Search results for "Richard Meier"

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An important part of Richard Meier’s design process is his use of scale models—usually beautifully crafted of wood—to consider a physical form in its broader context. In-house model makers are often asked to fabricate multiple iterations of projects, and the firm is famous for its elegant presentation models, such as the one for his extraordinary gridded skyscraper (designed with Steven Holl, Charles Gwathmey, and Peter Eisenman) for the World Trade Center competition. Fortunately, Meier has not only kept many of his models, some going back 40 years like the Smith House in Connecticut, but also a spectacular series of working models for the Getty Center (above). These are kept in Meier’s model museum—a loft space in Long Island City that is opened to the public starting tomorrow, May 7, through August 27 (the museum is closed to the public during the winter months, due to the climate’s impact on the models). Tours can be arranged through Richard Meier & Partners Architects at 212-967-6060.
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The A+D House Party
As promised yesterday, we are going paparazzi. We have pix of the architecture event of the week: the opening of LA's A+D Museum. (See Slideshow Here). The event drew hundreds into the museum's brand new space, a beautiful white jewel box located on the ground floor of a midcentury office building. Guests were treated to tunes from KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel, and bid on works of art and sculpture created by some of LA's biggest architects and cultural icons. Big names contributing work included Bruce Mau, Max Neutra, Lorcan O'Herlihy, Thom Mayne, Richard Meier, Hitoshi Abe, and many more. And so it begins for a museum that has for years been known for not having its own space. Welcome home.
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The Public Option
Transportation facilities such as HOK's Big Blue Bus headquarters in Santa Monica are seeing increasing competition from firms eager for work.
Courtesy HOK

With most private markets dried up, the real game in town for architects right now is the public sector. The federal government is shelling out record amounts of money—both federal stimulus–related and otherwise—to get the economy on track, and states are still paying out large bond measures and other monies promised before their budgets began to crumble. Even cash-strapped cities are still handing out projects, albeit many fewer than several years ago.

And so the rush is on among architects to land government buildings, hospitals, parks, transportation centers, public schools, and university structures, among others. The amount of work is still encouraging, and most say they enjoy building for the common good, but the competition is fierce, and for many unexperienced in the labyrinthine bureaucracy and strange pecking order of the public realm, it can be close to impossible.

“Firms are chasing whatever projects they’re hearing about, and right now that’s public work,” said Kermit Baker, the AIA’s chief economist. “It’s the only place that anybody is working,” added Veda Solomon, director of business development for HOK’s LA office.

For firms like HOK, a mainstay in the public realm, this scenario means there is suddenly more competition for jobs that once fell into their laps. But they still get the lion’s share thanks to their experience. The firm has worked in the public sector since its founding in the 1950s. Its California offices are now working on the U.S. Mint in San Francisco, the new ARTIC high-speed rail and transit center in Anaheim, the Contra Costa Courthouse, the VA Hospital in Long Beach, the Adelanto Correctional Facility in San Bernardino, and the NOAA Pacific Region Headquarters in Hawaii, to name a few.

Seventy percent of CO Architects' work comes from the public realm, including the LA Valley College's Allied Health & Sciences Center in Van Nuys.
Robert Canfield

The firm’s LA office has only dropped 15 out of 165 workers since 2008, said Solomon, an incredibly low figure in this economy. There’s been such an influx of new public work, she added, that the firm has had to restructure to move more architects into the public sphere.

“Basically the whole firm is looking at public projects,” she said.

Another public regular in LA, 83-person CO Architects, is busy as well, with about 70 percent of its work coming from the public realm. “It’s been less stressful for us than for others,” said principal Scott Kelsey. Work currently underway includes courthouses in Porterville and Southeast Los Angeles, an addition for Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center/ Orthopedic Hospital, the new Palomar Medical Center outside San Diego, a UC Merced Academic Surge Building, the UC Davis School of Nursing, and projects for the LA Unified School District and LA Valley College, among others. (At press time, they unveiled plans for another public project, a new North Campus at the LA County Museum of Natural History.)

Even smaller design firms are getting into the game. Santa Monica–based Pugh + Scarpa, with its 15-strong staff, has signed a five-year at-will contract with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which limits fees to $12 million a year ($12 million, points out principal Larry Scarpa, would double the firm’s usual fees for a year). The firm is also building parking structures for the city of Santa Monica, a parking garage for UCSD, and is working with Olin Partnership on the new Plummer Park in West Hollywood, which includes a new parking structure and theater. Eight-person San Francisco firm Paulett Taggart Architects is working on two stimulus-related projects, the Turk/ Eddy Affordable Housing development and a portion of the Hunters View revitalization project. San Francisco–based Mark Cavagnero Associates, another small firm, has made a specialty out of quiet but striking institutional work like the Savo Pool in San Francisco, the Clovis Memorial District Conference Center in Clovis, CA, and the just-completed renovation of the Oakland Museum of California.

Mark Cavagnero Associates has made a niche of institutional work, such as the firm's Clovis Memorial District Conference Center in Clovis, CA.
Courtesy MCA

Other boutique firms going public recently include Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, which has signed on with the City of Santa Monica to build 360 shelters for the city’s Big Blue Bus. The canopies are a kit of parts that can be reconfigured to maximize shade depending on conditions. Richard Meier and Partners, while hardly small, is still interested in branching into the public realm and is working on the San Diego Federal Courthouse, a design that uses materials like natural stone, terra cotta, and pre-cast concrete. The firm also completed a large new city hall and civic center for the City of San Jose.

But although firms large and small have made an entry, getting a strong foothold in this realm has become increasingly difficult. The cutthroat competition means that even the most seasoned public veterans have to work harder than ever to get in the game.

“I’ve noticed a lot of big firms are going after smaller projects,” said HOK’s Solomon, who noted that  cash-strapped governments have taken advantage of this situation by paying much less for projects than similar work in the private sector. CO’s Kelsey points to the competition for the new academic building it is now designing at UC Merced, which saw 49 submittals. In better economic times, he pointed out, a project like that would have about 20 submittals. 

CO Architects' public portfolio includes a renovation of the LA Natural history museum.
 2L studio

richard meier & partners extends a special interest in federal facilities with designs for the san diego federal courthouse.
 courtesy richard meier & partners

And for those trying to get into the loop, the march to public work can be infuriating. Small firms say they are often shut out of the process because of their lack of experience and connections. Many point out that often, public agencies value the ability to check off the right boxes and propose low fees over talent and design expertise. The AIA/LA has suggested a new city Architecture Department that would, among other things, help get more firms involved in the public selection process through competitions, design review, and community outreach. The AIA has also called for changing public project delivery from design-bid-build—which favors well-connected firms that know the right contractors and engineers, or those that simply charge the least regardless of quality or competence—to more egalitarian and well-organized methods like integrated project delivery, public private partnerships, or a more equitable version of design-build.

The challenge of getting into the public realm even pertains to megafirms like Gensler, now wishing it had jumped into public projects sooner. Its 195-person LA office is working on a number of public projects—including the new Port of Long Beach Headquarters building, security upgrades for Los Angeles World Airports, and a new data center for the County of Los Angeles—but that is only about a third of its overall work.

“Honestly, it’s been somewhat challenging,” admitted Rob Jernigan, a Gensler principal. “We were heavily focused on work and lifestyle, and not as heavily on civic. We’ve been working with the public sector for more than ten years, which sounds like a long time, but it’s really not.”

Even for firms like HOK that have the experience and connections, working in the public realm brings new bureaucratic challenges that can stymie even the most stalwart. “You wouldn’t believe the bureaucratic hoops you have to jump through just to get your name on the list,” said Christopher Roe, HOK’s strategic director of marketing and business development. “Hundred-page forms that require signed affidavits from 20 references of previous clients and have to be notarized at the state, county, and federal level. It’s a paperwork nightmare of epic proportions.”

Public agencies themselves are struggling, and with their own budgets faltering, they are doing their best—like everyone else—to get as much work for as little as possible. Roe said that architecture and planning fees are down about 20 percent for federal projects from just a few years back. “We’re being squeezed on many levels,” he said.

smaller firms such as Pugh + Scarpa are getting in the game as well. The firm is working on the Santa Monica Parking Garage (above) in addition to work through a GSA at-will contract.
Courtesy Pugh + Scarpa

For smaller firms doing public work, the inevitable starts and stops of public projects can be disastrous. Scarpa mentions that every time a project is halted for an EIR review, he has to lay off staff. Steven Ehrlich faced similar problems working on a new project for UC Irvine, one of well over 30 projects halted for some time in the university system, many of them because of budget issues.

But Scarpa knows he is still one of the lucky ones because he got started before the boom. “My friends ask me how to get involved and I tell them it’s not gonna happen instantly. We’ve been doing it for five years.” Already he is looking ahead to new kinds of work in universities, museums, and overseas commissions.

So the question remains: will firms get too entrenched in public work just as they got too involved in commercial and residential before? What happens when the economy changes and the public sector becomes less sexy? Already, public institutions like universities are running out of funds and slowing down expenditures.

The public sector will always provide work, pointed out the AIA’s Baker, so getting caught flat-footed is more difficult. Nor does the sector provide the dizzying profits available in the private market. Persistent adaptation, as always, is the key to preserving the long-term health of architecture firms.

“We’ve realized that the only constant in the world is change,” said Gensler’s Jernigan. “In today’s world, this notion of getting into one niche and staying in that niche is over. We’re constantly asking, how do we broaden ourselves and diversify our offerings so we can stabilize things?”

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A+D Settles Down
A rendering of the new A+D museum, which opens tonight.
Courtesy A+D Museum

After a decade of nomadic existence, LA’s A+D Museum is finally unpacking its suitcases for good. Tonight, the design institution, created in 2001, is opening its new space at 6032 Wilshire Boulevard. A gala event will be held at the museum's new locale right across the street from LACMA and next to the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Since its founding, the A+D has bounced around the city, occupying locations donated by philanthropists beginning with developer Ira Yellin, who gave the museum its first facility in Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building in 2001. It then moved to Santa Monica (2003), West Hollywood (2003-2005), and finally to its most recent location in Miracle Mile (2006-2009), a large space donated by developer Wayne Ratkovich.

The new 5,000 square foot venue, a pristine space a couple blocks west of the most recent home, is situated on the ground floor of a small mid-century office building, filling a space once occupied by an unremarkable furniture store. The building team has transformed what was a poorly-aging building, removing clunky decorative panels between the windows, painting the building white, and adding sleek metallic signage emblazoned with the museum’s logo. Under the sign the museum now has new recessed glass doors and completely glazed frontage.

The A+D Building prior to its renovation.
Courtesy Google Maps

Inside, the museum has a 3,500 square foot main gallery, a 500 square foot smaller gallery, as well as office and support space. Drop ceilings were removed to open up the space, a sleek lighting grid was added, and eco-friendly concrete floors were installed. The team also brought the space’s deteriorating structural issues up-to-date.

Design work was preformed pro bono by Kanner Architects—principal Steven Kanner co-founded the museum—Richard Meier and Partners, and Gensler. Construction was overseen by Hinerfeld-Ward with a huge team that included Turner Construction, Hathaway Dinwiddie, Matt Construction, and Minardos Group. Museum Director Tibbie Dunbar pointed out that all are competitors who came together on the museum’s behalf.

Dunbar estimates that the donated services added up to at least $250,000. “It’s amazing that these people came in with what’s going on in the construction business,” she said. Major funding for the project, and for the museum’s subsequent work, came from a fundraising effort called 20/20, in which $24,000 each came from a lengthy list of noted architects and designers.

The new location now affords the museum a level of planning and foresight it has rarely enjoyed in the past. “We had been on ten-days notice for the last two years,” Dunbar said. “This is a huge shift in the paradigm for us. I know what my fall 2011 exhibit will be. I couldn’t have done that before without a stable location.” She also noted that the new location should bolster fundraising efforts.

Upcoming exhibits this year include “Come In,” a spatial intervention at the museum featuring the work of young designers; the *AIA LA Design awards; and “Never Built,” a collaboration with the Getty Research Institute displaying unbuilt work once planned for LA.

The opening event, called “Celebrate 2010,” will be hosted by KCRW radio host Frances Anderton with keynote speaker LA city councilman Eric Garcetti and music provided by KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel. Be sure to check the blog tomorrow for a full accounting.

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Eavesdrop NY 08
BEFORE SUBZERO, REFRIGERATORS WERE WHITE (OR AVOCADO) Eavesdrop jetted to pollen-crusted Raleigh, NC, with an eclectic herd of reporters from the likes of Sculpture magazine and The Jewish Daily Forward to tour the North Carolina Museum of Art expansion designed by Thomas Phifer. We were not disappointed. The 127,000-square-foot museum is an elegant, single-story box penetrated by courtyards, pools, and gardens. The interior and exterior details are so deliciously subtle that they seemed to elude some of the mainstream press, who asked him why he didn’t site the building to dominate the street. Articulate and precise, Phifer hypnotized the skeptics by explaining every strategy convincingly, and they hung on his every word. (Check out AN correspondent Thomas de Monchaux’s own critical appraisal in our next issue.) Later, as the tour wound down, and journalists were milling about in the lobby, Eavesdrop overheard two gentlemen relaxing on a bench and discussing the building’s aesthetics. The one with deep architectural insight commented to his older companion: “White. All the walls are white. Everything is white! I wondered what that was about, and then I remembered that Phifer worked for Richard Meier for years. That’s where he got his refrigerator-door palette!” Eavesdrop almost collapsed. CHANNELING WARHOL Attention, iPhoneys. “Is This Art?” is a new iPhone app “designed for people who have questions about the artistic integrity of their surroundings.” Using the iPhone’s camera, the app’s Pittsburgh-based developers claim they will instantly provide users with an “authoritative declaration of artistic importance.” This could work for architecture, thought Eavesdrop, which found three architecture-related submissions in its reservoir. The bloated, rainbow-colored “Hell, Yes!” barnacle on the New Museum in New York was panned with “I do not understand it; therefore, THIS NOT ART.” The merit of W.R. Dalzell’s apparently out-of-print book Architecture: The Indispensable Art was confirmed with “This work’s materiality is immaterial; therefore, THIS IS ART.” What is art, the cover or its contents? The same approval rating was bestowed on a bland window wall of a building that looks like a stillborn Dwell house. First one to submit a picture of Danny Libeskind’s Dresden Military History Museum wins. FAREWELL FEUD Raimund Abraham, who died in a car accident on March 4 in Los Angeles, had been a faculty member at Cooper Union since 1971, along with other long-timers such as Lebbeus Woods, Diane Lewis, and Kevin Bone. And while a memorial for Abraham in Vienna at the MAK Museum is planned for June 11 (including Peter Eisenman, Michael Rotondi, Wolf Prix, and Woods as speakers) in spite of his renouncing Austrian citizenship in 2002, factions at Cooper Union have proved so fractious that no date or program for a memorial in New York has yet been set. Send vintage Kelvinators and Frigidaires to
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The undulating facade of KPF's One Jackson Square grabs West Village views.
Paal Rivera/Archphoto

The best that most New Yorkers could hope for from the recent luxury condo boom was some exquisite new architecture to look at and improved immediate surroundings: cleaner streets, better services, less crime, and more night life. The success of these shiny new edifices—authored by some of the world’s highest-profile architectural talent—has been decidedly mixed.

The apartments have a striking amount of openness and intimacy.
Paúl Rivera/Archphoto

Too often, the designs have been flawed to begin with, or their detailing poorly executed by corner-cutting developers, or the locations haven’t caught up with expectations that they were to be the next big thing in posh living. On the other hand, when done right, they have contributed positively to the urban fabric of the city. Such is the case with One Jackson Square, an 11-story, 35-unit glass vessel at the intersection of Greenwich and 8th avenues, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) and developed by Hines Interests and RFR Realty.

The site itself, a smallish triangular plot, had been a parking lot since the 1930s. At that time, the row of brownstones that once stood there was demolished to make way for the 8th Avenue subway line. In the 1980s, the Landmarks Preservation Commission passed a proposal for a 15-story postmodernist clunker of brick columns and capitals, but it fizzled out due to lack of financing. In the meantime, the area itself had grown into something of a seedy patch. Jackson Square Park, which sits just across the street, was full of dead trees, litter, and the homeless.

Hines took an interest in the location in the mid-2000s. In order to prep the neighborhood for their new condo, the developer teamed with local business owners and residents and formed the Jackson Square Alliance (JCA). While taking its own steps to spruce things up, such as planting flowers, JCA motivated the Parks Department to usher out the bums and to conduct a renovation that involved repaving the square with bluestone and activating a Victorian-style fountain.

A screening room, designed like all the building's interiors by KPF.
Trent Tesch

In terms of the building itself, Hines was committed to floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass. “Glass was almost a requirement from the point of view of fulfilling this sort of luxury unit,” explained Trent Tesch, principal-in-charge of the project for KPF. “It was the only way to compete with the Richard Meier buildings or 40 Bond.”

Pulling this off in the Greenwich Village Historic District, however, required a rigorous public review process. KPF met with the community several times, having its design rejected at every turn. The Landmarks Commission, on the other hand, unanimously approved it. “We developed an argument based on the notion that the glass is going to change depending on the time of day,” continued Tesch. “It has a different reading in morning, afternoon, and evening.”

The curves provide not only great views but unique balconies.
Paúl Rivera/Archphoto

While contextuality may not be the first thing that springs to mind when gazing upon a glass-faced building in Greenwich Village, the project’s surroundings were at the forefront of the architects’ minds. The stacked, undulating, ribbon-like volumes that form each floor were a softening response to the diagonally intersecting streets at 8th and Greenwich avenues.

This theme was picked up in the lobby, a wavy corridor of sensuously curved wooden panels, CNC-fabricated by Situ Studio. KPF worked hard to make sure that the mullions of the windows—double-glazed, low-iron insulated glass units—do not line up, providing a texture and rhythm that Landmarks saw as complementary to the Village. In this spirit, the back walls of the building are red brick with punched windows.

The sinuous facade is mimicked by the lobby, custom fabricated by SITU Studio.
Paúl Rivera/Archphoto

This formal poetry on the exterior would mean little without comfortable living space on the inside. And KPF, which laid out the interiors and designed kitchens and bathrooms, delivered with spaces that feel at once spacious and cozy, and that provide ample daylight and views without sacrificing a sense of privacy. Their success can be read plainly in the sales records. Only five of the 35 units—which range from $2 million to $21 million—remain available at the time of this writing. Those that have sold have done so at an average of $2,080 per square foot. In a city where money talks, that’s as glowing a testimonial as could be desired.

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Gagosian Explosion
Gagosian Gallery is apparently trying to take over the world, with locations in New York, London, Rome, La Jolla, Hong Kong, and another coming to Paris. Its latest project is Richard Meier & Partners' expansion of its Beverly Hills gallery which Meier originally designed in 1995. The new space adds 5,000 square feet to what was a 6,600 square foot building. We were able to step inside the project, which opened today on Beverly Hills’ swank Camden Drive, and we weren’t disappointed. The extension combines Meier’s signature pristine white walls and abundant natural light (long acid-etched skylights on both sides of the space are semi-opaque, but still reveal the color of the sky) combined with the grittiness of a wonderful existing barreled vaulted wood truss roof, which was discovered when the firm removed the ceiling from the building’s former tenants, Umberto’s Hair Salon. A huge translucent glass and aluminum sliding door at the street also lets in glowing light, and provides an easy entry for oversized works. Inside the huge walls can support even larger art than before: the first exhibit features Andreas Gursky’s gargantuan, Google Earth-like manipulated photos from space. (Gursky didn’t make it to the press preview, our lone disappointment of the day). Future exhibitions will include Nancy Rubins’ outsized boat sculptures and Richard Serra’s Piranesian metalwork. The expansion also includes new second level offices, a private viewing gallery and a rooftop sculpture terrace, which will all be completed by July, said gallery director Deborah McLeod. So you’re probably wondering, what prompted Larry Gagosian to do all this expanding in this economy? According to McLeod the gallery signed its lease in September 2008, just before the bottom fell out of the economy. At that point they decided to not look back. “Larry is always interested in more,” said McLeod. Not to mention that working in this economy allowed the architects to find sub much easier, and for a much better price. “I think the timing worked out perfectly,” said Michael Palladino, Principal at Meier’s LA office.
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Canapes Chez Judd
It may be the original glass house in New York. Many years before Richard Meier’s Perry Street glass towers opened up domestic rituals to the public’s gaze, Donald Judd was living and working in one of the finest cast-iron buildings in Soho. The huge windows opened up his minimalist aesthetic to the public beginning in 1968, when he purchased the building and practically defined the “loft” look of New York for the public. Now openhousenewyork is offering a rare visit for a small group on March 11, with a tour of the building and meal catered by Christina Wang of the French Culinary Institute featuring “Swedish and Mexican” hors d’oeurves—Judd’s favorite. To reserve your place, contact OHNY.
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Beacon from a Distance
Architecture writer Robert Booth reports in The Guardian that the only two British jurors on the selection committee for the new U.S. Embassy in London pronounced that the Kieran Timberlake design was “not good enough to represent one of the great nations in London.” Whether in meetings or in a “Minority Report” remains unclear, the two Lords on the jury, architect Richard Rogers and developer/art collector Peter Palumbo, allegedly found the design boring and that they “fought to the death” to swing votes in favor of the Thomas Mayne scheme that they considered “touched by genius.” As other U.S. critics conclude that Kieran Timberlake did a decent job with a near impossible building type—fortified beacon of open government, welcoming to some but impenetrable to all—the dust-up also extended to whether or not the U.S. government will agree to pay sales taxes on the $500 million 12-story building wrapped in blast-proof glass and EFTE plastic. In further asides overheard at the reception in London last night where not only the winning design but also the three losers (in addition to those by Mayne’s Morphosis, Pei, Cob Freed & Partners, and Richard Meier) will be on display through March, several mistook the bowed and fragmented Meier entry as the work of Thom Mayne. To perhaps help with the grieving process, Meier himself quickly sent around a press release with detailed images of his own design, writing that “We're very proud of the work we did on the London Embassy competition. We proposed a timeless architecture to give the New London Embassy the authority of a landmark and felt that we had achieved this goal through economy of gesture, a delight in pure beauty, and respect for the public's need to be inspired and engaged by the buildings in their midst. We felt we had a very strong proposal and were honored to be among the four finalists. While we are disappointed we won't be working in London this year, we are continuing to expand our work overseas. We thank the jury for their consideration." In the end, Kieran Timberlake who are youngish, relatively conservative, adepts—at least by U.S. standards—at sustainable design, and not likely to express themselves too theoretically in person or form-making was a predictable choice for a government besieged by foes, whether real, anticipated, or only predictable.
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The Strong, Silent Type
KieranTimberlake's design, seen from Nine Elms Lane, is intended to anchor the redevelopment of the South Bank district.
Rendering by studio amd

The new U.S. Embassy in London, set for a prime site looking across the Thames at the buildings of Parliament, will be designed by Philadelphia architects KieranTimberlake, according to an announcement made today in London by U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis B. Susman and the Acting Director of the Bureau for Overseas Buildings Operations, Adam Namm.
KieranTimberlake’s winning design is a silvery cube sitting in a bit of a moat. The hologram look of three facades is the result of solar shading and blast-resistant glazing. The Philadelphia architects were chosen in a limited competition announced in November 2008 that also included Morphosis Architects, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and Richard Meier & Partners, all of whom made presentations in Washington, D.C. in January.

As seen from consular plaza, the facade will incorporate both energy-efficient shading and blast-resistant glazing.
All renderings by studio amd

The embassy is located on a prime, five-acre site near the Thames.

The cafeteria will offer views over the city and bring in ample natural light.

Groundbreaking is expected in 2013, with completion projected for 2017.

Check back for more details on the winning design, but meanwhile, here are the runner-ups, now on display, along with the winning entry, at the New London Architecture Center, 26 Store Street in London:

Richard Meier & Partners


Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
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When Zaha's In Rome
Roland Halbe

The MAXXI, the new Museum of 21st Century Art, recently inaugurated in Rome, is Zaha Hadid’s first built work in Italy. It was thus long awaited, above all by its critics. In reality, Hadid has numerous other projects under construction in Italy, all controversial and the source of infinite contestations.   

The MAXXI, in particular, was subject to the following criticisms: a) the work was impossible to build; b) even if it could be built, it would have cost much more than anything designed by Italian architects; c) it could never fit into the historical context of the city of Rome; d) the building would be a jumble of unusable space; and e) the running and management costs would be exorbitant.

The first criticism—that the building was perhaps impossible to build—was obviously disproven by its inauguration, though it must be said that the reinforced concrete structure is literally packed with steel, in order to ensure that it complies with Italian building regulations. This led to a few difficulties, though no particular delays. That fact that the construction site lasted for almost ten years is due to problems not directly imputable to the architect but, above all, to the slow distribution of the financing for its construction.

Regarding the second criticism, it must be said that the final cost of the project was 150 million euros (approximately $220 million) for a total of 215,000 square feet), or $1,150 per square foot. An excessive number if we consider that the cost of building Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was only 100 million euros, franchising license included. In Hadid’s favor, it must be said that the Guggenheim was inaugurated in 1997, and thus we must consider a reduction in buying power during this 12-year gap. What is more, public works in Italy, regardless of their architect, have always cost more than those constructed elsewhere. The Italian television program Report, which denounces waste and inefficiency in the country, has demonstrated, for example, that the cost of constructing rail lines or highways paid by the Italian state is double or even triple that paid by the French or the Spanish.

Roland Halbe

The third criticism is contestable, given that we each have our own parameters for judging the correct or incorrect insertion of a work within the urban context. Setting aside its strongest detractors, however, including professor Paolo Portoghesi, the building has been warmly welcomed. 

In reality, it is difficult to speak poorly of the new museum: the interior, above all, is impressive for the dynamic quality of its spaces and is extremely fascinating, even to those with a lukewarm attitude toward contemporary architecture.

Furthermore, to facilitate the museum's insertion within its context, Hadid agreed to keep the remains of a piece of the pre-existing military barracks. This move has proven strategic, as it demonstrates that even this Iraqi architect holds a place in her heart for a relationship with the history of the city. In formal terms it is, in my opinion, a grave error. The conserved barracks building disturbs the design of the project and impedes the strong and decisive presence of the new structure along the Via Guido Reni. What is more, for structural reasons this element was demolished and reconstructed “where and as it was,” and thus appears more akin to something from Disneyland.

A second design error can be found in project’s new fence. By defining the lot on which the building sits, it compromises the dynamic of the flows—the continuum—that was to have existed between the streets around the museum, the garden in front of it, and the entry hall.

To test the validity of the second-last criticism, relative to its functionality, we will have to await the spring of 2010 and the opening of the first exhibitions. In fact, with great cunning, the December inauguration was only for the building, which is currently empty. Why? Simple: to pretend that the project was finished in 2009 and not 2010, and to generate attention. What is more, the spring of 2010 will thus be witness to another inauguration and more publicity. Demagogy or a waste of resources? Maybe both. However, this is typical in Rome. Both Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis Museum and Renzo Piano’s Auditorium were inaugurated twice.

Helene Binet

What is certain is that the museum’s design as a continuous sequence of paths means it will not be easy to design exhibitions. Truth be told, it will be extremely difficult. However, I could not help but respond that all of the most interesting museums built over the last 50 years are difficult to work with, from the Guggenheim in New York to Bilbao. And if artists prefer white boxes, it is a good thing that institutions do not turn to talented architects but, as we have seen at MoMA, choose others with less talent and a more calming approach. 

The problem, however, is that the MAXXI’s exhibition program, at least as it has been announced, appears nothing short of depressing. We need only mention that the first architectural exhibition will focus on the work of Luigi Moretti, the architect of Benito Mussolini’s Gymnasium at the Foro Italico in Rome. In short: a protagonist of the 20th, and not the 21st, century.

Finally, the costs of maintenance. Just how much will it cost? There is no way to develop a precise figure. However, if anything can be made of a few offhand comments from Pio Baldi, the director of the foundation that manages the structure, they will be nothing short of exorbitant. The building pays the price of having been designed over ten years ago. Today, most likely, it would have adopted more sustainable and thus more energy-efficient solutions.

One could respond by saying that these issues were on the agenda back in 1998, when the competition was held for the MAXXI. This is true, they were. However, at the time no one paid any attention, at least not in Italy.

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Valley Highs
The Fairways at San Antonio Court by the Office of Jerome King.
Bernard Andre

When people talk about architecture south of San Francisco, they’re most likely talking about circuit boards or lines of software code. But while Silicon Valley will continue to do what it does best, design awareness has been percolating through the sea of concrete tilt-ups. When aesthetic considerations get filtered through the area’s deep-rooted ethos of functionality, what results are some very interesting design solutions.

Facebook's headquarters by Studio O + A. (Click For A slideshow of projects)
César Rubio

The social networking company Facebook’s new headquarters in Palo Alto is an excellent example of how to create urban texture and personality in sedate suburbia—on the cheap. The interior overhaul of the 1960s building was on the frugal side, said architect Primo Orpilla of San Francisco’s Studio O+A: “It wasn’t about the flash.”

Where he could, he brought out the industrial past, stripping floors down to raw concrete and reclaiming the truck dock with its roll-up door as an outdoor gathering spot. To heighten a sense of history, original walls were left white, while walls that were added in the remodel were painted in bright colors. There are no enclosed offices anywhere. “The company’s selling point to new recruits is that it’s very democratic and transparent, and it’s hard to show that in an old office building,” Oprillo said.

The Internet veteran eBay, on the other hand, had the challenge of building new for the first time, but needed to play nice with the existing five buildings on their corporate campus in north San Jose. Call it contextual design for office parks. “We hated the idea of duplicating bad 1999 architecture,” said Joe Valerio of Chicago-based firm Valerio Dewalt Train. So the architects duplicated just one section of the older facades, which were opaque with punched windows, and placed it on a projecting bay of the new building, using glass walls on the rest of the exterior. “It’s lighthearted, but it doesn’t scream ‘Look at me!’” Valerio said.

Some potentially iconic buildings could also be heading to the area. Renderings of a new Google headquarters by SHoP Architects were submitted to the city of Mountain View at the end of 2008, but the company put the plans on hold when office rents plummeted.

Another much-anticipated project is Apple’s new campus in Cupertino, which has been on the radar since 2006, when the company announced the purchase of 50 acres; a master plan has yet to be developed. On a faster track is Yahoo!, which is working with RMW Architecture and Interiors on the design of an immense campus with 3 million square feet of office space. Santa Clara’s planning department is currently reviewing the draft EIR for the project.

Meanwhile, as the offices are getting livelier, housing options are also expanding. As elsewhere, some of the most architecturally innovative approaches have been appearing in the nonprofit sector, where architects are unfettered by the concerns of market-rate developers. The most ambitious project in the area has been the $270 million, 8-acre Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life. A town-within-a-town, it combines 193 senior housing units with a family gym, community meeting spaces, and a performing-arts hall.

“Lots of people talk about mixed-use, but it’s usually 90 percent of this and 10 percent of that,” said architect Rob Steinberg. “This is really mixed-use, where we’ve taken elements that seemed at odds with one another to make a richer urban fabric.” The entire complex sits on top of a one-story parking garage and includes a winding pedestrian corridor that opens into public plazas.

Further south, the mysterious facade of sleek metal plates that appears along Highway 101 turns out to be the wall of an 84-unit affordable housing development, the Fairways at San Antonio Court. “This was a really difficult site,” said architect Jerome King.

Three other developers had tried to create housing on this 140-foot-deep strip, but couldn’t meet Title 24 sound requirements. King’s solution was to create a sound wall with an open-air corridor on the other side—imagine the walkways of a motel—that bridges five buildings interleaved by courtyards. Inside the units, separated from the freeway by the corridor and their own walls, “you can hear a pin drop,” according to King.

On the civic side, San Jose is currently working on a master plan for its Diridon transit station and the 500 acres around it. The station itself is intended to be a “showpiece of green, iconic architecture,” said city planner Jenny Nusbaum, which bodes well given the city’s last great gesture, which was to bring in Richard Meier to design its city hall in 2005.

According to Gail Price, the executive director of the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the AIA, “There’s gradually more attention in these communities to the value of intensifying development and making more public services available, desirable from both a fiscal and environmental point of view.” Price added, “We are on the cusp here between suburban and urban development.”