Search results for "Paul Goldberger"

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Dear Editor

Letter to the editor: In support of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates
Dear Mr. Menking, I was stunned to read in the June issue that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is planning to demolish part of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s 1996 additions to the museum in La Jolla. When VSBA’s design was completed, architectural critic Paul Goldberger wrote, “This is an exquisite project, overflowing with those qualities that make Mr. Venturi a designer of extraordinary gifts.” Don’t stop the (over)flow! Images of the proposed changes on MCASD’s website seem to call for the demolition of VSBA’s urbane colonnade and pergola—a central feature of this exuberant jewel of postmodern architecture. Venturi and Scott Brown are world‐historical figures whose buildings, books, and teaching careers changed the course of contemporary architecture. Their built work should be treated with conscientious stewardship, not piecemeal dismantling. The current director of MCASD might be interested to know that Historic England—Britain’s public body responsible for preserving historic buildings—has recently “listed” (that is, protected from demolition) Venturi and Scott Brown’s 1991 extension to the National Gallery in London, which the British characterize as a building “of exceptional interest” by “internationally important architects and theorists, generally considered the founders of Post‐Modernism.” The intelligence and clarity of Historic England’s approach to VSBA’s London gallery could serve as an exemplar for La Jolla. During a moment in which the whole world is watching, does the Museum of Contemporary Art really wish to proceed with what appears to be an act of cultural vandalism? Thank you for your attention to my letter. Richard Hayes, AIA
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Feeling Chipper-dale

AT&T Building landmarking vote advances amid outpouring of support
The winding saga of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s hulking 550 Madison took another turn yesterday, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) considered landmarking the postmodern office tower’s granite exterior. Preservationists, architects, and colleagues of Johnson’s took the stand to deliver public testimony in favor of the potential landmarking, and even ownership spoke on how they would sensitively redevelop the building with input from the commission. The furor over the former AT&T headquarters began with the initial reveal of Snøhetta’s plan to glass over and encase the base of the tower in October 2017, demolishing the great archways and loggias that, at the time of the building’s opening in 1984, formed a looping privately-owned public space (POPS). The original plan would have stripped the base’s defining 110-foot-tall granite archway and redefined the balance between what had been designed as a tripartite structure (the looming base, the center wall of windows, and the ornamental “Chippendale” topper). The LPC moved quickly to calendar the building in November of last year but also noted that, due to development partners Chelsfield America and Olayan America’s decision to demolish the lobby (against the wishes of Community Board 5), only the exterior would be under consideration. At the most recent meeting of the Landmarks Committee, Seth Pinsky, executive vice president of RXR Realty­­­­—now a minority partner on 550 Madison’s redevelopment—spoke on behalf of the building’s owners and discussed the new scheme they would be presenting. Snøhetta’s glass curtain wall is out, and ownership now officially supports landmarking the tower’s exterior. As a result, they would also like to remove the building’s rear annex and renovate the arcade covered by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman during their 1993 renovation for Sony and bring the rear yard condition closer to Johnson and Burgee’s original vision. This would create a much larger enclosed garden and seating area. As for the tower’s interiors, originally designed for single-tenant occupancy and for a maximum of 800 employees, Pinsky stated that the current plan was to build out Class A office space for up to 3,000 potential workers. The vast majority of testimony read at the hearing was in favor of landmarking the former AT&T Building. Some in attendance spoke on the building’s noble intentions but purported failure to connect with the street level; in Richard Rogers’ statement, delivered via surrogate, it was noted that while the tower itself has always been impressive, the successive series of interventions at the ground level have only strayed further from Johnson and Burgee’s original intention. The committee received an additional 12 letters of support for landmark status, including from the National Register of Historic Places. Ultimately, the fate of 550 Madison will likely be determined at an unspecified later date wherein commissioners will take Tuesday's testimony into account. The building's owners will continue to tweak their proposed scheme in the meantime. AN will continue to provide updates as they become available.
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An Ear for Architecture

Architects can still learn from Tom Wolfe
You probably know that author Tom Wolfe died last week at the age of 88. Wolfe was illustrious for his acerbic, lyrical, ever-insightful commentary, and for pioneering the so-called “New Journalism.” He penned numerous best-selling books, from the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Right Stuff to Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full. But you may be unaware that Wolfe, also famed for his flamboyant personality and attire, was an unrepentant hater of Modernist architecture, with its pared down, detached, ever-functional ethos. His most notorious rant on the subject was From Bauhaus to Our House, published in 1981, inciting immediate backlash in the architecture establishment. In just the first few pages, the essay took mighty, sweeping swings at a movement that he dismissed as boring, unsophisticated and oh-so utilitarian. A few pithy examples of his boiling prose are below:
Every child goes to school in a building that looks like a duplicating-machine replacement parts wholesale distribution warehouse.” Every new $900,000 summer house in the north woods of Michigan or on the shore of Long Island has so many pipe railings, ramps, hob-tread metal spiral stairways, sheets of industrial plate glass, banks of tungsten-halogen lamps, and white cylindrical shapes, it looks like an insecticide refinery. I once saw the owners of such a place driven to the edge of sensory deprivation by the whiteness & lightness & leanness & cleanness & bareness & sparseness of it all.”
“Every great law firm in New York moves without a sputter of protest into a glass-box office building with concrete slab floors and seven-foot-ten-inch-high concrete slab ceilings and plasterboard walls and pygmy corridors.”
Architecture’s defenders immediately swung back. While critic Paul Goldberger agreed that the glut of “puritanical” glass and steel skyscrapers and “wild” and often kitschy structures replacing the city’s historic fabric needed a rethink, he did not care for Wolfe’s bombastic, indiscriminate criticisms and prescriptions. Wrote Goldberger in the New York Times Book Review: “The problem, I think - and here we get to the essence of what is wrong with this book–is that Tom Wolfe has no eye... He does not see, to take but one of so many examples, that Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building is a lush and extraordinarily beautiful object. He understands Seagram only as part of Mies van der Rohe's theorizing, which means he understands it only as a prototype for a universal architectural style, and not as a unique and even profound work of art.” In other words, Wolfe, obsessed with Modernism’s doctrines, lumps Seagram with the rest of the Modernist pile, and misses so many of its finer points. Goldberger, while acknowledging architecture’s need to be comprehensible to most, hated Wolfe's black and white view of buildings. “The obligation architecture does have, as a practical art, to embrace certain conventions, to be readable in some fashion by anyone who uses it, in no way means that it must be understood in every way, on every level, by all who come in contact with it. There is such a thing as levels of meaning, but Mr. Wolfe seems not to accept this.” Virtually all of Goldberger’s contemporaries published similarly scathing rejections, and Wolfe’s reputation in the architecture community remains poor at best, particularly after Wolfe’s more recent crusade against Brad Cloepfil’s pared-down restructuring of Edward Durell Stone’s gaudy, cheerily anti-International Style 2 Columbus Circle, AKA, the “Lollipop Building.” Goldberger is right that Wolfe had a better ear than eye, calling it "acute and finely tuned."  Yes, Wolfe accurately predicted the (at least temporary) demise of the Modernist movement, which by the time he published the book had reigned almost unchallenged for decades and was in many ways, as he put it, “exhausted.” But through the benefit of hindsight it appears that not only was Wolfe’s argument lacking a great deal of architectural nuance and history, but it also failed to anticipate Modernism’s resurgence. The movement needed reinvention—through greater sensitivity to site and occupant, through a reignited embrace of imagination and technology, for example— not a wholesale tear down. It needed to soften its dogma and recommit to its abstract artistry and formal skill. Wolfe was wrong to mock Modernism as purely utilitarian, and to let its worst abuses speak for the entire genre. And it was unfair for him to blindly abhor any style that eschewed ornament. His attack on Louis Kahn’s Yale Art Gallery as resembling an “underground parking garage,” and yet another form of “worker housing” is just one of Wolfe’s many lyrical but crude misrepresentations of the movement’s deep art and soul. Still, Wolfe’s ear should not be underestimated, especially his still-timely attacks of the profession’s often unrepentant elitism. What Wolfe got right—and it’s a criticism that still rings true today—is his skewering of what can be an insular, snotty, tone-deaf culture, from the almost religious zealotry of the early days of Modernism to now. He ceaselessly mocked the “theoryspeak of contemporary architecture,” which still renders the profession opaque to most outsiders. Equally repulsed by most of postmodernism, Wolfe especially disdained archibabble from the likes of Meier, Gwathmey, Eisenman and Graves. He singled out Graves’ talk of “the multiple meanings inherent in codes of abstraction” and “a level of participation that involves the reciprocal act of ourselves with the figure of the building.” In other words, he nailed the circular, incomprehensible beginnings of an academic speak (and echo chamber mentality) that still haunts the field today. Many of his contemporaries agreed. Reyner Banham, writing about Bauhaus to Our House in the London Review of Books, noted of Modernist architecture: “Not only is it a closed sub-culture, it is also by now a very well-entrenched academic establishment. “ Hence, he adds, the unwillingness to let it evolve. And James McCown, writing in Architecture Boston, noted a few years later that Wolfe’s writing “singles out architects as having more than a whiff of cultural superiority about them. If you doubt that, sit in on a critique at the Harvard Graduate School of Design or MIT’s School of Architecture+ Planning.” Agree or disagree with Wolfe’s architectural taste, it’s important to recognize how his keen cultural antenna—his amazing ear— can still contribute to the current debates about our profession. Wolfe’s cultural commentary, more than anything, was his greatest gift. Wouldn’t it be great if it could help us clean up shop in a culture that badly needs it?
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Another one bites the dust?

Why we need architecture critics more than ever
Earlier this week we learned that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne would be stepping down to take on the city’s newly-created role of Chief Design Officer. The move is a bold, encouraging one that should go a long way toward, as Hawthorne put it, “raising the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city—and the level of civic conversation about those subjects,” through his employment of oversight, advocacy, competitions, forums, and more. But it’s the second part of that statement, regarding civic conversation, that, regardless of this positive development, is under siege in the architecture world. Until Hawthorne is replaced — and given the turmoil at the L.A. Times that’s no certainty— our country will have still fewer regular architectural critics at its major metropolitan news outlets. You can count them on one hand in fact: Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune, John King at the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Lamster at the Dallas Morning News, Julie Iovine at the Wall Street Journal, and Inga Saffron at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Beyond these dailies, while New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson and Curbed’s Alexandra Lange offer regular critiques, the New York Times’ critic Michael Kimmelman is M.I.A., the New Yorker has never replaced Paul Goldberger, and at The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The Nation, The San Jose Mercury News, and Vanity Fair, Robert Campbell, Alastair Gordon, Michael Sorkin, Alan Hess and Goldberger—all talented voices, as are all the people listed above— haven’t appeared for at least half a year.  Papers like The Seattle Times, the Providence Journal, and the Washington Post never replaced their outgoing critics, USA Today has never had one, and half of the nation’s ten largest cities have no critic. It goes without saying that the L.A. Times absolutely must name a new full-time architecture critic, particularly at a time when the nation's second largest city is undergoing unprecedented transformation. Without a well-positioned critical voice, the city will lack a professional to alert them to and analyze these tumultuous built changes, or an advocate to critique decisions that, as they so often do in the developer-driven city, advance private interests over the public good. (Or, on the other end of the spectrum, marginalize design through discourse and work that most people can't relate to.) A critic can and must do much more, from awakening us to triumphs in sustainability and technology to suggesting ways to minimize sprawl or enhance public space. We don’t have to always agree with them, but he or she plays an essential role in instigating and informing a vital public discourse and to alerting us to the critical role design plays in our lives. The same goes for so many of the country’s cities, where nobody is minding the store, architecturally. The results speak for themselves: an overwhelming majority of architecture, both public and private, that’s ok, fine, serviceable. But not enough. It’s an architecture that, like most of our economy, excels for the very richest individuals, corporations and cultural institutions, but offers mediocrity to almost everyone else. Architecture should and must be for everyone, across the board, from housing to retail to schools to government buildings to civic parks. It must help propel our society, and our spirits, forward through inspiration and innovation, not just provide luxury, comfort, or status. Of course, architecture criticism isn’t limited to major commercial outlets. There are fantastic voices at many design periodicals, like this one. But critics at general interest publications still, even in this fractured media landscape, have the greatest ability to reach a wide audience, outside the bubbles of design or niche journalism, who are often preaching to the converted. While the news, sports, fashion, entertainment, and financial media promote and dissect the minutiae of their fields before millions, prompting debate, feedback, and change, the architecture and construction industry — a significant force in overall U.S. GDP—is largely on the fringe of the public conversation. (One example: If you watch March Madness this week, you’ll see more college basketball critics on one telecast than you’ll find countrywide speaking to architecture. Aline Saarinen was once NBC News’ full time architecture critic, but those days of elevated exposure are long gone.) Meanwhile, critics, as with so many players in the ailing journalism world, are increasingly being sidestepped for computerized engines like Rotten Tomatoes or for blogs that aggregate other work and churn out press releases. Or even worse, for abbreviated Facebook or Twitter posts. Algorithms and big data have their place in showing us where we are, but they can’t replace analysis, critique, understanding, common sense, and heart. Having Hawthorne— along with advocates like Deborah Weintraub at the L.A. Bureau of Engineering and Seleta Reynolds at the L.A. Department of Transportation— stationed at City Hall will be bring a keen eye and a valuable voice to the official conversation. But that conversation needs to extend to a much wider public, through experts outside the city payroll. As for his new job, Hawthorne must, as he suggests he will, make his work to improve the civic realm as public as possible, ensuring that design involves everyone, not just those in power. This is a fantastic opportunity for a gifted communicator to bring the public inside a generally opaque realm through his writing, speaking, and facility for public engagement. But he also needs a partner or two (preferably more) in the media, and as more chief design officers (hopefully) pop up around the country, so must they. Architecture is not art in a gallery. Along with landscape architecture and urban design, it is a public profession. It is for the public, not despite them. We need to empower more informed voices to keep it that way.
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Round Two

Revised designs revealed for the modernist plaza at SOM's 140 Broadway
After hearing—loudly—from critics and community members, the team behind 140 Broadway's plaza revamp has revised its design for the outdoor spaces surrounding the former Marine Midland Building, SOM's landmarked 1968 corporate modernist masterpiece. Landscape architects at New York's NV5, in collaboration with preservation consultants at Higgins Quasebarth & Partners, have submitted a revised design for the modernist plaza at 140 Broadway to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for a hearing next week. Most notably, the new design eliminates a 14-foot-wide planter at Broadway and Cedar Street that would have sat kitty-corner from the plaza's signature sculpture, Isamu Noguchi's Red Cube. Aside from the absence of the large corner planter, the plaza design is relatively unchanged from the one revealed in January. Like the previous scheme, the new plans call for six, 14-foot-wide circular planters that double as benches along Cedar Street. Meanwhile, the Helmsley Memorial, a blocky black-granite tribute to the late owner, will be re-dedicated as a marker flush with the pavement, and the design team will add metal bollards along Cedar. To further harmonize the space, the design team is replacing pinkish granite pavers installed in 1999 with a light golden-hued granite that resembles the original travertine plaza. When the plaza plans were revealed in January, critics panned the design, saying it would distract from the Noguchi sculpture, which was installed to complement the plaza and its 57-story tower. Originally, the LPC was scheduled to hear the plaza plans in early February, but public debate over the appropriateness of the renovation prompted the designers and owner to withdraw the item from the LPC's calendar. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) obtained an advance copy of the plans that were submitted to the LPC. All the renderings and drawings pictured here are from that document. Jackson Wandres, director of landscape architecture at NV5, and Erin Rulli, partner at Higgins Quasebarth, said that their overall goal is to add more seating and re-establish the east-west viewshed that extends from Zuccotti Park across the 140 Broadway plaza and over to SOM's 28 Liberty (formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza), a modernist skyscraper of the same vintage. The 140 Broadway plaza "is the knuckle in a series of open spaces," Wandres said. "It makes the space feel much larger." A web of fine-toothed zoning designations divides these three seemingly unified areas and complicates the design intervention, however. The park and the two office tower plazas are POPS, spaces that are privately owned and maintained but free for the public to use. At 140 Broadway, the plaza continues out from the building to the edge of the roadway uninterrupted, even though the property line actually ends about 20 feet before the street; the food carts with LED marquees that sling chicken-over-rice and green juice to hungry passerbys sit on the public right-of-way. By obstructing the historical plaza-to-plaza vista, "the carts have caused a dramatic shift in how you experience the space," Rulli said. "It's not the intention to deprive anyone of their livelihoods, but rather, it's a design move for the benefit of the plaza," Wandres added. The pair clarified that any changes to the public area is under the Department of Transportation's (DOT) jurisdiction, not owner Union Investment's. Consequently, the proposed food cart–replacing benches and planters in the right-of-way are being reviewed by the DOT, not the LPC.
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Density Demo

Natalie Griffin de Blois’s Union Carbide tower is slated for demolition by Chase
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s (SOM) 270 Park Avenue, an international-styled glass-and-steel tower in Midtown Manhattan that Ada Louis Huxtable once described as one of the “sleek and shiny temples” to business, is now scheduled for demolition. As first reported by the New York Times, the building’s current owner, JPMorgan Chase, will be tearing down the 52-story tower for a taller replacement. Completed in 1961, 270 Park Avenue, originally the headquarters for Union Carbide, was designed by SOM partner Natalie Griffin de Blois, one of the few women working in midcentury corporate architecture at the time. The 707-foot-tall, slab-shaped tower holds about 1.5 million usable square feet. Chase has called the tower its headquarters since 1996, but have claimed that with 6,000 employees in a building meant for 3,500, the location is now too small. To that end, the company will be tearing down the Union Carbide Building and replacing it with a new 70-story headquarters that could be up to 500 feet taller than the midcentury icon it would be replacing. The financial giant expects that the new tower will be about 1 million square feet larger than its predecessor, and will eventually house 15,000 employees. The expansion plan is only possible under the recently passed rezoning of Midtown East, which allows developers to build taller and denser in exchange for transportation improvements and buying the air rights of historic buildings (with proceeds going towards a public fund). The New York Times reports that Chase will be buying $40 million of air rights, with the money going towards improving Midtown East’s sidewalks, pedestrian plazas and streets. 270 Park Avenue doesn’t seem long for this world, as Chase wants to begin demolition early next year and have its replacement tower finished by 2024. Employees who currently work in the building will be relocated in the neighboring 390 Madison Avenue, as well as 237, 245 and 277 Park Avenue. The public reaction to the announcement has been pointedly critical, especially as Mayor de Blasio has expressed his satisfaction with the deal. Preservationists took to Twitter to bash Chase for tearing down an original tower in Park Avenue’s valley of international offices, and expressed hope that the building could get in front of the Landmarks Preservation Committee before its demolition. No architect for the replacement tower has been announced yet. AN will provide an update when we have more information on the project.
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The big atrium in the sky

Atlanta architect and developer John Portman dead at 93
John C. Portman Jr., the Atlanta architect and developer has died at 93. The Georgia Tech–trained architect is credited with developing large downtown projects that revolved around the concept of the the atrium, which he turned into large and dramatic enclosed open spaces surrounded by multiple balconies, hundreds of rooms and capsule elevators rushing vertically from base to upper floors.  Portman—who often developed and partially owned his projects—thought of these megastructures as new downtowns and they were often built in old downtowns that had been decimated by urban renewal and middle class fight. These buildings were often criticized by theorists like William H. Whyte, Mike Davis, Frederic Jameson and others for their lack of context with the historic city, especially the street. However, later in life Portman received praise from multiple sources including Herbert Muschamp, Paul Goldberger and Rem Koolhaas, who praised his work as “a hybrid” of styles and urban relationships. In 2010 Portman’s career was featured at the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale and more recently, Harvard Dean Moshen Mostafavi used his designs in a GSD studio, sponsored by Portman, to think of “a new architecture, but one with a lineage.” Portman’s first large important project was for the Merchandise Mart (now AmericasMart) in his hometown of Atlanta in 1961 and this led to his design for the nearby multi-block Peachtree Center in 1965 where he maintained his office. His development firm created the multi-block complex at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center,  the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles 1976, the New York Marriott Marquis in 1985, and the Renaissance Center in Detroit in 1977, whose central tower remained the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere until 2013. The Shanghai Centre (1990) was the first of many major projects in China and elsewhere in Asia. Look for a longer appreciation of Portman’s life and career in the next Architect's Newspaper print edition.
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Battery Park Recharge

Coastal resilience project could threaten one of Manhattan’s finest postmodern parks
Citing the threat of rising seas, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is set to replace Battery Park City’s Robert F. Wagner Jr. ParkMachado Silvetti and OLIN’s 3.5-acre wedge near the south tip of Manhattan, offering panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty—with a new topography filled with deployable barriers and flood-proof landscapes. After Wagner’s 1994 opening, critic Paul Goldberger called the park “one of the finest public spaces New York has seen in at least a generation.” Its main elements include two pavilions joined by a wooden bridge; ornamental gardens; a central lawn; and grass, stone, and brick allées that lead people from Battery Park to Battery Place. Following the Lower Manhattan Coastal Resiliency Project (LMCR), the BPCA has stated that OLIN’s park and Machado Silvetti’s buildings would not be able to protect inland areas from floods. Initial conceptual designs by Perkins Eastman and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture called for deployable barriers contouring the existing buildings; increased maintenance and food services; and a new complex of flood-resistant lawns, gardens, cultural facilities, wetlands, and esplanades. On July 14, the BPCA issued an RFP for the final design, due September 29. The winner’s task, according to the RFP, is to advance the conceptual plans through to construction documents. “This project seems totally non-site-specific; the symbolic content of the park is completely lost. It’s very banal,” said Rodolfo Machado, principal of Machado Silvetti and one of a chorus of designers railing against the conceptual plans. Several city officials and residents have spoken out in support of a plan they see as vital to the area’s future. “I know that the most pressing issue of our time is protecting the place we live, work, and play from extreme weather events and sea-level rise,” said Catherine McVay Hughes, a member of the LMCR task force. “The [BPCA]’s forward-looking and realistic stance is an example that all levels of government should follow.” According to a BPCA spokesperson, the agency is exploring design and engineering plans for the revamp, now officially called the South Battery Park Resiliency Project, through 2018. It plans to select a firm to lead the project early that year, and site work will begin in the latter half of 2019.
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Year in Review

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Best preservation stories of 2017
In the trenches, preservation can feel cyclical—historic buildings are defended and saved, others destroyed, and public appreciation grows for once-loathed styles (looking at you, Brutalism). This year’s brilliant adaptive reuse projects are worthy of their own list, but we chose to highlight the epic sagas—new landmarks, victories against out-of-scale development, priceless buildings pulverized, and the controversies that will shape preservation debates through next year and beyond. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 posts here.) New York City is losing its modernist public spaces 2017 was rough on New York City's modernist landscapes. In June, bulldozers unceremoniously demolished a landmarked Sasaki fountain and plaza at the Citicorp Center—a move that was sanctioned by the city without input from the public. Over in Battery Park City, officials are considering a total redesign of Machado Silvetti and Hanna/Olin's Wagner Park, a public postmodern marvel. Out in Brooklyn, the Parks Department is set to replace a rare public commission by landscape architect A.E. Bye in Fort Greene Park with a bland promenade. At least no one here is turning Brutalist landscapes into climbing walls...

Lawrence Halprin’s Freeway Park slated for major overhaul

Seattle’s Freeway Park, a pioneering work of modernist landscape architecture by Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva that's widely recognized as the world’s first freeway cap park, is undergoing a series of wayfinding-oriented renovations. Nonprofit park stewards Freeway Park Association (FPA) hired Seattle-based landscape architects SiteWorkshop to add a bandshell, new restroom facilities, a food kiosk, a playground, and even a bouldering wall to the Brutalist landscape. The interventions are meant to soften the verdant but austere park, a move that some say runs counter to Halprin and Danadjieva's original design intent. New York Public Library interiors landmarked The New York Public Library’s (NYPL) main branch in Midtown Manhattan is a definitive New York building, but until recently, its splendid interiors were mostly unprotected. That changed this summer when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) added the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Catalogue Room to its roster of interior landmarks. (The exterior of the Carrère & Hastings–designed building was protected 50 years ago.) Now, the structure is slated for extensive remodeling by Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle, who debuted a master plan for the changes in November.

Edward Durell Stone gem gets a comprehensive rehab

Halfway between Chicago and Denver along Interstate 80, Grand Island, Nebraska is perhaps best known as the home of the Nebraska State Fair, but it also hosts an important work of modern architecture. Designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1963, the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer documents the lives of Europeans who first settled in Nebraska. Recently, the museum underwent a comprehensive renovation and rehabilitation, led by Lincoln, Nebraska–based BVH Architecture. Snøhetta takes on the AT&T Building   Architects took to the streets to protest changes to the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s iconic postmodern tower. Among other changes, the Snøhetta-led redo would glass in the building’s signature 110-foot-tall arched stone entryway. Denise Scott Brown, Sean Griffiths, Adam Nathaniel Furman, Paul Goldberger, and others took to AN‘s pages to weigh in on the design (TL;DR most folks think glassing in the base is a bad idea). Thanks to activists’ efforts, the pomo marvel on Madison Avenue is now up for landmarking. OMA menaces Gordon Bunshaft's Albright-Knox addition When it was revealed that OMA would design an $80 million expansion of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, preservationists were concerned. OMA's concept design—new galleries and parking organized around a huge class lobby—would eliminate Gordon Bunshaft's suave 1962 addition to the Buffalo, New York museum. Over protests, the museum is now raising money for the project, which it has dubbed AK360 (perhaps in reference to the assault on good taste). Helmut Jahn's Thomson Center still imperiled  Designed by Helmut Jahn and completed in 1985, the James R. Thompson Center is the hub of Illinois state government in the City of Chicago. From the moment it was constructed, its vertiginous interior has turned heads and sparked debate. Today Governor Bruce Rauner is keen to see the building either demolished or converted into a private property. This year saw the premiere of Starship Chicago: A Building on the Brink, a new documentary on the oft-misunderstood building.

Louis Kahn’s endangered floating concert hall is headed to Florida

This summer it looked like Louis Kahn's concert-hall-on-a-barge was headed to the scrap heap. The 195-foot-long boat, dubbed Point Counterpoint II, was commissioned as a floating venue for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO) for the Bicentennial, and it's traveled the country's waterways ever since. Despite its design pedigree, longtime owner Robert Austin Boudreau struggled to find an owner for two decades, and was going to chuck the boat if he didn't find a suitable buyer. In early December, the Hudson Valley's Daily Freeman reported that Boudreau sold the vessel to a consortium of Florida businesspeople. This winter, it will be restored in Louisiana and will eventually dock in Lake Okeechobee, about 50 miles west of Palm Beach, Florida. Master plan for The Alamo stirs debate A $450 million plan for the treasured historic site of The Alamo in downtown San Antonio is causing a stir. Architects, planners, professors, patriotic preservationists, and the public are in disagreement over a rejuvenation scheme that looks to open up the plaza but relocates a historic cenotaph in the process. House of Tomorrow is saved  The House of Tomorrow, the first residence to be clad with a glass curtain wall, is set to receive a much-needed update from a team of Chicago firms. Originally designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck for the city's 1933 World’s Fair, the 12-sided glass-and-steel home sports an open floor plan, also a rarity for the time. After the fair, the early modern home was moved to Beverly Shores, Indiana, to be incorporated into a vacation village that was never completed. Now, Indiana Landmarks is spearheading the renovation of the National Register–listed property in collaboration with chosen firms. Monument removal After white nationalists provoked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and amid a national climate of heightened bigotry, cities and towns across the county are re-evaluating their public monuments. With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments in August. After protests, New York City established an independent commission this fall to review the city’s public monuments for "symbols of hate." Should these monuments be saved in the name of history? Or should they be altered—even destroyed—because they no longer positively embody contemporary values?
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Outrageous!

The 12 best architecture controversies of 2017
As 2017 fades away, we look back at some of the controversies and debates that stirred up the waters. Here are our most memorable, outrageous topics of the year. We love it when our readers respond and add to the conversation! (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 articles here.) Pier 55 It was dragged through the courts. It lived. It was taken back in, only to be killed again. Less than two months later, Pier 55 was resurrected for good, ending one of the most entertaining public spectacles of 2017, an epic troll-fest that had two of the city's richest men running to almost every New York paper to leak informationdrop disses, and escalate their mutual antipathy with a vigor rivaled only by Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio’s pettiness. An October deal between stakeholders and opponents assures that key parts of Hudson River Park will be rebuilt, and the governor has promised state money for these projects. Zillow's legal crusade against McMansion Hell Back in June, real estate site Zillow told Kate Wagner, creator of popular architecture blog McMansion Hell, that she had violated Zillow's terms of use on her blog and warned she had just days to delete all offending images from McMansion Hell. When Wagner posted the shocking letter online, architecture Twitter brought the roof of wrath crashing down on Zillow. Just two days and one threat later,  Zillow backed off its legal claims, allowing us to resume laughing at and learning from the nubs and weird turrets of suburban America's mega-homes. The fake architect This year, Paul J. Newman, 49, president and sole employee of architecture firm Cohesion Studios, pled guilty to posing as a licensed New York state architect for work on multiple projects, including an Albany, New York senior center and townhouse developments in the Capital Region. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office dubbed its two-year investigation “Operation Vandelay Industries,” a nod to the fake company George Costanza invented on Seinfeld to collect unemployment benefits. In September, Newman was sentenced to a maximum of seven years in prison in Saratoga County, New York, with more arraignments to follow. Building Trump's border wall In late February, the Department of Homeland Security announced it was accepting bids for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, and the first prototypes for this highly controversial project were revealed in October. Beyond its dubious efficacy and shaky moral foundation, the wall's construction will also destroy wildlife preserves and homes in Texas and possibly other states. Trump tax plan guts Historic Tax Credit The House’s tax plan eliminates the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), an important revitalization tool for municipalities across the country. The Senate’s rules are only slightly better: Its bill would spread out the current 20 percent credit for recognized historic structures over five years, and eliminate the ten percent credit for buildings erected before 1936. When the bill (officially known as Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) went into conference early this month, the AIA said it would lobby hard against the proposed HTC cuts. The sinking Millennium Tower The 58-story Millennium Tower, designed by Handel Architects, has sunk nearly 17 inches since its opening in 2009. Recently, engineers with Arup—employed to work on the currently under-construction Salesforce Tower designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects next door—inspected the Millennium Tower’s rooftop height and found that the tower had sunk an additional 2 ½ inches beyond the initial 14 ½–inch drop recorded last year. Troublingly, the tower is not only sinking, but it is sinking unevenly, resulting in a measurable slant to the 645-foot-tall complex. As the muddy and sandy soils beneath it give way, it continues to tilt precariously toward the Salesforce Tower. Whoops. The Oculus leaks Last year, we asked architects what they thought of Santiago Calatrava's Oculus, the train station in a mall near the World Trade Center. Besides its grand spindly dino bone shape and horrific interior detailing, leaks in the ceiling deposit puddles on the marble floors, and these slippery surfaces have sent multiple people to the hospital. Not only that, a malfunctioning escalator injured two passengers in April. It may prove to be an iconic transit hub, but watch your step for now. The Raiders hoof it to Las Vegas This year, National Football League (NFL) owners approved the Oakland Raiders' relocation to Las Vegas, heralding what could be the final play in the nearly two-year-long drama that has unfolded as several West Coast teams reshuffle hometowns. Las Vegas city officials courted the Raiders for months, offering $750 million in public financing for the team’s Manica Architecture–designed $1.9 billion (yes) stadium proposal. The 65,000 seat stadium—a recycled scheme left over from the team’s attempt to move to Carson, California last year—features a large-scale, retractable side wall that would allow the stadium to become partially open-air. In May, the team purchased a 62-acre site for their future stadium, but it can't move into its new digs until 2020, an awkward situation given the emotionally fraught pre-move negotiations. Zumthor's LACMA scheme The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's (LACMA) $600 million expansion by Atelier Zumthor's will demolish the entirety of the existing William Pereira–designed campus, including a 1986 addition by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer done in the postmodern style. The proposed changes would leave in place the 2008 Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum addition as well as the Japanese Pavilion by Bruce Goff from 1988. Despite the 390,000-square-foot expansion's hefty price tag and the sacrifice of several key works of late modern and postmodern architecture, Zumthor’s proposal will generate a net loss in gallery space for LACMA. Instead, the new museum will be designed as a singular mega-gallery carved up into differently-sized rooms. Plans call for the proposal to undergo further review over the next several months, and construction is expected to begin sometime in late 2018. Monument removal After white nationalists provoked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and amid a national climate of heightened bigotry, cities and towns across the county are re-evaluating their public monuments. With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments in August. After protests, New York City established an independent commission this fall to review the city’s public monuments for "symbols of hate." Other monuments are being tried in the court of public opinion: Is Christopher Columbus an Italian hero, or an imperialist monster? What about Teddy Roosevelt? The weight of history bears heavily on these questions. Zaha's sidelined Manhattan supertall The major redevelopment of the Kushner Companies' 666 Fifth Avenue building by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) is stalled for good. Kushner’s partner on the project, Vornado Realty Trust, has decided to simply renovate the site’s existing structure. Kushner’s original plan with ZHA called for stripping the current building down to its steel core and extending it up into a 1,400-foot-tall slender cigarette of a tower. 'Hands off my Johnson' Architects took to the streets to protest changes to the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s iconic postmodern tower. Among other changes, the Snøhetta-led redo would glass in the building's signature 110-foot-tall arched stone entryway. Denise Scott Brown, Sean Griffiths, Adam Nathaniel Furman, Paul Goldberger, and others took to AN's pages to weigh in on the design (TL;DR glassing in the base is clearly a bad idea). Thanks to activists' efforts, the pomo marvel on Madison Avenue is now up for landmarking.
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1920-2017

Architectural historian Vincent Scully is dead at 97

Eminent architectural historian Vincent Scully died last night at age 97. Through his six decades at Yale, Scully taught some of the 20th century's most influential architects and critics, and influenced countless students with his energetic lectures.

At a time when architecture historians focused on Europe, Scully centered American architecture and design in his writing and teaching. A New Haven, Connecticut native, he graduated from Yale and (after a stint in the Marine Corps during World War II) joined the Yale faculty in 1947. In 1991 he began teaching at the University of Miami, though he returned to frequently to teach at his alma mater until 2009.

Yale announced Scully died from complications of Parkinson’s disease.

“I think he probably did more than anyone else over the last 60 years to affect not just architecture but architecture culture as well,” critic Paul Goldberger and former Scully student told the New York Times. “He showed us that architecture is not just forms in a vacuum. It’s about what kind of society you want to build.”

In his lifetime Scully wrote books on Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn; Greek sacred architecture; American cities and the American vernacular—20 in all. Later in his career, he rejected modernism he had once embraced, critiquing its rejection of ornament, humor, and reference and the modernists' cavalier attitude towards historic urban fabric. He championed his hometown's potential, using it as a lens to consider the changing American landscape and the ways architects could shape the total built environment, not just individual buildings.

The Architect's Newspaper (AN) is preparing a longer appreciation of Scully for publication shortly.

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Po-No You Didn't!

[UPDATES] Protest planned as controversy erupts over AT&T Building
Saudi Arabian investment group Olayan America announced plans yesterday to renovate and overhaul the base of Philip Johnson’s iconic AT&T Building (now 550 Madison Avenue). The response to Snøhetta’s design proposal was immediately mixed, with many in the architectural community deriding the new design as anti-contextual and ham-handed. The AT&T's monumental Stony Creek granite archway is made from the same stone as Grand Central Terminal, the original Penn Station, and the base of the Statue of Liberty. This kind of stone facade is not common in New York City today, and critics are asking questions about whether the city needs another glass facade. “AT&T might be the last great stone building. Midtown doesn’t need any more glass,” said filmmaker Nathan Eddy, who is currently making a film about Johnson and is organizing a protest for Friday afternoon outside of the building. Below are some of the responses to the controversy from the architectural community both in New York and around the globe. Feel free to send yours to us at info@archpaper.com and we will publish the best.

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"I am concerned about the building's relation to the street and to us the pedestrians. In a review of Philip Johnsons' design, I asked, 'What does AT&T's particular cultural borrowing have to do with us?' And I criticized his use of scale—as a modernist who knows only something called 'human scale' and as a PoMo (not a postmodernist) convert, who applies this unthinkingly and repetitiously, causing an architectural dehumanizing. Rem Koolhaas responded, 'But it has Presence.' Presence, pshaw! "Now we have proposals for Neo-modernist scalelessness. Again, what does it have to do with me on the street? If there are intriguing and exciting activities going on it's nice to hear about it but I don't see it. They should look at the Monadnock building and its kin of that era in Chicago for lessons on how commercial architecture can use street extensions into buildings to draw people in and scales that are commercial rather than public, to celebrate and decorate their activities as they draw you inside. And they should examine the retail choreography that draws people into urban commercial malls." —Denise Scott Brown, architect and author of Learning from Las Vegas "Louis Kahn famously described the Seagram Building as 'a beautiful lady in hidden corsets,' referring to the fact that Mies’s elegant facade masked all of the tower’s structural bracing. I thought of that when I saw Snøhetta’s plan for 550 Madison Avenue, the former AT&T Building, which calls for much of the lower section of the original granite facade to be stripped off, revealing never-seen cross-bracing behind it. The problem is that I’m not sure Philip Johnson’s lady wanted her corsets revealed any more than Mies’s did. In fact, probably less so, since Miesian modernism made some gestures, however disingenuous, toward structural honesty; Johnsonian postmodernism was all about the facade. Strip away the granite and you have quite literally exposed what the architecture was designed to conceal. "All that glass at the bottom with Johnson’s original granite above makes the building look top-heavy; visually, stone doesn’t want to be supported by glass. These facade missteps are too bad, because there is much about this proposed renovation to like. I think what Snøhetta has proposed for the public space in the back is a huge improvement over the banal space that exists there now, and demolishing the so-called annex structure is all to the good. Fixing up the clunky storefronts on Madison is worthy, too. A certain amount of change is absolutely necessary if this building, which was designed forty years ago for an imperial corporation to occupy as a single tenant, is to work for multiple tenants in the twenty-first century. But I’m not convinced that change has to come in the form of such drastic alteration to one of the most recognizable skyscraper facades of our time." —Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and Joseph Urban Professor of Design at the New School "This is bizarre. It is questionable whether Johnson’s original base should be altered at all. Its fortress-like quality is part of the architecture of, whether you like the building or not, an important postmodernist building which in its own time was controversial. But this is a bit neither-nor. It is both too respectful and disrespectful at the same time. If you’re going to change the base into a glass box, do it with the appropriate 'fuck you' brutality. Don’t leave in an apologetic trace of the arch and half of the heavy masonry. Different scale altogether but a few years ago the former Abbey National HQ in Baker Street, London was renovated and for a while, it looked like this (see below.)" —Sean Griffiths, artist and co-founder of FAT, London "The AT&T skyscraper, Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s succès de scandale of 1978, has the rare distinction of continually adding new chapters to its notoriety, even while its banal architectural design continues to age poorly. Not only did the original design, with its one-liner quotes from architectural history, involve removing a major piece of civic art from the original ATT building, but it was granted additional square footage in exchange for public space along the Madison Avenue sidewalk and behind.  This was a promise that was as good as people’s short attention spans, and as honest as the fake masonry joints that dimension the hung masonry facade. In 2002 those sidewalk niches—never very successful in the first place—disappeared. As memories of legal agreements faded, when the building was turned over to SONY, the electronics company proceeded to fill in the 'public space' with shops for their products. As one corporation claiming historical permanence gave way to another continually trading dishonestly in the name of the public good, the building has gained a loyal following eager to preserve its vintage post-modern design. Now a project is under consideration that promises to return some of the stolen public space—in exchange for?—to use as part of a conversion to new uses designed by Snøhetta…  it is certainly worth considering how life could be returned to the west side of Madison Avenue continually in the shadow of this Chippendale highboy of false promises." —Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University "There is no doubt that the building is a landmark in many, many peoples’ minds, even if it has no legal status as such. But let’s face it, retail is the king of street-level real estate. Open plazas, monumental lobbies and other public spaces went out the window on the same wave postmodernism rode in on." —Terence Riley, architect and curator "I was at the University of Houston last week and had an idea....." —Rob Rogers, Rogers Partners  "Like it or not, Johnson's Chippendale building is a landmark, metaphorically if not yet officially. It signified postmodernism's entry into the corporate design mainstream, which has played the biggest role in shaping the American city of the last 50 years, as well as the end of cap-M Modernism's hegemonic,  global, post-war choke hold largely unchallenged up until then. Just as many Bostonians united by a sustained loathing of Kallman McKinnell & Knowles Brutalist City Hall nonetheless advocate fervently for its designated protection, so should New York's  professionals and policymakers respect this historic measure of design's evolving continuum. There's room to upgrade and adjust it as the side facade elevations intimate, but demolishing the grand Palladian entry to be replaced by a glass curtain wall (however state-of-the-art it may be) utterly wipes out the narrative architectural  'sign' that lies at the core of postmodernist intent." —Paul Gunther, executive director, Gracie Mansion Conservancy, New York “It doesn’t matter if at this particular moment in time this building, and its author, are out of fashion. It is a hugely important building, probably one of the two most significant designs by one of the 20th Century’s most complex and continuously relevant and active architectural figures. The current proposal willfully and unnecessarily undermines, or rather systematically destroys, every single one of the building’s architectural qualities as experienced from the street and its ground level public spaces. The extremity of the proposal’s grotesque annihilation of anything that was unique about Johnson’s design, and any semblance of artistic coherence, would be comical if it wasn't so vulgar and aggressive. This is bully architecture, an act of disproportionate aggression to an important figure in history. Its Trump-era architecture, and must be stopped.” —Adam Nathaniel Furman, architect and author of Revisiting Postmodernism, London "While Snøhetta’s redesign of 550 Madison Avenue—or AT&T Building, as it will always be known—certainly does enlarge the public space and open it above ground once to the street, visually, but the new more transparent facade does not relate to the tower above at all as well as the more solid brick original base did. And it obscures (or dematerializes) the iconic tall arched entranceway that complemented the memorable, if not always adored, 'Chippendale' top. Like the new name, 550 Madison, the new facade is not distinctive or memorable. It’s lacy-ness does not seem to support the tall tower above it as well as the original more solidly brick one, which its arched arcade did. And the new public areas on upper stories are simply not as inviting as the types of public spaces were that were built at the time of the tower, such as Edward Larrabee Barnes’ IBM Building down the street at Madison between 56th and 57th Streets. There, bamboo-filled public areas with easy to access seating, open to the street on a cantilevered corner, inviting passersby to come in and stay for awhile. They also flow into to the Trump Tower atrium, providing access to Fifth Avenue, and to the 550 Madison tower on the south. Really 'public' public space works best at street level." —Jayne Merkel, art historian and critic, New York The protest will take place Friday, November 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 550 Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Already, activists have started using the #saveatt hashtag on Twitter and elsewhere. There is also a change.org petition circulating, which can be found here. Here is the Facebook event description from the organizers:
Philip Johnson's AT&T building is the defining icon of post-modern architecture and a towering tribute to the monumental masonry skyscrapers of the 1920s. It is in danger of losing its exemplary granite base, a destruction that would shatter the artistic integrity of Johnson's meticulous design. This must not be allowed to happen. We are aggressively dedicated to the preservation of Johnson's delicious crowning achievement. Please join us in preserving one of the seminal landmarks of the 20th Century.
The Architect's Newspaper (AN) will update readers as more information becomes available.