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Waterfront Gets Waterfalls
Courtesy of Public Art Fund

 

Four installations will turn flowage into artworks along New York City’s waterfront in mid-July. Conceived by Berlin- and Copenhagen-based artist Olafur Eliasson and commissioned by The Public Art Fund, the New York City Waterfalls are meant to reorient an inward-facing populace back towards the natural beauty of the city’s waterways. As an added bonus, the Economic Development Corporation is hoping that increased tourism to the waterfront could bring an additional $55 million to the city’s economy.

Eliasson chose everyday New York City building materials such as metal scaffolding, concrete, and steel to construct the 90- to 120-foot-tall installations, which will be on view through mid-October. He wanted the waterfalls to be experienced as a journey, said curator Rochelle Steiner of The Public Art Fund, locating them at four carefully chosen sites around New York Harbor: Governors Island, Pier 35, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Piers 4 and 5 in Brooklyn (above). After sundown, LED lights will illuminate the waterfalls from above, adding a curious touch to the city’s skyline. 

The $15 million price tag includes construction, operation, demolition, and on-going educational programs that examine the waterfront through various activities for students and families. Construction is set to begin in March.

 

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Leading Man
Courtesy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

On November 8 the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its selection of Paris-based Christian de Portzamparc to design its new movie museum in Hollywood. 

The museum, described by the academy as “a place for watching and learning about film and filmmaking, for exploring film’s relationship with the greater world, and for listening to stories told by filmmakers,” will be located just north of its existing Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, south of Sunset Boulevard. Designs have not yet been developed, but Bruce Davis, the academy’s executive director, said that the museum will sit on an 8-acre campus that will likely be divided among different buildings. 

Davis said the academy, which hosts the Academy Awards and has a membership of about 6,500 filmmakers, began thinking about the museum five years ago, and that it began the search for a new architect two years ago. The academy’s original list of candidates included 154 architects, a number they whittled down to 32, and then to five finalists. 

While some Los Angeles architects have grumbled that a local architect should have won the commission, Davis said the choice came down to a combination of aesthetics, practicality, and Portzamparc’s alluring intangibles. “We certainly had no prejudice against local people,” he said. “He seduced those of us who went to Paris and then he came here and re-seduced the committee. You can tell you’re dealing with a visionary, a sort of poet of architecture. He has a very unusual and artistic approach to his craft.” 

Portzamparc, 1994 winner of the Pritzker Prize, is best known for his design of the French Embassy in Berlin (2003), his LVMH Tower in New York (1999), and his Cité de la Musique in Paris (1995). 

The academy, which plans to raise $300 million to build the museum, is in final negotiations to secure the last parcel of land it needs for the site. 

Davis said that he hopes to have renderings of the new museum by this summer. For now, he says, the museum will not focus on artifacts, but on how movies are made and the impact of cinema. It has named Maryland-based Gallagher & Associates to design the museum’s exhibition spaces. 

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Grand Plans

The Biennale featured, in the Arsenale and various national pavilions, the works of many photographers known for their urban documentation, including Armin Linke, Gabriele Basilico, Edward Burtynksky, Antoni Muntadas, Bas Princen, and Sze-Tsung Leong. Italian photographer Olivo Barbieri's site specific_SHANGHAI 04 (2004), above, and Spanish photographer Dionisio Gonzalez Heliolopolis (2006), below, both appear in the mini-exhibition C on Cities, curated by the magazine C International Photo Magazine.


Courtesy Galerra Max Estrella
 



Cities Without Architecture
Richard Ingersoll
Architecture critic and author; professor at Syracuse University in Florence

Behind this year's Venice Architecture Biennale lurks a daunting moral imperative: Something must be done before the planet is overrun by urbanization. But whether architecture is the problem or the solution remains a serious doubt. The title of the show, Cities, Architecture, and Society, is peculiarly inaccurate in that the content of the major exhibition in the stadium-length Corderie of the Venice Arsenal is devoted to 16 urban regions of a size and complexity that can no longer be called cities. Any of them—London, Tokyo, New York, Mexico City, Mumbai, Shanghai—are made of a fusion of several cities around a historic core city, each comprising a sprawling megalopolis of millions of inhabitants in areas that are usually more than 50 kilometers in diameter. Aside from this linguistic anomaly, the main exhibition suffers from a more egregious absence: There is no architecture: that is, there are no memorable projects presented meaningfully through drawings, models, or photographs. The buildings and projects that are visible in an impressive series of films and photographs used in the show are furtive—always incidental to some greater reality. At first this lack of architecture strikes one as a pleasant surprise in an exhibition known for its incestuous relationships to star architects and its tendentious promotion of formal trends. But after 300 meters of being hounded by statistics and zenith views of cities, one starts to miss the company of celebrity authors and their trademark works, or at least some sense of a project for architecture.

This year's director, Richard Burdett, professor at the London School of Economics and architectural advisor to the Mayor of London, aside from delegating the Golden Lion career award to his close friend Richard Rogers, has studiously avoided giving any notion of a criterion for architecture. Good intentions, however, are blazoned on the walls—sustainability and social justice—but they are not given any particular aesthetic agenda. Nor do the few specific examples, such as the transport system in Bogota, offer any notion of what can be done. An exemplary project for urban regeneration, for instance, Barcelona's 22@, a 200-hectare new town, is thrown in with hundreds of images and completely lost. Burdett's vision of the megalopolis, as he states, is of promising challenges, providing the opportunity to re-design the meanings, the functions, the aptitudes and the positive features of the various urban structures and strategies. But the display remains primarily analytical.

The alarm over uncontrollable urban growth has been sounded frequently since the end of the 19th century, when Ebenezer Howard, reacting to the inhumane densities of London, the world's first boundless megalopolis, proposed the Garden City as a means of restoring the balance between city and nature. Two generations later Jose Lluis Sert published the modernist notions of decentralized urbanism in his 1942 tract Can Our Cities Survive? And more than 50 years back the most influential urban historian, Lewis Mumford, was constantly engaged in battles against sprawl and urban growth. The Dutch Pavilion directed by Aaron Betsky recuperates some of the bird's-eye-views of how Dutch architects confronted the question of urban crowding, using archival materials, such as H. P. Berlage's 1910 plan of South Amsterdam and the 1960s beehive scheme of Bijlmemeer. The Austrian Pavilion, curated by Wolf Prix, also recuperated historic exhibitions of urban utopias, including a recreation of Fredrick Kiesler's 1925 City in Space and Hans Hollein's 1964 malaprop collages of aircraft carriers in wheat fields. These historic works were in fact the closest thing to an architectural agenda in the Biennale. The only other truly inspiring exhibit from a formal point of view was Metro-polis, curated by Benedetto Gravagnuolo and Alessandro Mendini, devoted to the new subway system in Naples, a series of art-stations designed by well-known international architects and artists as varied as Dominique Perrault and Anish Kapoor.

If the question of rampant urbanization is by now rather old, what's new about Burdett's analysis? Nothing, really, except the consideration of the ever-increasing dimensions of scale and the influence of digital technologies, which have resulted in the concept of flows. He promises that 75 percent of the world will live in urban situations by 2050, but since most of Europe and developed nations have already surpassed this measure, this fact does not seem so controversial. Uncontrollable urban growth is a vexing problem in terms of its environmental consequences, but this has not really yielded a show that provides convincing solutions; rather, it is a bit like walking through a geography textbook. There have been other recent exhibitions, such as MVRDV's traveling installation Metacity/Datatown (1999) and Rem Koolhaas and Stefano Boeri's Mutations: Harvard Project on the City at the Arc en Reve in Bordeaux (2000) that were more successful in creating a graphic method for appreciating the quantitative difference of the contemporary megalopolis.

A surprising number of the national pavilions were devoted to what can be called everyday urbanism. The Australian Pavilion in fact uses the term specifically, the Belgian is devoted to the beauty of the ordinary, and those of the U.K., Hungary, Korea, and many others worked on the pervasiveness of vernacular and commercial landscapes, which in general excludes the work of architects. The Japanese eccentric Terunobu Fujimori was featured in his country's pavilion, offering a movement called ROJO (Roadway Observation Society). One had to remove their shoes to walk through the charred wooden walls into a room paved in tatami mats to look at the weird collection of things found on the roadside and the architect's arcane additions to these landscapes.

The U.S. Pavilion was typically out of step. While the choice of the theme of Hurricane Katrina was a good one considering that most large urban agglomerations contend with a considerable degree of risk from disaster—a subject that has been beautifully investigated by Paul Virilio—the curatorial team of Architectural Record and Tulane University completely avoided the international scandal of the disaster in New Orleans, and the continuing scandal of governmental indifference. They simply offer some student project–like solutions on stilts that will never be built.

The Spanish Pavilion was one of the most formally satisfying, and while it includes many fine urban projects, the focus is exclusively on the presence of women. It presents three dozen white boxes, each with a vertical video screen showing a woman from the waist up, speaking about urban questions. The curator, Manuel Blanco, somewhat like the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, has produced an exclusively feminine version of a world dominated by men, presenting women who work as planners, politicians, artists, developers, taxi drivers, street vendors, and, of course, architects. Architect Carme Pinos commented, "Everyone says how great I look in the video, but no one seems to have noticed my tower," referring to her recently finished the 20-floor Torre Cube in Guadalajara, Mexico. Her comment captures the spirit of this year's Biennale, which downplays the role of architecture.

The French Pavilion is by far the most exuberant and popular, and perhaps best captures the overall atmosphere of this year's Biennale as cities without architecture.. Directed by architect Patrick Bouchain, it sprawls outside and over the top of its neoclassical porch, with deck chairs and card tables scattered about. Inside one finds scaffolds that shelter a bar, kitchen, and a workshop for artisans to make tee-shirts and other take-home items. The structure also supports a stair for ascending to a roof terrace where visitors can enjoy a sauna, sundecks, and hammocks. A frolicking, hedonistic, and purposely messy affair, much in the spirit of Lucien Kroll, who was involved in its planning, this invasion of the existing structure makes a serious case for participatory design by adaptation rather than settling for the imposed formal order of architects.
 




Digital Globe / Telespazio


QuickBird satellite views of (from left to right) Milan, Barcelona, and Bogota. Similar views of all the cities under examination appear in the Corderie of the Arsenale.
 



The Big Reconciliation
Liane Lefaivre
Chair of architectural history and theory at the Applied Arts Academy; research fellow in the urbanism department of the Technical University of Delft

For over five hundred years, since Leon Battista Alberti, architects and urbanists formed a whole, working together in the making of cities. That is until the early 1970s, when architecture and planning went through The Big Divorce in American architecture schools. Among the reasons for the break-up was the drying up of publicly-funded support for urban revitalization programs. Urban issues were, largely, thrown out of architecture schools. Key figures left for schools of government and policy, geography departments, and such. As a result, for the past 30 years, architects and urban professionals stopped speaking to one another almost entirely.

Now, Richard Burdett, director of the Cities Program at the London School of Economics and head of the itinerant Urban Age conference series, has, at the request of the Venice Architecture Biennale organizers, kick-started a dialogue between the two disciplines. In order to do so, he presented some of the grubbiest, grittiest, and dynamic cities in the world, including among others Istanbul, Shanghai, Caracas, Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York, Mexico City, and Sao Paulo.

The concept behind the exhibition is exciting, with greater implications for the health of the planet and humanity than the latest architectural trends. No one has attempted a comparative study of the world's megacities on this scale before. The exhibition itself won't likely wow the general public, however. Panels of text, images, and charts filled with unprocessed information about the lower depths of urban reality is not the stuff of blockbusters. Among the show's shortcomings is the fact that issues like density and society are raised but are left hanging in the air. In the age of Google Earth, one might also wonder why more interactive media was not used. But what the show lacks in depth of coverage will presumably be supplemented by other activities throughout the next two months while the Biennale acts as a forum for debate and an incubator for policy brainstorming with a planned series of high-level workshops. Here, one supposes that issues like democratic rights, sustainable growth, local government versus World Bank–dictated rules of governance, and Hernando de Soto's brand of neoliberalism will be addressed.

The theme of cities had a galvanizing, almost psychoanalytic effect on many national pavilions. At the U.S. Pavilion, Robert Ivy's team at Architectural Record along with Reed Kroloff of Tulane University grappled with the profound dysfunctionality of post-Katrina New Orleans and wound up with a statement of the inability of architecture alone, in spite of endless good will, to overcome certain political and social realities. The French Pavilion, perhaps as a form of expiation for the race riots that marked the nation's suburbs last year, was turned into one big pop-anarchist Rabelaisian bistro, celebrating togetherness in the midst of delicious food smells and plentiful wine. Austria fell back on two of its bluest chips, venerable masterpieces by once rebellious artists, one by Friedrich Kiesler of 1925 and one of 1964 by Hans Hollein. By contrast, the Hungarian Pavilion took a chance on an independently minded, youthful approach—examining the reach of Chinese-made goods in the world—and came up with a relevant contemporary statement on a specific urban reality. At the Russian Pavilion, the work of Alexander Brodsky, with his hilariously Gogolian black humor, offered a commentary on urban life in Russia today. The Spanish Pavilion was devoted to 52 of the most important women involved with architecture and urbanism in Spain. The overwhelmingly encouraged feminine presence goes a long way in explaining why this country has such great architecture and cities.

Of all the countries, Great Britain was the most active in organizing real discussions. Paul Finch, the editor of Architectural Review, together with Odile Decq, Peter Cook, and Robert White of White Partners should be commended for presenting a series of public debates called The Dark Side Club, which took place every night during the vernissage from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., after all the other parties had ended. And the British Council assembled a panel called My Kind of Town: Architecture and Urban Identity, featuring Rem Koolhaas, David Chipperfield, author Alain de Botton, Nick Johnson of visionary development firm Urban Splash, critic Alice Rawsthorn, and Sudhev Sandhu, author of London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. Judging by the international attendance, these lively events might set a trend in future Biennales.

Richard Rogers used the high-profile moment of winning this year's Biennale Golden Lion Award for Life Achievement to stress the need for strict government regulations, citing Portland, Oregon, as the most popular city in the U.S. because it is the best at regulating and containing sprawl and encouraging inner-city densification. Of all the speakers I heard, he was the one who got the most enthusiastic response. In the same vein, this Biennale brought the work of a generation of designers in their 40s to the fore, including James Corner of Field Operations in New York, Rahul Mehrotra of Mumbai, Yung Ho Chang of MIT and Beijing, and Jeremy Till from Sheffield, England, to whom architectural issues are not antithetical to urban, political, social, or ecological concerns.
 



Austria


Markus Pillhoffer


Italy


Giorgio Zucciatti / Courtesy Venice Biennale


Japan


Courtesy Institute for Japanese Culture

Top: The Austrian Pavilion, directed by Wolf D. Prix, features Hans Hollein's 1964 Flugzeugtrrger (aircraft carrier). The piece suggested how to install a complex urban structure in a rural setting, and also served as ironic commentary on the relationship between the city and nature. Middle: With the opening of the Italian Pavilion in the Tese delle Vergini (near the Arsenale), the old Italian Pavilion in the Giardini was given over to dozens of smaller exhibitions organized by various schools, countries, and research groups. The facade of the pavilion is wrapped in Olivo Barbieri's photograph of the Gonehexin Road overpass in Shanghai. Bottom: The Japanese Pavilion is devoted to the work of Terunobu Fujimori, whose naturalist architecture features the use of charred wood, planted roofs, and rough stone and earth. Within this woven hut, installed in the pavilion, visitors could watch a slideshow of images taken by ROJO, the Roadway Observation Society, founded in 1986 by a group of artists, including Fujimori, dedicated to documenting extraordinary roadside phenomena.



Architecture Between the Cracks
Toshiko Mori
Principal, Toshiko Mori Architect

The Biennale is basically a provocation from director Ricky Burdett to architects and planners. Why do architects not have a role in the forming of cities, why are we not involved more, or voicing opinions more? Why do we have such a lame role in civic discourse? Planners always seem to have good ideas, but they do not follow through. If they did we would not witness the degree of dystopia displayed at this Biennale. Planners do not have power, they are disengaged with physical reality; instead they seem to be buried in paper statistics. With the war in Iraq, the threat of terrorism, poverty, starvation, and genocide erupting around us, how do we answer the questions posed by the exhibition's organizers: Can planning promote social cohesion? Can good governance improve things? Do we all answer "yes" and go and have a Bellini? This is when the 1970s come to mind: Back then, we went into action more directly and architecture's sense of purpose ran deeper.

How did architecture become perceived to be surface-deep? It's an apt question to ask in a city like Venice, where the tourist-pleasing Serenissima facade comprises less than one-third of the city. Going around on the vaporetto (ferry) #82, one sees the blue-collar industrial and working gut of Venice. Author Alain de Botton asked me if I liked the decoration on the building facades. I recommended the vaporetto commute so he could see beyond the place's surface happiness. Architect Patrick Bouchain, organizer of the French Pavilion Metacity/Metaville, where two dozen architects, graphic designers, and media artists set up house and every day go about domestic chores like cooking and sweeping, told me that in Paris, street sweepers are called technicians du surface. The traditional French respect for the worker stands in contrast to the country's recent crisis over the lack of assimilation of immigrants. Intolerance and antagonism are causing riots and lawlessness because people are unable to share discourse and civic values. The message is simply to go back to what we all have in common, and try to establish direct communication among lives in the cities. (The irony is that the pavilion encourages both a sense of community and anarchy, breaking the decorum of exhibition halls by making it an inhabited space, a fragment of a city, with all the transgressions they encompass.)

The Spanish Pavilion, curated, designed, and organized by the perfectionist super-phenom Manuel Blanco, is the individuated and collective voice of women in Spain from all walks of life: female vox populi. It is a very clear, powerful, and credible message. Women are animated, beautiful, sympathetic, and most of all humane. Manuel says his approach was obvious since Spain has a feminine prefix, yet female voices have been suppressed by strong male dominance in politics and culture.

The Irish have the most to show in terms of their efforts to balance Ireland's fast economic growth, ecology, large planning efforts, and sustainability. It is unfortunate that their room, in the old Italian Pavilion, is painted black, since their projects are realistic and send a positive message about the robust engagement of politicians, planners, and architects to make the semblance of utopian future possible.

The relationship and balance between the obvious and visible architectural quotient of a city versus the support fabric of its infrastructure is the point of this Biennale. I was not so worried that there was not enough architecture. A lack of buildings does not mean architecture is absent. There is a territory where architects can take over creatively, as is demonstrated by the Irish group show, which is filled with strong case studies.

There was a lot of dialogue and discussion going on during the vernissage, but one looming question was: Where were the Americans? The U.S. Pavilion sent a strong impression of the effects of Hurricane Katrina. The intricate moving model of cubes suspended by fragile strings is a metaphor for New Orleans housing as a puppet of mechanized bureaucracy. Once these strings are cut, the cubes float aimlessly without life support (full disclosure: this is the work of GSD students). And yet Americans had a weak (if any) presence in the public discussions organized by the Biennale. It made me realize that not only is the U.S. isolating itself in foreign policy, but we may be in danger of isolating ourselves in the area of urbanism too. What can we learn from others, what can we share? Are we engaged in this global discourse? If so, we should certainly be able to have several alternatives and viable models other than New Urbanism.
 



France




Cyrille Weiner ( top); Stefan Jonot (bottom)

The French Pavilion has become temporary home to two dozen artists and designers, who have outfitted the neoclassical building with bunk beds, a kitchen, bar, DJ stand, rooftop sauna, and sundeck.



China






Stefan Jonot (top and middle); Danish Architecture Center (bottom)

Top: The Austrian Pavilion, directed by Wolf D. Prix, features Hans Hollein's 1964 Flugzeugtrager (aircraft carrier). The piece suggested how to install a complex urban structure in a rural setting, and also served as ironic commentary on the relationship between the city and nature. Middle: Their Tiles Garden is made over 60,000 tiles recycled from demolished structures in Hangzhou. Bottom: The Hungarian Pavilion made use of cheap, Chinese-made plastic goods to create animated canopies, wall-hangings, and other installations. The Danish Pavilion proposed various projects for sustainable development in China, including Magic Mountains, a green business district.



The End of the Line for the Biennale?
Hugh Pearman
Architecture critic, London Sunday Times; editor, RIBA Journal

Despite the importance of the subject matter and the high seri- ousness with which it has been approached, this Biennale, for me, does not work as an exhibition. The long, long gloomy columnar promenade of the Corderie in the Arsenal complex—in recent years the heart of the show, crammed with goodies—has never been sparser. You feel you are attending a stern lecture. Only the lecturer is absent, and has sent along his notes instead.

The rest of the show, over in the pocket garden suburb of national pavilions and scattered here and there throughout the city, is as patchy as ever though one finds intermittent flashes of joy. But it is difficult to imagine where this exhibition can go from here. The last good one with a strong theme was curated six years ago by Massimiliano Fuksas, Less Aesthetics, More Ethics. That allowed plenty of provocative architecture, but it also required an analysis of the social dimension.

And now? The architecture biennales are always rather touch-and-go. The go button is always pushed late: It is always a scrabble to get it together in time. This one feels like the end of an era. If the series is to continue, it must be comprehensively re-thought. It must have a reason to exist.
 



The Laser-Print Biennale
Aaron Betsky
Director, Netherlands Architecture Institute; Incoming Director, Cincinnati Art Museum

As far as I am concerned, the best room was the central space at the Italian Pavilion, where the imaginative power proper to art and architecture were used to confront, criticize, and speculate on the city as a reality, rather than reduce it to facts and figures. For sheer scale, the AMO layout, an aerial panorama of the whole Gulf coast, from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, could not be matched. And of course in our historical exhibition [at the Dutch pavilion] we tried to bring up the issue of the city as a real place for which we have to take responsibility as architects, not just as concerned citizens. For the same reason I appreciated the attempts by the Russians, the French, and the Hungarians to make this point in an imaginative way. And that would lead to my major gripe: Just as architects should not pretend to be graphic designers or landscape architects, nor should they claim to be sociologists or politicians. Positioning your work within a social and political field is one thing; claiming to be Al Gore is another. The imagination was buried too deep beneath the pavement of Venice this year to be unearthed by any statistical tools.
 



Highs and Lows
Paola Antonelli
Acting Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art

The Venice Biennale is, as always, worth it, even though the overall lack of normall architectural scale—meaning models, drawings, reference to neighborhoods—made this year for a rollercoaster between the elegantly cold and the sometimes overdone touchy-feely. The show at the Arsenale belongs in the former category. Director Richard Burdett's momentous analysis of 16 great cities was impeccably presented in an installation designed by Aldo Cibic and his partners. The installation had some beautiful moments, some planned—the room comparing densities, for instance, filled with self-explanatory beautiful styrofoam stalagmites, or the views of the cities flowing under your feet in small connecting bridges—and some serendipitous: in the Caracas corner, an oil stain in the floor that ghostly mimicked the shape of the city hung on the wall just above. The deeper you went into the Arsenale, the more you could get lost in data, comparative studies, and gorgeous satellite pictures, but somehow you longed for people and buildings.

The pavilions were very uneven. One wonders why some nations don't just stay home, or rent out their pavilions to the other countries that might really have something to say. Among the interesting ones: the Spanish, curated by Manuel Blanco, my favorite, with women of all walks of life talking about their cities, with architecture a part of their soundtrack. The British, taking the city of Sheffield as a case study and exploring it at different scales, from sheep to satellite view. The Japanese were a bit out of theme, but soothing and beautiful. The Slovenian: at last some innovative architecture. The French overshared—do we really need to see guys cooking in a pareo?—but were a hit because they were very hospitable, to the point where otherwise respectable architects were hopping the fence to join their late-night parties and the police were called nightly to kill the fun.

Personally, I learned to blog. Together with London's Architecture Foundation, MoMA launched a wild beast of a blog that became quite the recipient of everybody's rants and raves (www.venicesuperblog.net).
 



Disquietingly Quiet
Odile Decq
Principal, Odile Decq Benoit Cornette

When we try to describe a city, we often start by quantifying its inhabitants, expressing through its size what typology of city we are speaking about: small, middle, large, or extra-large. The presentations of the 16 megalopolises in the Arsenale strive to analyze the phenomena of how they came to be. But never could a collection of quantified facts express what a city is.

Architects are dedicated to thinking about and organizing people and life; architecture exhibitions are dedicated to vicarious representations that are free of the noise and smell of flesh-and-blood cities. This Biennial takes a non-risky position, avoiding experiments on concrete strategies. It is a pity for the general public and the thousand of young future architects, desperate for inspiration for visions of tomorrow.
 



Planning Potential
Ron Shiffman
Director, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development

Richard Burdett's exhibition begins with a description of cities in a changing world and ends with an invitation to cities to change the world. At critical junctures, displays focus on issues such as income disparity, density, mobility, and information flows. Implied throughout are the issues of class and race, which underlie many of the disparities the exhibition highlights.

The individual city presentations varied in quality. New York's presentation (coordinated by Pamela Puchalski of the Center for Architecture) successfully captured several of the city's innovative planning and development initiatives such as the High Line park and the effort to build more housing along the city's waterfront. Given the city's penchant to diminish its mandated participatory planning processes by surrendering its decision-making role to the state, as they have in the case of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards proposal, I was surprised to read in the exhibition text that New York has decided to accommodate growth by capitalizing on its edges along the water, investing heavily in new housing projects in the outer boroughs, and involving its citizens in the debate on the future of the city. One wishes it were really so. Too little investment and far too little debate. Perhaps New York City should borrow from the Norwegian city of Tromss, which decided to call a time-out on large-scale development and engage its citizens in what is truly a public debate.
 



Painting by Numbers
Hani Rashid
Principal, Asymptote

After the painful, but visually enticing, onslaught of Burdettian data, statistics, and images of cities on the verge, perhaps the upcoming Venice Art Biennale will follow suit by filling the Corderie and Giardini Pavilions with the financial statements of artists, galleries, and museums (leaving out the art). Now that could actually be interesting!
 



Comparative Views
Barry Bergdoll
Chair, Department of Art History, Columbia University; Incoming Philip C. Johnson Curator of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art

In 1933 CIAM studied 34 world cities in aerial overviews and statistical analyses aboard the S.S. Patris while cruising between Marseille and Athens. The result, the Athens Charter, published in 1943, was the lingua franca of postwar modernism's bid to take charge of the city through functionalist and universalist criteria. It was hard not to think how far we are from this venture of over 70 years ago, arriving by air in one of Europe's prime museum cities, Venice, to take in Richard Burdett's ambitious marshalling of aerial views and statistics comparing 16 cities on five continents. If the pious list of five recommendations at the show's conclusion had more to do with issues of city governance—even in a display largely devoid of analysis of the vastly different historical and political forces at play—the results displayed could not have been further from CIAM's taking hold of the reins through design. The Biennale was filled with small-scale interventions in the impoverished quarters of the Third World and landscape re-workings of the detritus of the industrial past in the cities of the First World. The shrinking city of Berlin, where capitalism and democratic political process has eclipsed Europe's communist past, were lumped together with Shanghai and with Mumbai, the latter earmarked soon to overtake Tokyo as the largest city in the history of civilization. Caracas, presented neutrally as yet another booming metropolis, with little acknowledgment of the distinct political and economic situation of the petroleum capital with its populist anti-imperialist leader (a not so subtle protest is registered in the Venezuela Pavilion where the sole exhibition objects are a grainy aerial photograph and a broadsheet declaring a complete lack of interest in any Westernn-imposed urban solutions). As the exhibition embraces the notion of a globalized crisis—with many of the virtues and problems of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth—the particularity of each city begs for attention. Projects were modest and isolated, except for large-scale planning sponsored by developers, who increasingly have turned to star architects.

What could have underscored how omnipresent a very different urban condition in 2006 is than the looming mass of the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship, whose towering 15 decks threw the national pavilions at the Giardini in shadow during much of the preview. None of the tourists disgorged was clamoring for entry to the Biennale, even if the morning Gazettino di Venezia featured both the influx of international architects and a photo reportage on the visible erosion everywhere of Venice's fragile brick and stone fabric caused by the ever-increasing traffic of super tourist liners in the lagoon.
 



The No-Stop City
Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi
Architecture Critic

The Italian Pavilion curated by Franco Purini presents the design of Vema, a theoretical city for 30,000 residents located between Verona and Mantua. Contained within an area measuring 3,720 by 2,300 meters, the city is divided into sectors designed by 20 groups of architects under 40, chosen from among the most promising young practices in Italy. The immense model of Vema, which dominates the exhibition space, can be appreciated on two levels. For the general public, Purini's project will seem to go against the grain: The creation of a newly founded city in a Western country, so similar to the Renaissance examples of Sabbioneta and Palmanova, is in clear opposition to the dominant urban model of sprawling metropolis or the Koolhaasian Generic City. What makes Vema contemporary are the projects designed by young architects. The result is thus a strange hybrid in which the ideal cities of Filarete and Vignola coexist with deconstructivist, super-modern, and neo-organic projects.

For insiders, Purini's project is an attempt, as brilliant as it is unconvincing, to reduce the tension between young, experimental architects and the old guard, of which Purini himself is a leading exponent. The video that accompanies the exhibition thus presents a picture of Italian architecture as a continuum, where the old and new coexist without conflict, and wherein we are able to overcome the violent clashes that have historically occurred, for example, between figures such as Manfredo Tafuri and Bruno Zevi, and gain inspiration from models as diverse as the baroque Paolo Portoghesi and the radical Archizoom.
 



Women on the Verge
Below is an excerpt of architectural theorist Beatriz Colomina's video observation included in the exhibition Espana [f.] nosotros, las ciudades (Spain [f.] we, the cities) at the Spanish pavilion, curated by Manuel Blanco. Hers was one of 52 recordings of Spanish women—clients, architects, citizens—speaking about their experiences of particular buildings or of urban life in general.

What interests me most about cities is how they are so radically transformed with each new technology, from gas lamps to trains to electricity to video cameras. Lately I have become interested in cell phones. No technology has transformed the city more than cell phones in a long time. They have completely revolutionized the relationship between public and private. To be in a city you no longer have to be in the street—you can join a friend in a cafe simply by calling—and if you are in the streets you may not be in the city, as when you are so immersed in a conversation that you are somewhere else and the streets you are walking become a kind of mirage. In fact, in almost any city today there are more people on the phone than in the streets. Every aspect of our experience has changed.

This became evident on September 11 when any traditional sense of public and private space became obsolete. In the heart of the spectacular nightmare, covered continuously by every single television channel, the most intimate exchanges were taking place. For the first time in the history of a catastrophe, the families and loved ones of many of the victims were among the first to know when they received cell-phone calls made from hijacked airplanes and from inside the World Trade Center towers. These calls carved out a whole new sense of space, a last vestige of domesticity.

In the aftermath of the events, the desperate attempts on the part of cell-phone companies to deliver the last messages that had not gone through attested to the importance of this form of communication. In a situation in which there were very few human remains recovered, those messages were all that was left, the very thing that is always missing in tragic accidents. No longer simply a fragile substitute for real people, the digital record became the most solid reality.

There was a new sense of space constructed by the unrelenting bombardment of repetitive images through TV and the Internet and the simultaneous exchange of the most intimate and unique, one-on-one communications via cell phones.

If 9/11 in New York revealed the cell-phone as the last vestige of domesticity, 3/11 in Madrid revealed the cell-phone as a weapon, triggering the train bombs. Personal defense became public attack.



Spain


Cemel Emden



Painting By Numbers
Wolf Prix
Principal, Coop Himmelb(l)au

The theme of the 10th International Architecture Biennale is key for the architecture of the next decades. Thus I find that though the main exhibition at the Arsenale displays a striking collection of different factors and important data, it fails in developing a theory or visions out of this information. On the other hand, the shows at the national pavilions in the Giardini present, with a few exceptions, the helplessness of architects in association with strategic city models.



I Heart New York
Alexander Gorlin
Principal, Alexander Gorlin Architects

Maybe Richard Burdett, the curator of the Architecture Biennale's Cities theme, should have first listened to Madonna's latest song, I Love New York, before putting together a mind-numbing, statistic-fest that completely fails to understand the essential experiential differences among cities around the world: 

I don't like cities, but I like New York / Other places make me feel like a dork / Los Angeles is for people who sleep / Paris and London, baby you can keep

Other cities always make me mad / Other places always make me sad / No other city ever made me glad / Except New York,  I love New York


Walking through the Arsenale, one would hardly know there was a difference between Bogota and New York. In fact it seems that Cairo is denser than New York, therefore...exactly—so what? The quality of the characteristics that make a difference between cities is leveled in this show by categories that have nothing to do with living in each place, such as stock market capitalization or the ranking of their commodity exchanges. Most of the cities appear to have been selected for politically correct purposes: one from continent A, one from continent B, and who knows why so many from South America? The show also suffers from extreme Google Earth–mania, an obsessive fascination with those satellite maps that are now available to everyone. But who experiences a city at 250 miles up in outer space?

In the end, the whole show should have been about New York—Manhattan, to be precise—in an attempt to understand why it is clearly the most exciting city on earth and the present-day capital of the world—I love New York!

If you don't like my attitude than you can F-off / Just go to Texas, isn't that where they golf / New York is not for little pussies who scream / If you can't stand the heat, then get off my street



The China Syndrome
Cathy Lang Ho
Editor, The Architect's Newspaper

China crops up often in the Biennale, which perhaps should not be surprising given its dizzying rate of urbanization and the extent to which its rapid development has affected global architectural and construction practices, not to mention the world's ecological balance. The Danish Pavilion followed curator Henrik Valeur's prompt: How can we improve people's living conditions without exhausting the very resources needed to sustain a better life? The display presents the sort of dramatic statistics that Rem Koolhaas first introduced with his Pearl River research almost a decade ago, alongside theoretical projects by teams of Danish architects and Chinese architecture schools. Their fantastical gestures—business centers that resemble picturesque mountains, a peaking infrastructure-laden mega-wall circling a city—betray the sense that the country is still perceived, by too many in the world (including the Chinese themselves) as a tabula rasa.

Hungary had a quirkier approach to the topic of China as both a consequence and protagonist of globalization: Its pavilion was filled with artful installations made of cheap China-made toys: a canopy of chirping plastic penguins, a wall of plastic resin with repulsive furry toys imbedded within. The installation was part of a larger project, documented in a fine catalogue, investigating the impact of Chinese immigrants on the world's cities and of Chinese-made goods on life everywhere. It was one of the few projects that conveyed what I wish the Biennale accomplished more: how globalization and urbanization has affected people's lives. This was poignantly communicated in Hu Yang's Shanghai Living (2005), a photographic series displayed in the Italian Pavilion, showing a factory worker, shop-girl, office manager, and dozens of other Shanghai residents in their homes. Each is presented with a statement from the subject, personalizing the effects of the phenomena measured elsewhere in the Biennale.



Hu Yang's images are on display in C on Cities, a special photography exhibition in the Italian Pavilion, curated by the London-based publication C International Photo Magazine. Issue 3 is dedicated to its Biennale presentation, and is available through www.ivorypress.com.


Shanghai Living
 (2005) by Hu Yang 
Tang Zhen'an
(Shanghainese general manager)
Up to now I am satisfied with my life, and I like photographing and collecting western art works during my leisure time. I have pressures, mainly from competition within the circle and requirement from inside. I want to do everything I can to promote Shanghai's photographing industry.



Shanghai Living (2005) by Hu Yang
Wei Yufang
(Shandongnese vendor)
We are leading a hard life and eat battercakes, pickles and a glass of water for all three meals. When our kids want meat dishes, we cook them an egg. We work more than 15 hours a day if it doesn't rain. We want our kids to be educated and not to live like us. I will risk anything for our kids to go to university. My eldest son is excellent and wins prizes every semester. I suffer being teased by local ruffians.

Eavesdrop: Philip Nobel

It’s not the most prominent cultural institution in town, and it certainly has the smallest footprint on the Manhattan ground, but for intrigue-per-square-foot, no one can beat the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

In March, director Sarah Herda was tapped to replace the late Richard Solomon at the Graham Foundation, trading her spot at the perennially impoverished Kenmare Street organization for a position heading the well-endowed (okay: totally loaded) Chicago powerhouse responsible for underwriting a shockingly high percentage of all American architectural research. Since then, Storefront’s board of directors (which includes AN founderWilliam Menking, who has isolated himself from the reporting and editing of this story) has been engaged in a wide-ranging and sometimes contentious search for a replacement.

As many as “sixteen to eighteen worth-looking-at candidates” applied, according to Storefront president Belmont Freeman, who confirmed that, after a board meeting on August 7 (during which assistant curator Yasmeen Siddiqui was officially named acting director), the search committee has winnowed the hopefuls down to “a short list of three.” Other sources said the list was already down to only two: architect and writer (for this publication, among others)Olympia Kazi and 28-year-old Berlin-based curator Anselm Franke. Others said to have applied in the still-secret process include New York writer and gallerist Henry Urbach (before he took the design curator’s job at SFMOMA), Van Alen Institute senior curator Zoe Ryan, and Temple Hoyne Buell Center program coordinator Salomon Frausto,

“We’re very encouraged, because we know we’ll end up with someone good,” Freeman said, while also trying to quell rampant rumors about intramural tension over the search. “I wouldn’t call it ‘tension’,” he said. “But it has been the occasion for a lot of soul-searching.”

The cause of the purportedly untense soul-searching—we’ve heard otherwise—is Storefront’s size; small in budget as well as space (the whole gallery, designed by Steven Holl and Vito Acconci, only occupies 950 square feet), directorial and curatorial duties have been shared by a single person since it was founded by Kyong Park in 1982. “Because it’s such a tiny organization, the person has to combine curatorial vision with directorial strength and a good dash of fundraising charisma,” Freeman said.

In the current search, a faction of the board that favors a more fiscally responsible future has been militating to select a director with a proven record of management, while another group has favored a more “visionary” curator. Franke, identified by many as the leading candidate, is seen as member of the latter camp—a thinker first and an administrator second—the search committee’s interest in him sparked several tense moments over the summer. Meanwhile Franke, who could not be reached for comment, is said to be balking at the potential salary offered. Several sources familiar with the proceedings allege that a deal has been discussed in which Franke might be lured to New York only by the promise of a package deal—the director job at Storefront plus a contract to teach at Columbia University—a twofer possibly brokered in-house by pillow-talking power couple Beatriz Colomina (a Storefront trustee) andMark Wigley (dean of the Columbia’s GSAPP, my alma mater).

Freeman said the new director will be announced after the September board meeting—“we’re close to making a decision”—but other sources said it could be “months.” So stay tuned for future installments of The Annals of Narrowly Avoiding Conflict of Interest….

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The Crystal Method




At the Hearst building on 57th Street, the trip up from street level on a side-skewed escalator embedded in a stepped glass waterfall feels a bit like scaling the sides of a pyramid. Reaching the mezzanine lobby of this old-new corporate headquarters is to experience a true sense of arrival, just as its architect Norman Foster surely intended.

The Hearst building is the most significant of the new crop of Manhattan icon buildings because it changes the terms of engagement. Instead of making itself known by powerhousing its way into the skyline like the Time Warner Center, Foster's first skyscraper in the United States enlists restraint and sophisticated technologies—qualities so much harder to grasp than a snappy image—to endorse a corporate brand. But whether all the advanced environmental, structural, or social engineering is for real or for show remains unclear.



The main lobby is a showstopper. Elevated three levels above the street, it is every bit as operatic—albeit with a sci-fi air—as the Aida-esque cast concrete original built by set-designer Joseph Urban and George P. Post in 1928, which has been preserved as a kind of orchestra pit from which the new skyscraper rises. Occupied by pharaonic phalanxes of 30-ton box columns and various mega-diagonals with artist Robert Long's six-story banner of mud art running up the core, this 35,000-square-foot space—which Foster calls the piazza—is rendered even more like a real town square since Urban's concrete walls have been stripped clean and furred out to look like the exteriors of, say, the walls of a Milanese bank building circa 1930. But instead of opening to the sky, the piazza is covered by a vast skylight. Tilting back in a cafe chair at Cafe 57 (aka the company canteen and the main occupant of the space), one stares right up at 36 stories of glass and steel muscle flexing its way to the skyline. Suddenly, the to-ing-and-fro-ing of people is reduced to an inconsequential shuffle, as soothing as the sound of the Jamie Carpenter–designed waterfall that has been computer programmed to mimic a babbling brook. Corporate confidence this suave is intimidating.

That makes it all the more significant that most of the building's rave reviews have dwelled not on Foster's magnificently controlled stagecraft but on its environmental and structural features. It's especially unusual given the business of its client: Hearst is a media giant, the third largest magazine company in the country, with a stable of titles including Cosmopolitan, Harper's Bazaar, Seventeen, and Esquire. For an empire fixated on image to put good works before good looks is a watershed moment in corporate branding strategy. In fact, Hearst is so proud of all the green stuff going on in the building that it has emblazoned its LEED Gold medallion right between the revolving doors leading into the building. And kudos to them for the 75 percent of the year that air-conditioners will be using outside air; the reduction in electrical energy use that can be estimated to be the equivalent of 1,074 tons of CO2; and the 14,000-gallon reclamation tank in the basement that is at the ready to supply some 50 percent of the water needed for all the building's plantings. And so on.



Not to diminish the building's very real accomplishments, but the United States is so far behind most European and Asian efforts when it comes to enacting sustainability measures that it's hard to get too excited about reducing electricity and water consumption. The building doesn't have nearly as many of the energy-saving strategies as Foster's Free University in Berlin and Swiss Re in London boast. In fact, its accomplishments as a green building are modest when compared to almost any other building by its own architect. It might rate well by local standards, but the truth is, every new skyscraper in New York should be LEED Gold–certified by now.

As for the diagrid structure, which has been described variously as a jack-in-the-box, a French-market net bag, and a hydraulic scissor-lift, it is derring-do of a higher order. The diagrid started out as a device to stiffen the east facade, which was necessary because the architects pushed the service core off-center, toward the western edge of the site, up against a neighboring 50-story apartment building. (They placed the core on that edge, reasoning that westward views would be blocked anyway by the apartment building.) But the diagrid looked so good, Foster went for the full wrap even though it creates floor plates that vary considerably in size, from 17,000 to 21,000 square feet. This is just another of the idiosyncrasies that a single corporate client can afford. At another point, the architects thought a cable rod running vertically through the building's corners might be necessary to steady any sway resulting from the 20-foot difference in floor-plate size at the extreme corners, but that became redundant once the longest beams were suspended from above rather than secured by a cantilever.



In a similarly productive collaboration between determined aesthetics and innovative engineering, the design team managed to come up with a way to make the lobby even more grandiose, in spite of structural necessities. (The space is already an impressive structural feat in that its skylight is the primary support for the old concrete shell of the Urban structure.) Foster was not going to let the opening between the modest ground-floor entrance and the spectacular mezzanine lobby look like some trap door from below. Instead, there is a gaping 80-foot-by-30-foot space through which the elevators rise, thanks to a specially devised ring beam that disperses the force thrust of all those mega-columns supporting the tower.



Traditionally, the job of corporate icons has been two-fold: to show off institutional might and to instill employees with slavish devotion. The Hearst building accomplishes the first of these tasks with impressive pizzazz. The office floors should please employees, too, even if views from some senior editorial offices are slashed right through with big fat braces. The plan is conspicuously open with cubicle walls that are lower than American Dilbert cells and higher than their Euro-equivalents. And all perimeter offices have glass walls allowing sunlight to flow in unimpeded.

Still, there's an overall sameness, even with the glorious conference corners where unimpeded glass meets vertiginous views. They made me think of the good-old bad days when hierarchies were more visible, even aspirational. Here, there's no art department ghetto where the music blasts and the walls are tacked-up with messy collages. There's no editor-in-chief lair with furnishings better than the rest, inspiring ambitious underlings to plot their climb up the masthead. All that sunlight is well worth the loss of outdated modes of status reinforcement, right?

But then deep in the heart of the building is the Good Housekeeping Institute. It is a strange and vital place where stacks of new products are piled around and row upon row of lab equipment sits at the ready to test everything from the latest washing machine from Miele to the next generation of Fruit Loops, all hoping for the coveted Seal of Approval. The Institute, with its messes and lab-coated technicians huddled at a counter sharing lunch, underscored the complete aesthetic control and good taste that practically smothers the rest of the building.

Since the 1920s, the Institute has held luncheons in a special dining room that has received numerous U.S. presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, as well as Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. Hearst executives decided to replicate the original dining room in the new 29th floor Institute—a Mount Vernon set piece, complete with black marble fireplace, sconces, rugs, and furnishings re-installed intact. Apparently, they think that our presidents are more comfortable in a colonial-style setting rather than in a space like the 46th-floor boardroom where two diagonal columns intersecting the northward view of Central Park etch a mighty V for victory.

The new Hearst building is a welcome addition to the Manhattan horizon. It may not dominate the skyline but it certainly raises the bar for the next corporate brand with ambitions.

Credits

Gross square footage: 856,000 sq feet
Total construction cost: $400 million (estimated)
Architect: Foster and Partners: Norman Foster, Brandon Haw, Mike Jelliffe, Michael Wurzel, Peter Han, David Nelson, Gerard Evenden, Bob Atwal, John Ball, Nick Baker, Una Barac, Morgan Flemming, Michaela Koster, Chris Lepine, Martina Meluzzi, Julius Streifeneder, Gonzalo Surroca.
Fit-out: Norman Foster, Brandon Haw, Mike Jelliffe, Chris West, John Small, Ingrid Solken, Michael Wurzel, Peter Han
Associate architect: Adamson Associates; Tishman Speyer Properties, development manager.
Engineers: Cantor Seinuk Group, structure; Flack & Kurtz, mechanical; VDA, vertical transportation.
Consultants: George Sexton, lighting; Ira Beer, food service; Gensler, interiors.
General contractor: Turner Construction
All Images: Chuck Choi / Courtesy Foster and Partners

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Destination: Morgan

Renzo Piano completes his first New York commissionn the three-year, $106 million renovation and expansion of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Julie V. Iovine observes how Piano preserves the intimacy of the original but risks losing some of its immediacy by making it a crowd-pleaser. Photography by Dan Bibb.



On April 29, a transformed Pierpont Morgan Library rejoins the Manhattan museum scene, a landscape much-altered itself, both physically and psychically, since the Morgan closed for renovation three years ago. In that time, the beloved, ebulliently gaudy house-museum has undergone a vast makeover by Italian architect Renzo Piano who, when commissioned for the job in 2000, had an avid insider following and has since become a bona fide international superstar. Meanwhile, the newly gargantuan Museum of Modern Art has shown that critical skepticism has no bearing at all on popularity. Culture in general has taken a drubbing at Ground Zero (Drawing Center evicted; Frank Gehry's performance hall aborted; Snnhetta's Freedom Center nullified), underscoring the reality that no one puts particular stock any more in the power of art to uplift. J. P. Morgan would have been mortified.

After all, the Morgan Library was the rich man's sanctum and treasure horde turned tenderly over to New Yorkers so that they might be bettered through contact. And people have been passionate and personal about the place ever since. In the early 1990s, Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic at the The New York Times, described the experience of visiting as both tranquil and intense. Who wouldn't be entranced by the McKim, Mead & White portico and rotunda, the lavish H. Siddons Mowbray murals, the brocaded walls and gilded swags? John Russell, former art critic of The New York Times, dreamed of being locked overnight inside its walls. It's no surprise considering what it contains: drawings by Rembrandt, da Vinci, DDrer, and Degas; three Gutenburg bibles; one of only two extant copies of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur; Mary Shelley's own annotated copy of Frankenstein; architectural plans by Inigo Jones; etchings by Piranesi; JRR Tolkien kvetching in letters about the Hobbit; jeweled bindings; illuminated manuscripts galore; and on and on.

Piano was charged not with enlarging but rather, as he put it, rebalancing and rethinking the institution which had grown somewhat haphazardly over the years into a three-plus-building sprawl. He called his method micro-surgery.. Adding 75,000 square feet, even with more than half of it underground and the rest in the shape of a glazed- shed-covered piazza plus pavilions jimmied around the extant buildings, is hardly micro. The medical analogy is, however, apt because like cosmetic surgery, Piano has masterfully preserved the original while partially smoothing, even immobilizing, its vital lifelines.



The grand covered piazzaa or atrium is the centerpiece of Renzo Piano's design for the expanded library



Two balconies extend into the space, and some staff offices overlook it, but are glazed for acoustic privacy.

The Morgan Library is new and improved all right; in fact, Piano (with the local collaboration of Beyer Blinder Belle) has rendered it perfectly into one of the most au courant of building types: the destination museum. Whether Piano's Morgan has the power to incite passionate allegiance, much less a desire to be locked inside overnight, is more doubtful.

It could not have been an easy job. Bartholomew Voorsanger tried in 1991 with a $40 million expansion and courtyard. And let's not forget the ill-fated invitational competition of the late 1990s with Steven Holl Architects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which was abruptly cancelled. Piano had declined to participate but offered his services in case perfect solutions didn't materialize. Now, 15 years and $106 million laterrVoorsanger's and a few other minor additions razed without a traceethe library has been transformed again. Voorsanger's glass court might have been unloved, but it could not be considered a total failure; it did brisk business in party rentals, netting as much as $15,000 for evening events. Piano's renovation is not about adding square footage but, as director Charles E. Pierce, Jr., said in 2002, about providing greater public access.. The Morgan's new high-impact spaces are bound to be in great demand (and the fee for rentals sure to be higher))a goal that many institutions have come to share.

Piano's scheme is sublimely serene. He has treated the Morgan's three main buildingssan 1852 Renaissance Revival brownstone, the 1906 McKim mini-Met and its pared down twin, the annex of 19288as the corner anchors to his central focus, a glass-enclosed, light-filled piazza.

At the edges of the atrium space, he has inserted several elements, varied in scale, homogenous in material, and visible as connective tissue between old and new. The inserts are made of rolled steel panels painted off-white (press materials say they are rose-hued but on a sunny afternoon it looked powdery white to me). The largest piece encompasses the new entrance on Madison Avenue, which leads through a spacious cherry-wood clad tunnel directly to the piazza. A new gallery and reading room are located on the floors above this entrance volume. The smallest addition is a 20-foot cube, containing a gallery, tucked between the original McKim library and the annex. Though it's been cited in earlier articles as a climactic moment in Piano's design, it does not have the inscrutable impact promised by its perfect dimensions, at least not for this visitor. And curators may be hard pressed to take full advantage of its modest space in any way other than as a showcase for one singular item at a time, albeit, displayed to shine in all its glory.

Before making a beeline for an unoccupied caff table in the piazza, visitors will be tempted to descend a wide stair gaping downward at the lip of the entrance passage. Those who give into the urge will view a steel-encased treasure-holding vault sunk three stories into Manhattan's bedrock schist. Neat. Sunk below, too, is a new 280-seat performance hall. One enters at the top row of a steeply inclined auditorium baffled in slightly curled chips of cherry wood. The space is more elegant than expressionistic, a wonderfully intimate spoken-word stage.



J. P. Morgan's wood-paneled music room (below, right) will now hold the bookstore.

So what's missing then? Crowd-pleasing (event-friendly) piazza and caffécheck. Sculptural object cubeecheck. Cool performance space, naturally. A fancy restaurant and much-expanded shop are a quick detour right off the entrancee good plan. Oh, yes, the collection. Barely encountered. To actually find the prizes for which the library is so well known, one must wander a bit. A narrow vaulted passage to the right and set back from the entrance leads past an old elevator bank to two spacious galleries (and a gallery hall, once the museum entrance) in the old annex. In the far corner off the piazza, J. P.'s original library and study have been restored to full robber-baron Rococo style. And then there's the new gallery on the second floor of the entrance pavilion. For the inaugural greatest hits exhibition, some 300 objects will be on display through out the museummthat's less than 0.09 percent of the 350,000-piece-strong collection. So much for increased public access.



The vast majority of the new 75,000 square feet of space is underground, and accessible via a staircase located just past the entrance.

The new Morgan oozes the calm elegance of masstige modernism. On a smaller scale, it employs many of the same moves as Yoshio Taniguchi's MoMA, such as a vertically compressed, horizontally expansive entrance giving way to breathtaking volume. Instead of procession, the experience is more like scaling levels and discovering views of where you were a moment ago. Whereas Taniguchi used bridges, Piano has two balconies alongside a Hyatt-esque glass elevator peering over the piazza. Both capture unexpected and refreshing views of the buildings beyond (though the balcony off the reading room is accessible only to those with reading room passes).

And like the Museum Tower coming down to ground undisguised in the main lobby of MoMA (as if to holler, Don't forget me!!), so too do the three old Morgan buildings reveal themselves in the new atrium space. It's a little bit like catching a glimpse, from the knee down, of a giant whose head is in the clouds. While MoMA is all about pumping visiting hordes out of the central chamber into the building's arteries and galleries, Piano, despite having been called a poet of circulation,, seems content for people to stay put in the voluminous piazza. Unquestionably, the Morgan will become a cool place to meet and hang out (although at the moment, the only seating seems to be at the caff's tables). The light filtering in through complex but not particularly high-tech skylights (another Piano trademark) will be delicious. Staff offices have been allocated generous spaces in the 1852 Italianate brownstone with some walls sheered off and glassed over in order to give some lucky employees vistas of their own; a conservation studio is tucked up and out of the way at roof-top level.

The new Morgan is purre-perfect, blemish-free. People will flock to get in. And yet on a recent sunny afternoon, the piazzaasurrounded by limestone, electronically shaded glass, powder-coated steelllooked deadly calm. The Morgan has acquired a seamless, beautiful new mask. What may be lost is the quickening, possibly even vulgar, feeling of excitement that one man wanted to impart to others by sharing his precious treasures with the world.

Julie V. Iovine writes frequently for The New York Times and other publications. She is the features director at Elle DDcor and architecture critic for AN.

Drawings Key
1 Entrance
2 Atrium
3 Exhibitions
4 Cafe
5 Retail
6 Original Library
7 Staff Offices
8 Reading Rooms
9 Performance Hall
10 Education





The Pierpont Morgan Library

Design Architect:
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Executive Architect:
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects
Construction Manager:
F. J. Sciame Construction Co.
Structural Engineer:
Robert Silman Associates
MEP Engineer:
Cosentini Associates
Curtain Wall: Front, Inc., Gartner
Acoustics: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, Kahle Acoustics
Landscape Consultant:
H. M. White Site Architects
Lighting Designer: Arup

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Beyond Transparency



courtesy weiss/manfredi architects

BARNARD NEXUS
New York, 2009
Weiss/Manfredi Architects


The word contextuall strikes fear in the hearts of many architects, not because sensitivity to one's surroundings is a bad thing, but because its definition has proved to be so elastic, and even political. At one end of the spectrum, there is Prince Charles and his advocacy for 19th-century buildings with 21st-century technology; others argue that scale, massing, and material should be the central concerns for architects working within a developed site. For an arts building for the Barnard College campus, New York's Weiss/ Manfredi Architects is making a strong argument for the latter approach. When the Barnard Nexus is complete in 2009, it should show that sensibility can be more faithful to context than duplication: Instead of using the red brick that characterizes many of the college's older buildings, the architects riff on brick's color and material qualities. The steel-framed building will have a glass curtain wall whose surface suggests the spectrum of tone and texture inherent to brick.

Weiss/Manfredi won an invited competition to design a new arts library at Barnard in 2004 based on a design that would rectify the longstanding problem of a dramatic grade change between Broadway and the edge of the campus at 119th Street that created an unfriendly wall along the street. Two ideas were central to their early schemes: The first was to draw the public green space up diagonally through the building, making it visible from outside; the second was to develop a curtain wall that was a mixture of terra cotta panels and glass. The terra cotta would be a gesture of solidarity towards Milbank Hall (1896) next door, while the transparency of the glass would let the building light up its corner of the green and encourage students to use it as a social space as well as an academic one. As the design process progressed, however, they began to consider different materials. Principal Marion Weiss described making a series of charcoal sketches of the facade and getting interested in the blurred quality it gave to the panels: When we were working with terra cotta and clear glass, it was either figure or ground,, she explained, but the charcoal suggested a less definite line. Sometimes the tools you use are suggestive, and it is important to be able to capture the quality of an accident..

The project team began to look at glass and different ways of using it. They developed a system whereby the colored glass panels would be backed by a shallow cavity closed off by sheetrock, which they began to refer to as a shadow box. This gap (which is still being determined, but could be anywhere from 3 to 5 inches) is clearly perceptible as sunlight passes through it; the vertical supports, which will be painted, read as somewhat darker, and give definition and depth to the cavity, Like luminous terra cotta,, as Weiss described it. They are still experimenting with the shade of the sheetrock back panel, and Weiss said that it may well change over the course of the building in order to give more texture to the faaade. Partner Michael Manfredi described bringing endless samples to the roof of the building and seeing how one piece of colored glass looked 3 inches away from the back panel versus 5, or with white sheetrock behind it versus colored. The deeper the shadow box,, Weiss said, the more expensive it is, but it is also a richer effect..

Weiss/Manfredi found a company that could acid-etch or bake color onto the number 1 [exterior] surface of a glass panel. Usually the frit is on the number 2 or 3 surface, so the exterior is still highly reflective,, explained Weiss. The acid-etched frit gives a softer matte texture to the glass surface. Another issue was color: It is often laminated between two sheets, but the problem is that you are paying for more glass, and because the panel is heavier, the curtain wall structure has to be stronger.. The pattern on the facade loosely follows Nexus' more public spaces, which form a diagonal path through the building and terminate in a rooftop garden. To standardize construction, they developed a five-foot module, but have been able to give the faaade a finer overall grain by using more or less frit as needed. Mindful of the lessons of the charcoal sketch, the transitions from clear to opaque are rarely abrupt. Glass is typically treated as a neutral skin, and architects want to dematerialize it and make it go away,, said Weiss. We got interested in its presence and potential for decorative richness.. Anne guiney is an editor at AN.



Below: Weiss / Manfredi photographed various glass samples on the roof of their office in order to better understand the way shadowboxes of different depths would affect color and opacity in sunlight.



Below: Shadow Box Detail Section
1 Extruded aluminum transom, painted
2 Insulated glass unit
3 Shadow box
4 Finished concrete topping slab
5 Extruded aluminum stack joint, painted
6 Painted metal spandrel panel
7 Pocket slab at anchors




Below: Exploded axonometric showing the Nexus' primary circulation route (blue), the open, public spaces which are an extension of the campus green outside (green), and the gradations of colored, fritted, and clear glass panels which clad the exterior (grayscale).



courtesy weiss/manfredi architects


CREDITS
Owner: Barnard College, New York

Architect: Weiss/Manfredi Architects, New York

Consultant(s)
M/E/P/FP:Jaros, Baum & Bolles, New York
Structural: Severud Associates, New York
Civil: Langan Engineering, New York
Landscape: HM White Site Architects
Lighting: Brandston Partnership, Inc, New York
Food Service: Ricca Newmark Design, New York
Theater: Fisher Dachs Associates, New York
Theater Acoustics: Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Norwalk, CT
Glazing: R.A. Heintges & Associates, New York
AV/IT/Acoustics/Security: Cerami & Associates, New York
AV/IT/Security: TM Technology Partners, New York
Pre-Construction Services: Bovis Lend Lease, New York

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
Mullion/Metal Cladding: Custom color three coat fluoropolymer metallic finish.
Exterior Glazing: Four-sided structurally glazed unitized aluminum system.
Multiple combinations of clear low-e (low iron), etched glass, etched tinted glass, and color translucent ceramic frit.

Roofing
Built-up roofing: Hydrotech garden roof system consisting of lawn and low-maintenance sedum.

Glazing
Glass: Interior Glazing: Glazed system with custom graphic interlayer.
Skylights: Custom translucent etched walkable surface set into pavement.

TOLEDO MUSEUM OF ART GLASS PAVILION
Toledo, Ohio, 2006
Kazuyo Sejima +
Ryue Nishizawa / SANAA


Like its pristine Miesian predecessors, the Toledo Museum of Art's new Glass Pavilion is seductively light and deceptively simple. It appears to be a straightforward glass box under a flat roof, but unlike the Barcelona Pavilion or the Farnsworth House, this building houses a series of discrete spaces that serve a wide range of programs including a caff, exhibition space for light-sensitive objects, and a workshop for glass artists. The Tokyo-based firm SANAA has used this programmatic diversity to push the possibilities of a glass pavilion in both scale and ambition. For the firm's many admirers, the projecttSANAA's first in North Americaais an amplification of the work they have become known for, like the Kanazawa Museum of Contemporary Art, which also uses curved glass and simple massing strategies.

Within the pavilion's all-glass rectangular box, 13 glass volumes float almost bubblelike in plan and act as various gallery, event, and exhibition spaces. The programmatic requirements for the space were the primary generator for SANAA's emphasis on discrete volumes in the project, explained principal Ryue Nishizawa. Our design came from the museum itself: Different temperatures and humidities were needed for various rooms, including a hotshop that generates an enormous amount of heat. Also, it is a big place [76,000 square feet] and we needed to break up the space.. Between most volumes are interstitial spaces that act as insulating pockets, further regulating the interior conditions of the galleries.

While minimalism is often thought of as stripping down and removing the inessential, it is just as much about hiding the unappealing but necessary. In this case, SANAA embedded most of the structural columns within the four rooms which are not glass encloseddthree are built with standard a wood frame and sheetrock, and the fourth is clad in rolled steel. Slender columns are scattered throughout the interstitial cavities, but sited to obstruct sightlines minimally. To avoid disrupting the irregularly spaced and sized rooms, the firm, with structural engineers Guy Nordensen & Associates, planned an intricate roofing system to accommodate mechanical systems and maximize structural capacity without requiring a regular column grid. They managed this by using differently sized beams that worked around the columns and HVAC systems, all of which were locked into perpendicular girders through flanges. Given that the roof is only 24 inches from top to bottom, it required coordination between the structural and mechanical drawings,, described SANAA project manager Toshihiro Oki. Also, they used -inch plate steel on the corners of the building to act as bracing for lateral loads. This allowed the columns to be smaller and support only vertical loads.

The 13-foot-high glass panels which define most of the volumes had to be shipped from Austria to a plant in China and custom-formed through a slumpingg process, in which the glass is placed above a curved mold and then heated until it settles into place. The glass panels are flat, fully, or partially curved, and while many are different, the designers tried to standardize some of the curvatures in the building. Oki estimated that approximately 30 different molds had to be fabricated to create the panels.

These panels are slotted into tracks on the floor and ceiling. The lower tracks are embedded into the structural concrete floor with 3-inch slabs, and employ a U-track system with a rocker device at the bottom of each track to allow the glass panels some degree of movement. The rocking mechanism is stainless steel, and has a shallow parabolic shape. This keeps the glass level and vertical, and the flexibility minimizes the potential for breakage. The top track employs Teflon slip-plates to minimize friction and allow the glass to move slightly based on vertical loads. An L-shaped -inch steel plate is locked into place after the glass is installed to hold the panel in place.

This support system is both stable and flexible, allowing the system to respond to external factors without discernible effect on the panels, which, with many measuring 8 by 13-feet, are quite large. The designers used low-iron, Pilkington Opti-white glass in order to minimize green tint and provide colorless transparency, and also to acknowledge their interest in manipulating that transparency: We realized that curved glass would transfer light differently, and also transparency would change in the building just through the layering of glass,, said principal Kazuyo Sejima. In the mock-up we built, even two layers created a certain level of opacity..

While the firm has worked with curving glass before, Toledo's Glass Pavilion allowed a new kind of experimentation. We were able to work with much thinner glass in Ohio than in Japan,, noted Sejima. The result is both greater clarity and more precision with the forms. The building is a perfect vessel to showcase glass, itself a feat, but as Sejima commented, the material may be fragile, but working with it is really no big deal..
Jaffer Kolb is an assistant editor at AN
.

SANAA built a full-scale mockup (center) of the Toledo Museum of Art's Glass Pavilion (bottom) to test the visual effect of layering the glass walls, which were slumpedd on frames (center right) in China and are held in place by track inset into the concrete floor (top right).



courtesy kazuyo seijima + ryue nishizawa / sanaa

Below: Ground Floor Plan
1 Permanent exhibition
2 Temporary exhibition
3 Hotshop
4 Lampworking room
5 Restaurant/cafe
6 Courtyard
7 Restrooms
8 Support space
9 Multi-purpose room




Below: Glass Track Details, Head and Shoe
1 Primaryroof structure
2 Shim
3 1⁄2" Steel plate
4 Head support steel angle
5 Stainless steel head support plate
6 Teflon slip pad
7 Neoprene load transfer block
8 3⁄8" + 3⁄8" Laminated glass with PVB interlayer
9 Finished floor
10 Silicone sealant
11 Stainless steel glazing channel
12 Glass support rocking mechanism
13 Shim
14 Blocking





CREDITS
Owner:Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH

Design Architect: Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa/SANAA, Tokyo

Architect of Record: Kendall Heaton Associates, Inc., Houston

Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson & Associates, New York Sasaki and Partners, Tokyo
MEP Engineer: Cosentini Associates, New York
Lighting: Arup Lighting, New York Kilt Planning Group, Tokyo
Curtain Wall Engineer: FRONT, Inc., New York
Civil Engineer: The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., Toledo, OH
Geotechnical Engineer: Bowser Morner, Toledo, OH
Acoustical/AV: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, New York

Landscape: Neville Tree & Landscape, Holland, Ohio
Glassmaking facility consultant: Spiral Arts, Inc., Seattle, WA
Lampworking consultant: Glasscraft, Inc., Golden, CO
Graphics: 2x4 (NYC)
Project Manager: Paratus Group, New York
General Contractor: Rudolph/Libbe, Walbridge, OH

GLASS SPECIFICATIONS
Glass: Pilkington Opti-White
Glass Fabricator: SanXin Glass Technology, Shenzhen, China
Glass doors & structural calculations: UAD Group, New York
Local glass installers: Toledo Mirror and Glass, Toledo, OH
Aluminum fascia anodizers: TRB-Andarn, Paterson, NJ


DETAIL
7 WORLD TRADE CENTER

New York, 2006
Skidmore Owings & Merrill


According to Chris Cooper of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, creating an all-glass building in New York City is a lot harder than it seems, especially while trying to work within the financial constraints of a speculative office tower like 7 World Trade Center. In Europe, it is becoming more and more common to use a double skin. As we were thinking about how to brighten the exterior while still using standard construction techniques, we reached out to Jamie Carpenter of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA), and together we looked at ways to bring light into the spandrels.. The solution the two firms ultimately came up with is a system whereby the window glass hangs over the finished edge of the floor slab, which is clad in galvanized steel panels. The resulting cavityywhich is open to the air, as each glass panel covers only 11 of the 33-foot slab depthhallows the glass to seemingly lighten the building's facade between floors . Clear glass with space behind it is always brighter,, said Cooper. To subtly increase that effect, they added a strip of blue stainless steel to the base of the sill. You can't see it, but the blue steel tempers the quality of the light as it reflects it,, explained Cooper.

Because SOM decided to use single-glazed windows on 7 WTC, there was concern that the spandrel detail would cause the glass to lose its insulating value: For 11 feet, each pane would be exposed to the weather on both sides, and presumably conduct the cold in. Before glass manufacturer Viracon would sign off on the system, it conducted a temperature distribution analysis, as did SOM and two other consultants. All four found that, while the glass felt cold to the touch, heat transferrand its attendant condensation insideecould be kept to a minimum by insulating the spandrel and using thermal separators. AG



Below: Spandrel Detail
1 3/88 Glazing with PVB interlayer
2 Spacer
3 Thermal separator
4 Blocking
5 Aluminum mullion
6 Insulation
7 Steel fascia
8 Blue stainless Steel strip
9 Gasket
10 Gutter splice
11 Blind pocket
12 Mullion wrapper



CREDITS
Owner: Silverstein Properties, New York
Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York
Collaborating Artist: James Carpenter Design Associates Inc., New York
Construction Manager: Tishman Construction, New York
Structural Engineer: Cantor Seinuk, New York
MEP: Jaros Baum & Bolles, New York
Civil Engineer: Philip Habib & Associates, New York
Lighting Design: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York
Signage: Pentagram, New York
Security: Ducbella, Venter & Santore Security, North Haven, CT
Curtain Wall Fabricator: Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, Windsor, CT
Curtain Wall Installer: Permasteelisa Cladding Technologies, Windsor, CT Curtain Wall Glass: Viracon VRE-59


DETAIL
OFFICE BUILDING & SHOWROOM

Seoul, Korea, 2007
Barkow Leibinger Architekten


When architects Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger were asked to design a spec office building in an area of Seoul that hadn't even been developed yet, they realized they wouldn't be able to turn to the usual sourcessthe needs of clients, the feel of the neighborhooddto begin the design process. The site is a part of Digital Media City, a government-initiated project that will ultimately be a 2.5-square-mile business center between the airport and downtown Seoul. Since the only truly known quantity they had at the outset of the process was the budget, Barkow Leibinger decided to plan for the worst: The architects developed a highly reflective glazed primary faaade that would, in Barkow's words, take the neighborssno matter how terrible they might beeand pixilate them into coolness.. A mockup they built and put in the courtyard of their Berlin office showed endless fragmented images of the brick building, small triangles of blue sky, and cubist versions of anybody who happened to walk by.

The polygonal geometry of the faaade grew in part from conversations with the artist Olafur Eliasson, who was also working on a piece called the Quasi-Brick Wall that explored likeminded ideas. Eliasson served as an in-house critic for Barkow Leibinger while the Berlin office of Arup helped them turn the idea into a working curtain wall.

For all its kaleidoscopic glory, the 11-story building's plan is actually quite straightforward, and the curtain wall is based on a single module to make construction easier. The primary faaade is comprised of one 4-by-3.3-meter module that is rotated and flipped upside down to create a varied pattern; on the rear of the building, the curtain wall is flat to accommodate the service core, which is pushed to a rear corner to leave interior spaces open enough to accommodate any future tenant. According to Barkow, who has seen full-scale mockups in place on the construction site, It is a shallow, economical section, but when they are put together, there is the sense of being within a volumeethe faaade itself becomes volumetric.. Each of the module's seven surfaces is a piece of highly reflective glass held in place with silicone. The silver-white glass may fracture everything that ultimately passes by it but, promised Barkow, It's low-iron energy glass that lets in 49 percent of the sunlighttit isn't dark, 1970s stuff, like Houston in the bad old days.. AG

Below: A scale mockup of the faceted curtain wall gave a kaleidoscopic reflection of its surroundings, in this case, Barkow Leibinger's Berlin office.



Below: Barkow Leibinger designed an office building (below) for a site in Seoul's new Digital Media City, which is a massive government-initiated development on the outskirts of the city. As one of the earlier projects to go into construction, the only real constraints on the architects were zoning restrictions and budget.



Below: Curtain Wall Detail
1 Steel bracket
2 Anti-glare blind
3 Aluminum interior joint
4 Register with convector
5 Double-glazed glass panels




CREDITS
Client: TKR Sang Am
Design Architect: Barkow Leibinger Architekten, Berlin
Contact Architect: ChangJo Architects, Seoul
Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergermann and Partners, Stuttgart
Jeon Lee and Partners, Seoul
Curtain Wall Consultant: Arup GmbH, Berlin,
Alutec Ltd., Seoul
Glass manufacturer: Viracon VRE-43


DETAIL
BRONX CRIMINAL COURT COMPLEX

New York, 2006
Rafael Viioly Architects


After the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on August 7, 1998, leaving 224 dead and 5,000 injured, the Government Services Administration (GSA) beefed up its blastproofing standards for new construction. Rafael Viioly Architects had already begun design work on the Bronx Criminal Court Complex in New York, and while blast resistance was included in the program, the architects decided to team up with curtain wall fabricator Enclos Corporation to incorporate the GSA's new standards into the all-glass design. The court complex was already under construction when September 11 prompted safety requirements to be raised yet again, but Viioly's building already met most of the new standards, so the architects didn't have to put construction on hold.

The building's primary street-facing curtain wall is a series of triangular protrusions that form a sawtooth shape in plan; structural silicone holds Viracon low-E insulated glass panels in aluminum mullions. We were working with the physics of blasts,, said Fred Wilmers, project architect at Rafael Viioly Architects. They are impulse forces that last a matter of seconds, so a flexible surface that gives with the blast but remains intact, is actually more efficient than a rigid surface.. For example, a 1,000-pounds-per-square-foot blast applied to a rigid surface would produce a much higher-static pressure than the same blast load applied to a flexible surface, like a curtain wall system.

Due to security concerns, Wilmers was unable to speak specifically about the level of blast the court is built to withstand. He did say that the criterion for passing blast force is that glass doesn't fly into the building more than a certain distance. This means that not only does the glass have to stand up to a blast (a PVB interlayer on the interior pane prevents it from shattering), but so does the aluminum and silicone. The sawtooth shape that is so central to the building's aesthetic is also an important component of the curtain wall's blast resistance: Because the blast force would presumably meet the glass at an angle, its impact would be more diffused than on a flat surface. The designers also worked with the assumption that blasts would come from street level, so the wall was designed with a vertical gradient of blast resistance. On lower floors, mullions are reinforced with steel.

Blast resistance is about protecting the people inside the building,, noted Wilmers, not the building itself. After a blast, the outer panes of the glass would be shattered and the aluminum would be distorted, but the people inside wouldn't be hit with shredded aluminum and glass shards. It is for a one-time use, howeverrit couldn't resist a second blast..

The fact that a glass curtain wall is capable of meeting current security requirements is the key lesson of this building. It offers hope that in this age of terrorism, civic structures don't need to be concrete bunkers.
Aaron Seward is projects editor at AN.





Below: Vertical mullion at unit break and outside corner
1 Steel reinforcing plate
2 Painted aluminum mullion
3 Structural silicone
4 Insulated laminated glass unit
5 Painted aluminum corner mullion






CREDITS
Owner: City of New York, Department of Citywide Administrative Services, New York, NY
Developer: Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, New York, NY
Architects: Rafael Viioly Architects PC, New York, NY;
Architects and Engineers, New York, NY
Structural Engineers: Ysrael A. Seinuk, PC, New York, NY
General Contractor: Bovis Lend Lease, LMB, Inc., New York, NY
Curtain Wall Consultant: Gordon H. Smith Corp., New York, NY
Curtain Wall Fabricator: Enclos Corp., Egan, MN
Curtain Wall Erectors: Ornamental Installation Specialists, Warwick, NY
Enclos Corp., Egan, MN

Current Criticism

Fewer than 45 of the approximately 140 newspapers in the United States, with a daily circulation over 75,000 have architecture critics, according to a 2001 survey by the National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP) at Columbia University and only a third of them pursue architecture criticism full-time. Amazingly, cities like Houston, Detroit, and Las Vegassplaces that have undergone huge building booms in recent yearsslack a regular architecture voice. Of the papers that do have critics, half feature fewer than two dozen stories a year; that's less than one every two weeks. And while architecture implicates not just aesthetics and culture but so much elseepolitical economy, ecology, social welfareethese stories are normally relegated to Arts, Style, or Home sections. Thus, as the NAJP study concludes, major buildings and developments routinely go up with no public discourse on their practical or aesthetic meritssthe most public of art forms receives the least amount of arts coverage.. (The study was overseen by Andrrs Szzntt, director of the now defunct NAJP.)

If this state of affairs is lamentable, it's necessary to acknowledge that architecture journalism for the mass public has long been a rarity in this country, with notable exceptions like Montgomery Schuyler at the New York World in the late 19th century and Lewis Mumford at The New Yorker during the middle decades of the twentieth. It was Ada Louise Huxtable, beginning her tenure at The New York Times in 1963 amid that decade's urban upheavals and preservation battles, who coalesced a wide audience for engaged and outspoken architectural criticism. Today, while the issues affecting the built environment are no less contentious or ripe for debate, architecture criticism in its various local venues inevitably finds itself inflected, and distracted, by a far more advanced and globalized culture industry.

The following brief survey of four contemporary critics at high-profile American newspapers is based largely on a reading of articles published over the last year:

Robert Campbell has been architecture critic at the Boston Globe since 1974. Trained as an architectthe received his MArch from Harvard's GSD in 19677Campbell, now 68, garnered the third architecture Pulitzer (after Huxtable and Paul Goldberger) in 1996 for his knowledgeable writing on architecture.. His short-ish articles are conversational, descriptive, and well-mannered. He complains about conservative Bostonn while at the same time betraying a constitutional mistrust of avant-garde pizzazzz; his taste runs to plain old-fashioned modernism.. This doesn't prevent him from acknowledging that Steven Holl's new Simmons dormitory at MIT, if perhaps too inventive,, is daring and beautiful; he likewise reserves final judgment on Gehry's Stata Center, which, despite appearances of being a big, arbitrary sculpture,, reflects serious thinking about how people live and work.. He frequently covers significant events outside Boston, but writes most often and generously about lesser-known architects at home. His interest in architecture as a register of urban and social history is reflected in a regular city sceness feature for the Sunday magazine section on which he collaborates with photographer Peter Vanderwarker.

Blair Kamin is strongly civic-minded and devoted to nurturing architecture culture in his home city. A self-proclaimed activist critic,, he uses the platform he has held at the Chicago Tribune since 1992 not as a bully pulpit so much as a lectern from which to educate the public and to prod architects and municipal officials in socially constructive directions. A graduate of Yale's Master's of Environmental Design program and, like Campbell, a Pulitzer Prize winner (in 1999), the 48-year-old critic has collected his articles of the last decade in a book, Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2001), that reflects his broad-based but Chicago-centric concerns. Didactic, thoughtful, and judicious, he is given to relative judgments and careful distinctions. Less concerned with architectural form-making as such than its impact on people, he dwells on how skyscrapers meet the ground, the livability of tall buildings, the urban vibrancy produced by the clash of styles in Chicago's downtown. At the same time, in a city dominated during the 1990s by its mayor's retro tastes in civic improvement, he often finds himself arguing for contemporary aesthetics. But the shoddy detailing at IIT's Campus Center irks him, notwithstanding the brilliance of Rem Koolhaas' conception.

Nicolai Ouroussoff is younger than Kamin, at 43. Educated at Columbia's architecture school, he was anointed Herbert Muschamp's successor at The New York Times in the summer of 2004. Muschamp's departure was accompanied by demands for a less star-obsessed, more ecumenical replacement. Ouroussoff was quickly presumed to be in the same mold as his predecessor, however, albeit not as self-involved or flamboyant. Indeed, one of Ouroussoff's debut articles, entitled The New New York Skyline,, applauding a trio of luxury towers by Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry, picked up seamlessly, jumping on Muschamp's favorite hobbyhorse: Manhattan's skyline was once a monument to the relentless forces of modernity, but for decades now the city's reputation as a center of architectural experimentation has been losing ground to London, Barcelona, Beijing, and Shanghaii? Similarly Muschampian was a shrill attack on MoMA's architectural leadership and, in a tribute to Philip Johnson, a description of the Four Seasons as one of the sexiest rooms in the city, with beaded steel curtains that conjure up a woman's slipp?an embarrassing echo of Herbert's evocation of the Guggenheim Bilbao in terms of Marilyn Monroe's skirts. If Koolhaas for years dominated Muschamp's fevered imagination, Ouroussoff's admiration for Gehry and Thom Mayne has likewise already occasioned a lot of New York newsprint. Nor have international celebrities like Herzog & de Meuron and Coop Himmelb(l)au escaped his appreciative attention as, befitting a paper that sees its beat as the whole world, Ouroussoff has begun to file from offshore datelines. At the same time, a string of recent pieces reflecting a firsthand look at New Orleans, and more generally on preservation and urban revitalization issues from Cairo to Columbus Circle and Ground Zero, are evidence of his willingness to take on challenging issues beyond aesthetics.

Christopher Hawthorne, the youngest of the four critics at 35, was appointed to his post at the Los Angeles Times after Ouroussoff's elevation to New York. A graduate of Yale architecture school, he was previously architecture critic a Slate.com. Hawthorne writes lucidly and forcefully, appreciates the complexities of urban planning and the pragmatics of building construction, and doesn't hesitate to tackle intractable issues like the politics of sprawl. He is interested in the back story, and not afraid to state his opinion, even if it's unlikely to win friends. He reserves a certain irony with respect to high-wattagee architecture, as he calls ittnot that he's hostile to it, just streetwise enough not to swallow it whole. Hawthorne effortlessly combines smart visual commentary with informed historical contextualization. It's hard to say whether his greater-depth approach is sufficiently accessible to the general readership. I'm impressed, though, and look forward to following his writing more closely.

It is hardly surprising that in each case the critic reflects the newspaper and city in which he writes. It is also the case that, while all four write professionally, fluently, and at times with passion and verve, none approaches the commanding intellect and culture of, say, a Mumford, or the witty acuity of a Reyner Banham. Huxtable, in her classic Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?? period, used her podium to galvanize a broad base of support for urban improvement, as Jane Jacobs did during the same epoch with her blockbuster Death and Life of Great American Cities. More recently, Muschamp, for all his excesses, was able to grab the public imagination with a maverick style that interspersed flashes of genuine insight and originality. In a more political vein, sharp critics like Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin, contributing to publications like The Nation and the old Village Voice, have attracted loyal adherents, although it's difficult to imagine either of them writing for a mainstream newspaper.

The architecture critic at the general-interest publication has the obligation to write for both a specialist and nonspecialist audience, walk a fine line between advocacy and partisanship, and do more than register new trends. Writing without benefit of historical retrospectionnmost of the time before the project has ceased to be a construction site or computer renderingghe or she has the job of exposing the conditions in which architecture is produced and consumed; to paraphrase Manfredo Tafuri, it's a matter of going backstage rather than continuing to observe the spectacle from a seat in the audience. Beyond this, it helps to love architecture and cities, and to write with a deep knowledge of history, a strong commitment to the public and environmental good, a precise understanding of how buildings are constructed, and (not least) a discerning eye.
Joan Ockman, an architectural historian, teaches at Columbia University and is the director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.

 

Marisa Bartolucci reads the trades and special-interest magazines,
and sympathizes with architects who say they don't.

This era of kaleidoscopic change shouts out for sagacious critics. We need them to parse the shifting scene and discern imaginative and ethical arcrhitectural esponses. Yet the critical offerings in general interest magazines and the architectural trades are scant. Why some choose to feature criticism, and others don't is bafflinggand depressing. With so much development going on in the city, how can New York magazine be without a critic?

Of what's available, according to this writer's informal poll, little of it is read by architects. Why? Insipid and irrelevant is a common claim. Maybe that's why not long ago a readers' survey at Architecture magazine revealed that its most widely read sections were the editorial and protest pagessthe only places serving up opinion on topical matters.

After perusing an admittedly haphazard sampling of criticism in trade and other special-interest media (i.e., literary, shelter, or weekly publications), I contend there is work out there that's penetrating in analysis, even pertinent to private practice, although little is exhilarating in vision.

Alas, there's no Lewis Mumford on the horizon. (And that may be the fault of magazine editorssgood critics need nurturing.) The Skyline column in The New Yorker long served as the podium for that great thinker. From its heights, he championed Frank Lloyd Wright when others declared him dated; warned against technology dominating human purpose; and railed against the mediocrity of the design for the United Nations Headquarters. (How little things change.)

Today a critic dubbed the great equivocatorr occupies that podium. Although he wields great power, Paul Goldberger seldom strays from consensus views. On occasion, when he does advocate, people listen. A recent article urging that the present plan for Ground Zero be dumped in favor of incorporating cutting-edge residential architecture may have helped galvanize Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to make noises about wresting control of the project.

But if we are not to find challenging architectural criticism in The New Yorker, where else can we look? To the online opinionmaker Slate.com? There, the professorial Witold Rybczynski regularly teaches Beltway readers how to evaluate buildings and understand the forces that shape them. His brief essays range from book reviews to project critiques. An article on why architect-designed emergency housing seldom works was right on the money. But his taste is stale: He applauded David Child's latest version of the Freedom Tower as the best yet.

Until recently, Martin Filler held forth at The New Republic. Why he has absented that post is a mystery and a loss. He is a terrific critic. Flinty principle sparks his writing, which is subtle, but mordant. He insists that great architecture encompasses more than aesthetics. He doesn't shirk from attacking big names.

If the decision makers at Ground Zero had read his review of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum they might not have mistaken schmaltz for architecture. In a prescient line about the museum, Filler summed up all that would be wrong with Libeskind's Freedom Tower plan: There is such a thing as architecture being too artful for its avowed function, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin is a fine illustration of that conundrum..

While at The New Republic, Filler tackled the usual celebrity suspectssprobably the only ones his Washington-focused editors considered worthy. Every so often, for The New York Review of Books, he contributes long, probing essays on subjects like the rebuilding of Berlin or the rebuilding of Ground Zero. These pieces allow him to show off his ample erudition and his fine eye. Architects, take a subscription.

Meanwhile, in his bimonthly column for shelter magazine House & Garden, his choice of subjects has been eclectic, ranging from a celebration of the planned community of Radburn, New Jersey, to a trenchant critique of Yoshio Taniguichi's Museum of Modern Art. The big new MoMA amounts to little, architecturally,, he writes. It is no small irony that the museum that codified the International Style and thus exerted a profound influence on 20th-century architecture again finds itself in a building markedly less distinguished than the unequaled modern treasures it contains..

Filler's unflinching assessment is noteworthy in light of the vacillating judgments of his peers. In Architectural Record, Suzanne Stephens intrepidly enumerated the $450 million building's numerous flaws, but in the end, still heaped on the praise: It's what the Modern always wanted to be.. Is it any wonder why practitioners don't read these journals? Reportedly, even Taniguchi is disappointed.

At this architecture tabloid, Julie Iovine brings bracing realism to her new Crit column. Last July, she took a detached look at the sudden wave of wildly ambitious urban development schemes being proposed for the city and their suspiciously enthusiastic civic and critical embrace. If such clear-thinking, straight-talking works are what's ahead, this column may become a must-read.

But few publications provide the gritty evaluations of what works and what doesn'ttthe information architects crave because it relates to their practices. This should be a service of the trades, as important as their reporting on the latest developments in materials and building science. Instead, they focus only on presenting glossy images of flashy, big-name projects. These are carefully described, but only superficially assessed. Rushing to publish as soon as the last nail is hammered, as if buildings were the latest Paris fashions, leaves little time to gather reports on how a building functions. Without such information how can true judgments be made of an architect's achievements, both aesthetic and technical?

Architectural Record's regular Critique column features alternating essays by Robert Campbell and Michael Sorkin, which ruminate more than provoke. But sometimes sparks do fly. Last April, Campbell carped about the notion of architecture as symbol. Two issues later, Sorkin ambushed him. It wasn't sporting, but in a series of dazzlingly erudite thrusts and parries, he shredded Campbell's argument.

Face-offs like these energize everyone's critical thinking. Last June, The Prospect, a British monthly, published a series of letters between Deyan Sudjic and Charles Jencks debating, coincidentally, the merits of iconic architecture. Following the divergence and convergence of their views on subjects ranging from aesthetics to professional ethics was fascinating.

The most brilliant critic on our shores may be Sorkin. His essays can take you on a thrill ride through learned discourse, lefty idealism, pop culture, and occasionally, Jewish shtick. Why he never won a Pulitzer when he was at the Village Voice is a scandal. (Huxtable, Temko, Goldberger, Campbell, and Kamin all have them.) Sorkin may be a smarty pants, but he is fearless. He skewered Philip Johnson when he was architecture's minence grise. (Most critics waited until after his death to bury him.) A year ago, Sorkin called Frank Gehry on the moral incongruity of designing a satellite to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalemma city with little tolerance for its own Palestinian citizens and neighbors. Eminence has its responsibility,, he observed, which extends beyond the realm of professional practice.. An intrepid thinker, a joker, a scholar, a moral iconoclast, Sorkin represents what every young architecture critic should aspire to be.

Certainly, he is a model for Philip Nobel, who has enlivened the pages of Metropolis for the past few years. Nobel sure writes well. Like adolescent love letters, Nobel's columns can ache with emotion. And that's not a bad thing. He makes you believe great buildings matter. But the trouble with adolescents, who like Nobel swing between idealism and cynicism, is they're self-absorbed. No matter what Nobel writes about, it always comes back to him. At times he verges on slipping into Muschampian territory, which can lead, as we all know, to critical oblivion.

Architecture needs smart, brave voices. Nobel's got one. If he can concentrate on substance, he might make more architects into readers. And just maybe improve the profession.
Marisa Bartolucci lives in New York and writes about design.

 

Vittorio Gregotti ruminates on criticism in Italy, the epicenter of
architectural publishing, and asserts its inextricable link to history.

The state of architectural criticism in Italyyand probably in much of Europeeis rooted in a theoretical attitude that belongs to the tradition of architectural history. The members of this tradition include the critics and historians of my generation, whose most important representative was Manfredo Tafuri, who was a follower of Giulio Carlo Argan, a Marxist and one-time mayor of Rome, and the most important critic and historian of modern architecture between 1930 and 1960. Two other important critics of the 20th century, albeit ones coming from a different and opposing point of view, are Leonardo Benevolo and Bruno Zevi, who despite their scholarship, were inclined to write occasionally for non-specialized public- ations, such as daily newspapers and weekly magazines. A special position within this generation was occupied, too, by Ernesto Nathan Rogers, known for his accomplishments as an architect, editor of Domus, and Casabella, and cultural polemicist.

In Italy, architecture critics, in the strict sense of the term (thus excluding historians and university professors of history), operate in a relatively narrow field because the mass media are not interested in the specific problems of architecture as a practice and culture. Only two daily newspapers in Italy express an ongoing critical interest in architecture: the economics newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and the general interest La Repubblica. Fulvio Irace writes for the former, while I myself have been contributing to the latter for about 10 years. Of the general-interest weekly magazines, only L'Espresso publishes a regular column dedicated to architecture, which was written for many years written by Bruno Zevi and has been written by architect Massimiliano Fuksas since 2000. Printed articles in other daily newspapers and weekly magazines are both rare and infrequent. Italian television offers few opportunities to speak about architecture; when it does, it is usually in relationship to exceptional exhibitions or events, and done in a very general and superficial manner. When mainstream media does look at architecture, it is to gawk at technical marvels, scandalous episodes of building speculation, and sometimes sociological issues, for example, concerning housing. In recent years, the aesthetic novelties proposed by architects have also generated interest, with special focus on bizarre elements, justified by a generic idea of creativity. Such coverage tends to make architecture resemble objects of mass consumption and entertainment.

Italy naturally boasts a vast range of specialized architectural magazines: Area, the newest and most luxurious publication, is solidly focused on architectural construction; Architettura, cronaca e storia, founded by Bruno Zevi, is now decisively on the wane; Parametro and Abitare, suspended somewhere between interior design and architecture; and Rassegna, which has recently returned with a more aesthetic and technological focus. Op. Cit is a small magazine full of critical reflections that is published in Naples. Lotus occupies a special position because of its thematic format and its attitude towards confronting various issues on a more theoretical level. Giornale dell'Architettura, directed by Carlo Olmo and published every 15 days, appears to be more innovative and aimed at uniting the criticism, discipline, and politics of architecture.

Italy can boast no relevant publications by any architecture school, despite the exorbitant number of studentssroughly 60,0000which is far out of proportion to the actual demand for architects in the country. There are more fashion, furniture, and design magazines that cover the middle ground shared by architects' activities and the problems of architecture.

The saddest story affects the country's two most important architectural magazines, which were once so influential. On the one hand, Casabella (which I myself edited from 1982 to 1996) has lost its traditional critical influence and position in the debate about architecture. On the other, Domus has assumed a conventional and modish take on architecture as fashion. Domus has opened itself to the strong influences of the visual arts or those who wish to substitute buildings with events,, influenced by Koolhaasian sociology of spontaneity.

If we exclude the publications that deal strictly with the history of architecture, even the history of modernist architecture, the architectural essays typically produced in Italy can be divided into two major types: monographs on currently practicing architects (Italian and non) and specifically critical essays. While the specimens in former group are over-abundant, even in the rhetoric of their editorial presentation, examples of the latter are quite rare and tend to receive much less attention. A third type of publication is the architecture exhibition catalogue. In this category, particular importance is helddin my opinion, entirely negativeeby the architectural exhibitions of the Venice Biennale, the Triennale di Milano, or other elaborate, event-like productions, such the 2004 Arte e Architettura exhibition organized in Genoa by Germano Celant, who contributed to confusing architecture and the visual arts, attempting to reduce the first to the second.

Naturally, plenty of writers are producing treatises about fashionable topics, such as computer-generated design, the politics of urban planning, ecology, or general aesthetic trends. These theoretical philosophies are, in general, hurried deductions and poorly interpreted.

The debate between ancient and modern is particularly relevant in the Italian historical-geographical context. It is contested on the one hand by the globalist and anti-contextual ideology that tends to make any work of architecture an enlarged design object, and on the other by institutions that tend to concentrate debate on single, monumental examples rather than dealing with the design of the urban environment or the landscape as an essential part of the actual construction of architecture. In this arena, Salvatore Settis is undoubtedly one of the most seriously involved figures operating at the critical level. The professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and former director of the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art writes for diverse publications, including Il Sole 24 Ore.

Practicing architects write very little, unless it is for reasons of self-justification. If I had to name two writers who are dealing intelligently with theoretically-based issues, I would limit myself to mentioning Bernardo Secchi, who teaches urban planning at the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, for his investigations into urban and territorial issues related to the city and the landscape; and architect Franco Purini for issues dealing with the logic ofarchitectural morphology.

In any case, Italian architecture currently lives a general crisis of uncertainty. It is totally dependent on the ideologies of the global market, marginally concerned with technique and science, and hiding behind the neo-avant-gardism of the diffused aesthetic of consumerism. As a result, critical voices who understand architecture as capable of serving as the foundation for a civil society have become increasingly rare.
Architect, city planner, and author, Vittorio Gregotti is the principal of Gregotti Associati. He contributes the regular architecture criticism column to La Repubblica.

Because the entitlements of loss and grief are the third rail of the [WTC] rebuilding effort, no one has challenged the subversion of the aims and intent of the plan. The parts that speak of hope and the future have not been able to survive the pressure for a single-minded commitment to the tragic past ... No one has had the courage, or conviction, to demand that the arts be restored to their proper place as one of the city's greatest strengths and a source of its spiritual continuity. We have lost what we hoped to gainna creative rebirth downtown. At Ground Zero, what should be first is last. An affirmation of life is being reduced to a culture of death.
Ada Louise Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2005

 

 

 

 

Rem Koolhaassnow the most overexposed architect since Frank Gehry, is likely to be the token avant-garde contestant. He has already declared his interestt?I seem to be one of the few architects who liked enormously the World Trade Centerr? Self-serving though that tribute to Minoru Yamaski's behemoths may sound, Koolhaas has indeed always indulged a perverse weakness for Nelson Rockefeller's most bombastic architectural boondoggles, particularly those designed by his court architect Wallace K. Harrison, to whose chilly 1950s-style urbanism he paid homage in his retrograde master plan for the French city of Lille.
Martin Filler, The New Republic, September 6, 2002

 

 

 

How skyscrapers meet the ground is as important as how they scrape the sky. It is not encouraging that Calatrava's tower will emerge from a tiered, four-story podium like a stripper popping out of a cake. That is a crude way to bring a skyscraper to the street. It makes this tower resemble a piece of sculpture on a pedestal, fit for an on-the-make, look-at-me Persian Gulf boomtown like Dubai. But this is Chicago, where we don't need to put ourselves on the map. We need great architectureeand the thoughtful civic debate that is essential to creating it.
Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2005

 

 

 

We have high expectations of our best artists because their work and words carry special weight. It is not possible to build this project [Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem] without an opinion on larger issuessreal issues of toleranceein the region. What is Gehry's? This is not a question of the use of titanium versus Jerusalem stone. It is one of justice.
Michael Sorkin, Architectural Record, June 2004

 

 

 

What twins [Marilyn Monroe] and the [Guggenheim Bilbao] in my memory is that both of them stand for an American style of freedom. That style is voluptuous, emotional, intuitive, and exhibitionist. It is mobile, fluid, material, mercurial, fearless, radiant and as fragile as a newborn child. It can't resist doing a dance with all the voices that say ''No.'' It wants to take up a lot of space. And when the impulse strikes, it likes to let its dress fly up in the air.
Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times, September 7, 1997

 

 

 

If the very idea that has, arguably more than any other, helped define Southern California for a century has been rendered obsolete, what does that mean for the region's vision of itself? Will density spell the end of the unique relationship between Angelenos and their houses? Will residential architecture simply fade as a factor in defining the city in the coming century? The great challenge for the city's residential architects over the next couple decades will be making the old model of affordable charisma fresh and relevant again for a post-sprawl (or even a post-post-sprawl) Los Angeles.
Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times,
July 7, 2005

 

 

 

Even at this early stage, the [planned East River] esplanade is one of the few current projects to give voice to a young generation of architects intent on redefining our vision of the contemporary metropolis. Along with the High Lineewhich transforms a section of gritty elevated tracks in downtown into a public gardennit represents a clear and much-needed break from the quaint Jane Jacobssinspired vision of New York that is threatening to transform Manhattan into a theme park version of itself, a place virtually devoid of urban tension. It proves that there are still some in the city who are culturally daring, even if their numbers at times seem to be dwindling.
Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times,
June 28, 2005

 

 

 

Lincoln Center has sometimes seemed less the vibrant source of the neighborhood's energy than the empty hole in the middle of the doughnut. Often there is more buzz on the sidewalk in front of the multiplex theater a couple of blocks north, or amid the parade of mall-like retail stores that now line Broadway, than there is at Lincoln CenterrLincoln Center needs, desperately, a shot of adrenalinee
Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, July 7, 2003

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THE POST-MILITARY CONTEXT

Hombroich, an ex-NATO missile base near Cologne, Germany, has been turned into a public art and architecture park. And in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, a design-driven subdivision blossoms. The answer to post-military landscapes seems to be contemporary architecture. Andrew Yang reports.

Erwin Heerich's brick pavilions were some of the first buildings to be realized on Insel Hombroich.
Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Insel Hombroich Foundation

On October 7, the Center for Architecture unveils Field Experiments in art-architecture-landscape: Hombroich spaceplacelab, an exhibition that examines the conversion of a former NATO base on a patch of land known as Hombroich, near Cologne, Germany, into a utopia for art and architecture. Decommissioned in 1990, just after German reunification, the former missile base has been occupied since 1995 by the arts nonprofit the Insel Hombroich Foundation, started by art collector Karl-Heinrich MMller. With echoes of Marfa, Texassthe remote military-base-turned-art-preserve conceived in 1979 by Donald Juddd Insel Hombroich will see to the transformation of 650 acres of rolling green fields into a showcase of works by artists and architects, including lvaro Siza, Shigeru Ban, Frei Otto, and Tadao Ando.

Named Insel,, or island, for its remote location, Insel Hombroich was purchased by MMller to house his vast private art collection. Shortly after, MMller enlisted sculptor Erwin Heerich to create a series of pavilions, housing galleries, residences, meeting spaces, and a cafeteria that have become the Museum Insel Hombroich. Furthermore, many of the site's rocket silos and existing administrative buildings have been converted into artists' studios and residences. By the time Raimund Abraham was asked to create the first architect-designed structure for the site in 1997, MMller became committed to the idea of developing a collection of art buildings created by an international coterie of talents. He asked Danish artist Per Kirkeby to design a bus stop, train station, and eight additional buildings and pavilions, which were completed in 2000.

Tadao Ando's Langen Foundation Building in Insel Hombroich was completed in 2004.
Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Langen Foundation

Since then, Museum Insel Hombroich has invited 16 artists and architects to submit concepts for structures that would house art and engage the landscape. Each project was allotted 40 acresswith a central design requirement that they occupy only 10 percent of their plot. The remaining 90 percent is to be devoted to nature, such as woods, meadows, or landcaped areas. The museum soon realized that it needed a master plan to organize the new projects, which will be phased in over the next 30 years. That task fell to Barbara Hoidn and Wilfried Wang, from the Berlin-based firm Hoidn Wang Partners, who also curated the exhibition at the Center for Architecture.

The prospect of redeveloping a former military site for artistic use has great practical as well as symbolic value. In much the same way that industrial spaces have become versatile venues for artists' studios and art galleries, a decommissioned military base is ripe with opportunities for its sheer expanse, isolation, and open-endedness. The advantage of Hombroich is that it offers complete freedom,, said Hoidn. The artists were left to interpret the landscape as they pleased.. Moreover, the program's emphasis on nature and creativity has resulted in designs that bring new life to grounds that were once devoted to weapons of destruction.

A bridge extends from one of Heerich's pavilions over the site's natural pond.
Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Langen Foundation

In 2000, Marianne Langen, another art collector, sought out MMller to house her and her husband's collection on the Hombroich site. With his guidance, she hired Ando to design the Langen Foundation building, a concrete box within a glass box, floating on a shallow pool of water. The building, completed in 2004, adheres to the architectural vision set out for Hombroich. More new structures could evolve at Hombroich in this manner, as needed.

Hombroich is one of the most ambitious examples of how art and architecture are being leveraged as tools for revitalization, as culture steadily replaces industry as a basis for the new economy. Nearby, in Duisberg, Emscher Park, a vibrant recreational attraction was forged from a dead industrial zone. The hope for Hombroich is that it also becomes an ideal environment for cultural production.

An office and gallery pavilion sit on a former NATO site that is verdant, open, and sprawling.
Tomas Riehle / Courtesy Langen Foundation

To provide a global context for Hombroich, the Center for Architecture will present two smaller exhibitionssone on Marfa, the home of the Chinati Foundation, and the other on an architecturally driven art settlement in Heyri, South Korea (both of which I helped to organize). Marfa, which opened in 1986, and Heyri, which started construction in 2000, could not be more different in scale and scope from Hombroich, yet they all share similarities such as optimism and faith in the power of art and architecture to transform the histories and fates of their sites.

In Heyri, South Korea, the community house was designed by the town's masterplanners, Jong Kyu Kim and Jun Sung Kim.
JongOh Kim / Courtesy Jong Kyu Kim / Jun Sung Kim

Whereas the art completely transforms Marfa's landscape and attempts to make the architecture secondary or virtually invisible on the site, the buildings in Heyri are dominant in the rolling hills of the Gyeonggi-do province in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. In the late-1990s, as the relationship between the two countries began to ease, and the DMZ became less of a contested site, the government sought approaches to develop this lush terrain, which is less than an hour by train from Seoul. A group of community-minded Koreans, led by the chairman of a large Korean art-publishing house, acquired the land from the government and conceived of a community where individuals could buy lots and build their own housessaccording to certain architectural guidelines. With 80 dramatic, assertive buildings already completed by firms including Minsuk Cho, Studio Himma, Yekong Architects, and SHoP, Heyri is already a showcase of progressive architecture, and a snapshot of what tabula rasa planning can produce in Asia. Glass, concrete, and steel are the favored palette among the residences, galleries, film studio, retail shops, and schools that now occupy the site. An additional 310 lots are slated for development.

Hombroich, Marfa, and Heyri may be milessand worldssaway from the constrained geography of New York City. However, there is one local site that shares a similar, pending transformation: Governors Island. The 172-acre island, which has served as a military installation since 1776, was transferred in 2003 to the U.S. Department of the Interior and is now managed by the National Park Service. It is currently in a process of being planned for arts, tourism, entertainment, and other uses. The freedom seen at Insel Hombroich comes from not being afraid to experiment,, said Hoidn. What can New York learn from Hombroich? Give quality a chance,, advised Hoidn. And don't compromise too early.. Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.

The Hansook Cheong Memorial, a gallery devoted to a late novelist, was designed by Moongyu Choi of Ga.A Architects.
JUNGSIK MOON / COURTEESY GA.A ARCHITECTS
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Season’s Readings

Architectural publishers are a hyperactive bunchha reflection of the audience they serve, no question. with mountains of books signaling the arrival of a new season, we decided it was time to sort out the best.

The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream
Meredith L. Clausen,
MIT Press, $45.00 (hard)


The turmoil surrounding the redevelopment of the World Trade Center might seem unprecedented but Meredith Clausen reminds us that we've been here before. The history of the Pan Am Building at Park Avenue and 45th Street is as contentious as that of any building in Manhattan, involving celebrity architects, power-brokering, even death at the blade of a helicopter. This biography of a landmark proves to be a cautionary tale.

 

BBK
Various authors, BBkAmerica,
$1.49 each (paper)


Each book in this brand new collection of pocket-sized pamphlets is meant to be read in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee. At $1.49 each, they also cost less than the average lattt. But the content of the miniature volumes is weightier than might be expected: Each BBK contains an essay, short story, picture portfolio, or biography, some old and some new. Texts range from Jonathan Swift's 18th-century satire A Modest Proposal to Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight's essay on the planningof the Washington mall, The Mall in Peril.

 

The Modern Procession
Francis Alls
Public Art Fund, dist. by D.A.P., $24.95 (hard, including DVD)



The Museum of Modern Art's return to Manhattan left its temporary quarters in Queens nearly forgotten. This book recalls the journey organized in June 2002 by Belgian-born, Mexico-based artist Francis Alls designed to commemorate the original move to the outer borough. The procession, in which 200 participants shouldering replicas of some of MoMA's best known workssand artist Kiki Smithhmarched from West 53rd Street to Long Island City, is documented in images, text, and film.

 

  Nothing Less Than Literal
Mark Linder,
MIT Press, $40.00 (hard)


Mark Linder looks at the cross-pollination of ideas between minimalist artists and architects in the late 1960s. Examining writing by figures like Colin Rowe and Robert Smithson as well as the work of more recent architects like John Hejduk and Frank Gehry, Linder claims that, contrary to conventional wisdom, architecture preceded art in the development of the formal language of minimalism.

 

Brooklyn: New Style
Liz Farrelly
Booth-Clibborn Editions, $45.00(paper)


Brooklynites can be noisy in their preference for their borough, but this compendium of work by resident artists and designers of every stripe shows that there is plenty to boast about. The Architect's Newspaper's own art director Martin Perrin imposes order on the diverse and unruly nature of the work by organizing it by zip code, and intersperses descriptions of each artist and his or her work with photographs of the rooftops, streetscapes, train tracks, and waterfront that inspire it.

 

  Record Pictures: Photographs From the
Archives of the Institution of Civil Engineers
Michael Collins
Steidl/MACK, $50.00 (hard)


>Record picturess was the name given to the photographic accounts of civil engineering projects in the 19th century, and artist Michael Collins has gathered a series of these extraordinary images into a book of the same name. While the photographs of railways, bridges, and power stations have specific documentary concerns, one can see them as precursors to the precise typological studies of Bernd and Hilla Becher and the many students who emerged from their influential Dusseldorf school.

 

Cruelty & Utopia: Cities and Landscapes of Latin America
Eduardo Baez, Jean-Francois Lejeune
Princeton Architectural Press, $45.00 (paper)


This catalogue for an exhibition of the same name, held in 2003 at the International Center for Urbansim, Architecture, and Landscape in Brussels and organized by Jean-Francois Lejeune, tries to get at the contradictions in Latin American cities like Quito, Lima, and Mexico City by looking to their roots. From the overlay of the 1573 Law of the Indies on ancient Aztec cities to Le Corbusier's pleasure in Brazil's vibrant public sphere, the essays included in this book immerse readers in the complex development of urbanism in Latin America.

 

  Ornaments of the Metropolis:
Siegfried Kracauer and Modern Urban Culture
Henrik Reeh
MIT Press, $39.95 (hard)


Sigfried Kracauer's writings on cities have never been as well known as his film work, but reward a look. In this slim but dense book, Henrik Freeh analyzes the early essays and autobiographical novel of the architect turned social theorist and critic. He shows that, for Kracauer, ornament was not merely a pleasantly decorative addition to buildings and streets but central to the way each of us understands cities. Freeh's own photographs illustrate his text.

 

  Pioneers of Modern Design, From William
Morris to Walter Gropius
Nikolaus Pevsner; revised and expanded by Richard Weston
Yale University Press, $40.00 (hard)


If you only know Nikolaus Pevsner's 1936 book from one of its later black-and-white paperback Penguin editions, this new larger format book will come as a revelation. Pevsner was an early champion of modernism and contended that it was the only true and appropriate style for contemporary architecture. While theorists like Manfredo Tafuri and others have shown his argument to be oversimplified and limited, this new Yale edition supports Pevsner's stance with luscious color photography that makes it easy to understand why he believed a new world order was on the horizon.

Compiled by Deborah Grossberg, Anne Guiney, Philip Tidwell, and William Menking

 

The New International Style

Modern House Three
Raul Barreneche
Phaidon, $69.95 (hard)

The New Modern House
Will Jones
Princeton Architectural Press, $35.00 (paper)

Housey Housey: A Pattern Book
of Ideal Homes
Claire Melhuish and Pierre d'Avoine Architects
Black Dog Press, $39.95 (hard)

Call it the triumph of hope over experience. Architectural publishers continue to put out glossy modern house books promoting better, smarter ways of living, even as McMansion subdivisions metastasize the world's remaining open spaces. Yes, it's true: American-style tract houses are being as enthusiastically consumed by the rest of the world as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Britney Spears.

If there is good news, it's that the modern housee has also gone global. Modern House Three by New York writer Raul A. Barreneche and The New Modern House by London-based Will Jones show us residential architecture that's stylishly international in its concerns and referencesssomething Philip Johnson could never have imagined. Tellingly, two of the most intriguing examples featured in Modern House Three are in China. In the misty foothills of Qinlin, the Shanghai architect Ma Qing Yun has built a stately modernist box of concrete masonry and wood that reverently recalls Louis Kahn. Yet details like the local river stones set into the exterior walls and the interior of woven bamboo sheeting make this an architecture entirely of its place.

Bloembollenhof, a housing subdivision
in Vijfhuisen, Netherlands, designed by S333, brings together clean modern forms, simple materials (like wood panels and corrugated steel), and innovative planning.
Courtesy princeton architectural press

Meanwhile, in the countryside outside of Beijing and in sight of the Great Wall, Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has designed a house to serve the extraordinary vista. The striking timber-covered rectangular box, banded by large windows, is set on a tall concrete base. Inside, the main floor is a vast loftlike space with folding partition walls that can be configured in numerous ways. A hidden ladder pulls down from the ceiling for entry to the rooftop terrace, and pneumatically hinged trap doors in the floor open for access to sleeping quarters (accommodating up to 14 people), as well as a kitchen, bathrooms, storage, and a meditation chamber. Chang has radicalized the weekend house.

With only a few exceptions, the 33 dream houses profiled in Barreneche's insightful, handsomely designed coffee-table tome are the high-style showplaces of the design-conscious rich. By contrast, Will Jones' modest soft-cover book presents a more idiosyncratic collection, ranging from single-family residences to unbuilt concepts, prefab secondary homes to multifamily housing. Among the 40 projects featured are quirky examples like British architect Laurie Chetwood's Butterfly House in Surrey. Fashioned from cables, wires, fiber optics and sculptural metalwork, it depicts a caterpillar's metamorphosis. There's also Bloembollenhof, a housing estate in the Netherlands, designed by the Dutch firm S333 as an alternative to suburban sprawl. The firm devised four simple low-rise building types with gables, dormers, and skylights that can be variously arranged to create 52 different homes, from single dwellings to townhouse blocks. Constructed out of wood and corrugated steel, the buildings resemble farm structures. By massing them closely together, the architects have helped preserve the rural character of the surrounding landscape.

In Gary Chang's 2002 Suitcase House
in Badaling, near the Great Wall in China,
pneumatic hinges prop open trap doors that open to sleeping quarters below the floors.
Courtesy phaidon

Another perspective on the modern house is offered in Housey Housey by the Bombay-born British architect Pierre d'Avoine and his wife, architecture writer and ethnologist Clare Melhuish. Subtitled A Pattern Book of Ideal Homes, it is an assemblage of 23 housing plans, drawn from D'Avoine's 20 years of practice and research in residential design in Britain and abroad. While appealing and contemporary, these are not showy, mega-dollar projects. They are instead highly original responses to real-world building conditions, which should make them particularly useful to most architects. Take the prefab Piper Penthouses that were lifted onto the rooftop of a converted London apartment building by crane. Or the large two-story Invisible House neatly inserted into the former back garden of a suburban London house. So as not to disturb the views of neighbors, one of its floors was dug into the ground. NIMBYism, it seems, exists everywhere.

These three books demonstrate just how universal a language modern design has become. Let's hope more architects the world over can teach their clients, especially developers, to speak it.
Marisa Bartolucci lives in New York and writes about architecture, art, and culture.

 

Tschumi on Moneo

Theoretical Anxiety and Design Strategies in
the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects
Rafael Moneo
ACTAR/MIT Press, $39.95 (paper)

Rafael Moneo is a major figure in world architecture, at once a respected designer and an important influence in Spanish building culture. He is also an excellent teacher. His new book, Theoretical Anxieties and Architectural Strategies in the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects, is largely texts expanded from lectures given in the early- to mid-1990s at Harvard's GSD and Madrid's Circulo de Bellas Artes, and it keeps the livee feel of a master performance. His subject is an influential group of architects, all except one Pritzker Prize winners like himself. The result is an exacting but easy read that unfolds like a novel by Italo Calvino. In Calvino's Invisible Cities, the explorer describes dozens of cities but at the end confesses that they evoke a single topossVenice, the city he loves above all others. Moneo describes architecture similarly. This is his own perspective, but he elaborates architecture's nooks and crannies. But what view of architecture are we talking about here?

Could Moneo's Venicee be regional? Reading Theoretical Anxieties, I was reminded of an event in Barcelona nearly 20 years ago, where I was invited to introduce my first built project to an audience of architects. I talked about architecture and culture, film and literary criticism, establishing parallels and suggesting cross-fertilization among disciplines. At the end came outrage: No crossovers, please: Architecture is architecture, literature is literature, film is film!! To this day, the certainty of the audience puzzles me. Is architecture an absolute value that can be isolated from everything around it? To find out more, I read further in Moneo's book.

Moneo discusses each architect in turn, beginning with an introduction that explains the architect's intentions and concerns and then proceeding to a group of projects he considers exemplary of the designer's oeuvre. This structure works well, and the grainy black-and-white illustrations do not detract from the rhythm of the reading. He sets the tone in the first chapter on James Stirling: This book is about the architect's tools and forms. Stirling's tools are the section (in his early constructivist and 19th century industrial periodd) and the plan (in his later career, influenced by Corb's architectural promenade and Colin Rowe). Moneo characterizes Stirling's forms as a balance of massessachieved in a quasi-canonical mannerr when discussing the Leicester Engineering Building (1959963), which celebrates the meeting of the diagonal and the perimeter.. From the outset, Moneo's analysis is formal and compositional, at once praising the architectural landscape of the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie (1977783) and joining Rowe in lamenting its lack of facades.

Stirling rarely discussed theoretical concerns, but Robert Venturi and Aldo Rossi often did. Moneo excels in his analysis of these two figures. He not only describes their intentions with precision and clarity but, having lived through the ideologies of the era, can also assume a critical distance. Moneo's presentation of Rossi's view of typology as the embodiment of timelessness and permanence, and of type as a basis for temporal continuity, is accurate and insightful.

Moneo is less at ease in presenting Peter Eisenman's often far-ranging theories. He is more comfortable with formal analysis of Eisenman's work; he understands and reads with sensitivity and connoisseurship the frontality, shifts, intersections of planes, diagonals, rotations, and other devices that make up the architect's repertory. He confesses to being less impressed by [Eisenman's] sources of inspirationnincongruent, unnecessary borrowings from other fieldssthan by the skillful manipulation of formal proceedings.. Are these reservations symptomatic of Moneo's wish for a self-contained discipline of architecture? Or do they reflect his abiding view of architectural history as a history of forms, not concepts? (Later, commenting on Herzog & de Meuron, he writes that perhaps the only external field useful to architects is art.)

One of the elegant things about this book is Moneo's way of deconstructing how architects work. Would Frank Gehry recognize himself in Moneo's observation of Gehry's strategy of breaking apart the program, reshaping it through an elemental impulse, and searching for the appearance of immediacy? The description tells the reader as much about architectural strategy as about Gehry. Moneo convincingly differentiates Eisenman's and Gehry's attitudes toward representation, noting that if the first fetishizes traditions of graphic representation, the second fetishizes the more intuitive production of models. (Moneo is scathing about Gehry here: In the final analysis, to make architecture is to know how to make a model..) Although Moneo rarely discusses construction, he does mention Gehry's understanding of the American construction industry as well as the architect's avoidance of simulation, which Moneo associates with Eisenman and Venturi. But the formal takes precedence over the material in Moneo's comparison of Eisenman's Columbus Convention Center (1989993) to Gehry's Santa Monica Place Shopping Center (1980). Moneo never talks about the role of Los Angeles' climate on Gehry's early collaged materials, as opposed to the Swiss climate and its energy conservation laws on the continuous stucco surfaces he admires in Gehry's Vitra building, which he identifies as a new direction in the master's oeuvre.

Switzerland would have no architecture without insistence on materiality. Moneo correctly locates this interest in the work of Herzog & de Meuron, in which he observes, materials are what makes forms emerge.. But he again shows his desire to isolate architecture from construction. Because their work does not explicitly manipulate forms, he finds no personal gesturee in it. Here Moneo is limited by the fact that he discusses only works through the early 1990s. He perceptively characterizes their early work as a search for origins marked by fascination with the archaic, noting how they explore the formal potential of materialss in their Napa Valley winery or Swiss countryside projects. However, the book's scope precludes examining more recent, culturally informed projects in which surfaces and different components of architectural form provide receptacles for other, external influences. (Certainly Herzog & de Meuron's Tokyo Prada store of 2002 would have altered Moneo's view on their exploration of the archaic.)

This time restriction also limits his reading of Rem Koolhaas, whom he presents as a rigid anti-contextualist, for whom place doesn't matter.. This conclusion ignores the sophisticated dialogues that Koolhaas' recent buildings in Seattle, Berlin, Porto, and Chicago establish with the cultures in which they are located. Moneo is better at analyzing Koolhaas' individual projects than his overall project. For example, describing Koolhaas' stylistic mixings as cocktail architecturee is reductive, but elucidating Rem's flair for iconographic representations of programs, as in the Zeebrugge Ferry Terminal in Belgium (1989), makes for highly perceptive commentary. Given the writer's astute talent at establishing comparisons and parallels among different architects, I would have been interested in seeing a link developed between Rossi's view of type as a universal constant and Koolhaas' obsessive efforts to invent new typologies, which are never mentioned by Moneo.

Moneo's attention to architecture as architecturee finds its culmination in lvaro Siza's work. Perhaps because Siza's practice echoes Moneo's own cultural origins, it resonates throughout the book as a whole. Siza, Moneo writes, seems to want to tell us that he simply wants his architecture to reek' of architecture. And it is this aroma of architecture''or, if you wish, of what we understand as architectureethat we breathe in his works.. What in architecture reekss of architecture? Am I not religious enough to grasp it, or am I missinggor missing out onnsome attainable absolute value? Moneo revels in the formal operations of Siza's art, describing the Banco Pinto & Sotto Mayor (1971174) as an attempt to show architecture at its purest, devoid of phenomena and event.. Opposed to purely linguistic considerations,, it is a building that speaks of architecture and tries to offer the architectural experience in terms offits very essence: space in all purity, space without the limitations that use confines it to in buildings.. This is architecture in its most visual incarnation, an architecture of forms rather than ideas.

The exclusive view expressed in Theoretical Anxieties and Architectural Strategies begs a rhetorical question: In writing about literature and writers today, could one do so without examining the role of film, television, media, social politics, or theories of public and private space? Moneo's fundamental thesis about the arbitrary form at the very origin of our workk restricts architecture's terrain, leaving out issues of context and content. Yet within these preconceptions, few writers have addressed the territory with equal incisiveness or authoritative command. Hence the second question raised by this volume: How can an architect write well about his colleagues? Here Moneo's sharp insights and thorough research make for remarkable reading. But if there is a moment when Moneo's discerning commentary becomes outstanding, it is when he makes cross-comparisons among architects, establishing similarities, relations, and differences. It is at this point that Moneo is most potent and, to my mind, really talks about architectureewhich exists at the intersection of vastly different practicessby using these well-informed differences and adding information drawn from first-hand knowledge of the architects, their work, and his own. At this point Moneo moves beyond the common denominator of form to touch on the rich complexity of what architecture is. In the sense that architecture is between the lines, you have to read between the lines of this book. Bernard Tschumi is an architect in New York and Paris.

 

Guide to New York Guides

The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated
Record of the City's Historic Buildings
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel
Monacelli Press, $65.00 (hard)

City Secrets: New York City
Robert Kahn, editor
The Little Bookroom, $24.95 (hard)

Garden Guide: New York City
Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry
The Little Bookroom, $19.95 (paper)

Touring Gothamms Archaeological Past:
8 Self Guided walking Tours through New York City
Diana di Zerega Wall and Anne-Marie Cantwell
Yale University Press, $18.00 (paper)

City Art: New York's Percent for Art Program
Essay by Eleanor Heartney, introduction by Adam Gopnik
Merrell Publishers, $49.95 (paper)

The AIA Guide to New York by Elliot Wallinsky and Norval White was first published in 1967, but it remains the architecture guidebook to New York City against which all others must be measured. It is still the most comprehensive source on the city's architecture, primarily because it is one of the few to thoroughly survey all five boroughs, and includes more than 130 maps and 3,000 building images. Originally long and lean, it has gotten chunkier with each new edition. Its one drawback is that it is too bulky to be carried easily on walks. Also, it has not been revised since 2000 which means, for a city like New York, it's sure to have significant omissions.

A quick glance at the New York section of Urban Center Books makes it clear that many authors have tried to round out the picture.

In the armchair traveler category, the most satisfying new book is The Landmarks of New York by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a leading landmarks advocate and former member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The book is billed as the definitive history and guide to New York's most treasured structures,, although Robert A. M. Stern's three volumes on New York, published by Rizzoli, might also lay claim to this title. Landmarks of New York is a history of preservation in the city, and begins in 1831, when New Yorkers began to first fret that important buildings were being lost, and continues through the destruction of the World Trade Center. Along with every official landmarked building in the city, Diamonstein-Spielvogel includes many lesser-known but interesting examples, like the four Hunterfly Road Houses on Bergen Street in Brooklyn that were the center of an early black community in the 1830s.

There is also a growing number of idiosyncratic guides for locals who might think they know the city inside out. The pocket-sized City Secrets: New York compiles the favorite spots of writers, artists, filmmakers, architects, and others, presented with first-person reminiscences as well as directions and hours of public operation. There are many gems: Between the Enrico Caruso Museum in Brooklyn and the Capitol Fishing Tackle Company near the Chelsea Hotel, there is SOM's 1967 Marine Midland Bank in Lower Manhattan, accompanied by remarks from Richard Meier, who claims that with the exception of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim, the best works of architecture built in New York during the last half of the 20th century were the black buildings.. (The other two he cites are the Seagram Building and the CBS Building.)

Part of the same pocket-sized series is Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry's comprehensive Garden Guide: New York City. It features many little-known publicly accessible green spaces, such as the Lotus garden on the roof of a garage on West 91st Street, and community gardens like the Taqwa Community Farm and the Garden of Happiness, both in the Bronx.

The slim paperback Touring Gotham's Archaeological Past: 8 Self-Guided Walking Tours Through New York City is a guide to the city not only of today but of yesterday. It discusses Native American life here, the early development of the grid, and long-gone neighborhoods. It includes drawings of a 16th-century Dutch West India wind-powered sawmill and maps of the Lower Manhattan waterfront when it bumped up against Hanover Square. In a city that seems to change by the moment and quickly obscures its past, it is a pleasure to know what's under our feet as well as on the street.

Another often-overlooked feature of New York is its public art. City Art: New York's Percent for Art Program features the nearly 200 works of public art completed since the program's 1983 initiation. While many of these pieces are easily accessible, others are in obscure spots. With an introduction by New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik and an essay by art critic Eleanor Heartney, the book documents the work of several of the city's best known public artists and their experiences working for the city.

Kristen Jones and Andrew Ginzel's 1992 installation, Mnemonics, at Stuyvesant High School, featured in City Art.
Courtesy Merrell Publishers

These books are but a sampling of the range of New York City guidebooks, each with a strong point of view. While they contain many familiar landmarks and spaces, they also offer just enough that is new (or little-known) to allow you to see the city with the wide-open eyes of a tourist. William Menking is an editor at AN.

 

Singular pleasures

It's no secret that architects and designers are fantastic fetishists. Sensuous forms, hard details, or soft textures can be enough to arouse even the most mild-mannered among us. The greatest turn-on of all, though, might just be the monographhthose beautiful tomes that we love to possess, exhibit, and gaze at. Here are several recent publications that we found not only eye-popping but stimulating too.

Ando: Complete Works
Philip Jodidio
Taschen, $125.00 (hard)


Bruno Taut:
Alpine Architecture
Matthias Schirren
Prestel, $39.95 (hard)

David Adjaye: Houses
Peter Allison, ed.
Thames & Hudson, $45.00 (hard)


 

Emilio Ambasz:
A Technological Arcadia
Fulvio Irace, ed.
Skira, $70.00 (hard)

Event Cities 3: Concept vs. Context vs. Content
Bernard Tschumi
MIT Press, $35.00 (paper)

Joel Sanders: Writings and Projects
Joel Sanders
Monacelli Press, $40.00 (paper)

 

Nox: Machining
Architecture
Lars Spuybroek
Thames & Hudson, $49.95 (paper)

Peter Eisenman: Barefoot on
White-Hot Walls
Peter Noever, ed.
Hatje Cantz/D.A.P., $49.95 (paper)

The Charged Void:
Urbanism
Alison and Peter Smithson
Monicelli Press, $65.00 (hard)

 

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From The Belly of the Whale

With the theme Metamorph,the 9th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is an aquarium of exotic architectural creatures. Richard Ingersoll attempts to make sense of the mmlange.

Asymptote conceived of the environmental design for the Metamorph exhibition, which occupies the Corderie dell'Arsenale (left).
Renzo Piano Building Workshop's 2002 Parco della Musica in Rome (below right) resembles three beetles. Foster and Partner's The Sage
Gateshead in Northern England (below left), slated to open in December, looks like a giant sea slug.

It probably all began with a fish. Not GGnter Grass' tale of the world-weary flounder, but Frank O. Gehry's love of wiggly marine life. The hundreds of models that recently washed up for the central exhibition of the 9th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, installed in the half-kilometer-long Corderie dell'Arsenale, appear like partially digested morsels of underwater creatures clinging to a series of colossal, stark white plaster ribs. Snack food for the Leviathan. The trend in architecture, privileged by the Biennale's mercurial director, Kurt Forster, oscillates between the desire to represent natural forms that have metamorphosed from the conventional notion of building and the desire not to represent at all, but to create random shapes through the accidents of computer morphing.. Thus the exhibition's syncretic theme, Metamorph. The ribbed installation, designed by the digitally endowed New York office Asymptote, breaks down the interminable axis of the column-lined hall by placing each exhibition platform laterally, forcing the visitor to meander in picturesque circuits. Each of the three dozen podia has an irregular streamlined shape that is different from but related to the ones nearest it. These sinuous ribbons are fascinating as sculpture, work fairly well for exhibiting the displays (though the flat bases of each of the models had to be adjusted to the platforms' irregular surfaces), and invest the space with a resounding metaphoric unity. Like most of the projects in the show, however, Asymptote's ribs demonstrate a lack of interest in constructional or structural determinants, approaching form as something that could be grown rather than built.

As Hani Rashid, principal of Asymptote and spokesman for a new generation of digital designers put it, With the aid of computing a newly evolved architecture is emerging. It is within the grasp of architects and artists today to discover and evoke a digitally induced spatial delirium, where a merging of simulation and effect with physical reality creates the possibility of a sublime morphing from thought to actualization.. Let us agree that the Vitruvian categories of commodity and firmness have no place in this hallucinogenic purview. And even the third canonical objective, delight, is much abused. Those who visit the main exhibition of the Biennale will come away with a clear sense of a styleevaguely organic, neo-picturesque, and sublimely homely. Most of the projects also seem technically dubious and extremely expensive to build because of their awkward geometries. While there is an undercurrent of concern for the environment and many designs consciously simulate natural forms, there is no attempt to justify the works from a social, technical, or ecological point of view. Thus the show concentrates almost completely on a current tasteea new version of expressionismmthat appeals to some of the cultural elite of advanced capitalism. Forster, a Swiss-born art historian, the founding director of the Getty Center, and for two years the director of the Canadian Center for Architecture, came to the job with a formidable intellectual and institutional background. While one may take issue with the content of the Biennale, its concept has been convincingly displayed and given an excellent pedagogical armature in the three-volume catalogue. In some ways, the basis of the show was prepared by writer Marina Warner, who curated an art exhibition with a similar theme at the Science Museum in London in 2002. In her view, the taste for metamorphosis accompanies the anxious desire for self-transformation in an advanced technological society. Historian Juan Antonio Ramirez sees the trend in a more political light, especially after the events of September 11 in New York and March 11 in Madrid, declaring that the nascent 21st century's love affair with pulverized ruins, relies on the demolition of democratic institutions. Any analysis of our social political reality would define the sides of the triangle in which we move as: lies, usurpation, and ruin..

Unfortunately the critical and skeptical insights of the catalogue are unable to shape the experience of the exhibition, which is by nature an endorsement of style. Forster has pursued a personal theoretical agenda that revolves around two of his close friends: Peter Eisenman, with whom he founded Oppositions magazine in the 1970s and commissioned a project for an unbuilt house, Eleven-A, and Frank O. Gehry, for whom he has often acted as an intermediary or glossator. While recently the architectural styles of Eisenman and Gehry seem to be converging toward an organicist mode, their approaches to architecture are diametrically opposed. Eisenman's methods celebrate the autonomous capacity of geometry and computation to signify, while Gehry relies on artistic intuition and metaphor. Eisenman's line of thought has led to computer morphing, while Gehry's has led to an appreciation of zoomorphic and crystalline iconography requiring computer modeling to be realized. The formal results of each are intentionally monstrous with respect to architectural conventions and urban contexts, appealing to the aesthetic theory of the sublime.

Gehry is well represented at the Biennale with the show's largest model, of the recently completed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, a stainless steellclad sibling of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Eisenman, meanwhile, was given an entire room to make an installation about his work. The most interesting projects, both currently under construction, seem like ventures into land art: the City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. In addition, Eisenman was honored with the Biennale's Lifetime Achievement Award. His built works, so often instant ruins, such as House VI or the Wexner Center at Ohio State, should serve as a parable for the Metamorph style: You can fantasize and digitize all you like, but that won't stop a building from leaking.

(Abobe) Stavanger Concert Hall by PLOT; (Left) Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry; and (Below) Peter Eisenman's City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela.

To give substance to the trend toward a new expressionist taste, Forster assembled a separate exhibition on contemporary concert halls. The peculiar demands of acoustical engineering and the monumental imagery often attached to these projects give them a particular iconic power in an urban setting. Like the museum, concert halls serve as a kind of scapegoat for the demise of civic life. To see so many together, one has little doubt that they adhere to the underlying taste of Metamorph. Starting with JJrn Utzon's Sydney Opera House and Hans Scharoun's Berlin Philharmonic, both designed in the 1950s, the 40 models of recent solutions demonstrate that the type has yielded some of the weirdest forms in architectural history. Acoustical engineering seems to have bestowed a functionalist precept for irregular forms that struggle against the orthogonality of most urban contexts. The prize-winner in this part of the show, an unbuilt project for a two part concert hall in Stavanger, Norway, by the Danish office PLOT, is an ingenious solution that unites two monolithic parallelipeds with steps that wrap around the base of the buildings and then continue as a louvered facade to the roof. The risers are translucent, allowing slats of daylight into the structure and at night creating a magical light box effect, like a Noguchi lantern. One can still recognize a humanist bias in the approach, especially when compared to other projects such as the Dutch office NOX's recently completed installation Son-O-House, which looks like guts spilled on a sidewalk. The trend in zoomorphic transformations and picturesque planning is evident even among the most technologically astute offices. Norman Foster's The Sage Gateshead music hall rests like a giant sea slug on the banks of the River Tyne and Renzo Piano's Parco della Musica in Rome resembles three beetles. Despite being the largest international exhibition for architecture, the Biennale this year cannot be said to represent the world's architecture. And while there is no hierarchy or singling out of any particular nation, the curatorial concentration on the quirks of a particular aspect of high style is unavoidably discriminatory. The Biennale has always compensated for its elitism in the dozens of national pavilions, where each country assigns a curator to assemble a show. The pavilion prize went to Belgium, which presented an artist's and anthropologist's vision of Kinshasha, a mod- est consideration of Congolese vernacular adaptations in a situation far removed from the patronage necessary for the projects of Metamorph. A work of postcolonial guilt, it stood out from the rest of the Biennale as a reminder of architecture's misplaced priorities.

The Japanese pavilion was exceptional in its conceptualism, bringing together a myriad of images from pop culture surrounding the figure of the eternally adolescent and aimless computer nerd, christened Otaku. The chaotic but repetitious assembly of plastic toys and bright colored posters creates a convincing idea of how the trivial products, games, and junk of consumerism have become elements of contemporary urbanism. The other pavilion that caught my attention was Germany's, a fascinating photomontage mural that undulated from room to room, seamlessly blending 37 contemporary works of architecture into the landscape of sprawl. Has sprawl finally become beautiful? Finally, the U.S. pavilion, which relies on private sponsors, showed the work of six offices, three of which are very morphy and three that are not. The Biennale's juried prizes went to SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) for two works, the Contemporary Art Museum in Kanazawa, Japan, and the Valencia Institute of Modern Art in Valencia. Other awards were given to Foreign Office Architects (Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi) for its terraced, undulating hanging garden scheme for a car park at the Novartis campus in Basel, and Marttnez-Lapeea and Torres for its design of an exhibition platform and photovoltaic tower at the new convention center area of Forum 2004, which covers Barcelona's water treatment plant. The new expressionism of Metamorph opens a perennial problem, not just of technique and social program but of aesthetics. Hybrid works such as many of those presented in the Biennale are misfitsslinguistically closed, impractical to construct, and difficult to adapt to. Their meaning is circumscribed by their uniqueness of form, which greatly limits their chances to be understood. They are doomed to extinction as they are unable to cooperate with reality. Will we someday find ourselves rallying to save the architectural whales? Richard Ingersoll is a critic based in Italy. His latest book is Sprawltown (Meltemi, 2004).