Search results for "Eero Saarinen"

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Form Follows Fear

New U.S. Embassy in London fails to face its neighbors
Marking its first project on U.K. shores, KieranTimberlake Architects’ U.S. Embassy in South London is finally complete. The Philadelphia firm was the winner of a competition launched by the American Embassy in London in 2008. Now the Embassy’s new location in Nine Elms, just off the banks of the River Thames, will open a decade later this January. An official opening date is still pending, as the status of President Donald Trump’s inaugural state visit hangs in the balance due to a concern about widespread protests. Indeed, worries about security dominate the current U.S. Embassy in London, particularly after spate of attacks on other American consulates. Nestled in a Georgian enclave in Mayfair, the current Embassy, Eero Saarinen’s Grade II Listed structure from the 1950s, is unceremoniously fenced off. Despite a crowning aluminum bald eagle, the wealth of bollards that precede the fencing means the embassy's current locale is decidedly lacking in freedom. After surveying 40 possible locations, the U.S Embassy is moving to an even safer compound, one it can truly control. The architects didn’t have a say in curtailing this aspect; a prescribed 100-foot “seclusion zone” meant the embassy’s relationship to the site was never going to be an open one. However, some efforts have been made to make the notion of security less explicit. A bioswale in the form of a semi-circular pond (essentially half a moat), fortified hedges, and a gabion wall have all been sunk below ground level to make the embassy seem less stand-offish from afar. From this distance, KieranTimberlake’s work stands out as a crystalline cube from its brick-clad neighbors. On three sides of the 213-foot-tall structure are ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) sails which act as a shading device. James Timberlake, a partner at the architecture firm, stressed the need to “filter all that enters,” listing “people, air, and even materials.” Birds too are kept out through star-spangled fritting found on the northern-facing façade, the only side free from the ETFE sails. But if the outside dazzles, which it almost does at night, the embassy's interiors are severely lacking. For those who can’t get or see in, you’re not missing out. Although Ambassador Woody Johnson pushed the idea that his embassy’s architecture was “outward-looking,” evidence of this is hard to come by. Inside, it becomes apparent that the sails block fantastic views out onto the river from the east and west sides of the building. As if a brief which stipulated such high levels of security wasn’t enough to strangle the life out of the building, striving for LEED Platinum status through the enormous shading sails has shot the architects in the foot. Perhaps because it is now on Brexit-bound soil, there is further evidence of insularity at a granular scale as well. The embassy, to the annoyance of at least one employee, is filled only with U.S. plug sockets "bar a few Brit outlets.” Besides a serene visa waiting hall and the ground floor lobbies, one of which features work from British artist Rachel Whiteread, the other Gensler-designed interior levels shown to journalists are remarkably boring. Interior gardens and garden balconies offer a sorry attempt at adding American charm. Their inclusion results in the embassy feeling more like a high-security Holiday Inn. This anodyne, ultra-safe approach seems to have leaked into the building's surroundings as well. A nauseatingly large amount of generic apartment blocks surrounds the embassy. They fall under the umbrella of “New London Vernacular,” a term that arose during Boris Johnson's mayoralty to encourage historically sensitive design.  Though most of the area is still under construction, what's built so far already hints at the non-place that the $20-billion Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area (VNEB), of which the embassy is a part, is set to become. In this bland context, the consulate’s isolationism as expressed in its distinctive facade may, in fact, be its best quality. One thing the embassy wasn’t fearful of though, was spending big. At $1 billion, it is the most expensive embassy in the world. You have to wonder, where did all that money go?
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Plazas in Peril

Why are we wrecking our best modernist landscapes?
This is a feature article from Issue 8 of The Architect's Newspaper. If you’ve seen the movie Columbus, you’ll remember, among all the nerdy dialogue about modernist bank branches and James Polshek’s buildings, that scene where the two protagonists passionately discuss the Dan Kiley landscape outside the Eero Saarinen–designed Miller House. No? That’s because landscape architecture, though intrinsic to the experience of some of the best modern buildings, rarely gets the conversation it deserves. Despite being featured in all the film’s promo shots, the landscape by one of the last century’s best landscape architects got zero shout-outs. This snub, brought to light by the Cultural Landscape Foundation Executive Director Charles Birnbaum in a Huffington Post op-ed, reflects larger attitudes toward landscape architecture in the United States. It’s a long-held and frequently heard complaint inside the discipline that even successful landscapes by the very best designers are treated like scenery for architecture. While New Yorkers love Central Park, concrete plazas between modernist skyscrapers—even though they are essential to the experience of the buildings themselves—don’t elicit the same joy. Modern and late-modern landscapes in American cities are the least appreciated and least understood outdoor spaces, though they shape day-to-day experience in the contemporary American city more than leafy 19th-century destination parks. These modern spaces contrasted with—and challenged—the platonic ideal of the American urban park, established by Frederick Law Olmsted and largely unchanged since the 1860s. Urban renewal gave designers the opportunity to think up supersize projects (New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Boston’s Government Center, Pittsburgh’s Gateway Center, Philadelphia’s Penn Center) that afforded new ways of experiencing space and the city. Instead of offering the faux-countryside, 20th-century designers summoned concrete and right angles to create dynamic public spaces rooted in modernist functionalism. In the postwar years, as industry abandoned cities en masse and corporations moved white-collar workers to lush suburban campuses, cities and captains of industry commissioned the best landscape architects in practice to activate declining downtowns with plazas and parklets. In smaller urban projects like Heritage Park Plaza in Fort Worth, Texas, Fountain Place in Dallas, and Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis, designers like Lawrence Halprin, Kiley, and M. Paul Friedberg offered contemporary city experiences that both responded to and represented these profound changes in the American urban form. This not only applies to plazas from the boomer or Gen X era, but to Millennial landscapes, too. Just as chokers and platform sandals are cool again, designers are expressing renewed interest in successful 1990s postmodern landscapes, like Wagner Park or Pershing Square. Despite their significance, these parks are now threatened by thoughtless development. Unlike their forbearers—most of which were baked into city plans or carved from large swaths of open space—modernist landscapes like Freeway Park in Seattle shaped vestigial areas, harnessed from leftover space (like vest-pocket Paley Park in Manhattan), or repurposed former industrial land (Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco). In their comparatively tiny areas, designers deployed textural materials like concrete, gridded trees into mini urban forests, and masked obtrusive city sounds with water features. Despite their historic significance, these sites are constantly imperiled by bad maintenance, and the public antipathy that follows—“What’s with all that concrete, and where are all the flowers?” While it can take decades for an artist’s work to be appreciated, as Halprin noted, landscapes and the land on which they sit are often at the mercy of changing real estate interests and don’t have time to mature in the public perception. Though some, maybe most famously Boston’s Government Center, are wildly unsuccessful and are being (sensitively) adapted right now, many upgradeable landscapes whose potential could be teased out with thoughtful changes are instead being plowed over with heavy-handed schemes that dishonor the original design intent. Maybe because they are underappreciated, many postwar urban parks and plazas are threatened by market forces and dumb human decisions: out-of-place nearby development, revamps that turn parks into front lawns for speculative real estate, rising downtown land values, and, paradoxically, resilience measures that anticipate future coastal flooding. Compared to buildings, landscapes have fewer protections afforded to them. Since June, there’s one less: The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the demolition of a Sasaki fountain and plaza that anchored the base of Citicorp Center, a suave Hugh Stubbins–designed 1970s angle-topped tower on Lexington Avenue at 53rd Street. The architect would faint if he were around to see the flowerbeds proposed for the base of his building. Though developments like these can be jarring, the cities around these landscapes have changed substantially, too. After fleeing in the mid-20th century, people and prosperity have returned to cities. Though regional development is always uneven, there’s a persistent and widespread demand for walk-to-work neighborhoods with a healthy mix of day-into-night life. Downtown is hot. And tastes have changed, too. As megaprojects like Hudson Yards and smaller regional ones like SWA’s San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso, Texas, demonstrate, there’s a desire for more programmed space, with Ping-Pong tables and colorful, interactive public art. These landscapes reflect a turn from urban production to urban consumption; though the social life of these public spaces still includes people-watching and book-reading (or phone-staring), spaces are increasingly programmed around shopping, tourism, and scenery that’s good content for Instagram. Planners today promote infill housing and mixed-use everything, so visitors to these downtown parks are, increasingly, residents too. Outside of a few true classics that have never lost their luster, how do modernist landscapes fare against their newer predecessors? For this feature, we chose some of the notable urban landscapes of that era currently under redevelopment to assess where they are now, and how they’re being adapted—or not—for the future. Their designers never intended for their landscapes to be built and forgotten. There’s little to love in badly patched concrete, treeless planters, or dry fountains. We’re looking anew at famous landscapes by the best of the best and at those that are less familiar. Some honor the landscape architect’s original design intent, while others…don’t. Preservation isn’t about ossifying landscapes in some vintage ideal, but framing updates around the original design intent. Across the country, designers are looking at landscapes with consideration of their significance while adapting them for contemporary knowledge of ecology, accessibility, and programming. In a May 2017 talk at the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Meyer, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, explained why landscapes of the 1950s through the 1980s are significant today: They are a record of postwar modernization and urbanization, and they should be reimagined—not cast in amber—for the 21st century. “Adapting modernist landscapes does not require demolition and redesign,” Meyer said. Just like the designers who revamped the 19th-century city park in the 1970s, these projects will need careful updates for today’s users, made with intelligent materials, to facilitate life in the present while looking back to history, not to pickle the past but to energize urban life.
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RIP Gunnar

Remembering modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts
Latvian-American modernist architect Gunnar Birkerts died at the age of 92 on August 15, just as his legacy is beginning to be reevaluated by contemporary architects and historians alike. Based in the Detroit area for over 40 years, Birkerts designed distinctive buildings in the central United States and taught studios and seminars as a professor at the University of Michigan. His work was characterized by an experimental attitude toward materials, an intuitive approach to space planning, and an uncommon keenness for innovation in the use of daylight. Riga, Latvia’s National Library of Latvia (NLL), Birkerts’s last and greatest building, was completed in 2014 after about 25 years of work on the project. The NLL is a marvelous culmination of his career. Its completion was doubly special because Birkerts—born in Riga and the son of Latvian folklorists Peteris and Merija Shop Birkerts—had long been committed to the maintenance of his nation’s cultural heritage. Birkerts’s renown peaked between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, when he completed a group of buildings that broke open the increasingly stale forms and material palette of modern architecture. These buildings diffused light on matte surfaces or refracted it from polished materials to reduce the glare that too often plagues sheer glass buildings. Birkerts was one of many “displaced persons” who arrived in the U.S. after World War II. He emigrated here after an architectural education at the Technische Hochschule Stuttgart, in Germany, and eventually settled in the Detroit area. Birkerts worked for Eero Saarinen in the early 1950s, as his firm was developing a laboratory-like working method driven by model building and materials testing. He later left the Saarinen office for Minoru Yamasaki’s—also in the Detroit area—where he contributed to that firm’s decorative embellishment of modernism. He often cited Eero and “Yama” as the two most profound influences on his approach to architecture. He left Yamasaki and formed a partnership with Frank Straub in 1962, then founded his independent firm Gunnar Birkerts & Associates in 1964. Even after most of his former colleagues at the Saarinen office—Kevin Roche, César Pelli, and Robert Venturi, among others—had departed for more cosmopolitan locales on the East and West coasts, Birkerts stayed in Detroit because he wanted to remain independent of any particular cadre or school. This individualist spirit was Birkerts’s key bequest to the generation of architecture students and office associates he guided. Because of his individualism, Birkerts was perfectly suited to the Detroit area, with its history of tinkerers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. “We may have been building Ferraris,” Birkerts said in a 2015 interview, “but we were doing it in a garage,” suggesting that the polished, industrial design–like aesthetic of his buildings was not mirrored in his office environment or working method. Indeed, in his later years, Birkerts expressed skepticism about the rising importance of digital design in architecture, believing that it distanced architects from the intuitive, the experimental, and the handmade. Loose sketching and conceptual metaphors occupied an increasingly central position in his creative process during his later years. These attitudes caused him to lose favor in the style- and technology-obsessed culture of the late 20th and early 21st century. Rebuffing the flamboyance of postmodernism and the structural exaggerations of High Tech, Birkerts spent those years laboring on several unrealized megaprojects in Italy, and on unjustly overlooked U.S. work including the Frank Lloyd Wright–infused Domino’s Farms development in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Later designs show Birkerts’s ability to deftly integrate motifs from the national romanticist and art nouveau buildings of his home city without descending into pastiche. Despite these unusual ingredients, he remained staunchly committed to modernism. But his was not the dogmatic International Style of earlier architects. Instead of codifying rules, Birkerts continued modernism’s intuitive tradition of individual expression. We can still learn much from his example.
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Film Fest

A trove of profiles and projects at the 9th annual ADFF
This year’s Architecture and Design Film Festival, now in its 9th year, presented 34 films which fall into the categories of profiles of makers, of places, and of users. Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place profiled the 2002 Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect who was put forward for the award by Frank Gehry, noted for his quiet, site-specific houses and prized by Norman Foster and Renzo Piano. Here we follow an intriguing through-line in the building of a new mosque in Melbourne. The Newport Islamic Society’s creation represents an intensely loaded subject at this moment made tangible through the architecture. Murcutt works in close conjunction with the community, especially Hakan Elevli, who became a collaborating architect. Designing Life: The Modernist Architecture of Albert C. Ledner shines a light on the architect of New York's Maritime Union (now Maritime Hotel) and the Maritime Building, which became St. Vincent’s Medical Center and is now Lenox Hill HealthPlex in New York. Ledner was a product of New Orleans, where he was born. He briefly worked for Frank Lloyd Wright, but unlike many of the master’s acolytes, Ledner knew he had to leave in order not to be trapped in the Taliesin vortex.   His inventive, problem-solving buildings filled with unorthodox solutions, organic forms, and a keen sense of materials are based on solid principles: one of his two sons became a physicist and realized he grew up in a house that was all about physics. Born in 1924, Ledner continues worked until his recent passing on November 20th. His contemporary, Kevin Roche, born in 1922, also goes to the office every day. The ADFF offering, titled Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect, shows he’s really more stealth than quiet. Made by Irish television about a native son who became a Pritzker Prize winner, the film traces Roche's career, first with Eero Saarinen, then under his firm Roche Dinkeloo, who went on to create successful buildings such as the Ford Foundation, the Metropolitan Museum’s expansion and master plan, the Oakland Museum, and corporate headquarters for Union Carbide, General Foods and Cummins Engines. He personally represents elegance as much as his buildings.   Other profiles included Dries on artisanal fashion designer, Dries Van Noten – a few architectural nods are to his country house and garden, a fashion show in a raw industrial space in Paris, and one at the Paris Opera House Garnier; and a sheaf of Pritzker Prize-winning architects: Getting Frank Gehry on the architect building his University of Technology (UTS) in Sydney Australia; Zaha: An Architectural Legacy on Zaha Hadid; Jean Nouvel: Reflections; and Rem on OMA’s Rem Koolhaas. SuperDesign is a group portrait of 19 “revolutionary” Italian designers active in the 1960s, and The Diplomat, the Artist and the Suit: The Story of Denton Corker Marshall is about the long-running Australian firm. For films that centered on place, a good place to start was Integral Man. Built by Canadian mathematician James Stewart, a “calculus rock star” who made his fortune authoring textbooks – he’s called the most published mathematician since Euclid. The building is called Integral House because of its curved walls, a reference to the mathematical integral symbol. Located outside Toronto, the house includes a concert hall seating 150 because of Stewart other passion is music (he was a concert-level violinist). After interviewing Frank Gehry, Steven Holl and Rem Koolhaas, Stewart decided on the Canadian firm Shim-Sutcliffe Architects (Howard Sutcliffe and Brigitte Shim). It’s a Toronto version of Fitzcarraldo’s opera house building project in the Amazon (Werner Herzog’s 1982 film). Alas, Stewart died as the house neared completion. The Neue Nationalgalerie chronicles the creation of this iconic structure by Mies van der Rohe, his last work, and the recent renovation by David Chipperfield. Filmed in lush black and white, intelligent interviews put the building in context, then and now. Greene & Green’s Gamble House in Pasadena tells the story of two Yankee blueblood brothers (the Puritan Mather family; ancestor Cotton oversaw the Salem witch trials) who went to MIT, stopped at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, saw the Japanese pavilion on their way west, and settled in the winter enclave for wealthy Midwesterners near Los Angeles. The Gambles from Cincinnati, from the Proctor and Gamble fortune, patronized the architects in one of several large homes where everything --   furniture, light fixtures, stained glass, rugs, andirons – was designed by the pair and fabricated with local craftsmen, like William Morris’s of the West. Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centres showcases the cancer centers, largely in the U.K., by prominent architects who lent their services because of their connection to Charles and Maggie Jencks. Face of a Nation: What Happened to the World's Fair? chronicles architect/filmmaker Mina Chow’s exploration of why world’s fairs have been abandoned in this country. Dynamically, two films featured movement through buildings: Aires Mateus: Matter in Reverse using the Portuguese firm’s work and Ghost Story with dancers using Bjark Ingels Via 57 as their stage.
  • Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place, Catherine Hunter, director
  • Designing Life: The Modernist Architecture of Albert C. Ledner, Catherine Ledner & Roy Beeson, directors
  • Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect, Mark Noonan, director
  • Dries, Reiner Holzemer, director
  • Getting Frank Gehry, Sally Aitken, director
  • Zaha: An Architectural Legacy, Jim Stephenson & Laura Mark, directors
  • Jean Nouvel: Reflections, Matt Tyrnauer, director
  • Rem, Tomas Koolhaas, director
  • SuperDesign, Francesca Molteni, director
  • The Diplomat, the Artist and the Suit: The Story of Denton Corker Marshall, Paul Goldman, director
  • Integral Man, Joseph Clement, director
  • The Neue Nationalgalerie, Ina Weisse, director
  • Gamble House, Don Hahn, director
  • Building Hope: The Maggie’s Centers, Sarah Howitt, director
  • Face of a Nation - What Happened to the World's Fair? Mina Chow, director
  • Aires Mateus: Matter in Reverse, Henrique Câmara Pina, director
  • Ghost Story, Sarah Elgart, director
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Athens of the Prairie

Columbus, Indiana…Don’t call it a comeback
Columbus, Indiana, is known for its legacy of midcentury, late modern, and postmodern architecture, most of which was commissioned by industrialist J.I. Miller and his pals in the 1950s, 60s , and 70s. While it is true that Miller is a “Midwest Medici” and  hugely influential on the town’s success, it is best to understand the town’s design legacy not as a series of architectural “gems” that mark the passage of time like a museum—eight National Historical Landmarks and a collection of over 50 notable works by important architects—but rather as the embodiment of a living system of socio-political values that have come to define the town. It is often said that all political systems are most successful at a small scale: Their progress is most palpable and their systems less corruptible. In Columbus, this can be seen in the town’s almost-impeccable history of public-private partnerships, where a group of leading businesspeople and community leaders realized what could be seen as the American industrial capitalist dream—and along with it—at least a part of the modernist architectural project. Recently, a group of patrons (who of course know Miller and his legacy) and world-class arts administrators have come together to continue this tradition of design and community. This exhibition, called Exhibit Columbus, is a town-wide festival of design, including five large-scale architectural installations by winners of the inaugural “J. Irwin and Xenia Miller Prize;” a series of small design interventions along the main downtown commercial corridor; and several pavilions designed by local universities and high school students. This could be read as another “biennial,” or “Design Week” alongside the growing list: Seoul, Venice, Oslo, Chicago, Lisbon, Vienna, Eindhoven, Ljubljana, New York, London, Miami, Mexico City, Shenzhen, Beijing, Stockholm, and Milan. However, the first biannual Exhibit Columbus proved to be something different. For starters, the original name “Columbus Design Biennale” was abandoned because, according to Director of Landmark Columbus Richard McCoy, "we wanted to put Columbus’s history on display rather than explore the current trends in design." This perfectly demonstrates how the primary focus of the event is not on engaging global discourse, but continuing and re-aestheticizing the design culture of the place by connecting the residents of the town. This might prove to be the best lesson from Exhibit Columbus: How to engage with the heritage of a place while pushing forward cutting-edge design. In this context, the word “continuing” is particularly important here, as it would be easy to look at this as a “revival” or a “renaissance,” where the legacy of Mr. Miller is exhumed from the grave by a new generation of design-minded leaders. However, the truth is that this mentality never really left, it has been influencing the town quietly ever since the first notable building was built. Columbus is an exception. It has a thriving economy with the highest percentage of its output as foreign exports, as much as 50 percent, according to the Washington Post. It has not seen the Rust Belt-ification of many of its neighboring towns, because local Fortune 200 company Cummins Inc., an engine manufacturer, has somehow managed to remain an industrial giant in the American Midwest and abroad. (It is said that Mr. Miller was the first American to go to China when it opened up trade with the west.) Because the town never descended into a post-industrial dystopia, strong ties to the community and the spirit of collaboration and design excellence also never went away. The underlying phenomena of “The Columbus Way,” a community-based collaborative spirit, was always there—there was never a lack of leadership in the town, or a strong sense of community. It just needed to be re-aestheticized. This idea of continuation is best seen in one of the Miller Prize installations. Oyler Wu’s Exchange is sited at the Irwin Conference Center, which is currently owned by Cummins and used for corporate hospitality, but was originally completed in 1954 by Eero Saarinen and Associates as a flagship branch of the Irwin Union Bank and Trust. The one-story banking hall pointed toward a new type of modernist space unbound by walls and conventional banking architecture, such as cages for the tellers. Instead the new open-planned bank was bound by glass walls. It would be easy to stop here and draw a connection between the white, contemporary forms of the 2017 installation—digital fabrication aesthetics made in L.A. and assembled onsite in Columbus—and the glassy Saarinen bank building, and read it as a sort of new language for Columbus: Less midcentury modern and more digital tectonics as a metaphor for a small Midwestern hamlet turned globalized 21st century networked town. However, there is more to the story than that. In fact, the entire site is less about Saarinen than about a series of urban encounters and transactions that have left that plaza the perfect place to manifest and aestheticize the continuation of the community spirit of Columbus. Oyler Wu chose to build its pavilion around a series of three decommissioned drive-thru bank teller canopies, citing the legacy of Saarinen and “Euclidean geometries, solid-void relationships, and tectonics.” However, these canopies were not designed by Eero Saarinen, but rather by local architect Frank Adams in the 1980s. In fact, when the bank was completed in 1954, the site next to it was still Harrison Motors, an auto dealership. Later, as part of a 1966 Dan Kiley–led landscape extension, three manned teller booths were added in the adjacent lot after it was purchased from the car dealership. It wasn’t until 1973 that a three-story office building was completed by Saarinen’s protégé Kevin Roche of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates. In the 1980s, the teller booths became pneumatic drive-up stations and the Adams canopies were added. A later renovation was completed by Columbus architect Todd Williams. Considering this more complicated history of the site, it makes the most recent addition to the site, the Oyler Wu pavilion, even more poignant. It is not just Oyler Wu and Saarinen in a clean past-present relationship. It is a literal and figural continuation of myriad complex issues and histories in the town. It—and Exhibit Columbus—is an extension and re-aestheticization of something that never left. The canopies, walls, and benches of The Exchange almost grow organically out of the existing structures, continuing the evolution of the site from an autoyard to a car dealership to a bank to a conference center and then finally to a small urban parklet. Not only does the form continue to complete the implied volumes of the canopies, but it updates the use of said structures into a viable place for urban respite along a main pedestrian thoroughfare. It is certainly a new aesthetic for Columbus, as Oyler Wu’s style comes through in the welded steel forms that mingle with CNC bent steel tubing. Transparent volumes capture space that is suspended in the air, allowing us to see what was already there, but in a new frame—like Exhibit Columbus itself. So what is the impact of Exhibit Columbus and its continuation? For the locals, it is about education and a re-engagement with the design heritage and legacy. But the exhibition can't escape being relevant globally, and it has much to offer as a living, urban laboratory. If we look to some of the more forward-looking design events: The 2017 Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture and its examination of the urban villages in the hyper-local yet hyper-global context of Shenzhen, The Istanbul Design Biennial 2018 and its questioning of the biennial as a site of education, and the Open Design School at Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, where the curators will try to start an academy that they hope will harness the after-effects of a global cultural event in order to invigorate one of the poorest regions of Europe. Some may not want to admit it, but Columbus is now back in its rightful place in discussion with these large global cities, as it has been historically for both design and business reasons. Today, Exhibit Columbus shares DNA with all of the aforementioned projects. How does it uniquely engage with the local community? What will be its immediate and long-term impact on the community, the economy, and the students of the town? What can we learn from Columbus’s attitude about design and community? What new forms of knowledge might arise, or what new forms of design can come from such an important and rich context? What are the new challenges Columbus faces as its demographics change and what opportunities are there to incorporate these new identities into the heritage of the place? Exhibit Columbus is positioned to be a unique voice among many voices in the cultural events sector. Based on the reactions from the community at the opening, and the sustained efforts of McCoy and his team over the duration of the exhibit, it has revived the design heritage of Columbus. “There was a hum that emerged from the exhibition,” Columbus resident Mary Harmon told AN, “What I have really loved is that there was something for all ages, interests ..........ranging from tots to the elderly and those with a knowledge, curiosity and fondness for art and architecture to those who could care less, but felt happier just walking by and seeing the people out and about.” Of course, it can still be improved upon, and it will be a site to watch for those interested in how cultural production can interface with a local community, and even become an integral part of it and its mission to make a place better through architecture and design. Thanks to Will Miller and Enrique Ramirez for their editorial support on this essay.
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Arch-etypal

The iconic St. Louis Arch is revamped with new landscape designs

“Our project is at the end of a seventy-year project,” said Gullivar Shepard, principal at Brooklyn-based Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), of his firm’s St. Louis CityArchRiver design. Back in 2010, MVVA’s team won a competition to rework the landscape around the St. Louis Gateway Arch—technically the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial—to make it more universally accessible, easier to maintain, and more integrated into its urban context. Expanding and popularizing the site’s little-known museum was also a key goal. While the client was technically a foundation, the firm would have to work closely with the site’s owner and preservation-minded steward, the National Park Service (NPS). The challenge was complex: The landscape was hardly a clear-cut expression of Eero Saarinen and Dan Kiley’s designs.

Kiley was on Saarinen’s original design team, whose 1947 proposal won the memorial competition. But the project languished until 1957, when funding became available. Saarinen and Kiley were internationally renowned by then, “so they went back to the drawing board, literally, and came up with a new design for the memorial,” said NPS Historian Robert Moore. “Basically, it evolved from a rectilinear-looking plan to a very curvilinear plan that echoed the curves of the arch itself.” Moore described how the curving paths and ponds were Saarinen’s ideas, while the allées and cypress circles came from Kiley.

The NPS subsequently stepped in and became involved in the design, thinning out Kiley’s dense vegetation. After the completion of a 1964 “final landscape plan” with Kiley (Saarinen had passed away in 1961), the NPS continued without him. Money to build the landscape only became available in earnest in the early 1970s, with much of the landscape elements in place by 1974, though final plantings were made in 1983. During this time, the NPS made small changes to Kiley’s ponds and the special stairs Saarinen had designed. “Again, [there were] many hands in the design,” said Moore.

The resulting shortcomings are numerous. Eighty percent of visitors, said Shepard, don’t even know there’s a museum underneath the arch. Many drive in from the highway, park on the on-site parking lot, take the tram to the top, and leave. The park is also cut-off from the city by highways, which didn’t exist in 1947.

In addition, the decision-making process was complicated by the fact that “this is not an actual historic landscape or actual historic building or fabric,” said Shepard. “It’s a monument to a historic concept, a moment of time.”

MVVA broke down the proposed interventions into 14 key decision points, each a constituent part of a larger landscape resuscitation.

Ultimately, key interventions included building new, fully accessible paths—embedded in the landscape—that snake down from the arch plateau to the river, replacing the allées’ infestation-prone ash trees with London plane trees, and bulldozing the parking lot to create a new seven-acre park that connects to Washington Avenue, a major urban corridor of St. Louis. The biggest (and perhaps most controversial) intervention was a new circular museum entrance embedded in a berm that leads up to the arch plateau. A new vegetated bridge, which leads directly to the new museum entrance, will replace caged highway overpasses.

While the stakes are high for the memorial, this project could have broader implications for other NPS sites. “This was the project that everyone in the Park Service has been very carefully watching,” stated Shepard. If the NPS, an organization “not built for change,” can successfully update a complex site like this, then perhaps similar projects could be possible in other cities.

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Concrete Cartography

New map pays tribute to concrete and Brutalist buildings across New York City
Blue Crow Media, a publishing group that publishes architectural guides for cities worldwide, just released a map glorifying concrete structures across New York City—titled, appropriately, Concrete New York. Among the structures highlighted by the map, many will be familiar to AN's readers. Eero Saarinen's TWA Terminal at JFK airport, currently being renovated into a 505-room hotel, is listed, as is the Marcel Breuer–designed granite and concrete monolith now home to the Met Breuer. Perhaps less visited is Breuer's Begrisch Hall on the Bronx Community College campus or I.M. Pei's Silver Towers at NYU. Concrete infrastructure also gets its due: the Cleft Ridge Span at Prospect Park (completed in 1872) is featured as well as the more recent Dattner Architects and WXY Studio-designed Spring Street Salt Shed (completed in 2015). In Greenwich Village, New Yorkers will recognize New Orleans architect Albert Ledner's Curran/O'Toole Building, unmistakable with its double cantilevered, scallop-edged facade, formerly serving as St. Vincent's Hospital (a landmark institution for victims of the HIV/AIDS crisis). The guide also points out historic works by Paul Rudolph, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edward Durell Stone, and many others. The map was edited by Allison Meier, a Brooklyn-based writer. The next guide will look at the use of concrete in Tokyo, and will be available next month. Previous maps by Blue Crow Media have examined modernism in Berlin and Belgrade, art deco in London, and constructivism in Moscow, although Brutalism remains their favorite topic to date, with maps on the subject for Boston, London, Paris, Sydney, and Washington, D.C.
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Modernism in America

Docomomo US to honor outstanding modern preservation projects tonight
Tonight in Manhattan, Docomomo US will honor the winners of its 2017 Modernism in America Awards. The national chapter of the nonprofit modern architecture preservation group will recognize nine projects that set high standards for the restoration, conservation, and adaptation of modernist designs. First announced in June, the awardees include famous projects like Alexander Gorlin's revamp of Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche & John Dinkeloo's Bell Works and Knight Architecture's careful updates to Louis Kahn's Yale Center for British Art, but the jury placed emphasis on geographic diversity and regional favorites as well. BVH Architecture's restoration of Edward Durrell Stone's Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, Nebraska, is set to receive a merit award, and k YODER design's work on Vincent G. Kling's midcentury home in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania, will be honored, too. The projects demonstrate a preservation approach that responds to contemporary needs but respects the original architect's design intent. Docomomo US also honors researchers who chronicle the modern preservation movement for the public. This year, the group will honor Heroic, a book on Boston brutalism from 1960 until 1976 that spawned subsequent advocacy efforts to preserve the city's often divisive concrete architecture. The group will also honor Save the Reactor, a grassroots effort to save a landmarked Cold War–era nuclear reactor at the University of Washington, Seattle that the school wants to demolish (a legal fight over the building is making its way through the courts). While regional AIA chapters may recognize members' preservation projects, the Modernism in America Awards is the only program that celebrates modern preservation nationally. Beyond making a case for the continued importance of the modern movement, the program seeks to build public appreciation for postwar architecture, call attention to threatened buildings, and promote dialogue around the cultural or economic conditions that facilitate the conservation or jeopardize the existence of modern architecture today. Now in its fourth year, tonight's awards ceremony will be held at Design Within Reach's Third Avenue Studio (tickets required). Read more about the winners here. Frances Halsband, founding principal at Kliment Halsband Architects, chaired this year's seven-member jury. Joining her was Justin Davidson, New York Magazine's architecture and classical music critic; Barbara Campagna, an architect, planner, and historian; Mark Pasnik, founding principal of over,under (and Heroic co-author); Robert Nauman, member of Docomomo US's Board of Directors and a historian who currently teaches in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Colorado in Boulder; Jack Pyburn, member of Docomomo US's Board of Directors and partner at Lord Aeck Sargent; as well as Theodore Prudon, President of Docomomo US and founding principal at Prudon & Partners. The Docomomo US Board of Directors served as the jury for the Advocacy prize.
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Ode to wood

A couple’s lifelong George Nakashima collection on auction at Freeman’s
Known as perhaps the most diverse collections of works by George Nakashima, the Roth Collection chronicles a relationship that one family forged over three decades with the artist. The George Nakashima Roth collection recalls the family's intimate visits with the artist to select furniture for their home—and now they are up for sale at the Freeman’s Design auction on October 8th. As the story goes, longtime couple Arnold "Archie" and Corinne "Cookie" Roth grew up primarily in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, met through mutual friends, married in 1950, and settled in Brooklyn. With humble beginnings, Corrine, the science teacher, taught in the New York public school system and Archie, an engineer, became the part-time owner of a small die cutting business. In 1966, they relocated to Livingston, New Jersey, where they remained through their lives. Fueled by a mutual devotion to modern design, the pair collected works that were indicative of their taste: wooden furniture that would be categorized by the auction houses as organic modernist. From the early turned-leg coffee table ordered in 1961 to the monolithic bench and cushion chairs from the Conoid series (dating to 1979 and 1980 respectively), Nakashima's work was handpicked by the Roths over the span of three decades. Each piece is a part of the story that unfolds, surveying Nakashima's evolving design sensibility and craftsmanship – the fusion and jutxaposition of two incongruous cultures, American vernacular and traditional Japanese craftsmanship.     His marriage of natural materials and hand craftsmanship illustrates his vision of the construction of a chair: function, beauty, and simplicity. When you look at Nakashima’s creations, you can see the the influence of American arts and crafts furniture, specifically the Windsor chair and the “captain's chair.” The Windsor influence is most apparent in the Straight Back chair, the Mira chair, the Four-Legged chair, the New chair, and to a lesser extent, the Conoid chair (the armchairs are a streamlined form of what is commonly referred to as the captain's chair). The New and Conoid chairs remain aesthetically tied to the Windsor, juxtaposed with a contemporary-looking Japanese yoke back and crest rail. In this poetic gesture, the Conoid chair became a modern design icon inspired by the 1924 and 1927 cantilevered chairs designed by Heinz and Bodo Rasch. Eventually, this unexpected and expressive combination of Eastern, Western, and modern influences came to shape each chair and evolve into the distinctly idiosyncratic design that would characterize the work of George Nakashima. You can view the complete catalogue online here. Freeman's: Design features works by George Nakashima, René Lalique, Eero Saarinen, Finn Juhl, and others. In advance of the auction, you can browse lots before live bidding begins on Sunday, October 8th at 12:00pm ET.
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RIP Gunnar

Detroit architect Gunnar Birkerts has died at 92
Latvian architect Gunnar Birkerts has passed away at age 92. The Detroit-based architect was best known for his formally exuberant interiors that carried on the legacy of Eero Saarinen; in 1951 Birkerts came to the U.S. to work with Saarinen in Birmingham, Michigan. He also worked in the offices of Perkins + Will before starting his own practice where he developed a unique style around unexpected angular forms and layered, folding planes that defined spectacular spaces. His work extended the Scandinavian tradition into late modernism, especially with his use of indirect lighting (via skylights) in ways similar to the Saarinens and Alvar Aalto. Some of his most notable projects include the Kansas City Museum of Contemporary Art; the Calvary Baptist Church of Detroit; The Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York; Lincoln Elementary School in Columbus, Indiana; and The Latvian National Library, also known as the Castle of Light. https://www.instagram.com/p/BX0JGrRlQuj/  
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Opens Today

Modern architecture stars in Kogonada’s Columbus
“Well, that’s Columbus—meth and modernism,” quips 19-year-old protagonist Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), in the new independent film Columbus. Directed by Kogonada, the movie centers on Columbus, Indiana, so much so that the city and its architecture functions as a character equal to the actors (and of course, lending itself to the film’s title). In context, her remark isn’t a flippant dismissal of the town but a reflection of larger issues Kogonado contemplates in his work. “Do forms make a difference? Do buildings make our lives better even when they are bad?” This is a particularly apt question to ask in a city like Columbus, which, although known for its architecture, is not exactly known as a cultural hotspot. It is rare that architecture features so heavily in what is otherwise a clever coming-of-age tale, but even the plot emerged from the city’s buildings. Kogonada was inspired by visiting the southern Indiana city and wrote the script based on his observations. “The City of Columbus had to give us permission to film there, or else we wouldn’t have made the film,” Kogonada said in a discussion following a screening at BAM. Scenes center on, around, and in the soaring modernist works by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Deborah Berke, as Casey rapidly gains aesthetic awareness and an appreciation for architecture as she grapples with staying in her hometown and taking care of her mother (a recovering meth addict) while her friends go off to college. She encounters Jin (John Cho), a Korean-American translator who comes to the city to care for his father, a noted architectural historian who falls critically ill while visiting Columbus; the pair form a relationship. The plot itself is charming and smart, but it is the film’s pacing, styling, and setting that elevate it to what the New Yorker has described as “precocious genius.” Kogonada incorporates the architecture both blatantly and subtly. Throughout, Casey names and describes each building to Jin, a newcomer to Columbus—Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church, I.M. Pei's Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, Eero Saarinen’s Miller house, the Irwin Conference Center, and North Christian Church, Deborah Berke’s Irwin Union Bank, and Robert A.M. Stern’s Columbus Regional Hospital, among others. Those structures not explicitly labeled still loom prominently in the setting. Architectural themes also permeate the film, most notably the exploration of absence and presence, void and volume. Kogonada explores this several different ways: Whenever music plays, there is an absence of dialogue; when Jin speaks Korean, there is an absence of subtitles; characters refer to plot moments that never came up; and at times there is silence even though the audience can see that the person is speaking. Other questions are grappled with, as well: “Can architecture heal?” “Do the buildings we grow up around inform our views of the world?” “What makes modernism important?” They are good questions and ones that the architectural, art, and design communities debate often, but in Columbus they are opened up to the layperson and architecture aficionado alike. For screenings and more information, see the film's website.
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Plane and Simple

JetBlue to build new Terminal 6 at JFK International Airport
On July 21, JetBlue issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to developers to build on the Terminal 6 site at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). This development is the latest in a series of updates to overhaul JFK, including Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $10 billion plan, which started seeking plan master-proposals on July 18, and the adaptive reuse of Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal (of which JetBlue is a minority partner). The original Terminal 6, designed by I.M. Pei, was demolished in 2011, much to the chagrin of the architectural community. JetBlue’s new Terminal 6 would connect to its existing space at Terminal 5 and is slated to open in 2020, according to Crain’s New York. According to a statement, the airline is also looking to expand into Terminal 7, which currently houses British Airways, in the future. New York is JetBlue’s home base and last year 13.9 million travelers passed through T5 alone. The 800,000-square-foot terminal currently has 29 gates, three concourses, an international arrival extension, and a 55,000-square-foot central retail and concession marketplace. JetBlue’s expansion and Cuomo’s plan are responses to predictions that the number of passengers per year will increase from 60 million in 2016 to 100 million by 2050. As AN reported in our July/August issue, Cuomo’s general plans “call for the unification of terminals to provide passengers with a more coherent visitor experience; redesigned the ring roads to allow better car access; expanded parking lots and taxi access; added train service; more amenities like the Beyer Blinder Belle–designed hotel addition to the TWA Terminal; and of course, added privacy-slashing security features like facial recognition and video tracking software.” For this endeavor, the Port Authority is only considering architecture firms that have, within the last ten years, completed a master plan worth at least $5 million for a major airport serving a minimum of 15 million passengers. As for how JetBlue’s T6 might fit within that architectural scheme is still unclear, although the airline plans to narrow down its list of potential partners by the end of this year.