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AN is thrilled to deliver the Eavesdrop baton—oh, dare say cudgel, do!—into the dextrous hands of Sara Hart who has long impressed many with her wickedly apropos sense of humor. We count on you all to slip her innuendo-loaded emails, secret handshakes, and any floating info aching to land in print.
PENGUINS IN THE POOL ROOM
The Penguin Club lives! Seen at the Four Seasons on inauguration night was a reconvening of the so-called Penguin Club, the group of once-young avant-garde architects whom Philip Johnson had regularly hosted for all-male, black-tie dinners at the Century Club from the mid-1970s onward. The lineup of aging superstars included, among others, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey, Harry Cobb, Jacquelin Robertson, Bob Stern, Steven Holl, Bernard Tschumi, and Jorge Silvetti. Conspicuous by his absence was charter-member Penguin Peter Eisenman, but conspicuous by his presence was Graves, whose enormous motorized wheelchair necessitated the group’s dining at a long table in the northeast corner of the Pool Room, rather than in the private space they had requested. According to Four Seasons co-owner Alex von Bidder, these events are an ongoing series, though they are not bankrolled, as had been widely speculated, by a bequest from Philip Johnson, whose entire estate along with the art-auction proceeds of his late longtime partner, David Whitney, went to the endowment for the Glass House.
NEW BLOGS IN TOWN
A new architectural/design blog has arrived to entertain and inform you. Edited by design writers (and AN contributors) Eva Hagberg and Ian Volner, Edificial (edificial.com) is the latest addition to Breaking Media’s stable of sharply written industry-specific blogs, which includes Above the Law, Fashionista, and Dealbreaker. The content will be gossipy, but it will also include back stories about projects, people, deal-making, and all kinds of design extranea. According to Hagberg, the editors plan to critique the critics and introduce new voices. “We’ll present the up-close play-by-play and the long view,” she said. “There will be roundups, link dumps, and essays. Edificial will be personal, political, and polemical.” No doubt it will be all of those things and, if successful, make money for Breaking Media. Best of luck! Meanwhile, over in the serious and sober nonprofit world, the Architectural League of New York went live with its own blog on January 5. Underwritten by the NYC Cultural Innovation Fund of the Rockefeller Foundation, Urban Omnibus (urbanomnibus.net) will feature “multimedia content to showcase design innovation, critical analysis, and local expertise” with the aim of encouraging “a more inclusive, more sustainable, more beautiful city that could be.” Bring on the multimedia. We’re parched!
Send tips and page views galore to firstname.lastname@example.org
The 25-Year Award, which honors a building that has stood the test of time, will be given to Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Ben Thompson's conversion of an 1825 market hall in downtown Boston into a modern shopping destination. The project is generally credited with kick-starting the festival marketplace movement for which Thompson was renowned. (His later New York project, Pier 17, has recently been at the center of a skirmish over plans to redevelop the South Street Seaport.)
Henry Siegel, chair of the AIA Committee on the Environment, said that the building is also a hallmark of sustainable practices well ahead of its time. "These include adaptive reuse, thereby saving tremendous amounts of energy and other resources in demolition, transportation, and construction and creating a high-density urban environment where people can work, shop, play, and enjoy life as pedestrians,” Siegel said in a release.
The 25-Year prize was established in 1969 and first awarded to Rockefeller Center. Other well known winners include the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Dulles International Airport, and the Kimball Art Center. Last year's winner was Richard Meier's Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana.
Meanwhile, Clyde Porter has been named the recipient of this year's Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, which recognizes an architect or organization that furthers the social goals espoused by the eponymous Urban League leader for which the award is named.
Porter, who has worked in facilities management at the Dallas County Community College District for 21 years, is being honored for his efforts in encouraging minority education and practice in architecture, including the foundation of the Texas chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects.
And Barbara Nadel, a New York–based architect and building security expert, will receive the Edward C. Kemper Award for Service to the Profession, which recognizes those architects who have made lasting contributions to the AIA. “Barbara is a proven leader, a dedicated mentor to emerging professionals, and an advocate for the AIA and the issues that are critical to the future of our profession,” George Miller, the AIA president-elect, said in a release.
Nadel has held a number of influential positions at the AIA over the years, including AIA national vice president, AIA New York regional director, and chair of the AIA Academy on Architecture for Justice. She also writes a monthly column on building security for Buildings.com.
Model City: Buildings and Projects by Paul Rudolph for Yale and New Haven
“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.
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.
Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe
This summer, Gotham feels like all Bucky, all the time, with exhibitions at Max Protetch, Carl Solway, and Sebastion + Barquet Galleries, while the Center for Architecture has sponsored a slew of events that include round-table discussions, lectures, a film series, and the opening of the Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Study Center. (A 26-foot Fly’s Eye Dome was also erected recently in LaGuardia Park across the street from the center.) But the main event is Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe at the Whitney Museum. This critically astute retrospective has been elegantly curated by K. Michael Hays and Dana Miller, who tell the story through an assortment of drawings, photographs, scale models, and full-scale prototypes, like the three-wheeled showstopper Dymaxion Car (1934) parked in a first-floor gallery. There’s also a selection of archival film footage to bring the man to life, as well as several recent interpretations of the Fuller canon to demonstrate his ongoing legacy.
The timing for a full-on retrospective couldn’t be more auspicious, as people are at last daring to discuss alternate, non-petroleum futures and new paradigms for planetary survival. So yes, it’s a good thing to bring back Bucky and reabsorb his no-nonsense theories of ephemeralization (doing more with less) before it’s too late. Even though there have been hundreds of books by and about Fuller (over 400 are on view at the Center for Architecture), he has always been difficult, if not impossible, to pin down or capture within a single thought or category.
There are many Buckys to choose from: hippie Fuller, but also Cold Warrior Fuller who developed ideas for the U.S. Marine Corps and early defense warning systems. For him, there were never any boundaries, and his career was as multi-faceted as one of his geo-domes: philosopher, lecturer, engineer, absentminded professor, architect, mapmaker, poet, and mathematician. He was a prophetic papa of Big Ideas, peering at the future through thick spectacles, and had no problem shifting from mini to mega in his rambling lectures that went on for hours and became the stuff of legend.
courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller
courtesy Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
Considering the epic scope of Fuller’s thinking, it’s surprising to see how ephemeral some of the actual artifacts are: scratchy little renderings that he did in the late 1920s in an amateurish, even childish, style with pencil on three-ring notebook paper; sketches of bombs dropping from Zeppelins, making craters for 4D Towers that are sometimes drawn as enlarged objects rising from planet earth, early proof of Fuller’s global perspective. There’s also a clunky but compelling attempt to synthesize the Brooklyn Bridge and a Ferris wheel into a single hybrid structure (c. 1928), or the “4D Tower Garage” that Fuller proposed for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933, resembling something like a spiraling Christmas tree.
Fuller’s fervid investigations find their first true form with the Dymaxion renderings and models of the 1930s, with endless variations on this hexagonal structure suspended from a central mast that would later morph into the Dymaxion Deployment Unit (1941) made from corrugated grain silos and the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine (or “Wichita House,” 1945) that was fabricated from aluminum like an airplane. Fuller’s projects from this period still seem cornball and quirky, verging on a loony kind of Popular Mechanics kitsch. In one gallery, there’s a model of the Dymaxion Dwelling Machines Community (c. 1946) that looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie, as if alien flying saucers, all silver and glowing, had disguised themselves in a conventional suburban subdivision with front lawns and sidewalks. Another gallery features a collection of yellowing models made from cardboard and toothpicks—tetrahedrons and rhombic dodecahedrons—the kind that used to be found gathering dust in high school geometry classes. It’s easy to see how the Eurocentric Philip Johnson would dismiss Fuller, as Hays points out in his catalogue essay. “Bucky Fuller was no architect, and he kept pretending he was,” said Johnson. “It was very annoying.” On the other hand, who cares what Johnson thought about Fuller? They occupy such radically opposing orbits: one a reformed Nazi, the other a free-thinking descendant of Yankee transcendentalists.
Maybe the ideas were loftier than the material output, or maybe Fuller’s brightest legacy comes through other people’s interpretations of his seed ideas. Such was the case with Kenneth Snelson, Konrad Wachsmann, Tony Smith, and Robert Smithson. Fuller is sometimes mistakenly credited with other people’s work, as he is with the invention of the geodesic dome, actually developed by Walter Bauersfeld in 1922 for a planetarium at the Zeiss optical works in Jena, Germany, a fact that doesn’t appear to be cited anywhere in the Whitney exhibition or catalogue.
There is something odd about seeing Fuller get the full treatment by a major institution. Bucky was never much of an insider, and thrived as the inveterate outsider, one who shunned and was often shunned by institutions. (He was expelled from Harvard in 1915 and never really dropped back into the mainstream.) The institutional Fuller is never as appealing as the “outlaw” Fuller. (Calvin Tompkins’ seminal New Yorker profile “In the Outlaw Area” of January 8, 1966, has been thoughtfully republished in the exhibition catalogue.) And this raises an interesting point. If there’s anything missing in this otherwise comprehensive survey, it’s the legacy of Bucky as prime guru of 1960s counterculture, when rebel builder/designers like Steve Baer, Lloyd Kahn, Jay Baldwin, Steve Durkee, and others took Fuller’s lessons and in some cases out-Buckyed Bucky on the frontiers of planetary consciousness. Their funky, handbuilt domes and “zomes” (an elongated version of Fuller’s geodesic patent) became symbolic of both resistance and solidarity within communes like Drop City and other anarchic outposts of the tie-died diaspora. Fabricated with recycled and discarded materials, these were the true successors of ephemeralization, rather than those late urban projects on which Fuller collaborated with Shoji Sadao—Triton City (1967) or Harlem Redesign (1965)—that seem more like dystopian megastructures and receive an inordinate amount of attention in the Whitney show.
One of the essential lessons that hippie builders learned from the master and incorporated into their daily building practice was the importance of failure as a learning tool and model for growth. Bucky’s career was filled with radical failures that he turned, somehow, into successes, exploiting the poetic potential of the flop, the glorified mistake. In July 1948, after countless drawings and models, he attempted to erect a large-scale prototype of his geodesic theories while teaching at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. It was to have been a 48-foot-diameter dome made from Venetian blind metal, but it drooped to the ground like a flaccid balloon and was dubbed the “flopahedron.” Fuller refused to see it as a failure, but rather as a pathway to new discoveries, new ways of thinking.
In a sense his entire career was predicated on tragic failure. Alexandra, his three-year-old daughter, died in 1922 and Fuller briefly considered suicide, but rejected it in favor of what he called a “blind date with principle.” Starting from there, he set out to relearn and rethink the whole ball of wax, writing, “I committed myself to as much of a fresh start as a human being can have—to try to go back to the fundamentals and see what nature was really up to.” We are still figuring out what this otherworldly visionary was really up to, and the Whitney exhibition makes a perfect point of departure.
Michaels Residence, Tolkin Architecture, Winters-Schram Associates
One Window House, Touraine Richmond Architects, Brown Osvaldsson Builders
BENNY CHAN / FOTOWORKS
“Brown Osvaldsson Builders really listen to what we are trying to do. They understand it, and come in with solutions and original ways to deal with problems.They are really respectful of the design and try to match the architectural expectations.”
Touraine Richmond ARchitects
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JFR House, Fougeron Architecture, Thomas George Construction
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Barbara Bestor Architecture
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WSP Cantor Seinuk
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Davidovich & Associates
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Felkner Residence, Jennifer Luce, Bendheim Glass
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Grohe bathroom and kitchen fittings
Kohler bathroom furniture
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Lengau Lodge, Dry Design UNDINE PROHL
Bestor House, Barbar Bestor Architects, SB Garden Design
“Stephanie Bartron’s background is sculpture, and I think she brings a more artistic perspective and architectural edge to landscapes.”
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Power & Associates
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Pamela Burton & Company
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SB Garden Design
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Consultants, Services & Suppliers
Mills Center for the Arts, Competition Entry, Pugh + Scarpa, Mike Amaya
“Mike Amaya listens to you. He’s not fixated on a certain way of doing things. Hisrenderings have life, but they don’t try to duplicate what reality would be. We’re more interested in capturing the spirit of the place.”
Pugh + Scarpa Architects
11 North Main St.,
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301 Arizona Ave.,
Santa Monica, CA;
725 S. Figueroa St.,
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633 West Fifth St.,
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SC Consulting Group
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With a plan afoot for Renzo Piano to add buildings to the site of Le Corbusier’s famed Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France, a perfect storm of good intentions in conflict is brewing. At issue are ultimately two types of pilgrimage: the original religious one of contemplation and prayer, and the latter-day architectural version.
The Association Œuvre Notre-Dame du Haut that owns Ronchamp is within weeks of seeking a permit to build a new visitor center, a cluster of 12 habitats for nuns, and meditation space down the slope from Le Corbusier’s 1955 masterwork. And when a building permit is granted, the Fondation Le Corbusier, the Paris-based keeper of the master’s flame, has said that it will sue, reluctantly. “We are trying to make sure the site is preserved for eternity,” said Michel Richard, the foundation’s director. “We are afraid that in 10 years, the sisters will go away and they will be replaced by a B&B.”
“It is the most poetic building by Corbusier,” said Piano in an interview in his Manhattan office. “But he made it to be a place of worship, not just a sculpture. It proves that a secular person could create a place of religious feeling.”
According to association director Jean-Francois Mathey, son of Francois Mathey, who was involved in hiring Corbusier in 1950 to build the chapel (on the site of a 1799 church destroyed by World War II bombs), the idea to invite a group of nuns to live on the site came about a few years ago as a bulwark against creeping tourism. The site attracts some 100,000 people a year.
“We feared that with so much traffic, the spiritual quality of the chapel—not the architecture itself—would little by little disappear,” Mathey said. “It should be a place of silence and prayer, not a fun fair.” The association decided to invite a “praying presence” of nuns from the Clarissine order (more commonly known as the Poor Clares) who would be tucked into Piano-designed cells on the far side of the hill. Corbusier himself had consulted with the association about adding a monastery, but concrete plans were never developed.
Since Ronchamp is a cultural landmark, the French Ministry of Culture is required to approve plans for change and they did, unanimously, six months ago. The association, however, did not seek the benediction of the foundation. “That was probably a mistake,” said Piano. There have been three or four meetings between the architect and foundation that Piano described as very helpful, especially about measurements and materials. For its part, the foundation said that it was not flatly opposed to a new program for the site, nor against Piano. “We are well aware that Renzo Piano will take all precautions called for,” said Richard. “They should just build farther away.”
The association considered several architects besides Piano, including Tadao Ando, Glenn Murcutt, and Jean Nouvel. In the end, the first two were deemed too far away, while the idea of Nouvel was rejected because “he would only design something Jean Nouvel,” said Mathey. “We loved Piano’s museums in Basel and Berne. He is a poet and a philosopher, too.”
Piano himself was somewhat hesitant, and not because of the complexities of building respectfully next to an icon. After all, he has designed additions to several icons, including Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum (in a preliminary design stage) and Richard Meier’s Atlanta High Museum (2005). But the Ronchamp project is by far the smallest in his office, very sensitive, and with a relatively miniscule budget of $13 million. “There would be no reason to put myself in this funny situation were not a work of passion,” he said.
Piano did not even start to design until he had walked the site last winter, driving stakes into the ground where it would be possible to build without being seen from the top of the hill where the chapel sits. According to French law, any changes within 500 meters of a designated landmark are open to the scrutiny of the Ministry of Culture, but the grounds around the chapel building are not subject to this landmark protection. Thus, although the new structures will be invisible, they do come to within 60 meters of the chapel. Piano plans to reforest the flanks of the hill with some 800 evergreens and native deciduous trees, spending one-third the entire budget on landscaping.
Jean Louis Cohen, the preeminent Corbusier scholar who is on the board of the foundation, also walked around the site last summer. “Maybe you wouldn’t see it, but you would feel it,” said Cohen in an interview in which he showed slides documenting the chapel from every possible angle from below the hilltop. “The harmony of the place would be disturbed; it would lose the sense of being a pilgrimage and impoverish the chapel itself.”
The plan includes a new visitor center to replace the current one—a makeshift pink box at the base of the hill. Renderings show a simple split shed with a dynamic bifurcated roof jutting in directions that echo the swoops of the chapel’s roof. The tilting roof planes would be made of both zinc and green-roof materials, making it appear as if it were rising from the forest floor. It has been positioned to allow people parking their cars to get a glimpse of the chapel up the steep hill. The nun’s cells are even simpler at 120 square feet, bermed into the hillside in the woods just below the knoll’s clearing and invisible from the top. Piano is thinking of giving each cell a high-tech light scoop, similar to those at the High Museum, but here atop 20-foot columns that would draw light through the trees into each cell.
Mathey explained the opposition is the only barrier to going ahead. “They thought someday of recovering the chapel. Now, since Renzo Piano is going to put his mark on the hill, they don’t like it,” he said. (The foundation was alerted to the association’s plans to move forward by an article [.pdf] that appeard in August in the Catholic newspaper Le Croix.)
Getting a permit to build will not be difficult, as the Ministry of Culture has already approved the plans. Once a building permit is issued, there is a two-month period, something like a marital banns, when the opposed can step forward. “The foundation is well aware that we’ll have to do something,” said Richard.
While presenting the plans for Ronchamp in his Meatpacking District office overlooking the site of the new Whitney museum he is designing, Piano took a break from simultaneously meeting with representatives of The New York Times about the trees on the roof of their new building and taking an interview with Newsweek about the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. At lunchtime, his old colleague and friend Richard Rogers and his wife Ruth arrived. Asked if this were a project he would take on, Rogers looked incredulous.
“I am mad, aren’t I?” Piano said, with a laugh. “But I like risk.”
JULIE V. IOVINE
Piano insists the new buildings will be all but invisible to chapel visitors.
RENDERINGS AND MODELS COURTESY RPBW
The nuns' residences are hidden amid the trees, but a variation on Piano's High Museum light wells will provide ample natural light.
A site plan gives a sense of the location of the nuns' quarters, at left, and the new visitor's center, located near the road at the bottom of the drawing.
A model of the nuns' residences. The orange chimneys are the light wells.
In addition to housing for the nuns, a small sanctuary will also be built amid the trees.
A model of the new visitor's center. As the topography shows, it will be built into the surrounding landscape, like all the new buildings.
One of Piano's signature drawings illustrates the relationship between the residences, their light wells, and the trees.
At a January 16 public hearing, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) urged Foster + Partners to modify the designs for the proposed addition to 980 Madison Avenue in order to win approval for the project. The firm presented a scheme for a 30-story glass tower to stand atop a five-floor mixed-use building, originally known as the Parke-Bernet Galleries, a gallery and art auction building completed in 1950. The idea of planting a modern tower on top of a historic building echoes Foster’s recently completed Hearst headquarters.
The project’s developer, Aby Rosen’s RFR Holdings, and Foster plan to modify the design and present to the LPC yet again. Cheri Fein, spokesperson for Rosen and Foster, stated that the twomenwere“pleased that a vote was not taken and that there is now the opportunity to redesign.” A followup presentation to the LPC has not yet been scheduled.
The January hearing was a continuation of the public hearing held on October 24, 2006, where a large public contingency voiced both opposition and support for the design. Among the opponents was the Municipal Arts Society, which testified that the design of the addition was inappropriate in terms of “height, massing, design, and materials in relationship to the Parke-Bernet Building and the historic district.”
LPC chair Robert Tierney called the January 16 hearing “a good exchange of views and ideas.” Many comments centered on the height of the tower, which LPC vice chairperson Pablo E. Vengoechea deemed overwhelming. Others took issue with the materials and the way the glass tower would contrast with nearby buildings. One member of the commission, architect Jan Hird Pokorny, supported the project.
The second hearing again drew many Upper East Side residents who have been vocal about their opposition to the proposal, including writer Tom Wolfe. No limit was set for what height the committee would deem appropriate, although it is clear that the majority of the LPC board and neighbors think that 30 stories is too tall. Rosen said in a statement,” We appreciate the thoughtfully considered comments at the LPC meeting, and have returned to the drawing board to come up with a design that responds to these comments yet remains viable.” For approval, the design must win six of the 11 LPC member votes.
A. Stewart Walker and Alfred Easton Poor designed the 980 Madison building with a simple limestone facade. Foster’s proposal includes restoration, which Tierney praised as “an impressive return to the building’s historical origins.” The plan would have refurbished the building, including removing more than 50 windows cut into the building over time, removing the fifth floor added in 1957, reintroducing the original roof garden, and adding 25,000 square feet of public gallery space.
When asked if he felt thatmodernconstruction could fit in with the historic character of the Upper East Side, Tierney pointed out, “Renzo Piano’s expansion of the Whitney was quite striking, modern, and contemporary, and was approved.” Despite winning the LPC’s approval, however, the Piano project was ultimately scrapped, after the Whitney decided to build an expansion in the Meatpacking District rather than engage in a prolonged battle with neighbors.
Robert A.M. Stern’s 800-pound gorilla (actually, 11 pounds) of a book, New York 2000, was the topic of a discussion at Columbia that turned out to be a cross between a roast and a fest. Tom Wolfe shocked everyone in the audience (including Suzanne Stephens, Mike Wallace, and Kenneth Jackson) by proclaiming that the Whitney should move “out of the Breuer Bunker and into the Huntington Hartford Building. Then you could demolish the Brutalist, WWI machine–gun turret and sell the land to a developer!” This, from the man who wrote despairingly of the alleged death of the Landmarks Commission in a recentNew York Times Op-ed, lamented ripping the face off Edward Durell Stone’s 2 Columbus Circle for the Museum of Arts & Design (MAD). Little did Wolfe know that one of the “walking dead,” landmarks commissioner Margery Perlmutter, was very much alive a few rows away, listening with rapt attention and taking careful notes.
Speaking of the devil, MAD architect Brad Cloepfil, who was allowed to brazenly demolish Ed Stone’s facade without so much as a hearing at the LPC, was seen at the Pentagram party for new partner Luke Hayman, with friend, Pentagramist Lisa Strausfeld…or was that her twin sister Laura?
Talk is going around that Columbia dean Mark Wigley is being considered as chairman of Harvard’s GSD. Leave New York for Boston? He must be mad too!
Up the Hudson, at down-in-the-dumps Newburgh, a week-long charrette to resurrect the city, led by DPZ’s Andres Duany and developer Steve Maun of Leyland, uncovered that the culprit behind the razing of a major part of the city’s historic waterfront was none other than our very own Frank O. Gehry! The architect signed the order in 1966 as part of what was then known as “urban renewal.” Can we chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, or is his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn just another case of, as the French say, plus ça change?
Rumor has it that Architectural Record still has NO plan to redesign its magazine, despite universal agreement that it needs a major facelift. I mean, it doesn’t even have any competition. You would think editor-in-chief Robert Ivy
would take a chance! Finally, a mysterious gift arrived without a note from Tsao & McKown: a flimsy cotton tote bag. When questioned, their office said it was a very, very late Christmas gift, now coming for the Year of the Pig. ThanksCalvin, Zak, and...!
At press time, yours truly was in a stylish car crash, right in front of Mies’ Seagrams Building! I knew it was a mistake to meet a client on Presidents Day, and all of a sudden there was a car making an unexpected left hand turn directly onto our path on Park Avenue. Luckily, we all walked away unharmed (if dazed), save for broken front lights and bumper. Just then, I noticed that we were exactly at the southwest corner of the plaza, where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard had a tete-a-tete in Breakfast at Tiffany’s! C’est la vie!
ALEXANDER GORLIN IS THE PRINCIPAL OF ALEXANDER GORLIN ARCHITECTS, A PROLIFIC AUTHOR, AND MAN ABOUT TOWN.
SEND OBSERVATIONS, TIPS, SUGGESTIONS, FLOWERS, ET CETERA, TOEDITOR@ARCHPAPER.COM
Robert A.M. Sternns 800-pound gorilla (actually, 11 pounds) of a book, New York 2000, was the topic of a discussion at Columbia that turned out to be a cross between a roast and a fest. Tom Wolfe shocked everyone in the audience (including Suzanne Stephens, Mike Wallace, and Kenneth Jackson) by proclaiming that the Whitney should move out of the Breuer Bunker and into the Huntington Hartford Building. Then you could demolish the Brutalist, WWI machineegun turret and sell the land to a developer!! This, from the man who wrote despairingly of the alleged death of the Landmarks Commission in a recent New York Times Op-ed, lamented ripping the face off Edward Durell Stonees 2 Columbus Circle for the Museum of Arts & Design (MAD). Little did Wolfe know that one of the walking dead,, landmarks commissioner Margery Perlmutter, was very much alive a few rows away, listening with rapt attention and taking careful notes.
Speaking of the devil, MAD architect Brad Cloepfil, who was allowed to brazenly demolish Ed Stonees facade without so much as a hearing at the LPC, was seen at the Pentagram party for new partner Luke Hayman, with friend, Pentagramist Lisa Strausfeld>or was that her twin sister Laura?
Talk is going around that Columbia dean Mark Wigley is being considered as chairman of Harvardds GSD. Leave New York for Boston? He must be mad too!
Up the Hudson, at down-in-the-dumps Newburgh, a week-long charrette to resurrect the city, led by DPZZs Andres Duany and developer Steve Maun of Leyland, uncovered that the culprit behind the razing of a major part of the cityys historic waterfront was none other than our very own Frank O. Gehry! The architect signed the order in 1966 as part of what was then known as urban renewal.. Can we chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, or is his Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn just another case of, as the French say, plus a change?
Rumor has it that Architectural Record still has NO plan to redesign its magazine, despite universal agreement that it needs a major facelift. I mean, it doesnnt even have any competition. You would think editor-in-chief Robert Ivy
would take a chance! Finally, a mysterious gift arrived without a note from Tsao & McKown: a flimsy cotton tote bag. When questioned, their office said it was a very, very late Christmas gift, now coming for the Year of the Pig. Thanks Calvin, Zak, and...!
At press time, yours truly was in a stylish car crash, right in front of Miess Seagrams Building! I knew it was a mistake to meet a client on Presidents Day, and all of a sudden there was a car making an unexpected left hand turn directly onto our path on Park Avenue. Luckily, we all walked away unharmed (if dazed), save for broken front lights and bumper. Just then, I noticed that we were exactly at the southwest corner of the plaza, where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard had a tete-a-tete in Breakfast at Tiffanyys! CCest la vie!
SEND OBSERVATIONS, TIPS, SUGGESTIONS, FLOWERS, ET CETERA, TO EDITOR@ARCHPAPER.COM
At a January 16 public hearing, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) urged Foster + Partners to modify the designs for the proposed addition to 980 Madison Avenue in order to win approval for the project. The firm presented a scheme for a 30-story glass tower to stand atop a five-floor mixed-use building, originally known as the Parke-Bernet Galleries, a gallery and art auction building completed in 1950. The idea of planting a modern tower on top of a historic building echoes Fosterrs recently completed Hearst headquarters.
The projectts developer, Aby Rosenns RFR Holdings, and Foster plan to modify the design and present to the LPC yet again. Cheri Fein, spokesperson for Rosen and Foster, stated that the twomenwereepleased that a vote was not taken and that there is now the opportunity to redesign.. A followup presentation to the LPC has not yet been scheduled.
The January hearing was a continuation of the public hearing held on October 24, 2006, where a large public contingency voiced both opposition and support for the design. Among the opponents was the Municipal Arts Society, which testified that the design of the addition was inappropriate in terms of height, massing, design, and materials in relationship to the Parke-Bernet Building and the historic district..
LPC chair Robert Tierney called the January 16 hearing a good exchange of views and ideas.. Many comments centered on the height of the tower, which LPC vice chairperson Pablo E. Vengoechea deemed overwhelming. Others took issue with the materials and the way the glass tower would contrast with nearby buildings. One member of the commission, architect Jan Hird Pokorny, supported the project.
The second hearing again drew many Upper East Side residents who have been vocal about their opposition to the proposal, including writer Tom Wolfe. No limit was set for what height the committee would deem appropriate, although it is clear that the majority of the LPC board and neighbors think that 30 stories is too tall. Rosen said in a statement,, We appreciate the thoughtfully considered comments at the LPC meeting, and have returned to the drawing board to come up with a design that responds to these comments yet remains viable.. For approval, the design must win six of the 11 LPC member votes.
A. Stewart Walker and Alfred Easton Poor designed the 980 Madison building with a simple limestone facade. Fosterrs proposal includes restoration, which Tierney praised as an impressive return to the buildinggs historical origins.. The plan would have refurbished the building, including removing more than 50 windows cut into the building over time, removing the fifth floor added in 1957, reintroducing the original roof garden, and adding 25,000 square feet of public gallery space.
When asked if he felt thatmodernconstruction could fit in with the historic character of the Upper East Side, Tierney pointed out, Renzo Pianoos expansion of the Whitney was quite striking, modern, and contemporary, and was approved.. Despite winning the LPCCs approval, however, the Piano project was ultimately scrapped, after the Whitney decided to build an expansion in the Meatpacking District rather than engage in a prolonged battle with neighbors.
Dia's Moving Plan D.O.A.
Whitney now eyeing Meatpacking District site
Dia's now-defunct design by SOM
When the Dia Art Foundation’s galleries at 548 West 22 Street closed in January 2004, it left a temporary void in New York’s cultural landscape, filled later that year with the promise of a new location connected to the proposed High Line Park. But on October 24, as reported in the New York Times, Kate Levin, commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) received a letter from Dia’s new board chair, Nathalie de Gunzburg, announcing that the institution would not occupy the city-owned building at 820 Washington Street as intended. The announcement was followed by the surprising news that the Whitney Museum of American Art is considering the site as an alternative to expanding its Marcel Breuer–designed home on Madison Avenue.
The Dia’s Gansevoort proposal matched the pioneering spirit the foundation embodied. Just as the museum settled in the then-burgeoning West Chelsea area in 1987, spurring its rise as an arts district, Dia would have created a stronghold for art in the transitioning Meatpacking District, and become a crucial part in the transformation of the High Line from an aging elevated railway into a dramatically landscaped public space.
In February of this year, Dia’s director Michael Govan was hired away after a 12-year tenure to become director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Shortly thereafter, Leonardo Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, stepped down from Dia’s board after serving for eight years, thrusting the institution into a state of instability as both men were key leaders in Dia’s growth.
Sources close to the situation suggest that between time pressure from the city, which aims to open the building by 2009, and the Whitney Museum’s expressed interest in the location as an alternative to their much-contested uptown expansion plans, Dia was forced to make a decision before they had a new director in place. Laura Raicovich, Dia’s deputy director, conceded that timing was a factor. She stated that going forward with the Meatpacking District plan did not make sense until the foundation had a director in place and the “New York City program is developed.”
While construction on the Meatpacking site had yet to begin, Dia had been working with Roger Duffy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) on the design of the 92,600-square-foot location. “It would have been a perfect project for the city,” Duffy said. “We worked closely with Ricardo Scofidio and James Corner [the masterplanners of the High Line] to make sure that the projects would interface well. I am a huge fan of Dia, and anyone who thinks highly of them is disappointed by the news.
“The site wasn’t entirely easy,” he continued. “There are meat lockers close by, and the maintenance and administration areas for the High Line—and public bathrooms—had to be in the building. But we managed an elegant solution. Maybe a wiser person would have seen the writing on the wall when Michael left.”
Joshua David, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, maintains that despite Dia’s decision, the emphasis of the High Line continues to be on its cultural and artistic value, but added, “That site is unusual because it’s owned by the city of New York, so the city has the ability to shape how it is used.”
Despite the disappointment, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden seemed sure that another cultural institution will take over the space. “A cultural use at 820 Washington is ideal for the southern terminus and principal entry to the High Line. The city will be actively seeking another cultural use,” Burden wrote by email.
Whitney spokesperson Jan Rothschild declined to comment about the museum’s intentions at 820 Washington Street other than to reiterate that the Whitney is “keeping its expansion options open.” But, she added, “No matter what we do, we are committed to working with Renzo Piano, and he is committed to us.” In an interview with Newsweek on November 2, Piano said that in September the museum asked him to consider the notion of designing a new building on a downtown site, and brought him to 820 Washington Street.
The Whitney’s attempts to expand its facilities spans 20 years, during which time it has hired and fired two architects—Michael Graves in 1985 and Rem Koolhaas in 2003—before hiring Renzo Piano to draw up plans in 2005. Piano’s initial plan met with stiff resistance from the community and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) but ultimately won all the necessary approvals and was granted several zoning variances in July from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. A new hurdle took shape when a coalition of Upper East Side neighbors filled suit against the museum in late August to contest the variances.
Meanwhile, Dia remains committed to finding another location in New York. “The Gansevoort site is a great location, but New York has other great locations,” Raicovich said. “Dia’s top priority is looking for the site that will best accommodate its programs.”