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Yankee Modern

What is New England architecture?
New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
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Big Terminal Energy

Pelli Clarke Pelli creates a collection of new civic nodes in San Francisco
The Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects (PCPA)–designed Salesforce Transit Center and its 5.4-acre rooftop park in San Francisco are now officially open to the public. Decades in the making, the opening of the $2.1 billion, 1.2 million-square-foot terminal this August capped off eight years of construction and followed the completion of the 1,070-foot-tall Salesforce Tower next door in February. Taken together, the three elements—terminal, tower, and park—represent the beginning of a new era that, according to the planners behind the transformative project, is driven by a focus on public space and public transit. Dubbed the “Grand Central Terminal of the West” by its civic boosters, the new multimodal transit center is meant to be the crown jewel of a new high-rise, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood anchored by the multifunctional rooftop park and capped off by the tower. The arrangement is one of the many by-products of a far-reaching district plan crafted to embrace the terminal and reshape the city’s skyline. Designed as a massive, skylit, indoor-outdoor living room sandwiched between transit and a park, the terminal is geared for public use first and foremost. Inside its cavernous halls, terrazzo-based flooring by Julie Chang, a light installation by artist Jenny Holzer, and a fountain by James Carpenter enliven the grand and formal spaces designed by PCPA. A total of 3,992 perforated white aluminum panels—designed in collaboration with British mathematician Roger Penrose—wrap the terminal, skinning a bulbous, undulating object that sneakily cuts across the neighborhood. The lacey wrapper brings light into a second-story bus terminal and helps to dematerialize the massive complex. This visual transparency becomes physical porosity along the ground floor, where the multiblock building spans over city streets, weaving through the commercial district with its 85,349 square feet of retail space. Fred Clarke, a founding partner at PCPA, described the transformative project and the whirlwind of construction it has engendered as “transit-oriented development at a scale we haven’t seen before” in the United States. Clarke observed, “Our car-oriented society typically works against this building type, so we feel like we are cutting new ground here.” The expression is quite literal in this case, as the complex begins 125 feet below ground, where a five-block-long concrete box acts as a massive foundation for the complex containing below-grade ticketing, retail, and concourse levels. For seismic resiliency, the 1,000-foot-long terminal is designed as three structurally isolated sections connected by a pair of 2-foot-wide expansion joints that allow each piece to move independently. Thornton Tomasetti is the engineer-of-record for the project and served as a sustainability consultant for the Salesforce Tower project, as well. The also building comes outfitted with one of the largest geothermal installations in the world, according to the architect. It is a design that not only allows for impressive energy efficiency, but also reduces the need for the clunky air handling units on the roof that would typically accompany conventional HVAC systems. Situated 70 feet above grade, the terminal is topped by a new public park designed in partnership with PWP Landscape Architecture. Flower beds and tree pits of varying depths meander around the rooftop, where the verdant park is home to 100 trees, a 1,000-seat amphitheater, three sculptural lanterns, a playground, and a 1,000-foot-long fountain by artist Ned Kahn, among other elements. The stormwater-retention-focused park is also sculpted by artificial mounds concealing elevator overrides and mechanical equipment. Standing beside all of this is the Salesforce Tower, a tapered pinnacle defined by rounded corners, “classical proportions,” and a large crown that lights up with a large-format LED video artwork by artist Jim Campbell. The 61-story tower connects directly to the park and touches the ground with a light, open lobby that is meant to enliven the district, “in a simple, elegant way,” according to Clarke.
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Gateway Opening

Long-awaited museum beneath St. Louis's Gateway Arch opens to the public
The intensive revamp of the landscape and museum under the St. Louis Gateway Arch is finally complete and open to the public, capping an eight-year process just in time for the July 4 holiday. Lack of accessibility and awareness have historically been major issues in attracting visitors to the museum. The museum sits at the base of Eero Saarinen’s soaring gateway to the American west, which was originally envisioned as both a tribute to westward expansion and as a way to clear low-income waterfront property. Gullivar Shepard, Principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), which has been handling the redesign of the landscape beneath the arch since 2010, said: “Eighty percent of visitors don’t even know there’s a museum underneath the arch.” That’s changed radically since the CityArchRiver Foundation (now the Gateway Arch Park Foundation) kicked off a competition in 2010 to re-envision the campus while respecting Saarinen’s and the original landscape architect Dan Kiley's vision for the 91-acre park. The completed museum now takes center stage beneath the arch and acts as a link between the Old Courthouse and the recently covered Interstate 44 to the west, and the Mississippi River to the east. The Museum at the Gateway Arch uses its sunken, circular form to carve out wide views of the St. Louis skyline without impacting sightlines towards the Arch. That was a deliberate choice on the behalf of New York’s Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), who, with the St. Louis-based Trivers Associates, renovated and uncovered the existing Saarinen-designed museum. “The new West Entry and Museum expansion [are] discretely incised into the landscape,” said James Carpenter, Founder and Principal of JCDA. “This welcoming gesture is announced by an arc of glass laid flat on the ground, reflecting the image of the sky above, while the Arch itself scribes an arc against the sky beyond.” The ribbed glass canopy above the museum’s entrance serves to reduce the outside natural light and ease visitors into the subterranean museum, which has been programmatically transformed. The museum, formerly the Museum of Westward Expansion, will now focus more on the design and construction of the Gateway Arch itself and present more diverse narratives in American history. Inside, the museum’s layout follows the natural contours of the surrounding landscape. The lighting has been designed to keep a consistent level of brightness as visitors move from the glass entrance to the underground galleries. The wraparound paths have been laid out to funnel traffic to the west-facing entry, as visitors coming from either side converge at the entrance and are presented with framed views of the Arch and courthouse. A time-lapse video of the museum's construction, courtesy of EarthCam.
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Zero Tolerance

Why are architecture’s major professional organizations silent on the immigrant detention debate?
A preliminary Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plan to house nearly 100,000 detained migrants across California has been shelved.

 According to a draft Navy memo reported by Time late last week, the military base at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego and the Concord Naval Weapons Station (CNWS) east of San Francisco were being eyed as potential sites for “temporary and austere” detention facilities that would hold up to 47,000 detained migrants each over coming months. The plans encountered swift and fierce local opposition from residents and City of Concord officials alike, prompting DHS to unofficially reconsider the plan. Aside from local political opposition to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies—especially with regard to the policy of separating migrant families and detaining separated children under inhumane conditions—locals pointed to the CNWS site’s environmental toxicity and the presence of unexploded munitions on the grounds as additional reasons against its use as a detention facility. The dust-up in California comes as the United States government works to expand the number of migrant detention facilities across the country in order to deal with the rapidly growing number of detainees resulting from its hardline stance against incoming migrants and refugees. The memo uncovered by Time estimates the government is projecting to warehouse up to 25,000 detained migrants over the coming months in abandoned airfields across southern Alabama and in the Florida panhandle in addition to the nearly 94,000 detainees planned for California. There is no word regarding where or whether the detention facilities originally slated for California are being relocated to other sites. The new facilities will join what is quickly becoming a sprawling, nation-wide network of private jail facilities, non-profit-operated detention centers, and now, camps and “tent cities” located on military bases aimed at housing detained migrants. Perhaps nothing has brought this more into focus than recent controversy over the Trump administration’s policy of family separation. Although President Trump recently put a temporary halt to the practice through an executive order, nearly 2,500 children have been separated from their families over the past two months and are now being detained in facilities spanning at least 15 states. According to government figures, roughly 12,000 migrant children overall are currently being held in over 100 facilities across the country, many of which are at or exceed their designated capacities, and some of which are facing allegations of abuse and misconduct, not to mention ill-equipped to handle the mental health, welfare, and legal hurdles these children face. As a result, the nation’s sprawling—and expanding—carceral archipelago has now become a major source of  political, ethical, and moral debate. 

As with the vast for-profit prison system, there are many questions about the ethical and moral implications of designing and constructing these facilities. So far, however, the architectural profession is staying mostly out of the fray, with a few exceptions. Last week, The Architecture Lobby (TAL) and Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) issued a joint statement rejecting the role of architects in designing such detention facilities, stating, “The Architecture Lobby and ADPSR call on architects, designers, planners and allied professionals to refuse to participate in the design of any immigration enforcement infrastructure, including but not limited to walls, checkpoints, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, detention facilities, processing centers, or juvenile holding centers. We encourage owners, partners and employees who find themselves in practices that engage in this work to organize, and deny their labor to these projects.” The statement came as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) held its annual convention in New York City, an event that was marked with a heavy emphasis on the profession’s attempts to overcome the diversity and inclusion hurdles currently faced by the white- and male-dominated profession. It was not long ago that the association drew the ire of its members following the 2016 national election, when AIA CEO Robert Ivy declared that AIA members “stand ready to work” with Trump toward shared goals like infrastructure investments. During last week’s conference, ADPSR attempted to get AIA leadership to endorse its rejection of detention center projects, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful, though the group is still working to convince the AIA to adpot its position. Raphael Sperry, president of ADPSR, told The Architect’s Newspaper, “People should recognize that immigrants, including currently undocumented people in the United States, contribute greatly to architecture, and always have. There are immigrant and undocumented architects, builders, carpenters, plumbers, welders. We must recognize and respect the contributions of everyone who shapes the built environment, and ensure that our profession and our broader industry respect human rights for everyone.” When reached for comment on the question of whether architects should take on these commissions, Carl Elefante, AIA president, referred AN to the AIA press team. When contacted, a representative of the AIA simply asked, “Why do you think architects are working on these projects?” without providing further comment. Even a casual observer would note that architects are likely fundamental to the development of not only the increasingly ubiquitous detention centers being built across the country, but also, as ADPSR points out, the myriad supportive facilities necessary for DHS to carry out its ongoing efforts to fight so-called “illegal immigration.” Most notoriously, a 200,000-square-foot former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas came under scrutiny in recent weeks as a detention center with a unique claim to fame—the largest detention center for migrant and refugee children. Operated by the privately-run Southwest Key Programs organization, the big-box detention center was converted from a retail store to its current use in 2016 as a result of corporate downsizing and currently holds roughly 1,500 separated children. The conversion likely required building permits, construction drawings, and the like—services that often require architects. It is safe to assume that local jurisdictions would require basic planning approval and permitting for these projects, so it seems natural that architects would somehow be involved in the propagation of these facilities. The silence from professional organizations on the matter is troubling to say the least; as the government ramps up efforts to build more facilities under increasingly hostile terms, it would benefit practitioners and contractors to understand the ethical implications of their work. Furthermore, other professional architectural organizations, like the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), have pushed to have architects and designers engage with migrant and refugee detention centers through design in the past. Last year, ACSA issued a controversial call for its annual steel construction competition, asking participants to design a “Humanitarian Refugee (Detention) Center.” The proposal drew ire from the architectural community as well, prompting the group to shut down the competition in exchange for a different brief issued earlier this year. In a statement announcing the end of the competition, ACSA remarked that it had received “justified​ criticism” over the prompt and that it regretted its decision to publish the competition. When reached for comment this week regarding the current debate surrounding migrant detention centers, a representative said, “ACSA does not have a comment on that issue. We do not take positions on the work that architects choose to take on.” The reticence that professional groups like the AIA and ACSA have toward speaking out against what many consider to be plainly unethical facilities speaks to the profession’s ongoing struggles with racial and ethnic diversity along with human rights concerns. Because detained migrants are being distributed among a network that runs the gamut of structures, from private prisons to improvised tent cities in remote desert sites, the implications of the expanding detention network extends beyond the realm of individual projects and firm-specific business decisions to encompass profession-wide ethical and human rights concerns. The racialized dimension of the immigration debate alongside the architectural profession’s continued lack of diversity present particular challenges for professional organizations and individual firms as they attempt to respond. At stake is whether—or how—the architectural profession will engage with the American immigration debate, and more broadly, with a global refugee crisis that is only due to keep growing in scope and severity as the effects of climate change and resource-driven conflicts spread globally. If AIA and ACSA will not provide leadership during these trying times, who will?  
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Rise Above

SOM's Engineering + Art + Architecture exhibition opens at the MAK Center in L.A. this weekend
The widely-traveled exhibition titled Poetic Structure: Art + Engineering + Architecture showcasing the engineering and design legacy of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) will be on display at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture in Los Angeles starting this weekend. The sprawling exhibition will bring a large 12-foot-by-27-foot pavilion to the grounds of the Schindler House, presenting a doubly curved kinematic structure stiffened with wood panels and metal hinges is inspired by the mathematical relationships between force and motion. The hovering pavilion is suspended by aluminum trusses and is braced with steel wires, an arrangement that can yield variously-sized configurations for the traveling show. The pavilion will also house more than 30 structural models of SOM’s grandest works. The models—built at 1-to-500 scale—compare the various structural approaches taken for projects like the John Hancock Center in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai in an effort to demonstrate the similarities that exist between artistic and technical designs, and how SOM “embraces and integrates engineering into works of public art.” The exhibition will also feature a mosaic collage of hand-drawn sketches from SOM’s leadership team showcasing the firm’s ever-evolving design process. Included too will be an art installation and digital projections presenting visuals and work from globally-acclaimed artists and architects who have partnered with SOM to design large-scale public installations, according to a press release for the exhibition. Works represented include Janet Echelman’s Dream Catcher, James Carpenter’s Hope Tower, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s Weatherfield, Jaume Plensa’s World Voices, and additional work by Pablo Picasso and Peter Zumthor. The exhibition will be supplemented by public programs, including panel discussions and off-site educational events. Poetic Structure is scheduled to run through September 2, 2018.
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Pop Style

MRY restores Charles Moore’s PoMo gem at UC Santa Barbara
When the Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, and Whitaker Architects-designed University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Faculty Club opened in 1968, architectural historian and critic David Gebhard wrote in Forum that the complex was “theatrical (like Hollywood) and planned, even though on the surface everything appears haphazard and disjoined.” The compliment applies in opposite to the recently-completed $11.25 million renovation, restoration, and expansion to the complex by Charles Moore’s successor firm Moore Ruble Yudell (MRY), where a series of rationally-organized dining facilities, hotel accommodations, and administrative offices conceal nuanced and rich architectural detail. The complex was originally designed as an homage to the era’s Pop Architecture phenomenon that blended Spanish Colonial Revival stylings with a 1960s penchant for dumb shacks and postwar vernacular modernism. Though from the outside, the building originally appeared as a stuccoed mass of disjointed shapes, Moore and Turnbull’s original vision was decked out inside with soaring framed archways, criss-crossing mezzanine walks and stairways, and neon signs and symbols decorating its walls. The project’s showpiece, a central, multi-story dining room, contained all of these elements and more, including deep-cut architectural references to other famous works—like a sloped entry reminiscent of Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard—that were amplified and repurposed throughout the UCSB Lagoon-adjacent complex.  Today, the expanded club boasts a wholly new 15,760-square-foot wing hosting 34 guest rooms wrapped by perimeter circulation, as well as a renovated and restored central dining hall and a bevy of new sustainability features. Overall, the building has more than doubled in size from 14,595 square feet to over 30,000 square feet today, an effort that has overtaken but not necessarily overshadowed the existing PoMo gem. MRY has taken a gradient-driven approach to the project by restoring the easternmost two-thirds of the original building while also adaptively reusing the remainder of the existing complex and adding the new wing on the building’s west side.  The upgraded dining room—dialed down in terms of its furnishings and place settings from the 1960s version, as one might imagine—is more spare than before. Gone are the expanses of wall-to-wall red carpeting, Mid-Century Modern-styled dining chairs, and glass-topped dining tables and their frilly, folded napkin arrangements, which have been replaced with more paired-down and contemporary elements.  Many other aspects of the existing building have been retrofitted for contemporary times as well, including the building’s windows, which have been replaced with energy-efficient panes. The complex boasts passive design features that facilitte matural ventilation throughout. Added too are new sensitive lighting designs that allow for task-level lighting control in the hotel rooms, as well as new ambient lighting in the dining areas that compliments the large glass light fixtures already inhabiting the space.  Perhaps the most unique elements of the complex come in at ceiling height, where many areas feature drop-down roof rafters that evoke the vigas of the Spanish Revival as well as the slap-dash 2x10 ceiling joists of the Mid-Century vernacular, as well.  These elements are complemented in the hotel rooms and in the building’s many shared areas by peculiar ceiling geometries that result from the building’s heaped architectural forms. Everywhere rooms and entire wings explode askew to the structural grid, with massive octagonal arches doing the work of keeping the building standing, as sloping ceilings, pop-out window walls, skylights, and transom openings combine to create delightful ceiling geometries.  Overall, the architects have proven that it is possible to respect and embrace history—even what might be considered by some today as an over-wrought PoMo relic—while also building for the future.  In Santa Barbara, PoMo isn’t “back,” and it’s certainly not dead—It’s been here and will continue to remain. 
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Behold

Museum at St. Louis' Gateway Arch to open this July
A spiffy revamp of the park and buildings surrounding Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch in St. Louis is slated for completion this summer. Along with a new landscape by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) that sensitively dialogues with the Dan Kiley original, the symbolic demarcation of the west will be complemented by a revamped Museum of Westward Expansion, now known as the Museum of the Gateway Arch. The building, which sits directly beneath the Arch, was originally designed by Saarinen and is being redone by New York's Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) with Trivers Associates, which is based in St. Louis. The team added 45,500 square feet to the museum's west side, connecting a new entrance (pictured above) to the main programming in the 113,000-square-foot Saarinen-designed museum. In deference to the site—which is both a national landmark and national park—much of the new construction sits underground. The architects collaborated with MVVA on 2010's CityArchRiver, a competition to master-plan and tweak Kiley and Saarinen's 91-acre landscape and structures for better public access and connectivity with downtown St. Louis. In conjunction with the renovation, the Museum of Westward Expansion is being rebranded as the Museum at the Gateway Arch, a switch that removes the jingoistic emphasis on the colonization of indigenous land, but preserves its ties to the site. The re-christened building will open July 3, 2018. In the meantime, take a gander at this neat timelapse construction video:
 
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Upping the Ante

Las Vegas supersized convention center expansion approved
The already-giant Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) is about to get even bigger, thanks to an expansion by Atlanta's tvsdesign. This week, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board of Directors approved tvsdesign to spearhead the $860 million addition, and after renovations, the exhibition hall will be North America's second-largest (top honors go to Chicago's McCormick Place). The firm is collaborating with Henderson, Nevada's TSK Architects, as well as Las Vegas's Simpson Coulter Studio, Carpenter Sellers Del Gatto Architects and KME Architects on the 1.4-million-square-foot design. The megaproject will proceed in phases. This phase, the LVCC District Expansion, is expected to be finished by the end of 2020, while a subsequent renovation of the existing 3.2-million-square-foot convention center will wrap in 2023. "What gets us out of bed in the morning is doing big, complex projects that are important and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives," said Rob Svedberg, tvsdesign principal, in a statement. "The Las Vegas Convention Center expansion is just that: big, intricate and positioned to deliver a positive impact on many lives. We are thrilled about the opportunity to create an iconic design for the world’s greatest convention city." tvsdesign is part of the design-build team selected this year to realize the $1.5 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. The firm also worked on the $585 million Music City Center in Nashville. Last year, 22,000 meetings, conventions and trade shows were held in Las Vegas. When it's complete, the larger LVCC is expected to attract 2 million visitors per year.
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R.I.P.

Kenneth Frampton remembers Eduard Sekler (1920 – 2017)
Trained as an architect at the Technical University of Vienna, Eduard Sekler studied under Rudolf Wittkower at the Warburg Institute in London before graduating there as an architectural historian in 1948. Coming to the States as a Fulbright scholar he joined the faculty of the Harvard GSD in 1956 at the invitation of Josep Lluís Sert. A decade later he became the first director of the Carpenter Art Center, a position which he held for ten years during which time he also founded Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies Center and co-authored, with William Curtis, a study entitled Le Corbusier at Work: The Genesis of the Center for Visual Arts (1978). Sekler was active as a scholar over a very wide range, publishing his thesis on Christopher Wren in 1956 and his definitive monograph on the work of Josef Hoffman in 1985. He was one of the first theorists to articulate the difference between structure, construction and tectonics, with this last focusing primarily on the static expressivity of built-form as opposed to formal abstraction as an end in itself. As a researcher and teacher Sekler was also concerned with the “space of public appearance” as this could still be found in historic cities throughout the world and this preoccupation fed into his lifelong concern for the preservation of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, a place which he visited virtually every year, throughout his prime. In one, or another, Sekler served the GSD for over half a century and he was a regular visitor there even after his retirement. His loyal presence there will be sorely missed.
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New York Dreaming

WeWork opens offices next to Fulton Center's Sky Reflector-Net
Today, coworking office purveyor WeWork opened up their latest location on the third floor of the Fulton Center in Downtown Manhattan. The office pays homage to both old and new (a hallmark of WeWork's office interiors) integrating the Fulton Center's iconic Rotunda and the Corbin Building, which was built in 1889.

The project is WeWork's 15th office in a landmarked site (the Corbin Building was landmarked in 2015) and its eighth in New York City. Cautious of eradicating the 127-year-old building's history, WeWork kept new design interventions to a minimum. Existing elements in the Corbin Building, including an eight-story bronze and marble staircase, along with Guastavino tiles in the arches of the doorways (which form part of the French Gothic detailing found throughout the building and on its facade), were renovated.

Light permeates the space courtesy of the conical atrium which the office wraps around on the third floor. Officially known as the Sky Reflector-Net, the dome structure is the work of James Carpenter Design Associates, Grimshaw Architects, and engineering firm ARUP. The office area comprises places to read, conference rooms, a reception, and hot desks. A pantry and range of common areas operate as stand-alone areas. From inside, occupants can peer through the structure's complex of perforated optical aluminum panels, tensioned cables, high-strength rods, and stainless steel elements down onto the 300,000 transit users that pass through the center every day. The narrow space within the Corbin Building, meanwhile, will provide space for functions and office events. Bridging old and new, a 3D art installation by local artists, The Guild, is located on the threshold between the Corbin Building and Fulton Center and aims to unify them through material and color. In a statement emailed to The Architect's Newspaper, WeWork said:
WeWork Fulton Center is uniquely positioned across both the landmarked Corbin building and a new major transit hub. We have a history of breathing new life into historic buildings, and we’re proud to help give new futures to iconic pieces of the city’s history.
Also appearing this week within the Fulton Center is a new artwork installed by the MTA Arts & Design program. Titled New York Dreaming and by artist Anne Spalter, the kaleidoscopic video installation on show for the holiday season.
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Yes We Kahn

AN EXCLUSIVE: Getty Conservation Institute begins restoration of Louis Kahn's Salk Institute
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) announced this morning that after three years of research, construction is currently underway on a series of architectural conservation efforts aimed at restoring the luster of Louis Kahn’s seminal Southern California work, the Salk Insitute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. The GCI is providing research and funding to enact necessary site repairs and develop a long-term conservation management plan at the 51-year old complex, widely considered to be one of Kahn’s masterworks. The complex is designed as a series of laboratories and offices overlooking a central courtyard facing the Pacific Ocean; its buildings are articulated in monolithic concrete walls and outfitted with custom-made teak windows. Kahn was originally commissioned to design the complex in 1965 as the new research base for the man credited with developing the polio vaccine, Dr. Jonas Salk. The Institute’s beachside locale has resulted in extensive deterioration and a “non-uniform appearance” of those distinctive teak elements, which number 203 in total. Each window assembly was prefabricated by carpenters in accordance with a highly-customized fenestration regime for the building, with each aperture offering varied combinations of sliding window panes, louvres, and shutters. Research conducted by the GCI team discovered that the window walls were suffering from particular forms of deterioration resulting from the presence of a fungal biofilm growing on the frames, exposure to the elements, and the detrimental effects of prior maintenance efforts. Not only that, but researchers discovered that the windows also suffer from moisture infiltration resulting from a lack of flashing and weather stripping and, additionally, the outright failure of weather sealants. Over the course of their studies, researchers coordinated their efforts by studying original documentation in Kahn’s archives, performing laboratory analysis on in situ materials, and eventually developing full-scale mock-ups of the windows to test conservation approaches. The conservation work, executed by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. of Pasadena, California, was launched in 2013. Now that research has concluded, construction has begun and the project is due to finish in the spring of 2017. London-based Peter Inskip + Peter Jenkins Architects are consulting on the project as well. Both teams worked on the recent conservation work performed at Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. The initiative to restore the architectural masterpiece was coordinated as part of the GCI’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, a project that has also overseen conservation management plan for the Charles and Ray Eames House in Malibu, California. It's funded by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern Initiative. Tim Whalen, director of the GCI, commented on the iconic nature of the project, saying, “The Salk Institute is an architectural icon, and the Getty was privileged to be invited by the Salk to work with them on the building’s long-term preservation. Our access to the site, its archives, and the Institute’s staff, some of whom have worked there since the early years, has been extraordinary,” adding, “The methodology developed by the GCI will serve as a roadmap for future conservation projects at the Salk Institute, as well as a model for other Louis Kahn buildings and buildings with similar conservation issues.” A special lecture regarding the GCI’s conservation efforts at the Salk Institute is scheduled for October 5 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. That talk will be the first of many Kahn-related events occurring across the Southland this year, complementing a career retrospective on Kahn, Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, hosted by the San Diego Museum of Art, set to open November 5, 2016, in San Diego.
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Building for Community

Francis Kéré's diverse work featured at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Berlin-based, Burkina Faso–born Diebedo Francis Kéré is far from a typical architect, and his current one-man exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on display through September 25, is also far from typical.

Kéré, 51, was born in Gando, an agricultural village in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, which has one of the world’s poorest and least educated populations. The first son of the tribal head of Gando, he was the only child in his village permitted to attend school, which he did in Burkina Faso’s second largest city, not far from Gando. He apprenticed to a carpenter there and in 1985 received a scholarship for a training program in Germany. After taking night classes in Berlin to earn his high school diploma, he studied architecture at the Technische Universitate and established his architecture practice there in 2005.

One of his earliest projects—which won him the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004 and a prominent role in MoMA’s 2010 exhibition, Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement—is the 1999–2001 primary school he designed for Gando, which illustrates the cover of MoMA’s exhibition catalogue. It consists of three detached, rectangular classrooms, constructed of adobe and cement bricks, hand-made by locals; the school is covered with a corrugated metal roof and a dry-stacked ceiling of clay bricks that lets hot air escape from the classroom interiors.

According to the MoMA catalogue—which describes the construction of the school as “truly a community endeavor”—some Gando workers who built the school subsequently became skilled laborers on other projects, while local families’ interest in the school skyrocketed, with the enrollment of children who previously did not attend school from surrounding villages.

Kéré’s work in Gando continues. It’s illustrated in the Philadelphia exhibition with photographs, and actual building materials and tools, such as clay and wood samples, machine-pressed and hand-formed bricks, and laterite stones. He has designed teachers’ housing and an extension of the primary school, both complete, while a primary school library and a center for sustainable construction technologies and research are under construction.

Tall kiosks throughout the exhibition feature photographs of Kéré’s past, present, and future projects in Africa, including the Center for Earth Architecture in Mopti, Mali, and the Obama Legacy Campus in Kogelo, Kenya, birthplace of President Barack Obama’s father, as well as his work in Europe and the United States. The former includes a Camper pop-up store at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany; an installation at this year’s Fuorisalone in Milan inspired by the social and spatial dynamics of a typical African village; and the repurposing of former military barracks in Mannheim, Germany, into a hub for local engineering industries, now under development. His only U.S. project so far is the Place for Gathering, a “seating terrain” of locally-sourced wood that was designed for visitors from around the world attending the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Also unusual in the Philadelphia exhibition is the subject matter and presentation of three videos, all shot in Africa and never displayed before. One video about a recently built school in Koudougou, Burkina Faso, depicts many stages of the project, all performed by locals without the use of heavy machinery. Seating here is provided by chairs made in Philadelphia, using the same materials (steel rebar and plywood) and design as Kéré’s chairs for Burkina Faso schools. Another video, which depicts overhead enclosures—including tree canopies, traditional thatch, and modern roofs made of steel trusses—was shot skyward and is shown on a large monitor hanging from the ceiling; a viewing platform below encourages visitors to lie back and observe. The third video, projected from the ceiling directly onto the floor below, explores the concept of shadow, whether in a classroom with chalkboards and desks, or under a baobab tree, and how shadows facilitate learning. One can walk into the projection, literally stepping into the gathering place.

Visitors pass the final part of the exhibition, a site-specific installation called Colorscape, as they enter the exhibition’s primary gallery, Suspended from the museum’s ceiling are steel frames threaded with hundreds of pieces of Philadelphia-made lightweight cord in many different colors. The rectilinear layout of the frames represents the formally-planned grid of William Penn’s Philadelphia, while the paths and spaces carved from the mass of strings represent the organic grid of Gando.

Those passing through the variously colored elements also can hear the Sounds of the Village, audio recorded in both Burkina Faso and Philadelphia, the former including sounds of the wind, birds, and chickens, the latter sounds of local streets and a Philadelphia Flyers hockey game. Just as Kéré enlists local people to work on his projects in Africa, Philadelphians—including University of Pennsylvania architecture students, museum staff, volunteers, and visitors—helped construct this installation.

In Gando and other agrarian societies, children learn from their elders, who teach them orally; they also learn by doing. Similarly, since he started his practice, Kéré has aimed to communicate design and architecture simply and directly, to be understood by African laborers not educated in reading sophisticated plans or architectural drawings, as well as by children. All these concepts inform the Philadelphia exhibition, stimulating thought and visual pleasure.

The Architecture of Francis Kéré: Building for Community runs through September 25, 2016. For more on the exhibit, visit here.