Search results for "Richard Meier"

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

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

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

Julie V. Iovine

Click to enlarge.

by Daniel R. Whiteneck

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

Flip Flop Story
by Diederik Schneemann

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

by David Chipperfield

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

by Yuya Ushida

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

Click to enlarge.

Domus chair
by Ilmari Tapiovaara

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

by Frederic Gooris

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

by Raphael Navot

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

Ren by Nemo
by Yasutoshi Mifune

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

Click to enlarge.

by Francesco Binfarè

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

Armchair 4801
by Joe Colombo

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

by Fernando &
Humberto Campana

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

Sellier Chair
by Denis Montel

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

Click to enlarge.

by Benjamin Hubert

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

Pavo Real
by Patricia Urquiola

Outdoor rattan furniture exotic in scale, detail and craftsmanship.

Tubo LED

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

Lounger Round
by Christophe Pillet

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

Click to enlarge,

Kelvin LED Green
by Antonio Citterio with Toan Nguyen

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

by Ionna Vautrin

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

by William Sawaya

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

Tool Boxes

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

Click to enlarge,

by Zaha Hadid

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

Jean-Michel Frank Collection

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

Brick Plan
by Rock Wang with Pei-ze Chen

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

by Lakiya Weavers of the Negev

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

Click to enlarge.

Mutated Panels
Richard Meier with Italcementi and Styl-Comp Group

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

by Christian Lacroix

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

B2_Light Fields LED

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

by Valerie Dekeyser

Exhbited at
Spazio Rossana Orlandi

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

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by Tom Dixon

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

LED Biolite
by Makio Hasuike

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

by Roberto Lazzeroni

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

by Jean Nouvel

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

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Tip Ton
by Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

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

Rothko Terra
by Carlotta de Bevilacqua

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

by Arik Levy

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

Adhoc Storage
by Bruno Fattorini & Partners

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

Petite Gigue
by François Azambourg

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

Click to enlarge.

by Rodolfo Dordoni

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

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

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

By Jason Miller

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

Haiku Sofa

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

Click to enlarge.

by Franco Albini

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

by Leon Krier

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

by Francisco Gomez Paz

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

111 Navy Chair

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

Click to enlarge.

by Philippe Starck with Quitlet

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

3M Sunlight Delivery System
by 3M Architectural Markets Department

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

by Jeffrey Bernett

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

by Massimilliano Adami

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

Magic Hole
by Philippe Starck with Eugeni Quitllet

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


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Design Currency
Tord Boontje for Moroso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Quick Clicks> Architecture in Store, Meier is Gilt-y, Clean Air Square, and Suburban Slums
Just Architecture. The Van Alen Institute announced that NYC is about to welcome its first bookstore and reading room singularly devoted to architecture, Van Alen Books, located on 30 West 22nd Street. Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects (and one of the two candidates for the next PennDesign Architecture Dean) and architectural historian Anthony Vidler will be presenting their latest books at the opening party scheduled for next Thursday, April 21. Flash Sale Curator. Curbed shows today that there is no boundary for what architects can do. A popular flash sale venue, Gilt Groupe, is having a home products sale today at noon, curated by an architect, Richard Meier. Items up for sale include "a signed copy of Taschen's Meier, a mezuzah he designed for The Jewish Museum of New York, and his Architectonic Menorah," normally sold for $1K! Breathing Times. According to Streetsblog, New York's Times Square, visited by 250,000 pedestrians each day, has become much more breathable since the 2009 installation of pedestrian plazas (find out why Bill Clinton is a fan) on Broadway. Concentrations of two traffic-related air pollutants, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide, have gone down by 63% and 41%, respectively! Suburban Slumification. Business Insider identifies 18 cities (including a less-than-expected Minneapolis) where suburbs are rapidly turning into slums. In the past, cities suffered crimes and poverty during recessions, while the rich stayed away in their safe suburban havens. But not anymore. Suburban slums are growing five times faster than cities.
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Talking Heads
IAUS fellows and friends at one of Peter Eisenman's Indian dinners circa 1974. Clockwise from lower left: Bill Ellis, Rick Wolkowitz, Peter Eisenman, Liz Eisenman, Mario Gandelsonas, Madelon Vriesendorp, Rem Koolhaas, Julia Bloomfield, Randall Korman, Stuart Wrede, Andrew MacNair, Anthony Vidler, Richard Meier, unidentified woman, Kenneth Frampton, Diana Agrest, Caroline 'Coty' Sidnam, Jane Ellis, Suzanne Frank, and Alexander Gorlin.
Courtesy Suzanne Frank


Team Vitruvius


The most curious image I know of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS)—the New York think tank that, from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, quite simply reshaped architectural discourse in the United States—appeared in a 1971 issue of Casabella. A cut-and-paste job, it pictured sixteen of the Institute’s members as a soccer team, wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with the Institute’s logo, the Vitruvian man of Cesariano’s 1521 edition. Crouched, at the far right, is Suzanne Frank, then an intern, later the Institute’s librarian, and now the author of a new book, at once an unoffical history of the Institute and, as the subtitle reads, “an insider’s memoir.”

Founded in 1967 by Peter Eisenman (see image below: bottom row, third from the right, with an impish smile) with backing from MoMA and Cornell University, the Institute set out to bridge the gap between academic culture and the world of planning agencies. Installed in offices on 47th Street enlivened by reproductions of the Vitruvian man and Le Corbusier’s Modulor, the Institute admitted graduate students for yearlong fellowships to work on real projects commissioned by municipal and federal agencies. Reyner Banham, writing in December 1967 for New Society, went along with the Institute fellows’ self-description as “utopians”—with a caveat: “They are utopians of aesthetic order rather than of social order. They look to the city of good form, before the city of good men—but probably believing that the good form will breed good men, that a city which makes itself visually clear will become clear in other senses, too.”

Kenneth Frampton and Peter Eisenman   Cesariano's Vitruvian man on one side of the revolving door.
Kenneth Frampton and Peter Eisenman sporting matching haircuts at 8 West 40th Street, circa 1970 (left), and the revolving door with Cesariano's Vitruvian man strapped to a grid on one side. Le Corbusier's Modulor Man was pasted on the other (right).
Gregory Gale

The early years of the Institute (notwithstanding its later, unjust reputation as cerebral, arcane, and elitist) were marked by what can only be called a modernist engagement with the city, culminating in the building of a low-rise, high-density housing complex in Ocean Hill/ Brownsville, Brooklyn, a prototype sponsored by the Urban Development Corporation and designed by Kenneth Frampton (see image below: top row, fourth from the left, with a resolute, captain-like mien).

By the early 1970s, though, when the money and the political will to sponsor projects and research on public housing dried up, the Institute had already gone through an aggiornamento of sorts. Indeed, over the years the Institute embarked on a variety of other programs, going through several changes of faculty and through what Eisenman called, in a 1975 interview with Alvin Boyarsky just published in Brett Steele’s book Supercritical, several “palace revolutions”—the first already in 1969, when Colin Rowe had his students do theoretical designs instead of real projects, and Eisenman, in Frank’s retelling of the story, responded by locking Rowe out of the Institute, literally changing the door’s lock.

New Urban Settlements cover
The number 1 on the cover of New Urban Settlements designed by Robert Slutzky indicated that more were to come.
Dick Frank

Over little more than a decade, the Institute became enormously influential, attracting architects, historians, and theorists to lecture, teach, exhibit, and do research there. Even a casual list of some of the protagonists (Diana Agrest, Anthony Vidler, Robert Slutzky, Rafael Moneo, Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas, etc.) commands attention. Eventually, the Institute expanded its educational operations (at one point it had graduate, undergraduate, high-school, and continuing education programs), organized extraordinarily intense lecture series, and mounted dozens of exhibitions (Mart Stam, Ivan Leonidov, Wallace Harrison, but also Aldo Rossi, Mathias Ungers, the Krier brothers, etc.) in the double-height main space of the offices it occupied from 1970, on the top two floors of 8 West 40th Street, just opposite the New York Public Library. The Institute also became a publishing house: it produced the aptly-named journal Oppositions (1973–84), edited by a pugnacious triumvirate made of Eisenman, Frampton, and Mario Gandelsonas (see image below: top row, third from the left) joined later by Vidler and then Kurt Forster; the monthly tabloid newspaper Skyline (1978–83); and, in the early 1980s, Oppositions Books (Rossi, Adolf Loos, Moisei Ginzburg, Alan Colquhoun).

Frank readily acknowledges that hers is not a scholarly book but a personal memoir, what Joan Ockman, in her foreword, calls “a labor of love.”(A few historians in Europe and the US are currently working on scholarly histories, most notably Ph.D. candidate Kim Foerster at the ETH in Zurich.) Frank’s history is in fact impressionistic; the author is at her best when she lets us into her personal recollections of characters, personalities, allegiances, and conflicts, as opposed to the narrative sections outlining the many activities of the Institute.

The last third of the book, a series of twenty-seven interviews that Frank conducted over the past decade with former Institute members, offers a wealth of valuable information (much of it anecdotal, certainly) and countless perceptive memories and thoughts: Julia Bloomfield, managing editor of Oppositions, discussing the journal’s graphic design (“the Massimo Vignelli ‘punch’”) and “the somewhat combative relationship” between Eisenman and Frampton; Andrew MacNair telling of a momentous 7:00 a.m. phone call with Eisenman (“[Robert] Stern and Frampton and I have gotten a grant to start a lecture series... we want you to run it, get your ass down here”); William Ellis (see image below: bottom row, third from the left) reflecting on the feat of Oppositions and on Eisenman’s organizational prowess (“an  absolute impresario”); Joan Copjec recounting the formation in 1979 of a women’s group at the Institute to voice concerns about “the not-so-veiled sexism”; Suzanne Stephens telling of her editorship of Skyline, of articles paying ten cents a word, Christmas lists about books to give to architects, and where Johnson got his glasses or Eisenman his shoes (“it’s Churchill shoes for Peter, very Loosian”).

  The IAUS journal Oppositions 5
The IAUS journal, Oppositions 5, edited by Eisenman, Frampton, and Gandelsonas.
Dick Frank

One of the most revealing stories is told by Stanford Anderson (top row, far right): in 1964 Eisenman wanted to form an association of young architects interested in new ideas (what would later become CASE, the Conference of Architects for the Study of the Environment, a prelude to the Institute), convinced Princeton to put up some money, and invited for a weekend-long meeting a group that included Anderson, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, and a young Emilio Ambasz (see image below: bottom row, fourth from the right, in jaunty Greek fisherman’s cap); on Sunday the question came up whether that kind of group discussion should continue: “Venturi immediately said, ‘Well, is it going to help my practice?’ Everyone agreed, ‘No.’”

Eisenman, whose name appears in almost every page of the book, declined to be interviewed: the figure most central to the myriad stories interwoven at the Institute emerges here as an eerie presence, towering over everyone else and yet disappearing—with uncanny parallels, perhaps, with his own architecture. In the 1975 interview with Boyarsky, Eisenman argued that the Institute never had a curriculum, or a philosophy: “Its only philosophy, if it stands for anything, is to serve as a vehicle for critical discourse, for challenging the prevailing empirical attitude in the United States vis-à-vis architecture—i.e. that it is something useful, something that can be marketed, a commodity.” A critical history of that discourse, of those conflicts theoretical and ideological, remains to be written. Or, perhaps, as with that other great 20th-century think tank called the Bauhaus, the history of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies may need to be told, written, and rewritten many times over.

Cesare Birignani studies architectural history at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.


A photo-montage from a 1971 issue of Casabella showed Institute members wearing sweatshirts with Vitruvian Man images and posing as a soccer team.
From Casabella, 1971



As a young art historian with a Ph.D. on Dutch Modernist Michel de Klerk, Suzanne Frank arrived at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS) in 1970, three years after its founding. Her husband, Dick, had photographed Peter Eisenman’s architectural models, and soon Eisenman would be designing a home for the couple in Cornwall, completed in 1975 and named House VI.

Frank remained at the Institute as a researcher then librarian until 1982. Her unauthorized memoir of those days was 12 years in the making. Clearly a labor of love by an historian eager to make a record of an extraordinary moment in architecture, Frank recounts much herself and then allows the transcripts from interviews with 27 other key players to fill in and amplify the story, vividly recounting everything from arguments over Italian architectural theory to how money was so short that office furnishings were picked up off the streets. Here, Frank recalls a few details from those heady days:

The Architect’s Newspaper: How did you come to be at the Institute?

Suzanne Frank: I was doing an art history Ph.D. at Columbia and they thought my research was good so they hired me to do research on a HUD-funded project, the Streets project, at least in the first year. I never had an office or anything, but I combed resources for studies of urban applicability and sorted heaps of photocopies of buildings in streetscapes. One time when I started talking to a fellow researcher, Gregory Gale, Eisenman told me to stop talking and get back to work. He himself was a schmoozer, especially at eight o’clock in the morning when few people were around.

Why did you decide to write a private memoir about The Institute?

It was a great time in my life. The projects they were doing were very interesting and important. What made me write it? I am a historian. I like to do research and write. I never dreamed it would take so long.

  Peter Eisenman
Peter Eisenman displays brand loyalty.
Gregory Gale

How easy was it to get people to talk?

There were 27 cooperatives. Tony Vidler didn’t agree; Rem [Koolhaas] agreed then backed out; and Peter said he’s not giving any interviews on the Institute. A doctoral student at ETH in Zurich, Kim Foerster, is working on the official history. I think he has done something like 100 interviews.

Was the focus on talk or on building, too?

They wanted to implement building. One of the student projects with a grant was to reorganize streets with buildings in a more public way. And they did it in print, but it didn’t happen because HUD took the money away when Bill Ellis insulted the HUD people when they were visiting.

They only built the one housing project that Kenneth [Frampton] worked on, Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn.

Did Philip Johnson supply funds for the Institute?

Yes, I don’t know how much, but I know he was an angel. People didn’t like his architecture; they hated the AT&T. He didn’t mind, and Peter was very close to him, so was Bob Stern.

There was also fund-raising for Oppositions by Julia Bloomfield. They were all pretty good at it. I mean, here was this little magazine with a leftist tinge, but they still got Exxon and Mobile to give to it.

Large hall at the 40th Street location.

The large hall with balcony at the 40th Street location, the Institute's second home, lent itself to flexible uses.
Gregory Gale

Rumor has always had it that women had a hard time there. Was that your experience?

Peter hired women to have posts there but they were not as important, I think, at least in the beginning. Somehow they receded beside the men. Some say they were not treated well, and they formed a women’s group about it in 1979, but I was always treated with respect as the librarian, which was a joke because there weren’t many books.

In time, women had a very strong voice. Silvia Kolbowski started out as a receptionist and became the catalog editor with Frampton.

Did everyone get along?

The receptionists had a hard time; they were so overworked because Peter was always at odds and ends. They would start crying, and his wife at the time would have to console them.

Then there was a big argument between Frampton and Bob Stern—it was recorded in Skyline in 1980— after Kenneth’s book on modern architecture and critical history came out. Stern said that Frampton never looked at actual buildings but did everything in libraries and used miniscule photographs, and that he left out American sources. Kenneth said he retorted that he was an American admirer—I forget his phrase–and then he sent him into a “Spenglerian night” What does that mean? I don’t know.

What was the office scene like?

There were parties with lots of dancing. I remember one that Rem attended—he came to all the parties—but usually he wasn’t around because he was working on Delirious New York. Then Peter had his Indian dinners, they were very congenial. People sat next to the people they liked, and snubbed the ones they didn’t.

There were little cliques; everyone was equal except at times. Peter had special lunches, and when we were at the 40th Street office, he got goodies from Zabar’s. He’d have interesting people in, like his father- in- law to talk about Jackson Pollock. It was a very elite and selective crowd who went to those.

There was no hierarchy or, rather, there was and there wasn’t. There was a hierarchy because Peter was always the absolute, but he was friendly, very down to earth, and yet he was always the boss. He dressed very funny in a beige sweater with a hole in the back. He didn’t have very much money, but he managed to borrow from people and he went out a lot and ate very well.

Everyone else was always on diets. “Oh, you’ve lost weight. What’s your diet?” kind of thing. It was a big topic. They were all eating cottage cheese, hamburgers and ketchup.

What’s your final impression of The Institute after 40 years?

It was important. It stood for a really high level of thought and a high level of camaraderie. I am also relieved that I can finally go on to some other things now.

IAUS: The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, An Insider’s Memoir by Suzanne Frank can be purchased for $42.30 plus postage at

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Sic Transit Sagaponac
New house option by Resolution 4 Architecture.
Courtesy Resolution 4 Architecture

In 2001 Richard Meier and the developer CoCo Brown set about to create a new kind of suburb on Long Island that blended the region’s tradition of excellent modern houses with affordability, geared to attract the upwardly mobile buyers flooding into the nearby Hamptons. Meier handpicked the architects, a mix of mid-career architects and marquee names of his generation, to design the spec houses that quickly devolved into high-luxury properties. Houses at Sagaponac, as the development was called, garnered worldwide attention, but only about a third of the 34 lots attracted serious interest and only eight of the original designs were built. The most recently built house of the original set, by Keenen/Riley, won a design award, but it has yet to attract a buyer.

The development may be getting new life with a new series of designs that better reflects the times. A decade later, Brown has passed away, and his estate sold the development to a new company called Sagaponac Dream Homes, connected to a builder, RoBoCo, which hopes to retain the project’s modernist spirit while offering more buildable, and affordable, options to the market. The average price of the new designs and lots is $1,050 per square foot, as compared to an approximate average of $1,200 per square foot for the Brown/Meier commissioned designs.

1954 Usonian House

1954 Usonian House by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Courtesy Tarantino Architects

Working with real estate agents Brown Harris Stevens, the developers began the art of repackaging in earnest by showing the lots and the new possible designs at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in mid-March. “We’re foregrounding the marketing,” said Nilay Oza, a partner with Sagaponac Dream Homes. This time developers won’t be building on spec, either. Buyers will pony up for lot and design together. The developers have solicited designs from both the young and up-and-coming and the young and well-regarded, including ARO, Delle Valle Bernheimer, Resolution 4 Architecture, Leven Betts, David Biagi, Hanrahan Meyers, Thread Collective, Morris Sato Studio, Flying Elephant, Plaid, XTen Architecture, Cook + Fox, BVA, Tarantino Architects, and Zung Design. “We want to offer opportunities to younger architects at a point where it could make a difference in their career,” Oza said. Based on how the current batch performs this summer season, the developers are also considering an open competition for yet more designs, possibly as soon as September.

But that’s not all: the developers also plan to offer a 1954 Usonian house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Currently owned by the husband and wife team behind Tarantino Architects, the fully restored Bachman Wilson House in its current location in suburban New Jersey has been beset with potentially hazardous run-off due to surrounding development and needs to be moved. The buyer will have to pay to relocate the house.

Elizabeth Reese House   Elizabeth Reese House
1963 Elizabeth Reese House by Andrew Geller.
Courtesy Jake Gorst

There’s more: preliminary talks are also underway between the developers and Jake Gorst, the grandson of Andrew Geller, about relocating a potentially threatened Geller House to the development. The whimsical Elizabeth Reese House features triangular punched windows with projecting flaps, and a rough-hewn interior with exposed beams. Currently up for sale, the tiny beachfront house would likely be torn down by a new buyer. It, too, could be moved. And there are still more empty lots for which the developers might offer up unbuilt Geller designs. “We like the idea of juxtaposing contemporary design with modernism of 50 years ago,” Oza said.

While design is very much still a driving force behind the Houses at Sagaponac, the new approach shows how much the world has changed since 2002. Most of the original unbuilt designs will likely survive as paper architecture, but Oza won’t rule out the possibility that some of those much-published houses could someday get built. “If someone wants to pay to build them they are welcome to,” he said.

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(Updated!) A Call to Free Ai Weiwei, Artist, Architect, Activist

(Updated 4-6-2011) As details emerge, be sure to track the comments on this post for the latest on Ai Weiwei. We have learned that the US State Department called for his release on Monday. According to VOA News, Mark Toner, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman saud, "The detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei is inconsistent with the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all Chinese citizens, including China's commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we urge the Chinese government to release him immediately." Today, the Guardian reported that Ai Weiwei is under investigation for "suspected economic crimes" according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua which has since deleted the statement.

AN also received the following note of support for Ai Weiwei from Richard Meier. Please feel free to voice your messages of support in the comments.

Ai Weiwei deserves all of our support in his efforts to communicate with the world community of architects about the conditions that currently exist in China. We all hope that his immediate release will happen quickly in response to comments from all of us that support him in his cause.

Sincerely yours,

Richard Meier

(Original Report 4-4-2011) News that Chinese artist, architect, and activist Ai Wei Wei has been detained and disappeared as of April 3, 2011 broke yesterday in the International media.  As reported by Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times, and more recently today by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, his detention and police closure of his Beijing studio coincides with what is known as the "Jasmine Revolution," a protest movement in the People's Republic of China that was inspired by the 2011 Tunisian Revolution and has prompted the Communist Party’s six-week crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists, with many of those detained still not released, and others, such as pro-democracy writer Liu Xianbin, sentenced to 10 years in jail for subversion.

While his arrest is not unexpected, and indeed was anticipated by Wei Wei and others in his community, it is a devastating and saddening blow that follows upon the forced demolition of his Shanghai studio in January of this year, his recent house arrest in the wake of Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize, and his beating by Chinese police in August 2009, with emergency brain surgery required.

Wei Wei, the son of revered Chinese poet Ai Qing (regarded as one of the finest modern Chinese poets and himself imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party), is internationally recognized for his cultural and architectural practice as well as his tireless activism on behalf of social justice and political reform in China.

His many projects include the Bird's Nest (2008), a landmark design for the Beijing Olympic National Stadium (together with Herzog and De Meuron); Fairytale (2007), in which he sent 1001 Chinese citizens to Kassel, Germany as a cross-cultural exchange; and the Sichuan Earthquake Names Project, which sought to uncover the names of the thousands of schoolchildren who died in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008, many as a result of poor maintenance of school buildings.

His 2010 "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition, currently on display at Tate Modern, features 100 million porcelain seeds made in the Chinese city of Jingdezhen and forms a seemingly infinite landscape in the museum's Turbine Hall.  As a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses, the project explores the geo-politics of cultural and economic exchange and, as curator Juliet Bingham has remarked, invites us to consider such questions as "What does it mean to be an individual in today's society?"

We urge the Chinese government to respect Wei Wei's health and to insure his safety, and to release him immediately.  His detainment and disappearance is a great tragedy and devastating blow to the international community.  Wei Wei is an artist that feels a great love and compassion for China and her people, and we urge the Chinese government to recognize this fact and allow him and his family the freedom if not to speak freely, then to at least leave.

We strongly encourage you to raise your voice and to contact your elected representatives, government contacts, and civic institutions, to advocate for official statements and positions on his behalf as well as all of those that have been detained these last weeks in response to the Jasmine Revolution.

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California Court Appeal
AECOM's Long Beach Courthouse.
Courtesy AECOM

Across California many county seats are marked by historic courthouses, graced with stately domes, columns, and other references to ancient times. But a wave of new construction is bringing new courthouses of some contemporary distinction to more than half of the counties in California, from one-courtroom buildings high in the Sierras to a 71-courtroom facility in San Diego. The selection of architects is equally wide-ranging, with 36 firms ranging from established names like HOK, Richard Meier + Partners, and SOM, to small but well-regarded offices like San Francisco’s Mark Cavagnero Associates and San Diego’s Safdie Rabines Architects. In February the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which is running the $6.7 billion modernization program, announced the commission of the last 13 projects for a total of 59.

“We’re not trying to make palaces, but we have an unparalleled opportunity to make a significant addition to 50 civic centers and downtowns,” said Clifford Ham, principal architect for the state’s Office of Court Construction and Management. “We’re going to be changing the context of a lot of communities.”

The wave of court building was prompted by legislation in 2002, which transferred responsibility for court facilities from the counties to the state, an arrangement that about half the states in the U.S. have arrived at. The funding comes from a bond measure passed in 2008 (Senate Bill 1407). To date, seven courthouses have been completed, with the remainder anticipated by 2016.

Contra Costa Courthouse by HOK.
Courtesy HOK

Judging by the designs revealed so far, there will be great variation in what the courthouse of the 21st century looks like: it could be a modern office tower or an updated lodge. Breaking ground this spring, AECOM’s Long Beach courthouse is a five-story glass-and-steel building with a large courtyard and naturally-lit courtrooms. Contra Costa County’s courthouse, designed by HOK, has a handsome limestone facade and a green roof. The more modest one-story, single-courtroom Plumas-Sierra courthouse by Nacht & Lewis has a pitched roof and wood-beamed ceiling. “We made a conscious effort to employ architects that may not have done court buildings before, instead of just the six or eight usual suspects,” said Ham.

New design guidelines emphasize functionality, durability, and ease of maintenance, as well as sustainability and energy efficiency (LEED Silver is currently prescribed). Each wave of projects has also brought the architects together for a design excellence forum. “You can sense the holistic attention they’re giving to the program, which is quite different from the usual project-by-project focus,” said Mallory Cusenbery of the Sonoma firm RossDrulisCusenbery, which is working on courthouses in Plumas and Sutter Counties. “I think it will help create a consistently high level of performance where the quality of all the projects are raised by the quality of the others.”

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Arts & Letters Announces 2011 Winners
The venerable American Academy of Arts and Letters announced the winners of their various prizes in architecture to an impressive array of writers and practitioners. The judges were Henry N. Cobb, Peter Eisenman, Hugh Hardy, Richard Meier, James Polshek, Billie Tsien (chair), and Tod Williams. The Bruner Memorial prize emphasizes the artistic aspect of the trade and the jury selected Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam of Atlanta. The couple has been practicing architecture for more than 25 years. Tod Williams called out the "simultaneously humane and bold" aspects of their work which conveys an "optimistic and joyous" spirit. The award for Arts and Letters, which focuses on a "strong personal direction", went to William E. Massie of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Julie VandenBerg Snow of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  James Polshek calls Massie a "free spirited constructivist inventor" and Billie Tsien noted the "invention within convention" in VandenBerg Snow's buildings. The winners for expressing architectural ideas though any medium were LA based Sylvia Lavin and NYC based Anthony Vidler. Peter Eisenman cited Lavin's "intelligence in a battle with mediocrity," while Richard Meier admired Vidler's "extraordinary contributions to the academic and architectural community through teaching and writings."
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Code Orange: You, Too, Can Be a Zoning Expert
You can’t miss the New York Department of City Planning’s 2011 Zoning Handbook—it’s bright orange. Clear and navigable, the book reads like an intermediate level foreign language textbook. The latest edition, like the 2006 version, includes user-friendly line drawings of buildings connected to cartoon balloons providing detailed information. The new handbook hit the agency's bookstore yesterday. A color coded map of NYC zoning ditricts. Recently, AN reported that a large chunk of Hell's Kitchen may revert from an M1-5 designation to an M2-4 designation. While that's not quite how we put it (our article noted that the proposed Hell's Kitchen commercial district would place height limits at 135 feet) a quick glance at the manual outlines the detailed regulations in surprisingly plain language. The manual goes deep but without getting bogged down in legalese or minutia, offering up the nitty-gritty on everything from parking regulations (none) to setbacks (starting at 85'). The illustration accompanying the M2-4 explanation features info bubbles that point at two parts of the building: the street wall and the set back, explaining that the building "cannot penetrate sky exposure plane, which begins 85' above the street line." Pretty clear. As expected, new zoning changes and an update of the Special Purpose Districts were added to the book. But it's the inclusion of recent initiatives that makes it worth checking out.  A press release from the agency noted that during the Bloomberg Administration 9,400 blocks have been rezoned. Much of this activity took place when the city prepared for a bid to host the 2012 Olympics. The release touts that smart growth and sustainable principles that took to the fore in the past nine years. New waterfront design guidelines make it into the text, as do incentives for buildings to provide bicycle parking. A couple of pages are devoted to explaining the FRESH Food Stores Program, a zoning incentive that encourages grocery stores to provide fresh food stores in underserved neighborhoods. A glossary of planning terms assumes the reader is completely new to the subject without being condescending. The book even goes so far as to define the term "building" (a structure that has one or more floors and a roof), but then the elaborates by defining detached, semi-detached, and zero lot line buildings. One section explains how to read zoning maps and another summarizes the NYC Zoning Resolution. There are explanations of the Inclusionary Housing Program, an update on Privately Owned Public Spaces (a.k.a. "POPS"), and a diagram for proper tree planting in parking lots. Public libraries, government officials, and community boards will get copies of the book, which can be bought at the agency's book store at 22 Reade Street for $35.
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Partying for the World Architectural Festival
The 2011 World Architecture Festival was in town beating the drum for their international competition at the Van Alen Institute last night. Paul Finch, the festival's program director, was joined by AN Editor-in-Chief William Menking and Van Alen Chair Abbey Hamlin in hosting the star-studded event. The frigid weather did not deter a distinguished crowd—white maned Richard Meier, red scarved Bernard Tschumi, man of the hour Thomas Leeser, Parks Commish Adrian Benepe—from celebrating what promises to be a hot ticket this November in Barcelona. With his English lilt Finch thanked the crowd for coming and promised his remarks would steer clear of Ricky Gervais territory. He briefly outlined some of the goals for this year's program, which included a bigger tent to incorporate interior architecture as well. While no hat was passed, Finch did say that the organization would be happy to take donations in any denomination. Jan Berman of MechoShade promptly offered to make a donation in lira.
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Mega-Church Meltdown
Major architecture for the mega-industry, from left to right, by Johnson, Johnson, Neutra, and Meier.
Scott Frances / Esto

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, the gleaming Southern California mega-church conglomerate, has filed for bankruptcy, citing pressures from creditors and deep shortfalls in donations to its Hour of Power television appeals.

Once a pioneer in media ministries, thanks to the gentle charisma and entrepreneurial fervor of its founder, Reverend Robert Schuller, the Crystal Cathedral defined destination architecture in its era, with glass-sheathed buildings that pushed upward from the flat landscape by Richard Neutra and Philip Johnson, and a later addition to the Garden Grove campus by Richard Meier.

Those improbable architect-client combinations were rare cases where modern and postmodern design could be compatible with Evangelical Christianity. Who knew? As debts mount, could those structures have been part of the problem, and could they now be sold and put to other use, or seized by angry creditors?

Philip Johnson's Bell Tower to the left of the International Center for Possibility Thinking by Richard Meier.

The ministry’s future did not always look so grim. In 1955, the Iowa-born Schuller of the Reformed Church of America found a religious dimension in suburbia’s motor culture, before Orange County became a suburb. He turned a local drive-in movie theater into the country’s first drive-in church on Sunday mornings when he preached from the roof of a concession stand, and his wife Arvella played the organ by his side. Transforming a place that the movie industry categorized as a teenage “passion pit” into a sacred place required an act of faith and $10 rent every Sunday. The wager paid off.

The Crystal Cathedral by Johnson with Neutra's tower of Hope in the background.

Schuller also bet that commissioning Richard Neutra in 1958 to build a glass drive-in/walk-in church one mile away from Disneyland would give the ministry a unique profile. It did. Worshippers drove to the church with the high steeple and to the parking lots with terraced sight lines, and televised services began in 1970. Even with the church in bankruptcy, the Hour of Power still airs globally every Sunday. Only Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and 60 Minutes have been on the air longer. Schuller’s program has had a longer life than many buildings.

Neutra’s airy design—with a reflecting pool, walls that slid open, and a cross atop the Tower of Hope that could be seen for miles—established an affinity with Schuller’s message of love, light, and “possibility thinking” (his new, improved version of “positive thinking” from Norman Vincent Peale). The Jewish architect’s notions of bio-realism and therapy through architecture seemed a world away from Schuller’s Midwestern Calvinism that judged individuals by the “bottom line” of their achievements, yet the bond between the two was strong.

While graceful, the Neutra designs could only be called pioneering in Orange County. By 1964 Neutra’s Tower of Hope and Disneyland’s Matterhorn nearby were the two tallest points in the county. Neutra’s memorial service in 1970 was held at Garden Grove.

As the ministry grew, another act of faith sought to differentiate the campus from the sea of concrete around it. Arvella Schuller was inspired by Philip Johnson’s Fort Worth Water Gardens (1974) and Johnson was hired to design a new glass church that would be larger than the Neutra structure, where TV had taken over much of the space in the same way that residential subdivisions and commercial sprawl displaced the old drive-in theaters. Client and architect found a kinship again.

Johnson, an atheist who called himself “an artist and a whore,” became Schuller’s architect, and in 1980 the preacher got a new $21 million silvery glass house, the Crystal Cathedral, one of Orange County’s major tourist attractions. Worshippers sat in Johnson’s radiant space during the Hour of Power, or listened in parked cars, or watched it all as television panned from his stage set to fountains outside. The cathedral’s corporate sheen was reminiscent of Johnson’s Pennzoil building in Houston, and upscale enough to convince the congregants that they were the Episcopalians of Revivalism.

By 1990, Johnson added The Bell Tower or Campanile, including melodramatic life-sized sculptures that reminded you that the man who loved modernism also shared cultural roots with the Liberace Museum.

Richard Meier's International Center for Possibility Thinking built in 2003.

Thanks to Armand Hammer (providing introductions to Mikhail Gorbachev) and Rupert Murdoch (satellite access to the former Soviet Union), Schuller’s global reach widened. The architecture made for better television, according to Erica Robles, author of a forthcoming book on the Crystal Cathedral, architecture, and the media.

In 2003, the Crystal Cathedral campus expanded even further, and at greater cost, with a $40 million International Center for Possibility Thinking, a generic visitors center in embossed curved steel and glass designed by Richard Meier.

The dream-team campus’ financial collapse defies familiar tales of greedy right-wing evangelists enriching themselves and spending lavishly on homes and luxuries. The Hour of Power had no strong right-wing political agenda. Crystal Cathedral leaders were paid reasonable salaries and most of the construction, albeit by celebrity architects, was funded by contributions. In the past two years, as Robert Schuller’s children miscalculated on internet expansion and funded a lavish, money-losing production called Creation, those contributions fell 24 percent. (Most creditors are media firms or vendors, not builders.)

There’s no clear prophetic element to the Schuller fall from grace besides the inherent risk in passing the reins of an empire to one’s children. Charisma isn’t transferable, nor is it always genetic, as the Schullers have learned to their chagrin. Another lesson is that the risk to any mega-church depends on how leveraged it is, and on its dependency on the personal appeal of a single pastor.

So far, none of Schuller’s wealthy patrons has risen to ease the debt, although one might have found the money if Schuller’s message echoed Tea Party rhetoric. A revenue trickle comes from opening its parking lots to the public, yet a worsening crisis could force the Crystal Cathedral back to its roots. “A lot of those drive-ins didn’t make money showing feature films,” said Erica Robles. Possibilities range from flea markets to biker shows, to mergers with Christians who have capital. If I were choosing, the Meier building would be the first on the block. Jim Coleman, the Crystal Cathedral’s creative director and Robert Schuller’s son-in-law, swears that there are no plans to sell any of the campus architecture. “We are faithful people. Remember, the Israelites had their backs against the Red Sea when Moses took them there,” he said.

Where on the dark side might the Schuller empire end up if things don’t work out the way they did for Moses? What if they scheduled an apocalypse, and no cars drove in? Surely, icons for sale wouldn’t be a sin. God knows.