Search results for "Richard Meier"

Eavesdrop: Anne Guiney

OUR LADY OF THE TERRAZZO
Since our co-workers no longer find it amusing when, on answering the phone, we yell out, “Hey M____, someone from Emperor’s Club V.I.P on line 3 for you!” we’ve had to look elsewhere for entertainment. We were flipping through the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair the other day and came across Ingrid Sischy’s piece on the Palazzo Chupi, Julian Schnabel’s ulcer-pink stuccoed Venetianoid building in the West Village. Seeing as the remaining units range from $27 to $32 million, the spread is as close as we will ever get to checking out the details inside, so we took a look. It is charming, in its way, though it looks about as Venetian as Alec Guiness looked Saudi in Lawrence of Arabia. But great eyeliner! Anyway, tastes more refined than ours also took a look: Johnny Depp, Martha Stewart, and Madonna have all wandered through. The latter, however, liked the building more than the view: According to Sischy, Madonna looked out at Richard Meier’s Perry Street tower across the way and declared that compared to Chupi, it looked like a housing project. Meow!

PLEASE TRANSFER FUNDS IMMEDIATELY…
As luck would have it, the very next day we found a possible solution to our Chupi-less living situation, right there in our inbox! “HELLO DEAR,” the note began warmly, “I HAVE A CONTRACT FOR YOU.” It continued on: “I WAS GIVEN CONTRACT TO DESIGN AND BUILD A STATE UNIVERSITY, FOR THE STATE, I GOT YOUR EMAIL FROM ARCHITECTURAL WEBSITE.” We calculated that our cut of cut of this $40,000,000 project in Nigeria is 40 percent, which gets us halfway to a duplex! Problem is, we are a gossip columnist, not an architect, and so just as Mr. Chris Chinedu of Current Technologies needs our help with a little bank transfer (and design skills, natch), we need yours, dear readers! We’ll cut you in at half—just send along your contact and banking information, and your social security number, and we’re in business!

SEND GOSSIP AND BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION TO EAVESDROP@ARCHPAPER.COM

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Piano to Build at Ronchamp
Plans for nuns' quarters and a new visitor center at Ronchamp, one of Le Corbusier's most celebrated works, have drawn the ire of the Swiss master's followers.
Ezra Stoller/ESTO

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.
 

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Westwood, Ho!

 
Suspended walkways at Viñoly’s CNSI. BRAD FEINKNOPF

While the red brick Italian Romanesque core of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is an ubiquitous presence on LA’s western skyline, the school is not often on the lips of those discussing great contemporary Southern California architecture. That may be about to change, as Westwood has been altered by three new campus structures by architectural heavyweights Richard Meier, Rafael Viñoly, and I.M. Pei.

The new buildings—still intended, say campus officials, to blend with the school’s overall aesthetic—include Meier’s recently-completed Broad Art Center, Viñoly’s just-finished California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), and Pei and his son C.C.’s nearly-completed Ronald Reagan Medical Center. They are part of an ambitious expansion plan for the campus, which already has a population of nearly 40,000 and hundreds of acres of prime real estate. 

“The existing style of the campus is extremely important in making any decisions regarding architecture,” said campus architect Jeff Averill. “New buildings must have a contextual response to the campus. We have a framework, a palette of materials that we use. Of course, there are exceptions, and these three new buildings have more exceptions than other projects.”

Completed last fall, Richard Meier and Partners’ Broad Art Center is a welcome top-to-bottom renovation of the original Dickson Art Center by William Pereira. Completed in the early 1960s, the cast concrete building was ill-suited to making art from the get-go, due to its low-light, dense studios and poor ventilation. Then, damage from the Northridge earthquake of 1994 was so extensive that renovation or demolition was the only answer. 


Richard Meier and Partners’ Broad Art Center. TIM GRIFFITH

“This space is all about creating the best possible light and space for teaching and making art,” said principal architect Michael Palladino of Richard Meier and Partners. “Our goal was to pull all the weight off the face of the building and to reuse it at an appropriate scale. We took a lighter concrete system, created proper sun control on the south side, and made the building more transparent,” he said.

Perhaps most significantly, the circulation was moved from an inner corridor to cantilevered corridors located outside so that the expanded studio spaces receive both natural circulation and natural light throughout the day. “The building can be naturally ventilated nine months of the year,” said Palladino. Teak slats on the west-facing facade, brick paving in UCLA’s familiar, four-hued red palette at the east facade, and off-white cast concrete are all nods to the campus aesthetic.

The south campus is receiving its share of construction as well. Located in what was once a cramped bit of space over an existing parking structure, the spectacular CNSI, finished by Rafael Viñoly Architects in December, completes a group of contemporary-style science buildings known collectively as the Court of Sciences. Structures by Ralph Johnson and Cesar Pelli flank the CNSI and help to create a dense south campus network of buildings. 

Set on a relatively small footprint, the CNSI is meant to bring together several scientific disciplines. The seven-story building, of which three floors were constructed over an existing parking structure, centers on fostering collaboration among scientific teams. “The design reflects how this work is performed: Large undetermined technical spaces with unexpected modes of circulation that encourage random activity,” said Viñoly.

The exterior of the CNSI is deceptive; its clean brick and metal facade belies the hive-like interior courtyard. As if spun by an industrial arachnid, the chaotic web of pathways suspended above a portion of the parking structure connects various corners of the building. Though jarring at first, these suspended walkways are meant to illustrate the larger aim of this burgeoning technology. “It’s all about creating connections across disciplines,” said Averill. “The walkways and inner courtyard are indicative of that. The connections across this space are an expression of the idea of this building.” 

By far the most monumental and expensive building being completed on campus is the Ronald Reagan Medical Center. Designed by Pei Partnership Architects, this building will entirely replace the old UCLA Medical Center.

At a cost in excess of $850 million, the Medical Center will be among the most technologically advanced hospitals in the world. “The kind of things that are incorporated into the building in terms of function and technology take health care into a new era,” said Averill. Utilizing more than three million pounds of travertine—clearly evident on its facade—the one million-plus-square-foot, 10-story hospital is on a four-acre site at the southwest corner of the campus.

Patient rooms will all be equipped with technologies like wireless internet, robotics, and digital imaging capability that enable a level of medical care unavailable even ten years ago. “The Center makes any other project on campus pale in comparison,” said Averill. “It is so much bigger than anything else.”

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And the Award Goes To...

In December, the American Institute of Architects announced this year’s top honors, and by its choices, seems to be making a statement about the importance of interdisciplinary and sustainable approaches in architectural practice. Renzo Piano received the Gold Medal, Stanley Tigerman earned the Topaz Medallion, and KieranTimberlake Associates netted the Architecture Firm Award. The 25-Year Award, which recognizes a building that has stood the test of time, will go to Richard Meier’s Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana. The awards will be presented at the American Architectural Foundation’s Accent on Architecture Gala in February at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.


Renzo Piano stands presents a model of the High Museum of Art (left). The New York Times Building is his most recent U.S. project. COURTESY THE HIGH MUSEUM OF ART; FRIEDER BLICKLE 

In winning the Gold Medal, generally considered the AIA’s highest honor and a lifetime achievement award of sorts, Piano was recognized for the impressive scope of his oeuvre. “His work demonstrates the complete range of architectural concerns,” Thomas Howorth, chair of the nominating committee, said in a statement. “It is sculptural, beautiful, technically accomplished, and sustainable. He integrates the diverse disciplines that combine in contemporary building into cohesive, humane environments.”

Piano came to the world’s attention for his work on the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, which he completed in 1977 with fellow Pritzker Prize winner Richard Rogers. He has gone on to create an internationally recognized body of work, including his expansion of the Morgan Library and his design for the New York Times Building, both in New York City, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum in LA, and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He is also involved in Columbia University’s controversial plan for a new campus in West Harlem.


Stanley Tigerman (left) leads a class at ARCHEWORKS (right), the alternative architecture school he founded in Chicago. COURTESY TIGERMAN MCCURRY ARCHITECTS

Tigerman won the Topaz Medallion, an award in recognition of an outstanding architectural educator presented jointly by the AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He has been teaching for almost five decades, including repeat stints at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Tigerman is a nonpareil instructor whose impact on the students he has taught formally and informally for so long is magnified many times over by the informed and passionate love of architecture those students, now teachers and practitioners themselves, bring to the world,” Jane Weinzapfel, principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects , wrote in her nominating letter.

But Tigerman said that more than his teaching, the judges were impressed with ARCHEWORKS, an interdisciplinary design school that he and Eva Maddox founded in 1994. The school brings together a range of professionals to tackle social issues through architecture, art, and design. Tigerman sees the medallion as a recognition of not only his work but also that of the school. “They realize that there are other ways to educate a designer,” he said. “It’s nice that they are still recognizing this approach.”


Stephen Kieran (right) and James TImberlake (left) are the principals of KieranTimberlake Associates, whose Loblolly house uses advanced prefabricated technology. COURTESY KIERANTIMBERLAKE ASSOCIATES

The AIA has honored KieranTimberlake Associates before, awarding it the first Latrobe Fellowship in 2001 to help the firm pursue its R&D–driven approach to architecture. That research-driven approach helped it win the Architecture Firm Award, in addition to its commitment to sustainable design. “They see the holistic approach to what we do,” partner James Timberlake said of the AIA. 

Stephen Kieran, another partner, said he is pleased to have won the Firm Award because of what it represents. “What’s really gratifying is that it’s not about a building,” he said. “What we’ve won so far has been for our buildings. This is an award for a collaborative process that creates all these buildings; it’s really an award about what we believe, which is the power of collaboration.”

With the recognition of these architects, the AIA may be trying to lead the industry in a more progressive direction, Tigerman said. "It's in the air," he said. "There are three things kind of floating around: The first is a multidisciplinary approach, the second is global issues, and the third is social cause. The AIA is sending a message that ethical practice and ethical behavior seem to count."

Richard Meier, who won the Gold Medal in 1997, completed the Atheneum in 1979, and the project has been lauded ever since. In 1979, it won a Progressive Architecture award, and in 1982, an AIA Honor Award. According to juror Peter Eisenman, it is one of Meier’s seminal works.

Eavesdrop: Anne Guiney

R.I.P., HOUSE & GARDEN

Forget about the mortgage crisis, folks—when shelter magazines fold, you know the economy is going to pot! The powers that be over at Condé Nast closed down the 106-year old House & Garden the other day, and doomsday scenarios have been flying fast and furious amongst those of us who think about toile wallpaper and the care and feeding of amaryllis. According to our Nast-y mole, H&G’s long-time editor, Dominique Browning, and publisher, Joe Lagani, were not particularly simpático, and the latter quit smack dab in the middle of the magazine’s first ever Design Happening, a series of events pegged to New York Design Week. Lagani had apparently been beefing up advertising sales, so his departure, the specter of coming economic trouble for H & G’s target demographic, and a world already overstuffed with shelter magazines seem to have spelled the end.


LOST IN ORBIT

Imagine the surprise of the editors at Architectural Record when an obituary on New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp came in from their critic Joseph Giovannini. The first sentences: “When Herbert Muschamp died on October 2, at the age of 59, it was as though a planet dropped out of our architectural constellation. From his first book in 1974, File Under Architecture, he was a fixture in our sky of thought…” This, about the man whom Record had an-nounced its intention to sue for tortious interference just a few years before! Editor Suzanne Stephens had been working on a book about the rebuilding of Ground Zero, and Muschamp announced that she couldn’t include the work he had commissioned from various chic architects for an issue of the Times’ Sunday Magazine, though she had already received permission from the Times legal folks. The squabble reached a crescendo on a design world-packed flight back from the 2004 Venice Biennale, when Ms. Stephens was seated in the same row as our planetary critic, who bellowed, “I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO LOOK AT YOUR ******* FACE!” The lady had a sharp retort. Meanwhile, the architects involved were forced to take sides: Zaha Hadid, Richard Meier, Fred Schwartz, Charles Gwathmey, and Peter Eisenman, and all the younger firms withheld their permission, presumably at Muschamp’s bidding. Rem Koolhaas, Steven Holl, Rafael Viñoly, David Rockwell, and Alexander Gorlin felt no such compunction and gave the OK. Suffice it to say that the editors at Record toned the obituary down for the print edition, but posted the original online in all of its stellar style.

Send tips, tulip bulbs, and text messages to EDITOR@ARCHPAPER.COM

Eavesdrop: Editors

At Pentagram star Michael Bierut’s roast at the Architectural League, tout le monde was in attendance; the speakers included many of our local design world’s most talented and glib: Suzanne Stephens sang and danced in his honor around the room. WNPR host and general polymath Kurt Anderson called Michael delusional, a liar, and slightly psychotic—and those were the compliments! And to think that I thought he was just a nice, fun guy! Wendy Josephs, Karen Stein, Annabelle Selldorf, Marilyn Taylor, Rosalie Genevro, Diana Agrest, Margery Perlmuttter of the Landmarks Commission and the Pentagram partners (including a very pregnant Lisa Strausfeld) were at the Century Club. That legendary place has a reputation for being a men’s club, but look at the guest list—were there any men there?

Robert Stern’s selection to design the George W. Bush Library, located in Dallas at Southern Methodist University, continues to be the talk of the town—Is it good for Bob, or perhaps it is bad? Is it good for architecture? What about New Urbanism? (Karl Rove has a house at Rosemary’s Beach near Seaside, Florida, by the way, so he must be a fan of the movement.) Is Stern following Philip Johnson’s motto that architecture is the second oldest profession? And put yourself in his position: If you were asked to do it, and didn’t like the President’s politics, would you have turned it down? And though Bob won’t be designing the exhibits, of course, one wonders: will there be an Abu Ghraib room? Speaking of Mr. Stern and the architecture school over which he presides, Richard Meier will be the Davenport Professor of Architecture at Yale this spring. Word on the street is that the position is a form of payback for having been fired from the job of designing the addition to and renovation of Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building, a project the university then gave to Charles Gwathmey. What else could entice Dick up to New Haven?

And speaking of academia, Tom Hanrahan of hMa was spotted chatting with Zaha Hadid recently—was he courting her for a position at Pratt, where he is dean? The two were at the Mercer Hotel, her regular roost while in New York City—courtyard rooms only, naturellement, the street is far too noisy—and who should run up to her in the lobby but Sean Penn, who breathlessly exclaimed “I’ve always loved your work!” If Frank Gehry has Brad Pitt as an acolyte, surely the formidable Ms. Hadid deserves someone a little edgier like Sean Penn?

Send gossip, tips, et cetera to EDITOR@ARCHPAPER.COM

Midtown's Dream Team

 

Several weeks ago, in one of the most unique planning exercises in recent city history, six leading design professionals donated their time to collaborate on a day-long charrette in a vacant storefront at United Nations Plaza. They produced a bold new vision for the redevelopment of Midtown Manhattan’s forlorn-looking East River waterfront.

 

Most of the area that the designers focused on, between East 38th and East 42nd streets, is currently a no-man’s land that bears the imprint of a period in planning when cars were given priority over pedestrians. The dominant feature is a nine-acre development site where a Con Edison plant was once located in front of a massive elevated off-ramp from the FDR Drive.

 

The charrette, which was held under the auspices of the Municipal Art Society (MAS), was an effort to harmonize the development agendas for four proposed projects: the United Nations expansion, the renovation of the FDR Drive, the extension of Manhattan’s greenway up the East Side, and the redevelopment of the Con Ed site. “We wanted to bring all the players together,” says Kent Barwick, president of the MAS.

 

On the morning of the charrette, Midtown East stakeholders—including representatives from Manhattan CB6, the New York State Department of Transportation, the New York City Parks Department, and East Side Realty Company, which is redeveloping the Con Ed site with a master plan by Richard Meier and David Childs—made a presentation to the participating designers: Ricardo Scofidio of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Kate Orff of Scape Studio, Margie Ruddick of WRT, Ken Smith of Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Brian Jencek of Hargreaves Associates, and Matthew Urbanski of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. This was actually the first time that their representatives, with the exception of the UN, discussed their objectives in the same room.

 

In many ways the different visions presented appeared to be irreconcilable. For example, some of the stakeholders presented plans showing options for decking over FDR Drive to provide access to the East River. But for the DOT, there are major constraints against building a deck that slopes down to the river, most notably the FDR’s elevated 42nd Street exit ramp.

 

However, the design that was unveiled the following Sunday addressed the various objectives of the different stakeholders. It links together the proposed projects with a 33- to 36-foot-high terrace running from East 38th Street to East 42nd Street, which cantilevers over FDR Drive. A forested hill on the terrace conceals infrastructure, by surrounding a ventilator shaft and covering over the FDR's 42nd Street exit ramp. Access to the waterfront is provided by a pedestrian/ bicycle ramp descending from the terrace across the FDR and another extending across the highway. A six story glass pylon at the river’s edge would house a restaurant and a ferry terminal. “We realized that if this was going to be viable,” said Scofidio, “we would have to please the DOT.” 

Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

 Seventy years. Seventy years since Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings established their remarkably fecund partnership and, picking up one Mr. Merrill along the way, redefined what a modern, American (or is that American Modern?) architecture firm might be. Cut to the packed and bawdy lido deck of Lever House on the evening of September 6, where, in a celebration that kicked off what we hope will be a fine fall season, SOMers and their allies gathered for a lavish champagne-soused “supper” (as the invites had it) under the all-but-full moon. David Childs, rising as ever a head above the crowd, was at the center of the swell, clearly delighted, and Marilyn Jordan TaylorRoger Duffy, and T. J. Gottesdiener all seemed unusually pleased to be presiding over the powerful office at this auspicious moment. Revolving around them were the usual pack of clients and civic lights—Hunter College president and Giuliani-era historic preservation head Jennifer Raab and former Community Board 1 chairMadelyn Wils busily amused each other by the bar—as well as our colleagues in the press (sequestered by choice in a corner near the overabundant buffet), sated amidst their quarry. Party stalwart Richard Meier looked particularly frisky with his new, fall look: a full beard. No public words were said, and none were necessary: SOM already owns this town.

Talk in one animated klatch moved in a more diverting direction, toward Brad Pitt, that favorite and usually most rewarding subject of architecture gossip pages. Marion Weiss had recently served with him on the jury of the Global Green sustainable design competition for post-Katrina New Orleans (which he chaired) and she reported that, dillentantism be damned, the actor-cum-Frank Gehry acolyte was “the real thing.” Apparently he is curious and engaged, he gave generously of his time and presence to the afflicted locals, and he even listened when fellow juror Thom Mayne spoke. That certainly puts him among a very small and hardy class. But a note to Brad: There’s no news value in earnestness; you’re getting this much sought-after press mention only because we’re still tickled by your baby-naming shout-out to Jean Nouvel.

Meanwhile, Matthew Berman, whose Workshop/APD won the Pitt-hyped competition, has been doing the rounds on TV news shows, among themEntertainment TonightE! News, and The Insider. In other news from the bayou, unconfirmable at deadline but too delightful too ignore, Andrés Duany has apparently purchased a house in one gentrifying Crescent City neighborhood, and when he announced this at a public meeting, reports have it, he was promptly booed. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

In news much closer to home, there is some trouble at Yale. A few weeks ago, as the kids filed back into Paul Rudolph’s incomparable Art and Architecture Building, reports came in of a general consternation in the ranks. Apparently, many there are none too pleased about the nature and quality of Charles Gwathmey’s planned addition, announced this summer, which will intersect with Rudolph’s venerable Larkinesque keep at one of its most tender and delicate points, the art library. No word yet on Dean Stern’s response to his students’ brewing anti-Gwathmey heresy, but we’re certain it will be merciless and swift.

Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

Seventy years. Seventy years since Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings established their remarkably fecund partnership and, picking up one Mr. Merrill along the way, redefined what a modern, American (or is that American Modern?) architecture firm might be. Cut to the packed and bawdy lido deck of Lever House on the evening of September 6, where, in a celebration that kicked off what we hope will be a fine fall season, SOMers and their allies gathered for a lavish champagne-soused supperr (as the invites had it) under the all-but-full moon. David Childs, rising as ever a head above the crowd, was at the center of the swell, clearly delighted, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Roger Duffy, and T. J. Gottesdiener all seemed unusually pleased to be presiding over the powerful office at this auspicious moment. Revolving around them were the usual pack of clients and civic lightssHunter College president and Giuliani-era historic preservation head Jennifer Raab and former Community Board 1 chair Madelyn Wils busily amused each other by the barras well as our colleagues in the press (sequestered by choice in a corner near the overabundant buffet), sated amidst their quarry. Party stalwart Richard Meier looked particularly frisky with his new, fall look: a full beard. No public words were said, and none were necessary: SOM already owns this town.

Talk in one animated klatch moved in a more diverting direction, toward Brad Pitt, that favorite and usually most rewarding subject of architecture gossip pages. Marion Weiss had recently served with him on the jury of the Global Green sustainable design competition for post-Katrina New Orleans (which he chaired) and she reported that, dillentantism be damned, the actor-cum-Frank Gehry acolyte was the real thing.. Apparently he is curious and engaged, he gave generously of his time and presence to the afflicted locals, and he even listened when fellow juror Thom Mayne spoke. That certainly puts him among a very small and hardy class. But a note to Brad: There's no news value in earnestness; you're getting this much sought-after press mention only because we're still tickled by your baby-naming shout-out to Jean Nouvel.

Meanwhile, Matthew Berman, whose Workshop/APD won the Pitt-hyped competition, has been doing the rounds on TV news shows, among them Entertainment Tonight, E! News, and The Insider. In other news from the bayou, unconfirmable at deadline but too delightful too ignore, Andrrs Duany has apparently purchased a house in one gentrifying Crescent City neighborhood, and when he announced this at a public meeting, reports have it, he was promptly booed. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

In news much closer to home, there is some trouble at Yale. A few weeks ago, as the kids filed back into Paul Rudolph's incomparable Art and Architecture Building, reports came in of a general consternation in the ranks. Apparently, many there are none too pleased about the nature and quality of Charles Gwathmey's planned addition, announced this summer, which will intersect with Rudolph's venerable Larkinesque keep at one of its most tender and delicate points, the art library. No word yet on Dean Stern's response to his students' brewing anti-Gwathmey heresy, but we're certain it will be merciless and swift.

short lists and pillow talk: PNOBEL@ARCHPAPER.COM

Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

 It’s the summer doldrums here, gossipwise—that sad season between the last of the overhyped spring events and the return of nonstop calumny after Labor Day. Those about whom we might fruitfully comment seem to have decamped, or perhaps there’s merely been an outbreak of discretion and fair play. Either way, the result is the same: It’s Frank Lloyd Wright to the rescue.

Can you feel the scandal brewing? For months now, since the Post’s Page Six got the jump on the competition with a wee item, tongues have been flapping (with greatly varying degrees of accuracy) about a forthcoming book that threatens to do to Wright’s reputation—that great edifice of myth and omission maintained for half a century by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation—what the Starr Report did to Monica Lewinsky’s. Or what Richard Meier’s Building the Getty did to his own. Or, a mite less hysterically, what Franz Schulze’s damningPhilip Johnson: Life and Work might have done to old PJ had anyone bothered to read it and hold “the dean” to account.

But we digress. Breaking the news about the book, Page Six, God bless it, focused on the low: allegations of anti-Semitism and the “love/hate” relationship between Wright, his last wife, Olgivanna, and the many overtly and covertly gay apprentices with whom they surrounded themselves in their various Taliesins. As a suggestion of what other treats might be found within, The Post also mentioned a meat-cleaver murder attempt by Wright’s drug-addicted daughter (and last living heir) Iovanna. Picking up the thread, in early July the Associated Press ran wide and deep with a story on the Foundation’s preparations for a spin war in advance of the book’s September publication date. According to the AP, officials in Scottsdale “fear enrollment could fall” at Taliesin (no comment!) and are pushing back against the book preemptively, as the guilty do, citing alleged errors.

Good stuff, sure. There’s just one problem: all of this totally misses the point. The book in question, The Fellowship by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman(ReganBooks, 2006), isn’t a lighthearted smear; as far as this only somewhat lapsed Wright scholar can deduce, it’s good history. And a ripping read. I have it right here, in fact, all 664 obsessively footnoted pages of it. And if I did not also have here a copy of the nondisclosure agreement I signed to get my greedy hands on the galleys, I’d happily entertain you with some of the tragic and hilarious (and substantiated) stories of violence, ribaldry, and mental manipulation perpetrated by Mr. and Mrs. Wright and Georgi Gurdjieff, the Greek-Armenian guru under whose sway Olgivanna fell when very young and whose mind-bending influence she never could quite shake. Not that she tried very hard; what The Fellowship makes sparklingly clear is that the greatest American architect of all time, so long imagined standing alone as a generative, form-giving genius, was in truth whipsawed throughout his life by tepid intellectual winds of dubious quality and provenance, from the politics of Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh to Gurdjieff’s abusive, sex-fueled, quackery-ridden personality cult (examined in minute and fascinating detail in the book), which Olgivanna almost succeeded (or did she?) in installing as the true philosophy at Taliesin.

Perhaps that’s why the diehard Wrighties are digging in for a fight? 

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Marketing First

Marketing First
Architects, stop wasting time schmoozing with developers. It's the marketing consultants you need to know. Anna Holtzman reports on the cadre of consultants who are driving developers' architectural decisions.


Courtesy hatje cantz


Top: Handel Architects oversaw the conversion of 485 Fifth Avenue, a pre-war building, and fashion designer Peter Som designed the interiors. Corcoran Sunshine's campaign for the building plays on the couture connection, with a brochure filled with images that would be equally at home in a Saks Fifth Avenue catalogue. Bottom: Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group and Pandiscio & Co. both consulted on the Urban Glass House by Philip Johnson and Annabelle Selldorf. The marketing materials for the project included a mesh bag printed with Selldorf's face; the mesh is meant to evoke construction fencing.

It's hard to say which came firsttthe demands of increasingly design-conscious New York City real estate buyers, or the commodification of architecture by high-end condo developers. But the glut of starchitect-designed residences that has dotted the city over the past half-decade has made one thing abundantly clear: Design and real estate have merged to spawn a luxury industry. And as with any other high price-tag itemmbe it cars, jewelry, or clothingga host of savvy consulting agencies have emerged to help developers market their product, offering guidance on everything from defining programs and layouts to selecting architects to positioning the work in the marketplace. The cardinal rule of development has not changeddthis transparent market will always be driven by profit.

The phenomenon of developer consulting has not sprung up overnight. The undisputed queenn of the trade, according to luxury real estate marketer Richard Pandiscio, is Louise Sunshine.. In 1986, the New Yorker founded The Sunshine Group, a marketing firm that specializes in high-end residential buildings, and has since built an empire, guiding the development of residential projects by the likes of Frank Gehry, Philippe Starck, and David Childs, as well as the now-legendary Richard Meier towers in Manhattan's West Village.

A year ago, the firm merged with Corcoran to become the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group (CSMG). A hardy crop of younger firms has sprung up around it, offering both competing and complementary services. Each offers varying forms of consultation. Some, like Sunshine Corcoran, are brought in by developers as early as a project's site feasibility phase, and will come up with a marketing concept, then recommend architects and interior designers to execute it.

For Michael Shvo, a former real estate broker who now runs his own eponymous, two-year-old consulting company, the selection of a designer is key to the packaging process. He recalled refusing a developer's request to sell a project he considered poorly designed. I told him, I can't sell that,'' he said. With the Jade, a new Chelsea condominium project, it was Schvo who determined the units' layouts ((The neighborhood doesn't have any small apartments,, he said, explaining the logic behind the unit's compact podd arrangements), and who decided to brand the building after its stylish interior designer, Jade Jagger. In addition to marketing and sales teams, his 55-person company has a design development team which provides input on everything from unit mix, amenity programs, services, and parking. For each project, we ask ourselves, What do we have that nobody else has? A fashion designer to do the interiors? A star architect? Phenomenal views?? he said. If a project needs something it doesn't have, Schvo will try to convince the client to incorporate it.

Design involvement also varies from firm to firm. The 15-person team at The Apartment, for example, often designs and executes interiors, in addition to providing branding and marketing services. Gina Alvarez, who with partner Stefan Boublil, founded The Apartment in 1999 as a home-design retail business, began consulting for developers of high-end residential projects roughly four years ago. Alvarez said, We work really closely with the architects,, citing their work on two residential projects by ShoP Architects, one on Madison Avenue, the other on Houston Street, which are currently in development.

Enrique Norten, who is designing a residential project near McCarren Park in Williamsburg, noted that he rarely deals with the project's developer: I deal mostly with Schvo [the consultant on the project],, said Norten. I like working with him because he is hugely supportive of the architect's work..

While not from a design background, Shvo asserted, a lot of times I'll personally draw what something should look likeefor example, at 20 Pine Street [a conversion of the former Chase Manhattan Bank headquarters, developed by Boymelgreen], I drew the kitchen and Armani Casa just executed it..

Other practices keep their hands firmly out of architectural design. We're not working as designers,, said Elisa Orlanski Ours, vice president of predevelopment and planning. We're helping guide the process, establish the building's identity, and determine what the market wants and sales strategies,, while reviewing guidelines on everything from square footage, amenities, appliances, and outdoor space. These recommendations are informed by rigorous design knowledge: Her department is entirely staffed by trained architects. While predevelopment consulting has always been a part of the Sunshine package, it has only been formalized into a department in the last five months.

Like her peers, Ours has a few theories about what's motivating the increasing demand for developer consultants. Buyers are more sophisticated now than ever, because of the Internet,, she said. They do a lot of homework before they visit the sales office, and they know what the competition is offering.. Alvarez also observes a changing developer demographic: We're encountering a lot of first-time developers,, she reported. I think people see the perceived real estate boom as an investment, the way they would have invested in Internet stock a decade ago.. And with new blood, she says, come new ideas about how to market real estateemany new developers are savvy business people who draw on techniques more commonly used to sell luxury goods like automobiles and watches, such as slick imagery depicting idealized lifestyles.

Andrea Schwann, who has consulted on the marketing strategy for projects including the forthcoming Neil Denariidesigned residential building near the High Line, attributes the phenomenon to several factors: She, like many, point to the Perry Street project as among the first designer luxury condos to capture the development community's attention. And with the skyrocketing expense of building in New York, in her view, developers have been forced into the perceived value game,, using design as a means of one-upping the competition.

Regardless of whether the movement is driven by economics or a genuine interest in design, the end result, asserted Richard Pandiscio, whose eponymous company provides marketing services to Sunshine Corcoran and Douglas Elliman, is that, New York is looking better, and developers are looking at different types of architects and younger architects..

The rise of design-marketed real estate is not just happening in New York. Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles are keeping pace with the trend. We're getting work all over the world right now,, said Pandiscio. New York is just the most concentrated place, but look at what's happening in areas like Shanghai and Dubai.. Pandiscio foresees the public's and the development community's interest in design continuing to grow. And in a shifting marketplace, a building's perceived value may be the deciding factor on whether a new development sinks or swims.

Anna Holtzman is a contributing editor at Architecture magazine and writes regularly for AN.
.

Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

It's the summer doldrums here, gossipwiseethat sad season between the last of the overhyped spring events and the return of nonstop calumny after Labor Day. Those about whom we might fruitfully comment seem to have decamped, or perhaps there's merely been an outbreak of discretion and fair play. Either way, the result is the same: It's Frank Lloyd Wright to the rescue.

Can you feel the scandal brewing? For months now, since the Post's Page Six got the jump on the competition with a wee item, tongues have been flapping (with greatly varying degrees of accuracy) about a forthcoming book that threatens to do to Wright's reputationnthat great edifice of myth and omission maintained for half a century by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundationnwhat the Starr Report did to Monica Lewinsky's. Or what Richard Meier's Building the Getty did to his own. Or, a mite less hysterically, what Franz Schulze's damning Philip Johnson: Life and Work might have done to old PJ had anyone bothered to read it and hold the deann to account.

But we digress. Breaking the news about the book, Page Six, God bless it, focused on the low: allegations of anti-Semitism and the love/hatee relationship between Wright, his last wife, Olgivanna, and the many overtly and covertly gay apprentices with whom they surrounded themselves in their various Taliesins. As a suggestion of what other treats might be found within, The Post also mentioned a meat-cleaver murder attempt by Wright's drug-addicted daughter (and last living heir) Iovanna. Picking up the thread, in early July the Associated Press ran wide and deep with a story on the Foundation's preparations for a spin war in advance of the book's September publication date. According to the AP, officials in Scottsdale fear enrollment could falll at Taliesin (no comment!) and are pushing back against the book preemptively, as the guilty do, citing alleged errors.

Good stuff, sure. There's just one problem: all of this totally misses the point. The book in question, The Fellowship by Roger Friedland and Harold Zellman (ReganBooks, 2006), isn't a lighthearted smear; as far as this only somewhat lapsed Wright scholar can deduce, it's good history. And a ripping read. I have it right here, in fact, all 664 obsessively footnoted pages of it. And if I did not also have here a copy of the nondisclosure agreement I signed to get my greedy hands on the galleys, I'd happily entertain you with some of the tragic and hilarious (and substantiated) stories of violence, ribaldry, and mental manipulation perpetrated by Mr. and Mrs. Wright and Georgi Gurdjieff, the Greek-Armenian guru under whose sway Olgivanna fell when very young and whose mind-bending influence she never could quite shake. Not that she tried very hard; what The Fellowship makes sparklingly clear is that the greatest American architect of all time, so long imagined standing alone as a generative, form-giving genius, was in truth whipsawed throughout his life by tepid intellectual winds of dubious quality and provenance, from the politics of Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh to Gurdjieff's abusive, sex-fueled, quackery-ridden personality cult (examined in minute and fascinating detail in the book), which Olgivanna almost succeeded (or did she?) in installing as the true philosophy at Taliesin.

Perhaps that's why the diehard Wrighties are digging in for a fight?

Debauches, breaches, ramblings: PNOBEL@ARCHPAPER.COM