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Home Green Home
Fujisawa Smart Sustainable Town under construction.
Courtesy Panasonic
 
Diagram of the Smart Home’s life ventilation system.
 

While still not mainstream, the idea of having a smart and/or green home is gaining momentum, even in the eco-challenged United States. Technologies control and automate everything from entertainment to energy use and can save and provide energy to an unprecedented degree. But a big problem is that the many manufacturers do not always make products that work together.

Perhaps a harbinger of the future is Panasonic, which is shifting its focus to sustainable home technologies in a big way. Its new Smart House, a demonstration project in Tokyo that will soon be available to homeowners throughout Japan (they’re even building an entire community of them in Fujisawa, a city south of Tokyo) utilizes all of the company’s green gizmos in one place. Since they’re all made by the same company, they play nice, and together can save significant amounts of energy and money. How much energy? The goal is to make these homes net zero, with the help of both energy reduction and production technologies. None of the ideas are completely new, but their bundling in one package is. Other companies are beginning to explore similar strategies, while the National Association of Home Builders has even built a show house equipped with an array of smart technologies (albeit often by different makers), called the New American Home, located outside of Las Vegas.

Below is a look at a few of the Panasonic Smart House’s offerings.

 

Home Energy Management System

The system visualizes the amount of energy used in the house, and breaks it down by appliances and equipment. It displays progress made toward an energy-saving target and provides advice on how to be more efficient.

Ecological Life Ventilation System

A hybrid air-conditioning system combining natural and mechanical ventilation, the “Wind Passage Tower” takes in cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter.

Lighting control

Optimizes brightness of multiple lights. By delivering sunlight to the ceiling and walls, the system makes a room brighter and saves energy.

LED Lighting

LEDs last for years, use very little energy, and generate almost no heat.

 

Heat Pump Technology

This technology gathers, transfers, and utilizes heat from the air to power refrigerators, air conditioners, washer/dryers, and hot water supplies.

Vacuum Insulation Panel

E-Vacua, a vacuum insulation panel made partly from recycled TV screens, can provide thermal insulation in a much thinner package.

Solar Panels

Panels on a home’s roof generate power with no carbon dioxide emissions.

Fuel Cell

This technology generates electricity in a home using gas and air.

Storage Battery Unit

This is a home energy storage system using large lithium-ion batteries.

Link with EVs

Renewable energy created at home can be stored at home by linking homes and cars with a household recharging stand.

AC/DC hybrid wiring system

Electricity is delivered to homes as alternating current (AC). But electricity from solar cells and storage batteries is direct current (DC). The hybrid wiring system allows devices to use currents from either system without losing energy through conversion.

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Keith Sonnier
Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2002.
Courtesy Keith Sonnier

When I think of how the body of my work has been affected by my interest in architecture, I realize that it has helped me formulate many of the working concepts I’ve developed through the years. My first interest in architecture was concerned with mass; the pyramids of the Yucatan and Guatemala, the pyramids and temples of Egypt, as well as simple early Neolithic cave sites. It was only when I began to make early sculptural works in non-sculptural materials (no bronze, marble, or steel), using instead simple, rudimentary materials, that I used architecture as a support. By this I mean support for the presentation of the sculpture (perhaps just leaning it against the wall) and building a body of work based on the floor-to-wall relationship in architecture, and to the scale of the human body.

   
Left to right: Neon Wrapping Incandescent, 1969; Lobbed Shape, 2013; Torso Trunk, 2013.
Courtesy Pace Gallery; Catarina Verde; Catarina Verde;
 

After completing the various early series’ of work, I began to have an interest in extruded materials (glass, steel, aluminum, and, of course, light) that resulted in a more classically oriented and multi-faceted approach to sculpture. The Ba-O-Ba Series, which utilized glass and neon, dealt with the post and lintel golden section. The Mirror Act Series evolved from early studio investigations into creating environments with light and reflective surfaces that were originally used as film sets. The performers moved around in a kind of fourth dimension; in what I called an infinity space. I was also interested in creating mass, or volume, with light, which is something that carries over into my architectural commissions.

Pace Gallery installation view.
Kerry Ryan McFate
 

The new body of work entitled Elysian Plain continues to explore the relationships of objects in space and how viewers become participants as their movements are reflected on the surface of the glass. This is a continuation of a form language that has evolved through many years of producing sculpture as well as architectural commissions.

Keith Sonnier

When I think of how the body of my work has been affected by my interest in architecture, I realize that it has helped me formulate many of the working concepts I’ve developed through the years. My first interest in architecture was concerned with mass; the pyramids of the Yucatan and Guatemala, the pyramids and temples of Egypt, as well as simple early Neolithic cave sites. It was only when I began to make early sculptural works in non-sculptural materials (no bronze, marble, or steel), using instead simple, rudimentary materials, that I used architecture as a support. By this I mean support for the presentation of the sculpture (perhaps just leaning it against the wall) and building a body of work based on the floor-to-wall relationship in architecture, and to the scale of the human body. After completing the various early series’ of work, I began to have an interest in extruded materials (glass, steel, aluminum, and, of course, light) that resulted in a more classically oriented and multi-faceted approach to sculpture. The Ba-O-Ba Series, which utilized glass and neon, dealt with the post and lintel golden section. The Mirror Act Series evolved from early studio investigations into creating environments with light and reflective surfaces that were originally used as film sets. The performers moved around in a kind of fourth dimension; in what I called an infinity space. I was also interested in creating mass, or volume, with light, which is something that carries over into my architectural commissions. The new body of work entitled Elysian Plain continues to explore the relationships of objects in space and how viewers become participants as their movements are reflected on the surface of the glass. This is a continuation of a form language that has evolved through many years of producing sculpture as well as architectural commissions.

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Camilo Jose Vergara
Camilo Jose Vergara

Over forty years ago, award-winning photographer Camilo José Vergara began
chronicling what he believed would be Harlem’s decline. Vergara’s early photographs of 1970s Harlem show a neighborhood in decay—the junkyards, abandoned buildings, and plywood windows that threatened to overtake the streetscape.

But as Vergara vividly shows in his new book Harlem: The Unmaking of a Ghetto (University of Chicago Press), this didn’t happen to the place he calls home. The overgrown lots that once defined the neighborhood have given way to luxury condos, the empty storefronts are now big-box retailers, and the abandoned streets are lined with tourists.

 

These dramatic changes can be seen in Vergara’s photographs of the Eisleben Building at the corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and West 125th Street. In the 1980s, paint was chipping off the building’s exterior and cinderblocks filled the window frames. As the neighborhood changed, though, so did the Eisleben. By 2000, the exterior was masked by splashy ads for companies like Old Navy, Fila, and Adidas. And by 2013, the old building was gone entirely.

 
 

Perhaps the perfect capstone to that series of photos is the intersection’s current Google Street View. Next to the abandoned lot where the Eisleben Building once stood is a double-decker tour bus, complete with tourists snapping pictures. The vacant lot they are next to, though, will not stay that way for long; construction has already started on Harlem’s first Whole Foods.

Vergara’s new work helps readers understand what this type of change means for Harlem from all angles—for its buildings, its businesses, and its people. By looking back, Vergara is ultimately helping his readers look ahead.

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Daniel Faust
Daniel Faust

Daniel Faust’s suite of photographs, Morocco, forces the eye upward. We crane our necks and lose the ground. A latticed tower, a building top flag, and a crown of streetlights ascend, making the sky their strict field of action. And then we go up too, releasing some pressure as our sights settle in the heights of twin suspended lamps, held from a ceiling of highly patterned white, and a fluorescent bar, glowing and blurring its rich red roof. A general buoyancy prevails, even shoes float with little visible support. It’s a kingdom in the real world, of course, we know, but here it’s a kingdom of air.

Faust’s practice, since the 1980s, occurs through a research model. Investigating topics (lost museums, lost technology) or locales (Alaska, South Africa, Morocco here), his work eschews the singular snapshot for the sustained view. There are correspondences to be found in each body of work, links that demonstrate the documentary in a new way. Each place, subject, and encounter should find its fellow, and through that pairing, ask the viewer to scramble the expected. His series span scenes close and far from home, but in both the images ask us to know more.

Like all of his projects, Morocco is a field of reflections, where mirrors and glass switch our perspectives and expose interiors fractured via bricks or resolved in circles. We see unavailable spaces or find the scenes just behind us obscured from view. We also see his interest in rhyming, as distinct lines, color blocks forming lines, all those diagonals, and different fields of boxes enter a conversation. His interest: what are they saying, together? Maybe something about drawing, and the way these spaces demonstrate a kind of deep architectural plan for everyday life. There’s something here too about writing, the lines of the loom and the lines of the book pointing to those long or short straightaways that make carpets, towers, books, and meaning.

Western art history has always had a horror but also a fascination with its rival traditions in the East: our perspective and figuration and modeling against their seeming flatness, pattern, and all-over design. Critic Dave Hickey in his Air Guitar, and art historian David Batchelor in his Chromophobia, speak to this history well. In Faust’s view of this most western locus of that eastern tradition, I find myself facing again that fascination (if not that horror) in very personal ways. The French theorist Roland Barthes once noted that powerful photography of place makes you want to live there, wherever that image might be. So I want to knock on the red door Faust shows here. I want to read his central book. I want to look in the mirror. And I think Morocco invites us to see a strong, local aesthetic, and to do our homework. The kingdom is there, but we are not.

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Pianissimo
California Academy of Sciences.
Tom Fox / SWA Group
 
Centre Georges Pompidou (left). New York Times Building (right).
Courtesy Studio Piano & Rogers; Denance Michel
 

There is a quiet order always present in the work of Italian architect Renzo Piano, an order that shelters with a sense of calm yet remains dynamic, laden with rich texture and detail. The Gagosian Gallery has captured this quality in their exhibition on the architect, Fragments, presented in collaboration with the Fondazione Renzo Piano.

The exhibition arranges Piano’s oeuvre on a grid of 24 tables, each overflowing with finely crafted models, drawings, photographs, and videos that demonstrate a career dedicated to the act of making and the attention to detail that is a hallmark of the Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The exhibition matrix reinforces the collaborative spirit of the workshop across a linear progression of projects, inviting deeper exploration into the architect’s process over time, spanning the scales from master plan to joint construction. The undulating roof of the California Academy of Sciences floating above a model of the museum’s interior relates directly to the starkly orthogonal New York Times Tower a few tables away.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop: Fragments is on view at the Gagosian Gallery, 522 West 21st Street, through August 2.

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Le Corbusier at MoMA
Plan for Buenos Aires, 1929.
Courtesy Museum of Modern Art
 
Music Pavilion for Villa Church, 1927-1938 (left). Governor's Palace, Chandigarh, 1951-1965 (right).
 

Plan for Algiers and Barcelona, 1935.
 

Arguably the most influential member of the first generation of modernists, Le Corbusier fashioned himself into a myth with an invented name, catchy polemics, and doctrinaire and legitimately revolutionary architecture. A new exhibition at MoMA seeks to flesh out the man behind the signature glasses with the largest collection of his architectural drawings, urban plans, sketches, paintings, photographs, and writings ever seen in New York. Drawn from MoMA’s collection as well as the Le Corbusier Foundation, Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes focuses on four types of landscapes at different scales: found objects, the domestic, the modern city, and planned territories.

Organized by guest curator Jean-Louis Cohen with chief curator of architecture and design Barry Bergdoll, the exhibition will include more than 320 objects and four reconstructed interiors.

Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes is now on view at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, through September 23.

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LA's Radicals in Retrospect
Seven of the architects who participated in the Architecture Gallery, from left to right: Frederick Fisher, Robert Mangurian, Eric Owen Moss, Coy Howard, Craig Hodgetts, Thom Mayne, and Frank Gehry at Venice Beach, 1980.
Ave Pildas
   
Left to right: Twelve Houses at Cabo Bello, 1976, Roland Coate Jr.; South Side Settlement, 1975-80, Studio Works; Reidel Medical Building, 1976, Morphosis Architects.
Joshua White; Courtesy Studio Works; Courtesy Morphosis
 

In 1979, Thom Mayne opened a temporary gallery in his home, the first dedicated architecture gallery in the Los Angeles area. Each week, Mayne showcased young and established LA firms, garnering reviews by the Los Angeles Times architecture critic, John Dreyfuss. The gallery and its influence are the subject of a new exhibition at SCI-Arc, A Confederacy of Heretics: The Architecture Gallery, Venice, 1979, which is part of the series of Pacific Standard Time exhibitions initiated by the Getty. The heretics turned out to be some of the leading architects of the 1980s to the present, including Mayne and his then-partner Michael Rotondi, Frank Gehry, Craig Hodgetts, Frederick Fisher, and Eric Owen Moss. While architects in the East and in Chicago were puzzling over the in-jokes of postmodern historicism, these West Coast radicals were redefining architectural form and practice in ways that remain bracingly contemporary. Curated by Todd Gannon with exhibition design by Andrew Zago, A Confederacy of Heretics is on view through July 7 at 350 Merrick Street, Los Angeles.

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John Pawson's Visual Inventory
Skane.
John Pawson

At first, Luis Barragán’s words, “Don’t look at what I do. See what I saw,” might seem like an odd call to arms for an architect whose work is famously empty of things. But not on second thought. In fact, Barragán’s may be the only words needed to guide a voyeuristic look at some 260 photographs that British minimalist architect John Pawson has snapped over the past ten years for his own edification.

A Visual Inventory (Phaidon) opens an illuminating chink into the thought processes and aesthetic revelations of an architect who has mistakenly been tagged a believer in less-is-all. Images such as a tapering streak of light alongside an extruded wall sculpture by Donald Judd, two partially constructed bridges on a highway viewed from an airplane flying over North Carolina, or the fuchsia petals of a red camellia fallen on the granite steps of a Marcel Breuer villa on Lake Maggiore abundantly testify to a sensibility that is ever alert and constantly charged by visual stimuli. These pictures give minimalism a new name: lush.

   
   
Clockwise from top left: Oman; Near St. George; Pinarello Factory; Pawson House; Near Prague Airport; Castle of Good Hope.
 

The book is organized in carefully selected pairs on facing spreads, allowing images to talk to each other and trigger sharper perceptions: gray concentric rings from rain drops plopping in a puddle on stone at a Japanese teahouse near Antwerp makes even more startling the image on the opposite page, also gray circles as if printed on a dusty floor, but actually a circular irrigation field some 2,600 feet in diameter seen from an airplane over the Rockies in winter.

Pawson’s avowed “scattergun approach”—always at the ready with a digital Canon S100, he is never afraid to use it—catalogs what appears to be a career of constant travel and fantastic access to architectural and cultural lodestones and exotic realms. Each image is accompanied with a straightforward, disarmingly chatty account of what he saw and why he snapped. Traveling through the pages of A Visual Inventory is both eye- and mind-opening.

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Unbuilt Washington
Marcel Breuer and Herbert Beckhard's 1966 proposal for a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Courtesy U.S. Commission of Fine Arts

More and more, the National Mall is living up to its moniker “America’s front yard”: patchy turf, puddles, and cracked sidewalks give it an air of foreclosure. The National Mall Design Competition, now under way, will surely produce ambitious proposals to mend the Mall, but getting them approved and funded could take years and is far from guaranteed.

Now on display through May at the National Building Museum, “Unbuilt Washington,” reminds us that the Washington Monument was a half-finished stump for decades, until money could be found to complete it. And even then it was not done according to the original design. And that Eliel and Eero Saarinen’s daring 1939 scheme for a Smithsonian art gallery—selected out of 400 entries—fell victim to politics, like so much else in our capital.

   
Clockwise from top: proposal for the "Congress House" by James Diamond, 1792; Proposal for “Housing on the Avenue” inspired by Italian hill towns by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, 1974; Proposal for the Lincoln Memorial by John Russell Pope, 1912; Proposed Washington Channel Bridge lines with shops and restaurants by Chloethiel Woodard Smith, 1966.
Courtesy Maryland Historical Society, Jacobsen Architecture, National Archives, National Building Museum
 

The might-have-been monuments and cityscapes on display are beguiling, often strange, and surprisingly varied (for a city that seems married to neoclassicism). If history had tracked just a degree or two from its eventual course, our postcards of the Lincoln Memorial would depict a gleaming ziggurat; Dupont Circle would be known for a huge tower complex by Frank Lloyd Wright; and the White House would sport two additional southern wings flanking a large conservatory (this last proposal was championed by First Lady Caroline Harrison in the 1890s).

2011 proposal by Morphosis Architects for the revitalization of the Arts & Industry Building.
Courtesy Morphosis Architects
 

Of all the lost opportunities included in the show, the one that curator Martin Moeller most wishes had been built is the Washington Channel Bridge, designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith in 1966. Linking Southwest D.C. to the East Potomac Park spur of the Mall, this modernist answer to the Ponte Vecchio would have been lined with shops and restaurants that beckoned strolling pedestrians. Washington, finally, would have turned toward and not away from the water all around it.

Still, lucky escapes probably outnumber missed chances. Leon Beaver’s Second-Empire-on-steroids competition entry for the Library of Congress, and an amateur’s entry for the Capitol featuring an oversized, crudely drawn eagle are proof that the competition process does sort the wheat from the obvious chaff. And that, at least, should cheer National Mall Design Competition finalists and jurors.

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S.S. Columbia
Catherine Gavin

Detroit is home to countless ruins, but the floating hulk of the S.S. Columbia, docked in Ecorse, Michigan, stands out among the roster of idled factories and abandoned houses. The oldest remaining steam passenger vessel in the country, the Columbia was built in 1902 with an innovative structural design by Frank E. Kirby and opulent interiors by Louis O. Keil. The steel and wood ship crisscrossed the Detroit River headed for Boblo Island in Ontario for 89 years. Despite insensitive renovations and 20 years of neglect, the grand ballroom, bandstand, mahogany and oak staircases, mahogany paneled walls with etched leaded-glass lights, and ceiling frescos all remain under the layers of paint. The S.S. Columbia Project is charged with the restoration, and a plan is afloat to put the boat back in service in New York’s Hudson Valley. Detroiters shouldn’t despair though. Another steam ship—the S.S. Ste. Claire also docked nearby—may be returned to Detroit’s waterways.

Catherine Gavin