Search results for "Eero Saarinen"

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All Rudolph
Married Student Housing, Yale University (1960-61)
Courtesy Yale School of Architecture

Model City: Buildings and Projects by Paul Rudolph for Yale and New Haven
Paul Rudolph Hall
180 York Street, New Haven
Through February 6, 2009 

“A ‘vision’ of the future,” said The New York Times, “now an eyesore.” That was the headline of a 1979 article about a decrepit and soon-to-be-demolished 1967 New Haven public housing project, “that seemed to have everything: daring design [an avant-garde prefab-unit stacking system], a prestigious architect [former Yale Architecture Department Chair Paul Rudolph], and the backing of HUD,” the federal housing agency whose resources were expertly channeled to epochal urban renewal projects by then-mayor Richard C. Lee.

This particular convergence of late-high-modernist formalism and a public policy that conflated urbanism with mere architectural patronage at a vast scale is the subject of Model City: Buildings and Projects by Paul Rudolph for Yale and New Haven, now at Yale’s Architecture Gallery. The show documents 13 projects, including iconic work like the 1962 Temple Street parking garage and unpublished projects like a surprisingly Niemeyer-esque 1958 Church Street shopping center that Rudolph developed for Lee and Yale president A. Whitney Griswold. Curator Timothy M. Rowan, a University of Massachusetts architectural historian, has effectively organized the show around four successive themes: Critiquing Modernism, Monumental Urbanism, Prefabrication, and Denoument, that trace a story of rise and fall. Rudolph’s original drawings—some familiar, some strange—are complemented by a lively archive of documents and ephemera, and crisp new models of lost or unbuilt works.

But the show’s larger topic is how to connect both halves of that Times headline: the vision and the eyesore. How to come to terms with Rudolph in all of his complexity and contradiction: ubiquitous and elusive, brutal and plush, infinitely universalizing and intricately idiosyncratic? How does today’s architectural discourse assimilate Rudolph: once glorious, then deeply unfashionable, now ripe for his own renewal?

The housing project featured in the Times and reconstructed in the show bore the irresistible name of Oriental Masonic Gardens. Those adjectives precisely evoke the exotic, hermetic, fantastic, and cryptic affect of Rudolph’s work when viewed through present-day eyes. Like his 1960s contemporaries Eero Saarinen, John Lautner, Minoru Yamasaki, and others, Rudolph translated the modernist orthodoxies of the International Style into a personal vision at once rigorous and mannered, relying on the impact of deeply modeled ferroconcrete juxtaposed with sleek glass and steel filigree (and the occasional dash of orange leather). Unlike those men, he was in close contact with the architects who would dethrone him and establish the pop-historicist style that came to be known as Postmodernism in architecture: his successor as Yale architecture chair Charles Moore, and his one-time assistant for a master class on precast concrete, Robert Venturi. Once installed in the 1958–63 Arts and Architecture (A+A) Building that Rudolph had designed for Yale, they nibbled away at its conceptual foundations. Moore told the Yale Daily News on his arrival in 1965: “I disapprove of the A+A Building whole-heartedly because it is such a personal manifestation for non-personal use.” All architects develop personal formal languages in service or search of universal applications or ideals, but Rudolph’s Brutalist counter-vernacular (and Borrominian eagerness to use, say, 37 different levels when two would do) seemed to expose him especially to this critique.


Temple Street Parking Garage, New Haven (1958-63)
Courtesy Yale School of Architecture

 

Greeley Memorial Laboratory, Yale University (1957-59)
Ezra Stoller/Esto
 

Then, of course, there was the fire. The 1969 blaze that destroyed three floors of the A+A Building (and inaugurated three decades of benign neglect and unsympathetic renovations) might be seen as a miniature of the 1967 riots and fires in New Haven and elsewhere that revealed the fissures of race and class and culture that the “Model City” urban renewal projects of the time had elided. The notion that the fire might have had something to do with students disgruntled as much by the building as by the institution it embodied—enhanced by foreshadowing in a student broadsheet that read, “See the A+A Building. See every building. See them soon...”—gave a ghoulishly populist tinge to the spectacle of a difficult-to-use building being slowly undone. Along with it went the reputation of its creator.

Today’s A+A Building has been lovingly restored and refined, with post-fire accretions erased, as part of a reconstruction with a new adjacent building that houses the History of Art department, just completed by Gwathmey Siegel. The building is freshly legible, and to examine Rudolph’s languid graphite studies and ruthless ink perspectives while standing within the very atrium they depict is a particular pleasure. And yet is it possible that all those erased accretions, while undeniably resisting and obscuring the original structure, were in their rough, fussy, melancholy way actually sympathetic to its sublime spirit? The new building—and the small interventions inserted into the old—uses a familiar contemporary vocabulary of terrazzo and pale wood, stainless and powder-coated steel, drywall, baseboards, and aluminum storefront extrusions. The ceilings are never too low or too high. Everything is efficient, economical, tasteful, cheerful, clean, comfortable, and ultimately—in contrast to the willful complexity, spirited melancholy, and inventive audacity to be found next door—just a little heartbreaking. It may be that after today’s era of caution and credit-freeze, yesterday’s eyesore will be tomorrow’s sight for sore eyes.

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Saarinen Spared in NJ
Ezra Stoller/ESTO

In 2006, the Eero Saarinen-designed Bell Telephone Laboratories was in imminent danger of demolition by would-be developer, Preferred Real Estate Investments of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, who planned to replace it with smaller office buildings and housing units on the site’s pastoral 472 acres. Now, two years later, Somerset Development, a Lakewood, New Jersey, firm, has signed a contract with Alcatel-Lucent, the property owner. If redevelopment proceeds as planned, the 1.9-million-square-foot, six-story building, named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Sites” list in 2007, and recently declared eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, will be spared the wrecking ball.

In a statement made via email, Somerset president Ralph Zucker wrote that the firm does “not plan on demolishing any of the existing structures,” and is “approaching this with a preservationist attitude.” Somerset is still in the early planning stages, but feels the building lends itself to a mix of uses. Zucker, a proponent of New Urbanism, wrote that his vision is “a downtown-style, mixed-use environment created at [the] building.”

A three-day charrette, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects’ New Jersey chapter, Preservation NJ, the Docomomo-NY Tristate chapter, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, held in April, addressed problems surrounding the sustainable reuse and retention of the building, which was completed in 1962 and expanded in1985. Participants found the “building to be quite flexible,” said Michael Calafati, chair of the AIA-NJ chapter and a lead organizer of the event.

When asked about Somerset’s proposed redevelopment plan, Calafati cautioned that the devil is in the details. He questions whether Somerset’s plans to add buildings to the site will “maintain the monumentality of the Saarinen building,” an element charrette participants identified as central to the character of the building, along with its fully mirrored facade, its atria and corridors, and its relationship to the surrounding landscape, designed by Hideo Sasaki.


Preservationists and Saarinen enthusiasts hope Bell Labs’ mirrored facade will be maintained. 
EZRA STOLLER/ESTO

In its final report to the Holmdel Township Committee submitted on July 24, the Citizens Advisory Committee, a non-partisan group charged by the township to evaluate and make recommendations about the redevelopment of the property, cited several factors that could impact Somerset’s plans, the most important of which is the New Jersey Council of Affordable Housing’s (COAH) affordable housing requirement. “The COAH situation is very complex,” said Ralph Blumenthal, co-chair of the advisory committee. The third round COAH regulations were recently revised and are currently being challenged.

According to Blumenthal, before the rules were changed, if developers reused an existing building, the township bore no new obligation for additional affordable housing. If this changes, the “township’s affordable housing obligation due to the redevelopment” could increase “by hundreds of units,” which would change the finances of the Bell Labs project, and in all likelihood, influence its final form.

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Walter Netsch, 1920-2008

STUART-RODGERS PHOTOGRAPHY
 

Those who were fortunate enough to visit Walter Netsch in his Chicago house in Old Town will never forget the moment; it was such a simple design, but unlike any other. A large open cube measuring exactly 60 feet by 60 feet by 60 feet, the Netsch residence became a destination in its own right; it garnered so many visits, in fact, that Walter once estimated the number to be close to 10,000. Divided into three open levels connected by a half-spiral stairway at the edge, his office was on the lower level, followed by the entry and lounge, then by an upper sleeping area and kitchen at the third level.

All of that spatial drama was almost upstaged by one of the better private contemporary art collections in Chicago, which covered a good portion of the house’s extensive wall space. There, one might see a Lichtenstein, or a Robert Indiana, or, if you looked out the window to the roof garden over the garage, there was a George Rickey. Collecting art was not a coincidental sideshow for Walter, who had originally wanted to become an artist. His father banished that idea quickly, suggesting he would be better off if he could make a living. Walter went to MIT and studied architecture, and later landed at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he became one of its chief designers.

The pleasures of visiting Walter Netsch at home weren’t limited to the architecture, however. A quintessential Renaissance Man, he was knowledgeable on any number of subjects, whether  design, planning, music, or politics. As for the latter, he admitted that his interest in political affairs came after his marriage to his lawyer wife, Dawn Clark Netsch, who taught at Northwestern University and held high offices in the State of Illinois as a member of the Democratic Party. Still very much active in politics, the Netsches recently let the Obama Campaign use Walter’s studio on Goethe Street as a local headquarters once the Illinois primary was over.

During his years at SOM’s office in Chicago, competition between studios within the firm was the order of the day. Walter demanded a lot from young architects and anticipated their undivided commitment, and moving between studios within the SOM office was almost unheard of. Sometimes Walter would take his studio on visits to museums, which meant that many were expected to make up for that by staying over in the evening. One such architect remarked that the studio breathed a sigh of relief when Walter married Dawn, hoping for a break in the intense schedule. Then came the bad news: She was going to the capital, Springfield, on an appointment, and he would remain.

During those years at SOM, Netsch designed all of the major university libraries in Chicago; but his most famous building is still the Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs, whose tetrahedron spires attract over 300,000 visitors each year. Some believe this project gave him the opportunity to put his personal theories about geometry into practice, though Walter himself would be the last to deny the influences which came from traveling in Europe. Although clad in futuristic garb, the chapel’s underlying order is unmistakably Gothic.

Like any architect, Walter complained when clients made modifications he didn’t approve of to his projects, the most devasting of which was the removal of the elevated walkways at the Circle Campus at the University of Illinois in Chicago. But he was encouraged when the Air Force Academy hired a full-time architect to oversee the maintenance and preservation of their buildings, albeit after a lot of suspect changes had already taken place. Although Walter was certainly known for his strong opinions—especially when he was a juror—he didn’t shy away from collaboration, and lauded the contributions of Eero Saarinen during the planning of the Air Force Academy, and worked with Isamu Noguchi on the Chicago Art Institute.

After leaving SOM, Walter continued to practice, designing the much-published Miami University (Ohio) museum, as well as the Fort Wayne Art Museum. In his later years, Walter continued to enter competitions. On the occasion of a school competition in Chicago, the design for which he sketched from his hospital bed, I informed him (as a non-juror observer) that he had made the final round. Although knowing he would probably not win, he remarked that it was all well worth it. For anyone who knew Walter Netsch, who died at his home on June 15 at the age of 88, we can all say that it was well worth it.

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Saarinen Up for Sale
Scott Frances/Esto

Eero Saarinen’s 1960 American embassy in London in posh Grosvenor Square is up for sale. An important, if not entirely successful example of Saarinen’s work, it has been deemed too vulnerable for government occupation. The Chancellery, as it is officially called because it houses only offices (the ambassadorial residence is elsewhere), is one of only three buildings that the Finnish-born American architect built in Europe, all of which are currently endangered.

Since April, according to The Sun, realtors from the Knight Frank agency have been showing potential buyers what was once considered, according to Architectural Record at the time, “the most important project’‘ in the State Department’s ambitious, postwar foreign building program. The asking price for the 133,300-square-foot Portland stone building is reported to be £90 million (approximately $180 million). On July 2, the London-based Twentieth Century Society, a modern preservation group, decided to go ahead with a proposal to designate the U.S. Chancellery a landmark.

Like Saarinen’s Oslo Embassy (1955–59) and dozens of other U.S. State Department buildings around the world, the London Chancellery is now considered difficult to defend from terrorist attacks. Only a few years ago—after 9/11—State Department officials thought it was safe enough because it has a sloping base that separates it from the street, and because the north end of Grosvenor Square where it sits could be sealed off by bollards. (In Oslo, the U.S. State Department had already voiced similar concerns and had discussed moving out of its Saarinen-designed embassy building that is not protected by local landmark laws. The architect’s only other European building, the Athens Airport, has been out of service since 2001.)

To what extent growing resentment of the American presence abroad is responsible for the change of heart in London—or if exponentially rising real estate values play a role—is anybody’s guess at this point. In 1955, when the State Department held an invited competition for the opportunity to design the London Embassy, it was a plum commission both because of the building’s prominent location but also due to the importance of American-British relations in the postwar period. Among the other contenders were Sert, Jackson and Zalewski; Edward Durell Stone; Wurster Bernardi & Emmons; Yamasaki Leinweber, and Hugh Stubbins. The brief called for a design “which would engender good will through distinguished architectural quality.” It explicitly ruled out stylistic copies, and said the building should “represent the United States at this time,” and asked for “the establishment of an appropriate visual relationship to the other three sides of Grosvenor Square” in scale and materials.

That was no small order, as Saarinen later explained, because he was designing a building to conform to an as-yet unbuilt masterplan for the square that called for a uniform cornice line, red brick walls, and Portland cement columns in a pseudo-Georgian style that would replace the extant, historic row houses in a variety of styles and motifs. There were other complications. The program was changed and enlarged after Saarinen won the competition. Gold-anodized aluminum trim was substituted for the bronze that Saarinen had specified, and the Portland stone that was supposed to darken was cleaned so that it looked like concrete.

The U.S. Embassy in London is not the most beloved or daring of Saarinen’s buildings, but it was far and away the most successful entry into the competition and it is the most prominent example of his work in Europe. More important, it speaks of a time when the United States was committed to building architecture abroad that was dignified, humane, and respectful. 

A New Era for an Old Partnership

Given all the marketing material surrounding BIM software like Autodeskks Revit, it would seem architects and engineers had never collaborated intimately on projects before. Now, as the ad copy goes, anyone can do anything from anywhereeand let everyone know about it. While itts true that BIM makes the design and construction process more fluid, the work of architects and engineers has always been intertwined: The variable is, to what degree.

The answer dependssas it always hasson the nature of the architect and of the architecture. The way an architect arranges his practice often reflects the way he chooses to work with engineers. Firms that are not based around one head guy tend to be more collaborative,, said structural engineer Guy Nordenson, who is critical of the misperception that technology alone is responsible for the current climate of collaboration. Formerly with Ove Arup, the pioneering consultant engineering firm, he started his own firm, Guy Nordenson and Associates in 1997, and has been a key collaborator on such projects as the Museum of Modern Art with Yoshio Taniguchi, the Toledo Museum of Art Center for Glass by Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, and numerous projects with Steven Holl. With a dozen employees working on as many projects, Nordenson offered with palpable amusement and satisfaction the fact that he continues to work in AutoCad, eschewing Rhino, Revit, and other popular software. Our work can be done with paper and a pencil; itts not about the technology,, he said. Itts really about creativity and a desire to work in a different way. People come to us purposely because they want to embark on the process together..

Nordenson contextualizes this recent wave of architect-engineer partnerships within a historical cycle, as a backlash against a generation of architectssexemplified by the postmodernistssthat refused technological input on their designs. Only this time around, in contrast to the last moment when the United States saw close architect-engineer collaborationssthe mid-20th century, with talents like Gordon Bunshaft and Marcel Breuer, who both turned to engineer Paul Weidlinger, and Eero Saarinen who worked with Fred Severuddmodeling and information management technology has expanded the possibilities of collaboration. Moreover, they have encouraged a wide range of designers to embark on the sort of collaboration with structural engineers that might be more typical for a European firm but has been beyond consideration for many small or medium-sized U.S. practices.

Buro Happold made the leap to BIM in response to the way architects were working. We had to teach our guys how to use Rhino because they had no idea what the hell people were sending us,, said Craig Schwitters, principal of Buro Happoldds New York office. Though Rhino allows architects to create complex 3D models, it did not translate well among the software used by engineers or construction managers. Enter BIM. Programs like Revit and Gehry Technologiess Digital Projects that integrate all the design componentssarchitectural schematics, structural supports, mechanical systemssinto a single model built up of layers can be edited with ease, and information can be transferred effectively between firms.

Schwitterrs Los Angeles counterpart, Greg Otto, spoke proudly of the new Emirates Stadium in London, which Buro Happold designed with HOK Sport for Arsenal F.C. The architects were interested in exploring structure as architecture, in exposing the supports and making them an important part of the design. Though this could have been achieved without BIM, it allowed the project team to streamline workflow, saving time and money because information can travel quickly and fewer redesigns are required, thanks to the constant contact everyone shares, a selling point Otto always emphasizes.

Itts about peoplees willingness to work with new things,, Otto said. The traditional engineer shoehorns his things in at the end. Now itts front-end, itts early, itts a collaboration. It takes a lot of confidence on the part of the architect..

With or without BIM-inclined architect clients, many engineers are adopting BIM for internal use. Erleen Hatfield, a vice-president at Thornton-Tomasetti, recounted her firmms move to BIM five years ago. An architect had approached the firm about collaborating on a project using BIM. They decided to get on board,, investing heavily in the software and training. Though the architect eventually abandoned BIM, Thornton-Tomasetti has increased its use because the technology allows for improved communication within the firm.

Still, BIM will not solve design problems with one fell keystroke. It doesnnt mean engineers will lead the process or that architects wonnt need engineers or that you could go to some eight year old for your design,, Schwitters said. BIM isnnt actually pushing the final button for you. Itts a tool that helps everyone push the button together.. Matt Chaban is an editorial intern at AN.

Matt Chaban is an Editorial Intern at AN.

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The Restoration Era

Modernism's focus on individual artistic expression has led to extraordinary buildings like Louis I. Kahn's Yale art gallery, Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Visual Arts. Each represents an attempt by its architect to try what had never been done before,testing the limitsof architectural form and building technology. Their progressiveness, however, made them more susceptible to depredation. And unlike most preceding architectural styles, with their familiar materials and construction techniques, modernist buildings require unique analysis and solutions as novel as those that brought them into being. The recently completed renovations of the Yale Art Gallery and Wexner Center and the Guggenheim's current facelift bring them into the 21st century while providing an opportunity to revisit landmark moments in architectural history.

Left: Lionel Feininger / courtesy Yale Unversity Art Gallery Archive. Center: Ezra Stoller Esto. Right: Jeff Goldberg Esto

 

 

Yale Art Gallery
1953, Louis I. Kahn


Left: Patty Carr Studios / both images courtesy Yale university Art Gallery archives

Left: View of the Yale Art Gallery staircase, 1952.
Right: View of the building from the north or garden side, ca. 1953354.

BY JOSEPH GIOVANNINI
Something about modernist buildings keeps them from aging with grace. They do not look better patinated by time, nor more picturesque when barnacled with accretions. Their purity does not accept the accidental event that might add character on a traditional building. Their abstraction is a demanding, high-maintenance mistress who would prefer to stay forever unblemished.

The Yale Art Gallery by Louis Kahn, finished in 1953, will be receiving its AARP card in a couple of years. The half-century has not been kind to this landmark of modernism, even though Yale is well-practiced at maintaining its rich architectural patrimony. The university's benign neglect has, over the decades, taken its toll on the gallery, which was not only a seminal work by an American master, but one that kicked off Kahn's career and Yale's historic turn to modernism. It was the flagship building that set the precedent for other Modernist buildings at Yale,, said Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery. We also think of it as a great artwork.. Kahn's gallery is a masterpiece of understatement.

On Chapel Street, its undecorated brick facade meets the Italianate Gothic Swartwout building, a part of the museum complex, and defers to its elegant arches. Kahn's brick, austere in its planarity but gentle in its coloring, is a foil to the decorative complexity of the adjacent wall, and a datum of simplicity for the new gallery itself: A stairway up to an entrance between two planes of the bronze-colored brick cleanses the visual palette, and prepares the visitor for the nearly devotional space within.

Kahn was a master of environmental tone, which he modulated through his choice of materials and his handling of light. Just beyond the entrance, the architect achieved a nearly religious aura in the cylindrical concrete stairwell, where a triangulated staircase rises up to light that suffuses the interior of the drum. The cylinder and a nearby prism of smooth-faced concrete block, which contain a service core of bathrooms and an elevator, were the only forms articulating the gallery's otherwise-open loft space. He conceived the ceiling as a tetrahedral space frame made in concrete, which floats out, freespan, to the glass-and-steel perimeter walls.

Over the decades, two forces eroded the integrity of the design. Pressed for room, the museum started cannibalizing the interiors, adding offices and storage areas within the galleries; the sunken sculpture garden was roofed over in the same desperation for additional square footage. The encroachments reduced the purity of the galleries and obscured the geometric clarity of the concrete cylinder and the block prism. The divisions of space started to impede the way you saw the building,, said Reynolds. Administrators also plastered sheet rock over the concrete block service core and the entire south wall, diminishing the sense of material gravity in a space whose tone was defined by the sobriety and light-absorptive qualities of concrete.

The spatial distress inside was matched by the cumulative failure of the glass facade. By today's standards, the original wall system was elementallsupported simply on a solid steel frame that conducted cold in and heat out. At dew point, condensation formed, and anticipating the water, the architects actually detailed a gutter pan at the floor that would catch condensate running down the steel. In theory, the radiators next to the pan would evaporate the water. Over the years, however, the water corroded the steel. Furthermore, each bay of the window wall did not have enough tolerance for expansion so the glass wall deformed the edges of the concrete slab, which in turn resisted the pressure, sending bending forces back into the wall. Numerous panes of glass failed.

Yale hired the New York firm Polshek Partnership to restore the building in the first phase of a larger program to create a master plan for the arts district on the campus. Though Kahn's gallery was the youngest of the three buildings that make up the Yale Art Gallery, it was the neediest. The environmental systems, toooHVAC, lighting, communications lines, securityyalso needed to be updated.

In what must be the most gratifying aspect of the restoration, Duncan Hazard, partner in charge, and project manager Steven Peppas removed the structures squatting in the galleries to reveal the loft-like spaces. At the same time, they peeled the sheet rock off the smooth-faced block, reestablishing the materiality of the wall and its tonal impact. The architects also removed the roof over the original sculpture garden, which when restored, will be occupied by a site-specific piece by Richard Serra.

The window wall was the most tortuous problem in a difficult project,, attested Hazard. The troublesome steel frames are being recreated in aluminum, with the same profile, but with a thermal break. We built in more allowance for expansion in the connections,, said Hazard.

Another difficult task was updating the building systems. Kahn laid the electrical conduits, HVAC ducts and lighting tracks over the tetrahedral ceiling before pouring the concrete floor slab above, and the architects found it difficult and labor intensive to replace or rework the ducts and conduits within the closed cavity. They managed to snake in new sections of light track by using short sections. Cables for security systems and communications that had been surface-mounted over the years were also laid up into the cavity. The dimensions in the cavity between the ceiling and floor above offered little forgiveness.

What director Reynolds called the absolute simplicity and minimalist sensibilityy of the building was the root of the problems in its restoration, which is scheduled to be complete next year.

It's amazing how difficult the project has been,, noted Hazard. Buildings from the 1950s and 60s are tremendously difficult to work with because there's no place to hide anythinggthere's no pochh, as in traditional buildings. In modernist structures, everything is simple and exposed, making it very difficult to bring in new services. Maintaining that purity is very tough when trying to bring it up to 21st century standards..

The architectural archaeology in this extensive $44 million restoration yielded insights into Kahn's design. You could retrace his design process and see how he figured things out,, said Hazard. He was working out certain details for the first time, like corner conditions, where he turned the interior back to accommodate a window..

There are brilliant solutions, like placing a heating pipe at the bottom of a cavity in the wall at the front of the building, so that the heat would rise and lift the moisture out of the wall,, added Peppas. That wall looks as good today as it did when it was built..

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the restoration is the controversy latent in the confrontation between the imperatives of restoration and today's curatorial expectations that the white box is the best viewing environment. Properly restored, Kahn's galleries are not white boxes. Kahn's spaces have an almost preternatural serenity about them that are unusually conducive for seeing art, but in their materiality and character, they are not neutral. In Yale's desire to restore the building to Kahn's intentions, the university is assuming a radical position that critiques the white box in the same way that Kahn himself posited his original critique. In general, museums like white hanging walls made of sheet rock,, said Hazard. We're not going to have that..

The museum, instead, is going the full nine yards, recreating Kahn's pogoo wall, a moveable wall-panel system with adjustable poles, spring-loaded at top and bottom, that hold the panels in place by compression. The architects are also uncovering the long south wall (opposite the north window faaade) to reveal the original smooth-faced block. They will add a discreet hanging rail so that pictures will hang on wires. We're interested in expressing Kahn's original materiality,, said Peppas.

The effort at restoring a national architectural treasure also masks the controversial fact that fully half the perimeter is glazed. Windows, of course, are usually discouraged or at least minimized in contemporary galleries. The architects have, however, invented a solution that satisfies curatorial demands for protecting art: They simply conceived the interior as a light bank that receives a safe, calibrated amount of light over the year. Motorized black-out shades will drop after closing hours, eliminating a source of deleterious light. Light-permeable scrims over most windows further reduce the total amount of light banked. Scrims over windows in spaces where collections, such as sculpture, can tolerate light, will be left open.

Far from being simply a feel-good restoration of a known and celebrated architectural quantity, the restoration of Kahn's art gallery resituates the building in the polemic about what constitutes a desirable or optimal viewing environment. The gallery exemplifies a persuasive argument that there are valid alternatives to the supposed neutrality and objectivity of the white cube. Fifty years later, Kahn weighs in again with his brilliant argument about designing for subjectivity in space.
joseph giovannini is a writer and architect who divides his time between New York City and los angeles.



The Yale Art Gallery while under
renovation last year.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1959, Frank Lloyd Wright


Kathryn Carr SRGF, New York

BY DAVID D'ARCY
It took seventeen years to get the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum built on Fifth Avenue. For the five decades that the museum has been standing, exterior maintenance has consisted mostly of painting. Now the spiral is covered with scaffolding, and the exterior is finally being studied for eventual repairs that are projected to finish in late 2007. The extent of the work is yet to be determined, but the price has been set at about $27 million, ten times what it cost to build the inverted spiral that opened in 1959.

The project is still in its study phase, said the architects from Wank Adams Slavin Associates LLP (WASA), who will do the preservation work. In March 2005, sensors were placed on the building's exterior to measure contraction and expansion. In December, the paint was stripped off to reveal the concrete walls underneath: vast Twombly-esque abstract surfaces with scratched patterns and cracks that look like beginnings of Clyfford Still crevices. Architects are now studying these mostly vertical cracks, and trying to determine their causes before any repairs begin.

It was a challenge when it was built almost 50 years ago. If we had to build it today, it would still be a challenge, because of the geometry of the building, the construction techniques, and the use of concrete to the extent that it was done here,, said project architect Angel Ayon of WASA.

Part of the building's uniqueness stems from Wright's goal to make its form a continuouss uninterrupted pattern of circles, spheres, and a ramp that spiraled upward. Those continuous elliptical walls that we all know about are walls that he didn't want to put expansion joints in. As a result, there is a lot of cracking,, Ayon noted.

The 6-inch walls are made of Gunnite, a sprayed concrete mixture. Our goal is obviously to keep as much original material as we can and then to do a minimal intervention, first to understand exactly what's wrong, the extent of the damage, and then how to repair it in the least obtrusive way,, said Ayon. A lot of the work we do is based on having done similar buildings. You develop a tool chest of problems and repairs. This building is so unique that we have to approach it from scratch..

Cracking had been a problem since the concrete was poured, Ayon said, noting that Wright had used a vinyl-based paint called the cocoonn in the hope that the coating would breach the cracks. Yet cracks were always visible, as were abrasions, bubbles, and craters in the concrete under the paint, even 12 coats later, in 2005. In the 1990s, studies based on limited samplings examined the cracking. What's different now is that the team can remove the paint and study the extent of the cracking,, Ayon said.

Structural engineer Robert Silman, also part of the team, doubts that the cracks pose a structural risk: The risk is only that, as a crack opens, water gets into it and the water can cause corrosion of reinforcing steel. Over a long period of time, it's a maintenance headache. Will it cause a collapse? Not likely.. Silman said that a laser survey, underway as this article goes to press, will indicate where the building could be under stress.

Exterior cracking is the most visible problem. The terrazzo floors on the interior ramp are also cracked, the rotunda suffers from condensation (an annoying dilemma for anyone operating a climate-controlled space), and the front of the building, on the upper levels of the spiral near the skylight, is moving forward for reasons not yet known. The sidewalk, which Wright embedded with stainless steel circles (which, like the building, are landmarked), is also set for renovation. It was repaired in 1992 as part of the renovation that included the museum's expansion below ground.

The momentum for repairing the exterior seems to have come from one individual, Peter B. Lewis, the former chairman of the Progressive Corporation, who has now contributed $15 million to the project. Lewis was chairman of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation from 1998 to 2005, and he donated a total of some $90 million before resigning his chairmanship in a dispute with Guggenheim director Thomas Krens. Lewis thought that Kren's expansion policies were draining the foundation's resources. It is the building, after all, that is the museum's most valuable work of art,, said Lewis.

Lewis was always an admirer of the Frank Lloyd Wright structure but he was also, he noted, always conscious of how badly the toilets worked.. Lewis offered $15 million towards the renovation, and the board subsequently came up with an additional $5 million. But it still isn't clear whether that will be enough. Lewis said last spring. The building needs a lot of work, and whether $20 million is enough remains to be seen..

The insurance mogul was right. An additional $7 million came from New York Cityyabout $5 million by early 2005 and an additional $2 million around the time of last November's mayoral election. The project is overseen by the Paratus Group, the firm that Lewis designated as owner's representative which reports to Lewis and Guggenheim vice president Mark Steglitz.

When the project was initially conceived, a strong and comprehensive maintenance program wasn't in place,, said Jon Maass, an architect with the Paratus Group. The repair policy up to this point was, If it's dirty, if it's faded, if there are cracks, add more paint to it.' What will be part of this project is not only fixing what's underneath the paint, but designing a more comprehensive maintenance program for the museum. The public may see more maintenance on the building on a regular basis as opposed to just putting more paint on..

The official story from the Guggenheim is that the broader renovation proceeded in stages, beginning with the construction of the current tower on the northeastern corner of the site and the renovation of the Frank Lloyd Wright interior, opened in 1992, which was followed by the renovation of the below-ground theater, now named the Peter B. Lewis Theater in recognition of his $15 million gift for that project. The exterior was always next, say Guggenheim officials.

There was never a sense that this was urgent, in the way that the interior restoration was. It looked fine,, said Anthony Calnek, a Guggenheim spokesman. Every time you scraped away the old flaking paint and repainted it, it looked pretty good. It was sort of the last thing that needed to be done. You go from the most urgent thing to the least urgent thing.. Yet the architects working on the building say the exterior was disfigured, with cracks widening just above the entrance, and hardly looked fine..

Once the work is done, sometime in 2007, the Guggenheim will open an exhibition devoted to Frank Lloyd Wright and the building, organized by junior architecture curator Monica Ramirez-Montagut.

Yet the experts stress that it's still uncertain what they'll be celebrating. The exterior finish now is pretty rough and ready. You could see a lot of blemishes through the paint,, said Robert Silman. When the sun struck the building at a very flat angle, all of these blemishes showed. To me it's not very handsome. I don't think there's a paint that would cover them. It doesn't look at all like the interior spiral, which is beautifully smooth, like sour cream. The ramp wall is just gorgeous..

I can't imagine that Mr. Wright wouldn't want the outside to look like that as well, but it never did,, Silman said. Will our repairs be invasive enough that it's going to require us to do some kind of patching of the outside? What will that patching look like under the paint? We don't know what we have to do yet, if anything..
david d'arcy is a regular contributor to the art newspaper.

David M. Heald SRGF, New York

The Guggenheim Museum's scaffolding follows the curve of the spiral.

Wexner Center for the Visual Arts
1989, Eisenman Robertson Architects


Jeff Goldberg Esto

BY JAYNE MERKEL
When Peter Eisenman's Wexner Center for the Visual Arts at Ohio State University opened in 1989, admirers lined up to get the architect's autograph, a series of famous artists performed, and the Ohio State Marching Band paraded from the new art center to the football stadium.

When the Wexner Center reopened last fall after Arup's three-year, $15.8 million renovation, the architect was nowhere to be found. A series of performances took place, and supporters of the institution came from miles around, but there was no parade. Architecture, it turns out, is a complicated business. Having a famous, challenging building had been deemed worth the inconvenience and expense, but having this particular famous, challenging building was also, obviously, a mixed blessing.

How could a 13-year-old, $43 million building possibly require a three-year, $15.8 million renovation, largely financed with state funds ($14.8 milion from Ohio Sate University, $1.3 million from the Wexner Center Foundation) at a time of rising tuitions and cuts in student loans?

A university press release cautiously explained why: The new curtain wall system results in significant improvements over the original, both in terms of light levels in the galleries and in temperature and humidity controll[It provides] a threefold improvement in air filtration over the original, which was built to the best 1980s standards. The new system also specifies thermal and condensation resistance tests that were not widely available in the 1980s. The skylight was entirely redesigned, including its unusual dual-directional slope, to better manage rainwater and protect the exterior seals and glazing gaskets. The new curtain wall framing systemmsignificantly improves the thermal performance of the curtain wall. The curtain wall and skylight glass have been upgraded from the best material available in the 1980s (1-inch dual-pane glass) to contemporary high-performance material (1 5/8-inch heat-strengthened, low-iron triple-pane glass, with inert argon-filled air spaces, reflective coatings, and other features). The new glass reduces visible light to curatorial standards via transmission and diffusion filters and removes ultraviolet light via PVB interlayers. It also benefits the temperature and humidity control in the galleries..

We are not talking about an ancient hut sheathed with animal skins here. Surely building technology has not leaped forward so dramatically in a decade and a half that such drastic measures should be necessary? What the press release did not say was that all this was necessary because the roof leaked badly, the original curtain wall subjected works of art to ultraviolet glare, and the inside temperature could shift as much as 40 degrees.

And while innovative buildings do often encounter technical difficulties, not all innovative buildings do. Eero Saarinen's, for example, have survived astoundingly well for over half a century even though almost every one used new materials, structural systems, or technologies. On the other hand, university officials are rarely wild men. If they decided to make an investment of this kind, they must have decided that the building was worth its weight in gold.

The Center for the Visual Arts (as the project was initially called before Leslie H. Wexner pledged $25 million) was not a building created to house an existing institution. It was conceived to create energy on and draw artistic activity to a campus known more for its football team than anything else. Ohio, unlike other midwestern states, does not have one major dominant university, like as in states like Michigan. Instead, there are half a dozen state schools with various strengths and appeals. Ohio State is the biggest research university and has many solid departments, but its flat, spread out campus is not very lively, and the school was not known for academic excellence or artistic daring. Also, Columbus did not have major art museums like Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo. The Wexner Center has helped change all that.

Peter Eisenman (who was practicing with Jacquelin Robertson at the time) won the commission to design the center (with capable Columbus architects Trott & Bean) in a highly publicized national competition in 1983, edging out finalists Arthur Erickson, Michael Graves, Cesar Pelli, and Kallman McKinnell & Wood. It was Eisenman's first major building. And since his scheme and that of his old friend Michael Graves were easily the two most successful, it amounted to a contest between modernist and postmodern approaches and a duel between friendly rivals.

Working as a critic in Ohio at the time, I was initially attracted to Graves' entry, which was eminently sensible, occupying an ugly underused site, elegant, and dignifiedda proper museum on a proper site. But Ohio State didn't need a museum. It didn't have an art collection and was not likely to get one. It needed an energizer, something to get people excited about the arts and about life on campus, and the Eisenman Robertson scheme did just that.

It slashed between two existing buildings (2,500-seat Mershon Auditorium and Weigel Hall, which has a 770-seat theater) at a 12 1/2-degree angle, aligning itself with the city grid beyond the campus confines instead of the campus grid, which is slightly ajarrtherefore, symbolically at least, tying together town and gown. It resurrected the crenellated towers from a medieval-style armory that had once occupied the site, but the scheme housed most of the facilities in a glass-walled cruciform grid where sloping corridors overlap with exhibition spaces.

The building definitely stands out on the campus, in an interesting and inviting way. And its wider impact was enormous. When it opened, schemes with shifted grids appeared on student drawing boards throughout the nation.

Although it was not suitable for the exhibition of many works of art, Syracuse University architecture dean Mark Robbins, who served as the Wexner's first curator of architecture and also showed his own work there, said, I liked the active quality of the space. As an artist, I liked being able to play off the errant structural system. The building was flexible when we mounted exhibitions that had been organized for more traditional spaces..

The only thing that rankled him was that there was not enough space for the staff. It had been cut from the budgettnot surprisingly. The original budget for the center was $16 million. By the time it was completed six years later, it had cost almost three times that.

Some of the practical problems at the Wexner are attributable to the fact that when it was built, it had no strong client voice, as represented by a museum director or curators to insist on appropriate light levels and other criteria.

Eisenman has often suggested that once he has finished a project, he is finished with it. New York Times reporter Robin Pogrebin seemed scandalized at his apparent lack of remorse for the many leaks and faults in the Wexner; an article dated September 18, 2005, quoted him as saying of his buildings, Once they're up, they lose any magic for me..

The energetic current director, Sherri Geldin, also finds it mysterious that the architects did not consider these things. But she said, Still, I love this building. It has made so many things possible.. It seemed essential to correct its deficiencies. And correct they have: some of the most important elements of the new Wexner are indistinguishable from the old. According to principal Nigel Nicholls of Arup, his firm went to great pains to make sure that the curtain wall, which is so central to Eisenman's design, looks no different from its predecessor, though it functions in a much more efficient fashion. They maintained the notational system Eisenman developed for the glass panels, in which the panes darken or lighten depending on what is behind them, but reduced the overall light levels inside. Nicholls explained, There was too much light inside from day one, so we kept the relationship of one shade to another while shifting them all down the scale..

The Wexner Center story dramatically raises the question: What does a building need in order to be considered great, important, or significant? Is it enough to be interesting, or does it also have to be, as Mies believed, goodd? Architecture, especially greatt architecture, really needs to be both.
Jayne Merkel was architecture critic of The Cincinnati Enquirer in the 1980s and reported on the Wexner Center competition for Inland Architect.

Courtesy Wexner Center for the Visual Arts

During its three-year renovation, the Wexner Center for the visual Arts' curtain wall (below) had to be redesigned to reduce light levels in the galleries and to stop water damage. Arup was charged with making it look as similar as possible to its 1989 appearance.

 

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POSITION IS POWER
Stephen Talasnik

The fate of a lot more than who will be the next Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art has been hanging in the balance since Terence Riley announced last month that he was going resign from the position he has held for 14 years: That role has been the primary force able to confer star status on architects (or deny it) and to define new directions in architecture, whether they exist or not.

For 75 years, ever since Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock started research for the 1932 exhibition, catalogue, and book that came to be known as The International Style, MoMA has been creating reputations and identifying trends more successfully than any critic, magazine, book, school, or other institution. Though the show was called Modern Architecture, International Exhibition, it described a particular kind of modern architecture which, like the paintings and sculpture the museum was showing at the time, was assertively geometric and came mostly from Europe. The catalogue's title, Modern Architects, implied a wider reach than it had, since the technologically advanced skyscrapers of the age were not included. And although the exhibition had a section on housing, selected by Lewis Mumford, the overall emphasis was on aesthetics. No wonder the show is usually called The International Style, the title of the book published by Johnson and Hitchcock that same year, minus Mumford's material. What had begun in Europe as a social movement was presented as a style. Hitchcock and Johnson even redrew Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and 1930 Tugendhat House to emphasize the abstract, geometric qualities that they had identified as characteristic of the style.

Four years ago, Riley and Columbia University architectural historian Barry Bergdoll redressed that distortion in MoMA's Mies in America show by exhibiting original drawings for both buildings along with the ones that had been displayed in 1932, noting the earlier alteration in the exhibition and catalogue. That public institutional admission was only one of a series of decisions Riley made that showed he was his own man. When he was hired, in 1991, after he had organized an exhibition at Columbia University on the history of the International Style show, it was widely assumed that he was Johnson's personal choice and, as such, Johnson's influence would continue.

Johnson had been a potent force at MoMA for years. The stars of the International Style show were given exhibitions again and again (ten on Mies, nine each on Le Corbusier and Wright). Johnson's friends Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier made their debuts as Five Architects in 1969. When Johnson was flirting with postmodernism, MoMA published Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture as the first and only Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture (1966) and held The Architecture of the cole des Beaux-Arts exhibition (1976), when Arthur Drexler was curator. And when Johnson lost interest in the movement, he guest-directed the Deconstructivist Architecture show (1988), an event that not only helped counter the classicizing influence of the postmodern movement but also advanced the careers of all the participantssEisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Bernard Tschumiiby suggesting that they were the heirs of Russian constructivism and practitioners of a new style, rooted in history and modernism at the same time. They all denied that there was any such thing as decon,, none louder than Eisenman who touted deconstructivist philosophy as an continued on page 14 position is power continued from page 13 influence on his own work, was close to Johnson, and was the main personal link between the participants.

The Deconstructivist Architecture show did, however, rekindle interest in modern (or modernist) architecture, which was good for the Modern. The museum hadn't had an architectural blockbuster since Drexler's 1979 survey, Transformations in Modern Architecture. During the heyday of postmodernism, other institutions, such as the Cooper-Hewitt and the Architectural League of New York, shared the role of tastemaker. And MoMA, which had always undertaken historical exhibitions but mainly of modern masters, showed the work of Gunnar Asplund, Edwin Landseer Lutyens, Ricardo Bofill and Leon Krier as well as of Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, and Mies as usual. Also during those years, the museum, which had always practiced what it preached, hired Cesar Pelli to design an addition, instead of Johnson who had designed the garden and the earlier new wings. (Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone designed the museum's main building very much in the International Style, in 1939.)

It was only at the very end of the 1980s that younger modern architects' work reappeared on MoMA's walls. While Stuart Wrede was in charge (1986692), there were exhibitions of Emilio Ambasz (a former MoMA curator), Steven Holl, Diller + Scofidio, and Tadao Ando, as well as of Mario Botta and Louis I. Kahn (his sixth at MoMA).

Riley's first show, in 1992, was the small New Furniture Prototypes by Frank Gehry. Then came his Previews series, with the Nara Convention Hall Competition Exhibition by Arata Isozaki, Rafael Viioly's Tokyo International Forum, Raimund Abraham's New Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, and the show, Bernard Tschumi: Architecture and Event.

Riley's OMA at MoMA: Rem Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture appeared at the end of 1994, around the same time S,M,L,XL was catapulting the Dutch architect to superstar status. The following September, Light Construction focused on thin-skinned, transparent and translucent buildings by more than 30 architects from ten countries. Works by Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Gigon and Guyer, Nicholas Grimshaw, Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Ben van Berkel, many of whom were little known in this country at the time, were shown along with those by well-known Americans, such as Johnson, Gehry, Holl, Tschumi, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien, newcomers like Joel Sanders, Thanhauser & Esterson, and some visual artists. The premise of the show was rather elusive but Riley proved that he was willing to take risks and promote work different than his own. (Like previous heads of MoMA's architecture and design departmenttJohnson, Philip Goodwin, Drexler, and WredeeRiley is a practicing architect, in partnership with John Keenen.)

During Riley's tenure, his department staged, as it always had, historical shows (on the United Nations, Alvar Aalto, Lilly Reich, Wright, Mies) as well as more unconventional presentations like Fabrications (1998), a three-museum event that invited architects to create site-specific installations (at MoMA, contributors were TEN Arquitectos with Guy Nordensen, Office dA, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, and Munkenbeck + Marshall) and A Paper Arch (2000) by Shigeru Ban, a grand latticed canopy for the museum's garden. Riley's ambitious The Un-Private House (1999) introduced a number of new talents (Michael Bell, Thomas Hanrahan and Victoria Meyers, Hariri & Hariri, Winka Dubbeldam) and ways of exhibiting architecture. The gallery was arranged as rooms to sit in, including a living room in front of a large video screen and a dining table with interactive electronic images projected at each place-setting.

Riley also played an advisory role when the museum began planning another addition to almost double its size. Most, but not all, of the architects invited to compete were ones whose work he had shownnHerzog & de Meuron, Holl, Ito, Koolhaas, Tschumi, Viioly, Williams/Tsien. Also invited were Wiel Arets, Dominique Perrault, and Yoshio Taniguchi, who won the commission. The sensibilities Riley had highlighted in his shows were very much in evidence in the museum competition, while Johnson's friends were not.

Johnson's early emphasis on aesthetics, however has been dominant at MoMA in recent decades. The architecture shown at the MoMA, like the art, is chosen for artistic merit and originality first. From the museum's beginning, under its zealous first director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the museum's staff saw their new institution as a populist one whose fundamental mission was to educate the general public about the developing culture of modernism,, former MoMA curator Matilda McQuaid writes in an essay that appeared in the exhibition catalogue Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art (Museum of Modern Art, 2002). Although it was the first museum devoted to modern art, and the first general fine-arts museum to have a curatorial department devoted to architecture,, writes Riley in his contribution to the same catalogue, the MoMA was chartered as an educational institution, rather than a museum.. The museum has always had extensive lectures, tours, and symposia to accompany its exhibitions.

Before World War II MoMA also actively tried to link architects and potential clients,, McQuaid notes in her essay. And because for a long time it was the only place where architecture was exhibited with art, MoMA's influence in the world of architecture may have been greater than its impact on painting and sculpture, which were shown in museums and galleries throughout the world. Placing architecture and design in a fine art museum privileges aesthetics, but it also allows a consideration of their personal, private, technological, handmade, and visionary aspects. At least partly because of MoMA's influence, these dimensions of architecture and design are being celebrated today at the Canadian Center for Architecture, Georges Pompidou Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Netherlands Architecture Institute, and a whole host of progeny the world over. But the Museum of Modern Art is still the mother ship, so it matters very much who takes Terence Riley's job and what he or she does with it.

Jayne Merkel is a New York writer whose most recent book is Eero Saarinen (Phaidon, 2005).

THE CURATORIAL LANDSCAPE

The role of the architecture and design curator has expanded considerably since the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) forged the position, shortly after its founding in 1929. Though still only a handful of collecting institutions in the United States have dedicated architecture and design departments (MoMA, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum), architecture and design are cropping up in exhibitions more frequently and with greater depth in a range of venues, from furniture stores to art galleries, international art biennials and special interest institutions, like the Museum of the City of New York and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

There's a great demand at this moment for architecture and design curators, a job that's evolving in pace with the fields to which it's devoted. Several major curatorial posts in the U.S. are currently vacant: MoMA is seeking a chief curator to replace Terence Riley, who will leave in March, as well as a curator to fill the position left by Peter Reed, who was promoted within the museum last summer. The SFMoMA has been curator-less for nearly six months, since Joseph Rosa left to assume the architecture curator position at the Art Institute of Chicago. Rosa, for his part, has announced his intention to hire two associate curators to fulfill the Art Institute's ambition to expand to include design and for its exhibitions to be international in scope. The National Building Museum claims that it still intends to hire a chief curator, though it's been a more than a year since Howard Decker abruptly resigned from the post. The biggest news is that the Guggenheim is looking to hire a senior architecture curator, having recently hired a junior curator to assist contemporary art curator Germano Celant in producing a massive retrospective on Zaha Hadid, scheduled to open June.

We decided to look at the most prominent and prolific architecture and design curators in this country today, to gain a sense of how architecture and design are exhibited. (Aaron Betsky, based in the Netherlands, is an exception, but his career as a curator was established in the U.S.) The work of the curators presented here diverge from the propagandizing, taste-making role distinguished by Philip Johnson. Design curatorship has come a long way, but clearly, the field remains wide open.

 

 

Museums

DONALD ALBRECHT
Independent Curator
Education: BArch, Illinois
Institute of Technology (1974).

Donald Albrecht is unique as a prolific independent producer of exhibitions and publications. He has dozens of exhibitions to his credit, including the important traveling retrospective of Charles and Ray Eames (Vitra Museum, 1997), World War II and the American Dream (National Building Museum, 1994), New Hotels for Global Nomads (Cooper-Hewitt, 2003), and an exhibition on Enrique Norten (Museum of the City of New York, 2005).

The scope and mix of his exhibitions are made possible by his independence: Unencumbered by an institution's mission or collection, he can pursue ideas as they interest him, finding venues as appropriate. Or, often, he is recruited by institutions for specific projects. Presently, he's working on seven shows, including retrospectives on Eero Saarinen, Moshe Safdie, and Dorothy Draper.

Curious and energetic, Albrecht's shows are always strongly grounded in social history. Rather than privilege the formal aspects of objects, Albrecht emphasizes their cultural resonance. (Who else would do a show on the air conditioner?) Moreover, his exhibitions are always notable for their dynamic installations. For example, his forthcoming show, on sustainable residential design that will open at the National Building Museum in the spring, includes a full-scale mock-up of a living room and kitchen showcasing green products.

 

PAOLA ANTONELLI
Curator, Department of
Architecture and Design,
MoMA (since 1994)
Education: MA in Architecture,
Milan Polytechnic (1990).

Paola Antonelli made a great first impression as a curator at MoMA with her exuberant, eclectic exhibition Mutant Materials (1995). Though she had previous shows under her belt as an independent curatorrat the Triennale in Milan, the Tokyo Design Forummher American debut initiated her reputation for having a catholic perspective on what constitutes and drives design. Microscopic, monumental, metaphoric, real, or fantasyyfor her, design seems to have limitless boundaries.

If her shows share one characteristic, it's tremendous gusto. She's distinguished herself as a curator with a keen eye, pithy tongue, and profound heart. Her conviction that design gives shape to people's lives suits the context of MoMA, which has a historic mission to educate and lift tastes. Her open attitude has resulted in appreciably quirky, and sometimes risky, selectionssfor example, her jam-packed current exhibition, SAFE, includes a UN refugee tarp, camouflage cream, and a baby buggy.

Antonelli began her career as an architect and architecture journalist, with editorial stints at Domus (1987791) and Abitare (1992294). Her thematically strong shows have always included architectural as well as artistic components, perhaps because of her Italian roots. In Italy, art, architecture, and design are easily regarded as overlapping territories.

 

AARON BETSKY
Director, Netherlands Architecture Institute
(since 2000)
Education: BA in History,
Yale University (1979);
MArch, Yale University (1983).

Aaron Betsky has forged connections with just about every architect worth knowing on the planet. He made himself a player on the architecture circuit early in his career, most notoriously feeding the Deconstructivist Architecture show to Philip Johnson in 1988. He was even up for the MoMA curatorship before it went, somewhat surprisingly, to Terence Riley in 1991.

Betsky rooted himself in the Los Angeles architecture scene, working in the offices of Frank Gehry and Hodgetts + Fung as well as coordinating lectures and exhibitions at SCI-Arc. All the while, he wrote exhaustively for just about every magazine arounddMetropolis, Blueprint, ID, Metropolitan Home. In fact, Betsky was thought of primarily as a magazine writer before he landed the position of architecture and design curator at SFMoMA in 1995.

Betsky's shows, articles, and books have run the gamut in topic and tenor (athletic shoes, queer space, Dutch design). His detractors say that his always-topical exhibitions put glitz over depth. But under Betsky, the SFMoMA's profile grew, as did the authority of his department. It was Betsky, too, who added digital projectss to the department's official heading. Betsky's high energy level has charisma has already lifted the profile of the NAi.

 

K. MICHAEL HAYS
Adjunct Curator of Architecture,
Whitney Museum of American Art
(since 2000)
Education: BArch, Georgia
Institute of Technology
(1976); MArch in Advanced
Studies in History and
Theory of Architecture, MIT
(1979); PhD in Architecture,
Art, and Environmental
Studies, MIT (1990).

K. Michael Hays was brought on as adjunct architecture curator by former Whitney director Maxwell Anderson, a strong proponent of architecture. The Whitney decided from the outset not to compete with MoMA, choosing to focus on architecture that is closely related to art. Though the architecture programming has been low key, Hays, who teaches architectural history and theory at Harvard, frequently consults with director Adam Weinberg and his fellow curators on how architecture enters the other arts. For example, Hays' voice is seen in the last Biennial, which featured several works with a strong architectural dimension.

Under Hays' direction the museum has organized two intelligent exhibitionssone on John Hejduk (2002) and the other on Diller + Scofidio (2003), co-curated by Aaron Betsky. Hays also launched the lecture series Architecture Dialogues, featuring artists as well as architects. He is now working on a show on Buckminster Fuller and his interactions with artists such as Jasper Johns and Robert Smithson. The Whitney does not have an architecture collection but hopes to start one.

 

BROOKE HODGE
Curator, Department of
Architecture and Design,
Museum of Contemporary
Art, Los Angeles (since 2001)
Education: BA in Art History,
Queens University, Kingston,
Ontario (1983); Masters in
Architectural History,
University of Virginia (1989).

Brooke Hodge's curatorial efforts are well-balanced between architecture and design, historical and contemporary subjects. While director of exhibitions and lectures at Harvard's GSD (199112001), her shows were primarily monographic, devoted to historical figures like Gio Ponti, as well as contemporary architects such as Kazuyo Sejima and Zaha Hadid.

Though the LAMoCA has mounted architecture and design exhibitions in the past, it did not formalize the curator position until Hodge's 2001 appointment. She quickly focused on topics dear to Angelenos' hearts: cars and Frank Gehry. Her first two shows looked at the work of automobile designer J Mays and of the region's most famous architect. The latter, which came a mere two years after the Guggenheim's all-rotunda blowout, seemed superfluous. But Hodge is learning how to balance catering to a mass audience and creating challenging shows. Her background in art and architecture, penchant for the interdisciplinary, and extensive bicoastal networks will hopefully enrich her contribution as a guest co-curator of the 2006 National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt.

 

MATILDA MCQUAID
Exhibitions Curator and Head
of the Textiles Department,
Cooper-Hewitt, National
Design Museum (since 2002)
Education: BA in Art History,
Bowdoin College (1979);
Masters in Architectural History,
University of Virginia (1990).

Matilda McQuaid went pretty much straight from her studies, in art history, to working in the Architecture and Design Department at MoMA. During her 15 years there, she curated several shows on architecture and design including, with Terence Riley, Towards the New Museum of Modern Art (1997), a presentation of ten architects' participation in a charette on the MoMA's expansion; Structure and Surface (1998), on contemporary Japanese textiles; and the magnificent installation of Shigeru Ban's
A Paper Arch, spanning the sculpture garden (2000).

In 2002, McQuaid joined the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, as head of exhibitions, and quickly inaugurated Solos, a lively series of full-scale building installations that brought shipping containers and polymer-skin pavilions to the museum's pristine lawn. Her exhibitions show off her ability to display arcane technology in alluring ways. Though the Cooper-Hewitt has suffered recently from organizational and leadership problems, McQuaid's consistently strong contributions, such as her recent, acclaimed Extreme Textiles show, have given the institution a much-needed air of confidence.

 

JOSEPH ROSA
John H. Bryan Curator
of Architecture and Design,
Art Institute of Chicago
(since September 2005)
Education: BArch, Pratt
Institute (1984); MS in
Architecture and Building
Design, Columbia University
(1990); PhD candidate,
Columbia (1990094).

Joseph Rosa gets around. Not only has he occupied the majority of the architecture curator jobs in this country, but his shows cover a vast, unclassifiable territory. His previous exhibition subjects include Piranesi and Lauretta Vinciarelli (both 1992) while he was director at the Columbia Architectecture Galleries; and photographer Camilo Jose Vergara's series The New American Ghetto (1996) while he was head curator at the National Building Museum. While curator at the Heinz Architectural Center, he produced Folds, Blobs, and Boxes (2001). Then, at SFMoMA, he mounted shows on industrial designer Yves Behar (2004) and graphic design firm 2x4 (2005). He began his new job, as curator at the Art Institute in Chicago, in September.

His grounding as a practitioner (he worked at Gwathmey Siegel and Eisenman / Robertson) comes through in his exhibitions, even when dealing with trendy subjects. For example, in Folds, Blobs, and Boxes, he showed that non-Cartesian architecture predates the advent of digital tools, emphasizing a continuum of ideas and processes in architectural practice.

 

Alternative Spaces

NED CRAMER
Curator, Chicago Art
Foundation (since 2002)
Education: BA in Architecture,
Rice University (1994).

Cramer was specifically hired to energize the exhibition program at the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), whose bread-and-butter activity had always been city tours. During his tenure, the CAF has mounted fewer but more thorough and contemporary shows, such as A Century of Progress (2004), devoted to the experimental architecture of the 1933334 Chicago World's Fair. One of Cramer's most valuable initiatives has been to put Chicago's architecture and culture into a national and international context. While that has also meant a subtle shift away from the CAF's long-time focus on historic preservation, local observers say that his interest in exhibiting younger, more innovative Chicago architects has had an invigorating effect on the local architecture scene.

 

EVAN DOUGLIS
Principal, Evan Douglis
Studio (since 1991)
Education: BArch, The
Cooper Union (1983);
MArch, Harvard GSD (1990).

Following notable predecessors Terence Riley and Joseph Rosa, Evan Douglis served as director of Columbia's architecture galleries, from 1995 to 2003. With shows like The Work of Paul Virilio (1997) and ARCHItourism (2002), Douglis' interests are clearly diverse, though his shows tended to focus on innovative materials and technologies. Rather than simply show drawings and objects, Douglis allowed an exhibition's design to express the ideas on display. For example, to convey the mass-fabrication-oriented works of Jean Prouvv in his 2004 monograph show, Douglis created a CNC-milled kit of parts to form a sensuous displayscape.

Recently, Douglis has been focusing on his practice and on his duties as undergraduate architecture chair at Pratt.

 

SARAH HERDA
Executive Director, Storefront
for Art and Architecture
(since 1998)
Education: BA in English
Literature, Mills College
(1995); Masters in Urban
Design candidate, City
College of New York.

From a brief stint as a curator for 2AES, a small, nomadic organization in San Francisco, to her current job at the innovative, hole-in-the-wall gallery Storefront for Art and Architecture, Herda is well versed at pulling together shows in a pinch and on a dime. During her seven years at Storefront, she has overseen 40-plus shows, including Urban Renewal: City Without a Ghetto (2003) and, recently, Can Buildings Curate? More important than any individual exhibition she has brought to Storefront (many of its shows are organized by independent curators), Herda has helped to stabilize the institution, increase its public profile, and attract interest and support from varied quarters.

 

ZOO RYAN
Senior Curator, Van Alen
Institute (since 2000)
Education: BA in Art History,
University of Sussex (1998);
MA in Art History, Hunter
College (2005).

Trained in art history in her native England, Ryan arrived in New York in 1998 and quickly landed a job as curatorial assistant at MoMA. At the Van Alen, whose focus is the ever-so-fleeting phenomena of public space, Ryan curated, with then-director Ray Gastil, OPEN: new designs for public space (2003), a global survey of projects that illustrate the changing nature of public space. It was her first large-scale, traveling show. With her diverse interestssshe writes comfortably about industrial and graphic design for magazines like Surface and Blueprint>Ryan has helped Van Alen to broaden the scope of its programs, such as Variable City (2004), which reprogrammed public space through dance.

 

HENRY URBACH
Founder, Henry Urbach
Architecture (since 1998)
Education: AB, History and
Theory, Princeton University
(1984); MArch, Columbia
(1990); PhD candidate,
Princeton (1992295).

Founded in 1998, Henry Urbach Architecture (HUA) is one of the few galleries in Chelsea to show the work of contemporary architects. Leaning more toward emerging experimental designers than old-guard gallerist Max Protetch, Urbach has given architecture firms like freecell, LOT/EK, Roy, and many others a chance to show off their discipline-blurring efforts. He has also brought architecture-sympathetic artists into the fold, such as photographer Richard Barnes and media artist Marco Brambillo. However, HUA never became as commercially successful as Protetch's gallery, and its public exhibition program is currently dormant. Urbach is now focusing on independent curating projects.

 

PETER ZELLNER
Principal, Zellner / Planning
Research (since 2003)
Education: BArch, Royal
Melbourne Institute of
Technology (1993); MArch,
Harvard GSD (1999).

At Harvard, Zellner trained with Rem Koolhaas and did his thesis under the auspices of the Harvard Projects on the City. With former classmate Jeffrey Inaba, he runs VALDes, a collaborative devoted to researching suburbs. Since relocating to Los Angeles from New York two years ago, Zellner put together several group shows relating to both current and historical architectural movements in Los Angeles. As an unaffiliated curator, he has proven to be enterprising in creating thematically compelling exhibitions and finding venues for them, such as Sign and Surface at New York's Artists Space (2003) and most recently, Whatever Happened to L.A.?, at SCI-Arc.

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On Criticism

Architecture criticism, whether written for the profession or the general public, has one primary purpose: to parse the good from the bad. Of course, criticism involves much more than thumbs-up, thumbs-down assessments. Architecture is far too complex, demanding analyses on far too many levels. The critics interviewed here describe how their varied concerns—technological, political, ecological, cultural—have shaped their approach to a field they helped create. Meanwhile, a new generation of critics are joining ranks in what Ada Louise Huxtable calls "an uphill battle," setting out to prove that responsible criticism benefits not just the profession but society at large.

Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Born and educated in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable pioneered the field of architecture criticism in the United States. In 1963, she became the architecture critic for The New York Times, a position she lobbied her editors to create, and which she held until 1982. She's still active today, at the age of 84, serving since 1997 as architecture critic at the Wall Street Journal. Over the course of her long career, she not only traced the trajectory of modernism, preservation, and urban development but influenced it.

Huxtable had worked as an assistant curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1950. She was a Fulbright scholar in Italy in 1950 to 1952, extending her research on modern Italian architecture, which she began as a master's student in architectural history at the Institute of Fine Arts. She emerged as a critic at a time when cities were in crisis, losing their built patrimony in the name of modernization and renewal. She built a mass audience for architecture criticism by bringing reason and passion together in straight-talking—sometimes sarcastic, always sophisticated—prose. When she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, her field was validated and papers across the country rushed to add architecture to their critical and journalistic beats.

Her newspaper columns are anthologized in Kicked a Building Lately? (Quadrangle, 1976), Goodbye, History, Hello, Hamburger (Preservation Press, 1986), and Architecture, Anyone? (Random House, 1986). She is also the author of The Unreal America (New Press, 1997), and Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin, 2004).

What was the attitude toward architecture criticism when you were starting out?

There wasn't any! I'm proud of the fact that I convinced The New York Times that it needed to have an architecture critic. The very first thing I wrote for the Times, even before I started freelancing for them, was a long letter to the editor. This was 1959. The Sunday art section had a praising review of a photography show of a modernist housing project in Caracas. I had just been there and saw the project and the residents were having a terrible time—these were people from the countryside, having to deal with elevators and an alien type of architecture. The paper published my letter in full. Not long afterward, I got to do a cover story for the magazine, on the Guggenheim. I was terrified.

You were freelancing for the Times before they named you the critic. What shaped your story ideas and why do you think they grabbed your editors' attention?

I felt New Yorkers were entitled to more than they were getting from developers. There was so much building in the city but there was a total lack of understanding or care about architecture. I had just gotten married and my husband [industrial designer Garth Huxtable] was part of the team designing the interiors of the United Nations. I was just fascinated with architecture and construction.

The Times had plenty of real estate coverage. There were constant press releases about new buildings, all full of praise. These all came from real estate developers; at that time, there were no publicists for architecture. And I'd go to the editor and say, Good buildings don't just grow on trees, you know.

One day I walked in to see Lester Markel, who ran the Sunday magazine. I remember I had a notebook with a list of all the stories the Times was missing. Well, you tell an editor what he's missing, and he pays attention. I was a young, brash, believing woman. You have to be very naive. I was fixated on what I was interested in, so it didn't occur to me that you didn't barge in on an editor and ask for what you wanted. You have to give the Times a lot of credit.

How much input did your editors have in what you wrote?

Because they didn't know anything about the subject, they pretty much took anything I would suggest. And papers are always hungry for copy. Remember, too, this was a time of urban renewal and the total destruction of Lower Manhattan, when the beautiful warehouses on Front Street were being torn out for street-widening and Greenwich Village was being threatened. Most of the writing was crisis-oriented. You were crusading.

The paper didn't think we could do opinion pieces unless we first reported the facts of a story, so I would write news stories and appraisals that would appear in the daily newspaper. Then my critical columns appeared on Sunday. My criticism pieces were never edited because I was given the title of critic immediately. I don't know how it is at the Times today but back then, critics were edited for length and style. They never meddled with content.

After 10 years, they invited me to join the editorial board. I stopped writing for the daily paper and only wrote the Sunday opinion. That's when they hired Paul Goldberger to write for the daily paper.

How has the role of the architecture critic changed over the years?

The role is the same but the emphasis has changed. A critic has a lot of responsibility. It is largely informational and educational—to let the public know what's going on in the large and small issues and to let them know the difference between good and bad, how to distinguish a work of art. Today, I think the emphasis is too much on chasing celebrities, which has emerged all through society.

I want people to understand that architecture is an art. It's been my life's battle, to increase awareness of the field. But the way things have gone ...don't wish for what you ask for! Architecture is definitely more in the public eye today than before, but I don't think it's understood any better.

How do you deal with any controversy your pieces elicited?

It was always difficult but I'm not capable of doing anything else. I'm of a generation that was not brought up to work in a man's world, to deal with jealousies—I'm fairly thin-skinned. But the Times was always wonderful. There were times that powerful people demanded meetings with the publisher to protest my pieces.

One time, a developer pulled a big advertising section because of something I wrote, but I was never blamed. The publisher only asked me, "Do you have all your facts and are they right?" It's a great lesson for all critics. You've got to have all your facts.

My feelings of insecurity were always before I wrote. I would worry, "Am I going to be able to write this piece?" And I'd work doubly hard. I remember one the first pieces I wrote about Colonial Williamsburg. I wrote about how much of it was wishful thinking, how much was destroyed to build it, and how it was a false form of preservation that denigrated real history. I heard that later that they put up a sign there that read, "Ada Louise Huxtable is a Tory!"

Who do you consider your audience?

I don't really ask myself that question when I'm writing. If you have enough belief and pleasure in what you are writing, and write in an understandable manner, then an audience finds you.

One complaint I've heard from lay readers about architecture criticism—particularly of Herbert Muschamp's writings—is that they think they must have a background in the field to understand it.

That is the fault of the people writing it. A lot of writing has been self indulgent, really. You can imagine how I feel about it. The Times didn't know better, I suppose. It's as innocent about the field as anybody. Architecture criticism is still an uphill battle. That's why the responsibility of the critic is so great. It's the way my editor, Clifton Daniel, felt. He trusted me. He always said, "I knew if you got in trouble I'd hear about it soon enough."

I think my approach works for a changing field. I'm not dogmatic or doctrinaire. I stay open-minded. If you're rigid, you can't be a good critic. I wouldn't be in it if I didn't feel optimistic. I'm still full of wonder, I still love it. I like seeing what's going on with vernacular architecture now, for example. And the arguments over 2 Columbus Circle show that the preservation movement is upside down right now. When they compare its loss to that of Penn Station—I've got smoke coming out of my ears! It's not being lost, it's being transformed. I live and believe in the present. I don't live in the past and you can't live in the future. That's why I'm basically a modernist.

Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at The Architect's Newspaper.


From "Zoning: The End of the Line"
The New York Times Magazine
December 14, 1980
Ada Louise Huxtable

In an attempt to legislate an impossible balance between a profitable city and a livable city, New York has created a monster—call it Frankenstein zoning. The process by which good intentions and innovative practice are turned into an urban nightmare has been gradual and technically arcane. But what has been happening, insidiously and overtly, is that the whole idea of zoning has been turned upside down. It has been subverted from a way to control building bulk and size to a method for getting bigger buildings than ever.

If that seems like an anachronism, it is; exactly the kind of overbuilding is being encouraged that the law was designed to prohibit. The result, which is just beginning to be visible, is the rapid appearance of ranks of oppressively massive, sun- and light-blocking structures of a size that we have never seen in such concentration before. Their outline and impact appeared first on Madison Avenue from 53rd to 57th Street, with the 42-story, block-long Tishman building from 53rd to 54th Street, another tower across Madison at 55th Street, and the gargantuan AT&T and IBM buildings, from 55th to 56th, and 56th to 57th Street. This enclave of blockbusters was joined by the huge Trump Tower looming on the Bonwit Teller site at 56th and Fifth.

When the first of these immense projects designed under the city's revised 1961 zoning regulations appeared, such as Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue or Citicorp on Lexington, they seemed unique; as singular structures they were more interesting than overwhelming. As a standard to be replicated, however, they have become cautionary examples. What must be understood is that this wave of bigger-than-ever New York buildings is not some overreaching passing fancy. It is the new and future norm. The bottom line is that the developers build what they are permitted to by law.

These new buildings, therefore, are equally revealing of the manipulative, negotiable, and mutable art that New York's zoning has become. And because what New York does in zoning is emulated by the rest of the country, whether it is innovative and constructive or dangerous and foolish, other cities will probably follow an example that has evolved from a reasonably system of controls, including creative attempts to balance restraints with public amenities, to an ad hoc exercise in horse-trading that is a clear environmental disaster.


Allan Temko

 

When Allan Temko started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1960s, he didn't see himself as a regional critic, despite outsiders' perceptions to the contrary. Back then, the city was a fast-growing metropolis, the Golden State's financial capital. But Temko hardly limited his writings to the region. He wrote a book on Eero Saarinen and countless articles for Architectural Forum (he was its West Coast editor), Horizon, and other magazines. Still, Temko, now 81, is best known as an activist who unhesitatingly took on anything that threatened the Bay Area's soul—the first designs for the San Mateo Bridge, for example, and the horrendous plan to criss-cross San Francisco with freeways. Without Temko's voice, the Bay Area would be markedly different, and decidedly less beautiful, today. Fifteen years have passed since Temko left his post. One realizes, talking with him, that the people he wrote about were often his friends, despite his reputation for making enemies. He was admired, even by his targets, for his ability to place design in a cultural context he so clearly loved.

How did you become a critic?

When I left Columbia University in 1947, my professors helped me get an American Lectureship at the Sorbonne. I was in France, teaching American literature, for seven years. Most of this time, I looked at Gothic churches, which to me had everything—rational structure and daring new forms to suit new conditions. But I also saw modern architecture, like Le Corbusier's. Because there was no good book in English on Notre Dame, I wrote one. [It was published by Viking Press in 1955.] Lewis Mumford edited it. When I returned to the U.S., he suggested I do what he was doing for the New Yorker, but for a mass audience. I knew the executive editor of the Chronicle, Scott Newhall, so I went there.

What's changed since then?

In the 1950s and 60s, people talked about painters, sculptors, and politics. Now they talk about buildings, spaces, and important environmental problems. The need for good criticism has never been greater, but if you look around, it seems mighty sparse. There are some outstanding critics, like Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, but not many writing today understand activist criticismm the need to get out there and fight with fang and claw. With a big metropolitan paper, you can accomplish a good deal. Looking back, we were much better at stopping bad things than creating good things, but we were far ahead of other metropolitan areas, especially when you consider our resources. One big difference between being the critic of the Chronicle and being one for a great newspaper like The New York Times is that New York is really unmanageable. Here, it was possible to have an effect—to stop the freeways and keep Fort Mason and the Presidio from being ruined.

How were you edited at the Chronicle?

Newhall read my things. So did the city guys, the assistant managing editors, and if they couldn't understand something, I'd rewrite it. They were good stand-ins for the public. Newhall encouraged me to be controversial and shielded me from the owners. When the architect of Pier 39, Sandy Walker, sued me for $2 million, the Chronicle defended me. Actually, Bill German, then the executive editor, told me that if I lost, the paper would pay half! The suit was thrown out, but Walker appealed. When I learned that the case was back in court, I asked Chronicle executive Phelps Dewey why I hadn't been told. "We want to win this thing," he replied. When you're trying to stop something, you have to go straight for the jugular. Most critics today don't have that instinct—but neither do their papers. I'm vain enough to think that I could have stopped the whole Bay Bridge fiasco if I hadn't been ill.

What influenced you as a critic?

My years in France led me to see art and architecture as expressions of great civilizations. I always cared about heightening the public's sensibility. I wrote for the educated public, but I wanted everyone else to be able to understand my articles and enjoy them. I saw my role as achieving better design for the whole region. I might have been the only architecture critic in this period who looked at cities at a larger scale—even as large as, say, the Bay Area's seashore, which became a national park. Today, you can walk on public land along the ocean for 50 miles north and south of San Francisco. That wouldn't have happened without people fighting for it, and stopping things like the nuclear reactor that PG&E wanted to put on Bodega Head. I played a big part in these initiatives, writing articles and then getting the Chronicle behind them. They were great victories. But I took on causes that ran the gamut—protecting Frank Lloyd Wright's store on Maiden Lane from retrofitting, sparing Market Street the mediocrity of the early design for San Francisco Center, taking Silicon Valley seriously, helping make the Presidio a national park. That's an appropriate range for a critic.

Did you make enemies?

Sometimes I was a bit harsh. People say I was brave, but that wasn't the point. It sold newspapers. It still would today but, despite media's resources, there's still not enough serious coverage of architecture and planning. One big difference is that when I was writing, I was often speaking for the paper as an institution. I would write a critical piece and then I would write an unsigned editorial for the Chronicle that supported my stance. Without that endorsement, there's no way I could have accomplished what I did.

What do you think of today's critics?

There are very few people writing things that you'd remember the next day. Part of our purpose, after all, is to be entertaining. Architecture is like tennis—there's a small group playing at Wimbledon, and the rest are playing on the neighborhood courts. Which is not to say that the small courts don't have big players. When I started as a critic, San Francisco was a magnet for good architects. Richard Rogers was among them—he appeared on my doorstep one summer, saying, " Lewis Mumford sent me,"—and I got Chuck Bassett to sign him on at SOM. That influx of talent gave us Bassett in my generation and Stanley Saitowitz in the next—architects whose work is original and unique but which also reflects what they found here.

John Parman co-edits "Commentary" for San Francisco's LINE.


From "Colossal Boondoggle: San Francisco's Airport Mess"
San Francisco Chronicle
April 20, 1964
Allan Temko

All that is maddeningly incompetent, stupidly complacent, brutally insensitive and almost incredibly extravagant in San Francisco—a city that perhaps did know how to build in William Howard Taft's time, but would be hard-pressed to erect a decent municipal doghouse today—is epitomized in our New Era Airport, which in fact is one of the most old-fangled, inconvenient, and wastefully designed air facilities in the nation.

As a gateway to San Francisco, it should be blazoned with the inscription of Dante's Inferno: Abandon all hope, ye that enter. For if this is the best we can do in the way of large public works that, precisely because of their staggering cost, are supposed to serve long-time needs, we had better give up hope for the future environment in this part of the world.

Rather than inaugurating a new era, this sprawling assemblage of malconceived and coarsely executed structures is already obsolete. Almost certainly the entire terminal—which even in its unfinished state measures about half a mile from end to end, and may yet be extended farther—will have to be extensively rebuilt if not totally demolished when the supersonic jets go into operation. Yet by rough estimate the city has thus far sank $45 million in terminal and parking facilities alone, and the end is not in sight.

The Public Utilities Commission—a veritable citadel of mediocrity—is cheerfully prepared to spend as much again, or more, to complete the master plan, which to me is not a plan at all, but a gross improvisation at the taxpayers' expense.

Surely this colossal boondoggle warrants a Grand Jury investigation, such as the one which yielded such fascinating information concerning the genesis of the late Charles Harney's multimillion-dollar beauty, Candlestick Park.

But the public is entitled to know who, precisely, made the efforts which saddled the city with the most unwieldy airport of its size in the country, and why a comparable metropolis, Washington, D.C., obtained at substantially lower cost a resplendent terminal in every way vastly superior to our own. Above all, we should find out what is wrong with the building procedures of the city government, and try to set them right before more damage is perpetrated. For in recent years we have been suffering from an onslaught of architectural butchery that might be likened to a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, administered by self-righteous hacks.

The airport, in truth, is merely one of a series of so-called civic improvements—the Geary Street expressway is another, and so is the new Hall of Justice, which is the most unjust building in town—which re really public excrescences.


Paul Goldberger

 

Paul Goldberger joined the staff of The New York Times in 1972 at the age of 22, and a year later was named architecture critic of the daily paper. For nearly 10 years, Goldberger was the junior critic under the paper's esteemed senior critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. Shortly after ascending to the role of chief critic in 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize (in 1984). As critic for nearly 25 years at the newspaper of record, Goldberger was often a champion for architectural values in the civic realm and at other times, an easy target for those who considered his views one and the same with the Times. During the heady 1980s, he was one of the few critics who wrote favorably about postmodernism, fueling a lively debate that pushed architecture further into the public's consciousness.

In 1997, Goldberger left his New York Times post to succeed Brendan Gill as the New Yorker's architecture critic, a position he holds today, simultaneously serving as dean at Parsons the New School of Design. Goldberger has proven to be one of the most prolific and long-standing critical voices in New York.

He is the author of several books, including most recently Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004).

How did you get started in criticism?

I had been interested in architecture since I was a kid. I remember when, once for my birthday, some family friends gave me a subscription to Progressive Architecture, which I found amazing. I didn't understand what was in it but I read most of it and found it very enticing.

I love architecture and I love journalism. And I wasn't very good at making up my mind about which of those professions I wanted to pursue because each one seemed to exclude the other. So I was lucky enough to find the place where they intersected.

Who influenced your criticism?

I went to Yale and studied architecture with Vincent Scully, who played a huge role in shaping my sensibility. If my eye was formed by anybody, it was Scully more than any other individual.

How did you end up at the Times?

I went to the Times first as an editorial assistant on the Sunday magazine. And I really missed architecture, and then I started to do freelance architecture pieces for the Times and elsewhere. But I was increasingly restless being away from architecture. And then I had an amazing opportunity, which was the chance to move within the Times, to become the architecture critic.

That's quite a leap.

It was quite a leap. I use the word lucky a few times. At the time, Ada Louise Huxtable was at the Times. She had been there for many years but she was moving to a new assignment—part time on the editorial board, and part time, she would continue to be the senior architecture critic. So they were very deliberately looking for someone who would be a number two to her. Not someone who had a huge independent reputation. If I had had a more established reputation, I might not have gotten the job. My guess is that she encouraged her bosses to choose somebody who would be quite junior to her, so there's no question who the senior voice was. And I fit the bill.

How did you go about picking your topics?

I was young, eager, loved the opportunity to put my passions into print and would do anything. And the Times had, and still has, a vast appetite for copy. The needs were enormous. I recall very few instances of being told, "No, it's not a good idea. Don't do it."

When you wrote a review, did they ever question your opinion?

I don't remember that happening too many times. The Times has traditionally been pretty good about backing its critics. I recall having two arguments with the executive editor while I was there. One was a piece about the Art and Architecture building at Yale. The editors thought it was too arcane. It was the only time I was ever told that. I was never told that about my writing any other time.

There was another thing that had nothing to do with the newspaper—a freelance piece in another magazine about the truly wretched design of the Times newsroom. This was the first time they re-did it to accommodate the first generation of computers. Big carpets, tile floors and horrible lighting, and fake-wood Formica furniture. It was really tacky. The executive editor was quite upset, and thought I was disloyal. As an employee, I was supposed to say positive things about the newspaper, no matter what.

When you were starting out, were you self-conscious about the role or responsibility of an architecture critic?

An architecture critic has a lot of authority but not much real power. Power is a much more raw and direct force. Authority is respect and trust. I don't think architecture critics have the power. It used to be said that The New York Times theater critic can close a Broadway show. Well, that's power. But nobody tears down a building if an architecture critic doesn't like it.

The most important responsibility of the critic is not to be stupid, not to be vicious, and not to be ad hominem. And I don't believe I've ever been any of those things as a critic. I was never interested in attacking people as people—I only wanted to discuss the work. Negative reviews are often interpreted as personal attacks, which obviously they are not.

Frankly, as I look back at what I did at the Times, I am proud of all of it. The things I might redo are not the times when I was too harsh on something, but situations where I think I was too kind and too generous, too patient and too forgiving.

You're willing to admit you're wrong?

I've been wrong on some things. I think I've been a little bit too generous about good intentions. Therefore what errors in judgment I've made over the years have come from the mistake of putting too much weight on good intentions, which can bring bad results.

What's the most important quality for a critic?

I would say a combination of a passion and a thick skin—two things that don't always go together. Angry responses or reactions are part of the territory. I am the happiest when people realize I'm just doing my job. I would hope [angry readers] would not personally direct their anger to me.

Speaking of having a thick skin, are you friendly with Michael Sorkin today?

Yes, we actually are. I have great respect for him. The issue on which we probably had our nastiest arguments was Times Square, many, many years ago. And that's probably—if I were going to give you any example where my inclination to think in terms of good intentions rather than results was most manifest—it was in my writing on Times Square. I was far too slow to realize how badly conceived that project was, and how bad [Philip] Johnson's design was initially. I don't believe I was wrong in thinking that the basic premise of the master plan was basically right—it was basically right. The basic design schemes were terrible, and I was much too forgiving of them.

Was it the thick of postmodernism that clouded your judgment?

I think that might be right. And I think I was probably a bit more forgiving of postmodernism in general, too, because that, too, was about intentions. In the end, most of that stuff was no more than transition architecture to wean us away from something. Now we've come to a much more mature modernism, a more intelligent modernism.

How has the role of the critic changed since you've left the Times?

Everyone interprets the role differently. I don't think the role or obligation changes very much. The critic of the Times plays a very central role in the civic dialogue of New York.

How is your job different now writing for a weekly magazine?

It's very different. At The New Yorker, we don't try or aspire to be exhaustive. We don't try to cover everything. The New York Times has an obligation to cover everything. It's like, "If a tree falls in the forest and Times is not there to write about it, does it make a sound?" It can tire you out after a while. But at the New Yorker, we just write about what interests us, and what, over the course of the year, would make interesting types of pieces.

Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.


From "Green Monster: A Startling Addition to Astor Place"
The New Yorker
May 2, 2005
Paul Goldberger

The first thing you think when you see the new luxury apartment building at Astor Place—a slick, undulating tower clad in sparkly green glass—is that it doesn't belong in the neighborhood. The tone of Astor Place is set by places like Cooper Union, the Public Theatre, and the gargantuan former Wanamaker store on Broadway: heavy, brawny blocks of masonry that sit foursquare on the ground. Louis Sullivan once described one of Henry Hobson Richardson's great stone buildings as a man with virile force—broad, vigorous, and with a whelm of energy. The new building, designed by Charles Gwathmey, is an elf prancing among men.

Of course, cities are often enriched by architecture that seems, at first, to be alien: the pristine glass towers of Mies van der Rohe and the sylph-like bridges of Santiago Calatrava have brought grace to countless harsh, older cityscapes. But this new building, which is on one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan, does not have a transforming effect. If, as Vincent Scully proposed, architecture is a conversation between generations, this young intruder hasn't much to say to its neighbors. Its shape is fussy, and the glass facade is garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place, the tower disrupts the neighborhood's rhythm.

In an inelegant way, Gwathmey's building has exposed a truth about this part of lower Manhattan: inside those rough-and-tumble old masonry buildings is a lot of wealth. By designing a tower with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood, which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other than a place for the rich. The thirty-nine apartments inside the Gwathmey building start at $2 million.

It is a paradox of the New York real estate market that nothing breeds gentility like harsh surroundings. Once, it all happened indoors—grimy factory floors in SoHo became expensive lofts. Sleekness was a private pleasure, not a public display. But the pair of exceptionally elegant glass towers designed by Richard Meier that went up on the western reaches of Greenwich Village a few years ago changed the rules. High-gloss modernism, preferably attached to the signature of a famous architect and dropped into an old industrial streetscape, became the hottest thing in Manhattan apartment architecture since Emery Roth invented the foyer.


Michael Sorkin

 

Michael Sorkin started his career in criticism writing for the Village Voice in 1978 and went on to write the alternative weekly's architecture column for ten years. In the Voice's permissive, freewheeling editorial environment, he developed an unflinching, pugnacious writing style—indebted as much to the gonzo journalists of the 1960s as to iconoclasts in the design fields, from Archigram to Jane Jacobs to Robert Venturi. He quickly became notorious as a silver-tongued antagonist of the architectural elite. Taking Philip Johnson to task for his Nazi past, as well as admonishing The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger (one of his unforgettable pieces was titled "Why Paul Goldberger Is So Bad: The Case of Times Square"), Sorkin is the embodiment of the fearless critic, becoming a hero to many (and a thorn in the side of a few).

Since his Voice days, Sorkin, now 57, has continued to write, as well as practice and teach. In all his work, he has consistently championed environmental issues, sustainability, and social justice. With his regular contributions to the Critique column in Architectural Record, Sorkin continues to serve as the profession's voice of outrage—and of moral reason.

Currently, he serves as director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY, a program that he founded. His New York-based architectural practice, Michael Sorkin Studio, continues to promulgate his idealist, socialist vision in both practical and theoretical projects. His Village Voice columns are anthologized in Exquisite Corpse (Verso, 1991) and most recent book is Starting From Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York (Routledge, 2003) and he is currently preparing five other titles, including Indefensible Space: The Architecture of the National Insecurity State (Routledge), Work on the City (Monacelli), and Fifteen Minutes in Manhattan (Reaktion Press).

Why and how did you get started as an architecture critic?

I first started writing about architecture in college, but I had always been interested. My mother gave me a copy of [Lewis] Mumford's The City in History when it first came out, which was always a touchstone for me. For years I thought Vallingby [the Swedish sustainable New Town] was the omega point of urban civilization. Fortunately, I finally saw it! Having always been interested in both architecture and writing, criticism was a natural progression. When I got to New York I quickly started writing for the Village Voice, which allowed me to indulge another of my ardors, left-wing politics.

Do you feel that left politics was much more of a cultural motivator when you started? And did that carry over into the architecture writing of the era?

Absolutely. I was under the spell of the doughty Marxism of the day. But there was very little architecture writing at the time—almost none in the daily press. Ada Louise Huxtable was the major exception, but there was very little architectural journalism in general. There were a few influential documents around—Archigram magazine, The Whole Earth Catalogue, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture—that were beginning to unsettle the moribund architectural climate from very different directions.

Did you have any other influences?

My prose style was certainly influenced by an undergraduate subscription to Private Eye Magazine, which authorized a certain latitude for the ad hominem, not to mention egregious punning. And then there was the triple whammy of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Rachel Carson, who provide a lovely synthesis of architecture, city, and environment.

How do you choose your subjects?

I have no specific method for choosing my subjects. Part of it is looking for the social meaning of the formal. Part of it is settling scores. And part is just defending one's taste. I've always been a designer as well as a writer so part of my project has always been to advance the agenda of my fellow travelers. And the Voice is a local paper, so I wrote a lot about New York.

Speaking of the Voice, did your editors there have much input in terms of subject matter or the tenor or your articles?

Almost no input in terms of subject matter. It was quite a free situation. They were always happy when I went for the throat, of course.

Who do you consider your audience?

The profession, for starters. Many of my books are directed a little more broadly—to the remnants of the left as well as to a wider circle engaged in urban and environmental struggles. I do feel a bit parochialized, writing primarily in the architectural, rather than more broadly-based, media.

What do you see as the primary role of the architecture critic? And how has it changed?

I see my primary role as an advocate for urban civilization and the planetary environment. That's the big picture. The smaller picture is writing about people, objects, and places I love. That hasn't changed. Of course, the performance of critics fluctuates with the seasons. The majority of critics nowadays are simply flacks: There are too many fashionistas and too few street fighters. We've been taken up into the culture of branding. I think that it is possible for architecture criticism to embody resistance, but it seems in most cases that irony and analysis stops short of availing an original position. People are too accepting of the will of the leviathan and they want their piece of the action.

Do you think that the same can be said of architecture these days? In which case how do you feel about the state of architecture?

I have mixed feelings. Most architecture and criticism is driven by motives too limited, by the bottom line or branding. But both are public projects and my architectural practice and my writing are always concerned with their social effects, their contribution to a more just environment. While I don't believe that architecture creates democracy, architects aren't mindful enough of the distributive effects of planning, the way in which architecture organizes privilege and equity. I think it's important for architecture to make propaganda for a better life, to resist the horror of Bush-world. I truly loathe the smug surfer culture that seems to be in the saddle these days.

Aaron Seward is Projects Editor at AN.


From "Let a Hundred Styles Blossom"
The Village Voice
March 19, 1979
Michael Sorkin

Reports of the death of modern architecture appear to have been greatly exaggerated. This, at any rate, seems to be the drift of the Museum of Modern Art's newly hung Transformations in Modern Architecture. The show has been breathlessly awaited by the architecture set for many years. When, everyone wondered, would Architecture and Design director Arthur Drexler make his move? While fierce controversy roiled over the fate of the modern movement, the museum remained strangely quiescent, almost aloof. The factions raged furiously, each hoping to win the museum to its cause. After all, MoMA virtually made modern architecture in America with its famous show of 1932, and a likewise definitive stand could conceivably have a similar impact today. For Drexler, the opportunity was enormous.

But so was the pressure. Anybody with any sense knew that old-fashioned modern architecture, with all its imputed evils, had to go, but what would replace it? The megastructural maniacs seemed to have been suppressed but did that mean that we were to have the quaint eclecticists or the nouveau neo-classicists? All that was certain was that everyone, except the most unreconstructed Miesians, was yapping for a change...

Still, MoMA temporized, hedging its bets, keeping up but never summing up: All hope for clarification was pinned on Transformations. Designers trembled over drafting tables, pens nervously poised, waiting to be told what to do next. Expectation was apoplectic; fortunes hung in the balance. Seventh Avenue shows a collection every season and the air is electric every time. The Architecture and Design Department makes a major statement only a few times in a lifespan. What was the word to be?

Alas, MoMA copped out. The show is like Hamlet on matte-board: Drexler couldn't make up his mind. Instead of a Cultural Revolution we get "Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom." Instead of leadership, vacillation.

Of course what's really interesting about the compilations is who gets left out. Here, the choices get wiggy. Virtually Philip Johnson's entire oeuvre is included but not a single Alvar Aalto. Anybody could become Philip Johnson given the right historical circumstances but only Aalto could have been Aalto. Vulgarians like Harrison and Abramowitz of Albany Mall fame survive the last cut but Pier Luigi Nervi doesn't even get the court. Is this sensible? Where are those splendid Dutchmen Herman Herzberger and Aldo van Eyck? Where are Steve Baer's Zomes and Bucky's geodesics? Where is SITE? Wasn't the Guggenheim finished in 1959? Some of this seems just plain bitchy. The whole town is asking why John Hejduk's fine work is not to be found with that of the other members of the New York Five, inexplicably reduced for the occasion to Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves...Ultimately, though, what do Drexler's peccadilloes matter: Group shows always entail a certain amount of grievance. Let them form a salon des refusés if they want.


Robert Campbell

 

Since 1973, Robert Campbell has been architecture critic of The Boston Globe and for many years, has been a regular contributor to Architectural Record's Critique column. At 68, Campbell is a consistent, informed voice on the scene, his writing enriched by his backgrounds in journalism and architecture.

In a September 2004 Architectural Record column, Campbell wrote, "I've always thought that a good model for any critic is Alice, the heroine of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Alice is constantly running into creatures who are crazy—the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit—but they're crazy in a special way. They're obsessed by ideas, and they ignore real-world experience. Alice isn't fooled or overly impressed by her crazies, and neither should any critic be." Campbell's sobriety and unique insight, as one of the field's own practioners, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1996 and the medal for criticism from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1980.

Why and how did you begin your career as a critic?

I was an English major and I didn't want to be a professor, so I went to Columbia University and tried journalism in New York for a few years, but I didn't like it. I decided to become an architect, and got my degree from Harvard's GSD in 1967. I had no thought of writing at that point, and didn't write for many years, while I was practicing. I met an editor from The Boston Globe and started writing for the newspaper in 1973. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about criticism at that time. There was an interest in preservation and the era of urban renewal was ending. Ada Louise Huxtable had begun writing for The New York Times in the 1960s and she essentially generated a career path for many others. Other papers were adding architecture critics to their ranks, like David Dillon at the Dallas Morning News and Paul Goldberger, who was already writing at the the Times as well.

What do you feel your role is, as an architecture critic for a major daily paper and at-large-advocate, observer, something else?

The architecture critic is not a consumer guide like other critics. The chief role of an architecture critic is to stimulate and participate in an ongoing conversation about the world we build and live in and what makes [projects] good or bad. When I started, as I said, there was a lot of interest. There have been periods of less interest. Today, it's hot again, but it is all about the star performer—characteristic of the media culture we're living in. This makes it incumbent on critics not to get sucked into the media whirlwind. We must weigh in on important issues. Blair Kamin does this well in Chicago.

What do you think of activist criticism, which Kamin, as well as Allan Temko in San Francisco, advocate?

I certainly think that activist criticism is appropriate and can be a positive force. Blair Kamin and Michael Sorkin, in different ways, are doing this. It is not my temperament to take that attitude, but it's certainly a valid strategy.

What are your feelings about what's going on in architecture today: the influence of computer technology on design, the rise of sustainable design, and other developments?

Certainly, computers are important. Young people are very good at them and they can make shapes that have never been made before. They are playing a game. It's easy to dream up new shapes, but it's difficult to give them meaning.

I am very interested in the growing importance of landscape architecture and the increasing integration of architecture and landscape. As for green buildings, many are largely symbolic. The bigger issues are sprawl and energy, I think. Certainly, symbols are important, and architects should take opportunities to make high-performance buildings that are also visually exciting in ways that are not just arbitrary. The only long-term green solution involves reorganizing the patterns by which we inhabit the earth.

How do you choose your subjects? How do you converse about a subject that many people may not understand?

I intuit what I think will be interesting. No one buys tickets to see buildings, so you have to think about what purpose you serve: to get people thinking and talking about the built environment. You might write about a building because it's great, bad, or otherwise important. I choose all my own topics. As for conversing about a subject that people care about but may not understand, I do the best I can. I enjoy making things clear.

What can be done to enhance the level of architectural literacy in this country, where only two percent of construction involves architects?

The level of architectural literacy is going up rapidly. The subject is in the magazines and newspapers more than before. Maybe people are more interested because more of them are moving from city to city, or because they are all traveling more.

Did you ever change your mind about anything you've written?

Of course I have; many times. But I don't go back to revisit. There's not much room at a paper to say, "I was wrong about that."

Do you think that having been a practicing architect gives you a special understanding as a critic?

Yes, in the same way that art historians or others bring special perspectives. I understand how collaborative architecture is, and the importance of time and money.

What critics have been significant influences for you?

Jane Jacobs was a huge influence, but beyond her, I can't really cite major architecture critics as my biggest influences. My models are from the English literature side of my background: Randall Jarrell, George Bernard Shaw, and Edmund Wilson.

You have talked about how the single-issue experts are to blame for poorly designed cities, and that generalists—such as designers and mayors—should be running the show. Why?

I don't think traffic experts and others should be deciding issues of city design. You need a broader perspective. The age of the expert is over. I think the worship of experts is way down; even doctors and lawyers don't get the respect they once did. But I'm not sure it's been replaced by healthy collaboration. In the the absence of experts, it is possible to get a kind of populist decision-making, or decision-preventing, in which every interest group or individual is consulted and, as a result, nobody can build anything that anyone dislikes. This leads to a kind of bland common-denominator world, punctuated by the occasional star icon.

Kira Gould is a Boston-based design writer.


From "What's Wrong With the MoMA?"
Architectural Record
January 2005
Robert Campbell

A critic is supposed to stimulate a dialogue, not be one. So wrote the great Clement Greenberg. I seem to be one of only a few critics around who wasn't crazy about the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. Maybe I'll change my tune after a few more visits; Greenberg reversed his judgments sometimes, and it's greatly to his credittand if I do, I'll perform a mea culpa. But for now...

It isn't that MoMA's bad. There's nothing bad about it. It's just that it isn't good enough. It's elegant, but it lacks life and imagination, and those are qualities we used to associate with modernism.

New museums often open with a blizzard of hype. It's hard for critics not to be caught up in the excitement. Years ago, that happened with I. M. Pei's East Building for the National Gallery in Washington. More recently, it happened with Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern in London. I didn't like either of them at the time and I still don't. And I think a consensus opinion, over the years, has borne me out. I say this despite the AIA's recent Twenty-Five Year Award to the East Building. I recall when the East Building opened, the architect Jean Paul Carlhian, who founded the AIA's Committee on Design, said, "It is an airline terminal." It was and it is, with most of the art crammed into residual spaces around the edges of a vast, self-regarding, nearly empty concourse.

Anyway, here are my problems with MoMA:

There isn't any architecture. The design architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, was quoted more than once as saying that if MoMA gave him enough money, he could make the architecture disappear. Unfortunately, he's succeeded. Most of the museum consists of an endless rabbit-warren of more or less identical white-walled galleries with track-lit ceilings. Every attempt is made to remove any sense of the presence of architecture. A typical gallery wall, for example, appears not to touch the ceiling, the floor, or the adjacent walls. Instead all surfaces are divided from one another by a thin recessed shadow line. The effect is to make the wall appear to be floating, without substance. It looks not like a wall, but like a white projection screen. The paintings on it, as a result, begin to feel like projected images. You are in the placeless, timeless world of the slide lecture. Because the wall doesn't feel real, neither does the artwork. You begin to feel unreal yourself. Architecture has failed to create a place that either the paintings or you yourself can inhabit with a sense of presence.

MoMA argues that it was trying to avoid creating a destination building, like Frank Gehry's Bilbao, the kind of building that can upstage its contents. "It's all about the art," one curator told me. But this is a false dichotomy. The choice is not between no architecture and too much architecture. What's wanted is the right amount of architecture. Many museums—to cite a few, the Kimbell and Mellon by Kahn, the Maeght and Miro by Sert, the De Menil, Beyeler and Nasher by Piano, the Bregenz by Zumthor, the Pulitzer by Ando, the Dia:Beacon by Robert Irwin and OpenOffice—all find ways to articulate space clearly enough to give the artworks a place within which to exist.


Deyan Sudjic

 

Deyan Sudjic lives in an elegant Victorian house on the fringes of Regent's Park. In contrast to the opulence of the neighborhood, the room where we talk is rigorously stripped of detail, with austere white walls and a vast bleached wood table—not a book in sight. "Truth is," says Sudjic, " I'm between books right now." His latest, The Edifice Complex (just out in the U.S.) has, perhaps understandably, drained his formidable energies. The book, subtitled How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, is a visceral, uncompromising analysis of the 21st century uber-architect, whom Sudjic criticizes as venal, opportunistic, only too eager to deal with tyrants.

This critical stance is characteristic of Sudjic, who co-founded Blueprint in the mid-1980s precisely to provide an alternative perspective on the profession. Sudjic also made time to write books, including the highly acclaimed 100-Mile City (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1992), a scholarly assessment of late-20th century urbanism. A supreme networker, Sudjic was named editor of Domus in 2000. His stewardship of the Milan-based magazine transformed it into a truly international forum for architecture, art, and design, which in turn made him an obvious choice to direct the 2002 Venice Architecture Biennale. He has also curated London exhibitions at the British Museum, the Royal Academy, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He is currently architecture critic for The Observer, the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper The Guardian.

How did you come to write about architecture?
My father was a journalist and my mother was hell-bent I shouldn't follow in his footsteps. I guess that's why I chose to study architecture in the first place but once at university I was forced to realize the dramatic limitations of my skills—not least during my year out in the Chelsea offices of Chamberlain Powell & Bon, architects of the Barbican complex in East London. I was also editing the student newspaper; Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor and Tony Blair's right hand man, was news editor at the time! Given a dearth of architecture work—this was the early 1980s—I reckoned that writing was, despite my mother's dire warnings, the way forward for me. Peter Murray, then editor of Building Design, gave me my first break. After a year I realized I was having a fantastic time. I certainly learned a great deal more about architecture as a writer than I had done studying it.

It wasn't long before you started Blueprint. What prompted you to do it? Did you feel architecture in the UK was too polite or clubby?

Blueprint was meant to be a bit of fun, a youthful sense that the existing UK magazines were run by managers with only a limited sense of what a magazine could be. It was meant to be a co-op, run collectively. We—the writers, designers, photographers and illustrators who got together to do it—all wanted a new, challenging outlet. I was also keen to broaden architecture's perspective, to make it a part of a wider visual culture, I guess influenced by Domus which dealt with art, industrial design, fashion, graphics, and urbanism.

Of course we were clubby too, but every generation succeeds by trashing their predecessors, so we just started another club. Encouraging good writing was also important.

Can you pinpoint key priorities you bring to your work as a critic?

If you are not entertaining, people will not read you. But that does not mean that you should be shallow. I think that you have a duty to be interesting, and interested, to use your eyes as well as your head. It's also important not to take architecture at face value. I would also rather not accept financial support from owners or architects to travel to see projects, but in the currrent climate of reduced budgets at newspapers and ever-more-far-flung projects it's hard to avoid it if you are going to keep up with the key buildings. Of course seeing them gives you a strange world view: Nobody else, not even the architects themselves, see Herzog & De Meuron in California one week, Daniel Libeskind in Tel Aviv the next, Norman Foster in Beijing the month after, followed by Rem Koolhaas in Porto.

What was the climate of criticism when you started out and how has it changed?

There were great people: Reyner Banham was a marvelous inspiration, in his style, and his range of subject matter, and I wanted to be able to write like that. I wanted to ensure that architecture could get into mainstream newspapers, and that meant having a direct approach—approaching the subject not from the preconceptions of architects or taking the work at face value.

You write today for both the general and specialized reader. How difficult is it to switch tone, frame of reference, et cetera? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate your lay audience?

The word "educate" really sets my teeth on edge when applied to journalism. You operate by seducing and surprising your audience into reading you. That means being as stylish a writer as you can, and trying to make sense of complex things in as direct a way as you can. I have not only written for specialists and a lay audience, but I have simultaneously been an editor and a writer—useful in terms of acquiring a sense of perspective.

Have you ever regretted a piece you've written?

I certainly regretted some headlines. By far the worst was for my obituary of Philip Johnson for which some bright spark came up with "A Nazi Piece of Work." There's no going back from that one!

Can you identify key differences between criticism in the UK and that of the U.S., or Italy, where you worked?

These are three very different cultures. Doing Domus I was acutely aware how different the Anglo-Saxon discussion was from the Italian—I could never be sure if it was the quality of the translation, or the sometimes maddening diffusion of the Italian language. Sometimes Anglo-Saxon directness translated into Italian offended people. I remember Mario Botta complaining to the magazine's owner that I had hired a gang of English mercenaries to disparage him. I suspect that Americans think that the British are a bit limited. We do not have the same intellectual rigor. In the newspapers, the U.S. gives its critics more space—2,000 words is common in The New York Times, whereas 800 is a standard length here. Personally I prefer not to write a detailed architectural description, I tend to talk about what a project means, rather than how it looks.

In a recent interview, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, suggested that the basic principles of a museum should celebrate John Locke's civic humanism. Can you point to leading architects whom you feel champion the notion of civic humanism?

I believe great cities are the product of an exchange of ideas. What I fear most is no conversation, no discussion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against shift-making buildings, but let's not just grab the next tower off the shelf, dust it off, and build it. There are inspired architects, great architects who want to engage in real ideas. The key thing is to create a forum where that's possible and it's the role of the critic to build that debate.

Do you believe that criticism has a direct effect on the evolution of architecture? Is there, or should there be, a tangible link?

No. As Charles Jencks says, critics are the messenger boys.

Robert Torday is associate director of ING Media, London, and contributes to Architects' Journal and ICON magazine.


From "Landmarks of Hope and Glory"
The Observer
October 26, 2003
Deyan Sudjic

Last week the East of England Development Agency launched what it described, with Pooterish grandiloquence, as an international competition to find a visionary plan for a landmark, or series of landmarks. The agency says it is looking for an icon that will foster a sense of identity for the region as a whole—to underscore its message that the East of England, is a region of ideas. All that was missing from its litany of threadbare received wisdom was a passing reference to its world-class ambitions.

No site has been specified, nor has the development agency committed any money to the project, which hardly inspires confidence, but Yasmin Shariff, an architect who is also a board member claims that this piece of wishful thinking is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together as a region and decide how to present ourselves to the rest of the world.

It's not hard to imagine what an Angel of the East might look like, or for that matter, a Lincoln opera house, faced with titanium fish scales, designed by Frank Gehry as a free-form blob, or an eccentrically exhibitionistic Santiago Calatrava footbridge across the Cam as being the sort of structure that the agency is after. Competitions such as this have become ubiquitous, leading all but inevitably to the kind of architecture that looks best reduced to a logo on a letterhead or to the confined spaces of one of those Eiffel-Tower-in-a snow-storm paperweights. It claims to be about inspiration but ends only in the obvious. The search for the architectural icon has become the ubiquitous theme of contemporary design.

Leaving aside the wounding possibility that the rest of the world is likely to remain just as indifferent to the fate of the Fens and Humberside, however they choose to present themselves, as it has ever since the collapse of the wool trade in the Middle Ages, the agency has a fight on its hands. If it is to stand out from an endless procession of decaying industrial backwaters, rural slums, and development areas that are equally star-struck, equally determined to build the icon that will bring the world beating a path to its door, then it must come up with something really attention-grabbing.

This is the way to an architecture of diminishing returns in which every sensational new building must attempt to eclipse the last one. It leads to a kind of hyperinflation, the architectural equivalent of the Weimar Republic's debauching of its currency. Everybody wants an icon now. They want an architect to do for them what Gehry's Guggenheim did for Bilbao, Jorn Utzon's Opera House did for Sydney, and Piers Gough's green-tiled public lavatory did for the Portobello Road.

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Campus Life

Universities have long served as strong architecture patrons, though the best-known examples have often been secluded, pastoral set pieces for idyllic, semi-monastic educational enclaves. As Sharon Haar observes, however, with the rebirth of the city has come the revitalization of the urban campus. Though urban campuses are confronted with unique problems, such as limited, expensive real estate, they are proving to produce architecture that is provocative both intellectually and urbanistically.

 

Ask students: The city is in. If at one time America's college-age population was sentt away to school in a cornfield, small college town, or hillside enclave, today they flock to cities, where urban campuses are growing and prospering, making new commitments to their cities, and at the same time enlarging their domain into neighborhoods scarred by urban renewal, urban abandonment, or both. Universities are occupying spaces in the skyline, taking over spaces vacated by businesses that have fled to the suburbs or relocated to more technologically equipped, 21st-century office buildings; they are building new housing and retail developments; and they are finding new ways of partnering with neighboring communities with an aim to avoid the territorial and intellectual antagonisms of the past. And yes, they are building new buildings, many by signature architects.

As towns and their institutions of higher education grew, most often toward one another, the abstract intellectual conflict of town-versus-gown was actualized in physical conflict over space. New York City incrementally chased the fledgling Kings College (established in 1754, which later became Columbia University) to the northern reaches of Manhattan Island, until finally, lodged in Morningside Heights in the late 19th century, the university commissioned McKim, Mead & White to design a campus to protect itself from future onslaught. Many other colonial institutionssHarvard University, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Yale University, established in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticuttgrew to become inextricably intertwined with their urban contexts. When these schools transformed into research powerhouses a century ago, they set the stage for the enormous boom in campus construction and of student populations. Student bodies have spiked steadily since World War II as a result of veterans' enrollment programs, a shift to a service economy, and later, the baby-boom, the expansion of opportunity for women and minorities, and more recently to accommodate non-traditionall (older) students and the echo-boomerr generation.

Many universities' current urban strategies are the result of hasty decisions, failures of modernist planning and some of its architecture, and universities' awkward participation in urban renewal a half-century ago. Yale and the University of Pennsylvania are hoping that their current participation in community renewal will reverse the urban devastation that occurred in part because of land banking in the 1960s. During that period, many schools cleared land in inner-city neighborhoods for buildings that did not materialize or expanded in ways that disrupted the urban fabric and neighborhood cohesiveness.

In contrast, Columbia University has reached out to its community in the process of planning its expansion into Manhattanville, promising new commercial prospects for the neighborhood and architectural transparency. Its president, Lee Bollinger, contrasts the proposal to the blank walls that the university presents in Morningside Heights. But the process must also be understood in relation to the debacle of 1968, when the school's proposal for a new campus gym in Morningside Park fueled a massive student strike. Student activists linked U.S. involvement in Vietnam with the university's attempt to annex neighborhood public space.

Harvard is banking on its ability to design an entire piece of Boston with its plans for expansion in Allston. New York University and Cooper Union know that the neighborhood of residential spaces they are building or leasing downtown is necessary to keep students streaming in, in spite of impossible real estate conditions that would keep them out.

How do sites that were once anathema to higher education find themselves now so intertwined in the future of American pedagogy? A major factor is the revival of cities themselvessnew strongholds for public architecture, cultural institutions, and models for working, living, and playing. In the 1980s PBS series Pride of Place, Robert A. M. Stern extolled the American campus for being a place apart,, and the New York University cultural historian Thomas Bender stated in his book The University and the City: From Medieval Origins to the Present (Oxford University Press, 1988), The university has always claimed the world, not its host city, as its domain.. But more recently social theorist and New School University provost Arjun Appadurai noted in an interview published in Items and Issues Quarterly 4 (Winter 200332004) that the blurring of the line between universities and corporations and the increasing globalization of students and research networks make cities such as New York ideal locations for higher education. Today's academy is rarely a solitary retreat, despite a losss felt by some faculty.

Perhaps echoing the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson when he was designing the University of Virginia, the architectural theorist Kurt W. Forster wrote in From Catechism to Calisthenics: Cliff Notes on the History of the American Campuss in the May 1993 issue of Architecture California, Lasting institutions like colleges and universities invoke a social rationale for their physical installations, a rationale that speaks to their overarching purposes and helps elucidate the ideas behind their operations. In our culture, we are educated to find in our surroundings the manifestations of character and purpose, particularly when those larger abstractions such as character, purpose, and meaning would tend to escape our immediate grasp.. Architecture is critical to pedagogy. From Jefferson to Henry Ives Cobb, McKim, Mead & White, Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen to today's campus designers, the ideals of the campusswhere tradition and innovation, solitary contemplation and global interaction meet and debateemake it an ideal site for inspired architecture.
Sharon Haar is an architect and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is completing a book, City as Campus: Siting Urban Pedagogy.

 

Baruch College
Location: 23rd to 26th streets along Lexington Avenue, Manhattan
Founded: 1847
# of students:15,500 (13,000 undergrad.; 2,500 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Davis Brody Bond, 1986
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 2001
G Tects, 20044present

Proposed renovation of Field Building at 17 Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. A new glass wedge encloses a sculptural stair.
courtesy Gordon Kipping / G Tects

An elegant tower at Lexington and 23rd Street began in 1847 as the first free higher-education establishment in the republic. Over time, it became the anchor of Baruch College. In 2001, when Kohn Pedersen Fox's Vertical Campuss unsheathed 14 sloping stories above Lexington Avenue, Baruch suddenly evoked the fusty philosophy major who'd bulked up over the summer. The Vertical Campus, with running-board details at sidewalk level and glass and brick wings, drew critical praise for giving students a central kibitzing point. In the opinion of Vice President of College Advancement David Gallagher, the sloping tower fulfilled a 1986 Davis Brody Bond master plan by giving the scattered buildings a discernible heart.

Now the school wants to concentrate its burgeoning campus further, and give it a bolder identity. A masterplan, to appear by spring 2007, will chart the unification scheme. The new Baruch, said Gallagher, will weave that building more closely with the old oneesomehow. Whether it's an underground passage or acquisition of buildings, the masterplan will tell,, he said. (Since CUNY relies on annual funding from Albany, Gallagher hedges on Baruch's entering the real estate market.)

Baruch also wants its students (it has 15,500 of them, full- and part-time) to hew closer to campus, potentially with campus dormitories. The school commissioned Gordon Kipping of New York firm G Tects (and Frank Gehry, whom Kipping assists at Yale) in fall 2004 to suggest a format in which buildings might connect. Kipping proposed filling the path between 17 Lexington Avenue and the Vertical Campus with new crowns on two existing courthouse buildings and a new structure with fluid setbacks. His sketchhwhich has no authority over the eventual plannsandwiched 17 Lex's limestone skin in curvaceous glass sheaths. If Kipping's study influences trustees, the new 23rd Street lobby could offer a triple-height atrium space for students. To the public, it would offer Jumbotron views of lectures, with closed-captioning, to let any stroller spend 50 minutes as a student. Let's restore the idea of a free academy,, Kipping said.

On September 15, Baruch named the building for donors Lawrence and Eris Field. Gallagher said the college will issue an RFP for a masterplanning firm on CUNY's approved list, then wait 18 months for the plan. Budgets from Albany and City Hall would dictate the pace of expansion. Gallagher estimated that the unification will take 10 years. By then, Baruch could need another expansionnin cyberspace or Gramercy.
ALEC APPELBAUM

 

State University of New York
Location: Buffalo and Amherst, New York
Founded: 1846
# of students:27,276 (17,838 undergrad.; 9,438 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Amherst Campus: Sasaki, Dawson and Demay, 1970
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: Chan Krieger and Associates, 2002

Courtesy Cannon design

The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo occupies the heart of New York's second largest city. But the school, whose original buildings straddle the city's Main Street, also has a suburban identity: SUNY created a second campus in 1970 in Amherst, just 3 miles north of Buffalo, following the trend of urban flight that shattered most American cities in the 1960s and 70s. The school rejected the idea of expanding its main campus, including a megastructure proposal by native son Gordon Bunshaft and a downtown waterfront annex, instead commissioning Sasaki, Dawson and Demay to create a compact, inward-looking master plan at Amherst.

The Amherst campus features buildings by some of the leading designers of the 1970ssHarry Weese, I. M. Pei, Ulrich Franzen, Marcel Breuerrand it even has a Birdair sports dome. Despite this impressive list, the effect of these buildings on the area was, according to Reyner Banham in his 1981 book Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, has hardly galvanic, nor their style especially Buffalonian..

But the school is trying to reinvigorate Buffalo, according to dean of SUNY's architecture department Brian Carter, by bringing good architecture back to the city center.

In 2002 the university commissioned Boston firm Chan Krieger to create a third center, called the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus, on a 100 acres of downtown land surrounding the university's Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This complex has just seen the completion of the first of two new buildings: Last May, the school opened the Hauptman Woodward Laboratory building designed by Mehrdad Yezdani of Cannon Design in Los Angeles, a 70,000 square foot medical research facility (pictured). This laboratory will connect via a bridge to a second research facility, the 290,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics designed by Francis, Cauffman, Foley Hoffman of Philadelphia, which opens in December. Both buildings give Buffalo what Banham suggested it needed for a full architectural recoveryynew buildings for economic and functional reasons, but one that are psychologically of high architectural quality..

The campus has also inspired SUNY's school of architectureewhich is located just two subway stops awayyto launch a series of design initiatives on issues dealing with universal design and childhood obesity, for example. This interaction is something that Carter believes can work effectively on an urban campus, where diverse fields can come together to collaborate on research projects.
WILLIAM MENKING

 

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Location: Astor Place, New York City
Founded: 1859
# of students:900

Courtesy Morphosis

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art's unusual tuition-free educational model is the driving force behind the architecture, engineering, and art school's current building initiative. Most colleges rely on tuition as a steady source of income, but since all of the school's 900 students attend at no charge, administrators are always looking for other financial resources to fill the gap. It's a magnificent vision but a terrible business model,, said Ronni Denes, Cooper's vice president of external affairs. Our current plan is geared at leveraging our real estate assets to ensure the school's future financial stability..

The school's real estate portfolio includes desirable properties such as the Chrysler building, whose rents provide more than half of its operating budget. The master plan, devised by a planning committee made up of trustees, aims to increase that percentage by cashing in on its properties concentrated around Astor Place.

Cooper is not expanding like most universities with new master plans, but rather consolidating and modernizing its facilities. Said Denes, It's in our interest to keep the school small and efficient.. Its engineering school will be moved out of an obsolete building from the 1950s and into a sleek, high-tech, nine-story building designed by Morphosis' Thom Mayne (pictured) on the site of the old two-story Hewitt Building at 3rd Avenue and 7th Street, which Cooper leases from the city. The new building will also house the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a public gallery and auditorium on the ground floor.

The vacated property between 3rd and 4th avenues and 8th and 9th streets will be razed and leased to developers, in much the same manner as the nearly completed condominium designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and developed by the Related Companies at Astor Place. The school will reach out to developers for the project, anticipated to be 14 stories high, once the Morphosis building breaks ground in June. The new building will house Cooper's administrative offices as well as other private businesses. The school's master planning committee hopes to have some review of the commercial development's design, as it did with the Gwathmey Siegel building, and even its clients. According to Denes, Cooper would like to attract businesses with some kind of synergy with the school's academics, such as architecture firms, artists' studios, and biotech companies..

Cooper's master plan does not include any gestures to unify the new buildings with their predecessors like the Foundation Building into a more recognizable campus. Our students don't want to be walled in,, said Denes. We think of New York City as our campus..
DEBORAH GROSSBERG

 

City College of The City University of New York
Location:138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan
Founded: 1847
# of students:12,108 (9,117 undergrad.; 2,991 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
George Post, 1905
George Ranalli, Architect, 2004-present

Courtesy of Rafael Viioly Architects

In recent years the City College of New York has deepened its commitment to architecture and design, recruiting impressive faculty, creating new degree programs (such as the Urban Design Program, started in 2000 under Michael Sorkin), and most notably, building a new School of Architecture, Urban Design, and Landscape Architecture. The $37.4 million building, designed by Rafael Viioly and slated for a 2008 completion, is a gut renovation and expansion of an existing modernist glass box building that houses administrative offices.

With so much ambition and activity, a campus master plan seems long overdue. In fact, a year and a half ago George Ranalli, dean of the architecture school since 1999, was commissioned to produce one. His plan calls for closing Convent Avenue to create a more sheltered campus center, around which administrative offices would be dispersed, rather than lumped together as they are now in one of the college's two large 1970s block-buildings, described by Ranalli as megastructures that need to be broken up..

To Ranalli's frustration, however, his plan is on the back burner while the campus expands, as it has throughout its history, based on immediate needs rather than long-term vision. (In reaction to the school's ad hoc development, Sorkin, who was a member of Ranalli's planning team, has created his own alternative scheme.) We started working on a master-planning process four years ago, with open forums to talk about current conditions but things have not proceeded in a typical way,, said Lois Cronholm, chief operating officer of City College. For example, with the dormitory building [now under construction], we had a need, so we found a way for to fill it, quickly.. The dormitoryythe first for the traditionally all-commuter schoollis being designed by Design Collective, Inc., of Baltimore, and should be completed in 2006. Capstone Development Corporation is the school's development partner; it will manage the facility for 30 years before ownership is transferred back to the school.

In addition to the architecture building and dorm, the school is presently pushing forward with the construction of two additional science buildings, both designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

The four new buildings are all located on the college's south campus, a medley of architectural styles that stands in contrast to its historic north campus, a collection of buildings designed in 1905 by George Post. The biggest challenge is putting the south campus together in an integrated way, as soon as possible,, said Cronholm, who foresees no more new construction for the college in the near future, unless the dorms are successful, in which case, we'll see.. The wait-and-see approach to planning appears to be the closest thing to a master plan the college has, and will likely continue to shape the campus.
JAFFER KOLB

 

Columbia University
Location:Morningside Heights and Manhattanville, New York
Founded: 1754
# of students:23,650 (7,114 undergrad.; 16,536 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
McKim, Meed & White, 1893
I. M. Pei, 1970 (not implemented)
Renzo Piano Building Workshop/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 20033present

A view west on 131st Street to the Hudson River.
courtesy columbia university

Of the major expansion plans being undertaken by schools in the New York City area, only one is planning to build an entirely new campus: In 2003 Columbia University hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) to create an ambitious master plan to guide the development of nearly 33 acres in Manhattanville, the neighborhood north of Columbia's McKim, Mead & White campus. The $4.6 billion Manhattanville Expansion Project encompasses the blocks between 12th Avenue and Broadway, and 125th and 133st streets, and will be phased in over the next 30 years. The university owns 53 percent of the land within the proposed development site and the MTA owns about 20 percent. Columbia promises to work with residents to acquire the remaining property.

Perpetually growing and space-constrained, Columbia has developed about one million square feet every five years since 1994, though it still lags behind all other Ivy League schools in terms of square-footage-per-student. Columbia has about 326 square feet for each of its more than 23,000 students, while Yale has 866 square feet for each of its 11,359 students and Harvard has 673 square feet for each of its 19,650 students.

Throughout its history, Columbia has had a tenuous town-gown relationship with its neighborhood. The 1968 controversy over the school's proposal to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park was a key turning point in the planning of the university. Nearly 40 years later, the planning process for Manhattanville is transparent, cautious, and considerate. We've learned a lot from our past mistakes,, said Jeremiah Stoldt, director of Columbia's plan for facilities management. We've met with block associations, the community board, and other local groups to present our thinking and gain feedback. A lot of aspects of the plan came from this feedback, such as preserving east-west axes and open space..

Transparency and urbanity are the main goals of the plan,, said Marilyn Taylor, who is leading the project for SOM. We felt from the beginning that the campus had to be open and invite the public in, and that it relate to the neighborhood, which has a rich history and physical legacy.. The area is zoned for manufacturing and one of its most noticeable features are the rugged aqueducts that define its edges.

A rendering of the new campus and streetscape, looking west from Broadway on 125th Street.

Now in precertification (pre-ULURP), the master plan shows a deep respect the existing urban grid, with east-west streets left open and sidewalks widened in strategic places to stimulate pedestrian life. The designers have called for buildings to be programmed, scaled, and designed in ways that both announce a unified campus and fortify the character of the neighborhood. The master plan encourages university buildings to devote street levels to uses that are needed by or accessible to the public, to be spaces they feel invited into, whether to grab a sandwich, look at art, or find out about university jobs,, said Taylor.

Like most universities today, Columbia is in need of more modern research facilities, which are often large-scale, defensive buildings. But the Manhattanville master plan explores the idea of open plan and nontenured buildings,, as Taylor described them, which have a flexibility that can encourage more multidisciplinary study as well as a greater possibility of being a part of their community. Design guidelines call for a material palette that includes glass for transparency, terra cotta brick to echo the past but with a more progressive look, and steel, relating to the nearby viaducts while providing a clarity of expression.

The first phase, which will be realized over the next ten years, includes the preservation of several prominent buildings, including Prentis Hall on 125th Streettcurrent home of the School of the Arts and formerly a milk-bottling plant. SOM will oversee its conversion into a public art space. The New Yorkkbased Switzer Group will renovate the Studebaker Building at 615 West 131 Street, a former automobile assembly plant. Another first-phase project is the construction of a new School of the Arts and a new research building on Broadway, both by Piano.

One of the plan's strongest features is its call for improved links to the nearby Hudson River, which is now cut off by the West Side highway viaduct. The architects envision a park or other potential recreational sites. Taking inspiration from Fairway market, a neighborhood institution located between the neighborhood and the waterfront, Taylor envisions the creation of a marketplace or other compatible uses. You could close it down at night, for concerts, festivals, or fairs,, suggested Taylor. But it would have to be a community initiative. What we can do with our plan is include an active urban layer, such as retail on 12th Avenue, that would contribute to these sorts of possibilities..

The current focus of the university and local community boards is to come to an agreement on rezoning Manhattanville. While the city is receptive to rezoning , how dense or commercial the area will be come remains to be seen.
Andrew Yang

 

Fashion Institute of Technology
Location:26th to 28th streets along 6th Avenue, Manhattan
Founded: 1944
# of students:10,513 (10,378 undergrad.; 135 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, 1995-96
ShoP Architects, 20055present

Courtesy SHoP Architects and Fashion Institute of Technology

When the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries opened in 1944, it was housed on a few floors of the High School for the Needle Trades at 24th Street and 8th Avenue. As the needle tradess evolved, so too has the school that became the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which is now a part of the State University of New York system. FIT moved into its current complex of buildings (designed by DeYoung and Moscovitz and bound by 26th and 28th streets and 7th and 8th avenues) in 1975, and had periodic smaller campus additions in the 1980s.

All schools in the SUNY system must have a master plan before they can receive public funding for construction projects, so in 1995 FIT hired Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, which identified five major projects: the construction of a conference center and dining hall; the creation of more classrooms in an existing building, the expansion of the student center; and perhaps most dramatically, the conversion of the block of 27th Street already straddled by FIT buildings into a pedestrian mall. In addition to this, Wank Adams Slavin Associates is renovating a building on West 31st Street that will provide 1,100 FIT students with housing.

The first two projects in the master plan were completed in 2004 and 2005 respectively, by Hom and Goldman, and the classroom and student center projects are in the planning stages. The pedestrian mall has proven to be more controversial, however, and has twice been voted down by Community Board 5. According to Brenda Perez, director of media relations at FIT, the school has put the project on hold until all the other elements of the plan have been completed, which may not be until 2009.

At the same time, FIT is in the early stages of developing a new master plan with ShoP Architects, the architects who designed the expanded David Dubinsky Student Center, dubbed C2 (pictured). According to principal William Sharples, the master planning work grew out of the firm's 2004 competition-winning entry for the student center, and is still in its preliminary stages. AG

 

New York University
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Founded: 1831
# of students:40,000 (20,212 undergrad.; 15,884 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Johnson and Foster, 1962 (not implemented)

woodruff/brown / courtesy kpf

In March, New York University (NYU) hired Sharon Greenberger, former New York City chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, to fill a new post at the university: vice president for campus planning and real estate. According to Greenberger, the office she heads, which is divided into four sectionssplanning and design, space management, residential services, and real estate developmentt is still in its start-up phase. I've just started the hiring process, and the intention is to have a full staff in place by the end of the year.. Greenberger will be looking for architects and designers to fill positions, especially in the planning and design unit.

According to Greenberger, the new division will not make any decisions about campus planning or architecture until the hiring process is complete. But the office is sure to be extremely busy in 2006. Created by university president John Sexton, who took office in 2001, the division serves in large part to unify the school's scattered planning divisions in the face of an ambitious growth initiative which includes faculty recruitment and an expanding student body. This administration has ambitious plans for the university, which will put more constraints on space and provide more ambitious thinking about its growth,, said Greenberger.

NYU is no stranger to large building initiatives and their complexities. In the 1980s and 90s, the school, then led by president John Brademas, underwent a massive campus expansion in Greenwich Village, which raised the hackles of many local residents and made it the city's third largest landowner (the city is the largest; the Catholic Church the second). (NYU's newest building is the 2003 Furman Hall, bordering Washington Square Park, by Kohn Pederson Fox, pictured left.) The creation of Greenberger's post was meant partly as a gesture of openness toward the community. Figuring out how a school can expand in an urban environment while also being good neighbors to the community can be challenging,, said Greenberger. The administration recognized that it requires more expertise in the fields of campus planning and real estate to make that happen successfully..

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), agreed that the university could do better in its community outreach. We often find that we don't know what's going on at NYU,, he said. There's always been a great effort to push the university to release information about its long-term planssto no avail.. One contentious issue has been the university's 2001 purchase of a site in the Silver Towers super-block that currently houses faculty apartment buildings by I. M. Pei and and a supermarket. GVSHP lobbied to have the entire block, bordered by Washington Place, LaGuardia, Mercer, and Houston, designated a landmark. NYU did not support the effort, which would limit its ability to alter or further develop the site. DG

 

Parsons The New School for Design
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Founded: 1896
# of students:3,000 (15,800 total enrolled in The New School)
Campus Master Plans:
Helpern Architects, 1995
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2004.

courtesy lyn rice Architects

You might feel tempted to flaunt technique when reinventing a design school. If that school sat smack between Union Square and Washington Square, though, you might seek a civic icon. At Parsons, Lyn Rice did both. His newly unveiled design for the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (pictured) opens students' doings to the street with triple-height lobby glass.

Showcasing had been somewhat bass-ackwards throughout the eight-part New School, Parsons' parent, which occupies 19 buildings strewn about the Village and now seeks a firmer identity along lower Fifth Avenue. The design school serves as its lodestar, now that Rice has rearranged it. The school's most valuable real estate,, said Rice, at 13th Street and 5th Avenue, housed maintenance and trash collection. Rice decided to scoop outt the janitorial services to the basement for an upgrade. Replacing it, he installed 3-foot window frames with one long bench. The boundary between salon and sidewalk becomes a place for students to hang out..

It's also, Rice said, a place for students to confront their mandate. The architect uses a glazed roof to create a light-filled urban quadd between seven banks of elevators. Rice describes this as tipping the classic college green on its side so that it fits in a highrise. In an urban quad, circulation is vertical in these elevator cores,, he said. The graphics lining the walls could rotate each semester, Rice suggested, giving students instant sidewalk critics.

The New School's quest for a more cohesive urban identity comes after decades without a master plan. Lia Gartner, its director of design and construction, is overseeing a suite of brand-boosting capital projects. She said the university seeks to show pedestrians the sense of this place being untraditionall and give students and faculty the best use of this miscellaneous collection of buildings..

Gartner said pedestrians can expect more exposure. Cooper, Robertson & Partners is developing a master plan whose focal building, 65 Fifth Avenue, figures to get a new faaade. Another building, around the corner from Parsons, will get interior upgrades beginning this year. Rice's extroversion promises to resound. A lot of students aren't from New York City,, Rice noted. So this will be a great reminder of where they are.. AA

 

Pratt Institute
Location:Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Founded: 1887
# of students:4,540 (3,068 undergrad.; 1,472 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Whittlesey and Conklin, 1962
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 20033present

Courtesy Pratt Institute and Steven Holl Architects

Pratt Institute's greatest asset, in architecture dean Thomas Hanrahan's opinion, is its location in Brooklyn's lively Clinton Hill neighborhood. Aptly, the new campus plan by Cooper, Robertson & Partners looks outward, with some major plans to expand the campus borders,, said Robert Scherr, director of Pratt Institute's Facilities Planning and Design. Anticipating the school's growth within the area, Pratt's president Thomas Schutte took a leading role in the recent formation of the nearby Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (BID). Like many local schools, Pratt owns a significant number of buildings outside of its main campus (Higgins Hall to the south, for example, and Myrtle Avenue to the north), and wants to strengthen their connections to each other and to the neighborhood and community as a whole.

Although the Cooper, Robertson plan, which calls for the development of a digital art center, a student union, and a student services building, has not yet been fully ratified by the school's board of trustees, the implementation of several initiatives is moving forward. A couple of projects were the result of large private donations, such as Juliana Curran Terian's $5 million donation for the Design Center Entrance Pavilion, and Hiroko Nakamoto's $50,000 donation for the new Pratt security kiosk. Years of deferred maintenance were the impetus for campus-wide upgrades: Many of the student dormitories, faculty housing, administrative facilities, and the Main Building are currently finishing major renovations.

The largest current project on campus is the Design Center Entrance Pavilion by dean Hanrahan's firm, Hanrahan + Meyers Architects. In an effort to combine all the principal design programs into what will be the largest design center in the United States, the new entrance and gallery will create a connection between Steuben Hall and the Pratt Studios. The entrance is currently under construction and will be completed in 2006.

The largest project outside of the fence involves the Higgins Hall complex, which houses the School of Architecture. Rogers Marvel Architects is overseeing major interior renovation while Steven Holl Architects designed a new central wing (pictured) which brings together the hall's north and south wings in a single entrance and exhibition space. The Pratt Store, designed in-house by Pratt's office of Facilities Planning and Design, located on Myrtle Avenue and Emerson Place, was completed in December 2004. This design reflects the institute's goals of strengthening the surrounding community by bringing new services and activity to the neighborhood.

As for what to expect from future Pratt development? The Clinton Hill neighborhood is totally gentrified,, said Scherr. Our only growth potential lies to the north toward Myrtle Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway..
GUNNAR HAND

 

Yale University
Location:New Haven, Connecticutt
Founded: 1701
# of students:11,000 (5,242 undergrad.; 6,040 grad.) John Russell Pope, 1919
James Gamble Rogers, 1921
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2000

matt wargo / venturi, scott brown and associates

Yale has long been a patron of great architecture, commissioning important works from Eero Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Paul Rudolph, and Louis Kahn. The university's current building initiative continues this legacy. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates recently took over the job of designing an addition for Rudolph's famed Art and Architecture building. The addition will house an arts library and classrooms for the art department that are currently located in the Rudolph building, allowing the architecture school to expand into the newly-freed space. (The addition was originally commissioned to Richard Meier & Partners in 2001 but in December 2003, the project was sidelined with the loss of a major donor. The project picked up steam again this summer when a new donor emerged. Though Meier's scheme was complete, Gwathmey Siegel will begin the project from scratch.) Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is overseeing the renovation of the original Rudolph building while Polshek Partnership Architects has recently been retained to renovate Kahn's Art Gallery.

The arts campus expansion is only a portion of a much larger group of projects recently completed or underway at Yale. Some just-finished buildings include an engineering building by Cesar Pelli & Associates, a chemistry laboratory by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and a medical research center by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (pictured). According to Laura Cruickshank, who became Yale's director of University Planning, Facilities Construction, and Renovation in July, The university is improving multiple areas of the campus simultaneouslyyScience Hill, the arts buildings, the central campus, and the medical school.. Projects currently in design include another building by Venturi, Scott Brown building for biology in the Science Hill area and a forestry and environmental studies building by Hopkins Architects.

The massive building initiative is all part of a campus plan completed in 2000 by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, which outlined the development of new construction as well as landscape architecture, circulation, signage, and traffic. The so-called 20-year Framework for Campus Planning was Yale's first attempt at creating a university-wide plan since the 1920s, and addressed the campus' poor integration with the surrounding city of New Haven. With its gated courtyards and inward-facing Gothic building blocks, Yale's campus plan, proposed by John Russell Pope in 1919 and revised in 1921 by James Gamble Rogers, originally contained a number of connective axes and public spaces that may have served to open the campus but were ultimately scrapped. Cooper, Robertson's plan suggested that the university pay particular attention to places where its campus meets the cityyon its streets and sidewalks, and through its landscaping, lighting and signageeto help weave Yale and New Haven into a more cohesive urban fabric..
DG