Search results for "moshe safdie"

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Bancroft Buster

Take a first look at BIG’s Manhattan-bound “tower-in-the-park”
The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has released the first batch of renderings for its latest Manhattan project, a 60-story office tower set to touch down in NoMad. As first reported by New York YIMBY, “29th & 5th” will rise from the site of the former historic Bancroft Bank Building, replacing an 800-foot-tall luxury condo tower designed by Moshe Safdie. As seen in the renderings, the building at 3 West 29th Street will consist of two slender, linked rectangular masses with a glass curtain wall. Differentiating each volume will be the width of the windows, with the curtain wall of the eastern half holding much wider windows than its western counterpart. One of the project’s more interesting features is the “spine” of cantilevering concrete terraces running up the tower’s eastern side, which will give each floor access to outdoor space. According to the project’s EB-5 materials–a program designed to lure foreign investment in the building in exchange for a potential green card–the tower is being designed with a heavy emphasis on wellness. “The building will incorporate a LEED-Certified design and highly amenitized offering package promoting employee connectivity, communal workspaces, and fitness options that will pioneer a new frontier of wellness and sustainability within the workplace. The building is designed with smaller 13,400-square-foot floor plates that will attract an underserved market while leaving ample lot area to design a vibrant park surrounding the building.” While permits filed with NYC’s Department of Buildings show that the project was submitted as a 34-story, 300,000-square-foot tower, YIMBY is reporting that the original application was used to begin foundation work ahead of a final plan reveal. This set of new renderings paints a picture of a tower that’s at least 60 stories tall, with a possible height of 800-to-850 feet and up to 600,000 square feet of floor space. The skyscraper’s massive heft has been made possible by developer HFZ Capital’s agglomeration of air rights from throughout the neighborhood. No completion date has been given for 29th & 5th at the time of writing.
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Reading Idaho

Moshe Safdie to design Boise public library
Moshe Safdie is designing a new library for Boise, Idaho.
Yesterday, the Boise City Council approved a three-month contract with Safdie's firm, Safdie Architects, to come up with a concept design for the 150,000-square-foot public library. The building will be sited on the same five-acre parcel as the existing library, a converted 1940s hardware warehouse. The stacks and related programming will take up the bulk of the new structure, but the building will also include roughly 20,000 square feet of public events space and 20,000 square feet for Boise's Arts and History Department. The initial contract, valued at almost $400,000, would cover preliminary designs, which may include proposals for reusing the existing library building. The total budget for the project is around $60 to $70 million, money that would come from fundraising and public financing, the Idaho Statesman reported. “The City of Boise has a clear vision for how the new Boise Library can be a gateway to the city,” said Moshe Safdie, in a city-issued press release. “The building program, the public engagement process, and the site itself, will be the foundation of a design solution unique to Boise, one that reflects its highest aspirations and values as a community.” Safdie is no stranger to the Heartland. His practice designed a public library in Salt Lake City, Utah, a science museum in Wichita, Kansas, and a performing arts center in Kansas City, Missori. If all goes according to plan, Safdie Architects will work with local firm CSHQA on the Boise building, which should be complete in late 2021. There are no designs available at this time.
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Space Settlements

NASA’s bold space habitats inspired a generation of designers
This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Space Settlements, about the architectural, historical, social, and science-fictional contexts surrounding NASA’s efforts to design large-scale human habitats in orbit during the 1970s. Space Settlements will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City in fall 2018. In 1975, Big Science and the counterculture teamed up with two illustrators to design the cities of the future. But, unlike the communes and megastructures that we’re familiar with from the speculative architecture of that era, these would not be located on Earth. Stewart Brand, the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center both supported a project—first proposed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill—to build huge habitats in orbit that would house millions of people. At a Summer Study conference in what was even then known as Silicon Valley, NASA and O’Neill hired painters Don Davis and Rick Guidice to create renderings of these new worlds. Most previous plans for space stations had consisted of a disconnected series of capsules or chambers. The Summer Study habitats were large enough that they were effectively new ground surfaces, spun for artificial gravity, on which any kind of city or landscape could be constructed. NASA’s team architect Patrick Hill—of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—specified that, in order to achieve maximum efficiency and space-saving, the buildings inside should be made from systems of prefabricated parts that could be assembled quickly, offering variety and adaptability. Beyond these constraints, the two illustrators had broad latitude to design the architecture that would be shown in the renderings. Both drew on their unique combinations of backgrounds to offer their own interpretation of the future of space occupation. Davis was originally an illustrator for planetary scientists like Carl Sagan, and had also worked on book covers for science fiction novels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld of 1970, depicting a habitat design concept not unlike the “Stanford Torus” sketched by O’Neill’s team. Davis focused on the landscape, and the challenges of creating planetary ecosystems within small closed worlds. Human inhabitation, in Davis’s paintings, touches the artificial ground lightly. To depict it, Davis drew on his fondness for Buckminster Fuller’s domes and other self-built architecture like the “Zomes” made by Steve Baer at the famous Drop City commune. Davis would have been familiar with this work as a reader of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which included Baer’s “Zome Primer,” an instruction manual for building these structures out of repurposed car hoods. Other buildings painted by Davis are more reminiscent of the kind of Googie architecture related to an earlier generation of pop science fiction painters like Frank R. Paul. In an interview, Davis also admitted he would go to the library and read copies of Progressive Architecture magazine for inspiration. Guidice, on the other hand, had been trained as an architect, and had made the shift from there to commercial illustration and work promoting space exploration and aviation concepts for NASA. Guidice’s paintings take the kit-of-parts concepts from work like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, and remix them to create even more individuality. Reyner Banham wrote about the concept of the “Terrassenhaus,” the scheme of terracing trays that megastructural projects use to shape space, in his book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Safdie used the resulting platforms as the basis for his notion of “for everyone, a garden,” combining high-rise density with a suburban Garden City ethos. In Guidice’s renderings the friendly modernist Garden Cities like Columbia, outside Baltimore, take their comfortable combination of vernacular and contemporary into new high-density suburbs in space. These speculations strike a compromised balance between the displacing conditions in space—like the unfamiliar inverted horizon, the hostile environment outside, and the small size of the habitat—and the excitement inherent in exploring and making new worlds. The speculative contemporary architecture of the 1960s and ’70s—small-scale personal construction with sheet metal, and large-scale New Towns made of reinforced concrete—is put to use to show that space is for you. The two illustrators, acting as designers, show that the architecture of the future space city can be adapted to your lifestyle, whether you’re a dropout desert communalist, or a cosmopolitan terrace urbanite. Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University and is the author of the upcoming book Space Settlements.
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Flyin' High

SOM’s $1 billion Kansas City airport set to soar after vote
Voters in Kansas City overwhelmingly approved a new $1 billion plan on Tuesday to transform the Kansas City International Airport (KCI). Passed by a 75-to-25 margin, work now begins on tearing down the existing three terminals and consolidating the airport into one building. Leading up to the vote, Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate had been tapped by Kansas City officials to develop the airport, with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) designing. Opened in 1972, the clover-shaped KSI was almost immediately made obsolete in the same year by the passage of new airport security requirements. The horseshoe arrangement allows passengers to easily get from the street to the gate, but also precludes the rigorous security checkpoints that modern airports require. Public opinion over the terminals has been sharply divided ever since the installation of an unwieldy glass wall between the ticketing and boarding area, required by the FAA after a hijacking attempt. SOM’s proposal for the airport has tried to keep the same level of convenience that Kansas City residents are used to. Their H-shaped terminal will have two concourses and accommodate 35 gates, and the arrivals and departure area has been split across different levels while still retaining curbside service. An improved arrangement of dining and retail options has been added as well, especially important as the project will be funded in part by concessions sales. Most striking is the firm's attempt to bring natural light into the concrete-topped concourse. Floor-to-ceiling windows and an undulating roof structure that references rolling hills is split up with even more glass that will give passengers uninterrupted views. Besides adding parking and expanding the size of security areas to avoid a passenger backlog, SOM has also included a series of two-story-tall fountains capable of having messages projected into them, reminiscent of Safdie Architect’s Water Vortex in Singapore’s Changi Airport. However, the project may be still tenuous despite the project’s 2021 completion goal. Edgemoor had been selected by the city after promising to pay for the project by taking on private debt without burdening taxpayers, but this also exposes them to bearing any cost overruns down the line. The firm now has to complete a detailed construction agreement with the city or the project will be handed off to AECOM. The airport vote follows a riverfront master plan unveiled in July, and it looks like new development in Kansas City won’t slow down anytime soon. The full terminal master plan and set of site studies can be found here.
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Tainted Lens

Photographer Timothy Hursley captures neglected corners of America in new exhibit

In between photography assignments for virtuosos such as Moshe Safdie, Marlon Blackwell, and Rural Studio, Timothy Hursley takes long drives throughout the rural South and other parts of the country and aims his camera at the neglected structures and forlorn dwellings of obscure or shunned subcultures.

Hursley’s ramblings have produced several series, including his photographs of both the interiors and exteriors of the brothels of Nevada. These gentle narratives, in which the women are notably absent, bear no hint of judgment. “The photographs are stronger without people,” Hursley said. “They are like footprints of a subculture.” When Hursley stumbled upon Bobbie’s Buckeye Bar, the owner would not let him in. Left to contemplate the outside, Hursley found a composition in which the running white fence symbolized customers entering the pink brothel and “then coming out tainted red,” he explained.

Finding himself in Utah, as the trial had just begun for convicted felon Warren Jeffs, the former leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), Hursley wondered what the architecture of polygamy looks like. An apostate brought Hursley to the FLDS cave in Hildale, Utah, a stronghold of polygamy, where he photographed the eerie interior and a new series was launched.

A quad of photos and a time-lapse video of a dilapidated silo in Hale County, Alabama, are the subject of the Oxford American video SoLost: The Beauty of a Broken Silo. Photographed from different angles, the bent and rusted structure radiates a heartrending anthropomorphism.

Closer to his home in Little Rock, Arkansas, Hursley stumbled upon two beaten-up white hearses that triggered a new fascination with the rundown funeral homes that dot the rural landscapes of the deep South. In one curiously intriguing image, Train Ride-Vicksburg, Mississippi, 2014/2016, two coffins sit on either side of a nearly room-size toy train track. For Hursley, the scene—odd, yet ordinary—is an analogy to the human condition, traveling through life to our inexorable ends.

And perhaps most curious for an artist attracted to scenes of obscurity is his series of photographs of the legendary Andy Warhol’s last factory in the early 1980s. The studio spaces were still raw at the time, recalled Hursley: “There was a lot of junk around, so I decided to roam around the space and start documenting what was there.” Eventually, Hursley enticed Warhol to come down to the cavernous space where he snapped an extraordinary photo in which a blue-jeans-and-black-turtleneck clad Warhol stands against the abstract geometry of the white space, illuminated by a distant doorway awash in an industrial shade of green.

Timothy Hursley: Tainted Lens, a solo exhibition of these and other works, is on view at the Garvey|Simon gallery in New York through June 10.

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Model-Mania

Inside Gulliver’s Gate: New York’s model-making treasure trove
I put an oversized plastic key into an illuminated lock, turned it, and out popped Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace. Another lock summoned Scotland's Loch Ness Monster and another sent a helicopter flying above New York City's skyline. Where was I? Gulliver's Gate. Inside the former New York Times office building, there's some large-scale small-scale building going on. Today, Gulliver's Gate opened its doors to the public, unveiling a $40 million new tourist attraction to Times Square. On show is a 50-nation display with 300 small-scale scenes, covering more than 6,500 square foot. The first location visitors encounter after receiving their own key at the ground-floor reception is a miniature Manhattan. The model was made in Brooklyn by a team of 16 who took 358 days to craft the 950-square-foot scene. The almost year-long effort, though, was worth it. Details down to vases for bars and free standing coffee machines can be seen if you look close enough, meanwhile, New York's skyscrapers, truncated by the ceiling, are exhibited as light forms. "These are an interpretation, New York is a city of light," a spokesperson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) at the opening ceremony. Additionally, visitors can see a myriad of dramas (almost all transport-based) played out on New York's down-sized streets: from an overturned flatbed truck to fire engines rescuing people stranded on rooftops. These scenes are static, though the overall experience is kinetic and interactive. A section of Manhattan cuts through Grand Central Station, highlighting the station's ornate interior complete with its signature ceiling. Below, the story continues as Amtrack and MTA Subway trains pass underneath, travelling surprisingly freely without interference of train traffic or other bizarre disturbances. The selling point (or rather, key to success) for Gulliver's Gate, however, is its interactivity—an unusual quality for a miniature model exhibition, where typically no touching is ever allowed. Of course, the same applies here, but to quell the thirst of your inner five-year-old yearning to play, keys handed out to each visitor allow you call all sorts of moving diorama's into action. Sadly (though probably for the best) the moving trains, cars, and boats are not controllable. New York City may be the first location visitors see, but it is certainly not the only one on display. The Middle East, mainland Europe, Britain, Niagara, Russia, South America and Asia all feature, boasting their most iconic architecture. OMA, I.M. Pei, Moshe Safdie, Daniel Libeskind, Santiago Calatrava, Bjarke Ingels, Pelli Clarke Pelli, Frank Gehry, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Gensler just to name a few, all have their buildings on display at 1:87 scale. An odd number, the scale is used in conjunction with the H0 Gauge model railroad locomotives on display—the gauge (gap between the tracks) is per the standards set by the National Model Railroad Association. The only location not to adhere to this is Britain, where the standard scale is 1:76, a scale that works with the established 00 Gauge for railroad models and thus British model railroad accessories. There are more than 1,000 trains on show, not to mention 10,000 cars and trucks and roughly 100,000 people. At the grand opening, AN spoke to Head of Model-Making, Adrian Davies. Davies, from England, was working on a scale airplane, but took the time to explain that he and his team of 20 are continuing to build despite today's opening. He also said that models were made using architects' plans as well as photography and "lots of Google Earth." Unlike other miniature model mega-exhibitions, Gulliver's Gate is proudly a work in progress. Such openness is usually only reserved for traveling railroad model exhibits, where community emerges from informality as enthusiasts flaunt their back-of-house rolling stock. Lighting and other electrics are managed by a nuclear-style control system, the operation of which is on view to the public. An airport scene, designed in collaboration with Ben Krone of Gradient Architecture, is in the works and can also be seen. Africa and Mars too, staff told AN, are being built, but are currently hidden away. Visitors can also make their own models... of themselves. A full-body scanner and 3-D printer allow you to create miniature versions of yourself which you can either take home or leave behind as a permanent “model citizen” of Gulliver’s Gate. Gulliver's Gate can be found at 216 West 44th Street and is open from 10 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. every day (last entry at 9:30 p.m.).
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Happy Anniversary!

Habitat 67 made into commemorative stamp as building turns 50
Today precisely marks the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 in Montreal, the renowned world's fair that captured the creative spirit of late 20th-century architecture and design. To commemorate the occasion, Canada Post and architect Moshe Safdie unveiled a stamp which features the image of Habitat 67, the experimental urban housing project that was built for expo’s living exhibition. Since 1967, the model community has become an icon of Canadian identity and was officially designated as a National Heritage Site. This, however, is not the first time that Habitat 67 has made its way into the realm of memorabilia. Back in 2012 it won and online competition to be manufactured as a LEGO replica set, though to the dismay of its fans, production of the miniatures never materialized. The stamp is the first in a series of ten that celebrate the sesquicentennial (150-year) anniversary of Canada. The event also coincides with Habitat ‘67 vers l’avenir / The Shape of Things to Come an exhibition of Safdie's work at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Centre de Design, on view from June 1 to August 13, 2017. 
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Feel Good Story

The National Museum of African American History and Culture proves that architecture is still relevant
In September, the most important American building of the 21st century opened in Washington, D.C.  The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) truly delivers something that few pieces of architecture can: It is a cascade of metaphors for collectivity, but is also in harmony with its content and program. Together they are a vehicle for the triumph of African-American history on the national stage. (While the completion of New York’s One World Trade Center might fulfill some myth of national pageantry, as a building it does not offer very much of architectural note.) To truly appreciate how great this building is, let us start with the story of how it came to be. Exactly 100 years ago, the National Memorial Association was founded, starting a serious debate about the possibility of some kind of monument or museum to African-American history in the United States. The project received funding in 1929 from President Calvin Coolidge but fell through in 1933. Efforts continued, and from 1988 to 2003, Georgia congressman John Lewis introduced a bill every single year that would have finalized the plans for such a museum. President George W. Bush gave the final go-ahead in 2005, and in 2009, the winning team was announced. That team consisted of a trio of black architects. J. Max Bond—of Davis Brody Bond and the namesake of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at City College of New York's Spitzer School of Architecture—joined Phil Freelon and David Adjaye in collaboration with the Smith Group. The collective calls itself FAB/S, and they beat out a high-profile group of competitors, among them Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Foster + Partners, and Moshe Safdie, all heavy hitters in the cultural building sector. The making of the museum, which is the newest building on the National Mall—the country’s public commons—was an expectedly daunting process of building consensus. Who decides on a building that represents an entire group of people? According to Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of NMAAHC, there were many opinions. “The building must be monumental and marble; it must be boldly black; it must look African; it must not look African. In every case, they said, it must not obstruct the public's view of surrounding monuments,” he said in his introduction to Mabel O. Wilson’s book, Begin with the Past, which tells the story of the museum in detail. The result is an object-building that at first seems like an out-of-place, estranged box that confronts and withdraws simultaneously its surroundings. However, it is exactly the opposite of that as an urban experience. Site What makes this building so great is that this backstory—while intensely interesting—really only sets the stage for the building to enact one of the greatest American history stories on one of the most important sites in the country. The large, brown building stands four stories above grade, with the Washington monument in the near distance. While most of the other buildings and memorials on the mall are white, what does it mean to be a brown building that recognizes the contributions of a non-white group? And what does it mean that it is also the closest building to the Washington Monument, a white marble obelisk to a single man who was the slave-owning first president of our country? Now that this building has taken its place on the mall, and thus American history, it cements the story of African American struggle as a part of the American story, which in itself is a great step of progress for both African Americans and the nation in general. One of the ironies of its site is that George Washington actually gave some of his land to former slaves, most notably at Gum Springs, Virginia, where some of his former slaves formed a community. So perhaps he wouldn’t have minded this situation almost 250 years later. Of course, some figures from history would be appalled. But this museum isn't about a confrontation of people, it is about collectivity, sharing, and inclusion. Threshold On the south side of the building, facing the mall, this attitude of inclusion and coming together manifests in the building’s formal site strategy. A covered outdoor space is a scaled-up version of the vernacular American covered porch, which represents a black space that has historically been used by the African diaspora as a place for sharing, socializing, telling stories, and giving lessons. Here, it acts as a mediating threshold between the normative history of America as told through the national mall, and the new story that is being anchored with the NMAAHC. It is meant to be a welcoming place for visitors of all backgrounds to share in this incredible story. This means that the entrance on the ground floor is completely open to the Mall, giving visitors spectacular views and creating a welcoming transparent and continuous space that represents openness and inclusion—foundations of a collective future that the museum might allow us to envision. The overhang is also a shading device, a formal nod to vernacular passive strategies. Form The overall form of the museum’s exterior is what the designers call a "corona"—inspired by a sculpture by Nigerian artist Olowe of Ise that shows a crown with similarly angled masses. The shape also references a group of people with their arms raised in celebration, as if to telegraph the one hundred year triumph that is exalted so proudly in the galleries within. It announces the arrival of African American history in the official Smithsonian. The angle of its tilted facade matches the top of the Washington monument. It is meant to fit in with its surroundings, not confront them. The iconic profile should serve as a marker for those looking for the museum, and it certainly sets the new structure apart from its neighbors in the vicinity, both in color and ornament. Symbol The ornament is an important and complex part of the narrative of the building. Adjaye produced a single patterned cast-aluminum panel that is tessellated to create the iconic, translucent facade. The pattern was abstracted from cast-iron work produced by black workers in Charleston and New Orleans. Adjaye mapped out the welded connections, literally the points where the work was done. There is some artistic license here, and the pattern comes off as somewhat arbitrary, but the story remains. This particularly American form of modernity is a perfect glimpse into the unique history of the American South, but also the contributions that African Americans have made to the country—many of which have gone underreported due to institutional racism. The bronze facade reflects the patterns and creativity that enslaved people brought to the ironwork of Charleston and New Orleans, and thus to American history itself. Experience Which brings us to the galleries. Of course, a building cannot serve only as a metaphor, it must also serve a purpose. In this case, this purpose is to function as a museum that has all of the same goals as the building itself. The 100,000 square feet of exhibition space is home to items selected from roughly 40,000 artifacts assembled over a decade. It is fitting that this building's facade and programs, such as education center, theater facility, and public spaces, represent a collective celebration of African American history and a new space dedicated to it. The galleries extend the metaphors into physical, phenomenological architectural experience. To experience the choreographed architecture of the galleries designed by Davis Brody Bond, visitors start by descending 65 feet below ground in an elevator. Deep underground, the exhibition starts with an overview of the earliest days of the slave trade, in a global seafaring economy. Diagrams of how to pack the most humans in a slave ship are just a few of the haunting artifacts displayed here, where a low ceiling and dark walls recreate the feeling of being in the hull of a boat, with nowhere to go. Working through the timeline of American history, the galleries provide a sensory spatial experience that works in harmony with the content. Much like the museum is a chorus of many people distilled into one building, the curators sought to tell larger stories through single artifacts or single people who could collectively encompass larger narratives. The year 1776 is shown—rather shockingly—with Thomas Jefferson standing on a plinth as if to suggest that he is at a slave auction. A pile of bricks is next to him, each one representing one of his slaves. The museum’s narrative is surprisingly self-reflexive. It is not confrontational with any group of people, but it certainly sheds light on some of the darker parts of a normally whitewashed past. In this moment of freedom, the path opens up to an open, massive four-story space. The story of Jefferson’s slaves problematizes the notion that 1776 was the birth of a free nation. Because freedom from Britain did not mean freedom in any literal sense for all African Americans, it is back into the constricted hallways of history, as visitors work through the antebellum era, with slave memorabilia and Civil War artifacts that include a slave cabin as well as a tent from one of the “contraband camps” of freed slaves who were put up by the government during the Civil War. These proto-refugee camps were dotted all over the south, as many freed slaves worked for the Union Army. Once again, upon the completion of the Civil War, we re-enter the large open space but are immediately back in the dark, constricted space of the pre-civil rights era. This is probably the most poignant part of the museum, where architectural artifacts are brought in at full scale, including a guard tower from Louisiana State Penitentiary that was previously a plantation—an unapologetic reference to contemporary mass incarceration. There is also a segregated rail car, as well as the best part of the whole museum: The actual Greensboro lunch counter where students staged protests against segregation. The museum has rebuilt it, but integrated interactive screens to educate people who can sit at the counter and learn. The final stretch, after the murals and “Whites Only” signs, is the popular culture of the 80s and 90s, followed by the ultimate (symbolic) triumph: the inauguration of President Obama. Walking up the ramp toward this moment is the perfect metaphor for struggle and overcoming. Of course, there is still much work to do, and a screen right next to the image of the 2009 inauguration shows clips of people addressing issues of white privilege and unequally distributed, state-sponsored violence. It will be interesting to see how the museum evolves along with its content, as the two are in constant dialogue. In another perfect metaphor made real in a spatial experience, the above-ground galleries are filled with a celebration of black culture, from sports and entertainment to the contributions of African Americans in society, from science to the military. The circulation spaces in this museum are not very good. They have the feeling of an airport, and the main lobby is sloppily organized and too big. But that is not really the point. The galleries work really well as a narrative, and the symbolic content of the facade and overall form of the building work so well in the context of the National Mall that we can easily forgive some of the shortcomings. Most importantly, the National Museum of African American history transcends its value as a museum and casts a narrative of inclusion, as one of the most important yet marginalized and unrecognized groups of people takes a bold new position in the image of society, partly through architecture that has been carefully calibrated to do just that.
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Re-Constructivism

Could the Narkomfin building soon be restored?
Admired by Le Corbusier, Moshe Safdie and Denys Lasdun, The Narkomfin building has stood for 86 years. Completed in 1930, the building was designed by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis of the Organization of Contemporary Architects Group (OSA). The block of 45 flats sits on Novinsky Boulevard in central Moscow and is revered by many as a leading precedent for Constructivist architecture. However, despite its listing on the Russian cultural heritage register, the future of the now vacant and decaying structure hangs in the balance. Though only being active for five years while practicing as an architectural association in the former Soviet Union, OSA is considered to be the first Constructivist architecture studio. The Narkomfin provided Ginzburg with the opportunity to test theories on interior layout, form, and communal living. Using reinforced concrete, the building originally comprised a series of apartments elevated on pilotis that were joined to a shared amenity space. It was built for high-ranking employees at the Commissariat of Finance—one of the USSR's most important government offices—and tenants occupied two-story condos, sharing kitchens, washing space, and a kindergarten. Bedrooms face east, allowing the morning sunlight to enter while living spaces face west to make use of the evening light. These luxuries, based on Constructivist theory, were ridiculed by Stalin as bourgeois in 1929, and after trading multiple, negligent owners in the years that followed, the building has severely deteriorated. According to The Moscow Times, past owners had attempted to make a re-development of the building profitable, though the hindrance of poor materials proved a hurdle too many. "There is no easy way to transform Narkomfin into the luxurious apartments beloved by Moscow developers," writes Howard Amos. "After all, who needs tiny apartments with no kitchen?" Moisei Ginzburg's family, however, is committed to ensuring the building's preservation. His son Vladimir contributed efforts toward research and preservation and Moisei's grandson, Alexei, has continued those efforts. According to him, there is enough information on the building available to replicate its form as well as its hallmark coloring (apartment doors are painted black and white in an alternating style). The Narkomfin building is now under the ownership of the company Liga Prava, who won an auction for the building. Director of Liga Prava, Garegin Barsumyan said: “Nothing will change from what was conceived in the original architectural plans,” adding that it will be turned into “business class accommodation.” (What would Ginzburg and Milinis think?) The Moscow Times reports that those plans include demolishing the ground floor and exposing the pilotis (per the original design) as well converting part of the shared amenity space into a cafe. Back in June, Deputy Moscow Mayor Marat Khrusnullin said, “I personally believe these buildings should be left as monuments of how not to build.” The building's architectural significance was also acknowledged by Marina Khrustaleva, an expert on Constructivism and member of the Moscow-based architectural preservation organization Arkhnadzor. “There can’t be anyone else apart from Ginzburg in this project,” she said. Khrustaleva knows The Narkomfin well having traced its past during her career. “All foreign architects ask to go and see Narkomfin," she added. "Their education begins with descriptions of this building in their textbooks. It is of fundamental significance for the architecture of the 20th century.”
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From Tinder to the UK housing crisis

Here’s a first look at architecture publication LOBBY issue No. 4 “Abundance”
University College of London’s Bartlett School of Architecture’s fourth installment of its student-run magazine, LOBBY, hits shelves this week. The bright and glossy quarterly is named after the school’s primary exhibition/gathering space, however, it also embodies that word’s meaning as a verb, as in “to lobby.” While the publication aims to increase the relevance of architectural dialogue, it also tries to broader its scope by covering topics normally at the fringe of the profession and discipline: this issue alone has articles on Tinder, the UK housing crisis, trash, the architectural consequences of internet and data, and Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. In fact, LOBBY invites submissions from anyone who can hew to its broad themes. The publication also features interviews from prominent figures—this issue features interviews with Denise Scott Brown and Moshe Safdie—and employs slick graphics and colorful layouts. LOBBY No. 4, “Abundance,” picks up where last Winter’s “Defiance” issue left off by surveying a topic architecture students and recent graduates today know well: doing more with less in a time of austerity. After releasing first-look images of the new issue to The Architect's Newspaper, LOBBY Editor-In-Chief Regner Ramos said via email, “With this issue one of the things we were asking ourselves was, how can we reinvent our world and create abundance out of our current shortages? How can scarcity lead to abundance?”  Ramos goes on to say, “We've had a lot of really great photographers and illustrators who like the work we're doing and have been really keen on collaborating with us. I think that's one of the things that makes this magazine special, that it's really bringing creatives together to deliver a really special product that doesn't quite look like any other architecture magazine out there. Yes, it's a magazine for architecture lovers, but it's also accessible, wide in its range of content and editorially and visually curated.” Current and past LOBBY issues can be found on their website.
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Moshe Safdie working on his first hospital, first project in South America
The community is called Serena del Mar, which means Serenity of the Ocean in Spanish. In addition to the hospital, called Centro Hospitalario Serena del Mar, the project will include oceanfront residences, a hotel resort village, a business and commercial district, a golf resort, and an “equestrian village.” Twelve kilometers from the Old City historic district of Cartagena, the planned community is expected to absorb much of the area’s expansion and help the region compete for national and international tourists.     Serena del Mar will be organized around a major canal, similar in scale to the Grand Canal in Venice. The centerpiece is a 400-bed hospital, the first designed by Safdie. The main boulevard is modeled after Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, although cars mostly will be banned to the perimeter of the property. The developer is Novus Civitas, headed by one of the wealthiest families in South America. Safdie’s firm, Safdie Architects, is the architect for the hospital and master planner for the ‘Gran Canal’ civic and institutional district within the larger community, according to principal in charge Sean Scensor. EDSA of Florida is the master planner for the rest of Serena del Mar and landscape architect for the hospital and surrounding area, Scensor said. Robert Trent Jones II is the golf course designer. Other architects that have worked on the hospital include Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, Mass., and a local firm in Colombia, Condiseño Arquitectos. Design and planning experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine International in Baltimore consulted with the development team on the design of the hospital, which will be operated by the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá. Construction began last year on the hospital’s first phase. When complete, the building will have a series of fingers extending toward a lagoon, with outdoor “healing gardens’ in between. The rest of Serena del Mar will follow in phases, and the canal is the “big move” that organizes it, Scensor said. In a promotional video for the community, Safdie, 77, indicated that he drew inspiration from the natural setting and the area’s rich architectural traditions. He said he tried to “capture the experience of the Old City of Cartagena” in the context of modern development. “Somehow I feel that my role is to create an architecture that belongs,” he said. “An architecture that belongs is one which makes those who live there, who are part of the place, feel like this is ours."
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Wheeler Kearns to design experimental art space for Crystal Bridges Museum
Bentonville, Arkansas will soon be home to a new art space designed by Chicago-based Wheeler Kearns Architects. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has announced plans to convert a former Kraft cheese factory in Bentonville into new gallery space for unconventional programming. Like MoMA’s PS1 in Queens, New York, this venue will facilitate the showing of temporary, interactive, and performance art in a less formal setting. The museum’s permanent collection is currently displayed in a Moshe Safdie-designed building that bridges natural spring ponds in a forested setting. The museum grounds are also home to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Bachman-Wilson House, which was moved from its original location along the Millstone River in New Jersey. The new exhibition space will take on a much different feel than the polished Safdie galleries. The former factory will be allowed to maintain much of its industrial character throughout its 63,000 square feet. The new space's downtown location will also distinguish it from the museum's more rural main campus. The biggest difference, however, will be the way in which art is displayed and created in the space. In addition to film screenings and performances of music and theatre, the former factory will host a new multi-disciplinary artists-in-residence program. As such, Wheeler Kearns plans to design the space to be flexibly-used. Crystal Bridges will also collaborate with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) to develop the programing for the space. The Walton Family Foundation, Wal-Mart's philanthropic group, was heavily involved in the creation of Crystal Bridges. Steuart and Tom Walton—grandsons of Walmart founder Sam Walton—are leading the foundation’s support the new space. Both have served on the museum's Board of Directors. The yet-to-be-named exhibition space is scheduled to be completed in 2018.