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Not Again!?

Landmark Willi Smith exhibition (almost) opens at Cooper Hewitt
In what might be one of the darkest ironies of the COVID-19 saga in New York City, the Cooper Hewitt has been forced to close the Willi Smith: Street Couture retrospective before it opens, the first museum exhibition of the influential American designer Willi Smith (1948–1987), whose career was cut short when he was killed by the AIDS crisis in 1987. Smith, who in 1976 founded WilliWear with partner Laurie Mallet, is often credited as a pioneer—if not the creator of—streetwear, which today is nearly ubiquitous, uniting economic and social classes with a blend of high fashion and everyday-inspired clothing. Through collaborations with artists, designers and performers, such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, and Nam June Paik, Smith captured the creativity and spirit of the cities where culture was being formed. It is this marrying of the avant-garde and the world-at-large that brought together Smith with James Wines and Alison Sky of the art and architecture collaborative Sculpture in the Environment (SITE) built a series of showrooms that served as the backdrop for the gesamtkunstwerk of WilliWear. After seeing a window display at the Rizzoli bookstore designed by SITE, Willi enlisted the group to design a series of showrooms from 1982 to 1987, using found objects from around the streets of Manhattan. As members of the Environmental Art movement, SITE specialized in bringing art into places where you would least expect it, and retail stores were one of their specialties, most famously the BEST department stores. The exhibition, curated by Alexandra Cunningham was designed by Wines along with Sam Chermayeff Architects, who built a modified version of the original stores. The communication designers poly-mode have also contributed a very clear and fresh graphic solution to the display. The show was originally scheduled to be on until Sunday, October 25 2020, but the situation remains fluid. Note: Effective March 14, the Cooper Hewitt is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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Virtually The Same

Google Arts & Culture compiles over 500 virtual tours of museums around the world
In an effort to reduce the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, nearly all of the world’s public institutions have announced that they will close their doors to the public until further notice. Art museums have been hit particularly hard by the sudden news, as it was announced earlier this week that the majority of New York City’s cultural hubs—including the Guggenheim, The Met, MoMA, and The Whitney Museum of American Art—have all abruptly paused operations despite many of them having new exhibitions that have taken months to prepare. As of now, the situation is no different in nearly every other major city around the world. Virtual museum exploration, a safe alternative to physical attendance, has therefore taken on new significance in light of the first post-internet pandemic. Google Arts & Culture, the online platform dedicated to providing public access to the collections of some of the world’s most preeminent art museums, developed by Google, has partnered with over 500 global art institutions to open their virtual doors to the public. With the ability to go between the National Folk Museum of Korea in Seoul to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in a matter of seconds, one can ‘travel’ the world to walk through world-famous destinations in a manner never before possible in human history using the same technology developed for the equally impressive Street View feature in Google Maps. While several museums on the website do not yet offer a virtual tour, they provide the next best thing through high-resolution images of their most exemplary artwork. In some cases, the move to virtual reality has even improved upon the average viewing experience with creative storytelling and behind-the-scenes access. The latest video produced by Google Arts & Culture, for instance, provides a narrated, 360-degree tour of the Chauvet Cave, a natural formation in the south of France filled with humanity’s earliest discovered artworks. By providing an extensively virtual tour of the fragile cave, reserved only for archaeologists and other related professionals, the video 'digitally preserves what would otherwise be reserved only for textbooks. “Together,” the video description reads, “we bridge 36.000 years of human history by joining state of the art technology and some of the oldest cave paintings left behind by our ancestors.” As museums and other physical spaces consider strategies for dealing with their newly quarantined audiences, their virtual second lives have the ability to pick up where their physical counterparts left off.
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Design Will Still Exist by Then

Coronavirus cancellations hit New York Design Week
NYCxDESIGN, the weeklong annual celebration of design that encompasses 400-plus events from product launches, installations, exhibitions, talks, open studios, and more across all five boroughs, has been postponed due to precautions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Originally slated to kick off in May 12, NYCxDESIGN will now take place in October and coincide with a slew of previously scheduled citywide architecture and design events including the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum’s National Design Week, the Architecture and Design Film Festival, Open House New York Weekend, and the AIANY Center for Architecture’s Archtober—or Architecture and Design Month—programming. While the suspension of NYCxDESIGN is an unfortunate but necessary one, it appears that October will be an action-packed month for design professionals and enthusiasts in New York City. One element of NYCxDESIGN that will be moving forward in May as planned is the NYCxDESIGN Awards program, which will take place via a digital ceremony with another live event occurring in October. Additional details regarding rescheduled events will be announced in the coming months. “NYCxDESIGN was conceived to bring New York together in celebration of the incredible talent in the city, and the tremendous examples of international design that are shown here, said Edward Hogikyan, vice president and executive director of NYCxDESIGN, in a statement. “Gathering our community around design is so central to the work we do that, given the concerns around COVID-19, we are shifting from our annual Festival in May to a reconceived fall program to ensure the safety and well-being of all who participate in and visit NYCxDESIGN.” The largest and most widely attended of all design happenings scheduled for May, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), still, as of this writing, plans to run from May 17 through May 20 at the Javits Center in Manhattan per the ICFF website. Two other major design events coinciding with ICFF and NYCxDesign, WantedDesign Manhattan (May 17 to 20) and WantedDesign Brooklyn (May 14 to 18), have also not been suspended as of this writing. For the first time in its history, WantedDesign Manhattan plans to co-locate at the Javits Center with ICFF instead of at its normal venue, the Terminal Stores building.* Brooklyn Designs has also not announced if it continue as planned May 10-12 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Relatedly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and numerous other cultural institutions in New York City have also extended their closures until May 15. Now in its eighth year, NYCxDESIGN was previously operated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Starting this year, media company SANDOW has taken over that role. *ICFF and WantedDesign both canceled several hours after this article was first published. The next editions of both events will take place in 2021.
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Reopening Unclear, Try Again

Met, MoMA, and more go dark over coronavirus concerns
As New York City and other major cultural hubs around the world slowly shut down to head off the spread of COVID-19, museums and other art and design institutions are also closing their doors. Besides Broadway, which went dark last night, here’s what not to visit if you’re working from home, as they won’t be open. And if you’re thinking of catching a movie, be aware that Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have imposed 50 percent operating capacity at venues with under 500 seats. Venues with over 500 seats? Those have been closed as a result of a state of emergency. The Brooklyn Museum The Brooklyn Museum will close later today and reopen at an as-of-yet undetermined later date while the museum undergoes cleaning. Programs and classes through April 29 have also been called off, as has their spring gallery program. The Cooper Hewitt Beginning March 14, all Smithsonian institutions, including the National Zoo and Cooper Hewitt, will be closed for an indeterminate amount of time. The Guggenheim Bad news for Rem Koolhaas fans hoping to catch a glimpse of Countryside; the Guggenheim is closed until further notice, and all events have been canceled until after April 30. Thankfully for those cooped up inside, Taschen has produced a booklet containing all of the exhibition’s accompanying research. The High Line Although a park, the High Line’s narrow stairways, elevators, and bottlenecking in certain areas makes social distancing difficult. In order to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s warning against gatherings of 50 or more, the linear elevated outdoor space has shut down for the time being. No potential reopening date has been given. The Metropolitan Museum of Art All three branches of the Met (including the Breuer and the Cloisters) will be closed as of today, March 13. All three locations will undergo a deep clean, and it’s uncertain when they’ll reopen. This is an unfortunate blow for the Breuer outpost, as the museum is scheduled to move their collection back to the Fifth Avenue location later this year as the Frick tentatively takes over the Marcel Breuer-designed building. In a double whammy, the museum was also gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary. The Museum of Modern Art The MoMA and MoMA PS1 have shut down until March 30. The museum’s associated design stores are also closed, and the institution will evaluate the situation after the 30th before deciding to reopen. The Shed Hudson Yards’ semi-mobile art museum is also closed until March 30, according to a press release sent to AN. Unfortunately, that also means the early closure of the Agnes Denes retrospective Absolutes and Intermediates—the blockbuster show was supposed to conclude March 22 but is now finished. Performances through March 30 have also been canceled and refunds are available for those who purchased tickets in advance. The Whitney Museum of American Art The Whitney, come 5:00 p.m. tonight, will also shut down for an undetermined amount of time, and all of their associated events have been canceled for the foreseeable future.
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Back To Center

Original blueprints for World Trade Center towers found in trash, sold for $250,000
Though they were destroyed nearly 20 years ago, the Minoru Yamasaki-designed World Trade Center towers, 1 and 2 World Trade Centers, remain in clear memory for architects and non-architects alike. Their shared height and radical abstraction made them instant icons of the late modernist movement and a dual symbol of New York City’s renewed presence in the postindustrial global economy. The Twin Towers’ undeniable significance made the recent discovery of their original blueprints all the more worthy of attention, including the unusual trade of hands that took place in the last half-century. After the two towers were completed in 1973, the blueprints fell into the hands of Joseph Solomon, a former junior partner in Emery Roth & Sons, a New York-based architecture firm that partnered with Yamasaki on the project. Documenting elevations, sections, design details, and virtually all other elements of the site, the blueprints were serendipitously found in the trash in Denver, where Solomon brought them as he set up a new practice. Solomon passed away in 2017, leaving his daughter to clear out his garage, which, unbeknownst to her, included the valuable blueprints. Denver resident Jake Haas saw the drawings lying in front of the Solomon home and, quickly determined their worth, sold them to local pawnshop owner Angelo Arguello, who then sold them to James Cummins Bookseller, a Manhattan-based rare book dealer, thus bringing the blueprints back to where they were first drawn up. “I think you do get a sense of what a massive undertaking this was,” Brian Kalkbrenner, a seller with James Cummins, told the Wall Street Journal while marveling at the plans in their entirety, thought to be the only complete set in existence. The rare book dealer subsequently put them up for auction during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory held last weekend where they were shown to the public for the very first time and, according to Channel 9 News, were sold for an astounding $250,000. While the winner of the auction has not been disclosed, Haas expressed that he would like to eventually see them on display in a local museum for the public to remember the towers that once stood tall in the Financial District.
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This Time It’s Personal

Russia and America cross-pollinate at the Canadian Centre for Architecture
My in-laws are Russian. In fact, they are Muscovites. And they have a very convincing way of narrating their still-fresh memories of life in the Soviet Union. I have not been to Russia since their daughter and I traveled along the canals that connect Moscow to St. Petersburg fifteen years ago. We do not discuss politics much when we visit her family in New Jersey. I have learned that there are differences of perspective, but that those don’t really matter. We have not discussed Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Still, I am quite sure that we would all agree, at some level, that such things are essentially trivial too. Eating a Russian dinner in New Jersey doesn’t feel strange, and despite the fact that this family is in the U.S. because of geopolitics, the very idea of personalizing those politics does seem odd. Upon further reflection, however, there might be no other way to connect memory to history. Only after traveling to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal to view the exhibition of Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture, did I realize that personal view of geopolitics also has a history. The exhibition collects an enormous array of architectural objects and documents that trace the ideas, materials, people, trends that moved between Russia and America over the course of more than a century. Indeed, nations have relationships, almost like people do. And the Russian relationship to America, or more precisely Russians’ views of Americanism (America, as they saw it) is Jean-Louis Cohen’s curatorial theme for the exhibition. Cohen is personally involved in these geopolitics as well, but more on that later. In the forthcoming exhibition catalog, Cohen refers to the work of Reinhart Koselleck, a mid-20th century German practitioner of conceptual history, or Begriffsgeschichte. This historical method hinged on the changing definitions of cultural terms over time, which he called “the semantics of historical time.” The language that binds expression to understanding, according to this theory, is the thread that historians use to enter a period distant from them in both space and time. This is Koselleck’s concept of a “space of experience” that Cohen has drawn into the galleries at the CCA, to understand the contradictory nature of Americanism in Russian architectural culture. This concept, therefore, offers an empathetic entry into an alien world of Russian modernism: We must first accept the various Russian conceptions about America to enter their changing space of experience—in other words, to personalize geopolitics. Of course, generalizations about America were not and are not unique to Russians; they were produced alongside the American Revolution, probably even earlier. Cohen begins the catalog’s introduction and the exhibition’s wall text with the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who explicitly set “Anglo-Americans” and Russians into an incipient geopolitical rivalry, one based in their declared difference from traditional European values. Tocqueville’s theorization of American character for Europeans has, since, become the basis for most claims of national character. Indeed, Cohen is quite clear that Russian Americanism was always mediated by non-Russian interpreters. He and Hubert Damisch wrote on Américanisme et modernité (1993), and a Russian translation of Hugo Münsterberg’s book, Die Amerikaner (1904), appears in one of the beautiful cases designed by MG&Co. The cases are crucial to building Cohen’s space of experience: they require close reading and immersive engagement. MG&Co’s beautifully designed curtains serve as transitions between the galleries, each focused on a theme. They also enclose six digital projections—one on each side of three thresholds—chosen to reflect on the contents of each gallery. The gallery walls and the curtains are color-coded, as are the cases that carry the essence of the show: models, drawings, and an overwhelming assembly of books and journals. The general impression is of density. In each one of the cases are numerous objects that reflect on one another, offering a guide from one object to the next. This composition feels like inhabiting a three-dimensional book; galleries are the chapters and the cases are subchapters within. The surprise for this reader came after turning around from the cases, as I faced the walls where the narrative of the chapter played out again, but now at a higher speed. The experience is hugely rich: There are places to stop and read, places to move and scan, and places where connections can be made as one watches a film, such as that of Colonel Hugh L. Cooper, an American engineer, dedicating a Russian hydraulic damn on the Dnieper River. In addition to all this content, Studio Folder (“an agency for visual research,” according to their website) has composed a set of maps that illustrate the connections between Russia and America. Lines describe the “routes of architects, intellectuals, artists and politicians who traveled across the two continents, between 1813 and 1991.” The endpoints of each line are sometimes surprising (Des Moines, Fort Wayne, San Antonio: Baku, Yalta, Novosibirsk) and sometimes not (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.: Leningrad, Moscow, Kyiv). The maps make evident the fact that Americanism was more than a generalization, more than political rhetoric, more than a literary fantasy. In fact, as Cohen has made clear in his selection of themes and objects, the very history of industrial infrastructure, from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, was shaped by its transposition across the globe. The gallery named “Modernization of Czarist Russia” focuses on the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition and 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, sites that represent industrial exchange between the two countries as well as others. But this gallery also reveals the Maxim Gorky’s anguish in his book In America (1906), where he described the Americanism of New York City as “getting into a stomach of stone and iron, a stomach that has swallowed several million people and is consuming and digesting them.” The negativity abates in the third gallery, as the Gilbreths’ Motion Study is traced through the work of Alexey Gestev’s Central Institute of Labor, Ford’s tractors being built in the Putilov plant in Leningrad, and Albert Kahn’s company training over 4,000 Russian architects, draftsmen, and engineers from 1930 to 1931. The exhibition traces a dialectic between Russians attracted to American modernity and those who found it repellant. Often times, these oppositions are enacted simultaneously. The gallery focused on the avant-garde shows this opposition: Adaptations of Hollywood (Buster Keaton and Charley Chaplin) in Russian movie-making are set against the disparaging words of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who found New Yorkers as beset by a “dormant and flaccid rural mindset.” Or, there are those examples of Russians who sidelined American influence altogether—the Nikolay Ladovsky’s Vkhutemas pedagogy or and El Lissitzky’s horizontal skyscrapers. Geopolitical borrowing moves its target when it is politically strategic. Some Russians chose other influences despite the continued interest in American factories and the culture industry. Among the most impressive objects in the exhibition is the model of Boris Iofan’s Palace of the Soviets (1934). The image commonly associated with this winning entry for the international design competition depicts the building from below. A military parade marches in the foreground and fighter planes fly behind Lenin’s figure, who stands atop the neoclassical birthday cake of a building with a book (Das Kapital?) in his left hand, while his outstretched right hand points upward. It was the first time seeing Iofan’s design from above in his wooden model. Despite the monumentalizing efforts in drawing, Stalin’s architects could not overcome a model’s capacity to domesticate political bravado at a toy-like scale. In the sixth gallery, model airplanes are hung from above as though they have escaped from Iofan’s drawing. Some documents below them display the Soviet capacity to build flying warcraft that equaled or exceeded their American counterparts (even if based in their industrial espionage). One object stands out on the wall, drawn from Cohen’s father’s collection of Soviet memorabilia. As a French reporter, he kept a brochure distributed in a 1947 airplane shows. That object opens a clear “space of experience,” an empathetic encounter with Russian Americanism mediated by the Cohen family history. It is touching to think of all those events that historians trace through their narratives that may also be passed along in bedtime stories. In this respect, geopolitics is as historical as it is personal. The CCA, this winter, offered a unique platform to explore the richness produced by the mixture of memory and history, as well as the rigor and beauty of historical documents that display the critical role of architecture in constructing geopolitics. In a recent book by Keith Gessen, which has nothing to do with architecture, the protagonist makes connections among his life, his family’s travails, and the academic study of Soviet history. He sees the Russian tendency to borrow other nations’ advances as an addiction that finally leads to Gessen’s own suffering. I leave you with these musings as they so beautifully summarize the clarity afforded by interweaving human memory into a historical narrative.
“Suddenly everything I have been looking at—not just over these past months in Moscow, but over the few years in academia, and over the past fifteen years of studying Russia—became clear to me. Russia has always been late to the achievements and realizations of Western civilization. Its lateness was its charm and its curse—it was as if Russia were a drug addict who received every concoction only after it was perfectly crystallized, maximally potent. Nowhere were Western ideas, Western beliefs, taken more seriously; nowhere were they so passionately implemented. Thus the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew the old regime; thus the human rights movement, plus blue jeans, which overthrew the Bolshevik one; and thus finally this new form of capitalism created here, which had enriched and then expelled my brother, and which had impoverished my grandmother and killed Uncle Lev. You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.”
Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture runs through April 5.
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overlooked no more

Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect is a fantastical retrospective of expert draftsmanship
Although he never reached the fame of neoclassical contemporaries such as Claude Nicolas Ledoux and Étienne-Louis Boullée, French architect and artist Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826) remains a draughtsman of immense vision, from a turbulent era that witnessed the collapse of the Ancien Régime and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Luckily, in the months leading up to his death, the artist bequeathed his vast collection of 800 drawings to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which launched the first retrospective Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect at the beginning of 2019. The show’s latest iteration at The Morgan Libary & Museum is the first in New York City and is a succinct and, truth be told, sublime survey. The exhibition includes sixty of Leqeue’s drawings and is curated by the Morgan’s Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints, Jennifer Tonkovich. Lequeu was born in 1759 to a long line of master carpenters in Rouen, the provincial capital of Normandy. His early career began with accomplished studies at the Rouen School of Drawing followed by a string of urban planning and architectural commissions, and a migration to the imperial capital of Paris in the waning days of the Bourbon dynasty. Initial professional success and a multiyear pilgrimage to the customary landmarks in Italy ultimately fizzled, and Lequeu settled into the relative monotony of governmental bureaucracy. Perhaps as a creative outlet to deflect from hampered ambitions—not dissimilar from the architectural fantasist A.G. Rizzoli—Lequeu produced hundreds of pen and wash drawings ranging from self-portraits to invented landscapes populated by renderings of imagined buildings and monuments, many found in his quasi-handbook Civil Architecture. “One of the big takeaways, for me, has been despite the official recognition, and in the absence of any sort of validation, he continued to draw, to envision new worlds, and incorporate novel elements,” said Jennifer Tonkovich. “He never gave up his idiosyncratic vision.” The Morgan, with its flamboyant marble flooring and intricate classical detailing, is a fitting curatorial space for the show. The exhibition room is split between an outer and inner ring: The former introduces the subject with a series of self-portraits—mouth agape and jowls creviced—and largely follows the trajectory of his drawings of architectural manuals to spectacular renderings produced at night within the confines of a claustrophobic Parisian apartment. The quality of penmanship is impressive unto itself, but drawings such as Design for a Living Room at the hôtel de Montholon and the Apotheosis of Trajan highlight the profound depth of ancient architectural knowledge at Lequeu’s fingertips, with an acute syncretism of Greco-Roman, Persian, and Indo-Chinese influences. While the architectural drawings are demonstrations of vivid imagination, all remain rooted in the clear and calculated logic of profile, section, and plan. Not only are Corinthian orders and cenotaphs deconstructed into their composite parts—base, shaft, capital, and entablature—but the tectonics behind their engineering are legibly, and fantastically, expressed. Although the human body and erotic themes extend across Lequeu’s oeuvre, the center of the exhibition focuses on his works of more explicit playful sexual depictions. With the same level of detail applied to his architectural renderings, thighs and crotches are splayed and labeled, nuns lift their habits to reveal corseted breasts, and buttocks stand athwart. The timing of the exhibition is prescient in the current political moment—classicism is cast as a revanchist tool by reactionaries to reestablish Eurocentric cultural norms and artistic conformity. The retrospective’s response is an art historical broadside against that perception: “Lequeu is trying out ideas, exploring non-western forms, testing the limits of structures, experimenting with unorthodox decoration,” continued Tonkovich. “He is not bound by rules or convention, and the result is designs that are clever, mysterious, beautiful, and mystifying.” Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect  The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Avenue Through May 10, 2020
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Hanging on the Precipice

UNESCO and Google spotlight climate change’s impact on World Heritage Sites
Last month, Google Arts & Culture launched a new online platform drawing attention to the devastating effect that climate change has had—and will continue to have—on five diverse and vulnerable UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The exhaustive and expertly organized initiative, Heritage on the Edge, achieves this through an array of mediums including photography, detailed 3D models, 2D maps and Street View tours, historical information, audio, interactive graphics, and present-day interviews with local conservationists and residents living in the impacted areas. Two of the endangered World Heritage Sites are also brought to life using augmented reality “pocket galleries." Most important, the multimedia platform, which spans over 60 pages and is illuminating as it is devastating, illustrates how people in these five unique locales have come together to protect their most cherished cultural sites against rising seas, extreme weather, coastal erosion, and drought. Describing itself as “one of the most ambitious efforts to date to realize the power of heritage to tell the story of climate change,” Heritage on the Edge was conceived as part of a partnership between Google, California-based nonprofit 3D-surveying firm CyArk, and the Climate Change and Heritage Working Group (CCHWG) of the International Council for Museums and Sites (ICOMOS), which serves as an advisory body for UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. The five featured UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Rapa Nui, the remote Chilean territory also known as Easter Island, where iconic monumental stone statues are suffering damage caused by rising seas; the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, where ancient and ultra-porous landmark buildings are decaying at an increased speed due to more frequent and severe rain events; the pre-Columbian desert city of Chan Chan, Peru, that’s threatened by both flood and drought; the mosque city of Bagerhat, Bangladesh, where salty floodwaters are wreaking havoc on its ancient buildings, and Kilwa Kisiwana, a Tanzanian port city at risk of being destroyed by coastal erosion. “The heritage narrative opens so many angles on climate change—justice, livelihoods, migration, mitigation, identity, loss, impacts, solutions and of course urgency,” Dr. Will Megarry, an archeologist and lecturer in Geographical Information Science at Queen’s University Belfast who coordinated ICOMOS’s participation, said in a statement. “The Heritage on the Edge project touches on all these and more, experimenting with multiple media, from high technology to traditional oral storytelling to make its points.” “While climate change is predominately fuelled by large industrialised countries, it is vulnerable communities and heritage which are most impacted. This is one of the reasons why sites were chosen from across the world,” Megarry added, noting that the project “helps blaze a trail for climate communication.” In total, five ICOMOS CCWG members coordinated the ambitious undertaking. Each oversaw efforts with local stakeholders and conservation experts to bring the platform fully to life through networking, providing climate- and heritage-related expertise and conservation support to site managers, and helping carry out “local training programs to assess site vulnerabilities.” Megarry headed up the Kilwa Kisiwana project; Jane Downes, director of the Archaeology Institute at Scotland’s University of Highlands and Islands coordinated efforts on Rapa Nui; Andrew Potts, the U.S.-based coordinator for ICOMOS and CCHWG, organized in Bagerhat; Milagros Flores, former President of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage, oversaw work in Chan Chan; and Peter Cox, managing director of Carrig Conservation International Limited and president of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Energy and Sustainability, served as lead in Edinburgh. “Above all, the project is a call to action,” wrote Dr. Toshiyuki Kono, president of ICOMOS and professor of private international law and heritage law at Kyushu University in Japan, in an introductory essay published by Google Arts & Culture. “The effects of climate change on our cultural heritage mirror wider impacts on our planet, and require a robust and meaningful response. While actions at individual sites can prevent loss locally, the only sustainable solution is systemic change and the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” Launched in 2011 as the Google Art Project through the Google Cultural Institute Initiative, Google Arts & Culture has partnered with over 1,000 museums, cultural organizations, and heritage groups—the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum among them—to make a countless number of artworks and artifacts digitally accessible to the public using various existing and newly created technologies.
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In Memoriam

Henry N. Cobb dies at 93
Henry N. Cobb, American architect and founding partner of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, has passed away. Originally named I. M. Pei & Associates, the firm was founded in New York City by Cobb, I. M. Pei, and Eason H. Leonard in 1955. Their first building, the Gulf Oil building in Atlanta, Georgia, was completed four years prior to the official founding of their office. As a subtle yet unmistakably Miesian office building, its completion allowed the firm to quickly enter the American late modernist movement with a wide range of projects including Montreal’s Place Ville Marie (1962), Syracuse's Everson Museum of Art (1968), and Portland’s Museum of Art (1983), for which Cobb served as lead designer. Though his firm left behind a significant portfolio of buildings—over 250 in more than 100 cities, according to their own profile—an outsize portion of that legacy can be found in his native city of Boston, Massachusetts. Cobb was the lead designer of John Hancock Tower, the tallest building in New England and one of the firm’s most famous buildings in its nearly 70 year history. Though its mirrored facade was initially controversial for its proximity to the Trinity Church in Copley Square when it was completed in 1976, its sharp lines and clever siting went on to win the firm a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) the following year. Cobb later went on design other projects throughout his hometown, including Moakley US Courthouse & Harborpark (1998), Harvard University’s Center for Government and International Studies (2005), and 30 Dalton (2016). Like his working partner Pei, Cobb seemed to have never considered retirement as an option. At the age of 91, Cobb published Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948-2018a 548-page monograph highlighting 70 years of design alongside his essays and transcripts from his many lectures. Reviewing the book in Log Journal, Jeffrey Kipnis called it “a tour de force of writing[...] ingenious, complex, gripping, hilarious, poignant, and profound for any reader.” The following year, Cobb presented a lecture that was projected on stage during Facades+ Boston that highlighted his work on Boston’s One Dalton, one of the architect’s last projects. Cobb passed away at the age of 93, one month shy of his 94th birthday on April 8.
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Sunny Days Ahead?

Master plan for Sunnyside Yard megadevelopment places affordable housing front and center
The master plan for Sunnyside Yard, the second rail yard-blanketing megadevelopment to take root in New York City in less than a decade, has been unveiled. But when comparing Sunnyside Yard, in western Queens, to its predecessor, the upmarket enclave Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s far West Side, similarities between the two, aside from their positioning atop active rail yards and their massive size—28 acres for Hudson Yards and a staggering 144 acres for Sunnyside Yard—are far and few between. When the first of Hudson Yards’ two phases opened in March 2019 seven years after breaking ground, the new neighborhood, studded with skyscrapers designed by an impressive roster of top architects, became an instant magnet for controversy over, among other things, its preponderance of multimillion-dollar condos. (To be clear, there isn’t a total dearth of affordable housing at Hudson Yards.) Sunnyside Yard takes a dramatically different approach, and much-needed affordable housing is at the very core of the sprawling development master-planned by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU). In total, Sunnyside Yard will include 12,000 affordable housing units—the most in New York City since Co-Op City in the Bronx was completed in 1973—as the Wall Street Journal reports. Half of Sunnyside Yard’s apartments will be earmarked as affordable rentals for New Yorkers earning 50 percent below the area median income and the other half reserved for affordable homeownership initiatives. Half of the aforementioned affordable rentals would be reserved for very low-income New York families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income. In addition to housing, the ground-up carbon-neutral neighborhood, a project of the New York City Economic Development Corp (EDC) co-planned with Amtrak, will include 60 acres of parkland and open public space, multiple libraries, a score of healthcare facilities, and up to a dozen new schools. “While the overall program is flexible in terms of location and quantities,” explained PAU, “the plan calls for 100 percent affordable housing; a mix of office, retail, light-manufacturing and institutional programs; and lays out an armature of public goods to support these uses.” While Sunnyside Yard has yet to be slapped with a total price tag, the cost to build a protective deck over most of the 180-acre rail yard partly owned by Amtrak—the master plan encompasses 80 percent of the total site—is estimated at $14.4 billion. This also includes the cost of building out necessary street-level infrastructure, utilities, and more. New Yorkers shouldn’t hold their breaths for a huge influx of affordable housing soon, as the project will take decades to complete, with a new regional transit hub, Sunnyside Station, taking priority over housing in terms of what will come first. PAU notes that “the team has identified a series of early investments that respond to pressing community needs and could be implemented in the near term.” Sunnyside Station, identified through community engagement as one of the pressing needs, is one of these early investments. Developers have yet to be selected for the project although the plan gives priority to women- and minority-owned firms and community-centered nonprofits. A consortium composed of Amtrak, the MTA, and the city, along with “community and elected officials will guide the planning process,” wrote the Journal. Writes PAU:
Encircled by thriving neighborhoods that are both tall and small, artistic and prosaic, diverse and even more diverse, Sunnyside should connect, celebrate, and enhance its surroundings. Like the rest of Queens, with its vast industrial and residential neighborhoods, the World’s Fair grounds, MoMA PS1, the Noguchi Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Gantry Plaza State Park, the ideas for Sunnyside must be diverse, creative, and contemporary. These places—like the future-facing borough they call home that led New York into the Jet Age—have never been about the same old same old, never about nostalgia, and never succumb to the banal. Neither should Sunnyside Yard, which could portend our future as a city.
“It’s unprecedented in the last 50 years and it’s amazing,” Jonathan F.P. Rose, an urban planner and affordable housing developer, told the Journal. “When you combine those things with schools, parks, health care, social services, it creates the platform for people to move forward economically with their lives.” How Sunnyside Yard will be paid for is a detail that’s yet to be ironed out, and backers of the project admit funding will be an uphill battle moving forward. Cash will likely come from a mix of federal, state, and city resources including affordable housing subsidies and tax-exempt bonds. Sunnyside Yard recently made news when the project's EDC-organized steering committee lost Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sylvia White of the Justice for All Coalition as members. Their resignation came after local residents and leaders strongly objected to the project during a months-long public outreach period. Those in opposition believe that the funds that would be allocated by the city to develop and build Sunnyside Yard should instead be used for more urgent community needs. In her resignation letter, Ocasio-Cortez argued that funds “should be invested in shoring up the existing transportation infrastructure that already exists there or investing it in other under-funded public resources that our community relies on.” “Sunnyside Yards presents an opportunity to build a stronger New York for generations to come that includes more open space, transit, affordable housing, jobs and green infrastructure in western Queens,” wrote an EDC spokesperson in response. “This planning process has always put community engagement at the center. We’re committed to continuing our work with the community to build a strategic vision that can better serve local residents and all New Yorkers.” It was first announced that the New York-based PAU had been selected to develop the project master plan in May 2018. Landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz and Carlo Ratti Associati are among the collaborators that worked alongside PAU in realizing the vision, which as the Sunnyside Yard executive summary states, is “not a shovel-ready mega-development plan, but rather a long-term framework to guide decisions, ensuring that they are led by public priorities, and centered on human needs.” “As an architecture firm deeply committed to advancing equitable, ecological, and joyful cities, PAU has been honored to collaborate with the City, Amtrak, the Steering Committee, our extraordinary consulting team, and innumerable local stakeholders on this intensively community-based, long-term vision for Sunnyside Yard,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU, in a statement. “At over 180 acres, the Yard represents our city’s most significant opportunity to realize shared progressive goals all in a carbon neutral environment that will set a model globally for sustainable urban growth while maintaining a scale and density reflective of Western Queens. Neighboring communities now have a unique opportunity to leverage this Plan to address long-standing needs in terms of transportation, housing, jobs, open space, social infrastructure, and environmental resilience.” In a 2019 article about Sunnyside Yard, AN editor-in-chief William Menking speculated that “we are more likely to get another version of Hudson Yards on this public land.” Although nothing yet is set in stone, PAU's ambitious master plan helps to ensure that this won't be the case.
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Y demolish?

Norway will demolish Picasso-clad Oslo office building
After several years of delay, officials have announced that they will begin razing a 51-year-old governmental office building in Oslo near the site of a 2011 car bombing that rocked the Norwegian capital’s Regjeringskvartalet district. The demolition of a office block that stands as a painful reminder of a horrific domestic terrorist attack—the worst in modern Norwegian history—may not seem, at first thought, to be an immediate cause for controversy. But the building is a significant one, a “monument of European importance,” per British preservation group Twentieth Century Society (C20). Dubbed Y-Block, the striking 1969 designed structure, designed by modernist architect Erling Viksjø, features two murals by Pablo Picasso sandblasted onto its concrete walls—a first for the Spanish painter and sculptor in this medium. One is a monumental relief named The Fisherman that graces the building’s facade facing the bustling street Akersgata. A second smaller work, The Seagull, is located in the lobby. Demolition-ready government officials have vowed to save and relocate the murals, which were executed by Picasso’s frequent collaborator, the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar. Preservationists near and far, however, are crying foul. They believe that the building itself should also be spared from the wrecking ball. The planned demolition has effectively been at a standstill since 2014 due to a series of postponements as the powers that be and preservationists hold their respective grounds. However, as Agence-France Press (AFP) reports, a request to enact another postponement was dismissed by the Norwegian government last week. Officials “argued that further delays would lead to financial cost as well as the postponement of the reconstruction project which has already been decided.” “The whole idea of the area is precisely that the art is incorporated into the body of the building,” Mari Hvattum, a professor of architectural history and theory at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, told the New York Times in a 2017 story about the push to preserve the building in its entirety. Calling Y-Block “an architecture with just astonishing qualities,” Hvattum equated separating the murals from the building to removing a painting displayed in a museum from its frame. “A completely atrocious idea,” she said in 2017. Those rallying against the demolition of Y-Block also believe that leveling the building, which would be replaced with a new governmental complex incorporating Picasso’s murals, would be finishing the job, so to speak, for Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist behind the 2011 attack. “We don’t want the ministry to tear down the building when the terrorist didn’t manage to do that,” Janne Wilberg, the city of Oslo’s director of cultural heritage, told the Times. “Breivik wanted to attack social democracy,” elaborated Hvattum. “He wanted to get rid of the legacy of social democracy in built form, and in living form, in terms of people. To tear this down is to complete his [Breivik’s] mission.” Just a month prior to the attack, it was announced that the Y-Block and the High Rise Block, or H-Block, an adjacent 1958 building also designed by Viksjø and boasting three small interior murals by Picasso and Nesjar, were to be listed as national heritage monuments. That process was halted. Formal plans to demolish Y-Block—but carefully salvage its Picasso murals—as part of a larger reconstruction effort at Regjeringskvartalet were first announced by the Norwegian government three years after the attack. This was met with fierce opposition. (The idea was initially floated the previous year, 2013, and received a similarly heated response from preservationists and divided the general public.) Norwegian officials, as they continue to do, cited security concerns and the steep financial burden associated with allowing the unoccupied building to stand. In a statement announcing the recent decision to move ahead with the demolition, it was revealed that Statsbygg, the agency charged with overseeing the Norwegian government’s real estate assets, had been handed the “assignment to start preparation work for the demolition of the Y-Block.” A firm date for the demolition has not been announced. Unlike the Y-Block, officials have promised to spare the H-Block and eventually restore it. It too sustained light, non-structural damage in the 2011 attack although it has since been partially repopulated. In 2015, heritage organization Europa Nostra placed Y-Block’s murals on a shortlist of Europe’s seven most endangered artworks. While Picasso and Nesjar collaborated on numerous other projects together across the world, most are freestanding sculptures as noted by C20, which believes that removing the murals at Y-Block would be “detrimental to the artistic integrity of the work.’ The duo completed two other innovative concrete murals outside of Oslo but only "The Fisherman" and a mural at the Official College of Architects of Catalonia in Barcelona are viewable by the public. “The Highrise and The Y-block constitute a unified whole, where the buildings mutually enhance each other, and create an interesting space between them,” wrote C20 in 2016. “Both exteriors and interiors have walls made from sandblasted concrete with river gravel, a poetic local variation of the brutalist architecture of the time. The Y-block’s iconic shape, combined with the pioneering use of concrete and Picasso’s art, make it a building of exceptional value.” More recently, Europa Nostra has backed efforts to save Y-Block itself, placing the building on the shortlist for the 2020 edition of its “7 Most Endangered” program. “At a time when climate concerns are causing all of us to question how we can reduce our environmental impact, demolishing a perfectly sound building would be a waste of carbon in the energy consumed in demolition and in lost materials,” said Graham Bell, a member of Europa Nostra’s board and the 7 Most Endangered Advisory Panel, in a statement. The Picasso Administration, the organization that oversees the artist's vast legacy, was also initially skeptical of the decision to relocate the murals but has reportedly since softened its stance according to the Times. “The Y-block is now, more than ever, a symbol for humankind and democracy,” reads a 2019 petition launched to save the building. “If it is taken away, a part of the history will be lost that cannot be replaced or withdrawn.”
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Monuments Now

Artists challenge representation in Socrates Sculpture Park for MONUMENTS NOW
Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens has commissioned three new ‘monuments’ for the first phase of MONUMENTS NOW, an outdoor exhibition set to open on May 16, 2020. The pieces, by artists Jeffrey Gibson, Paul Ramírez Jonas, and Xaviera Simmons question the traditional role of commemorative structures in society and aim to salute underrepresented groups. “At a time when monuments are under intense scrutiny,” Kendal Henry, the director of Percent for Art Program at the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, said in a press release, “this exhibitions provides artists from diverse backgrounds a unique opportunity to redefine the monument and its role in remembering our country's past, as well as its effect on our present and future. Socrates Sculpture Park, with its nimble approach, is a perfect incubator for artists who can influence the field of monument-creating and public art.” Jeffrey Gibson, an interdisciplinary artist based in Hudson, New York, will present his monument Because Once You Enter My House, It Becomes Our House as a tribute to the ingenuity of indigenous peoples. A recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, Gibson created a structure reminiscent of pre-Columbian Mississippian architecture shrouded in geometric posters that feature activist slogans. The piece ties North American indigenous history to contemporary activism graphics and queer camp performance art to push audiences to see the intricacy of collective identity. Gibson’s work has previously been shown at the Denver Art Museum, the New Museum in New York, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA). Because Once You Enter My House, It Becomes Our House will be exhibited alongside a communal grill monument called Eternal Flame, created by Brooklyn-based artist Paul Ramírez Jonas. The monument will explore the issues of immigration and identity as expressed through food and its preparation. Ramírez Jonas often uses everyday items in his work to challenge accepted societal values and behaviors. During his 25-year career, the artist’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City, the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, and the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas. MONUMENTS NOW will also include three monumental sculptures from interdisciplinary artist Xaviera Simmons. Her work, Untitled 2020, will use steel, wood, plaster, and paint to provoke conversations about racial disenfranchisement in the United States, citing historic documents and government policies that perpetuate racial discord. “The entirety of the United States itself is a monument to European expansionism and white nation-state building,” Simmons told AN. “These monuments are another way into the American narrative, into the formal as it relates to sculpture, and also into a contemporary narrative both historically and creatively.” A recipient of the 2018 Agnes Gund Art for Justice Award and the 2018 Denniston Hill’s Distinguished Performance Artist Award, Simmons’s photography, performance, and sculptural work investigates political and social histories and has been exhibited at the David Castillo Gallery in Miami, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The second phase of MONUMENTS NOW will open in September and feature ten artists selected through an open call. The year-long exhibition will be completed in October with the opening of the Next Generation sculpture, created by high school students enrolled in the Socrates Sculpture Park's educational program, Socrateens (the pieces from the first phase will remain up). Enabled by the support of the Ford Foundation, VIA Art Fund, and the Andy Warhol Foundation, the exhibition was curated by Jess Wilcox, the director of exhibitions at the Socrates Sculpture Park, and aims to start conversations about monuments in society. “As a forum for public art, and as a cultural anchor in the most diverse county in America--Queens, New York--Socrates is the ideal venue to present nuanced artist-driven perspectives on the controversial issue of monuments and to facilitate discussion about cultural values,” said John Hatfield, executive director of the park.