Bronx Con Edison Customer Service Facility to be a sturdy,, response to the client's stated need for a simple, functional design avoiding any impression of wasteful expenditure.. That magazine pronounced his 1989 project, P.S. 234, a success, considering the city's web of bureaucracy and the limited means available. [I]n another city it might qualify as just one more well designed building, but in New York City [it] stands out.. Dattner's 1993 sports facilities at the North River Pollution plant were found to be handsome and colorful,, by Jane Holtz Kay, architecture critic for The Nation, but the overall effect was sparsee and perfunctoryy: Even with budget constraints,, asked Kay, why such lack of zest?? Former New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger was unimpressed by the 1972 Riverside Park Community Apartments in upper Manhattan, on which Dattner worked, in collaboration with the firms of Henri A. Legendre and Max Wechsler. The project looks dreadful from Riverside Drive,, Goldberger wrote in The City Observed, where the contrast between its huge size and that of everything around it issdisturbing.. He found the architecture itself, banal..
Courtesy Dattner Architects
Coney Island Comfort Station and Public Restroom, 2004
Dattner suggests that the different circumstances of different projects suggest different details and designs, even commonplace ones: You make the rules out of the specific site and out of the specific problem; some projects call for a background building.. But his latest project, The New York Public Library's Bronx Public Library Center, which opened on January 17th, moves his work from background to foreground. This project has to be seen,, Dattner says, almost conceding the point. It's at the heart of a community, it's on one of the highest points in the borough.. Capped by a dramatic butterfly roof over a penthouse research room, the $50 million, 78,000-square-foot building features stacks and high-tech reading rooms on five floors, along with a 150-seat auditorium, classrooms and meeting areas in a basement level. These, along with a 20,000-volume Latino Cultural Collection and programs for literacy and job training, will serve as a community center for the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. The below-grade facilities are accessed through a slot of space daylit by a street-level strip of windows, and further illuminated by artist IIigo Manglano-Ovalle's installation depicting a DNA sequence. That slot of space is positioned below a set of generous cantilevers that project the library's reading rooms out past the primary structural elements of the building, back into the streetscape itself.
Dennis Finnin / Courtesty NYPL
The glass-enclosed atrium stair
The library's upper levels are accessed by a rear staircase whose central atrium is enclosed in channel glass. The effect is poetic and pragmatic. According to Dattner, As you step up into knowledge, you step into light.. The glass enclosure also stops a kid from throwing a book downstairs. Or,, he adds drily, a companion.. Elsewhere, a circular half-wall produces a children's reading area in which children feel enclosed but are visible to adultssa gesture that recalls the landforms Dattner designed for Adventure Playgrounds in the 1960s.
Dennis Finnin / Courtesty NYPL
The main reading room is located on the top floor
Unusually for a library, the building features outdoor terraces where Dattner, who, though Polish-born, spent his early childhood in Cuba, imagines, readings, moon-viewing, and piiata parties.. Dattner collaborator and project architect Daniel Heuberger describes the building, with its clear front faaade and crisp details as, instantly readable and transparent, with no complicated wayfinding.. A rear interior wall, pale blue on every level, metaphorically mirrors the glass faaade and subtly distinguishes between private and public spaces. Dattner contrasts this glassy openness with the first library he designed in New York City, the Parkchester Branch Library, also in the Bronx, in 1982: At the time they had this list of things you couldn't do, like no windows along the street wall without bars or screens.. The visual openess of the Bronx Library, Dattner says, is a testament to increased civility in New York City..
Dennis Finnin / Courtesty NYPL
On the ground level, an Installation by IIigo Manglano-ovalle despicts
a DNA sequence.
Civility is a touchstone of how Dattner describes his work, which includes not only public commissions but what he describes as the unseen public cityy of urban infrastructure. He suggested the term Civil Architecture in his 1995 book of that title, writing, Civic Architecture [was close] to my intended theme but missed meanings resonating around civil''civility, civilization, civil engineering..
The Bronx Public Library Center is the latest in a long series of public commissions that began with Brooklyn's P.S. 380 in South Williamsburg, a Stirlingesque 1969 school featuring an innovative play area that recalls Dattner's contemporary 67th Street Adventure Playground in Central Park. The playground, which was commissioned when the city was newly ambitious about design during the administration of Mayor John Lindsay, was donated by Estte and Joseph Lauder. The Lauders were also the clients for Dattner's first substantial project: in 1964, along with Samuel Brody, he designed Estte Lauder's 350,000 square-foot laboratory complex in Melville, New York. Dattner and Brody developed a low-cost faaade system of curved and flat porcelain-coated steel panels set into neoprene gasket frames. At the time, Dattner was teaching at Cooper Union alongside Richard Meier. One day,, says Dattner, we got a call from Richard, saying, How did you do that with those panels?' Well, you know the rest of that story.. But he is magnanimous about what became a signature motif of his contemporary: Meier is a great architect..
Norman Mcgrath / Courtesy Dattner Architects
Richard Dattner and Samuel Brody collaborated on the Estte Lauder Laboratory Complex in Melville, New York, which was completed in 1964.
Dattner goes on to recall his time in London suring the 1950s : It was just a few years after the war. There were still a lot of rubble.. The way that London kids reclaimed ruined sites as places for play, games, and sports inspired Britain's Adventure Playground Movement, which advocated lively but rough-edged and even perilous landscapes that required imagination and ambition from their inhabitants. Dattner remembers consulting with movement founder Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who told him, Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.. That postwar urban streetscape also engendered the playfully no-nonsense work of the Smithsons, whom Dattner remembers as, tough, tough, tough, but so hospitable.. That's a combination of qualities perhaps familiar to the New Yorker in Dattner, who has designed many of the civic bones of the city and remains a keen observer of its spirit. Asked about his 1987 Louis Armstrong Cultural Center in Queens, a Smithsonesque utilitarian container for sports and community activities, the first thing he says isn't about the architecture: Well,, he begins, it's where they play the best basketball in the city..
Thomas de Monchaux is a writer and architect in New York City.
The fate of a lot more than who will be the next Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art has been hanging in the balance since Terence Riley announced last month that he was going resign from the position he has held for 14 years: That role has been the primary force able to confer star status on architects (or deny it) and to define new directions in architecture, whether they exist or not.
For 75 years, ever since Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock started research for the 1932 exhibition, catalogue, and book that came to be known as The International Style, MoMA has been creating reputations and identifying trends more successfully than any critic, magazine, book, school, or other institution. Though the show was called Modern Architecture, International Exhibition, it described a particular kind of modern architecture which, like the paintings and sculpture the museum was showing at the time, was assertively geometric and came mostly from Europe. The catalogue's title, Modern Architects, implied a wider reach than it had, since the technologically advanced skyscrapers of the age were not included. And although the exhibition had a section on housing, selected by Lewis Mumford, the overall emphasis was on aesthetics. No wonder the show is usually called The International Style, the title of the book published by Johnson and Hitchcock that same year, minus Mumford's material. What had begun in Europe as a social movement was presented as a style. Hitchcock and Johnson even redrew Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and 1930 Tugendhat House to emphasize the abstract, geometric qualities that they had identified as characteristic of the style.
Four years ago, Riley and Columbia University architectural historian Barry Bergdoll redressed that distortion in MoMA's Mies in America show by exhibiting original drawings for both buildings along with the ones that had been displayed in 1932, noting the earlier alteration in the exhibition and catalogue. That public institutional admission was only one of a series of decisions Riley made that showed he was his own man. When he was hired, in 1991, after he had organized an exhibition at Columbia University on the history of the International Style show, it was widely assumed that he was Johnson's personal choice and, as such, Johnson's influence would continue.
Johnson had been a potent force at MoMA for years. The stars of the International Style show were given exhibitions again and again (ten on Mies, nine each on Le Corbusier and Wright). Johnson's friends Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier made their debuts as Five Architects in 1969. When Johnson was flirting with postmodernism, MoMA published Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture as the first and only Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture (1966) and held The Architecture of the cole des Beaux-Arts exhibition (1976), when Arthur Drexler was curator. And when Johnson lost interest in the movement, he guest-directed the Deconstructivist Architecture show (1988), an event that not only helped counter the classicizing influence of the postmodern movement but also advanced the careers of all the participantssEisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Bernard Tschumiiby suggesting that they were the heirs of Russian constructivism and practitioners of a new style, rooted in history and modernism at the same time. They all denied that there was any such thing as decon,, none louder than Eisenman who touted deconstructivist philosophy as an continued on page 14 position is power continued from page 13 influence on his own work, was close to Johnson, and was the main personal link between the participants.
The Deconstructivist Architecture show did, however, rekindle interest in modern (or modernist) architecture, which was good for the Modern. The museum hadn't had an architectural blockbuster since Drexler's 1979 survey, Transformations in Modern Architecture. During the heyday of postmodernism, other institutions, such as the Cooper-Hewitt and the Architectural League of New York, shared the role of tastemaker. And MoMA, which had always undertaken historical exhibitions but mainly of modern masters, showed the work of Gunnar Asplund, Edwin Landseer Lutyens, Ricardo Bofill and Leon Krier as well as of Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, and Mies as usual. Also during those years, the museum, which had always practiced what it preached, hired Cesar Pelli to design an addition, instead of Johnson who had designed the garden and the earlier new wings. (Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone designed the museum's main building very much in the International Style, in 1939.)
It was only at the very end of the 1980s that younger modern architects' work reappeared on MoMA's walls. While Stuart Wrede was in charge (1986692), there were exhibitions of Emilio Ambasz (a former MoMA curator), Steven Holl, Diller + Scofidio, and Tadao Ando, as well as of Mario Botta and Louis I. Kahn (his sixth at MoMA).
Riley's first show, in 1992, was the small New Furniture Prototypes by Frank Gehry. Then came his Previews series, with the Nara Convention Hall Competition Exhibition by Arata Isozaki, Rafael Viioly's Tokyo International Forum, Raimund Abraham's New Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, and the show, Bernard Tschumi: Architecture and Event.
Riley's OMA at MoMA: Rem Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture appeared at the end of 1994, around the same time S,M,L,XL was catapulting the Dutch architect to superstar status. The following September, Light Construction focused on thin-skinned, transparent and translucent buildings by more than 30 architects from ten countries. Works by Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Gigon and Guyer, Nicholas Grimshaw, Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Ben van Berkel, many of whom were little known in this country at the time, were shown along with those by well-known Americans, such as Johnson, Gehry, Holl, Tschumi, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien, newcomers like Joel Sanders, Thanhauser & Esterson, and some visual artists. The premise of the show was rather elusive but Riley proved that he was willing to take risks and promote work different than his own. (Like previous heads of MoMA's architecture and design departmenttJohnson, Philip Goodwin, Drexler, and WredeeRiley is a practicing architect, in partnership with John Keenen.)
During Riley's tenure, his department staged, as it always had, historical shows (on the United Nations, Alvar Aalto, Lilly Reich, Wright, Mies) as well as more unconventional presentations like Fabrications (1998), a three-museum event that invited architects to create site-specific installations (at MoMA, contributors were TEN Arquitectos with Guy Nordensen, Office dA, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, and Munkenbeck + Marshall) and A Paper Arch (2000) by Shigeru Ban, a grand latticed canopy for the museum's garden. Riley's ambitious The Un-Private House (1999) introduced a number of new talents (Michael Bell, Thomas Hanrahan and Victoria Meyers, Hariri & Hariri, Winka Dubbeldam) and ways of exhibiting architecture. The gallery was arranged as rooms to sit in, including a living room in front of a large video screen and a dining table with interactive electronic images projected at each place-setting.
Riley also played an advisory role when the museum began planning another addition to almost double its size. Most, but not all, of the architects invited to compete were ones whose work he had shownnHerzog & de Meuron, Holl, Ito, Koolhaas, Tschumi, Viioly, Williams/Tsien. Also invited were Wiel Arets, Dominique Perrault, and Yoshio Taniguchi, who won the commission. The sensibilities Riley had highlighted in his shows were very much in evidence in the museum competition, while Johnson's friends were not.
Johnson's early emphasis on aesthetics, however has been dominant at MoMA in recent decades. The architecture shown at the MoMA, like the art, is chosen for artistic merit and originality first. From the museum's beginning, under its zealous first director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the museum's staff saw their new institution as a populist one whose fundamental mission was to educate the general public about the developing culture of modernism,, former MoMA curator Matilda McQuaid writes in an essay that appeared in the exhibition catalogue Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art (Museum of Modern Art, 2002). Although it was the first museum devoted to modern art, and the first general fine-arts museum to have a curatorial department devoted to architecture,, writes Riley in his contribution to the same catalogue, the MoMA was chartered as an educational institution, rather than a museum.. The museum has always had extensive lectures, tours, and symposia to accompany its exhibitions.
Before World War II MoMA also actively tried to link architects and potential clients,, McQuaid notes in her essay. And because for a long time it was the only place where architecture was exhibited with art, MoMA's influence in the world of architecture may have been greater than its impact on painting and sculpture, which were shown in museums and galleries throughout the world. Placing architecture and design in a fine art museum privileges aesthetics, but it also allows a consideration of their personal, private, technological, handmade, and visionary aspects. At least partly because of MoMA's influence, these dimensions of architecture and design are being celebrated today at the Canadian Center for Architecture, Georges Pompidou Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Netherlands Architecture Institute, and a whole host of progeny the world over. But the Museum of Modern Art is still the mother ship, so it matters very much who takes Terence Riley's job and what he or she does with it.
Jayne Merkel is a New York writer whose most recent book is Eero Saarinen (Phaidon, 2005).
Architecture criticism, whether written for the profession or the general public, has one primary purpose: to parse the good from the bad. Of course, criticism involves much more than thumbs-up, thumbs-down assessments. Architecture is far too complex, demanding analyses on far too many levels. The critics interviewed here describe how their varied concerns—technological, political, ecological, cultural—have shaped their approach to a field they helped create. Meanwhile, a new generation of critics are joining ranks in what Ada Louise Huxtable calls "an uphill battle," setting out to prove that responsible criticism benefits not just the profession but society at large.
Ada Louise Huxtable
Born and educated in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable pioneered the field of architecture criticism in the United States. In 1963, she became the architecture critic for The New York Times, a position she lobbied her editors to create, and which she held until 1982. She's still active today, at the age of 84, serving since 1997 as architecture critic at the Wall Street Journal. Over the course of her long career, she not only traced the trajectory of modernism, preservation, and urban development but influenced it.
Huxtable had worked as an assistant curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1950. She was a Fulbright scholar in Italy in 1950 to 1952, extending her research on modern Italian architecture, which she began as a master's student in architectural history at the Institute of Fine Arts. She emerged as a critic at a time when cities were in crisis, losing their built patrimony in the name of modernization and renewal. She built a mass audience for architecture criticism by bringing reason and passion together in straight-talking—sometimes sarcastic, always sophisticated—prose. When she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, her field was validated and papers across the country rushed to add architecture to their critical and journalistic beats.
Her newspaper columns are anthologized in Kicked a Building Lately? (Quadrangle, 1976), Goodbye, History, Hello, Hamburger (Preservation Press, 1986), and Architecture, Anyone? (Random House, 1986). She is also the author of The Unreal America (New Press, 1997), and Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin, 2004).
What was the attitude toward architecture criticism when you were starting out?
There wasn't any! I'm proud of the fact that I convinced The New York Times that it needed to have an architecture critic. The very first thing I wrote for the Times, even before I started freelancing for them, was a long letter to the editor. This was 1959. The Sunday art section had a praising review of a photography show of a modernist housing project in Caracas. I had just been there and saw the project and the residents were having a terrible time—these were people from the countryside, having to deal with elevators and an alien type of architecture. The paper published my letter in full. Not long afterward, I got to do a cover story for the magazine, on the Guggenheim. I was terrified.
You were freelancing for the Times before they named you the critic. What shaped your story ideas and why do you think they grabbed your editors' attention?
I felt New Yorkers were entitled to more than they were getting from developers. There was so much building in the city but there was a total lack of understanding or care about architecture. I had just gotten married and my husband [industrial designer Garth Huxtable] was part of the team designing the interiors of the United Nations. I was just fascinated with architecture and construction.
The Times had plenty of real estate coverage. There were constant press releases about new buildings, all full of praise. These all came from real estate developers; at that time, there were no publicists for architecture. And I'd go to the editor and say, Good buildings don't just grow on trees, you know.
One day I walked in to see Lester Markel, who ran the Sunday magazine. I remember I had a notebook with a list of all the stories the Times was missing. Well, you tell an editor what he's missing, and he pays attention. I was a young, brash, believing woman. You have to be very naive. I was fixated on what I was interested in, so it didn't occur to me that you didn't barge in on an editor and ask for what you wanted. You have to give the Times a lot of credit.
How much input did your editors have in what you wrote?
Because they didn't know anything about the subject, they pretty much took anything I would suggest. And papers are always hungry for copy. Remember, too, this was a time of urban renewal and the total destruction of Lower Manhattan, when the beautiful warehouses on Front Street were being torn out for street-widening and Greenwich Village was being threatened. Most of the writing was crisis-oriented. You were crusading.
The paper didn't think we could do opinion pieces unless we first reported the facts of a story, so I would write news stories and appraisals that would appear in the daily newspaper. Then my critical columns appeared on Sunday. My criticism pieces were never edited because I was given the title of critic immediately. I don't know how it is at the Times today but back then, critics were edited for length and style. They never meddled with content.
After 10 years, they invited me to join the editorial board. I stopped writing for the daily paper and only wrote the Sunday opinion. That's when they hired Paul Goldberger to write for the daily paper.
How has the role of the architecture critic changed over the years?
The role is the same but the emphasis has changed. A critic has a lot of responsibility. It is largely informational and educational—to let the public know what's going on in the large and small issues and to let them know the difference between good and bad, how to distinguish a work of art. Today, I think the emphasis is too much on chasing celebrities, which has emerged all through society.
I want people to understand that architecture is an art. It's been my life's battle, to increase awareness of the field. But the way things have gone ...don't wish for what you ask for! Architecture is definitely more in the public eye today than before, but I don't think it's understood any better.
How do you deal with any controversy your pieces elicited?
It was always difficult but I'm not capable of doing anything else. I'm of a generation that was not brought up to work in a man's world, to deal with jealousies—I'm fairly thin-skinned. But the Times was always wonderful. There were times that powerful people demanded meetings with the publisher to protest my pieces.
One time, a developer pulled a big advertising section because of something I wrote, but I was never blamed. The publisher only asked me, "Do you have all your facts and are they right?" It's a great lesson for all critics. You've got to have all your facts.
My feelings of insecurity were always before I wrote. I would worry, "Am I going to be able to write this piece?" And I'd work doubly hard. I remember one the first pieces I wrote about Colonial Williamsburg. I wrote about how much of it was wishful thinking, how much was destroyed to build it, and how it was a false form of preservation that denigrated real history. I heard that later that they put up a sign there that read, "Ada Louise Huxtable is a Tory!"
Who do you consider your audience?
I don't really ask myself that question when I'm writing. If you have enough belief and pleasure in what you are writing, and write in an understandable manner, then an audience finds you.
One complaint I've heard from lay readers about architecture criticism—particularly of Herbert Muschamp's writings—is that they think they must have a background in the field to understand it.
That is the fault of the people writing it. A lot of writing has been self indulgent, really. You can imagine how I feel about it. The Times didn't know better, I suppose. It's as innocent about the field as anybody. Architecture criticism is still an uphill battle. That's why the responsibility of the critic is so great. It's the way my editor, Clifton Daniel, felt. He trusted me. He always said, "I knew if you got in trouble I'd hear about it soon enough."
I think my approach works for a changing field. I'm not dogmatic or doctrinaire. I stay open-minded. If you're rigid, you can't be a good critic. I wouldn't be in it if I didn't feel optimistic. I'm still full of wonder, I still love it. I like seeing what's going on with vernacular architecture now, for example. And the arguments over 2 Columbus Circle show that the preservation movement is upside down right now. When they compare its loss to that of Penn Station—I've got smoke coming out of my ears! It's not being lost, it's being transformed. I live and believe in the present. I don't live in the past and you can't live in the future. That's why I'm basically a modernist.
Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at The Architect's Newspaper.
In an attempt to legislate an impossible balance between a profitable city and a livable city, New York has created a monster—call it Frankenstein zoning. The process by which good intentions and innovative practice are turned into an urban nightmare has been gradual and technically arcane. But what has been happening, insidiously and overtly, is that the whole idea of zoning has been turned upside down. It has been subverted from a way to control building bulk and size to a method for getting bigger buildings than ever.
If that seems like an anachronism, it is; exactly the kind of overbuilding is being encouraged that the law was designed to prohibit. The result, which is just beginning to be visible, is the rapid appearance of ranks of oppressively massive, sun- and light-blocking structures of a size that we have never seen in such concentration before. Their outline and impact appeared first on Madison Avenue from 53rd to 57th Street, with the 42-story, block-long Tishman building from 53rd to 54th Street, another tower across Madison at 55th Street, and the gargantuan AT&T and IBM buildings, from 55th to 56th, and 56th to 57th Street. This enclave of blockbusters was joined by the huge Trump Tower looming on the Bonwit Teller site at 56th and Fifth.
When the first of these immense projects designed under the city's revised 1961 zoning regulations appeared, such as Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue or Citicorp on Lexington, they seemed unique; as singular structures they were more interesting than overwhelming. As a standard to be replicated, however, they have become cautionary examples. What must be understood is that this wave of bigger-than-ever New York buildings is not some overreaching passing fancy. It is the new and future norm. The bottom line is that the developers build what they are permitted to by law.
These new buildings, therefore, are equally revealing of the manipulative, negotiable, and mutable art that New York's zoning has become. And because what New York does in zoning is emulated by the rest of the country, whether it is innovative and constructive or dangerous and foolish, other cities will probably follow an example that has evolved from a reasonably system of controls, including creative attempts to balance restraints with public amenities, to an ad hoc exercise in horse-trading that is a clear environmental disaster.
When Allan Temko started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1960s, he didn't see himself as a regional critic, despite outsiders' perceptions to the contrary. Back then, the city was a fast-growing metropolis, the Golden State's financial capital. But Temko hardly limited his writings to the region. He wrote a book on Eero Saarinen and countless articles for Architectural Forum (he was its West Coast editor), Horizon, and other magazines. Still, Temko, now 81, is best known as an activist who unhesitatingly took on anything that threatened the Bay Area's soul—the first designs for the San Mateo Bridge, for example, and the horrendous plan to criss-cross San Francisco with freeways. Without Temko's voice, the Bay Area would be markedly different, and decidedly less beautiful, today. Fifteen years have passed since Temko left his post. One realizes, talking with him, that the people he wrote about were often his friends, despite his reputation for making enemies. He was admired, even by his targets, for his ability to place design in a cultural context he so clearly loved.
How did you become a critic?
When I left Columbia University in 1947, my professors helped me get an American Lectureship at the Sorbonne. I was in France, teaching American literature, for seven years. Most of this time, I looked at Gothic churches, which to me had everything—rational structure and daring new forms to suit new conditions. But I also saw modern architecture, like Le Corbusier's. Because there was no good book in English on Notre Dame, I wrote one. [It was published by Viking Press in 1955.] Lewis Mumford edited it. When I returned to the U.S., he suggested I do what he was doing for the New Yorker, but for a mass audience. I knew the executive editor of the Chronicle, Scott Newhall, so I went there.
What's changed since then?
In the 1950s and 60s, people talked about painters, sculptors, and politics. Now they talk about buildings, spaces, and important environmental problems. The need for good criticism has never been greater, but if you look around, it seems mighty sparse. There are some outstanding critics, like Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, but not many writing today understand activist criticismm the need to get out there and fight with fang and claw. With a big metropolitan paper, you can accomplish a good deal. Looking back, we were much better at stopping bad things than creating good things, but we were far ahead of other metropolitan areas, especially when you consider our resources. One big difference between being the critic of the Chronicle and being one for a great newspaper like The New York Times is that New York is really unmanageable. Here, it was possible to have an effect—to stop the freeways and keep Fort Mason and the Presidio from being ruined.
How were you edited at the Chronicle?
Newhall read my things. So did the city guys, the assistant managing editors, and if they couldn't understand something, I'd rewrite it. They were good stand-ins for the public. Newhall encouraged me to be controversial and shielded me from the owners. When the architect of Pier 39, Sandy Walker, sued me for $2 million, the Chronicle defended me. Actually, Bill German, then the executive editor, told me that if I lost, the paper would pay half! The suit was thrown out, but Walker appealed. When I learned that the case was back in court, I asked Chronicle executive Phelps Dewey why I hadn't been told. "We want to win this thing," he replied. When you're trying to stop something, you have to go straight for the jugular. Most critics today don't have that instinct—but neither do their papers. I'm vain enough to think that I could have stopped the whole Bay Bridge fiasco if I hadn't been ill.
What influenced you as a critic?
My years in France led me to see art and architecture as expressions of great civilizations. I always cared about heightening the public's sensibility. I wrote for the educated public, but I wanted everyone else to be able to understand my articles and enjoy them. I saw my role as achieving better design for the whole region. I might have been the only architecture critic in this period who looked at cities at a larger scale—even as large as, say, the Bay Area's seashore, which became a national park. Today, you can walk on public land along the ocean for 50 miles north and south of San Francisco. That wouldn't have happened without people fighting for it, and stopping things like the nuclear reactor that PG&E wanted to put on Bodega Head. I played a big part in these initiatives, writing articles and then getting the Chronicle behind them. They were great victories. But I took on causes that ran the gamut—protecting Frank Lloyd Wright's store on Maiden Lane from retrofitting, sparing Market Street the mediocrity of the early design for San Francisco Center, taking Silicon Valley seriously, helping make the Presidio a national park. That's an appropriate range for a critic.
Did you make enemies?
Sometimes I was a bit harsh. People say I was brave, but that wasn't the point. It sold newspapers. It still would today but, despite media's resources, there's still not enough serious coverage of architecture and planning. One big difference is that when I was writing, I was often speaking for the paper as an institution. I would write a critical piece and then I would write an unsigned editorial for the Chronicle that supported my stance. Without that endorsement, there's no way I could have accomplished what I did.
What do you think of today's critics?
There are very few people writing things that you'd remember the next day. Part of our purpose, after all, is to be entertaining. Architecture is like tennis—there's a small group playing at Wimbledon, and the rest are playing on the neighborhood courts. Which is not to say that the small courts don't have big players. When I started as a critic, San Francisco was a magnet for good architects. Richard Rogers was among them—he appeared on my doorstep one summer, saying, " Lewis Mumford sent me,"—and I got Chuck Bassett to sign him on at SOM. That influx of talent gave us Bassett in my generation and Stanley Saitowitz in the next—architects whose work is original and unique but which also reflects what they found here.
John Parman co-edits "Commentary" for San Francisco's LINE.
All that is maddeningly incompetent, stupidly complacent, brutally insensitive and almost incredibly extravagant in San Francisco—a city that perhaps did know how to build in William Howard Taft's time, but would be hard-pressed to erect a decent municipal doghouse today—is epitomized in our New Era Airport, which in fact is one of the most old-fangled, inconvenient, and wastefully designed air facilities in the nation.
As a gateway to San Francisco, it should be blazoned with the inscription of Dante's Inferno: Abandon all hope, ye that enter. For if this is the best we can do in the way of large public works that, precisely because of their staggering cost, are supposed to serve long-time needs, we had better give up hope for the future environment in this part of the world.
Rather than inaugurating a new era, this sprawling assemblage of malconceived and coarsely executed structures is already obsolete. Almost certainly the entire terminal—which even in its unfinished state measures about half a mile from end to end, and may yet be extended farther—will have to be extensively rebuilt if not totally demolished when the supersonic jets go into operation. Yet by rough estimate the city has thus far sank $45 million in terminal and parking facilities alone, and the end is not in sight.
The Public Utilities Commission—a veritable citadel of mediocrity—is cheerfully prepared to spend as much again, or more, to complete the master plan, which to me is not a plan at all, but a gross improvisation at the taxpayers' expense.
Surely this colossal boondoggle warrants a Grand Jury investigation, such as the one which yielded such fascinating information concerning the genesis of the late Charles Harney's multimillion-dollar beauty, Candlestick Park.
But the public is entitled to know who, precisely, made the efforts which saddled the city with the most unwieldy airport of its size in the country, and why a comparable metropolis, Washington, D.C., obtained at substantially lower cost a resplendent terminal in every way vastly superior to our own. Above all, we should find out what is wrong with the building procedures of the city government, and try to set them right before more damage is perpetrated. For in recent years we have been suffering from an onslaught of architectural butchery that might be likened to a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, administered by self-righteous hacks.
The airport, in truth, is merely one of a series of so-called civic improvements—the Geary Street expressway is another, and so is the new Hall of Justice, which is the most unjust building in town—which re really public excrescences.
Paul Goldberger joined the staff of The New York Times in 1972 at the age of 22, and a year later was named architecture critic of the daily paper. For nearly 10 years, Goldberger was the junior critic under the paper's esteemed senior critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. Shortly after ascending to the role of chief critic in 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize (in 1984). As critic for nearly 25 years at the newspaper of record, Goldberger was often a champion for architectural values in the civic realm and at other times, an easy target for those who considered his views one and the same with the Times. During the heady 1980s, he was one of the few critics who wrote favorably about postmodernism, fueling a lively debate that pushed architecture further into the public's consciousness.
In 1997, Goldberger left his New York Times post to succeed Brendan Gill as the New Yorker's architecture critic, a position he holds today, simultaneously serving as dean at Parsons the New School of Design. Goldberger has proven to be one of the most prolific and long-standing critical voices in New York.
He is the author of several books, including most recently Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004).
How did you get started in criticism?
I had been interested in architecture since I was a kid. I remember when, once for my birthday, some family friends gave me a subscription to Progressive Architecture, which I found amazing. I didn't understand what was in it but I read most of it and found it very enticing.
I love architecture and I love journalism. And I wasn't very good at making up my mind about which of those professions I wanted to pursue because each one seemed to exclude the other. So I was lucky enough to find the place where they intersected.
Who influenced your criticism?
I went to Yale and studied architecture with Vincent Scully, who played a huge role in shaping my sensibility. If my eye was formed by anybody, it was Scully more than any other individual.
How did you end up at the Times?
I went to the Times first as an editorial assistant on the Sunday magazine. And I really missed architecture, and then I started to do freelance architecture pieces for the Times and elsewhere. But I was increasingly restless being away from architecture. And then I had an amazing opportunity, which was the chance to move within the Times, to become the architecture critic.
That's quite a leap.
It was quite a leap. I use the word lucky a few times. At the time, Ada Louise Huxtable was at the Times. She had been there for many years but she was moving to a new assignment—part time on the editorial board, and part time, she would continue to be the senior architecture critic. So they were very deliberately looking for someone who would be a number two to her. Not someone who had a huge independent reputation. If I had had a more established reputation, I might not have gotten the job. My guess is that she encouraged her bosses to choose somebody who would be quite junior to her, so there's no question who the senior voice was. And I fit the bill.
How did you go about picking your topics?
I was young, eager, loved the opportunity to put my passions into print and would do anything. And the Times had, and still has, a vast appetite for copy. The needs were enormous. I recall very few instances of being told, "No, it's not a good idea. Don't do it."
When you wrote a review, did they ever question your opinion?
I don't remember that happening too many times. The Times has traditionally been pretty good about backing its critics. I recall having two arguments with the executive editor while I was there. One was a piece about the Art and Architecture building at Yale. The editors thought it was too arcane. It was the only time I was ever told that. I was never told that about my writing any other time.
There was another thing that had nothing to do with the newspaper—a freelance piece in another magazine about the truly wretched design of the Times newsroom. This was the first time they re-did it to accommodate the first generation of computers. Big carpets, tile floors and horrible lighting, and fake-wood Formica furniture. It was really tacky. The executive editor was quite upset, and thought I was disloyal. As an employee, I was supposed to say positive things about the newspaper, no matter what.
When you were starting out, were you self-conscious about the role or responsibility of an architecture critic?
An architecture critic has a lot of authority but not much real power. Power is a much more raw and direct force. Authority is respect and trust. I don't think architecture critics have the power. It used to be said that The New York Times theater critic can close a Broadway show. Well, that's power. But nobody tears down a building if an architecture critic doesn't like it.
The most important responsibility of the critic is not to be stupid, not to be vicious, and not to be ad hominem. And I don't believe I've ever been any of those things as a critic. I was never interested in attacking people as people—I only wanted to discuss the work. Negative reviews are often interpreted as personal attacks, which obviously they are not.
Frankly, as I look back at what I did at the Times, I am proud of all of it. The things I might redo are not the times when I was too harsh on something, but situations where I think I was too kind and too generous, too patient and too forgiving.
You're willing to admit you're wrong?
I've been wrong on some things. I think I've been a little bit too generous about good intentions. Therefore what errors in judgment I've made over the years have come from the mistake of putting too much weight on good intentions, which can bring bad results.
What's the most important quality for a critic?
I would say a combination of a passion and a thick skin—two things that don't always go together. Angry responses or reactions are part of the territory. I am the happiest when people realize I'm just doing my job. I would hope [angry readers] would not personally direct their anger to me.
Speaking of having a thick skin, are you friendly with Michael Sorkin today?
Yes, we actually are. I have great respect for him. The issue on which we probably had our nastiest arguments was Times Square, many, many years ago. And that's probably—if I were going to give you any example where my inclination to think in terms of good intentions rather than results was most manifest—it was in my writing on Times Square. I was far too slow to realize how badly conceived that project was, and how bad [Philip] Johnson's design was initially. I don't believe I was wrong in thinking that the basic premise of the master plan was basically right—it was basically right. The basic design schemes were terrible, and I was much too forgiving of them.
Was it the thick of postmodernism that clouded your judgment?
I think that might be right. And I think I was probably a bit more forgiving of postmodernism in general, too, because that, too, was about intentions. In the end, most of that stuff was no more than transition architecture to wean us away from something. Now we've come to a much more mature modernism, a more intelligent modernism.
How has the role of the critic changed since you've left the Times?
Everyone interprets the role differently. I don't think the role or obligation changes very much. The critic of the Times plays a very central role in the civic dialogue of New York.
How is your job different now writing for a weekly magazine?
It's very different. At The New Yorker, we don't try or aspire to be exhaustive. We don't try to cover everything. The New York Times has an obligation to cover everything. It's like, "If a tree falls in the forest and Times is not there to write about it, does it make a sound?" It can tire you out after a while. But at the New Yorker, we just write about what interests us, and what, over the course of the year, would make interesting types of pieces.
Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.
The first thing you think when you see the new luxury apartment building at Astor Place—a slick, undulating tower clad in sparkly green glass—is that it doesn't belong in the neighborhood. The tone of Astor Place is set by places like Cooper Union, the Public Theatre, and the gargantuan former Wanamaker store on Broadway: heavy, brawny blocks of masonry that sit foursquare on the ground. Louis Sullivan once described one of Henry Hobson Richardson's great stone buildings as a man with virile force—broad, vigorous, and with a whelm of energy. The new building, designed by Charles Gwathmey, is an elf prancing among men.
Of course, cities are often enriched by architecture that seems, at first, to be alien: the pristine glass towers of Mies van der Rohe and the sylph-like bridges of Santiago Calatrava have brought grace to countless harsh, older cityscapes. But this new building, which is on one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan, does not have a transforming effect. If, as Vincent Scully proposed, architecture is a conversation between generations, this young intruder hasn't much to say to its neighbors. Its shape is fussy, and the glass facade is garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place, the tower disrupts the neighborhood's rhythm.
In an inelegant way, Gwathmey's building has exposed a truth about this part of lower Manhattan: inside those rough-and-tumble old masonry buildings is a lot of wealth. By designing a tower with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood, which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other than a place for the rich. The thirty-nine apartments inside the Gwathmey building start at $2 million.
It is a paradox of the New York real estate market that nothing breeds gentility like harsh surroundings. Once, it all happened indoors—grimy factory floors in SoHo became expensive lofts. Sleekness was a private pleasure, not a public display. But the pair of exceptionally elegant glass towers designed by Richard Meier that went up on the western reaches of Greenwich Village a few years ago changed the rules. High-gloss modernism, preferably attached to the signature of a famous architect and dropped into an old industrial streetscape, became the hottest thing in Manhattan apartment architecture since Emery Roth invented the foyer.
Michael Sorkin started his career in criticism writing for the Village Voice in 1978 and went on to write the alternative weekly's architecture column for ten years. In the Voice's permissive, freewheeling editorial environment, he developed an unflinching, pugnacious writing style—indebted as much to the gonzo journalists of the 1960s as to iconoclasts in the design fields, from Archigram to Jane Jacobs to Robert Venturi. He quickly became notorious as a silver-tongued antagonist of the architectural elite. Taking Philip Johnson to task for his Nazi past, as well as admonishing The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger (one of his unforgettable pieces was titled "Why Paul Goldberger Is So Bad: The Case of Times Square"), Sorkin is the embodiment of the fearless critic, becoming a hero to many (and a thorn in the side of a few).
Since his Voice days, Sorkin, now 57, has continued to write, as well as practice and teach. In all his work, he has consistently championed environmental issues, sustainability, and social justice. With his regular contributions to the Critique column in Architectural Record, Sorkin continues to serve as the profession's voice of outrage—and of moral reason.
Currently, he serves as director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY, a program that he founded. His New York-based architectural practice, Michael Sorkin Studio, continues to promulgate his idealist, socialist vision in both practical and theoretical projects. His Village Voice columns are anthologized in Exquisite Corpse (Verso, 1991) and most recent book is Starting From Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York (Routledge, 2003) and he is currently preparing five other titles, including Indefensible Space: The Architecture of the National Insecurity State (Routledge), Work on the City (Monacelli), and Fifteen Minutes in Manhattan (Reaktion Press).
Why and how did you get started as an architecture critic?
I first started writing about architecture in college, but I had always been interested. My mother gave me a copy of [Lewis] Mumford's The City in History when it first came out, which was always a touchstone for me. For years I thought Vallingby [the Swedish sustainable New Town] was the omega point of urban civilization. Fortunately, I finally saw it! Having always been interested in both architecture and writing, criticism was a natural progression. When I got to New York I quickly started writing for the Village Voice, which allowed me to indulge another of my ardors, left-wing politics.
Do you feel that left politics was much more of a cultural motivator when you started? And did that carry over into the architecture writing of the era?
Absolutely. I was under the spell of the doughty Marxism of the day. But there was very little architecture writing at the time—almost none in the daily press. Ada Louise Huxtable was the major exception, but there was very little architectural journalism in general. There were a few influential documents around—Archigram magazine, The Whole Earth Catalogue, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture—that were beginning to unsettle the moribund architectural climate from very different directions.
Did you have any other influences?
My prose style was certainly influenced by an undergraduate subscription to Private Eye Magazine, which authorized a certain latitude for the ad hominem, not to mention egregious punning. And then there was the triple whammy of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Rachel Carson, who provide a lovely synthesis of architecture, city, and environment.
How do you choose your subjects?
I have no specific method for choosing my subjects. Part of it is looking for the social meaning of the formal. Part of it is settling scores. And part is just defending one's taste. I've always been a designer as well as a writer so part of my project has always been to advance the agenda of my fellow travelers. And the Voice is a local paper, so I wrote a lot about New York.
Speaking of the Voice, did your editors there have much input in terms of subject matter or the tenor or your articles?
Almost no input in terms of subject matter. It was quite a free situation. They were always happy when I went for the throat, of course.
Who do you consider your audience?
The profession, for starters. Many of my books are directed a little more broadly—to the remnants of the left as well as to a wider circle engaged in urban and environmental struggles. I do feel a bit parochialized, writing primarily in the architectural, rather than more broadly-based, media.
What do you see as the primary role of the architecture critic? And how has it changed?
I see my primary role as an advocate for urban civilization and the planetary environment. That's the big picture. The smaller picture is writing about people, objects, and places I love. That hasn't changed. Of course, the performance of critics fluctuates with the seasons. The majority of critics nowadays are simply flacks: There are too many fashionistas and too few street fighters. We've been taken up into the culture of branding. I think that it is possible for architecture criticism to embody resistance, but it seems in most cases that irony and analysis stops short of availing an original position. People are too accepting of the will of the leviathan and they want their piece of the action.
Do you think that the same can be said of architecture these days? In which case how do you feel about the state of architecture?
I have mixed feelings. Most architecture and criticism is driven by motives too limited, by the bottom line or branding. But both are public projects and my architectural practice and my writing are always concerned with their social effects, their contribution to a more just environment. While I don't believe that architecture creates democracy, architects aren't mindful enough of the distributive effects of planning, the way in which architecture organizes privilege and equity. I think it's important for architecture to make propaganda for a better life, to resist the horror of Bush-world. I truly loathe the smug surfer culture that seems to be in the saddle these days.
Aaron Seward is Projects Editor at AN.
Reports of the death of modern architecture appear to have been greatly exaggerated. This, at any rate, seems to be the drift of the Museum of Modern Art's newly hung Transformations in Modern Architecture. The show has been breathlessly awaited by the architecture set for many years. When, everyone wondered, would Architecture and Design director Arthur Drexler make his move? While fierce controversy roiled over the fate of the modern movement, the museum remained strangely quiescent, almost aloof. The factions raged furiously, each hoping to win the museum to its cause. After all, MoMA virtually made modern architecture in America with its famous show of 1932, and a likewise definitive stand could conceivably have a similar impact today. For Drexler, the opportunity was enormous.
But so was the pressure. Anybody with any sense knew that old-fashioned modern architecture, with all its imputed evils, had to go, but what would replace it? The megastructural maniacs seemed to have been suppressed but did that mean that we were to have the quaint eclecticists or the nouveau neo-classicists? All that was certain was that everyone, except the most unreconstructed Miesians, was yapping for a change...
Still, MoMA temporized, hedging its bets, keeping up but never summing up: All hope for clarification was pinned on Transformations. Designers trembled over drafting tables, pens nervously poised, waiting to be told what to do next. Expectation was apoplectic; fortunes hung in the balance. Seventh Avenue shows a collection every season and the air is electric every time. The Architecture and Design Department makes a major statement only a few times in a lifespan. What was the word to be?
Alas, MoMA copped out. The show is like Hamlet on matte-board: Drexler couldn't make up his mind. Instead of a Cultural Revolution we get "Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom." Instead of leadership, vacillation.
Of course what's really interesting about the compilations is who gets left out. Here, the choices get wiggy. Virtually Philip Johnson's entire oeuvre is included but not a single Alvar Aalto. Anybody could become Philip Johnson given the right historical circumstances but only Aalto could have been Aalto. Vulgarians like Harrison and Abramowitz of Albany Mall fame survive the last cut but Pier Luigi Nervi doesn't even get the court. Is this sensible? Where are those splendid Dutchmen Herman Herzberger and Aldo van Eyck? Where are Steve Baer's Zomes and Bucky's geodesics? Where is SITE? Wasn't the Guggenheim finished in 1959? Some of this seems just plain bitchy. The whole town is asking why John Hejduk's fine work is not to be found with that of the other members of the New York Five, inexplicably reduced for the occasion to Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves...Ultimately, though, what do Drexler's peccadilloes matter: Group shows always entail a certain amount of grievance. Let them form a salon des refusés if they want.
Since 1973, Robert Campbell has been architecture critic of The Boston Globe and for many years, has been a regular contributor to Architectural Record's Critique column. At 68, Campbell is a consistent, informed voice on the scene, his writing enriched by his backgrounds in journalism and architecture.
In a September 2004 Architectural Record column, Campbell wrote, "I've always thought that a good model for any critic is Alice, the heroine of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Alice is constantly running into creatures who are crazy—the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit—but they're crazy in a special way. They're obsessed by ideas, and they ignore real-world experience. Alice isn't fooled or overly impressed by her crazies, and neither should any critic be." Campbell's sobriety and unique insight, as one of the field's own practioners, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1996 and the medal for criticism from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1980.
Why and how did you begin your career as a critic?
I was an English major and I didn't want to be a professor, so I went to Columbia University and tried journalism in New York for a few years, but I didn't like it. I decided to become an architect, and got my degree from Harvard's GSD in 1967. I had no thought of writing at that point, and didn't write for many years, while I was practicing. I met an editor from The Boston Globe and started writing for the newspaper in 1973. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about criticism at that time. There was an interest in preservation and the era of urban renewal was ending. Ada Louise Huxtable had begun writing for The New York Times in the 1960s and she essentially generated a career path for many others. Other papers were adding architecture critics to their ranks, like David Dillon at the Dallas Morning News and Paul Goldberger, who was already writing at the the Times as well.
What do you feel your role is, as an architecture critic for a major daily paper and at-large-advocate, observer, something else?
The architecture critic is not a consumer guide like other critics. The chief role of an architecture critic is to stimulate and participate in an ongoing conversation about the world we build and live in and what makes [projects] good or bad. When I started, as I said, there was a lot of interest. There have been periods of less interest. Today, it's hot again, but it is all about the star performer—characteristic of the media culture we're living in. This makes it incumbent on critics not to get sucked into the media whirlwind. We must weigh in on important issues. Blair Kamin does this well in Chicago.
What do you think of activist criticism, which Kamin, as well as Allan Temko in San Francisco, advocate?
I certainly think that activist criticism is appropriate and can be a positive force. Blair Kamin and Michael Sorkin, in different ways, are doing this. It is not my temperament to take that attitude, but it's certainly a valid strategy.
What are your feelings about what's going on in architecture today: the influence of computer technology on design, the rise of sustainable design, and other developments?
Certainly, computers are important. Young people are very good at them and they can make shapes that have never been made before. They are playing a game. It's easy to dream up new shapes, but it's difficult to give them meaning.
I am very interested in the growing importance of landscape architecture and the increasing integration of architecture and landscape. As for green buildings, many are largely symbolic. The bigger issues are sprawl and energy, I think. Certainly, symbols are important, and architects should take opportunities to make high-performance buildings that are also visually exciting in ways that are not just arbitrary. The only long-term green solution involves reorganizing the patterns by which we inhabit the earth.
How do you choose your subjects? How do you converse about a subject that many people may not understand?
I intuit what I think will be interesting. No one buys tickets to see buildings, so you have to think about what purpose you serve: to get people thinking and talking about the built environment. You might write about a building because it's great, bad, or otherwise important. I choose all my own topics. As for conversing about a subject that people care about but may not understand, I do the best I can. I enjoy making things clear.
What can be done to enhance the level of architectural literacy in this country, where only two percent of construction involves architects?
The level of architectural literacy is going up rapidly. The subject is in the magazines and newspapers more than before. Maybe people are more interested because more of them are moving from city to city, or because they are all traveling more.
Did you ever change your mind about anything you've written?
Of course I have; many times. But I don't go back to revisit. There's not much room at a paper to say, "I was wrong about that."
Do you think that having been a practicing architect gives you a special understanding as a critic?
Yes, in the same way that art historians or others bring special perspectives. I understand how collaborative architecture is, and the importance of time and money.
What critics have been significant influences for you?
Jane Jacobs was a huge influence, but beyond her, I can't really cite major architecture critics as my biggest influences. My models are from the English literature side of my background: Randall Jarrell, George Bernard Shaw, and Edmund Wilson.
You have talked about how the single-issue experts are to blame for poorly designed cities, and that generalists—such as designers and mayors—should be running the show. Why?
I don't think traffic experts and others should be deciding issues of city design. You need a broader perspective. The age of the expert is over. I think the worship of experts is way down; even doctors and lawyers don't get the respect they once did. But I'm not sure it's been replaced by healthy collaboration. In the the absence of experts, it is possible to get a kind of populist decision-making, or decision-preventing, in which every interest group or individual is consulted and, as a result, nobody can build anything that anyone dislikes. This leads to a kind of bland common-denominator world, punctuated by the occasional star icon.
Kira Gould is a Boston-based design writer.
A critic is supposed to stimulate a dialogue, not be one. So wrote the great Clement Greenberg. I seem to be one of only a few critics around who wasn't crazy about the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. Maybe I'll change my tune after a few more visits; Greenberg reversed his judgments sometimes, and it's greatly to his credittand if I do, I'll perform a mea culpa. But for now...
It isn't that MoMA's bad. There's nothing bad about it. It's just that it isn't good enough. It's elegant, but it lacks life and imagination, and those are qualities we used to associate with modernism.
New museums often open with a blizzard of hype. It's hard for critics not to be caught up in the excitement. Years ago, that happened with I. M. Pei's East Building for the National Gallery in Washington. More recently, it happened with Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern in London. I didn't like either of them at the time and I still don't. And I think a consensus opinion, over the years, has borne me out. I say this despite the AIA's recent Twenty-Five Year Award to the East Building. I recall when the East Building opened, the architect Jean Paul Carlhian, who founded the AIA's Committee on Design, said, "It is an airline terminal." It was and it is, with most of the art crammed into residual spaces around the edges of a vast, self-regarding, nearly empty concourse.
Anyway, here are my problems with MoMA:
There isn't any architecture. The design architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, was quoted more than once as saying that if MoMA gave him enough money, he could make the architecture disappear. Unfortunately, he's succeeded. Most of the museum consists of an endless rabbit-warren of more or less identical white-walled galleries with track-lit ceilings. Every attempt is made to remove any sense of the presence of architecture. A typical gallery wall, for example, appears not to touch the ceiling, the floor, or the adjacent walls. Instead all surfaces are divided from one another by a thin recessed shadow line. The effect is to make the wall appear to be floating, without substance. It looks not like a wall, but like a white projection screen. The paintings on it, as a result, begin to feel like projected images. You are in the placeless, timeless world of the slide lecture. Because the wall doesn't feel real, neither does the artwork. You begin to feel unreal yourself. Architecture has failed to create a place that either the paintings or you yourself can inhabit with a sense of presence.
MoMA argues that it was trying to avoid creating a destination building, like Frank Gehry's Bilbao, the kind of building that can upstage its contents. "It's all about the art," one curator told me. But this is a false dichotomy. The choice is not between no architecture and too much architecture. What's wanted is the right amount of architecture. Many museums—to cite a few, the Kimbell and Mellon by Kahn, the Maeght and Miro by Sert, the De Menil, Beyeler and Nasher by Piano, the Bregenz by Zumthor, the Pulitzer by Ando, the Dia:Beacon by Robert Irwin and OpenOffice—all find ways to articulate space clearly enough to give the artworks a place within which to exist.
Deyan Sudjic lives in an elegant Victorian house on the fringes of Regent's Park. In contrast to the opulence of the neighborhood, the room where we talk is rigorously stripped of detail, with austere white walls and a vast bleached wood table—not a book in sight. "Truth is," says Sudjic, " I'm between books right now." His latest, The Edifice Complex (just out in the U.S.) has, perhaps understandably, drained his formidable energies. The book, subtitled How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, is a visceral, uncompromising analysis of the 21st century uber-architect, whom Sudjic criticizes as venal, opportunistic, only too eager to deal with tyrants.
This critical stance is characteristic of Sudjic, who co-founded Blueprint in the mid-1980s precisely to provide an alternative perspective on the profession. Sudjic also made time to write books, including the highly acclaimed 100-Mile City (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1992), a scholarly assessment of late-20th century urbanism. A supreme networker, Sudjic was named editor of Domus in 2000. His stewardship of the Milan-based magazine transformed it into a truly international forum for architecture, art, and design, which in turn made him an obvious choice to direct the 2002 Venice Architecture Biennale. He has also curated London exhibitions at the British Museum, the Royal Academy, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He is currently architecture critic for The Observer, the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper The Guardian.
How did you come to write about architecture?
My father was a journalist and my mother was hell-bent I shouldn't follow in his footsteps. I guess that's why I chose to study architecture in the first place but once at university I was forced to realize the dramatic limitations of my skills—not least during my year out in the Chelsea offices of Chamberlain Powell & Bon, architects of the Barbican complex in East London. I was also editing the student newspaper; Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor and Tony Blair's right hand man, was news editor at the time! Given a dearth of architecture work—this was the early 1980s—I reckoned that writing was, despite my mother's dire warnings, the way forward for me. Peter Murray, then editor of Building Design, gave me my first break. After a year I realized I was having a fantastic time. I certainly learned a great deal more about architecture as a writer than I had done studying it.
It wasn't long before you started Blueprint. What prompted you to do it? Did you feel architecture in the UK was too polite or clubby?
Blueprint was meant to be a bit of fun, a youthful sense that the existing UK magazines were run by managers with only a limited sense of what a magazine could be. It was meant to be a co-op, run collectively. We—the writers, designers, photographers and illustrators who got together to do it—all wanted a new, challenging outlet. I was also keen to broaden architecture's perspective, to make it a part of a wider visual culture, I guess influenced by Domus which dealt with art, industrial design, fashion, graphics, and urbanism.
Of course we were clubby too, but every generation succeeds by trashing their predecessors, so we just started another club. Encouraging good writing was also important.
Can you pinpoint key priorities you bring to your work as a critic?
If you are not entertaining, people will not read you. But that does not mean that you should be shallow. I think that you have a duty to be interesting, and interested, to use your eyes as well as your head. It's also important not to take architecture at face value. I would also rather not accept financial support from owners or architects to travel to see projects, but in the currrent climate of reduced budgets at newspapers and ever-more-far-flung projects it's hard to avoid it if you are going to keep up with the key buildings. Of course seeing them gives you a strange world view: Nobody else, not even the architects themselves, see Herzog & De Meuron in California one week, Daniel Libeskind in Tel Aviv the next, Norman Foster in Beijing the month after, followed by Rem Koolhaas in Porto.
What was the climate of criticism when you started out and how has it changed?
There were great people: Reyner Banham was a marvelous inspiration, in his style, and his range of subject matter, and I wanted to be able to write like that. I wanted to ensure that architecture could get into mainstream newspapers, and that meant having a direct approach—approaching the subject not from the preconceptions of architects or taking the work at face value.
You write today for both the general and specialized reader. How difficult is it to switch tone, frame of reference, et cetera? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate your lay audience?
The word "educate" really sets my teeth on edge when applied to journalism. You operate by seducing and surprising your audience into reading you. That means being as stylish a writer as you can, and trying to make sense of complex things in as direct a way as you can. I have not only written for specialists and a lay audience, but I have simultaneously been an editor and a writer—useful in terms of acquiring a sense of perspective.
Have you ever regretted a piece you've written?
I certainly regretted some headlines. By far the worst was for my obituary of Philip Johnson for which some bright spark came up with "A Nazi Piece of Work." There's no going back from that one!
Can you identify key differences between criticism in the UK and that of the U.S., or Italy, where you worked?
These are three very different cultures. Doing Domus I was acutely aware how different the Anglo-Saxon discussion was from the Italian—I could never be sure if it was the quality of the translation, or the sometimes maddening diffusion of the Italian language. Sometimes Anglo-Saxon directness translated into Italian offended people. I remember Mario Botta complaining to the magazine's owner that I had hired a gang of English mercenaries to disparage him. I suspect that Americans think that the British are a bit limited. We do not have the same intellectual rigor. In the newspapers, the U.S. gives its critics more space—2,000 words is common in The New York Times, whereas 800 is a standard length here. Personally I prefer not to write a detailed architectural description, I tend to talk about what a project means, rather than how it looks.
In a recent interview, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, suggested that the basic principles of a museum should celebrate John Locke's civic humanism. Can you point to leading architects whom you feel champion the notion of civic humanism?
I believe great cities are the product of an exchange of ideas. What I fear most is no conversation, no discussion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against shift-making buildings, but let's not just grab the next tower off the shelf, dust it off, and build it. There are inspired architects, great architects who want to engage in real ideas. The key thing is to create a forum where that's possible and it's the role of the critic to build that debate.
Do you believe that criticism has a direct effect on the evolution of architecture? Is there, or should there be, a tangible link?
No. As Charles Jencks says, critics are the messenger boys.
Robert Torday is associate director of ING Media, London, and contributes to Architects' Journal and ICON magazine.
Last week the East of England Development Agency launched what it described, with Pooterish grandiloquence, as an international competition to find a visionary plan for a landmark, or series of landmarks. The agency says it is looking for an icon that will foster a sense of identity for the region as a whole—to underscore its message that the East of England, is a region of ideas. All that was missing from its litany of threadbare received wisdom was a passing reference to its world-class ambitions.
No site has been specified, nor has the development agency committed any money to the project, which hardly inspires confidence, but Yasmin Shariff, an architect who is also a board member claims that this piece of wishful thinking is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together as a region and decide how to present ourselves to the rest of the world.
It's not hard to imagine what an Angel of the East might look like, or for that matter, a Lincoln opera house, faced with titanium fish scales, designed by Frank Gehry as a free-form blob, or an eccentrically exhibitionistic Santiago Calatrava footbridge across the Cam as being the sort of structure that the agency is after. Competitions such as this have become ubiquitous, leading all but inevitably to the kind of architecture that looks best reduced to a logo on a letterhead or to the confined spaces of one of those Eiffel-Tower-in-a snow-storm paperweights. It claims to be about inspiration but ends only in the obvious. The search for the architectural icon has become the ubiquitous theme of contemporary design.
Leaving aside the wounding possibility that the rest of the world is likely to remain just as indifferent to the fate of the Fens and Humberside, however they choose to present themselves, as it has ever since the collapse of the wool trade in the Middle Ages, the agency has a fight on its hands. If it is to stand out from an endless procession of decaying industrial backwaters, rural slums, and development areas that are equally star-struck, equally determined to build the icon that will bring the world beating a path to its door, then it must come up with something really attention-grabbing.
This is the way to an architecture of diminishing returns in which every sensational new building must attempt to eclipse the last one. It leads to a kind of hyperinflation, the architectural equivalent of the Weimar Republic's debauching of its currency. Everybody wants an icon now. They want an architect to do for them what Gehry's Guggenheim did for Bilbao, Jorn Utzon's Opera House did for Sydney, and Piers Gough's green-tiled public lavatory did for the Portobello Road.
Hombroich, an ex-NATO missile base near Cologne, Germany, has been turned into a public art and architecture park. And in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a design-driven subdivision blossoms. The answer to post-military landscapes seems to be contemporary architecture. Andrew Yang reports.
|Erwin Heerich's brick pavilions were some of the first buildings to be realized on Insel Hombroich.|
|Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Insel Hombroich Foundation|
On October 7, the Center for Architecture unveils Field Experiments in art-architecture-landscape: Hombroich spaceplacelab, an exhibition that examines the conversion of a former NATO base on a patch of land known as Hombroich, near Cologne, Germany, into a utopia for art and architecture. Decommissioned in 1990, just after German reunification, the former missile base has been occupied since 1995 by the arts nonprofit the Insel Hombroich Foundation, started by art collector Karl-Heinrich MMller. With echoes of Marfa, Texassthe remote military-base-turned-art-preserve conceived in 1979 by Donald Juddd Insel Hombroich will see to the transformation of 650 acres of rolling green fields into a showcase of works by artists and architects, including lvaro Siza, Shigeru Ban, Frei Otto, and Tadao Ando.
Named Insel,, or island, for its remote location, Insel Hombroich was purchased by MMller to house his vast private art collection. Shortly after, MMller enlisted sculptor Erwin Heerich to create a series of pavilions, housing galleries, residences, meeting spaces, and a cafeteria that have become the Museum Insel Hombroich. Furthermore, many of the site's rocket silos and existing administrative buildings have been converted into artists' studios and residences. By the time Raimund Abraham was asked to create the first architect-designed structure for the site in 1997, MMller became committed to the idea of developing a collection of art buildings created by an international coterie of talents. He asked Danish artist Per Kirkeby to design a bus stop, train station, and eight additional buildings and pavilions, which were completed in 2000.
|Tadao Ando's Langen Foundation Building in Insel Hombroich was completed in 2004.|
|Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Langen Foundation|
Since then, Museum Insel Hombroich has invited 16 artists and architects to submit concepts for structures that would house art and engage the landscape. Each project was allotted 40 acresswith a central design requirement that they occupy only 10 percent of their plot. The remaining 90 percent is to be devoted to nature, such as woods, meadows, or landcaped areas. The museum soon realized that it needed a master plan to organize the new projects, which will be phased in over the next 30 years. That task fell to Barbara Hoidn and Wilfried Wang, from the Berlin-based firm Hoidn Wang Partners, who also curated the exhibition at the Center for Architecture.
The prospect of redeveloping a former military site for artistic use has great practical as well as symbolic value. In much the same way that industrial spaces have become versatile venues for artists' studios and art galleries, a decommissioned military base is ripe with opportunities for its sheer expanse, isolation, and open-endedness. The advantage of Hombroich is that it offers complete freedom,, said Hoidn. The artists were left to interpret the landscape as they pleased.. Moreover, the program's emphasis on nature and creativity has resulted in designs that bring new life to grounds that were once devoted to weapons of destruction.
|A bridge extends from one of Heerich's pavilions over the site's natural pond.|
|Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Langen Foundation|
In 2000, Marianne Langen, another art collector, sought out MMller to house her and her husband's collection on the Hombroich site. With his guidance, she hired Ando to design the Langen Foundation building, a concrete box within a glass box, floating on a shallow pool of water. The building, completed in 2004, adheres to the architectural vision set out for Hombroich. More new structures could evolve at Hombroich in this manner, as needed.
Hombroich is one of the most ambitious examples of how art and architecture are being leveraged as tools for revitalization, as culture steadily replaces industry as a basis for the new economy. Nearby, in Duisberg, Emscher Park, a vibrant recreational attraction was forged from a dead industrial zone. The hope for Hombroich is that it also becomes an ideal environment for cultural production.
|An office and gallery pavilion sit on a former NATO site that is verdant, open, and sprawling.|
|Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Langen Foundation|
To provide a global context for Hombroich, the Center for Architecture will present two smaller exhibitionssone on Marfa, the home of the Chinati Foundation, and the other on an architecturally driven art settlement in Heyri, South Korea (both of which I helped to organize). Marfa, which opened in 1986, and Heyri, which started construction in 2000, could not be more different in scale and scope from Hombroich, yet they all share similarities such as optimism and faith in the power of art and architecture to transform the histories and fates of their sites.
|In Heyri, South Korea, the community house was designed by the town's masterplanners, Jong Kyu Kim and Jun Sung Kim.|
|JongOh Kim / Courtesy Jong Kyu Kim / Jun Sung Kim|
Whereas the art completely transforms Marfa's landscape and attempts to make the architecture secondary or virtually invisible on the site, the buildings in Heyri are dominant in the rolling hills of the Gyeonggi-do province in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. In the late-1990s, as the relationship between the two countries began to ease, and the DMZ became less of a contested site, the government sought approaches to develop this lush terrain, which is less than an hour by train from Seoul. A group of community-minded Koreans, led by the chairman of a large Korean art-publishing house, acquired the land from the government and conceived of a community where individuals could buy lots and build their own housessaccording to certain architectural guidelines. With 80 dramatic, assertive buildings already completed by firms including Minsuk Cho, Studio Himma, Yekong Architects, and SHoP, Heyri is already a showcase of progressive architecture, and a snapshot of what tabula rasa planning can produce in Asia. Glass, concrete, and steel are the favored palette among the residences, galleries, film studio, retail shops, and schools that now occupy the site. An additional 310 lots are slated for development.
Hombroich, Marfa, and Heyri may be milessand worldssaway from the constrained geography of New York City. However, there is one local site that shares a similar, pending transformation: Governors Island. The 172-acre island, which has served as a military installation since 1776, was transferred in 2003 to the U.S. Department of the Interior and is now managed by the National Park Service. It is currently in a process of being planned for arts, tourism, entertainment, and other uses. The freedom seen at Insel Hombroich comes from not being afraid to experiment,, said Hoidn. What can New York learn from Hombroich? Give quality a chance,, advised Hoidn. And don't compromise too early.. Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.
|The Hansook Cheong Memorial, a gallery devoted to a late novelist, was designed by Moongyu Choi of Ga.A Architects.|
|JUNGSIK MOON / COURTEESY GA.A ARCHITECTS|
Universities have long served as strong architecture patrons, though the best-known examples have often been secluded, pastoral set pieces for idyllic, semi-monastic educational enclaves. As Sharon Haar observes, however, with the rebirth of the city has come the revitalization of the urban campus. Though urban campuses are confronted with unique problems, such as limited, expensive real estate, they are proving to produce architecture that is provocative both intellectually and urbanistically.
Ask students: The city is in. If at one time America's college-age population was sentt away to school in a cornfield, small college town, or hillside enclave, today they flock to cities, where urban campuses are growing and prospering, making new commitments to their cities, and at the same time enlarging their domain into neighborhoods scarred by urban renewal, urban abandonment, or both. Universities are occupying spaces in the skyline, taking over spaces vacated by businesses that have fled to the suburbs or relocated to more technologically equipped, 21st-century office buildings; they are building new housing and retail developments; and they are finding new ways of partnering with neighboring communities with an aim to avoid the territorial and intellectual antagonisms of the past. And yes, they are building new buildings, many by signature architects.
As towns and their institutions of higher education grew, most often toward one another, the abstract intellectual conflict of town-versus-gown was actualized in physical conflict over space. New York City incrementally chased the fledgling Kings College (established in 1754, which later became Columbia University) to the northern reaches of Manhattan Island, until finally, lodged in Morningside Heights in the late 19th century, the university commissioned McKim, Mead & White to design a campus to protect itself from future onslaught. Many other colonial institutionssHarvard University, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Yale University, established in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticuttgrew to become inextricably intertwined with their urban contexts. When these schools transformed into research powerhouses a century ago, they set the stage for the enormous boom in campus construction and of student populations. Student bodies have spiked steadily since World War II as a result of veterans' enrollment programs, a shift to a service economy, and later, the baby-boom, the expansion of opportunity for women and minorities, and more recently to accommodate non-traditionall (older) students and the echo-boomerr generation.
Many universities' current urban strategies are the result of hasty decisions, failures of modernist planning and some of its architecture, and universities' awkward participation in urban renewal a half-century ago. Yale and the University of Pennsylvania are hoping that their current participation in community renewal will reverse the urban devastation that occurred in part because of land banking in the 1960s. During that period, many schools cleared land in inner-city neighborhoods for buildings that did not materialize or expanded in ways that disrupted the urban fabric and neighborhood cohesiveness.
In contrast, Columbia University has reached out to its community in the process of planning its expansion into Manhattanville, promising new commercial prospects for the neighborhood and architectural transparency. Its president, Lee Bollinger, contrasts the proposal to the blank walls that the university presents in Morningside Heights. But the process must also be understood in relation to the debacle of 1968, when the school's proposal for a new campus gym in Morningside Park fueled a massive student strike. Student activists linked U.S. involvement in Vietnam with the university's attempt to annex neighborhood public space.
Harvard is banking on its ability to design an entire piece of Boston with its plans for expansion in Allston. New York University and Cooper Union know that the neighborhood of residential spaces they are building or leasing downtown is necessary to keep students streaming in, in spite of impossible real estate conditions that would keep them out.
How do sites that were once anathema to higher education find themselves now so intertwined in the future of American pedagogy? A major factor is the revival of cities themselvessnew strongholds for public architecture, cultural institutions, and models for working, living, and playing. In the 1980s PBS series Pride of Place, Robert A. M. Stern extolled the American campus for being a place apart,, and the New York University cultural historian Thomas Bender stated in his book The University and the City: From Medieval Origins to the Present (Oxford University Press, 1988), The university has always claimed the world, not its host city, as its domain.. But more recently social theorist and New School University provost Arjun Appadurai noted in an interview published in Items and Issues Quarterly 4 (Winter 200332004) that the blurring of the line between universities and corporations and the increasing globalization of students and research networks make cities such as New York ideal locations for higher education. Today's academy is rarely a solitary retreat, despite a losss felt by some faculty.
Perhaps echoing the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson when he was designing the University of Virginia, the architectural theorist Kurt W. Forster wrote in From Catechism to Calisthenics: Cliff Notes on the History of the American Campuss in the May 1993 issue of Architecture California, Lasting institutions like colleges and universities invoke a social rationale for their physical installations, a rationale that speaks to their overarching purposes and helps elucidate the ideas behind their operations. In our culture, we are educated to find in our surroundings the manifestations of character and purpose, particularly when those larger abstractions such as character, purpose, and meaning would tend to escape our immediate grasp.. Architecture is critical to pedagogy. From Jefferson to Henry Ives Cobb, McKim, Mead & White, Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen to today's campus designers, the ideals of the campusswhere tradition and innovation, solitary contemplation and global interaction meet and debateemake it an ideal site for inspired architecture.
Sharon Haar is an architect and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is completing a book, City as Campus: Siting Urban Pedagogy.
Location: 23rd to 26th streets along Lexington Avenue, Manhattan
# of students:15,500 (13,000 undergrad.; 2,500 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Davis Brody Bond, 1986
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 2001
G Tects, 20044present
|Proposed renovation of Field Building at 17 Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. A new glass wedge encloses a sculptural stair.|
|courtesy Gordon Kipping / G Tects|
An elegant tower at Lexington and 23rd Street began in 1847 as the first free higher-education establishment in the republic. Over time, it became the anchor of Baruch College. In 2001, when Kohn Pedersen Fox's Vertical Campuss unsheathed 14 sloping stories above Lexington Avenue, Baruch suddenly evoked the fusty philosophy major who'd bulked up over the summer. The Vertical Campus, with running-board details at sidewalk level and glass and brick wings, drew critical praise for giving students a central kibitzing point. In the opinion of Vice President of College Advancement David Gallagher, the sloping tower fulfilled a 1986 Davis Brody Bond master plan by giving the scattered buildings a discernible heart.
Now the school wants to concentrate its burgeoning campus further, and give it a bolder identity. A masterplan, to appear by spring 2007, will chart the unification scheme. The new Baruch, said Gallagher, will weave that building more closely with the old oneesomehow. Whether it's an underground passage or acquisition of buildings, the masterplan will tell,, he said. (Since CUNY relies on annual funding from Albany, Gallagher hedges on Baruch's entering the real estate market.)
Baruch also wants its students (it has 15,500 of them, full- and part-time) to hew closer to campus, potentially with campus dormitories. The school commissioned Gordon Kipping of New York firm G Tects (and Frank Gehry, whom Kipping assists at Yale) in fall 2004 to suggest a format in which buildings might connect. Kipping proposed filling the path between 17 Lexington Avenue and the Vertical Campus with new crowns on two existing courthouse buildings and a new structure with fluid setbacks. His sketchhwhich has no authority over the eventual plannsandwiched 17 Lex's limestone skin in curvaceous glass sheaths. If Kipping's study influences trustees, the new 23rd Street lobby could offer a triple-height atrium space for students. To the public, it would offer Jumbotron views of lectures, with closed-captioning, to let any stroller spend 50 minutes as a student. Let's restore the idea of a free academy,, Kipping said.
On September 15, Baruch named the building for donors Lawrence and Eris Field. Gallagher said the college will issue an RFP for a masterplanning firm on CUNY's approved list, then wait 18 months for the plan. Budgets from Albany and City Hall would dictate the pace of expansion. Gallagher estimated that the unification will take 10 years. By then, Baruch could need another expansionnin cyberspace or Gramercy.
State University of New York
Location: Buffalo and Amherst, New York
# of students:27,276 (17,838 undergrad.; 9,438 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Amherst Campus: Sasaki, Dawson and Demay, 1970
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: Chan Krieger and Associates, 2002
|Courtesy Cannon design|
The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo occupies the heart of New York's second largest city. But the school, whose original buildings straddle the city's Main Street, also has a suburban identity: SUNY created a second campus in 1970 in Amherst, just 3 miles north of Buffalo, following the trend of urban flight that shattered most American cities in the 1960s and 70s. The school rejected the idea of expanding its main campus, including a megastructure proposal by native son Gordon Bunshaft and a downtown waterfront annex, instead commissioning Sasaki, Dawson and Demay to create a compact, inward-looking master plan at Amherst.
The Amherst campus features buildings by some of the leading designers of the 1970ssHarry Weese, I. M. Pei, Ulrich Franzen, Marcel Breuerrand it even has a Birdair sports dome. Despite this impressive list, the effect of these buildings on the area was, according to Reyner Banham in his 1981 book Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, has hardly galvanic, nor their style especially Buffalonian..
But the school is trying to reinvigorate Buffalo, according to dean of SUNY's architecture department Brian Carter, by bringing good architecture back to the city center.
In 2002 the university commissioned Boston firm Chan Krieger to create a third center, called the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus, on a 100 acres of downtown land surrounding the university's Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This complex has just seen the completion of the first of two new buildings: Last May, the school opened the Hauptman Woodward Laboratory building designed by Mehrdad Yezdani of Cannon Design in Los Angeles, a 70,000 square foot medical research facility (pictured). This laboratory will connect via a bridge to a second research facility, the 290,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics designed by Francis, Cauffman, Foley Hoffman of Philadelphia, which opens in December. Both buildings give Buffalo what Banham suggested it needed for a full architectural recoveryynew buildings for economic and functional reasons, but one that are psychologically of high architectural quality..
The campus has also inspired SUNY's school of architectureewhich is located just two subway stops awayyto launch a series of design initiatives on issues dealing with universal design and childhood obesity, for example. This interaction is something that Carter believes can work effectively on an urban campus, where diverse fields can come together to collaborate on research projects.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Location: Astor Place, New York City
# of students:900
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art's unusual tuition-free educational model is the driving force behind the architecture, engineering, and art school's current building initiative. Most colleges rely on tuition as a steady source of income, but since all of the school's 900 students attend at no charge, administrators are always looking for other financial resources to fill the gap. It's a magnificent vision but a terrible business model,, said Ronni Denes, Cooper's vice president of external affairs. Our current plan is geared at leveraging our real estate assets to ensure the school's future financial stability..
The school's real estate portfolio includes desirable properties such as the Chrysler building, whose rents provide more than half of its operating budget. The master plan, devised by a planning committee made up of trustees, aims to increase that percentage by cashing in on its properties concentrated around Astor Place.
Cooper is not expanding like most universities with new master plans, but rather consolidating and modernizing its facilities. Said Denes, It's in our interest to keep the school small and efficient.. Its engineering school will be moved out of an obsolete building from the 1950s and into a sleek, high-tech, nine-story building designed by Morphosis' Thom Mayne (pictured) on the site of the old two-story Hewitt Building at 3rd Avenue and 7th Street, which Cooper leases from the city. The new building will also house the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a public gallery and auditorium on the ground floor.
The vacated property between 3rd and 4th avenues and 8th and 9th streets will be razed and leased to developers, in much the same manner as the nearly completed condominium designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and developed by the Related Companies at Astor Place. The school will reach out to developers for the project, anticipated to be 14 stories high, once the Morphosis building breaks ground in June. The new building will house Cooper's administrative offices as well as other private businesses. The school's master planning committee hopes to have some review of the commercial development's design, as it did with the Gwathmey Siegel building, and even its clients. According to Denes, Cooper would like to attract businesses with some kind of synergy with the school's academics, such as architecture firms, artists' studios, and biotech companies..
Cooper's master plan does not include any gestures to unify the new buildings with their predecessors like the Foundation Building into a more recognizable campus. Our students don't want to be walled in,, said Denes. We think of New York City as our campus..
City College of The City University of New York
Location:138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan
# of students:12,108 (9,117 undergrad.; 2,991 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
George Post, 1905
George Ranalli, Architect, 2004-present
|Courtesy of Rafael Viioly Architects|
In recent years the City College of New York has deepened its commitment to architecture and design, recruiting impressive faculty, creating new degree programs (such as the Urban Design Program, started in 2000 under Michael Sorkin), and most notably, building a new School of Architecture, Urban Design, and Landscape Architecture. The $37.4 million building, designed by Rafael Viioly and slated for a 2008 completion, is a gut renovation and expansion of an existing modernist glass box building that houses administrative offices.
With so much ambition and activity, a campus master plan seems long overdue. In fact, a year and a half ago George Ranalli, dean of the architecture school since 1999, was commissioned to produce one. His plan calls for closing Convent Avenue to create a more sheltered campus center, around which administrative offices would be dispersed, rather than lumped together as they are now in one of the college's two large 1970s block-buildings, described by Ranalli as megastructures that need to be broken up..
To Ranalli's frustration, however, his plan is on the back burner while the campus expands, as it has throughout its history, based on immediate needs rather than long-term vision. (In reaction to the school's ad hoc development, Sorkin, who was a member of Ranalli's planning team, has created his own alternative scheme.) We started working on a master-planning process four years ago, with open forums to talk about current conditions but things have not proceeded in a typical way,, said Lois Cronholm, chief operating officer of City College. For example, with the dormitory building [now under construction], we had a need, so we found a way for to fill it, quickly.. The dormitoryythe first for the traditionally all-commuter schoollis being designed by Design Collective, Inc., of Baltimore, and should be completed in 2006. Capstone Development Corporation is the school's development partner; it will manage the facility for 30 years before ownership is transferred back to the school.
In addition to the architecture building and dorm, the school is presently pushing forward with the construction of two additional science buildings, both designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
The four new buildings are all located on the college's south campus, a medley of architectural styles that stands in contrast to its historic north campus, a collection of buildings designed in 1905 by George Post. The biggest challenge is putting the south campus together in an integrated way, as soon as possible,, said Cronholm, who foresees no more new construction for the college in the near future, unless the dorms are successful, in which case, we'll see.. The wait-and-see approach to planning appears to be the closest thing to a master plan the college has, and will likely continue to shape the campus.
Location:Morningside Heights and Manhattanville, New York
# of students:23,650 (7,114 undergrad.; 16,536 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
McKim, Meed & White, 1893
I. M. Pei, 1970 (not implemented)
Renzo Piano Building Workshop/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 20033present
|A view west on 131st Street to the Hudson River.|
|courtesy columbia university|
Of the major expansion plans being undertaken by schools in the New York City area, only one is planning to build an entirely new campus: In 2003 Columbia University hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) to create an ambitious master plan to guide the development of nearly 33 acres in Manhattanville, the neighborhood north of Columbia's McKim, Mead & White campus. The $4.6 billion Manhattanville Expansion Project encompasses the blocks between 12th Avenue and Broadway, and 125th and 133st streets, and will be phased in over the next 30 years. The university owns 53 percent of the land within the proposed development site and the MTA owns about 20 percent. Columbia promises to work with residents to acquire the remaining property.
Perpetually growing and space-constrained, Columbia has developed about one million square feet every five years since 1994, though it still lags behind all other Ivy League schools in terms of square-footage-per-student. Columbia has about 326 square feet for each of its more than 23,000 students, while Yale has 866 square feet for each of its 11,359 students and Harvard has 673 square feet for each of its 19,650 students.
Throughout its history, Columbia has had a tenuous town-gown relationship with its neighborhood. The 1968 controversy over the school's proposal to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park was a key turning point in the planning of the university. Nearly 40 years later, the planning process for Manhattanville is transparent, cautious, and considerate. We've learned a lot from our past mistakes,, said Jeremiah Stoldt, director of Columbia's plan for facilities management. We've met with block associations, the community board, and other local groups to present our thinking and gain feedback. A lot of aspects of the plan came from this feedback, such as preserving east-west axes and open space..
Transparency and urbanity are the main goals of the plan,, said Marilyn Taylor, who is leading the project for SOM. We felt from the beginning that the campus had to be open and invite the public in, and that it relate to the neighborhood, which has a rich history and physical legacy.. The area is zoned for manufacturing and one of its most noticeable features are the rugged aqueducts that define its edges.
|A rendering of the new campus and streetscape, looking west from Broadway on 125th Street.|
Now in precertification (pre-ULURP), the master plan shows a deep respect the existing urban grid, with east-west streets left open and sidewalks widened in strategic places to stimulate pedestrian life. The designers have called for buildings to be programmed, scaled, and designed in ways that both announce a unified campus and fortify the character of the neighborhood. The master plan encourages university buildings to devote street levels to uses that are needed by or accessible to the public, to be spaces they feel invited into, whether to grab a sandwich, look at art, or find out about university jobs,, said Taylor.
Like most universities today, Columbia is in need of more modern research facilities, which are often large-scale, defensive buildings. But the Manhattanville master plan explores the idea of open plan and nontenured buildings,, as Taylor described them, which have a flexibility that can encourage more multidisciplinary study as well as a greater possibility of being a part of their community. Design guidelines call for a material palette that includes glass for transparency, terra cotta brick to echo the past but with a more progressive look, and steel, relating to the nearby viaducts while providing a clarity of expression.
The first phase, which will be realized over the next ten years, includes the preservation of several prominent buildings, including Prentis Hall on 125th Streettcurrent home of the School of the Arts and formerly a milk-bottling plant. SOM will oversee its conversion into a public art space. The New Yorkkbased Switzer Group will renovate the Studebaker Building at 615 West 131 Street, a former automobile assembly plant. Another first-phase project is the construction of a new School of the Arts and a new research building on Broadway, both by Piano.
One of the plan's strongest features is its call for improved links to the nearby Hudson River, which is now cut off by the West Side highway viaduct. The architects envision a park or other potential recreational sites. Taking inspiration from Fairway market, a neighborhood institution located between the neighborhood and the waterfront, Taylor envisions the creation of a marketplace or other compatible uses. You could close it down at night, for concerts, festivals, or fairs,, suggested Taylor. But it would have to be a community initiative. What we can do with our plan is include an active urban layer, such as retail on 12th Avenue, that would contribute to these sorts of possibilities..
The current focus of the university and local community boards is to come to an agreement on rezoning Manhattanville. While the city is receptive to rezoning , how dense or commercial the area will be come remains to be seen.
Fashion Institute of Technology
Location:26th to 28th streets along 6th Avenue, Manhattan
# of students:10,513 (10,378 undergrad.; 135 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, 1995-96
ShoP Architects, 20055present
|Courtesy SHoP Architects and Fashion Institute of Technology|
When the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries opened in 1944, it was housed on a few floors of the High School for the Needle Trades at 24th Street and 8th Avenue. As the needle tradess evolved, so too has the school that became the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which is now a part of the State University of New York system. FIT moved into its current complex of buildings (designed by DeYoung and Moscovitz and bound by 26th and 28th streets and 7th and 8th avenues) in 1975, and had periodic smaller campus additions in the 1980s.
All schools in the SUNY system must have a master plan before they can receive public funding for construction projects, so in 1995 FIT hired Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, which identified five major projects: the construction of a conference center and dining hall; the creation of more classrooms in an existing building, the expansion of the student center; and perhaps most dramatically, the conversion of the block of 27th Street already straddled by FIT buildings into a pedestrian mall. In addition to this, Wank Adams Slavin Associates is renovating a building on West 31st Street that will provide 1,100 FIT students with housing.
The first two projects in the master plan were completed in 2004 and 2005 respectively, by Hom and Goldman, and the classroom and student center projects are in the planning stages. The pedestrian mall has proven to be more controversial, however, and has twice been voted down by Community Board 5. According to Brenda Perez, director of media relations at FIT, the school has put the project on hold until all the other elements of the plan have been completed, which may not be until 2009.
At the same time, FIT is in the early stages of developing a new master plan with ShoP Architects, the architects who designed the expanded David Dubinsky Student Center, dubbed C2 (pictured). According to principal William Sharples, the master planning work grew out of the firm's 2004 competition-winning entry for the student center, and is still in its preliminary stages. AG
New York University
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
# of students:40,000 (20,212 undergrad.; 15,884 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Johnson and Foster, 1962 (not implemented)
|woodruff/brown / courtesy kpf|
In March, New York University (NYU) hired Sharon Greenberger, former New York City chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, to fill a new post at the university: vice president for campus planning and real estate. According to Greenberger, the office she heads, which is divided into four sectionssplanning and design, space management, residential services, and real estate developmentt is still in its start-up phase. I've just started the hiring process, and the intention is to have a full staff in place by the end of the year.. Greenberger will be looking for architects and designers to fill positions, especially in the planning and design unit.
According to Greenberger, the new division will not make any decisions about campus planning or architecture until the hiring process is complete. But the office is sure to be extremely busy in 2006. Created by university president John Sexton, who took office in 2001, the division serves in large part to unify the school's scattered planning divisions in the face of an ambitious growth initiative which includes faculty recruitment and an expanding student body. This administration has ambitious plans for the university, which will put more constraints on space and provide more ambitious thinking about its growth,, said Greenberger.
NYU is no stranger to large building initiatives and their complexities. In the 1980s and 90s, the school, then led by president John Brademas, underwent a massive campus expansion in Greenwich Village, which raised the hackles of many local residents and made it the city's third largest landowner (the city is the largest; the Catholic Church the second). (NYU's newest building is the 2003 Furman Hall, bordering Washington Square Park, by Kohn Pederson Fox, pictured left.) The creation of Greenberger's post was meant partly as a gesture of openness toward the community. Figuring out how a school can expand in an urban environment while also being good neighbors to the community can be challenging,, said Greenberger. The administration recognized that it requires more expertise in the fields of campus planning and real estate to make that happen successfully..
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), agreed that the university could do better in its community outreach. We often find that we don't know what's going on at NYU,, he said. There's always been a great effort to push the university to release information about its long-term planssto no avail.. One contentious issue has been the university's 2001 purchase of a site in the Silver Towers super-block that currently houses faculty apartment buildings by I. M. Pei and and a supermarket. GVSHP lobbied to have the entire block, bordered by Washington Place, LaGuardia, Mercer, and Houston, designated a landmark. NYU did not support the effort, which would limit its ability to alter or further develop the site. DG
Parsons The New School for Design
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
# of students:3,000 (15,800 total enrolled in The New School)
Campus Master Plans:
Helpern Architects, 1995
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2004.
|courtesy lyn rice Architects|
You might feel tempted to flaunt technique when reinventing a design school. If that school sat smack between Union Square and Washington Square, though, you might seek a civic icon. At Parsons, Lyn Rice did both. His newly unveiled design for the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (pictured) opens students' doings to the street with triple-height lobby glass.
Showcasing had been somewhat bass-ackwards throughout the eight-part New School, Parsons' parent, which occupies 19 buildings strewn about the Village and now seeks a firmer identity along lower Fifth Avenue. The design school serves as its lodestar, now that Rice has rearranged it. The school's most valuable real estate,, said Rice, at 13th Street and 5th Avenue, housed maintenance and trash collection. Rice decided to scoop outt the janitorial services to the basement for an upgrade. Replacing it, he installed 3-foot window frames with one long bench. The boundary between salon and sidewalk becomes a place for students to hang out..
It's also, Rice said, a place for students to confront their mandate. The architect uses a glazed roof to create a light-filled urban quadd between seven banks of elevators. Rice describes this as tipping the classic college green on its side so that it fits in a highrise. In an urban quad, circulation is vertical in these elevator cores,, he said. The graphics lining the walls could rotate each semester, Rice suggested, giving students instant sidewalk critics.
The New School's quest for a more cohesive urban identity comes after decades without a master plan. Lia Gartner, its director of design and construction, is overseeing a suite of brand-boosting capital projects. She said the university seeks to show pedestrians the sense of this place being untraditionall and give students and faculty the best use of this miscellaneous collection of buildings..
Gartner said pedestrians can expect more exposure. Cooper, Robertson & Partners is developing a master plan whose focal building, 65 Fifth Avenue, figures to get a new faaade. Another building, around the corner from Parsons, will get interior upgrades beginning this year. Rice's extroversion promises to resound. A lot of students aren't from New York City,, Rice noted. So this will be a great reminder of where they are.. AA
Location:Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
# of students:4,540 (3,068 undergrad.; 1,472 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Whittlesey and Conklin, 1962
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 20033present
|Courtesy Pratt Institute and Steven Holl Architects|
Pratt Institute's greatest asset, in architecture dean Thomas Hanrahan's opinion, is its location in Brooklyn's lively Clinton Hill neighborhood. Aptly, the new campus plan by Cooper, Robertson & Partners looks outward, with some major plans to expand the campus borders,, said Robert Scherr, director of Pratt Institute's Facilities Planning and Design. Anticipating the school's growth within the area, Pratt's president Thomas Schutte took a leading role in the recent formation of the nearby Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (BID). Like many local schools, Pratt owns a significant number of buildings outside of its main campus (Higgins Hall to the south, for example, and Myrtle Avenue to the north), and wants to strengthen their connections to each other and to the neighborhood and community as a whole.
Although the Cooper, Robertson plan, which calls for the development of a digital art center, a student union, and a student services building, has not yet been fully ratified by the school's board of trustees, the implementation of several initiatives is moving forward. A couple of projects were the result of large private donations, such as Juliana Curran Terian's $5 million donation for the Design Center Entrance Pavilion, and Hiroko Nakamoto's $50,000 donation for the new Pratt security kiosk. Years of deferred maintenance were the impetus for campus-wide upgrades: Many of the student dormitories, faculty housing, administrative facilities, and the Main Building are currently finishing major renovations.
The largest current project on campus is the Design Center Entrance Pavilion by dean Hanrahan's firm, Hanrahan + Meyers Architects. In an effort to combine all the principal design programs into what will be the largest design center in the United States, the new entrance and gallery will create a connection between Steuben Hall and the Pratt Studios. The entrance is currently under construction and will be completed in 2006.
The largest project outside of the fence involves the Higgins Hall complex, which houses the School of Architecture. Rogers Marvel Architects is overseeing major interior renovation while Steven Holl Architects designed a new central wing (pictured) which brings together the hall's north and south wings in a single entrance and exhibition space. The Pratt Store, designed in-house by Pratt's office of Facilities Planning and Design, located on Myrtle Avenue and Emerson Place, was completed in December 2004. This design reflects the institute's goals of strengthening the surrounding community by bringing new services and activity to the neighborhood.
As for what to expect from future Pratt development? The Clinton Hill neighborhood is totally gentrified,, said Scherr. Our only growth potential lies to the north toward Myrtle Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway..
Location:New Haven, Connecticutt
# of students:11,000 (5,242 undergrad.; 6,040 grad.) John Russell Pope, 1919
James Gamble Rogers, 1921
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2000
|matt wargo / venturi, scott brown and associates|
Yale has long been a patron of great architecture, commissioning important works from Eero Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Paul Rudolph, and Louis Kahn. The university's current building initiative continues this legacy. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates recently took over the job of designing an addition for Rudolph's famed Art and Architecture building. The addition will house an arts library and classrooms for the art department that are currently located in the Rudolph building, allowing the architecture school to expand into the newly-freed space. (The addition was originally commissioned to Richard Meier & Partners in 2001 but in December 2003, the project was sidelined with the loss of a major donor. The project picked up steam again this summer when a new donor emerged. Though Meier's scheme was complete, Gwathmey Siegel will begin the project from scratch.) Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is overseeing the renovation of the original Rudolph building while Polshek Partnership Architects has recently been retained to renovate Kahn's Art Gallery.
The arts campus expansion is only a portion of a much larger group of projects recently completed or underway at Yale. Some just-finished buildings include an engineering building by Cesar Pelli & Associates, a chemistry laboratory by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and a medical research center by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (pictured). According to Laura Cruickshank, who became Yale's director of University Planning, Facilities Construction, and Renovation in July, The university is improving multiple areas of the campus simultaneouslyyScience Hill, the arts buildings, the central campus, and the medical school.. Projects currently in design include another building by Venturi, Scott Brown building for biology in the Science Hill area and a forestry and environmental studies building by Hopkins Architects.
The massive building initiative is all part of a campus plan completed in 2000 by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, which outlined the development of new construction as well as landscape architecture, circulation, signage, and traffic. The so-called 20-year Framework for Campus Planning was Yale's first attempt at creating a university-wide plan since the 1920s, and addressed the campus' poor integration with the surrounding city of New Haven. With its gated courtyards and inward-facing Gothic building blocks, Yale's campus plan, proposed by John Russell Pope in 1919 and revised in 1921 by James Gamble Rogers, originally contained a number of connective axes and public spaces that may have served to open the campus but were ultimately scrapped. Cooper, Robertson's plan suggested that the university pay particular attention to places where its campus meets the cityyon its streets and sidewalks, and through its landscaping, lighting and signageeto help weave Yale and New Haven into a more cohesive urban fabric..
With a booming real estate market and an ever-increasing general appreciation for good design, more and more architects are betting their own hard-earned cash that their skills will pay off in the development business. Deborah Grossberg asks New York architects how and why they made the leap to the other side.
For much of the AIA's 150-year history, the organization prohibited architects from engaging in development work. Intent on distinguishing architecture as a noble professionn on the level of fine art, distinct from baser building trades like carpentry and masonryythe AIA also felt the need to protect its members from the economic ruin met by early architect-developers, like Robert Adam in London and Charles Bulfinch in Boston. It was not until 1964 (by then, the profession was well established and the success of architect-developers like John Portman of Atlanta celebrated) that the AIA relaxed its ban on working in property development. It even issued a document in 1971 encouraging architects to pursue it.
But the practice still carries some stigma, harkening to the AIA founders' fears that the crassness of the business would compromise the conduct of the gentleman-architect. Architects have always done development, but high design firms haven't,, said Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects, a firm that's been involved on the development side of its projects since building the Porter House at 366 West 15th Street in Manhattan's Meatpacking District in 2003. But all that's changing now..
The simplest reason why better firms are getting involved in development is the skyrocketing real estate market. Peter Moore, an architect who's been developing his own projects with his firm Peter Moore Associates since the 1980s, said, Because real estate has become so lucrative in the last dozen years, it's attracting more and more people, including good architects.. Another factor is the public's increased sensitivity to design since 9/11. There's more of a recognition now that architecture can create value,, said Jared Della Valle, principal of Brooklyn-based firm Della Valle + Bernheimer, which has been involved with an affordable housing development project in Brooklyn for the past three years. In other words, developers are beginning to see architects on more equal footing, as valuable creative partners who can help them conceptualize a projecttand make it more profitableefrom the outset.
Pasquarelli, who is trained as an architect and holds an undergraduate business degree, agrees that the perception of what designers can bring to the table has improved. We're not just selling a building wrapper, but solving real design problems,, he said. There's been a big shift in the value and vision that architects bring to a project, and we're finally being remunerated in equity, partnership, and property..
|For a ground-up construction at 258 East 7th Street between Avenues C and D, Derek Sanders designed a building partly on spec and partly for a clientta couple willing to front the money for the 10,000-square-foot triplex penthouse. The couple's investment helped offset the cost of the rest of the project, which includes seven additional units, mostly two-bedrooms. It is slated for completion in late summer 2006.|
It may be a prime time to dive in, but getting started in the development game still has a fair share of challenges. For one thing, the financial interests of developers and architects are often at odds, so doing both can at times feel schizophrenic. Working as both developer and architect, in a way you're negotiating against yourself on fees,, said Della Valle. Since architects' fees are paid at the beginning of a project, you're paying interest on any dollar you get for fees as part of your loan. Architects' fees are one of the things that developers are always trying to reduce.. Besides pouring their own man hours into their project, Della Valle and co-principal Andrew Bernheimer also asked three other firmssArchitecture Research Office, BriggsKnowles, and Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewissto collaborate on designs in an effort to give each unit in their affordable housing development a unique identity.
Aside from conflicting interests, the hardest part for most architects is scraping together the cash for that first down payment on property and construction loans. Small practices often have trouble convincing banks that they're right for a mortgage, and many don't want to risk their entire livelihood even if financing is attainable. The most common solution is to partner with a developer or investors, but on a more equal basis than in a standard for-fee project.
Many architects who develop their own projects swear by starting small. Pasquarelli worked with developer Jeffrey M. Brown on the Porter House project, investing a small fraction of the total cost but a much larger percentage of his firm's net worth. It was really, really frightening,, he said. The risk paid offfone bedroom flats sold for more than $700,000 and the four-bedroom duplex penthouse went to fashion mogul Carlos Miele for over $4 million. Now Pasquarelli is using the profits from the project to finance four collaborative development projects in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Derek Sanders, a 44-year-old architect and principal of CAN Resources who recently began investing in his own projects with the help of a young developer, Seth Tapper, said, With our first project, we started out with a much smaller percentage of the equity. We waived our fees entirely and contributed a little capital. The first project made money, which we rolled into the second one.. According to Sanders, the approach has paid off. Architects don't usually get paid very well anyway,, he reasoned. As long as you have low overhead, you can make multiples of your regular fees [by trading them for shares]..
|AvroKO invested about 50 percent of the capital for the development of twin one-bedroom co-op apartments at 23 Waverly Street in Greenwich Village. The firm outfitted each unit with everything you could get excited about,, according to principal Kristina O'Neal, such as bacteria-killing lights, a Murphy bed with an astronaut foam mattress, and energy-efficient appliances.|
Architect Galia Solomonoff went even further with the bartering idea for a six-story residential building she's working on in the East Village: She and the couple who owns the lot (they bought it for peanuts in the 1980s) took no loans at all, and convinced all the contractors involvedd Solomonoff includeddto waive part of their fees in exchange for equity. The traditional wisdom of business people is to borrow as much as you can, put your building up as quickly as possible, and flip it before you pay too much interest,, said Solomonoff. The wisdom of artists is don't borrow and don't rush..
Sanders has made his equation work partly by picking a co-developer who's relatively new to the game. Not having done a lot of development already, Seth is open to new ideas,, he said. He's also used some creative methods to offset up-front costs. With the help of real estate broker Larry Carty, Sanders and Tapper managed to find a Japanese couple to pre-purchase the penthouse apartment in a ground-up construction they're working on at 258 East 7th Street. Sanders is designing the top three floors according to the couple's specifications, but the rest of the building is up to him. Because residential work relies so much on the sanity of your clients, I'm of the opinion that the more you can be your own client, the better,, said Sanders.
The young design firm AvroKO also got into development to shed the burden of designing for clients. For us, the core reason to do self-propelled projects is to be able to do something you can't do with conservative clientssto go with the ideas you want,, said Kristina O'Neal, one of AvroKO's four principals. The group owns and operates the restaurant Public, which opened in Nolita in 2004. This year, they designed two fully-outfitted one-bedroom apartments in Greenwich Village under the moniker smart.space. They are marketing the units themselves, and at press time there was a bid on the less expensive, smaller of the two units (the asking price for the 590-square-foot unit is $649,000, and $753,250 for the 655-square-foot space). Investors fronted part of the cash for both projects, though AvroKO owns significant stakes in both. But according to O'Neal, they're not in it for the money. It's been somewhat profitable,, she allowed, but we're mainly supporting ourselves through fee- based work.. The firm is currently planning more smart.space units, to be completed in 2006, as well as another internally-developed project to be released in the fall. We learned a lot from these projects,, said O'Neal. The next ones will be easier and more affordable..
|Peter Moore, an architect who began developing affordable housing projects in the 1980s in Brooklyn, is currently involved with five development projects in Manhattan. For a project at 520 West 27th Street in Chelsea, Moore partnered with Flank Architects to develop a new 11-story, 50,000-square-foot mixed-use condominium building currently under construction on the site of an old four-story warehouse and showroom for American Hanger and Fixture.|
Developing projects offers as many constraints as freedoms, but many architects have found the new limits compelling. It was fantastic because we only had to answer to ourselves,, said Pasquarelli. We had to ask, Do we really think that extra stainless steel detail is worth it?' And if the answer was yes, then we had to pay for it!! Bernheimer agreed, You have to make decisions informed by economics but there's always the opposite challenge to do something unexpected within the constraints..
The first development project is always the hardest for architects unaccustomed to working in real estate. From an architect's standpoint, the most daunting part of our development project has been the time commitment,, said Bernheimer. The learning curve has been so steep that, of the three years we've spent on the project, a good year was spent learning the ins and outs of the real estate market.. The educational experience can be a plus, though. Solomonoff said, I really enjoy that the team of experts you work with becomes larger. In a project where you have a developer interest there's a real estate person with a different outlook on the architecture and design market, as well as lawyers who have a more conservative point of view about the value of design. It enriches your role as an architect..
Bernheimer and Della Valle brought in partners with more development experience to help them sort out the rigmarole of purchasing land from the city for affordable housing. The firm felt that city RFP requirements, which demand finished designs before a bid is won, tended to force affordable housing developers into cheaping out on architecture services. Developers usually just submit something that's already been done to avoid spending money on architects' fees,, said Della Valle. But for most of the people [for whom affordable housing is created], it will be their first home purchase. That requires more thought about design rather than less..
|Moore is working on another 11-story condo project, at 302 Spring Street in the West Village, with Zakrzewski & Hyde Architects. Principals Stas Zakrzewski and Marianne Hyde (who are married with two children) earned a three-bedroom stake in the new project in exchange for waiving design fees. Their design incorporates a small communal courtyard as well as a stainless-steel shutter system which allows residents to control the flow of light and air without losing privacy.|
Moore agreed that the city could do more to encourage good architecture along with development. City Planning and the Landmarks Preservation Commission make feeble attempts, but they're not doing enough,, he said. They should encourage a more fully integrated approach to harness the boom.. Since the city hasn't managed to keep developers in check, Moore thinks the biggest strength architects can bring to development is a sense of responsibility for the built environment. It's encouraging to have architects develop because they bring integrity to the process. If you're looking to maximize your value, it's not necessarily a strength to be an architect, but building buildings isn't an abstract thing like selling bonds,, said Moore.
Most architects involved with development are continuing with their regular practice as well. Said Sanders, You have to balance how much risk you want to take on.. Perhaps the most compelling reason for architects to get a taste for what it's like to be a developer is to encourage better understanding across the divide. I'm interested in having the most participatory role possible as an architect,, said Solomonoff. There's both more freedom and more responsibility..
DEBORAH GROSSBERG IS AN ASSOCIATE EDITOR AT AN.
Studying with a developer, Yale architecture students get a workouttand a jump on the job market. Alec Appelbaum sits in on the crits.
Four pin-ups in four days sounds like the architectural-school analogue to a fraternity's hell week. Yet ten Yale School of Architecture graduates who ran that gauntlet in their last semester say they're healthier for it. One became a smoother presenter. Another learned to detail projects more thoroughly.
A third got a job. They carry these trophies from the first-ever Bass Fellowship, in which a client sits alongside an architect to critique student work. Robert A. M. Stern, Yale's dean, expects the two-headed critiques to produce sharper architects. The graduates of the first round feel sharper, if more tired.
The course aimed to show students that architects must master many disciplines to produce real and memorable buildings. In law school you have moot court,, said Stern. Why should architecture schools be insulated?? The first Bass fellow, developer Gerald Hines, has been a patron of Philip Johnson and other audacious designers. He and co-critic Jay Wyper, who heads Hines' European operations, shattered stereotypes of clients as Armani-clad reptiles. Instead, they established the client as a legitimate voice whose concerns about a building's usability overruled students' thoughts about a building's beauty.
|Learning to wrap architectural ideas in practical terms, students applied economic measures to steep ambitions. Ben Albertson and Marissa Brown used this aerial view to urge the developers to consider lifting the whole piazza to encourage circulation. Hines and his deputies warned students that inflexible local regulations often force architects to squeeze ingenuity into narrow constraints.|
That voice gained urgency because Hines presented a real project for which real contractors await real drawings. Hines needs an iconicc fashion museum and school in Milan's Piazza Garibaldi, for which Cesar Pelli has just finished a master plan. The developers urged students to concoct eye-popping designs that wouldn't stymie engineers or upbraid regulators. Students refined their projects through rapid-response assessment. The weeks when we had four pin-ups were very difficult, but that was when we learned the most,, said Genevieve Fu, who's joining Dublin-based architecture firm Hennigan.Peng after the summer. Her report validates Stern's plan: Students felt like pinballs in a machine,, he said, but that's how buildings get designed and built..
Students also could never predict who'd eyeball their work. Hines and lead architect-critic Stefan Behnisch missed many sessions, and superstars like Pelli and Greg Lynn joined a midterm jury. Smooth-tempered Manhattan architect Markus Dochantschi served as fulltime critic, helping students throughout the course, synthesizing critics' comments. With a draftsman's efficient movements, Dochantschi rooted on students' ambitions while reinforcing critics' priorities. He raved to a reporter about one team's proposal to dig up the piazza for an elevated tower, but didn't interfere when Wyper questioned the ideas' economics. The true education came through trial by fire,, said Ben Albertson, who proposed the idea. It became apparent that the more concrete our ideas were, the easier they were to sell..
Students sometimes described this lesson as a leash. Their designs showed as much theoretical purism as anything Zaha Hadid never built. Albertson and Marissa Brown argued doggedly for moving the building complex onto higher ground, to encourage more pedestrian traffic. Ceren Bingol pressed to rearrange the entire site in order to promote 24-hour street life. Wyper repeatedly reminded students during the midterm review that the master plan lay outside their writ. But students sacrifice mental enrichment when they lock onto uncontroversial plans. So their work stayed more abstract than what competitive firms might submit. Their descriptions of the work, though, gained professional sheen.
Indeed, Fu credits the critics with making her a more comfortable presenterrand a more marketable architect. I learned to really enjoy presentation,, said Fu. When I was interviewing, [a partner at a firm] said, You seem to like to talk.' It was life-changing in that way.. Dochantschi, who ran Hadid's office in London, says the course's gifts will pay off promptly in the job market. What is incredible for students is they got to think, How can I be more secure and educated about having a productive conversation with a developer?? he said. Had they not had this experience, it could have taken them years..
Yet the 13-week sprint's shifting cast of reviewers left students weary. I don't think working with Wyper and Hines added that much to our experience with clients, because we saw them four times,, said Bingol. She said she gained more enrichment in conversation on field trips to Milan and New York than through pedagogy in New Haven. To be sure, students discovered the importance of consulting with clients as often and clearly as a project requires. But they didn't necessarily codify robust principles to make those consultations efficient.
Wyper wished the course had built a straightforward rationale of client-focused building design. There should be more early classes with developers to discuss the balance of design and commerce,, he said. For our semester, this was done more through discussions and critiques, and I think the osmosis was varied and not optimal..
|Ceren Bingol saw Gerald Hines' proposed projectta complex housing a fashion museum and a school in a glum MIlan piazzaaas a way to promote 24-hour street life. She also answered Hines' call for an iconic building, but challenged the edict that her icon had to fit a master plan Hines had already commissioned, from Cesar Pelli.|
Dochschanti and Stern enthuse about the Bass Fellowship's potential to establish a common language. They hope its graduates will affirm that sound designs lead to logical, efficient buildingssespecially in the highly regulated and ecologically sensitive cities where major projects occur. Working with a developer as client is relatively new,, Stern said. The complexity of urban settings is relatively new. We have to arm our students.. Students seem mainly to have learned how to translate aesthetic choices into practical terms. That's a crucial skill, but it falls shy of the evolutionary leap Stern seemed to seek.
If the course's two lead critics work in tighter sync, Fu suggested, the theoretical discussions Wyper endorses may engage more students. Behnisch and Hines scarcely knew each other when the semester started. Next year's fellows will be Lord Richard Rogers and developer Stuart Lipton, along with engineer Chris Wise. All three have worked together in London. The tighter coordination between architect and client might erode the disciplinary divide.
For now, that divide remains as beholden to financial reality in New Haven as it does elsewhere. Jonah Gamblin and his partner, Forth Bagley, won the school's top honor for ingenuity with their museum proposal. Yet Gamblin said professors rebuked his decision to go work for Hines' finance office. A lot of architects have to do their own development to get work,, Gamblin reasoned. I don't know where they learn those skills.. To supply students with professional acumen, the Bass studio may have to explain why clients' demands can be as rewarding as they are exhausting.
ALEC APPELBAUM writes about the urban environment for time out NEW YORK, METROPOLIS, AND OTHER PUBLICATIONS.
Project: The New York Times Building
Location: 8th Avenue between 40th and 41st streets
Gross square footage: 1.6 million square feet
Total construction cost: $800 million
Owner: The New York Times Building LLC, a joint venture of the New York Times Company and Forest City Ratner Companies in Partnership with ING Real Estate
Architect: Renzo Piano Building WorkshoppRenzo Piano, principal; Bernard Plattner, principal; Erik Volz, associate; Serge Drouin, designer. Fox & Fowle ArchitectssBruce Fowle, principal; Daniel Kaplan, principal; Gerald Rosenfeld, project manager, Fox & Fowle.
Associate architect: Gensler Architecture, interiors.
Engineer(s): Flack + Kurtz; The Thornton Tomassetti Group
Consultant(s): Landscape: H.M. White Site Architects, landscape; Office for Visual Interaction, lighting; Susan Brady Lighting, interior Lighting; Cerami & Associates, acoustics; Pentagram, graphics; Jenkins & Huntington, elevator; Heitmann & Associates, exterior wall; Kroll Worldwide, security; Walsh Lowe, tel./data.
Construction Manager: AMEC
Software: Microstation, Prolog Management sSystem
Structural system: DCM
Exterior cladding: Benson (metal/glass curtainwall); Haywood Berk (wood)
Glazing: Viracon (glass); Supersky (skylights)
Doors: Seele (entrances); McKeon (fire-control doors, security grilles)
Hardware: Corbin/Russwin (locksets)
Interior finishes: Island Diversified (Interior Marmorino Finish)
Lighting: ERCO (exterior and interior lighting); Lutron (controls)
Conveyance: Fujitec (elevators/escalaters)
Plumbing: Stern (faucets); American Standard (toilets)