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MCASD Keeps Going

Selldorf Architects breaks ground on controversial San Diego museum expansion
After a summer filled with dueling op-eds, petitions, and general outcry from members of the international architectural community, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and New York City–based Selldorf Architects have officially broken ground on a controversial $95 million expansion to the museum’s campus in La Jolla, California. The Times of San Diego reports that the groundbreaking occurred Thursday of last week and quotes Selldorf Architects founder Annabelle Selldorf as saying: “This is a special place in the world. But the collection of the museum inspires equal awe. Giving home to this beautiful collection is an incredibly vital thing to do.” The project aims to more than double the size of the museum by adding 37,000 square feet of new spaces to the complex, which was last expanded by Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA) in 1996. The designers aim to achieve this task by adding a new ocean-facing wing along the southern end of the complex, reorienting the museum’s entry and adding a slew of much-needed gallery spaces in the process. The project also aims to renovate the existing 35,000-square-foot original complex, which was initially designed by famed California architect Irving Gill and was expanded several times during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s by local architects Mosher Drew. The reorientation of the museum’s entrance has been seen as controversial by many in the international architecture community, including Denise Scott Brown who has spoken out against the addition. Scott Brown contends that the entry VSBA designed was derived from the “careful study and understanding of La Jolla’s urban form” in a widely-circulated petition, and that as a result, the plan deserves to be preserved. In several phone calls with The Architect’s Newspaper, Scott Brown has explained that she does not see Selldorf’s addition and the preservation of the VSBA elements as mutually exclusive, however, and hopes that a way can be found to retain the logic of the existing entrance while fulfilling the needs of the growing museum. The existing entry arrangement is a chief design contribution from Scott Brown—who aside from being an architect is also a celebrated urban planner—and it is considered an integral aspect of the VSBA addition and its guiding postmodern ideals. The elements that are being retained by the Selldrorf team relate more directly to the bombastic, iconographic forms VSBA is best known for and include the museum’s so-called Axline Court, a starburst-shaped atrium topped by neon-lit archways. According to Selldorf, her team is dedicated to celebrating the many lives of the museum and has worked hard to retain key elements of the VSBA design. Regarding the entrance, Selldorf told AN this summer, “Our task was to add an entrance that people could find,” while adding, “Not everybody thought we should be so determined to keep [the VSBA-designed] portions, but we are doing a lot of work to have those elements retain a significant presence in reinvigorated building.” The proposed renovations have exposed a critical and long-running schism in preservation thinking over not only which types of heritage are worth preserving, but perhaps as significantly, over the scope and scale of what is considered fundamental to postmodernism and postmodern design in architecture. The question here, as with many preservation-related projects, is whether surface-level decoration—neon lights, flamboyant archways, and textured materials—convey the essence of a work enough to allow for fundamental changes in use and organization or whether true preservation requires more. The question has gained greater urgency in the weeks following the death of Robert Venturi and amid a growing climate of uncertainty for not only VSBA’s works, but for elements of postmodern heritage in general. According to Scott Brown’s interpretation, the project’s plan—inspired by the double-coded logic of medieval European town squares and urban economic theory—is as important to MCASD’s status as a postmodern work as the building’s more visually-aggressive elements, highlighting the fundamental disagreement at hand. Either way, Scott Brown’s petition and the global outcry have not been enough to cause thinking on the project to shift significantly. Site work has been underway at the complex over the last few months as crews worked to remove a monumental pergola associated with the VSBA addition. Last week’s official groundbreaking indicates the project is moving forward at full-steam. Despite the demolition of the colonnade, the La Jolla Historical Society was able to salvage one of the two pergola structures and has since installed the fiberglass and steel assembly in a nearby garden that is free to the public and open for visitors. Selldorf Architects’ additions are scheduled to be completed in 2021.
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“Bob ain’t here to make another one“

Frank Gehry remembers Robert Venturi and VSBA’s work
Last week, architect Frank Gehry spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper regarding the recent passing of postmodern hero Robert Venturi at age 93. Venturi passed away on September 18 and in the days and weeks following, architects, scholars, and critics from around the world have offered poignant remembrances of Venturi and of his work with partner Denise Scott Brown and their joint firm, Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA). The pair is largely responsible for ushering in the postmodern architecture movement during the 1960s, a ground-shifting development that rocked established architectural discourse through convention-challenging buildings and radical publications alike. The developments helped to open a new realm of architectural expression, an opportunity generations of later architects—Gehry included—have exploited in order to explore new horizons in architectural and urban design. Over the telephone, Gehry explained that though he and Venturi feuded publicly from time to time, he felt much admiration for the late architect. Gehry said, “Bob Venturi is one of my heroes in life,” adding, “as is Denise.” With recent high-profile demolitions in mind, Gehry voiced support for preserving VSBA’s work, explaining that “maybe it’s a time to reflect on the issue (of preservation) that Denise has brought up,” a reference to Scott Brown’s recent efforts to bring awareness to the increasingly imperiled nature of some of the firm’s lesser known works, like the firm’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego expansion. Gehry explained that while “it’s hard to lose Bob [Venturi], what he [and Denise] gave us are insights created over a lifetime” that will live on in VSBA’s remaining built work. Specifically, Gehry offered praise for VSBA’s Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London. The groundbreaking work—a 120,000-square-foot expansion of the historic gallery that was built in 1991—was recently listed in England’s National Heritage List as a structure with Grade I significance. Regarding the project, Gehry said:
“Their project in London—Sainsbury—I go there and I marvel at it. I’m not a Classicist or an Originalist, I’m not into that, but those columns in the back, at an angle, a slight angle, it does something to your perception. Yeah, I have Venturi love in me.”
Gehry went on to postulate that when it came to the preservation of postmodern-era structures, architects and clients are both often at a loss, especially when budget-driven clients are setting priorities. While acknowledging that “culture changes, people are different,” Gehry admitted that “I don’t know that we understand [postmodern architecture], really, or how to deal with it.” With a note of finality, Gehry added, “Bob ain’t here to make another one, though.”
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Appointments and Approvals

Trump appoints opponent of Gehry's Eisenhower Memorial to D.C. planning agency
President Trump has appointed National Civic Art Society President Justin Shubow to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, an independent federal agency that oversees the design and construction of all buildings, monuments, and memorials in Washington, D.C. Shubow will join six other presidential appointees on the commission to review all new projects in accordance with the 1901–1902 McMillan Plan, which laid out the National Mall and surrounding monuments. The commission was started in 1910 and has since assisted the District in building out its ever-evolving landscape.  Shubow made headlines in 2014 when he authored a 150-page critique of the controversial Eisenhower Memorial competition. The National Civic Art Society report detailed Shubow’s disapproval of Frank Gehry’s plans to design a monument dedicated to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. According to an executive summary of the document, Shubow and the Eisenhower family viewed the proposal as a disgrace to the 34th U.S. President:
“The Memorial’s titanic ‘columns’ tower over the stone reliefs of Eisenhower and the puny Ike statute. The result is a Leviathan Memorial swallowing a small-fry Eisenhower. The behemoth commemorates Gehry’s ego, not Eisenhower’s greatness and humility.”
In 2012, Shubow testified to the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks in an effort to pass a bill that would nix Gehry’s design for the memorial once and for all. The bill didn’t pass, and the Commission of Fine Arts approved a revised preliminary design for the project. Congress appropriated $150 million to the memorial in 2017 and the city broke ground on construction last fall. It is scheduled to be finished on May 8, 2020. Shubow has an extensive background discussing architecture, having written about the field for Forbes and served as the current executive director of Rebuild Penn Station. He’s also lectured widely on architecture at universities across the U.S., although he was not trained in the field.
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In Memoriam

Critic and historian Martin Filler remembers Robert Venturi
During my four decades as an architecture critic, I developed close personal relationships with several of my subjects, including Charles Moore and Frank Gehry, although, unsurprisingly, our dealings became far less amicable when my enthusiasm for their work waned. My longest direct connection to those I’ve written about has been with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. But that intimate bond had both its rewards and perils, as I recalled after his death on September 18 at the age of ninety-three. Criticism of architecture is complicated in ways that differ significantly from other mediums. Authoritative evaluations require that you get inside the works in question to make a responsible judgment, especially in the case of private houses or other properties not open to the public. One must also have technical information in order to provide an accurate account of a building’s physical characteristics. An art critic may easily determine the dimensions and components of a painting by seeing it on a gallery wall, a theater or music critic by purchasing a ticket for a performance, or a book reviewer by obtaining a copy of the publication. But an architecture journalist had best be on speaking terms with his subjects, a lesson I repeatedly learned the hard way with Venturi and Scott Brown. Early in my career I wrote a puerile review of their Penn State Faculty Club (1974-1977) in State College, Pennsylvania. Today that article makes me cringe. In an attempt to shock, I called their charming homage to Shingle Style domesticity “a whorehouse without a second floor” because its upper-story fenestration was purely ornamental. Their jest was no crime, but I was trying to establish street cred as a tough critic. My crude epithet outraged the architects, of course, and I was in the doghouse for years afterward. Fortunately, Bob and Denise, as I came to know them, were very fond of Rosemarie Haag Bletter, the architectural historian who had been among the first academicians to include their work in college-level modern architecture courses in the 1960s. She would also become my future wife. After we married, I tried to make amends with the two architects, whose susceptibility to feeling wounded was exacerbated by their having lost numerous architectural competitions they deserved to win. To my relief, I eventually received a handwritten letter from Venturi in which he announced, with courtly formality, that because Rosemarie had accepted me in matrimony, they forgave my youthful indiscretion. However, the dangerous flip-side of being shunned by one’s critical subjects is becoming too close to them, and I admit that I gradually did cross the line into friendship with Bob and Denise. They were prominently featured in Michael Blackwood’s 1983 documentary film Beyond Utopia: Changing Attitudes in American Architecture, which Rosemarie and I wrote and for which we conducted the interviews. When we were guest curators for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1985 exhibition High Styles: Twentieth Century American Design, we recommended that they be hired to create the show’s installation; they were, and their work—a witty Pop mounting that reflected their love of the decorative arts—was widely admired. It was no surprise that around that time they were also designing equally delightful furniture for Knoll, china for Swid Powell, flatware for Reed and Barton, rugs for V’Soske, and even a cuckoo clock for Alessi. Still, there were risks. In 1991, having heard from the National Gallery’s board chairman, Jacob Rothschild, that Venturi and Scott Brown’s problem-plagued Sainsbury Wing was nearing completion, I gained access to the closed construction site on Trafalgar Square by posing as a member of the architects’ firm—hardhat, clipboard, and all. Exhilarated by the nearly finished project, I urged the magazine I worked for to run pre-completion photos of the new building in order to land a scoop. Breaking the press embargo caused an initial Venturi eruption—he concealed a volatile Italian temper beneath his buttoned-down Philadelphia preppiness. But after an interval I was absolved once more and the Sainsbury Wing is now justly considered their masterpiece. Thereafter, considering their advanced age and towering historical stature, I decided to write about them only when I had something positive to say. And I was delighted when I could praise without reservation a late-career gem, their Dumbarton Oaks Library of 2001-2005 in Washington, D.C., a veritable concerto in patterned brick, alive with architectural syncopation and functional logic. It would be my last review of their work to appear during his lifetime. He retired from practice in 2012, as Alzheimer’s disease sapped his formidable creative and intellectual powers, a loss all the more poignant because he was the most learned architect I’ve ever known. Bob’s funeral was held six days after his death, on a cool, overcast afternoon when some seventy family members, colleagues, friends, and caregivers gathered in Newtown Square, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, at the Willistown Friends Meeting, an eighteenth-century Quaker meetinghouse of exquisite rigor and simplicity. The tranquil, timeless setting—a rural scene of rolling hills and low fieldstone walls—seemed like an Andrew Wyeth painting come to life (the artist lived at Chadds Ford, fifteen miles to the southwest). It was hard to believe that one was still in the violent and hate-saturated America of 2018. Venturi’s parents, both from Italian Catholic families, converted first to Unitarian Universalism and then to Quakerism. Their only child took their faith’s precepts of nonviolence and pacifism seriously enough to become a conscientious objector during World War II and defined himself as “a proper Quaker” until the end of his life. The officiant at his ecumenical funeral was not, however, a Quaker elder, but rather Father John McNamee, a retired Roman Catholic priest with early ties to the Catholic Worker Movement and who was honored for his social activism in inner-city Philadelphia. He had also been responsible for overseeing the Venturi firm’s 1968 reconfiguration of St. Francis de Sales Church in Philadelphia, which was spurred by new liturgical practices advanced through the Second Vatican Council. As Father McNamee pointed out during the funeral service, Venturi’s respect for ordinary Americans’ values and aspirations remained paramount. The priest began by reading the Beatitudes, the very kernel of the Christian message, albeit one ignored by many present-day American Evangelicals, and then quoted Father Daniel Berrigan, the 1960’s Jesuit antiwar crusader. The ceremony featured two of Quakerism’s hallmarks: ten minutes of silence, followed by spontaneous contributions from congregants who spoke as the spirit moved them. The emotional highlight of the gathering came in a sequence of personal reminiscences by four home health-care aides who cared for Venturi during his final years. The crucial role that such unheralded heroes of everyday life play in our society has never been more immediately expressed nor as touchingly clear to me. And although each spoke separately, their shared sentiments resounded as if they were harmonizing soloists in a gospel choir. One of them, Pat Thompson, was too overcome to speak directly, so her heartfelt tribute was read by a colleague, Wanda Whittington. In their moving and funny anecdotes, Verna Wood and Carolyn Heller likewise told of growing to love their sometimes difficult but inevitably appreciative client. Several of them said that they had no idea at the outset of their service that Venturi was a world-renowned architect, and that although they came to appreciate his exceptional stature, it was the man, not the artist, they would miss most. This was the all-pervasive feeling in the room. After the eulogies, the mourners filed out to the cemetery, shaded by mature trees and dotted with low headstones of nearly identical design. After the squared-off, unfinished wood coffin was lowered into the grave, Venturi and Scott Brown’s only child, the urban planner and documentary filmmaker James Venturi, laid a homemade wreath of laurel leaves next to the grave; the victor’s laurels with a down-to-earth ethos.
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Brooklyn Gang

Studio Gang's undulating Brooklyn tower launches sales
Sales have officially begun for 11 Hoyt Street, Downtown Brooklyn’s upcoming 770,000-square-foot residential tower designed by Studio Gang Architects. The 480-unit curvilinear skyscraper is impressive by virtue of its unique shape and gigantic size; its 57 stories occupy a full city block. Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang is leading the project, with plans to transform the site of a once-dismal parking garage into one of the tallest and most luxurious skyscrapers in Brooklyn—a modern work of art. The proposed building is noteworthy for its beveled and undulating facade, which differs drastically from the ubiquitous glass skyscrapers that currently populate the area. Each window on 11 Hoyt will be individually framed by the building's precast concrete skeleton, with multiple sections extruding outward to form a diagonal, rippling wave pattern across the height of the tower. When the sun shines down on the facade, it will create a unique play of shadows that will accentuate the building’s animated and flexible appearance, while highlighting its glass and concrete sculptural elements. The project site, bordered on four sides by Hoyt Street, Elm Place, Fulton Street, and Livingston Street, is conveniently situated just blocks away from multiple subway lines. Residents who choose to approach the building by car can enter through the outdoor-landscaped porte-cochere, which connects directly to the main lobby. There are a total of 480 units in the building, with interiors designed by London-based Michaelis Boyd Associates. The smallest studios start at $600,000, and the largest four-bedroom unit is priced at $3,400,000. While the floor plans come in nearly 200 different variations, each unit has ten-foot ceilings and eight-foot-tall windows with spectacular views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, Brooklyn, and Queens. Over 55,000 square feet of indoor amenities can be found at the base of the skyscraper, including a lavish cinema, cocktail lounge, library, performance space, private dining area, study lounge, and virtual game room equipped with a golf simulator. A separate Sky Lounge can be found on the 32nd floor. Perhaps 11 Hoyt’s most notable amenity is its 27,000-square-foot private elevated park located atop the second floor, which will become the largest in all of New York City for any residential building. The landscape, designed by Edmund Hollander Design, will hold a sun deck, fitness area, hot tub, children’s play area, and multiple lounge areas. Next to the private residential park will be the “Park Club,” a massive space that will house a 75-foot saltwater swimming pool and a private fitness center designed by The Wright Fit. “From the world-class design and extraordinary, unique amenity offering to the vast, elevated private park, 11 Hoyt raises the bar in the Downtown Brooklyn residential marketplace,” Erik Rose, managing director of Tishman Speyer, the building's developer, told Yimby. “We are incredibly proud to be launching sales for this unmatched residential product and we know it presents a tremendous opportunity for discerning buyers." The project is expected to be complete sometime in 2020.
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Showtime

What to see at the 2018 Architecture & Design Film Festival in New York City
Now in its tenth year, the Architecture & Design Film Festival (ADFF) is coming to New York later this month with a solid roster of unmissable short- and long-form films. For six days starting on October 16, the Cinépolis Chelsea will host screening after screening of rarely-seen films for your viewing pleasure. This year’s opening night show and reception will be held at the SVA Theatre, presenting the world premiere of Basia and Leonard Myszynski’s film Leaning OutIn the 59-minute documentary, the filmmakers dive into the story of Leslie E. Robertson, the lead structural engineer behind the original World Trade Center towers. The film follows his response to the September 11 attacks as well as his lifelong fight for human rights and peace through service and design in the United States and abroad.  The Grand Prize Winner of the 2018 AIA Film Challenge will also be announced on the first day of the festival, as well as the People's Choice Award winner. Public voting for People's Choice is open now through Monday, October 7 and all films are free to watch here. Other highlights from this fall’s ADFF lineup include: A Train to Rockaway directed by William Starling and Carlos Rojas-Felice A short film showcasing the daily routine of amateur sandcastle architect Calvin Seibert, an artist who believes the production of art is the most interesting element of design. Frank Gehry: Building Justice directed by Ultan Guilfoye Co-presented by New York Magazine, this long-form film follows Frank Gehry and his studios at SCI-Arc and the Yale School of Architecture. Together with his students, he investigated prison design and visited one of the world’s most progressive detention centers in Norway. Do More with Less directed by Katerina Kliwadenko and Mario Novas This feature-length film hit the festival circuit last year and has received high praise for its depiction of the young architects and students in Latin America that are creating innovative architecture using few financial and material resources. Francis Kéré: An Architect Between directed by directed Daniel Schwartz Detailing the design legacy of world-renowned architect Francis Kéré, this short film dives into his social justice work in Burkina Faso and Germany.   Enough White Teacups directed by Michelle Bauer Carpenter This documentary highlights the award-winning projects that came out of an international design competition by the Danish nonprofit INDEX: Design to Improve Life. The designs center around sustainable strategies to combat key global issues such as infant mortality, ocean pollution, and affordable housing. Five films (including a few from above) will include post-preview panels with speakers such as Jake Gorst, Martino Stierli, Guillaume de Morsier, and more. You can view the entire ADFF schedule here. Tickets for opening night are $75, while general admission for all other films will be $17 for adults and $12.50 for students. Films showing in the pop-up Sony Theatre at Cinépolis Chelsea will be free, but tickets are required. They are available for purchase online, at the box office, or by phone.
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Filler Piece

Martin Filler lyrically recounts the luminaries of modern architecture

Martin Filler's new book Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin is as moving as the other two editions in the series: not only are his portraits individualized, but their particularities are given broad and vast depth in history. As Filler describes the Italian-born Latin American emigre Lina Bo Bardi’s writings, "they are anything but a dry educational treatise." This is equally true of this text. 

Filler has a literate writing style, smoothly telling stories about individuals both liked or strongly disparaged; Maya Lin is a benign favorite and Albert Speer an ominous criminal. The essays were originally written for The New York Review of Books where they found an apt home. Yet, for me, Filler's style could be better suited for creative literature because of the vivid word pictures he draws of individuals, their works, and the generalized historical fabrics in which they belong. 

On most of his critiques I am in agreement, but on Frank Gehry, I part ways. Filler is not uncritical but ends up agreeing with most of the press that Gehry is deservedly the most celebrated contemporary architect, except for his Seattle Museum of Pop Culture. I think that Gehry’s style is too peculiar and doesn’t fit into its siting, although the famous Guggenheim Bilbao is perfectly sited within the urban fabric, in my opinion. 

Filler becomes somewhat poetic when comparing Louis Kahn’s sculptural powers to Michaelangelo’s: both conceived that all forms are embedded within materials and receive their powerful force by coming into being through the artist’s touch. In the Kahn chapter, Filler also sees Kahn’s "irrepressible egotism" most obviously in his philandering personal life.

In dealing with his subjects Filler exhibits keen or probing observant insight. In the introduction, we find that Renzo Piano won his enviable commissions as much from his superbly able and talented skills as from his ability engaging to potential clients. Filler carefully weighs the religious, social, personal, aesthetic, and political strains of his subjects, so we get a crammed-full picture, a three-dimensional image of the individuals, like in Margot and Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn.

When Filler takes on Edwin Lutyens as a figure equal in influence, although polar opposite in style, to Le Corbusier we get a sense of Filler's droll wit. He refers to Christopher Wren’s affecting Lutyens as a "Wrenaissance." In the midst of speaking on Wiener Werkstatte, he brings up Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park's grid, remarking that it resembles a waste paper basket of Josef Hoffman. This is an essay in kitsch, says Filler.

Humor aside, Filler is poetically determined to bring out the breathtakingly serious gift that Frederick Law Olmsted gave to mankind in his designing such landscapes as Central Park and its slightly later progeny, Prospect Park, together with his partner, Calvert Vaux. Regardless of their being created in the 19th century, Filler says, they are ageless. This could be extended to Filler’s historical accounts.

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1925–2018

Jencks, Eisenman, FAT, and more remember Robert Venturi
Robert Venturi passed away at age 93 on Wednesday, and there has been an overwhelming response from the architecture community. From dedicated disciples to former intellectual foes, many architects and critics have taken a moment to recognize how deep and impactful Venturi’s legacy really is. We collected some of those tributes here. Deborah Berke: With the passing of Robert Venturi, Architecture has lost one of its greats. But to say Bob belonged to Architecture with a capital “A” is to limit the scope of his contribution. Bob was an artist, an adventurer, an agitator. Architecture, design, planning, and writing were his media, but his goal—brilliantly achieved—was to change culture. Alongside his equally gifted collaborator, Denise Scott Brown, he opened the profession to new possibilities and rewrote the canon of architectural history. He also developed a visual language—infused with wit, color, pattern, and erudition—that reverberates far beyond his buildings. Barbara Bestor: Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction (written in 1966 the year I was born!) was a revelation for me as a youngster. Though I was immersed in neo-modernist design school, I was drawn to the crazy formal and informal conversations he described between architects from ancient Rome to Victorian England... It taught me that architectural discourse is in fact buildings IN DISCOURSE with other buildings! Also with cities and with people and with art! This is still big news in our current “post-human” design moment! Plus who doesn’t love seeing the decorated sheds of Las Vegas as lovingly explicated by Venturi and his partner Denise Scott-Brown? Personally I relish checking out the lovely little “bird houses” of Block Island (1979 Coxe-Hayden) every summer, and they have had a direct impact in freeing me to reinterpret vernacular forms in my own work. Jean-Louis Cohen: In an age of despair in respect to the practice of architecture, as vulgarized modernization had upstaged poetic modernism, Robert Venturi’s 1966 book came as a revelation. It allowed for a reconciliation between Le Corbusier, Aalto, Bernini and Balthazar Neumann, recruiting apparently incompatible buildings to cast a fascinating menagerie of shapes and patterns. If anything, his writings and his early projects stimulated for my generation the appetite for culture and the ability to play with single objects and the city at large. Bob reminded us that, before generating form, architecture is a discipline of observation, alert to the everyday landscape, as well as towards its own linguistic fetishisms and obsessions. Neil M. Denari: The sphere of influence that Robert Venturi constructed over the course of his estimable career is much larger than we think, because the Postmodern label did not, in the end, constrain the ways in which architects with many ideologies have approached and utilized his theories. I feel like Complexity and Contradiction is the architectural equivalent of Gödel’s Theory of Incompleteness- a set of ideas (maybe even laws) that outlines how complexity is not simply the antidote to boredom, but more importantly, that it is a persistent contemporary condition. His shadow is long, his ideas are transcendent, and I, for one, will always owe a debt to his immense contributions to the field.  
 
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High five from RV.

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Peter Eisenman: Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, the first book of architectural theory by an American architect, opened the way for a generation of young architects – Charles Moore, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Frank Gehry, and more – to challenge the platitudes of corporate practice in the 1960s and ’70s. In combining the best of European architectural history—Vignola, Soane, Moretti, etc.—with contemporary iconography, Venturi developed an idea of complexity that became the critical tool for stanching the tide of laissez-faire modernism and changing the face of American architecture. I for one will miss him and his dry sense of humor. Mark Foster Gage: I remember about 20 years ago when I was considering going to graduate school for architecture I met, of all people, Robert Venturi. We ended up having drinks and both got not-quite-but-close drunk. He said, "Don't ever become an architect... unless there's absolutely nothing else you can possibly do..." I was mortified! I thought oh my god, what am I doing if THIS guy who’s at the top of the pile is telling me it’s hard (I also remember thinking that is really was all I could possibly do—the alternative being falling back on my mostly medieval art history degree...). Only in retrospect did I realize that what he was conveying was truly sage advice. Architecture is neither an easy path nor a mere job--but more of an infatuation that involves a significant amount of struggle. He knew this, and it was evidenced in his own work, for instance when he, the ur-figure of postmodernism, was on the cover of Architect Magazine quoted as saying "I am not nor have ever been a postmodernist." You can see the struggle in his work between high modernist training and the whimsy of pop culture. To this day I think the strength of his work is the struggle to reconcile these two directions—rather than merely opening the floodgates of postmodernism through his writing and early work. There was discomfort in his work—hard effort. I don’t think the postmodernism of Venturi was easy and frivolous, I think it was complicated, rich, detailed and intelligent—qualities we should all be so lucky to imbue in our work as we struggle through our own careers for this difficult but beautiful infatuation of ours.
 
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Divine right of kings #RobertVenturi

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Dan Graham: Bob Venturi was one of the one or two best American architects and was a great writer on architecture, architectural history, and theory. His love of pop art infuriated my friend Richard Serra and that is why I wrote a defense of him in Artforum. He criticized Mies, but in the end, came to appreciate him and understand his importance. His background was as an Italian-American and Quaker, and he loved American and English vernacular architecture, billboards and shopping malls. Denise Scott Brown said he loved to watch English soap operas on PBS and he had a great sense of humor. I was lucky to meet him. Paul Goldberger: I am accustomed to thinking of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning from Las Vegas as books from a long time ago, and indeed they are. But I don’t know if there could be any better way than to honor Robert Venturi than to open both of them again, and to be reminded that these are, in fact, timeless books: anchored in the 1960s and 1970s, yes, but transcending those years to speak to us now and for a long time to come. Complexity teaches you how to see architecture, and to understand how it is always about both/and, not either/or. Las Vegas, which he wrote with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown as well as Steven Izenour, shows us how architecture is the making of sign and symbol as much as the making of space, and points the way toward the conflation of electronic media and architecture. Both books were prescient, and far more important than the air of nostalgia that surrounds them is the pleasant reminder of their continued meaning. Bob Venturi, writer of the “gentle manifesto,” was himself gentle, kind, soft-spoken, and absolutely driven. He was as ambitious as anyone in the architecture business, but his ambition was softened by a connoisseur’s love of form, a critic’s incisive perception, and a tourist’s enthusiasms about the world. His architecture was a series of exuberant, inventive, and incisive mannerist explorations, modern even as it appeared to turn modernism on its head. We first met when I was still an undergraduate, and thanks to an introduction from Vincent Scully, I had the chance to talk with him and Denise about their work, a conversation that led to a piece about them in The New York Times Magazine that marked the beginning of my life as an architecture critic, or at least a paid one. What I remember best about that interview, beyond how gracious both Bob and Denise were to a young writer with almost no credentials, was the fact that it took place in a sprawling mansion outside of Philadelphia that was owned by an old friend of theirs for whom Bob had designed a house that was never built. The reason the house, which would have been the most important of Bob’s career up to that point—this was 1971—never went ahead was telling: before construction started, the old house came up for sale, and Bob told his friend he didn’t see how any new house could be as appealing as that old one, and recommended he buy it instead of building the Venturi house. What other architect would willingly say such a thing to a client? Bob was incapable of dissembling. Most people who are as congenitally honest as he was see the world in simplistic, black-and-white terms; Bob always saw it as nuanced, richly complex, ironic, defined by “richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning.” It is that combination—utter directness tempered by an absence of dogma and ideology, a penchant for truthfulness together with a mind for nuance and subtlety—that marked Bob, and shaped both the extraordinary words and the great architecture that are his legacy.  
 
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💙Another pic from our visit to Vanna Venturi’s house 💙 . . . #architecture #robertventuri

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Sean Griffiths: It goes without saying that he and Denise were huge influences on me personally and on FAT in general. They have also been incredibly supportive over the years. For us, they were simply the most important architects of the second half of the 20th century. They managed the incredible feats of producing highly influential buildings, creating a new architectural movement, and my god—those books—they changed everything,all the while remaining outsiders, never fully accepted by the establishment. For me Learning from Las Vegas is the most important book written on architecture and urbanism in the last 50 years. It completely changed the way we judge architecture, think about places and their meanings, represent space and analyze the relationship between people and environments. It was so much more than a book “about” Las Vegas. It was a totally new way to look at the built environment. Sam, Charles, and I will never forget our first visit to Philadelphia when Bob and Denise welcomed us into their home and took us on a tour of the Mother's house, the Louis Kahn house across the road (in which Bob delighted in pointing out which of the ideas in it were his—most of them according to him!), the Guild House, and their office. They then took us to dinner and we talked about our mutual love of the Sopranos opening titles and he and Denise professed a love for English sitcoms—“What’s the name of the one with the women priest?” he asked, referring to The Vicar of Dibley. We just thought it was hilarious that here we were with our architectural heroes and we were actually discussing The Vicar of Dibley of all things. Best of all, Bob and Denise attended the lecture we gave at UPenn and afterward saluted us with the immortal words, “Terrific…keep up the bad work!” I feel deeply honored to have known them both. Charles Holland: Robert Venturi was without a doubt my favorite architect. His work has been a huge and constant source of inspiration to me. Not just the buildings but the way he combined the, with research, teaching and writing of the highest order. He wrote not one but two enormously influential and undeniably important books, the second with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown. Together they opened up architecture to so many things; to an appreciation of the everyday and to a way of learning from the things around us. Of all the buildings, my favourite is the Trubek House, one of a pair shingle-clad cottages realised on Nantucket Island in 1970. It has it all this house: the plays of scale, the complex spatiality, the tension between architecture and ordinary life, the two never fully resolved. Robert Venturi’s importance cannot be overstated and he leaves the world of architecture a much poorer place. RIP Bob. Sam Jacob: I don’t think I could express how important Bob Venturi (and Denise) were to FAT, and to me personally. I really came across their work in the bargain bookshops of the mid 90's, picking up that amazing book on the Mother House for nothing. Airbrushed out of the architectural history I'd been taught at school, their work seemed so amazingly fresh and relevant to an age of information and communication (remember the zeal and optimism of digital culture at that time!). So free of all that stale reactionary nonsense that had surrounded them (especially in the UK at the time of Prince Charles' National Gallery interventions) we could find our own resonances. Sampling, cutting and pasting, copying, distorting, playing with conventions, and understanding architecture as a form of information itself, I concocted a private dream that was part Venturi part Marshall McLuhan that helped forge a different path through millennial times and digital culture. Meeting them both in Philly at a small show at Penn we had was incredible, with Bob dropping aphorisms left, right, and center that still stay with me as he toured the show: “Not boring but in a good way,” “keep up the bad work.” I still don't know what he meant when he told me I wrote like Abraham Lincoln. He made us feel like co-conspirators, and we in turn felt like we could learn (and steal) so much from him that could restart the engine of a certain strand of architectural attitudes towards culture and design that had stalled. It's not overhyped or sentimental to stress his absolute centrality to the very idea of architecture in the late 20th and early 21st century. It's why after a long time ignored and shunned by the architectural mainstream, his and Denise’s work has become so important to a younger generation of architects. Ugly and ordinary forever!
 
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Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown — Wislocki House, Nantucket Island MA (1971). RIP.

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Charles Jencks: Robert Venturi changed architecture (hard), for the better (even harder) but with some unfortunate consequences (the one-liner-anti-symbolism), and many of his small early buildings and a few of his large later works are epics. Their drawing and argument inspired two generations. His writing was most usually in the service of a polemic, and his version of complexity predictive of the way the sciences of the twenty-first century would turn out. I was saddened I couldn’t get Bob to write on the second stage of Postmodernism, but as a good leader of the movement he was gentle, ironic, generous to others, amusing to many, academic, and will always be remembered by me. Micheal Meredith and Hilary Sample: Robert Venturi transformed architecture (practice and teaching) for those of us after him (America and abroad). He made it better. Together with Denise Scott Brown, he pioneered design partnerships (now there are so many), engaged multiple scales and media (from books to furniture to buildings to urbanism), and brought architecture into dialog with its contemporary culture (both as an intellectual pursuit and a practical/technical one). He seemed to take equal pleasure in both history and the mundane, offering a witty counterpoint to the heroic artist-architect and to the essentialism of his time with an articulate ambiguity, complexity, and inclusivity (something that is more and more important nowadays). Robert Ivy: Robert Venturi, appreciated for high intelligence, erudition, and a benevolent viewpoint, brought humanism to architecture. His work shone with wit and fit—creating a colorful dialogue between past and present, between high seriousness and contemporary irony. Signification, pattern, relationship, and memory. Together with his partners, this improbable radical tinted the world with joy. Sylvia Lavin: Although I have known Bob for what seems like forever, both at a distance as an august luminary in the field and a bit closer, as a person with whom to talk about Rome and main street, it is only in the past few years that I have gotten to see him work in intimate detail. Spending time in his archive, I have been systematically struck by the astonishing intelligence that permeates everything but that is often most intense when hidden in office memos, hand-drawn key codes to material specifications and sketches made on legal pads evidently drawn in a library. His sharp acumen and wit has always been abundantly clear to everyone through the discipline-changing work we all know, but the creative timbre of his intellection is different in these less mediated expressions. Kind acknowledgments of the contributions made by secretarial staff, surprisingly precocious interest in digital technologies, and outbursts of frustrations with the ordinary obstacles confronted by architects, are evidence that in his daily life, he operated in accordance with the principle—often publicly stated but also often misunderstood as mere professional rhetoric—that architects are not heroes but people with interesting jobs to do. And in these documents, there is also evidence of perhaps the smartest thing he ever did – which was to marry Denise, to whom I offer my deepest condolences. Elena Manferdini: Very few texts captured a cultural paradigm shift as Robert Venturi and Scott Brown’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning from Las Vegas. Their influence on generations of architects is as fresh as it was when those texts were first published. They destabilized the form-function determinism of modernist architects and opened our field to hybrid forms, super graphics, and pop-style culture. They liberated architecture from anachronistic dogmas with intellectual depth, innate sense of humor, unexpected juxtapositions and playful colors. They looked at architecture as a cultural inclusive expanded field. Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample: Robert Venturi transformed architecture (practice and teaching) for those of us after him (America and abroad). He made it better. Together with Denise Scott Brown, he pioneered design partnerships (now there are so many), engaged multiple scales and media (from books to furniture to buildings to urbanism), and brought architecture into dialog with its contemporary culture (both as an intellectual pursuit and a practical/technical one). He seemed to take equal pleasure in both history and the mundane, offering a witty counterpoint to the heroic artist-architect and to the essentialism of his time with an articulate ambiguity, complexity, and inclusivity (something that is more and more important nowadays).
 
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Found this dedication in a 1st edition of Complexity and Contradiction

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Ivan Saleff: Ciao Bob, Bob has left the building. His spirit will roam the universe for eternity always nigh his beloved Denise and Jim. The maestro’s boundless work remains behind with us. It will thankfully perplex pundits, colleagues and students for centuries to come. Bob and Denise’s work has always been inclusive speaking to all ages, cultures, endeavors, and genders. Bob chose to write in common language however his work also provides the challenge of peeling back its deeper layers. Bob’s daily life and work formed one unified whole full of the complexities and contradictions of which he wrote. There was no other Venturi lurking. He was the real deal, authentic, loving and committed in everything he did. Bob was courageous in his efforts to combat pretentious trends which traded substance for drama and one-liner. His arsenal included wit, artistry, ambiguity, irony and academic prowess. He was well armed and ready to engage. I remember him telling me of how he struggled at the time when placing the fractured horizontal white band at the fifth floor of Guild House. It took me a while to fully understand that. It made me think. That is what Bob does. He makes us think. Ashley Schafer and Amanda Reeser: Picking up copy edits on the day of Robert Venturi’s passing, we were struck by the pertinence of the image on the last page of our last issue. It is a photograph of Bob and Denise taken from the back seat, framed by a windshield, ahead of which are signs, strip malls, decorated sheds. It captures so perfectly how they asked us to look at the world differently. Their embrace of Americana, of the city, of what is worthy of our attention, opened the discipline to a more diverse set of interests and narratives long before it was politically correct to do so. The inclusivity Bob championed in Complexity and Contradiction expanded ways of operating in the field, which deeply influenced us at PRAXIS (not to mention generations of architects). His and Denise’s intellectual generosity is a reminder of how we should all strive to practice. Martino Stierli: We have lost a giant, but also an incredibly warm, witty, and generous human being. I remember once cooking a simple pasta with tomato sauce for Bob and Denise in their beautiful Philadelphia home, when I had just started working on my PhD thesis on their Learning from Las Vegas. When Bob saw the sauce, he commented: “How exotic!” He really did see the extraordinary in the ordinary. Venturi, through his pointed observations, is rhetorical brilliance and his puns, forever changed how we think and talk about architecture. One of his most famous drawings illustrated his concept of the decorated shed with the words “I AM A MONUMENT.” That he is. Michael Sorkin: One of the first articles I published after finishing school was a screed attacking Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Not altogether originally, I charged Bob Venturi with promoting an escapist, purely visual, aesthetic at time of social crisis. How wrong I was! That book and his work were really all about the political and its imbrication not simply in artistic invention but in expansive choice and respect for the choices of others. Bob was eternally and ever gently subversive and changed – liberated - the way we think about architecture. He realized what we were so piously fighting for: the authenticity of difference and the freedom of the imagination.
 
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He even signed his name in a fun way 💔 RIP Bob Venturi

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Léa-Catherine Szacka: “Main Street is Almost all Right” Robert Venturi (1925-2018), probably the best representative of American Postmodernism, was one of the twenty participants of the spectacular Strada Novissima at the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale. In fact, together with Denise Scott Brown and John Rauch, he probably stayed at the most important address on that street, behind a façade that took the form of a colorful pop cartoonish temple with, in the back, and visible from the street, a large reproduction of the 1964 Vanna Venturi house painted by Cinecittà technicians. Venturi’s presence in the exhibition was seen as not only desirable but as absolutely essential to the success of the show. So much so that chief curator Paolo Portoghesi made sure to include architectural historian Vincent Scully amongst the advisory board of the exhibition, as he knew, only Scully would be able to convince the father of postmodernism to come and play with the other kids on the block. Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry: Bob Venturi led the way backward to a “gentler, simpler time.” His was a postmodernists’ wail that in the late 1960’s spoke a more complex language than that enunciated by canonical modernism. Always the gentleman, he seemed uncomfortable with the mantel of notoriety which nonetheless he wore with great dignity. Never the “starchitect” Bob was too retiring to be bothered by the machinations of fame. He never aimed to be the leader of the “loyal opposition” party either and while his words spoke volumes about complex values, his architectural production sometimes fell a bit short of the mark but not by much. Curiously, like Mies van der Rohe before him he lived to see the discipline of architecture diminished by the false gods of “Marketing and Branding,” but the ethos that has ennobled architecture throughout the ages has already touched the youngest generation who would aspire to that which has been missing in our epoch- “value.” James Wines: “Bob and Denise” In my mind, Bob and Denise are a single entity... a consolidation of infinite intellect and creativity that changed the very foundations of how we think about the built environment. Their unified presence has been totally embedded in both my conscious and subconscious views of architecture since the 1970s; so, it is impossible to believe that one half of this divine team is missing. Denise will surely go on to ever more amazing triumphs of art and theory, but the unity and expansiveness of their ideas will always endure in the design world as a supreme example of love and vision in one package. Mark Wigley: Robert Venturi was hugely influential and hugely misunderstood. He most famously called for complexity and contradiction in architecture but he was actually a new kind of minimalist, always looking to maximize the effect of the least--as revealed by the very compactness of the self-undermining mantra “Less is a Bore.” He was a truly laconic architect, efficiently belittling what others celebrate and celebrating what others belittle. More than anything, he savored the uncontainable ripples produced by slow-motion collisions between seemingly incompatible little things. Together with Denise Scott-Brown, he kept asking architects to think again, and smile a bit, even if the offer was rarely taken up.
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Yankee Modern

What is New England architecture?
New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
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V&A on the Tay

Kengo Kuma's Victoria and Albert Design Museum comes in to dock in Scotland
In 1844 the Scottish city of Dundee eagerly anticipated its first royal visit in almost two centuries. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert’s stay was a resounding success and to mark the occasion, the city erected the “Royal Arch” in 1853. It was an instant icon. A monumental structure, it towered over the nearby docks and could be seen all around the city, and indeed the world as Dundee capitalized on its marketing potential. In 1964, however, the Royal Arch was shamefully demolished so the Tay Road Bridge could be built as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan. Fast forward 54 years and Victoria and Albert have returned, albeit in the form of a museum, and with it, Dundee once again has an icon worthy of global attraction. The V&A Museum of Design, colloquially known as the “V&A Dundee” has been designed by Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma. Bizarrely, yet also somewhat endearingly, train station departure and arrival boards display the architect and his nationality. The city is undeniably proud of its revived, post-Victorian internationalism. “I was inspired by Japanese temple archways,” Kuma told The Architect’s Newspaper. “The archways connect the mountain and nature to the city.” Composed as two inverted pyramids, the V&A Dundee forms an archway of sorts of its own, framing a view on the River Tay and the Tay Road Bridge that spans it. Kuma was also keen to keep the museum decidedly Scottish. It’s ragged, craggy facade is inspired by Scotland’s cliff-edged coastline and comprises 2,429 pre-cast concrete slabs. These lean over the River Tay, mimicking the prow of a ship. One segment of the museum does, in fact, edge out into the river, while porthole-like windows looking over the Tay create the impression of being on a ship when inside. On the Tay’s banks, even at the end of summer, the wind is ferocious. The shallow pools that circle the V&A’s base produce miniature waves, enhancing the sensation of being, as Kuma calls it, “in conversation with nature.” Externally the V&A Dundee is an impressive structure. Walking around the building, it’s staggered facade undulates and unwinds, revealing views onto the building and the River Tay beyond. As a result, the museum has become an instant photo opportunity, with the public (myself included) capturing its curvature to send straight to their Instagram feeds. (The hashtag #V&ADundee already has more than 2,000 posts). This is a digital building for the digital age. “Twenty years ago, we could not have built this building,” said Kuma. “It’s curves and structure are too complex.” Such a distinctive form has its pros and cons inside. The structure works in tension, with a steel truss spanning roof to link up with the outward leaning facades. As a result, the new museum has the largest column-free exhibition space in Scotland, allowing it to host exhibitions that were previously only available to Scots and Dundonians willing to either fly or take a six-hour train to London. Gallery spaces are located on the museum’s upper level. The fittingly nautical Ocean Liners exhibition, sailing up from the V&A in London, inaugurates the museum. The Scottish Design Galleries, meanwhile, host permanent exhibitions, showcasing Scotland’s design prowess. Of the 300 objects on display, one has American roots: a model and sketches of Frank Gehry’s Dundee Maggie’s Centre. The most notable exhibit is Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s “Oak Room” which was designed for the Ingram Street Tearooms in Glasgow. The beautifully crafted ensemble from one of Kuma’s “heroes” has been restored and rightfully put on display, marking its first outing in half a century. Alongside the two galleries on the upper level are studios and an auditorium. These are joined by an open gallery, free to the public and restaurant, both of which look down into a lobby below via a mezzanine with the latter also offering views along the River Tay.  It’s here, though, that the museum’s shape causes problems. An outdoor terrace for the restaurant feels like an afterthought. Up here it’s even windier than at ground level and the tight space is encased by the concrete cladding system meaning there isn’t even a view worth braving the elements for. A similar story continues downstairs in the lobby, too. Oak veneered panels emulate the external facade and as a result are too steep to be sat on and truly useful. An auditorium may already be upstairs, but these panels could easily become bleachers, creating an informal auditorium in the process. This would even dovetail with Kuma’s notion of the museum’s lobby supposedly being a “living room for the city.” “This is not a space just for art lovers,” the architect said, but in reality, the lobby is just a cafe area and museum shop. The V&A Dundee has come at a price: $105 million, twice the initial budget. It’s also four years late. Dundonian’s, however, don’t seem to mind. “I’m just pleased that that kind of money is being spent of Dundee!” said one local, though on it’s opening day, a small protest by anti-poverty campaigners did take place. For all the efforts gone into making the museum happen, considerably less has gone into improving the surrounding area. An awful train station-hotel greets those visiting by rail and another, equally drab hotel is currently going up opposite the V&A. This is all part of a $1.3-billion waterfront masterplan which rehashes the work of planners 60 years ago. It’s just as well Kuma’s museum makes all that comes before instantly forgettable. The V&A Dundee is the icon Dundee has craved, turning the city into a genuine Scottish destination. https://vimeo.com/284710327
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Oh, the Irony

Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation sued for building defective homes
The Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans–based housing charity, which was founded by actor Brad Pitt in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has been hit with a class action lawsuit for allegedly selling residents “defectively and improperly constructed homes.” Since launching in 2007, the foundation has built more than 100 affordable homes in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the area most devastated by flooding when the levees broke. The initiative attracted some of the biggest names in architecture, including Pritzker Prize–winners Frank Gehry, Shigeru Ban, Thom Mayne, and Alejandro Aravena, and was lauded in the press for its commitment to building green. However, within a few short years, many of the homes began experiencing serious structural issues as well as mechanical system failures, roof leaks, and black mold growth. According to the lawsuit, Make It Right was made aware of these defects by their own engineers but failed to notify homeowners, who would have been protected by the state’s New Home Warranty Act. The suit goes on to accuse the foundation of fraud, contract breaches, and unfair trade practices. “While the citizens of the 9th Ward are grateful to Brad Pitt they were forced to file this lawsuit because the Make It Right Foundation built substandard homes, that are deteriorating at a rapid pace while the homeowners are stuck with mortgages on properties that have diminished values,” attorney Ron Austin told NBC News. “We have filed to make Make It Right make it right.” The litigation marks the latest in a series of troubling headlines for the celebrity-helmed nonprofit. In 2015, NOLA reported that Make It Right was forced to renovate 39 decaying decks at an average cost of $12,000 each, due to its use of TimberSIL, a purportedly long-lasting wood product that rotted in the subtropical climate. Earlier this year, the KieranTimberlake-designed house at 5012 North Derbigny Street became the first Make It Right home to be demolished, just seven years after being completed, following a prolonged period of vacancy, code violations, and half-finished roof repairs.
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It’s All In The Roof

Facebook unveils views of latest Gehry-designed office expansion
Frank Gehry’s exuberant-landscape-meets-open-office phase is in full swing.  The 89-year-old architect and social media giant Facebook have unveiled select views of their recently completed MPK 21 project in Sunnyvale, California, a 523,000-square-foot addition to the company’s sprawling Northern California headquarters complex.  Built in only 18 months by Level 10 Construction, the green roof-topped slab office building is billed as an expansion of Gehry’s MPK 20 project that opened next door in 2016.  In a video announcing the completion of the offices, Gehry explains that with MPK 21, his office and the client sought to put into place lessons learned from the MPK 20 building. As a result, the new 3.6-acre green roof for MPK 21 spans multiple levels—instead of just one, as is the case for MPK 20—and becomes a central, planted courtyard at the heart of the complex studded with social and work-related spaces. The garden links rooftop, offices, and the neighboring buildings and also features over 200 trees, including over a dozen 40-foot-tall redwood trees, as well as a half-mile-long meandering pathway and an amphitheater.  Within, the complex is organized around a central spine that links open office areas, quiet workstations, dining facilities, and a 2,000-person digital meeting space. The complex contains 15 art installations that were developed in conjunction with an artist-in-residence program. The building also comes studded with environmentally-friendly bells and whistles, including a reclaimed water system designed to save about 17 million gallons annually, 175,000 square feet of fritted windows to protect migrating birds, and a 1.4-megawatt solar panel system that will generate almost 2 million kilowatt hours of electricity yearly. Plans call for completing a two-acre public park and plaza adjacent to the offices within the year with a forthcoming elevated bicycle bridge slated to span across the Bayfront Expressway heading to the site, as well. In conjunction with the project, Facebook says it has contributed $20 million in funding for affordable housing and rental assistance programs to local authorities while it works with regional partners to reopen the Dumbarton Transportation Corridor as a multi-nodal transitway to help alleviate some of the traffic congestion that is likely to occur due to the new offices.