Search results for "Richard Meier"

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Eavesdrop NY 20
NORBERT HAS LEFT THE BUILDING Two issues ago, we brought your attention to a lawsuit in which Reed Construction Data accuses the McGraw-Hill Construction Group of industrial espionage, mail fraud, and racketeering. Norbert Young, president of the construction group, which includes Architectural Record, was mentioned twice as the alleged spy supervisor. Since then, an internal memorandum on November 9 seems damning in its terseness: “I wanted to inform you that Norbert Young has left The McGraw-Hill Companies.” That’s it. No reason given, no thank you for years of service—just the name of the person-in-charge-for-now and a boilerplate pledge to sound leadership and innovation. Cold. THE POPE AND THE ARCHITECTS The Catholic Church works in mysterious ways. One day it’s condemning, the next embracing. Eavesdrop’s eyebrow arched upon seeing that Pope Benedict XVI had invited 500 artists, architects, musicians, film directors, and one Italian prima ballerina to meet him for a “dialogue”—the Pope did all the talking—between the Catholic church and the arts. Half of the 500 mostly Italian invitees accepted, and among the blessed were Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Mario Botta, Santiago Calatrava, and David Chipperfield. It gets stranger. Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, the director of the Pontifical Council for Culture, organized the event as “the first of many initiatives to bridge the widening gap between spirituality and artistic expression.” At a news conference, he proclaimed that this gap is evident in the art and architecture of many modern churches, which he said “do not offer beauty, but rather ugliness.” Then *Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, cast more stones at modern architecture by adding, “Nowadays, many people live in the dreary outskirts of cities in ugly houses. They go to church, and it’s uglier still!” Eavesdrop begs his pardon and stammers that we didn’t come all the way to the Sistine Chapel to be insulted. Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando, and Richard Meier have built Catholic churches recently. Surely they are among those Ravasi acknowledged at the press conference as having pleased their parishioners. Or perhaps this backhanded compliment was aimed right at ’em: “Great modern architects do not want interference with the purity of their buildings.” GOT THE UGLIES Let Curbed.com and Vanity Fair anoint the Best; VirtualTourist.com has gone rogue with its second annual list of the “World’s Top 10 Ugly Buildings.” Only two U.S. structures made the cut: John Johansen’s 1967 Mechanics Theater in Baltimore and Haigh Jamgochian’s 1962 crumpled Markel Building in Richmond. And Yes, Virginia, Libeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum addition made the list, too.
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Zaha Maxima
The museum opened to much fanfare despite taking more than a decade to construct at twice the expected cost.
Helene Binet

The opening of Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI (an acronym for Museum of the Arts of the Twenty-First Century) on November 14 in Rome was a momentous occasion for so many reasons. Although the museum’s design is revolutionary and extraordinarily complex by any standard, for a city that has long shunned new architecture—and is subject to the vagaries of Italian politics—its realization is something of a miracle.


A lobby in the serpentine museum.
 
Stairs criss-cross above one of the galleries.
 
Richard Bryant
 
 

Completed ten years after the international competition at a cost of €150 million (about $223 million), more than double the projected budget, Italy’s first national museum of contemporary art and architecture will encompass two institutions, administered jointly by directors Anna Mattirolo and Margherita Guccione.

Not long after groundbreaking in 2005, with only the foundations complete, the first installment of funds had already been spent and a government budget crisis made it unclear that the Ministry of Culture would be able to come up with more. Even so, the MAXXI has been largely immune to the type of controversy surrounding other recent architectural commissions, notably Richard Meier’s Ara Pacis, which Rome’s mayor made a campaign promise in 2008 to dismantle.

The MAXXI’s sleek exterior conceals a baroque belly full of drunkenly tilting walls, undulating ramps that dissolve into space, and vertiginous cantilevers rotated around a soaring double-story atrium. Hadid’s new Italian “creature,” as the behemoth 322,000-square-foot museum has been called, was unveiled with theatrical panache as modern dancers, choreographed by Sasha Waltz, guided spectators through the pristine empty space. It was also a creative way to inaugurate a museum sapped of the funds to mount a proper exhibition, thanks to cost overruns attributable mostly to the sheer technical difficulty of the construction.

Hadid’s exuberant conceptual scribbles were transformed into concrete structure largely thanks to a structural engineering team with expertise in the restoration and reinforcement of ancient monuments, an important consideration in such a seismically active area. “The whole structure is more or less floating; there are relatively few points that actually touch the ground,” said engineering consultant Federico Croci of Studio Croci & Associati. “But the most impressive thing about this building is the skeleton—it is like a wild animal.” The crisscrossing horizontal strips of the structure traverse inside and out, oscillating and twisting so that walls seamlessly become floors, ceilings, and windows.

The last time anything of this scale was constructed in Rome was under Benito Mussolini, who exploited the use of monumental architecture as a demonstration of power. The Fascist dictator left a significant modernist architectural legacy, including the iconic Palazzo della Civiltà in the EUR quarter, and the neoclassical Foro Italico sports complex just across the river from the MAXXI.

It is difficult to compete with the sweeping efficiency of dictatorships, especially under an epically unstable democratic government. But Rome’s monumental scale demands an architectural statement of suitably grand proportions, and MAXXI certainly fits the bill. Arguably the most successfully realized building by Hadid to date, this explosive colossus of glass, steel, and concrete could also be the Eternal City’s first contemporary monument, putting it back on the architecture map.

The question that remains is whether the new museum will be a welcoming host to the institution’s modest collection of contemporary art and architectural drawings, supplemented by an annual acquisition budget under $4 million. The response of Paolo Colombo, the former director of MAXXI who oversaw the commission, was clear: “I don’t care: The building itself is a masterpiece.”

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History in Turnaround
Johnie's Broiler in Downey, outside of LA, was abruptly torn down in 2007. A reproduction was recently completed.
Adriene Biondo

On April 11, 2002, the infamous demolition of Richard Neutra’s Maslon House in Rancho Mirage was featured on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Living section. For many, it was a shocking first close-up of what appeared to be a Wild West–style race to summarily destroy midcentury icons as fast as possible. Schindler’s famed Wolfe House in Catalina and his Packard House in Pasadena were demolished in 2000 and 2001. Gregory Ain’s Mar Vista tract home facade at 3542 Meier Street was demolished in 2002. A classic Cliff May Ranch home interior in Sullivan Canyon was gutted in 2002.

Myron Hunt’s famed Ambassador Hotel in Koreatown came down in 2006 along with the original Rand Buildings in Santa Monica. Although the Wolfe House and the Rand Buildings both went through local public hearing processes, they were still destroyed, the former because the building was deemed irreparable due to lack of structural maintenance and the latter for the greater good of the Santa Monica Civic Center Plan.

How was this allowed to happen? For one, Southern California is not only home to hundreds of works by renowned 20th-century architects and modernist mavericks, but it is governed by an equally unwieldy number of local city entities. Los Angeles County alone packs in 88 different municipalities. At the time of the Maslon House loss, Ken Bernstein, then director of preservation issues for the Los Angeles Conservancy and now managing director of the Los Angeles Office of Historic Resources, told the Los Angeles Times that, “Many local governments have the misconception that if a building is not officially designated a local landmark, it does not need to be considered as a potential historic building. Under CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act), a city has an obligation to decide if a building is significant or not. You cannot destroy historical properties without a review.”
 


The Stiles Clements-designed Lou Ehler’s Cadillac on Wilshire Boulevard in LA was demolished in 2008.
Larry Underhill
 

Yet few cities exert their legal authority or responsibility to question or stop property owners or developers in the process of permit requests to demolish residential, retail, or commercial structures. Cities not only badly need ordinances that can stay or halt demolition, they also need surveys of historic properties, and support organizations to convince people why the properties should be saved. Furthermore, they need their citizens to back some reasonable measure of preservation without stifling real estate development and the experimental architecture that continues to make LA an important metropolis for design.

On the positive side, the loud outcry following recent teardowns has clearly propelled the wheels of change here. It doesn’t hurt that midcentury modernism has been hot for a decade. Late modernist works ooze “Mad Men” cool, adaptive reuse projects have prompted turnarounds in several neighborhoods, and Los Angeles is the heart and soul, center and sprawl for postwar architecture. Still, as Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Hawthorne noted last month, “the effort to round up support for postwar buildings is often far from straightforward—and can easily prove a minefield of contradiction and irony.”

Bernstein is passionate about getting Los Angeles a state-of-the-art preservation program, including a revised Cultural Heritage Ordinance with the backbone to actually halt demolitions, and an upcoming citywide inventory known as Survey LA, which is near the end of phase one of its two-part, five-year plan.

While LA’s existing preservation ordinance was the first among major U.S. cities, the legislation is now one of the weakest in the country. Unlike in New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and Sacramento, where the municipal authorities can in fact prohibit demolition of structures, the existing LA ordinance can only enforce a limited stay of demolition, even for existing Cultural Monuments. Proposed amendments to the existing preservation ordinance—which were approved by the LA Planning Commission in September and are expected to be voted on by the city council in early 2010—not only strengthen the city’s power to stay and halt demolitions, but improve due process for property owners and developers, increase the cultural heritage commission’s board membership from five to seven so that consensus can be reached more frequently, and provide more protection for cherished individual projects to match the strength and success of LA’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) program.


Columbia Savings Building (Irving Shapiro, 1965) at Wilshire and La Brea, is seriously threatened with demolition.
Larry Underhill


A traditional-style house replaced Schindler’s Packard House in Pasadena.
Jennifer doublet


Richard Neutra’s Maxwell House has been relocated to Angelino Heights.  
jennifer doublet

 
 

Survey LA, largely supported by the grants, working papers, and continued partnership of the Getty, will be completed in 2012. And it’s about time: While LA has over 900 Historic-Cultural Monuments and 24 Historic Districts, only about 15 percent of the city has been surveyed to date.

The project’s first wave of localities will follow a rolling model, making survey work available for consideration as each neighborhood updates its community plan. Another step is the development of preservation education and training. Ken Breisch, director of the Historic Preservation Programs at USC—the only accredited preservation program in LA with both masters and certificate tracks— has seen a significant increase in participation in these programs since their inception six years ago. The program supports the growing rise of interest in postwar architecture, while Bernstein was proud to note that graduates are now working for local historic resource consultants who are piecing together Survey LA.

And while Schindlers, Neutras, Mays, and Ains have been bulldozed or remodeled beyond recognition, private citizens and public institutions have made some nice saves. Oscar Niemeyer’s Strick House in Santa Monica, his only project in the United States, was landmarked by the city and restored by Michael and Gabriel Boyd in situ in 2003. Just a year ago, Richard Neutra’s Maxwell House was precisely sliced like a Gordon Matta-Clark installation and moved by developer Barbara Behn on flatbed trucks from Brentwood to Angelino Heights to recapture the form, if not the context, of this classic 1957 work. In 2008, the homes of lesser-known but remarkable midcentury modernists like Romanian-born Haralamb Georgescu and Swedish-born Greta Magnusson Grossman were thoughtfully restored with complementary additions and renovations in Beverly Hills. On June 4, 2008, the MAK Center welcomed the Fitzpatrick-Leland House donation as part of its roster of Schindler projects available for public consumption and as home to the MAK Urban Future Initiative.

And on November 7, 2008, the LA Conservancy’s efforts to save the Driftyland Dairy-Port in El Monte from a strip mall demolition were rewarded with a unanimous vote of acceptance on the State Landmark Registry. This summer, Santa Monica opened the Annenberg Beach House, including docent-led tours of the Marion Davies guest house and dips in the original mansion pool.

Further afield, Jim Louder, owner of two Bob’s Big Boy restaurants in Torrance and West Covina, just finished a recreation of the almost-completely steamrolled Johnie’s Broiler in Downey. The new restaurant—Bob’s Broiler—opened for business on September 26. This teardown turnaround story was made possible by Los Angeles Conservancy volunteers who had procured copies of the original drawings for Johnie’s state landmark process. Without these, restoration would have been impossible, as a tenant’s demolition crew reduced the building to rubble in 2007. In 2008, Neutra scholar Barbara Lamprecht wrote successful statements of significance for the Poppy Peak and Pegfair developments in Pasadena, getting these projects on local, state, and national registries this year and greatly expanding the lexicon of highly regarded postwar developments. Similarly, the Eichler Balboa Highlands Tract in Granada Hills is now a proposed HPOZ.
 


Minoru Yamasaki’s Century Plaza Hotel in Century City is also under threat.
Fora Chou
 

Back in Palm Springs, Neutra’s famed Kaufmann House stands restored, unauctioned, and back for sale, while his nearby Miller House is being carefully brought back to life. On April 15, the city of Palm Springs approved a historic designation for Donald Wexler’s west facade of the Palm Springs Airport. And in the aftermath of the Maslon House demolition, Rancho Mirage completed their citywide historic survey and inventory in 2004, noting that the home was the most architecturally significant work within city limits prior to its demolition in 2002.

Nevertheless, threats still abound from developers weighing the value of maintaining existing structures versus tabula rasa visions. Some choice projects still on the chopping block include Minoru Yamasaki’s Century Plaza hotel in Century City, Luckman Pereira’s Robinsons-May department store in Beverly Hills, and Irving Shapiro’s Columbia Savings and Loan building on Wilshire Boulevard. Welton Becket’s Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s and his Century City Gateway West Building have already lost their battles and sit quietly on death row. Equally ominous is the financial fragility of projects in good hands. Cal Poly Pomona’s Neutra VDL House has stabilized its annual operating and maintenance costs through tours and architectural fundraising events, thanks to its energetic director Sarah Lorenzen. But it is in urgent need of $100,000 for roof repairs (plans for these repairs have been drawn up by Marmol Radziner) to stave off continued damage from rainwater infiltration.

While the economy has slowed the actual bulldozers, the LA Conservancy is busier than ever.

“We think this is the best time for us to tune up our preservation policies in advance of the next economic cycle,” said Bernstein. “There are still misconceptions as to what historic preservation means; that it will freeze a property in time. But I think there’s a growing understanding between preservationists and the economic community alike that preservation is a key component of economic revitalization.”

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Our Academy Awards
Or so they like to say, when referring to the Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards, or more accurately, the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Awards.  And that’s exactly what it was like: a little too much of a mouthful of an event. But it was also an undeniably bounteous banquet of everyone Who’s a Who in architecture and design of all stripes. The party was held last night not in the backyard tent as of old, but in the marbled bank hall palace of Cipriani 42nd Street. The stars were all out and too many to name as this year the museum was also celebrating its tenth year anniversary for the awards.  Herding everyone to table was not easy but a hush spread as gala chair Richard Meier passed the podium to Desiree Rogers, the White House social secretary who expounded on our nation’s children and the great role modeling that designers/architects could provide.  Everyone was impressed with themselves as next up was broadcast princess Paula Zahn, the evening’s tirelessly beaming emcee. And for the next three hours great awards were dished out (along with some seriously thick slabs of prime beef) to the very deserving and, among them, our especial friends SHoP Architects (winsomely introduced by Reed Kroloff) who received the Architecture Design Award; Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown (nicely roasted by Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti who recalled days when the four sculpted the great women’s hairdos of the 20th Century in the Long Island sands) who received the Interior Design Award; Constantin and Laurene Boym who gamely shared the mic just like Julia Roberts and Clive Owens might at the real Academy Awards; and Walter Hood of HOOD Design whose urban landscapes we want to know much more about. As often happens at the Design Awards, the presenters outshone the winners in matters only of sheer star dust: Chuck Close presented the Corporate Award to the Walker Art Center (the first museum ever to get one); John Waters riffed hilariously through the Boym’s disaster building paperweights; actress Eva Longoria had trouble with the teleprompter (everyone else handled their 4x5s or 8x11s adroitly enough) when awarding Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein the Fashion Award; Charlie Rose was so smooth I have forgotten which award he presented, but Armory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute was surely the bravest and coolest of them all when he bared his Pocket Protector & Pens when accepting the Design Mind Award for among very many other things, his Passive-solar Banana Farm.
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Eavesdrop NY 17
HAPPY B-DAY, MR. ARCHITECT On October 12, Richard Meier turned 75. His birthday bash for 150 was held that night at the Four Seasons, or rather under a white tent on Park Avenue alongside the Seagram Building fountains. Eavesdrop didn’t find anyone on the B-List who was invited, but all the A’s were there including Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, David Rockwell, Robert A.M. Stern, City Planning Commission chair Amanda Burden with TV talker Charlie Rose, and President of the American Academy in Rome Adele Chatfield-Taylor with playwright John Guare. A Meier follower tells us that his 50th was held at his duplex on East 72nd Street, where he raised eyebrows by exiling his mother to a far corner of the room, while putting Burden on his right. Interior designer Rose Tarlow hosted his 60th birthday on the tennis court of the house he designed for Norman and Lisette Ackerberg in Malibu. This time, he was sent into his fourth quarter of a century by daughter Ana, who arranged everything in no-surprise white. No roasts among the toasts made by family and friends, with Meier himself going only slightly off-color in his effusive compliments to his lovely offspring. The cake was a layered white slab. ET TU, GUY? Buried but not deep enough for our eagle eyes is this passage in the October issue of literary journal The Believer, from an engaging interview with Guy Nordenson: “Frank Gehry’s relationship to engineering and construction says: the cruder the better. You visit the Disney Concert Hall and, in the office of the musical director, there’s this gigantic gusset plate that’s part of one of the trusses in the system. It’s exposed and fire-protected. One of the architects who worked on the project described it to me as a train crash in a room. It’s monumentally messy.” TURNING THE PAIGE It’s that time of the month again when bets are placed in showrooms across the nation. What is the future of Paige Rense and, for that matter, Architectural Digest? Authoritative rumor has it that AD’s eons-long editrix has been told she’s out at the end of the year. One shelter magazine editor-in-chief reports having been interviewed and insists that Condé Nast is going through the usual suspects one by one. We’re guessing that’s Deborah Needleman, editor-in-chief of defunct Domino; Stephen Drucker of House Beautiful; and Margaret Russell, the editor-in-chief of Elle Décor. But La Rense is not likely to shuffle off quietly. According to a prominent designer, she recently arranged a skit to impress bosses Si Newhouse and Chuck Townsend. Honorees on her coveted AD 100 list gave testimony to a group of advertisers that AD is still the number one shelter magazine in the world and that, hard times notwithstanding, they should continue to buy pages. Take away? Paige is essential to Si’s ongoing health and wealth. Another source says that Si only makes major personnel changes twice a year—right after Labor Day and right after New Year’s. Look for the other Louboutin to drop around January 2, 2010. Send engineering tips and ad pages shart@archpaper.com. A version of this article appeared in AN 17_10.21.2009.
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From Crawling to Left Standing
An installation by Ed Templeton at the new Roberts & Tilton galleries.
Courtesy Roberts & Tilton

It's no secret that luxury providers—from real estate to fashion to food—have been severely hit in this economy. You might expect art galleries to be among these. Yet despite the gloomy economic forecast and the closure of several local art spaces, a wave of Los Angeles–based galleries are expanding, driven by real estate opportunities or by the completion of plans envisioned when the economy was still booming.

 

The attitude among many galleries is that with property prices and construction costs dropping significantly, it's a good time to expand. Gallerist Michael Kohn, who nearly doubled the square footage of his eponymous gallery in Beverly Grove recently, summed up the mood of many: “There was a confluence of factors where either I do it now, or I may never do it.”

Susanne Vielmetter, who operates the Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects in Culver City, recently signed a lease for a new space on Washington Boulevard. She commissioned architect Peter Zellner to give her a place with higher ceilings and better natural light. “A year or two ago, we couldn't find anything that was reasonably priced,” she said. Now, she claims, it’s much easier to negotiate advantageous terms with landlords. Zellner added that city permitting for this and other projects has been smoother than usual, probably because the slowdown has reduced the backlog for city administrators.

The new home of Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, designed by Peter Zellner.
courtesy SVLAP

Major contemporary art gallery Blum & Poe, which kick-started the Culver City art scene with its Escher Gunewardena–designed gallery on La Cienega Boulevard in 2003, just opened a new 27,000-square-foot building across the street. The new gallery, designed by the same firm, features flexible ground floor exhibit spaces, an outdoor garden, private showing rooms upstairs, and even a small apartment for visiting artists.

Another arts heavyweight, Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills, recently began plans for a major expansion overseen by Michael Palladino, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Richard Meier & Partners Architects. The expansion will double Gagosian’s square footage to 11,600 square feet, and is expected to open next year.

Others joining the parade include ACME gallery in Miracle Mile, which expanded last fall with a job overseen by Wayne Schlock at Blue Point Architecture + Interiors; and Roberts & Tilton, which just moved into a larger space—a former coffee-roasting factory rebuilt by Johnston Marklee.

A rendering of Blum & Poe's new 27,000-square-foot galleries, which is across the street from their original space.
Courtesy Blum & Poe

Most galleries justify expansion as a competitive advantage during the recession by making them more attractive to artists, who need more room as their work grows in scale. Blum & Poe plans to add more up-and-coming artists to its roster, while Gagosian plans to exhibit artists for longer shows. Vielmetter plans to use her additional space for private showings.

Pressure for outdoor space is driving some expansions. Gagosian’s expansion will include a rooftop sculpture garden. “Outdoor space is what LA uniquely has to offer. When the opportunity to do a roof garden came up, how could we not?” said Deborah McLeod, gallery director at Gagosian. Even a smaller gallery, like the Chung King Project in Chinatown, is moving to a slightly larger space later this year, with a back patio that owner Francois Ghebaly will do himself. With a few exceptions, many galleries have adopted a do-it-yourself approach over hiring an architect, moving into a relatively raw space or a previously occupied gallery.

The ceiling folds down into a desk at Roberts & Tilton.
Courtesy Roberts & Tilton

But some architects are getting the call. Zellner has worked on ten private commercial gallery commissions, half of which are in LA. The architect's “less is more” design philosophy for galleries has proven popular, eschewing the high-end luxury retail spaces popular almost a decade ago for more raw, industrial spaces. Even Gagosian, known for its luxe aesthetic, is striving for a simpler design. “We wanted something less finished. It's a bit of a surprise when you walk in,” said McLeod.

Not all galleries are expanding. In the past year, closings have included Carl Berg (who has since moved to a rent-free space in the Pacific Design Center without his former gallery partners), Bonelli Contemporary, David Patton, and Mesler & Hug, to name a few.

With such comings and goings, one question looms, said Zellner: “Is it a zero sum game?”

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Home Range
OBRA Architects' Centrifugal House features a shade pavilion made entirely of cedar garden lattice.
Courtesy OBRA Architects

Context is not always fixed, and not always what you expect. A West Village carriage house that’s had the same view since the Civil War may get ultra-2009 neighbors in the space of a year. Shelter Island, often thought of as an enclave of traditional architecture, has waterfront streets where some houses were built in 1970, not 1870. And the Hamptons? Shingle Style is open to a wealth of interpretations. 

These three houses, all completed within the last year, and all by up-and-coming New York City partnerships, treat their respective contexts with respect but preserve a questing spirit. There’s no blank-slate modernism—Christoff:Finio hoped to save the historic back facade of the burnt-out carriage house before adjacent construction did it in—but also no maintaining-property-values historicism. None of the architects want to admit a regard for the vernacular, but it creeps through in more abstract ways. There’s a utilitarian aspect to the carriage house befitting its historic supporting role. Both East End manses have the square footage and wood siding of the typical spec house. But their plans twist and turn to make the most of their physical context, the landscape. 

“They told us, ‘We want you to work in the vernacular language of houses in Southampton, the Shingle Style, maybe Shaker architecture,’” Pablo Castro of OBRA Architects said of his Centrifugal House clients: an investment banker and a film editor. “It was an uncomfortable moment for us. We’re always trying to run away from the idea of style.” The architects were given a program that kept growing and a budget that was static. While the clients had started small, they soon realized that for resale, the house had to maximize the potential of its five-acre lot. They ended up with seven bedrooms, a four-car garage, and 8,000 total square feet. 


TOP: Board and batten siding plus gables respond to the client’s demand for a sense of the vernacular, but their articulation is sleekly modern. ABOVE: A porch carved out of the facade is angled toward views of a neighboring agricultural reserve. below: Highly composed shafts of light add richness to THE interior.
 

COURTESY OBRA ARCHITECTS

 
 

Castro and partner Jennifer Lee turned to an early idea they had for the site, “the excluded middle,” a court between house and guesthouse that would channel views toward a neighboring agricultural reserve. They mashed this up with the narrow gabled communal houses of the Shakers and the oversize shingles of a Robert A.M. Stern, cranking the bar into the shape of “a donut somebody had taken a bite out of,” said Castro. “We still liked the idea of a vacant place where anything can happen. The house surrounds a void and spins out”—the centrifugal force—”toward the view.” 

The clients liked everything but the curve, so the donut became faceted, with oversize dormers breaking the difficult geometries of the roof (and, to my eye, referring to the “vernacular” of the Venturis). Because of the budget, interiors had to be kept simple, but you catch a glimpse of the Shaker in the play of light on the white walls of the long, turning hall upstairs. The odd angles and extra planes created by the insertion of the dormers increase the possibilities for such effects, and the corridor, which hides the next door or window around each turn, is full of surprises rather than a long march. The house also has three custom soapstone fireplaces, hearths that add another geometry and focus to rooms that stray from the rectilinear. 

Outside, OBRA Architects returned to shingles in search of a single material for roof and cladding (copper was their dream, but too expensive). “We wanted one material, one surface to give it integrity as an object,” Castro said. They ultimately chose cedar, board, and batten for the vertical walls, and shingles for the roof. Cedar was also used for the pool house, a double set of right-angle barn-like buildings, one solid, one roofed and sided in off-the-shelf garden lattice. Castro jokes that it is a “freckle machine,” but it’s also another twist on the requested traditional Hamptons architecture. 

While suburban style has become fairly common on Shelter Island, you can tell from the street that the one thing the YN-13 House is not is a cookie-cutter, shingles-on-steroids McMansion. If that’s context, Michael Morris and Yoshiko Sato of Morris Sato Studio want nothing to do with it. The houses across the street from their two-acre Shelter Island site are the ambitious architecture of an earlier era—Norman Jaffe’s 1972 three-house development, in which one is Corbusian, one Wrightian, and one has the over-scaled shingle roof that came to be Jaffe’s own calling card. “That’s the one we like the best,” Morris said. For their own site, on which they are constructing two 6,000-square-foot spec houses, “we decided to make contemporary forms of our choosing, and to have them fuse into the local ecology by being part of that fabric.” 


Above: The bleached cedar siding of morris sato studio's YN-13 house “fuses into the local ecology,” which includes a 1972 house by Norman Jaffe, while deep cuts bring light and breezes into the interior.
Courtesy morris sato studio

Boulders unearthed on the site will become retaining walls, and the windows that pop and pock the bleached cedar siding are oriented toward particular points of view and times of day. “In the center, we have a large cut in the volume, so what would be the darkest part of the house has direct sunlight coming in,” Sato explained. The four corners of the main floor all have doors that slide open (an oblique reference to Japanese shoji screens), allowing the landscape in and natural convection to cool the house. “That is a reference to vernacular buildings. There are systems that are useful to understand from the past, rather than stylistic ideas,” Morris said. The floors, made of Kota Brown limestone, will also retain and radiate heat, with their cleft surface suggesting a rougher natural terrain and a certain 1970s au naturel aesthetic. 




top and above: Windows pop and all four corners of the house have doors that slide open like Japanese shoji screens.
courtesy morris sato studio

 
 

Like the sliding doors, the vernacular Morris and Sato reference is Japanese. The exterior siding is an adaptation of the shitami-bari used on traditional urban houses in Kyoto and Kanazawa, which Sato translates as “downward-facing boards.” The horizontal cladding combines with vertical strips, allowing Morris and Sato to integrate the module on the house’s facade with that of the standing seams on the turncoat stainless steel roof. Rather than looking like a gable, the pitched roof folds down into the house on some sides, creating the illusion of Cubist-inspired flattening. YN-13’s closest neighbor will be their so-called Soula House, which serves as a gateway in the way they have developed the land, bringing the houses closer together and leaving the rest of the site untouched. “There’s a critique of individual houses centered on one-acre lots,” Morris said. “We imagine the site as a proto-urban thing, the buildings working together.” 

Christoff:Finio’s carriage house is another exemplary object within its landscape, though a minimum urban dwelling with a footprint of 20 feet by 20 feet and two floors. The architects even shaved a little more off that miniscule square footage to create an “urban garage,” a sliver of space behind a screen of flat steel ribs, each twisted 90 degrees, to provide a useful landing strip for bikes, bags, and garbage, and also a zone of privacy for a front door that originally opened directly onto Charles Lane.

The carriage house is owned by photographer Jan Staller, who lives and works in an 1860 townhouse on Charles Street that now neighbors Richard Meier’s third glassy residential tower and Asymptote’s first. Christoff:Finio had designed a penthouse and terrace for Staller to preserve his view once the Meier building was underway, so when the carriage house was gutted by fire, Staller asked them to build a two-bedroom rental unit between the existing party walls. As he now had a terrace, he no longer needed the 12-foot sliver of backyard, which was turned into part of the architects’ brief for the rental. 


TOP: The street-level glass wall of christoff:finio's carriage house is protected by a screen of twisted steel ribs, with a niche for bike storage. ABOVE: The rear facade is clad in eight-foot-long slate shingles. below: a wall-mounted kitchen extends outdoors into a sliver of backyard.
 
jan staller
 
 
 

“What was fun for us was designing this tiny little house, but making it feel bigger,” said Martin Finio. “We took the terrazzo-ground concrete on the first floor and extended it out into the yard.” The wall-mounted kitchen also runs seamlessly from indoors to out, with teak cabinets and stainless-steel countertops. The windows are big, but for the sake of privacy (as much for landlord as for tenants), they start at the floor and extend up only four feet. The back wall is covered in unusually long slate shingles (more typically used for roofing), three feet by eight feet, which turn into operable louvers for the upstairs bedroom windows. The wall is really only visible from Staller’s townhouse, and Christoff:Finio wanted to give him something interesting to look at, as well as refer to the clapboard siding more typical on a small house. “When you get direct sun on it, the cleft edge picks up light like a line drawing,” Finio said. Since it was to be a rental, the interiors are sturdily generic: white walls, white bathroom, gray tile. 

“What’s the vernacular of New York City?” Finio asked. “It’s always frothing and rebuilding. When we started building this project, we had this large glass opening on the front facade at the second level looking out at a brick warehouse. That came down, and Asymptote’s glass started up.” In other words, neighborhoods can change, tastes can change, and so can architectural context. Curtains are forever.

California Dreamin'

In a recent New York Times article, Nicolai Ouroussoff argues that the New York Five—Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, and John Hejduk—rose to prominence in the 1970s when New York “was beginning to close itself off to innovative architecture.” Though the critic allows that New York could then still claim to be the country’s center of architectural thought, he suggests that the Five created out of that era’s vibrant culture “the last heroic period in New York architecture.”

In his story, titled “As Heroes Disappear, the City Needs More,” Ouroussoff goes on to reassert—with very little evidence—an often repeated claim. In the subsequent decades, he writes, “The country’s creative energy shifted westward, to Los Angeles, whose vibrant mix of urban grit and nature, abundance of relatively cheap land and lack of confining historical traditions allowed architects to experiment with a freedom that had become virtually impossible in New York.” California’s supposed freedom produced architects like Michael Maltzan, Kevin Daly, and Chris Genik, a cadre of talent, Ouroussoff says, with “no real equivalent in New York.”

However important these architects may be—clearly, like many other LA architects of their generation, they do impressive work—to suggest that New York has no comparable talent is absurd. Ouroussoff, long an admirer of Southern California architecture, turns even an article on the New York Five into an exercise in promoting LA’s “creative energy” and decrying New York’s dearth of “innovative architecture.” His claim that the most important contemporary works to rise in New York over the past decade were designed not by New Yorkers but by Angelenos (Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry), a Japanese woman (Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA), and a Frenchman (Nouvel) might actually be seen as a vote for the city’s confidence, strength, and openness—not something to be condemned.

But more consequentially, using a discussion of the New York Five to argue that the city has closed itself off to innovative architecture is simply wrong-headed. For example, when the New York Five first appeared in 1967 at an Arthur Drexler–curated exhibition at MoMA, they had just emerged from East Coast universities and built only a few private houses. It was New York’s architecture media infrastructure (magazines, publishers, museums, galleries, and critics) that created the group, and it is frankly still without parallel in this country.

In addition, the educational institutions in New York’s East Coast orbit, from whence came the Five, were and are still the most important in the world. These institutions educate and support architects with teaching positions at the highest level—including nearly every LA architect of any importance. Due in part to this unrivaled critical mass, the level of discourse, critique, and even experiment in New York can hardly be called staid. The type of architectural thinking that produced plans for the High Line and Fresh Kills landfill, to name only two recent New York projects, could only have come out of the East Coast architecture hopper.

The Times article concludes that in New York, “Real change will first demand a radical shift in our cultural priorities. Politicians will have to embrace the cosmopolitanism that was once the city’s core identity.” Yet a recent trip to Los Angeles to look at the city’s new high schools, including Coop Himmelb(l)au’s new Central Los Angeles High School, makes it seem that it is the politicians in that city that have something to learn.

They are creating gigantic new school buildings that despite their acclaimed architecture are as misguided about the direction of urban education toward small, intimate learning environments as anything in recent memory. In fact, it is in New York where design-savvy administrators like David Burney at the DDC and Janette Sadik-Khan at the DOT are creating new models of cosmopolitanism right under the nose of those who want to believe that “nothing has come out of New York in decades.”

A version of this article appeared in AN 09.30.2009_CA.

California Dreamin'

In a recent New York Times article, Nicolai Ouroussoff argues that the New York Five—Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, and John Hejduk—rose to prominence in the 1970s when New York “was beginning to close itself off to innovative architecture.” Though the critic allows that New York could then still claim to be the country’s center of architectural thought, he suggests that the Five created out of that era’s vibrant culture “the last heroic period in New York architecture.”

In his story, titled “As Heroes Disappear, the City Needs More,” Ouroussoff goes on to reassert—with very little evidence—an often repeated claim. In the subsequent decades, he writes, “The country’s creative energy shifted westward, to Los Angeles, whose vibrant mix of urban grit and nature, abundance of relatively cheap land and lack of confining historical traditions allowed architects to experiment with a freedom that had become virtually impossible in New York.” California’s supposed freedom produced architects like Michael Maltzan, Kevin Daly, and Chris Genik, a cadre of talent, Ouroussoff says, with “no real equivalent in New York.”

However important these architects may be—clearly, like many other LA architects of their generation, they do impressive work—to suggest that New York has no comparable talent is absurd. Ouroussoff, long an admirer of Southern California architecture, turns even an article on the New York Five into an exercise in promoting LA’s “creative energy” and decrying New York’s dearth of “innovative architecture.” His claim that the most important contemporary works to rise in New York over the past decade were designed not by New Yorkers but by Angelenos (Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry), a Japanese woman (Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA), and a Frenchman (Nouvel) might actually be seen as a vote for the city’s confidence, strength, and openness—not something to be condemned.

But more consequentially, using a discussion of the New York Five to argue that the city has closed itself off to innovative architecture is simply wrongheaded. For example, when the New York Five first appeared in 1967 at an Arthur Drexler–curated exhibition at MoMA, they had just emerged from East Coast universities and built only a few private houses. It was New York’s architecture media infrastructure (magazines, publishers, museums, galleries, and critics) that created the group, and it is frankly still without parallel in this country. In addition, the educational institutions in New York’s East Coast orbit, from whence came the Five, were and are still the most important in the world.

These institutions educate and support architects with teaching positions at the highest level—including nearly every LA architect of any importance. Due in part to this unrivaled critical mass, the level of discourse, critique, and even experiment in New York can hardly be called staid. The type of architectural thinking that produced plans for the High Line and Fresh Kills landfill, to name only two recent New York projects, could only have come out of the East Coast architecture hopper.

The Times article concludes that in New York, “Real change will first demand a radical shift in our cultural priorities. Politicians will have to embrace the cosmopolitanism that was once the city’s core identity.” Yet a recent trip to Los Angeles to look at the city’s new high schools, including Coop Himmelb(l)au’s new Central Los Angeles High School, makes it seem that it is the politicians in that city that have something to learn.

They are creating gigantic new school buildings that despite their acclaimed architecture are as misguided about the direction of urban education toward small, intimate learning environments as anything in recent memory. In fact, it is in New York where design-savvy administrators like David Burney at the DDC and Janette Sadik-Khan at the DOT are creating new models of cosmopolitanism right under the nose of those who want to believe that “nothing has come out of New York in decades.”

A version of this article appeared in AN 09.09.2009.

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Eavesdrop NY 14
THE PLOTS THICKEN Did The New York Times learn nothing from its error-riddled obituary of Walter Cronkite this summer? The famous newsman was 90 years old and in failing health for some time. His obituary should have been in the can for years. And yet there were seven inexcusable errors, which prompted a lengthy correction, which prompted a lame mea culpa from the public editor, which prompted an avalanche of snarky comments from readers. Back to the question, did the newspaper learn from this embarrassment? It did not. The obituary for Charles Gwathmey, who died on August 3 (according to the Times), was revised with a correction regarding the architect’s education. Turns out, that correction was incorrect and therefore had to be corrected. A correction of a correction spun the needle right off Eavesdrop’s Cringe-O-Meter. Gwathmey was interred at Green River Cemetery in the Springs hamlet within East Hampton town—famous as the final resting place of many artists, including Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Stuart Davis, and the poet Frank O’Hara. Steven Ross, the former Time Warner chief executive, is buried in a section added in 1987. According to a 2002 Times article (no corrections cited), his widow, Courtney Sale Ross, “paid $77,000 for 110 of the 400 plots left in the new section, creating a wide buffer between her husband and less affluent residents. The [cemetery] trustees later instituted what is known as the ‘Ross Rule,’ which permits no one to buy more than eight plots.” Eavesdrop is pleased that Mrs. Ross deemed Charlie worthy of eternal exclusivity. Most worthy. TRIPPINGLY OFF THE TONGUE While we’re reporting from the Hamptons, we’d like to bring your attention to more corrections needed, as yet not made. Dan’s Paper—”the largest weekly community newspaper in the Hamptons”—covered an event in East Hampton recently. According to the author, Dan himself, the people gathered “to hear a discussion about architecture in the Hamptons... featuring panel members Richard Meier, Robert Stern, and Paul Goldenberger.” Goldenberger, eight times. “Goldenberger is the longtime architecture critic for The New York Times,” Dan continued. Don’t tell Ouroussoff or Remnick. And on he goes. Meier “mentioned the home built by Robert Gwathmey for his parents in the 1950s, which he said, was a masterpiece.” The house Charlie Gwathmey completed for his parents in 1966 was also a masterpiece. Dan must have been on a tight deadline. Eavesdrop is on one, too, and apologizes in advance for all idiocies in the here and hereafter. Send corrections and columbaria to shart@archpaper.com

California Dreamin'

In a recent New York Times article, Nicolai Ouroussoff argues that the New York Five—Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, and John Hejduk—rose to prominence in the 1970s when New York “was beginning to close itself off to innovative architecture.” Though the critic allows that New York could then still claim to be the country’s center of architectural thought, he suggests that the Five created out of that era’s vibrant culture “the last heroic period in New York architecture.”

In his story, titled “As Heroes Disappear, the City Needs More,” Ouroussoff goes on to reassert—with very little evidence—an often repeated claim. In the subsequent decades, he writes, “The country’s creative energy shifted westward, to Los Angeles, whose vibrant mix of urban grit and nature, abundance of relatively cheap land and lack of confining historical traditions allowed architects to experiment with a freedom that had become virtually impossible in New York.” California’s supposed freedom produced architects like Michael Maltzan, Kevin Daly, and Chris Genik, a cadre of talent, Ouroussoff says, with “no real equivalent in New York.”

However important these architects may be—clearly, like many other LA architects of their generation, they do impressive work—to suggest that New York has no comparable talent is absurd. Ouroussoff, long an admirer of Southern California architecture, turns even an article on the New York Five into an exercise in promoting LA’s “creative energy” and decrying New York’s dearth of “innovative architecture.” His claim that the most important contemporary works to rise in New York over the past decade were designed not by New Yorkers but by Angelenos (Thom Mayne, Frank Gehry), a Japanese woman (Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA), and a Frenchman (Nouvel) might actually be seen as a vote for the city’s confidence, strength, and openness—not something to be condemned.

But more consequentially, using a discussion of the New York Five to argue that the city has closed itself off to innovative architecture is simply wrongheaded. For example, when the New York Five first appeared in 1967 at an Arthur Drexler–curated exhibition at MoMA, they had just emerged from East Coast universities and built only a few private houses. It was New York’s architecture media infrastructure (magazines, publishers, museums, galleries, and critics) that created the group, and it is frankly still without parallel in this country. In addition, the educational institutions in New York’s East Coast orbit, from whence came the Five, were and are still the most important in the world.

These institutions educate and support architects with teaching positions at the highest level—including nearly every LA architect of any importance. Due in part to this unrivaled critical mass, the level of discourse, critique, and even experiment in New York can hardly be called staid. The type of architectural thinking that produced plans for the High Line and Fresh Kills landfill, to name only two recent New York projects, could only have come out of the East Coast architecture hopper.

The Times article concludes that in New York, “Real change will first demand a radical shift in our cultural priorities. Politicians will have to embrace the cosmopolitanism that was once the city’s core identity.” Yet a recent trip to Los Angeles to look at the city’s new high schools, including Coop Himmelb(l)au’s new Central Los Angeles High School, makes it seem that it is the politicians in that city that have something to learn.

They are creating gigantic new school buildings that despite their acclaimed architecture are as misguided about the direction of urban education toward small, intimate learning environments as anything in recent memory. In fact, it is in New York where design-savvy administrators like David Burney at the DDC and Janette Sadik-Khan at the DOT are creating new models of cosmopolitanism right under the nose of those who want to believe that “nothing has come out of New York in decades.”

A version of this article appeared in AN 09.09.2009.

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Remembering Charles Gwathmey
Charles Gwathmey passed away on Monday, but he was fondly remembered by his many colleagues, including Robert Siegel, Richard Meier, Michael Graves, and Peter Eisenman, in our obituary. We invite readers to share their own memories of this "fighter for modernism" in the comments section below. But please, be erudite, as Gwathmey would have had it no other way.