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Gulf State of Mind

Review: Jean Nouvel gives Qatar a museum that matches its context perfectly
The opening of the Jean Nouvel–designed National Museum of Qatar, in Doha, Qatar, marks another step in the country’s mission to set itself apart from its neighbors and solidify its cultural position in the world. For one to understand the motivations behind the design and construction of the newly opened National Museum, one must first understand a bit about the geopolitical context that it has been built in. Like many of its neighbors in the Persian Gulf region, Qatar has been building at a pace and level of quality that is nearly unmatched in the world. Yet, unlike the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar is not building to attract tourists or even business interests. Since 1971, when Qatar gained its full independence from the British, it has worked to distinguish itself as a fully autonomous nation. The intensity of this drive has been amplified in the past few years by a series of events and political upheavals that have isolated the small country. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed economic and political embargoes on Qatar after years of growing tension over international trade and other international relations. In an act of defiance, Qatar countered by leaving the Gulf Region’s oil cartel, OPEC. These events have led to stronger internal support for Qatar’s ruling emir, who has taken a hard line with the blockading neighbors, and solidified the country’s resolve to stand culturally and economically independent from the region. The National Museum is designed and programmed specifically to display the country’s unique culture and history to international visitors and, perhaps more importantly, to Qataris. Broadly covering the nation’s natural and political history, exhibitions reach back tens of thousands of years through the discovery of oil and natural gas off the coast in the mid-20th century to explore what it means to be Qatari. Perhaps ironically though, Qataris only make up around 12 percent of Qatar’s of 2.7 million residents. The rest are foreigners, most of which are migrant service and construction workers. It remains to be seen whether a forthcoming planned gallery covering the country’s current events will highlight the immense contribution of migrants to the past decade of development. Notably, Qatar has been criticized for the use of underpaid labor and unsafe construction practices, particularly pertaining to the many 2022 World Cup stadiums currently under construction. Recent years have seen laws passed down directly from the emir to protect workers’ rights, and while progress has been made, some human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, say there are still issues to be addressed. Whether one argues the museum’s contents show a complete image of the nation or not, the building itself has a lot to say. Like many “signature” architecture projects, it may be the architecture of museum that will be most memorable for those who visit. A bombastic tour-de-force of engineering and construction, there is little argument about the visual impact of the project as a whole. Unapologetically designed to look like the crystalized mineral formation known as a desert rose, the museum is composed of dozens of large discs. Intersecting at various angles, the discs produce the facade, roof, walls, ceilings, apertures, and structure. Enable by engineering help from Gehry Technologies and ARUP, the geometric theme and is relentlessly executed. One is hard pressed to find any public facing spaces that are not completely shaped by the seemingly random arrangement of discs. There are no columns, no rectilinear apertures, no perpendicular intersections, and no flat ceilings. In many spaces even the floor ramps and bends in a choreographed play with the walls and ceiling. All artifacts and exhibition pieces are shown in the round, while the tilting walls are filled with carefully mapped projections of artist-made films. The effect is quite successful and makes for a strong retort to those who argue that museum walls should always be flat. The museum’s galleries are organized into an irregular crescent, which produces a large Baraha (courtyard) with the help of the 20th-century royal palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, a cultural landmark in its own right. This outdoor room provides a new civic space able to accommodate thousands. This is an important aspect of the project, considering Doha lacks similar spaces, besides the main Souq, over a mile away. The museum’s position near the waterfront is also significant. While still separated by the city’s major traffic artery and a thin waterfront parkway, many of its neighbors are government or administrative buildings, which are cut off from the city by high security fences. In stark contrast to the oft-foreboding nature of the area, the museum’s grounds include large gardens designed by French landscape architect Michel Desvigne, and includes multiple children’s play areas, large desert plantings, and a lagoon complete with a monumental fountain sculpture by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Despite the formal exuberance, many of the spaces have a similar feel, in part to the limited material, color, and building palette. This is to say, once you have seen part of the project, there are few surprises. The formal complexity does not translate into complexity in plan. For the most part the entire building is one path, even if that path is varied in width and direction. Each gallery intersects with the next with no hard thresholds or transitions. Occasionally, a change in ceiling height or a slant in the floor differentiate one gallery from the next, but overall the experience is generally consistent throughout the project. This is a bit disappointing considering the innumerable possibilities the project’s formal language implies. On the other hand, this may be excusable as the expressed goal of the museum is to present a clear vision of Qatar’s past and present. Though a few more moments of unexpected shortcuts, detours, or unique spaces could have been a pleasant release from the project’s surprisingly simple plan. The few places where relief can be found from the disc organization are in the gift shops, designed by Sydney-based Koichi Takada Architects. Riffing on the theme of desert rock formations, the shops take the shape of the Dahl Al Misfir (Cave of Light), a dramatic cave system in central Qatar. Undulating contoured wood walls push and pull, providing space for lighting and shelving, while the tall spaces reach up to irregularly shaped windows and skylights, mimicking the cave’s dramatic illumination. Takada is also responsible for two cafes and a restaurant in the project that all stick closer to the Nouvel design, while still departing from the strict aesthetics of the galleries. If the intent of the National Museum is to educate the Nation of Qatar and celebrate the work of the Qatari people, the message it sends is one of a proud young nation that is finding its place on the world stage while contending with less than friendly neighbors and has been shaped by a seemingly insatiable appetite for iconic buildings designed by A-list international architects. Along with the Arata Isozaki master-planned Education City, the OMA-designed National Library, and the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art, this latest addition to this uncanny desert menagerie raises the bar for civic iconography with its structural and metaphorical gymnastics. For all these reasons the project seems to fit into its context perfectly, and in the same sense could be nowhere else.
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New Thinking Needed

Zumthor’s LACMA proposal is an affront to L.A.’s architectural and cultural heritage

Despite gaining approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in April, what has already been said many times needs to be said once more: Peter Zumthor’s oil slick–inspired redevelopment proposal for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus is just plain bad.

Say what you will about the existing mish-mash of buildings designed by William L. Pereira & Associates and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates (HHPA) the scheme seeks to demolish, but the $650 million Zumthor proposal is simply not a suitable replacement.

Many have already delved into the (really) long list of reasons why Zumthor’s proposal leaves so much to be desired—its substandard size, inflated cost, and absurd urban configuration among the top reasons to dismiss the idea. But worse still, perhaps, is that the overpriced proposal will also destroy a vital urban cultural resource: the museum itself, as Angelenos know it.

Critics might not like to say so, but LACMA is a real place and a beautiful one, at that. The terrace sandwiched between the HHPA addition and the main Pereira building can be effervescent when tour groups, families, and aficionados converge upon it, for example. Pereira’s galleries next door are peculiar, yes, but the spaces just off the elevator, wrapped in warm wood paneling and studded with delightful details like inlaid clocks and flush-mounted wood accessory doors, are dignified and rich in a way that simply isn't found in other L.A. art museums. HHPA’s building may form an impenetrable wall along Wilshire, but when you finally find the entry, a shaded outdoor living room soothed by flowing water and the jovial sounds of the social life taking place on the terrace beyond create a public space articulated for the senses.

For better or worse, the current manifestation of the complex has existed for a longer period of time—37 years—than any other of LACMA’s incarnations. The current configuration is LACMA, it’s the LACMA that director Michael Govan inherited when he arrived from New York, and it is the LACMA he wants to destroy as he strives to leave his mark.

Though the current configuration leaves much to be desired, Govan has had to strong-arm the Zumthor project into being, weathering withering criticism of the ever-devolving proposal without pursuing any meaningful changes to the design.

Govan, of course, did downsize the proposal as fundraising efforts pushed up against their natural limits, but he has persisted in pushing a vision that is fundamentally and irrevocably flawed.

In a way, the project and the persistence in bringing it to life despite its continuing and multiplying inadequacies follows a long line of efforts to undermine the legitimacy of Los Angeles and its unique architectural and cultural history.

To put it plainly, Zumthor’s LACMA represents the latest attempt to apply a colonial mentality to Los Angeles. It follows in the tradition of slash-and-burn conquests waged by powerful men who, like Zumthor, a Swiss starchitect, and Govan, former director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York City, come to Los Angeles and see nothing but a blank slate. They land at LAX as “visionaries” blinded by their own genius to the thriving richness of everyday life here.

It’s not that they are violent and destructive men. Zumthor’s delicately reverential Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany, and Govan’s meticulous restoration of the former Nabisco headquarters for Dia: Beacon suggest that both are capable of thoughtful and respectful restorations. The reality is that, like many who came to Los Angeles before them, they simply don’t value the city s as a real place with a long, complex, and legitimate history.

Late modernism and postmodernism are fundamental to Los Angeles’s design history, however, and Angelenos should not let others delete them away.

The majority of people here inhabit these types of buildings in one way or another. It’s where we go to the doctor, it’s where our children go to school, it’s where we work, it’s where we learn about art. To try and minimize that aspect of Angeleno culture, to try and erase the sometimes contrived nature of late modernism or the often over-the-top pastiche of pomo, erases a fundamental aspect of who Angelenos are and how they live.

Often, outside voices serve to turn a mirror on a place, uncovering morsels of beauty from what might be considered banal to the local eye. Zumthor and Govan have failed in this regard and instead seek to erase buildings that are neither fully understood nor appropriately admired. Los Angeles has had enough of that; perhaps it’s time for some fresh thinking.

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Croikey

Foster + Partners’ controversial Australian Apple store is cancelled
It looks like the latest collaboration between Foster + Partners and Apple is dead in the water. The pair’s future flagship Australian store in Melbourne, Victoria, has been blocked by heritage officials, and Apple has decided not to move forward with the project. The pagoda-like Apple store was first revealed to the public in late 2017, and immediately drew criticism for its siting and design. Preservationists were up in arms over the decision to place the shop in the eight-acre Federation Square, Melbourne’s main public plaza. Federation Square emerged from a design competition sponsored by the Victoria government in 1999 to transform a polluted patch of industrial land on the Yarra River into public space. A group including Lab Architecture Studio, led by Donald Bates and Peter Davidson, Karres en Brands Landscape Architects, and the local firm Bates Smart, ultimately won the commission. The square’s eclectic collection of three-story buildings, most of them clad in panelized glass, zinc, and sandstone arranged in dizzying patterns, have become a Melbourne fixture. To the square’s south is the Yarra Building, which currently holds the Koorie Heritage Trust, and would have been demolished to make way for the $35 million Apple store. Other than the auspicious location, the store’s original tiered design drew comparisons to a pizza box, among other things, and Foster + Partners was forced to go back to the drawing board. In July of last year, the design team released a heavier, blockier scheme that oriented viewing angles out towards the river. That effort now appears to have been for naught. On April 5, Heritage Victoria, a state body responsible for protecting Victoria’s cultural and environmental heritage, ruled that the Yarra Building’s demolition would fundamentally alter Federation Square’s fabric. With Heritage Victoria’s refusal, Apple announced that it would be abandoning its plans to build an Apple Global Flagship Store in the square. Federation Square was nominated to the Victorian Heritage Register for historic preservation last August. Undeterred, Federation Square’s management submitted the application to Heritage Victoria for permission to demolish the Yarra Building in December. Now that the Apple store plan is off, Federation Square’s induction into the Victorian Heritage Register will be completed by the end of April.
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Time for a Haircut

Proposed Los Angeles tower loses supertall status
A proposed Handel Architects–designed supertall tower complex headed to the coveted Angels Landing site in Downtown Los Angeles has received a significant haircut. As a result of the revisions, the project will lose its supertall status (taller than 300 meters or 984 feet), but will still rise to be one of the five tallest buildings in the city. The proposed changes come as the project moves through the environmental review process and were first reported by Urbanize.LA. The project is being pursued by a consortium of developers called Angels Landing Partners, a group that includes MacFarlane Partners, the Peebles Corporation, and Claridge Properties. The team, which includes landscape architects Olin, was selected in 2018 from among four competing bids as part of a public competition. Originally proposed with a pair of mismatched towers rising 25 and 88 stories, respectively, the latest version of the project calls for a more balanced approach: Two interconnected towers rising 48 and 64 stories, respectively. Included in the project are 180 condominiums, 261 market-rate and affordable apartments, 509 hotel rooms, and approximately 75,000 square feet of commercial and flex spaces. The project is expected to include an elementary school as well as nearly 57,000 square feet of public open spaces. Despite being located above a subway stop, the project is slated to bring 750 parking spaces to the site. A new diagram for the project included in a draft environmental report shows that each tower will contain commercial and public spaces along the lowermost levels, with hotel levels rising above. The hotel programs will be capped by amenity floors with condominiums or apartments located on the uppermost levels of each tower. The proposal is among several tower schemes announced over the last two years that seek to reshape the Los Angeles skyline. Some of the planned projects include a 52-story stacked block tower by Gensler, a potential 1,100-foot-tall tower by Dimarzio | Kato Architecture, and a 70-story Redwood-inspired tower by Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects. The draft report states that the Angels Landing project is slated to finish construction by 2028.
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Tell Me More

Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas discuss their work at Facades+ New York
At this week's Facades+ New York Conference, Doriana and Massimiliano Fuksas delivered the keynote address, giving a description of how their firm designs and conceives their innovative building skins. The Architect's Newspaper sat down with them after the talk to get more in-depth insights about their approach. Check out what they had to say, and why they don't like the term "facade" in this video interview: For more information about the Facades+ Conferences, click here.
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I See You, UIC

Finalists revealed for new arts center at University of Illinois at Chicago
Early this year, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) announced a three-firm shortlist to design a new “Center for the Arts” for the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts (CADA). Chosen from an international pool of 36 teams that responded to a request for qualifications, the shortlist includes OMA (New York) with KOO Architects (Chicago), Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles) with UrbanWorks Architects (Chicago), and Morphosis Architects (Culver City) with STL Architects (Chicago). UIC is both the largest university and the only public research university in the Chicago area with a student body among the five most diverse in the country, 40 percent of whom are first-generation college students. Initiated in 2017, the new Center for the Arts is part of UIC’s 10-year master plan, which calls for major physical development of the campus. The Center for the Arts will be the new public face of UIC’s East Campus. The project aims to provide “radically accessible spaces for all users.” At approximately 88,000 square feet it will be the new home of the School of Theatre and Music (STM) with two primary performance spaces, including a vineyard style concert hall for 500 people and a flexible main stage theater for 270 people. Additional program includes a large lobby, box office, donor lounge, shop, and café. Morphosis and STL Architects have proposed a project shaped by site conditions. Cues from the site inform the form of the building’s facets made of terra-cotta, concrete, and glass, a signal to the existing materiality of UIC’s campus. The building has a clear front and back as service entries sit tightly along the highway at the north edge of the site, leaving the south and corner edges to reveal the belly of the building and main points of public entry. A generous drop-off zone leads into the interior lobby featuring Netsch-like cascading stairs with views toward the nearby West Loop neighborhood and downtown. In the theater, a continuous surface ramp runs the perimeter of the room to provide radical accessibility to students learning stage technology. OMA and KOO Architects have proposed a stackable program with a central concert hall flanked by two towers (one for students, one for the public) with neighboring performance spaces. The towers imitate the many Chicago bridges that link the city while the performance spaces act like bookends to anchor the project. A second-floor plinth accommodates dual entries, each with a continuous surface monumental ramp considered “radically accessible” with physical openness and flexibility. The theater has a rooftop terrace and a large mechanical facade that opens onto the existing Harrison Field, bringing performances outside with the city as a backdrop. The entire design is blanketed by a doubly-curved, semi-translucent roof that resembles the swinging of a conductor’s baton. Johnston Marklee and UrbanWorks have proposed two ziggurat-shaped buildings, which Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee described as both archaic and modern. Framed by a greenbelt that reflects attention back towards the campus, two brightly-colored volumes are housed within a glass and perforated metal veil. The formal strategy is a nod to Chicago architect Walter Netsch’s ideas of “stacking” while the material aims to visually open the campus, ostensibly creating a new approach to density. Connecting the two large volumes is a central core featuring an airy winter garden that expands programmatic possibilities for adjacent rehearsal rooms, café, store, and gallery. The University and CADA officials are currently in the process of securing the expected $94.5 million construction budget through private and public funds. It is unknown when the winner will be announced. The public may view and provide feedback on the proposals.
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A New Millennium

A leaning Manhattan tower draws blame from both sides
The 670-foot-tall 161 Maiden Lane, a luxury condo tower on the shore of the East River near the South Street Seaport, is leaning. The question of whether contractor Pizzarotti or developer Fortis Property Group is to blame for the 58-story building’s 3-inch lean to the north, however, will be settled by a lawsuit filed with New York State Supreme Court. As first reported by Commercial Observer, Pizzarotti is suing Fortis over their alleged cost-cutting decision to drain and compact the wet soil below the site instead of driving piles before laying the foundation. As a result, the suit alleges that this “soil improvement” decision, made before Fortis was hired for the project in 2015, made completing the project difficult-to-impossible and cost Pizzarotti millions. Apart from the structural issues, Pizzarotti alleges that the two-inch drift in the superstructure from the 11th floor to the 21st prevented the installation of the curtain wall and that Fortis never provided an adequate replacement. Although the tower has topped out and work is still ongoing, Pizzarotti claims that the site is unsafe and that 161 Maiden Lane will continue to settle and shift. If that happens, the facade panels, plumbing, insulation, and elevators may all be risk of failing. Pizzarotti says that they were thus unable to finish working, and submitted their resignation from the project on March 1. Fortis shot back, claiming the leaning problem was the result of Pizzarotti’s concrete subcontractor improperly pouring the slab and failing to take the settling of the soil into account. A Fortis spokesperson also claims that Pizzarotti never terminated their contract and continued working up through this month, casting doubt on their claims that the site was unsafe. The developer went on to say that their new general contractor, Ray Builders, was already at work installing a redesigned version of the curtain wall. Fortis also claims that it has already paid out $25 million to Pizzarotti for cost overruns and that the contractor had caused 260 days of stop-work order-related delays. “This lawsuit is patently false from start to finish and nothing more than simple defamation and a desperate attempt by a failing general contractor to divert attention from the fact it defaulted on yet another New York City project,” said a Fortis spokesman in a statement. “As a number of prominent New York City developers have learned the hard way over the past few years, Pizzarotti is simply incapable of buying out, managing and completing a construction project within contractually promised timelines.” AN will continue to follow this story as it develops.
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Seas are a-risin’

Brooks+Scarpa explore “Salty Urbanism” in latest exhibition at USC
New research by Los Angeles-based architects Brooks+Scarpa is currently on view at the Verle Annis Gallery at the University of Southern California School of Architecture in L.A. The exhibition, Salty Urbanism, presents a case study approach for how two communities—the North Beach Village neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Venice in Los Angeles—can plan and respond to the increasingly present dangers of sea level rise and global climate change. According to the architects, nearly 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coastline, a fact that is increasingly relevant as hurricanes, tidal floods, drought, and other climate change-related events associated with changing sea levels begin to increase in frequency. For this reason, Brooks+Scarpa argue, the time is right for designers to begin to put into practice “best management approaches” that had previously been considered largely on a theoretical basis. The exhibition collects speculative proposals as well as pedagogical perspectives for how architects might work through interdisciplinary means as part of a wider effort to stem the negative impacts of sea level rise on the built environment. They address the expected loss of water storage capacity for urban soils, as well as propose interventions to ease the future burden of legacy stormwater infrastructure systems. The exhibition highlights low-impact development, green infrastructure, and other alternative concepts as possible approaches for mitigating the damaging effects of climate instability in urban areas through a series of speculative proposals that include renderings, diagrams, and other visuals.

The exhibition is on view through Friday, April 19, 2019, and will be accompanied by a lecture given by Angela Brooks and Larry Scarpa at USC on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 6 pm. For more information, see the USC website.

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New Fuksas

Studio Fuksas reworks Los Angeles’s Beverly Center

The 886,000-square-foot Beverly Center first opened in 1982, in true Los Angeles fashion, on the site of a former children’s amusement park and next door to an active oil drilling site. Critic Aaron Betsky, appraising the structure ten years later in the Los Angeles Times, consecrated the blob-shaped mega-mall as “the Acropolis of shopping, dedicated to our national religion, consumption.” A new luxury-oriented $500 million overhaul by Studio Fuksas has only made that description more apt.

The eight-story edifice has undergone a midlife facelift that includes the addition of an undulating aluminum mesh facade over the building’s five above-grade parking levels. The expanded metal veil billows around the hulking mass, disappearing to mark three monumental entrances and a pair of glass-wrapped escalator bays.

The mall itself is laid out along the building’s top three floors, where a new 25,000-square-foot skylight and other reconfigured vertical openings bring crisp, white sunlight into its gleaming halls.

8500 Beverly Boulevard Los Angeles 310-854-0070 Designer: Studio Fuksas
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A Triumph of Foil

Christo to wrap the Arc de Triomphe in plastic next spring
Bulgarian-born artist Christo is making a triumphant return to the large-scale building wrapping projects that he’s famous for, with plans to fully envelop Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. From April 6 through April 19, 2020, Parisian bystanders, tourists, and art patrons will be able to view l’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris, Place de l’Étoile-Charles de Gaulle). Using nearly 270,000 square feet of recyclable silver-blue polypropylene fabric bound by 23,000 feet of red rope, one of the city’s most famous, and visible, public icons will be reduced to pure form. The project is moving ahead after winning approval from France’s government and the Center for National Monuments yesterday. Wrapping the archway has been a dream of Christo’s since 1962, when he sketched the monument while living with his artistic partner and late wife Jeanne-Claude in Paris, later returning to create additional studies in the ’70s and ’80s. That the piece is being realized now, Christo’s first wrapping project since the death of Jeanne-Claude in 2009, is no coincidence. l’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped will run concurrently with Christo and Jeanne-Claude in Paris at the Pompidou Centre, which will document the couple’s formative period in Paris, where they lived from 1958 through 1964. The show will put previously unseen works on display, including sketches and paintings, as well as trace the lineage of the pair’s most well-known works, such as the wrapping of the Pont-Neuf in 1985. “Thirty-five years after Jeanne-Claude and I wrapped the Pont-Neuf, I am eager to work in Paris again to realize our project for the Arc de Triomphe,” said Christo in a statement. While the arc above is wrapped, the eternal flame at its center, installed in 1923 above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, will continue to be fully maintained.
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Move It Move It

The Shed opens this Friday—take a sneak peek now
After 11 years and two mayoral administrations, The Shed (now just the name of the administering arts center, with the physical structure housing the organization having been renamed The Bloomberg Building) is nearly ready to open. On April 5, this Friday, the public will finally get to venture inside Manhattan’s newest, and largest, cultural institution. As Hudson Yards welcomes the Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group–designed multidisciplinary arts center, much has been written about the building’s central, inescapable feature. The 120-foot-tall outer shell, clad in ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) “pillows,” can extend out from the base building when needed for larger performances, covering the public plaza and creating the 17,000-square-foot, climate-controlled McCourt space. When the shell is rolled back, the 20,000-square-foot outdoor plaza can be used for open-air performances. Art is even part of the very ground below, as artist Lawrence Weiner has embedded IN FRONT OF ITSELF in 12-foot-high letters using colored pavers throughout the plaza. As Elizabeth Diller and David Rockwell have repeatedly described, The Shed was conceived with maximum flexibility in mind. The comparisons and claims of inspiration from Cedric Price’s unrealized, constantly changing 1964 Fun Palace have been overt, whether rightly or wrongly. Either way, there’s no contesting that the space represents a blank space for artists to call their own. “I see the building as an ‘architecture of infrastructure,’ all muscle, no fat,” said Diller, “and responsive to the ever-changing needs of artists into a future we cannot predict. Success for me would mean that the building would stand up to challenges presented by artists, while challenging them back in a fruitful dialogue.” Four stories of programming live inside the eight-level base building. Floors two and four hold a combined 25,000 square feet of gallery spaces without columns and with 19-foot-tall ceilings. From April 6 through June 2, the second level gallery will display Reich Richter Pärt, a combination of choir songs from composer Steve Reich set against tapestries and wallpaper, some of them room-spanning, from artist Gerhard Richter. Swinging glass doors on the eastern walls of each gallery can open them up to the McCourt, allowing the venue to add additional seating when necessary. The sixth floor holds the Kenneth C. Griffin Theater, an 11,700-square-foot black box space with a 500-seat capacity. The theater can also be split in two to host smaller shows. On the top floor are the Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Skylights, a wide, multipurpose section that affords one of the few views towards the rest of Hudson Yards, including a prominent view of Vessel. The open area features 9,500-square-feet of flexible event space, the 1,700-square-foot Tisch Lab for local artists, and a 3,300-square-foot rehearsal space. The two namesake skylights provide the entire floor with plenty of natural light, making up for the difference in ceiling heights found throughout the rest of the building—the eighth floor’s ceiling is noticeably lower. Hints of the building’s superstructure and its transforming shell are ever-present. The Bloomberg Building’s central set of scissoring escalators run parallel with the glass curtain wall and affords ample views of the shell, and the bent seam where the shell meets the adjoining tower. Inside the McCourt, the steel diagrid underpinning the ETFE facade reveals itself, creating a vastly different experience than viewing the building from outside. The High Line runs level with the windows on the second floor, reinforcing the connection to the park, strangely minimizing the feeling that the building is part of Hudson Yards proper. The Shed opens on April 5 with Soundtrack of America, a five-night concert series conceived and directed by Steve McQueen that celebrates the worldwide impact of African American music. The full lineup is available on The Shed’s website, here.
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Y'all Wanted a Twist?

Snøhetta wins competition for the Shanghai Grand Opera House
Snøhetta just won the competition for the Shanghai Grand Opera House, set to rise in the Expo Houtan neighborhood of the Chinese city. The Oslo and New York–based firm's design centers around a massive corkscrew stair that connects the theater's roof to an entry plaza that then runs down to the banks of the nearby Huangpu River. The grand public plaza and gently-sloped roof are meant to create a generous new public space in the vein of what the firm did for its Oslo Opera House. Other aspects of the Shanghai Grand resemble the Oslo project: three theaters pop through the overall roof, and a large glass wall surrounds the main lobby. The new building trades in the Oslo Opera's crisp, sculptural form for a looser, radiating geometry. Interestingly, the designers did not mention the Oslo Opera House as a related project but named several others in the firm's oeuvre. “The Shanghai Grand Opera House is a natural progression of our previous work with designing performing arts centers,” says Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen in a statement. “It is a culmination of the competence and insight gained through projects such as the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Busan Opera House in South Korea, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Canada, and the Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers renovation in Paris. The Shanghai Grand Opera House is a product of our contextual understanding and values, designed to promote public ownership of the building for the people of Shanghai and beyond." Like Oslo, most of the building's exterior is off-white, presumably concrete, but the lobby is lined with bright red silk. There will be three theaters in the building: a 2,000-seat main auditorium, 1,200-seat second stage, and a 1,000-seat third stage. The smaller spaces are meant for less traditional shows to connect with a "younger audience," according to the designers. The project will be completed in collaboration with the Shanghai-based firm ECADI.