Renzo Piano completes his first New York commissionn the three-year, $106 million renovation and expansion of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Julie V. Iovine observes how Piano preserves the intimacy of the original but risks losing some of its immediacy by making it a crowd-pleaser. Photography by Dan Bibb.
On April 29, a transformed Pierpont Morgan Library rejoins the Manhattan museum scene, a landscape much-altered itself, both physically and psychically, since the Morgan closed for renovation three years ago. In that time, the beloved, ebulliently gaudy house-museum has undergone a vast makeover by Italian architect Renzo Piano who, when commissioned for the job in 2000, had an avid insider following and has since become a bona fide international superstar. Meanwhile, the newly gargantuan Museum of Modern Art has shown that critical skepticism has no bearing at all on popularity. Culture in general has taken a drubbing at Ground Zero (Drawing Center evicted; Frank Gehry's performance hall aborted; Snnhetta's Freedom Center nullified), underscoring the reality that no one puts particular stock any more in the power of art to uplift. J. P. Morgan would have been mortified.
After all, the Morgan Library was the rich man's sanctum and treasure horde turned tenderly over to New Yorkers so that they might be bettered through contact. And people have been passionate and personal about the place ever since. In the early 1990s, Paul Goldberger, then architecture critic at the The New York Times, described the experience of visiting as both tranquil and intense. Who wouldn't be entranced by the McKim, Mead & White portico and rotunda, the lavish H. Siddons Mowbray murals, the brocaded walls and gilded swags? John Russell, former art critic of The New York Times, dreamed of being locked overnight inside its walls. It's no surprise considering what it contains: drawings by Rembrandt, da Vinci, DDrer, and Degas; three Gutenburg bibles; one of only two extant copies of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur; Mary Shelley's own annotated copy of Frankenstein; architectural plans by Inigo Jones; etchings by Piranesi; JRR Tolkien kvetching in letters about the Hobbit; jeweled bindings; illuminated manuscripts galore; and on and on.
Piano was charged not with enlarging but rather, as he put it, rebalancing and rethinking the institution which had grown somewhat haphazardly over the years into a three-plus-building sprawl. He called his method micro-surgery.. Adding 75,000 square feet, even with more than half of it underground and the rest in the shape of a glazed- shed-covered piazza plus pavilions jimmied around the extant buildings, is hardly micro. The medical analogy is, however, apt because like cosmetic surgery, Piano has masterfully preserved the original while partially smoothing, even immobilizing, its vital lifelines.
The grand covered piazzaa or atrium is the centerpiece of Renzo Piano's design for the expanded library
Two balconies extend into the space, and some staff offices overlook it, but are glazed for acoustic privacy.
The Morgan Library is new and improved all right; in fact, Piano (with the local collaboration of Beyer Blinder Belle) has rendered it perfectly into one of the most au courant of building types: the destination museum. Whether Piano's Morgan has the power to incite passionate allegiance, much less a desire to be locked inside overnight, is more doubtful.
It could not have been an easy job. Bartholomew Voorsanger tried in 1991 with a $40 million expansion and courtyard. And let's not forget the ill-fated invitational competition of the late 1990s with Steven Holl Architects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, which was abruptly cancelled. Piano had declined to participate but offered his services in case perfect solutions didn't materialize. Now, 15 years and $106 million laterrVoorsanger's and a few other minor additions razed without a traceethe library has been transformed again. Voorsanger's glass court might have been unloved, but it could not be considered a total failure; it did brisk business in party rentals, netting as much as $15,000 for evening events. Piano's renovation is not about adding square footage but, as director Charles E. Pierce, Jr., said in 2002, about providing greater public access.. The Morgan's new high-impact spaces are bound to be in great demand (and the fee for rentals sure to be higher))a goal that many institutions have come to share.
Piano's scheme is sublimely serene. He has treated the Morgan's three main buildingssan 1852 Renaissance Revival brownstone, the 1906 McKim mini-Met and its pared down twin, the annex of 19288as the corner anchors to his central focus, a glass-enclosed, light-filled piazza.
At the edges of the atrium space, he has inserted several elements, varied in scale, homogenous in material, and visible as connective tissue between old and new. The inserts are made of rolled steel panels painted off-white (press materials say they are rose-hued but on a sunny afternoon it looked powdery white to me). The largest piece encompasses the new entrance on Madison Avenue, which leads through a spacious cherry-wood clad tunnel directly to the piazza. A new gallery and reading room are located on the floors above this entrance volume. The smallest addition is a 20-foot cube, containing a gallery, tucked between the original McKim library and the annex. Though it's been cited in earlier articles as a climactic moment in Piano's design, it does not have the inscrutable impact promised by its perfect dimensions, at least not for this visitor. And curators may be hard pressed to take full advantage of its modest space in any way other than as a showcase for one singular item at a time, albeit, displayed to shine in all its glory.
Before making a beeline for an unoccupied caff table in the piazza, visitors will be tempted to descend a wide stair gaping downward at the lip of the entrance passage. Those who give into the urge will view a steel-encased treasure-holding vault sunk three stories into Manhattan's bedrock schist. Neat. Sunk below, too, is a new 280-seat performance hall. One enters at the top row of a steeply inclined auditorium baffled in slightly curled chips of cherry wood. The space is more elegant than expressionistic, a wonderfully intimate spoken-word stage.
J. P. Morgan's wood-paneled music room (below, right) will now hold the bookstore.
So what's missing then? Crowd-pleasing (event-friendly) piazza and caffécheck. Sculptural object cubeecheck. Cool performance space, naturally. A fancy restaurant and much-expanded shop are a quick detour right off the entrancee good plan. Oh, yes, the collection. Barely encountered. To actually find the prizes for which the library is so well known, one must wander a bit. A narrow vaulted passage to the right and set back from the entrance leads past an old elevator bank to two spacious galleries (and a gallery hall, once the museum entrance) in the old annex. In the far corner off the piazza, J. P.'s original library and study have been restored to full robber-baron Rococo style. And then there's the new gallery on the second floor of the entrance pavilion. For the inaugural greatest hits exhibition, some 300 objects will be on display through out the museummthat's less than 0.09 percent of the 350,000-piece-strong collection. So much for increased public access.
The vast majority of the new 75,000 square feet of space is underground, and accessible via a staircase located just past the entrance.
The new Morgan oozes the calm elegance of masstige modernism. On a smaller scale, it employs many of the same moves as Yoshio Taniguchi's MoMA, such as a vertically compressed, horizontally expansive entrance giving way to breathtaking volume. Instead of procession, the experience is more like scaling levels and discovering views of where you were a moment ago. Whereas Taniguchi used bridges, Piano has two balconies alongside a Hyatt-esque glass elevator peering over the piazza. Both capture unexpected and refreshing views of the buildings beyond (though the balcony off the reading room is accessible only to those with reading room passes).
And like the Museum Tower coming down to ground undisguised in the main lobby of MoMA (as if to holler, Don't forget me!!), so too do the three old Morgan buildings reveal themselves in the new atrium space. It's a little bit like catching a glimpse, from the knee down, of a giant whose head is in the clouds. While MoMA is all about pumping visiting hordes out of the central chamber into the building's arteries and galleries, Piano, despite having been called a poet of circulation,, seems content for people to stay put in the voluminous piazza. Unquestionably, the Morgan will become a cool place to meet and hang out (although at the moment, the only seating seems to be at the caff's tables). The light filtering in through complex but not particularly high-tech skylights (another Piano trademark) will be delicious. Staff offices have been allocated generous spaces in the 1852 Italianate brownstone with some walls sheered off and glassed over in order to give some lucky employees vistas of their own; a conservation studio is tucked up and out of the way at roof-top level.
The new Morgan is purre-perfect, blemish-free. People will flock to get in. And yet on a recent sunny afternoon, the piazzaasurrounded by limestone, electronically shaded glass, powder-coated steelllooked deadly calm. The Morgan has acquired a seamless, beautiful new mask. What may be lost is the quickening, possibly even vulgar, feeling of excitement that one man wanted to impart to others by sharing his precious treasures with the world.
Julie V. Iovine writes frequently for The New York Times and other publications. She is the features director at Elle DDcor and architecture critic for AN.
6 Original Library
7 Staff Offices
8 Reading Rooms
9 Performance Hall
The Pierpont Morgan Library
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Beyer Blinder Belle Architects
F. J. Sciame Construction Co.
Robert Silman Associates
Curtain Wall: Front, Inc., Gartner
Acoustics: Harvey Marshall Berling Associates, Kahle Acoustics
H. M. White Site Architects
Lighting Designer: Arup
Search results for "tag frank gehry"
Renzo Piano completes his first New York commissionn the three-year, $106 million renovation and expansion of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Julie V. Iovine observes how Piano preserves the intimacy of the original but risks losing some of its immediacy by making it a crowd-pleaser. Photography by Dan Bibb.
What's up between Frank Gehry and Jean Nouvel? Last year, when Enrique Norten won a competition to design a new Guggenheim for Guadalajara, we reported that Gehry (who we didn't name at the time) was miffed that he couldn't convince fellow jurors to select Nouvel instead. And now, it's really looking as though Nouvel has become Gehry's pet project. "Frank relentlessly promotes Jean," says one insider, "and was pissed because he unsuccessfully lobbied for Jean to get the Pritzker Prize [in lieu of Thom Mayne]." And from a separate source: "Just before the Vitra event last month," where Gehry introduced his new Cloud Lamp, "Frank had been lobbying for Nouvel to get the AIA Gold Medal and was visibly upset that it went to Antoine Predock." So what's going on? Through his rep, Gehry acknowledged that he's a fan of Nouvel (and that he presented Nouvel's work to the AIA Gold Medal committee), but denied any favoritism, saying he considers Mayne, Predock and Norten to be "friends and colleagues whose work he supports equally." The rep also insisted that Gehry's not upset about Nouvel losing out on the Pritzker and Gold Medal—despite persistent rumors that he now has to sleep on the couch.
CALA-TRAGEDY AT THE MET
We haven't yet bought into the Santiago Calatrava backlash that seems to be brewing in some quarters. But we did get a good chuckle when we heard about a mishap at the exhibition of his artwork, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It seems about two weeks into the show, a fabrication defect caused one of the "fingers" of Calatrava's kinetic sculpture, called Shadow Machine, to come crashing down during off-hours, prompting curators to remove the work. No one was hurt, but talk about engineering drama.
HOUSELESS & GARDEN
This spring, we hear the staff at House & Garden will be asked to pack up and leave Condé Nast's snazzy Times Square headquarters. Not because the magazine is folding (as has been rumored for years) but because a proliferation of new Condé Nast titles is squeezing it from its square footage. And for what are H&G staffers relinquishing their fabled Frank Gehry–designed cafeteria? New digs at…750 Third Avenue. "They feel like second-class citizens," reports a spy, who adds that the magazine will be joined not by Condé Nast's Vogue or Vanity Fair, but by its golf and bridal magazines, at the new location. "They're being shunted to a B-list building," the source continues. "Quelle horreur!" They will be getting a new cafeteria—but by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
We feel bad picking on Charles Gwathmey's new Astor Place tower (though we feel worse looking at it). But it's a relief to hear that Gwathmey's proposed design for a condominium building on West Street—which, with its curving façade and hefty bulk, was described by one observer as "Astor Place with a thyroid problem"—is being scrapped for something that looks a lot less like Astor Place. We're told the developers failed to receive a zoning variance that the first design depended upon. But could it also be that they thought better of reproducing a building that hardly anyone likes? Gwathmey would not comment..
The fate of a lot more than who will be the next Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art has been hanging in the balance since Terence Riley announced last month that he was going resign from the position he has held for 14 years: That role has been the primary force able to confer star status on architects (or deny it) and to define new directions in architecture, whether they exist or not.
For 75 years, ever since Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock started research for the 1932 exhibition, catalogue, and book that came to be known as The International Style, MoMA has been creating reputations and identifying trends more successfully than any critic, magazine, book, school, or other institution. Though the show was called Modern Architecture, International Exhibition, it described a particular kind of modern architecture which, like the paintings and sculpture the museum was showing at the time, was assertively geometric and came mostly from Europe. The catalogue's title, Modern Architects, implied a wider reach than it had, since the technologically advanced skyscrapers of the age were not included. And although the exhibition had a section on housing, selected by Lewis Mumford, the overall emphasis was on aesthetics. No wonder the show is usually called The International Style, the title of the book published by Johnson and Hitchcock that same year, minus Mumford's material. What had begun in Europe as a social movement was presented as a style. Hitchcock and Johnson even redrew Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and 1930 Tugendhat House to emphasize the abstract, geometric qualities that they had identified as characteristic of the style.
Four years ago, Riley and Columbia University architectural historian Barry Bergdoll redressed that distortion in MoMA's Mies in America show by exhibiting original drawings for both buildings along with the ones that had been displayed in 1932, noting the earlier alteration in the exhibition and catalogue. That public institutional admission was only one of a series of decisions Riley made that showed he was his own man. When he was hired, in 1991, after he had organized an exhibition at Columbia University on the history of the International Style show, it was widely assumed that he was Johnson's personal choice and, as such, Johnson's influence would continue.
Johnson had been a potent force at MoMA for years. The stars of the International Style show were given exhibitions again and again (ten on Mies, nine each on Le Corbusier and Wright). Johnson's friends Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier made their debuts as Five Architects in 1969. When Johnson was flirting with postmodernism, MoMA published Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture as the first and only Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture (1966) and held The Architecture of the cole des Beaux-Arts exhibition (1976), when Arthur Drexler was curator. And when Johnson lost interest in the movement, he guest-directed the Deconstructivist Architecture show (1988), an event that not only helped counter the classicizing influence of the postmodern movement but also advanced the careers of all the participantssEisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Bernard Tschumiiby suggesting that they were the heirs of Russian constructivism and practitioners of a new style, rooted in history and modernism at the same time. They all denied that there was any such thing as decon,, none louder than Eisenman who touted deconstructivist philosophy as an continued on page 14 position is power continued from page 13 influence on his own work, was close to Johnson, and was the main personal link between the participants.
The Deconstructivist Architecture show did, however, rekindle interest in modern (or modernist) architecture, which was good for the Modern. The museum hadn't had an architectural blockbuster since Drexler's 1979 survey, Transformations in Modern Architecture. During the heyday of postmodernism, other institutions, such as the Cooper-Hewitt and the Architectural League of New York, shared the role of tastemaker. And MoMA, which had always undertaken historical exhibitions but mainly of modern masters, showed the work of Gunnar Asplund, Edwin Landseer Lutyens, Ricardo Bofill and Leon Krier as well as of Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, and Mies as usual. Also during those years, the museum, which had always practiced what it preached, hired Cesar Pelli to design an addition, instead of Johnson who had designed the garden and the earlier new wings. (Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone designed the museum's main building very much in the International Style, in 1939.)
It was only at the very end of the 1980s that younger modern architects' work reappeared on MoMA's walls. While Stuart Wrede was in charge (1986692), there were exhibitions of Emilio Ambasz (a former MoMA curator), Steven Holl, Diller + Scofidio, and Tadao Ando, as well as of Mario Botta and Louis I. Kahn (his sixth at MoMA).
Riley's first show, in 1992, was the small New Furniture Prototypes by Frank Gehry. Then came his Previews series, with the Nara Convention Hall Competition Exhibition by Arata Isozaki, Rafael Viioly's Tokyo International Forum, Raimund Abraham's New Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, and the show, Bernard Tschumi: Architecture and Event.
Riley's OMA at MoMA: Rem Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture appeared at the end of 1994, around the same time S,M,L,XL was catapulting the Dutch architect to superstar status. The following September, Light Construction focused on thin-skinned, transparent and translucent buildings by more than 30 architects from ten countries. Works by Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Gigon and Guyer, Nicholas Grimshaw, Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Ben van Berkel, many of whom were little known in this country at the time, were shown along with those by well-known Americans, such as Johnson, Gehry, Holl, Tschumi, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien, newcomers like Joel Sanders, Thanhauser & Esterson, and some visual artists. The premise of the show was rather elusive but Riley proved that he was willing to take risks and promote work different than his own. (Like previous heads of MoMA's architecture and design departmenttJohnson, Philip Goodwin, Drexler, and WredeeRiley is a practicing architect, in partnership with John Keenen.)
During Riley's tenure, his department staged, as it always had, historical shows (on the United Nations, Alvar Aalto, Lilly Reich, Wright, Mies) as well as more unconventional presentations like Fabrications (1998), a three-museum event that invited architects to create site-specific installations (at MoMA, contributors were TEN Arquitectos with Guy Nordensen, Office dA, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, and Munkenbeck + Marshall) and A Paper Arch (2000) by Shigeru Ban, a grand latticed canopy for the museum's garden. Riley's ambitious The Un-Private House (1999) introduced a number of new talents (Michael Bell, Thomas Hanrahan and Victoria Meyers, Hariri & Hariri, Winka Dubbeldam) and ways of exhibiting architecture. The gallery was arranged as rooms to sit in, including a living room in front of a large video screen and a dining table with interactive electronic images projected at each place-setting.
Riley also played an advisory role when the museum began planning another addition to almost double its size. Most, but not all, of the architects invited to compete were ones whose work he had shownnHerzog & de Meuron, Holl, Ito, Koolhaas, Tschumi, Viioly, Williams/Tsien. Also invited were Wiel Arets, Dominique Perrault, and Yoshio Taniguchi, who won the commission. The sensibilities Riley had highlighted in his shows were very much in evidence in the museum competition, while Johnson's friends were not.
Johnson's early emphasis on aesthetics, however has been dominant at MoMA in recent decades. The architecture shown at the MoMA, like the art, is chosen for artistic merit and originality first. From the museum's beginning, under its zealous first director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the museum's staff saw their new institution as a populist one whose fundamental mission was to educate the general public about the developing culture of modernism,, former MoMA curator Matilda McQuaid writes in an essay that appeared in the exhibition catalogue Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art (Museum of Modern Art, 2002). Although it was the first museum devoted to modern art, and the first general fine-arts museum to have a curatorial department devoted to architecture,, writes Riley in his contribution to the same catalogue, the MoMA was chartered as an educational institution, rather than a museum.. The museum has always had extensive lectures, tours, and symposia to accompany its exhibitions.
Before World War II MoMA also actively tried to link architects and potential clients,, McQuaid notes in her essay. And because for a long time it was the only place where architecture was exhibited with art, MoMA's influence in the world of architecture may have been greater than its impact on painting and sculpture, which were shown in museums and galleries throughout the world. Placing architecture and design in a fine art museum privileges aesthetics, but it also allows a consideration of their personal, private, technological, handmade, and visionary aspects. At least partly because of MoMA's influence, these dimensions of architecture and design are being celebrated today at the Canadian Center for Architecture, Georges Pompidou Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Netherlands Architecture Institute, and a whole host of progeny the world over. But the Museum of Modern Art is still the mother ship, so it matters very much who takes Terence Riley's job and what he or she does with it.
Jayne Merkel is a New York writer whose most recent book is Eero Saarinen (Phaidon, 2005).
Architecture criticism, whether written for the profession or the general public, has one primary purpose: to parse the good from the bad. Of course, criticism involves much more than thumbs-up, thumbs-down assessments. Architecture is far too complex, demanding analyses on far too many levels. The critics interviewed here describe how their varied concerns—technological, political, ecological, cultural—have shaped their approach to a field they helped create. Meanwhile, a new generation of critics are joining ranks in what Ada Louise Huxtable calls "an uphill battle," setting out to prove that responsible criticism benefits not just the profession but society at large.
Ada Louise Huxtable
Born and educated in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable pioneered the field of architecture criticism in the United States. In 1963, she became the architecture critic for The New York Times, a position she lobbied her editors to create, and which she held until 1982. She's still active today, at the age of 84, serving since 1997 as architecture critic at the Wall Street Journal. Over the course of her long career, she not only traced the trajectory of modernism, preservation, and urban development but influenced it.
Huxtable had worked as an assistant curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1950. She was a Fulbright scholar in Italy in 1950 to 1952, extending her research on modern Italian architecture, which she began as a master's student in architectural history at the Institute of Fine Arts. She emerged as a critic at a time when cities were in crisis, losing their built patrimony in the name of modernization and renewal. She built a mass audience for architecture criticism by bringing reason and passion together in straight-talking—sometimes sarcastic, always sophisticated—prose. When she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, her field was validated and papers across the country rushed to add architecture to their critical and journalistic beats.
Her newspaper columns are anthologized in Kicked a Building Lately? (Quadrangle, 1976), Goodbye, History, Hello, Hamburger (Preservation Press, 1986), and Architecture, Anyone? (Random House, 1986). She is also the author of The Unreal America (New Press, 1997), and Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin, 2004).
What was the attitude toward architecture criticism when you were starting out?
There wasn't any! I'm proud of the fact that I convinced The New York Times that it needed to have an architecture critic. The very first thing I wrote for the Times, even before I started freelancing for them, was a long letter to the editor. This was 1959. The Sunday art section had a praising review of a photography show of a modernist housing project in Caracas. I had just been there and saw the project and the residents were having a terrible time—these were people from the countryside, having to deal with elevators and an alien type of architecture. The paper published my letter in full. Not long afterward, I got to do a cover story for the magazine, on the Guggenheim. I was terrified.
You were freelancing for the Times before they named you the critic. What shaped your story ideas and why do you think they grabbed your editors' attention?
I felt New Yorkers were entitled to more than they were getting from developers. There was so much building in the city but there was a total lack of understanding or care about architecture. I had just gotten married and my husband [industrial designer Garth Huxtable] was part of the team designing the interiors of the United Nations. I was just fascinated with architecture and construction.
The Times had plenty of real estate coverage. There were constant press releases about new buildings, all full of praise. These all came from real estate developers; at that time, there were no publicists for architecture. And I'd go to the editor and say, Good buildings don't just grow on trees, you know.
One day I walked in to see Lester Markel, who ran the Sunday magazine. I remember I had a notebook with a list of all the stories the Times was missing. Well, you tell an editor what he's missing, and he pays attention. I was a young, brash, believing woman. You have to be very naive. I was fixated on what I was interested in, so it didn't occur to me that you didn't barge in on an editor and ask for what you wanted. You have to give the Times a lot of credit.
How much input did your editors have in what you wrote?
Because they didn't know anything about the subject, they pretty much took anything I would suggest. And papers are always hungry for copy. Remember, too, this was a time of urban renewal and the total destruction of Lower Manhattan, when the beautiful warehouses on Front Street were being torn out for street-widening and Greenwich Village was being threatened. Most of the writing was crisis-oriented. You were crusading.
The paper didn't think we could do opinion pieces unless we first reported the facts of a story, so I would write news stories and appraisals that would appear in the daily newspaper. Then my critical columns appeared on Sunday. My criticism pieces were never edited because I was given the title of critic immediately. I don't know how it is at the Times today but back then, critics were edited for length and style. They never meddled with content.
After 10 years, they invited me to join the editorial board. I stopped writing for the daily paper and only wrote the Sunday opinion. That's when they hired Paul Goldberger to write for the daily paper.
How has the role of the architecture critic changed over the years?
The role is the same but the emphasis has changed. A critic has a lot of responsibility. It is largely informational and educational—to let the public know what's going on in the large and small issues and to let them know the difference between good and bad, how to distinguish a work of art. Today, I think the emphasis is too much on chasing celebrities, which has emerged all through society.
I want people to understand that architecture is an art. It's been my life's battle, to increase awareness of the field. But the way things have gone ...don't wish for what you ask for! Architecture is definitely more in the public eye today than before, but I don't think it's understood any better.
How do you deal with any controversy your pieces elicited?
It was always difficult but I'm not capable of doing anything else. I'm of a generation that was not brought up to work in a man's world, to deal with jealousies—I'm fairly thin-skinned. But the Times was always wonderful. There were times that powerful people demanded meetings with the publisher to protest my pieces.
One time, a developer pulled a big advertising section because of something I wrote, but I was never blamed. The publisher only asked me, "Do you have all your facts and are they right?" It's a great lesson for all critics. You've got to have all your facts.
My feelings of insecurity were always before I wrote. I would worry, "Am I going to be able to write this piece?" And I'd work doubly hard. I remember one the first pieces I wrote about Colonial Williamsburg. I wrote about how much of it was wishful thinking, how much was destroyed to build it, and how it was a false form of preservation that denigrated real history. I heard that later that they put up a sign there that read, "Ada Louise Huxtable is a Tory!"
Who do you consider your audience?
I don't really ask myself that question when I'm writing. If you have enough belief and pleasure in what you are writing, and write in an understandable manner, then an audience finds you.
One complaint I've heard from lay readers about architecture criticism—particularly of Herbert Muschamp's writings—is that they think they must have a background in the field to understand it.
That is the fault of the people writing it. A lot of writing has been self indulgent, really. You can imagine how I feel about it. The Times didn't know better, I suppose. It's as innocent about the field as anybody. Architecture criticism is still an uphill battle. That's why the responsibility of the critic is so great. It's the way my editor, Clifton Daniel, felt. He trusted me. He always said, "I knew if you got in trouble I'd hear about it soon enough."
I think my approach works for a changing field. I'm not dogmatic or doctrinaire. I stay open-minded. If you're rigid, you can't be a good critic. I wouldn't be in it if I didn't feel optimistic. I'm still full of wonder, I still love it. I like seeing what's going on with vernacular architecture now, for example. And the arguments over 2 Columbus Circle show that the preservation movement is upside down right now. When they compare its loss to that of Penn Station—I've got smoke coming out of my ears! It's not being lost, it's being transformed. I live and believe in the present. I don't live in the past and you can't live in the future. That's why I'm basically a modernist.
Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at The Architect's Newspaper.
In an attempt to legislate an impossible balance between a profitable city and a livable city, New York has created a monster—call it Frankenstein zoning. The process by which good intentions and innovative practice are turned into an urban nightmare has been gradual and technically arcane. But what has been happening, insidiously and overtly, is that the whole idea of zoning has been turned upside down. It has been subverted from a way to control building bulk and size to a method for getting bigger buildings than ever.
If that seems like an anachronism, it is; exactly the kind of overbuilding is being encouraged that the law was designed to prohibit. The result, which is just beginning to be visible, is the rapid appearance of ranks of oppressively massive, sun- and light-blocking structures of a size that we have never seen in such concentration before. Their outline and impact appeared first on Madison Avenue from 53rd to 57th Street, with the 42-story, block-long Tishman building from 53rd to 54th Street, another tower across Madison at 55th Street, and the gargantuan AT&T and IBM buildings, from 55th to 56th, and 56th to 57th Street. This enclave of blockbusters was joined by the huge Trump Tower looming on the Bonwit Teller site at 56th and Fifth.
When the first of these immense projects designed under the city's revised 1961 zoning regulations appeared, such as Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue or Citicorp on Lexington, they seemed unique; as singular structures they were more interesting than overwhelming. As a standard to be replicated, however, they have become cautionary examples. What must be understood is that this wave of bigger-than-ever New York buildings is not some overreaching passing fancy. It is the new and future norm. The bottom line is that the developers build what they are permitted to by law.
These new buildings, therefore, are equally revealing of the manipulative, negotiable, and mutable art that New York's zoning has become. And because what New York does in zoning is emulated by the rest of the country, whether it is innovative and constructive or dangerous and foolish, other cities will probably follow an example that has evolved from a reasonably system of controls, including creative attempts to balance restraints with public amenities, to an ad hoc exercise in horse-trading that is a clear environmental disaster.
When Allan Temko started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1960s, he didn't see himself as a regional critic, despite outsiders' perceptions to the contrary. Back then, the city was a fast-growing metropolis, the Golden State's financial capital. But Temko hardly limited his writings to the region. He wrote a book on Eero Saarinen and countless articles for Architectural Forum (he was its West Coast editor), Horizon, and other magazines. Still, Temko, now 81, is best known as an activist who unhesitatingly took on anything that threatened the Bay Area's soul—the first designs for the San Mateo Bridge, for example, and the horrendous plan to criss-cross San Francisco with freeways. Without Temko's voice, the Bay Area would be markedly different, and decidedly less beautiful, today. Fifteen years have passed since Temko left his post. One realizes, talking with him, that the people he wrote about were often his friends, despite his reputation for making enemies. He was admired, even by his targets, for his ability to place design in a cultural context he so clearly loved.
How did you become a critic?
When I left Columbia University in 1947, my professors helped me get an American Lectureship at the Sorbonne. I was in France, teaching American literature, for seven years. Most of this time, I looked at Gothic churches, which to me had everything—rational structure and daring new forms to suit new conditions. But I also saw modern architecture, like Le Corbusier's. Because there was no good book in English on Notre Dame, I wrote one. [It was published by Viking Press in 1955.] Lewis Mumford edited it. When I returned to the U.S., he suggested I do what he was doing for the New Yorker, but for a mass audience. I knew the executive editor of the Chronicle, Scott Newhall, so I went there.
What's changed since then?
In the 1950s and 60s, people talked about painters, sculptors, and politics. Now they talk about buildings, spaces, and important environmental problems. The need for good criticism has never been greater, but if you look around, it seems mighty sparse. There are some outstanding critics, like Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, but not many writing today understand activist criticismm the need to get out there and fight with fang and claw. With a big metropolitan paper, you can accomplish a good deal. Looking back, we were much better at stopping bad things than creating good things, but we were far ahead of other metropolitan areas, especially when you consider our resources. One big difference between being the critic of the Chronicle and being one for a great newspaper like The New York Times is that New York is really unmanageable. Here, it was possible to have an effect—to stop the freeways and keep Fort Mason and the Presidio from being ruined.
How were you edited at the Chronicle?
Newhall read my things. So did the city guys, the assistant managing editors, and if they couldn't understand something, I'd rewrite it. They were good stand-ins for the public. Newhall encouraged me to be controversial and shielded me from the owners. When the architect of Pier 39, Sandy Walker, sued me for $2 million, the Chronicle defended me. Actually, Bill German, then the executive editor, told me that if I lost, the paper would pay half! The suit was thrown out, but Walker appealed. When I learned that the case was back in court, I asked Chronicle executive Phelps Dewey why I hadn't been told. "We want to win this thing," he replied. When you're trying to stop something, you have to go straight for the jugular. Most critics today don't have that instinct—but neither do their papers. I'm vain enough to think that I could have stopped the whole Bay Bridge fiasco if I hadn't been ill.
What influenced you as a critic?
My years in France led me to see art and architecture as expressions of great civilizations. I always cared about heightening the public's sensibility. I wrote for the educated public, but I wanted everyone else to be able to understand my articles and enjoy them. I saw my role as achieving better design for the whole region. I might have been the only architecture critic in this period who looked at cities at a larger scale—even as large as, say, the Bay Area's seashore, which became a national park. Today, you can walk on public land along the ocean for 50 miles north and south of San Francisco. That wouldn't have happened without people fighting for it, and stopping things like the nuclear reactor that PG&E wanted to put on Bodega Head. I played a big part in these initiatives, writing articles and then getting the Chronicle behind them. They were great victories. But I took on causes that ran the gamut—protecting Frank Lloyd Wright's store on Maiden Lane from retrofitting, sparing Market Street the mediocrity of the early design for San Francisco Center, taking Silicon Valley seriously, helping make the Presidio a national park. That's an appropriate range for a critic.
Did you make enemies?
Sometimes I was a bit harsh. People say I was brave, but that wasn't the point. It sold newspapers. It still would today but, despite media's resources, there's still not enough serious coverage of architecture and planning. One big difference is that when I was writing, I was often speaking for the paper as an institution. I would write a critical piece and then I would write an unsigned editorial for the Chronicle that supported my stance. Without that endorsement, there's no way I could have accomplished what I did.
What do you think of today's critics?
There are very few people writing things that you'd remember the next day. Part of our purpose, after all, is to be entertaining. Architecture is like tennis—there's a small group playing at Wimbledon, and the rest are playing on the neighborhood courts. Which is not to say that the small courts don't have big players. When I started as a critic, San Francisco was a magnet for good architects. Richard Rogers was among them—he appeared on my doorstep one summer, saying, " Lewis Mumford sent me,"—and I got Chuck Bassett to sign him on at SOM. That influx of talent gave us Bassett in my generation and Stanley Saitowitz in the next—architects whose work is original and unique but which also reflects what they found here.
John Parman co-edits "Commentary" for San Francisco's LINE.
All that is maddeningly incompetent, stupidly complacent, brutally insensitive and almost incredibly extravagant in San Francisco—a city that perhaps did know how to build in William Howard Taft's time, but would be hard-pressed to erect a decent municipal doghouse today—is epitomized in our New Era Airport, which in fact is one of the most old-fangled, inconvenient, and wastefully designed air facilities in the nation.
As a gateway to San Francisco, it should be blazoned with the inscription of Dante's Inferno: Abandon all hope, ye that enter. For if this is the best we can do in the way of large public works that, precisely because of their staggering cost, are supposed to serve long-time needs, we had better give up hope for the future environment in this part of the world.
Rather than inaugurating a new era, this sprawling assemblage of malconceived and coarsely executed structures is already obsolete. Almost certainly the entire terminal—which even in its unfinished state measures about half a mile from end to end, and may yet be extended farther—will have to be extensively rebuilt if not totally demolished when the supersonic jets go into operation. Yet by rough estimate the city has thus far sank $45 million in terminal and parking facilities alone, and the end is not in sight.
The Public Utilities Commission—a veritable citadel of mediocrity—is cheerfully prepared to spend as much again, or more, to complete the master plan, which to me is not a plan at all, but a gross improvisation at the taxpayers' expense.
Surely this colossal boondoggle warrants a Grand Jury investigation, such as the one which yielded such fascinating information concerning the genesis of the late Charles Harney's multimillion-dollar beauty, Candlestick Park.
But the public is entitled to know who, precisely, made the efforts which saddled the city with the most unwieldy airport of its size in the country, and why a comparable metropolis, Washington, D.C., obtained at substantially lower cost a resplendent terminal in every way vastly superior to our own. Above all, we should find out what is wrong with the building procedures of the city government, and try to set them right before more damage is perpetrated. For in recent years we have been suffering from an onslaught of architectural butchery that might be likened to a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, administered by self-righteous hacks.
The airport, in truth, is merely one of a series of so-called civic improvements—the Geary Street expressway is another, and so is the new Hall of Justice, which is the most unjust building in town—which re really public excrescences.
Paul Goldberger joined the staff of The New York Times in 1972 at the age of 22, and a year later was named architecture critic of the daily paper. For nearly 10 years, Goldberger was the junior critic under the paper's esteemed senior critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. Shortly after ascending to the role of chief critic in 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize (in 1984). As critic for nearly 25 years at the newspaper of record, Goldberger was often a champion for architectural values in the civic realm and at other times, an easy target for those who considered his views one and the same with the Times. During the heady 1980s, he was one of the few critics who wrote favorably about postmodernism, fueling a lively debate that pushed architecture further into the public's consciousness.
In 1997, Goldberger left his New York Times post to succeed Brendan Gill as the New Yorker's architecture critic, a position he holds today, simultaneously serving as dean at Parsons the New School of Design. Goldberger has proven to be one of the most prolific and long-standing critical voices in New York.
He is the author of several books, including most recently Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004).
How did you get started in criticism?
I had been interested in architecture since I was a kid. I remember when, once for my birthday, some family friends gave me a subscription to Progressive Architecture, which I found amazing. I didn't understand what was in it but I read most of it and found it very enticing.
I love architecture and I love journalism. And I wasn't very good at making up my mind about which of those professions I wanted to pursue because each one seemed to exclude the other. So I was lucky enough to find the place where they intersected.
Who influenced your criticism?
I went to Yale and studied architecture with Vincent Scully, who played a huge role in shaping my sensibility. If my eye was formed by anybody, it was Scully more than any other individual.
How did you end up at the Times?
I went to the Times first as an editorial assistant on the Sunday magazine. And I really missed architecture, and then I started to do freelance architecture pieces for the Times and elsewhere. But I was increasingly restless being away from architecture. And then I had an amazing opportunity, which was the chance to move within the Times, to become the architecture critic.
That's quite a leap.
It was quite a leap. I use the word lucky a few times. At the time, Ada Louise Huxtable was at the Times. She had been there for many years but she was moving to a new assignment—part time on the editorial board, and part time, she would continue to be the senior architecture critic. So they were very deliberately looking for someone who would be a number two to her. Not someone who had a huge independent reputation. If I had had a more established reputation, I might not have gotten the job. My guess is that she encouraged her bosses to choose somebody who would be quite junior to her, so there's no question who the senior voice was. And I fit the bill.
How did you go about picking your topics?
I was young, eager, loved the opportunity to put my passions into print and would do anything. And the Times had, and still has, a vast appetite for copy. The needs were enormous. I recall very few instances of being told, "No, it's not a good idea. Don't do it."
When you wrote a review, did they ever question your opinion?
I don't remember that happening too many times. The Times has traditionally been pretty good about backing its critics. I recall having two arguments with the executive editor while I was there. One was a piece about the Art and Architecture building at Yale. The editors thought it was too arcane. It was the only time I was ever told that. I was never told that about my writing any other time.
There was another thing that had nothing to do with the newspaper—a freelance piece in another magazine about the truly wretched design of the Times newsroom. This was the first time they re-did it to accommodate the first generation of computers. Big carpets, tile floors and horrible lighting, and fake-wood Formica furniture. It was really tacky. The executive editor was quite upset, and thought I was disloyal. As an employee, I was supposed to say positive things about the newspaper, no matter what.
When you were starting out, were you self-conscious about the role or responsibility of an architecture critic?
An architecture critic has a lot of authority but not much real power. Power is a much more raw and direct force. Authority is respect and trust. I don't think architecture critics have the power. It used to be said that The New York Times theater critic can close a Broadway show. Well, that's power. But nobody tears down a building if an architecture critic doesn't like it.
The most important responsibility of the critic is not to be stupid, not to be vicious, and not to be ad hominem. And I don't believe I've ever been any of those things as a critic. I was never interested in attacking people as people—I only wanted to discuss the work. Negative reviews are often interpreted as personal attacks, which obviously they are not.
Frankly, as I look back at what I did at the Times, I am proud of all of it. The things I might redo are not the times when I was too harsh on something, but situations where I think I was too kind and too generous, too patient and too forgiving.
You're willing to admit you're wrong?
I've been wrong on some things. I think I've been a little bit too generous about good intentions. Therefore what errors in judgment I've made over the years have come from the mistake of putting too much weight on good intentions, which can bring bad results.
What's the most important quality for a critic?
I would say a combination of a passion and a thick skin—two things that don't always go together. Angry responses or reactions are part of the territory. I am the happiest when people realize I'm just doing my job. I would hope [angry readers] would not personally direct their anger to me.
Speaking of having a thick skin, are you friendly with Michael Sorkin today?
Yes, we actually are. I have great respect for him. The issue on which we probably had our nastiest arguments was Times Square, many, many years ago. And that's probably—if I were going to give you any example where my inclination to think in terms of good intentions rather than results was most manifest—it was in my writing on Times Square. I was far too slow to realize how badly conceived that project was, and how bad [Philip] Johnson's design was initially. I don't believe I was wrong in thinking that the basic premise of the master plan was basically right—it was basically right. The basic design schemes were terrible, and I was much too forgiving of them.
Was it the thick of postmodernism that clouded your judgment?
I think that might be right. And I think I was probably a bit more forgiving of postmodernism in general, too, because that, too, was about intentions. In the end, most of that stuff was no more than transition architecture to wean us away from something. Now we've come to a much more mature modernism, a more intelligent modernism.
How has the role of the critic changed since you've left the Times?
Everyone interprets the role differently. I don't think the role or obligation changes very much. The critic of the Times plays a very central role in the civic dialogue of New York.
How is your job different now writing for a weekly magazine?
It's very different. At The New Yorker, we don't try or aspire to be exhaustive. We don't try to cover everything. The New York Times has an obligation to cover everything. It's like, "If a tree falls in the forest and Times is not there to write about it, does it make a sound?" It can tire you out after a while. But at the New Yorker, we just write about what interests us, and what, over the course of the year, would make interesting types of pieces.
Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.
The first thing you think when you see the new luxury apartment building at Astor Place—a slick, undulating tower clad in sparkly green glass—is that it doesn't belong in the neighborhood. The tone of Astor Place is set by places like Cooper Union, the Public Theatre, and the gargantuan former Wanamaker store on Broadway: heavy, brawny blocks of masonry that sit foursquare on the ground. Louis Sullivan once described one of Henry Hobson Richardson's great stone buildings as a man with virile force—broad, vigorous, and with a whelm of energy. The new building, designed by Charles Gwathmey, is an elf prancing among men.
Of course, cities are often enriched by architecture that seems, at first, to be alien: the pristine glass towers of Mies van der Rohe and the sylph-like bridges of Santiago Calatrava have brought grace to countless harsh, older cityscapes. But this new building, which is on one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan, does not have a transforming effect. If, as Vincent Scully proposed, architecture is a conversation between generations, this young intruder hasn't much to say to its neighbors. Its shape is fussy, and the glass facade is garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place, the tower disrupts the neighborhood's rhythm.
In an inelegant way, Gwathmey's building has exposed a truth about this part of lower Manhattan: inside those rough-and-tumble old masonry buildings is a lot of wealth. By designing a tower with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood, which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other than a place for the rich. The thirty-nine apartments inside the Gwathmey building start at $2 million.
It is a paradox of the New York real estate market that nothing breeds gentility like harsh surroundings. Once, it all happened indoors—grimy factory floors in SoHo became expensive lofts. Sleekness was a private pleasure, not a public display. But the pair of exceptionally elegant glass towers designed by Richard Meier that went up on the western reaches of Greenwich Village a few years ago changed the rules. High-gloss modernism, preferably attached to the signature of a famous architect and dropped into an old industrial streetscape, became the hottest thing in Manhattan apartment architecture since Emery Roth invented the foyer.
Michael Sorkin started his career in criticism writing for the Village Voice in 1978 and went on to write the alternative weekly's architecture column for ten years. In the Voice's permissive, freewheeling editorial environment, he developed an unflinching, pugnacious writing style—indebted as much to the gonzo journalists of the 1960s as to iconoclasts in the design fields, from Archigram to Jane Jacobs to Robert Venturi. He quickly became notorious as a silver-tongued antagonist of the architectural elite. Taking Philip Johnson to task for his Nazi past, as well as admonishing The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger (one of his unforgettable pieces was titled "Why Paul Goldberger Is So Bad: The Case of Times Square"), Sorkin is the embodiment of the fearless critic, becoming a hero to many (and a thorn in the side of a few).
Since his Voice days, Sorkin, now 57, has continued to write, as well as practice and teach. In all his work, he has consistently championed environmental issues, sustainability, and social justice. With his regular contributions to the Critique column in Architectural Record, Sorkin continues to serve as the profession's voice of outrage—and of moral reason.
Currently, he serves as director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY, a program that he founded. His New York-based architectural practice, Michael Sorkin Studio, continues to promulgate his idealist, socialist vision in both practical and theoretical projects. His Village Voice columns are anthologized in Exquisite Corpse (Verso, 1991) and most recent book is Starting From Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York (Routledge, 2003) and he is currently preparing five other titles, including Indefensible Space: The Architecture of the National Insecurity State (Routledge), Work on the City (Monacelli), and Fifteen Minutes in Manhattan (Reaktion Press).
Why and how did you get started as an architecture critic?
I first started writing about architecture in college, but I had always been interested. My mother gave me a copy of [Lewis] Mumford's The City in History when it first came out, which was always a touchstone for me. For years I thought Vallingby [the Swedish sustainable New Town] was the omega point of urban civilization. Fortunately, I finally saw it! Having always been interested in both architecture and writing, criticism was a natural progression. When I got to New York I quickly started writing for the Village Voice, which allowed me to indulge another of my ardors, left-wing politics.
Do you feel that left politics was much more of a cultural motivator when you started? And did that carry over into the architecture writing of the era?
Absolutely. I was under the spell of the doughty Marxism of the day. But there was very little architecture writing at the time—almost none in the daily press. Ada Louise Huxtable was the major exception, but there was very little architectural journalism in general. There were a few influential documents around—Archigram magazine, The Whole Earth Catalogue, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture—that were beginning to unsettle the moribund architectural climate from very different directions.
Did you have any other influences?
My prose style was certainly influenced by an undergraduate subscription to Private Eye Magazine, which authorized a certain latitude for the ad hominem, not to mention egregious punning. And then there was the triple whammy of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Rachel Carson, who provide a lovely synthesis of architecture, city, and environment.
How do you choose your subjects?
I have no specific method for choosing my subjects. Part of it is looking for the social meaning of the formal. Part of it is settling scores. And part is just defending one's taste. I've always been a designer as well as a writer so part of my project has always been to advance the agenda of my fellow travelers. And the Voice is a local paper, so I wrote a lot about New York.
Speaking of the Voice, did your editors there have much input in terms of subject matter or the tenor or your articles?
Almost no input in terms of subject matter. It was quite a free situation. They were always happy when I went for the throat, of course.
Who do you consider your audience?
The profession, for starters. Many of my books are directed a little more broadly—to the remnants of the left as well as to a wider circle engaged in urban and environmental struggles. I do feel a bit parochialized, writing primarily in the architectural, rather than more broadly-based, media.
What do you see as the primary role of the architecture critic? And how has it changed?
I see my primary role as an advocate for urban civilization and the planetary environment. That's the big picture. The smaller picture is writing about people, objects, and places I love. That hasn't changed. Of course, the performance of critics fluctuates with the seasons. The majority of critics nowadays are simply flacks: There are too many fashionistas and too few street fighters. We've been taken up into the culture of branding. I think that it is possible for architecture criticism to embody resistance, but it seems in most cases that irony and analysis stops short of availing an original position. People are too accepting of the will of the leviathan and they want their piece of the action.
Do you think that the same can be said of architecture these days? In which case how do you feel about the state of architecture?
I have mixed feelings. Most architecture and criticism is driven by motives too limited, by the bottom line or branding. But both are public projects and my architectural practice and my writing are always concerned with their social effects, their contribution to a more just environment. While I don't believe that architecture creates democracy, architects aren't mindful enough of the distributive effects of planning, the way in which architecture organizes privilege and equity. I think it's important for architecture to make propaganda for a better life, to resist the horror of Bush-world. I truly loathe the smug surfer culture that seems to be in the saddle these days.
Aaron Seward is Projects Editor at AN.
Reports of the death of modern architecture appear to have been greatly exaggerated. This, at any rate, seems to be the drift of the Museum of Modern Art's newly hung Transformations in Modern Architecture. The show has been breathlessly awaited by the architecture set for many years. When, everyone wondered, would Architecture and Design director Arthur Drexler make his move? While fierce controversy roiled over the fate of the modern movement, the museum remained strangely quiescent, almost aloof. The factions raged furiously, each hoping to win the museum to its cause. After all, MoMA virtually made modern architecture in America with its famous show of 1932, and a likewise definitive stand could conceivably have a similar impact today. For Drexler, the opportunity was enormous.
But so was the pressure. Anybody with any sense knew that old-fashioned modern architecture, with all its imputed evils, had to go, but what would replace it? The megastructural maniacs seemed to have been suppressed but did that mean that we were to have the quaint eclecticists or the nouveau neo-classicists? All that was certain was that everyone, except the most unreconstructed Miesians, was yapping for a change...
Still, MoMA temporized, hedging its bets, keeping up but never summing up: All hope for clarification was pinned on Transformations. Designers trembled over drafting tables, pens nervously poised, waiting to be told what to do next. Expectation was apoplectic; fortunes hung in the balance. Seventh Avenue shows a collection every season and the air is electric every time. The Architecture and Design Department makes a major statement only a few times in a lifespan. What was the word to be?
Alas, MoMA copped out. The show is like Hamlet on matte-board: Drexler couldn't make up his mind. Instead of a Cultural Revolution we get "Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom." Instead of leadership, vacillation.
Of course what's really interesting about the compilations is who gets left out. Here, the choices get wiggy. Virtually Philip Johnson's entire oeuvre is included but not a single Alvar Aalto. Anybody could become Philip Johnson given the right historical circumstances but only Aalto could have been Aalto. Vulgarians like Harrison and Abramowitz of Albany Mall fame survive the last cut but Pier Luigi Nervi doesn't even get the court. Is this sensible? Where are those splendid Dutchmen Herman Herzberger and Aldo van Eyck? Where are Steve Baer's Zomes and Bucky's geodesics? Where is SITE? Wasn't the Guggenheim finished in 1959? Some of this seems just plain bitchy. The whole town is asking why John Hejduk's fine work is not to be found with that of the other members of the New York Five, inexplicably reduced for the occasion to Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves...Ultimately, though, what do Drexler's peccadilloes matter: Group shows always entail a certain amount of grievance. Let them form a salon des refusés if they want.
Since 1973, Robert Campbell has been architecture critic of The Boston Globe and for many years, has been a regular contributor to Architectural Record's Critique column. At 68, Campbell is a consistent, informed voice on the scene, his writing enriched by his backgrounds in journalism and architecture.
In a September 2004 Architectural Record column, Campbell wrote, "I've always thought that a good model for any critic is Alice, the heroine of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Alice is constantly running into creatures who are crazy—the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit—but they're crazy in a special way. They're obsessed by ideas, and they ignore real-world experience. Alice isn't fooled or overly impressed by her crazies, and neither should any critic be." Campbell's sobriety and unique insight, as one of the field's own practioners, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1996 and the medal for criticism from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1980.
Why and how did you begin your career as a critic?
I was an English major and I didn't want to be a professor, so I went to Columbia University and tried journalism in New York for a few years, but I didn't like it. I decided to become an architect, and got my degree from Harvard's GSD in 1967. I had no thought of writing at that point, and didn't write for many years, while I was practicing. I met an editor from The Boston Globe and started writing for the newspaper in 1973. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about criticism at that time. There was an interest in preservation and the era of urban renewal was ending. Ada Louise Huxtable had begun writing for The New York Times in the 1960s and she essentially generated a career path for many others. Other papers were adding architecture critics to their ranks, like David Dillon at the Dallas Morning News and Paul Goldberger, who was already writing at the the Times as well.
What do you feel your role is, as an architecture critic for a major daily paper and at-large-advocate, observer, something else?
The architecture critic is not a consumer guide like other critics. The chief role of an architecture critic is to stimulate and participate in an ongoing conversation about the world we build and live in and what makes [projects] good or bad. When I started, as I said, there was a lot of interest. There have been periods of less interest. Today, it's hot again, but it is all about the star performer—characteristic of the media culture we're living in. This makes it incumbent on critics not to get sucked into the media whirlwind. We must weigh in on important issues. Blair Kamin does this well in Chicago.
What do you think of activist criticism, which Kamin, as well as Allan Temko in San Francisco, advocate?
I certainly think that activist criticism is appropriate and can be a positive force. Blair Kamin and Michael Sorkin, in different ways, are doing this. It is not my temperament to take that attitude, but it's certainly a valid strategy.
What are your feelings about what's going on in architecture today: the influence of computer technology on design, the rise of sustainable design, and other developments?
Certainly, computers are important. Young people are very good at them and they can make shapes that have never been made before. They are playing a game. It's easy to dream up new shapes, but it's difficult to give them meaning.
I am very interested in the growing importance of landscape architecture and the increasing integration of architecture and landscape. As for green buildings, many are largely symbolic. The bigger issues are sprawl and energy, I think. Certainly, symbols are important, and architects should take opportunities to make high-performance buildings that are also visually exciting in ways that are not just arbitrary. The only long-term green solution involves reorganizing the patterns by which we inhabit the earth.
How do you choose your subjects? How do you converse about a subject that many people may not understand?
I intuit what I think will be interesting. No one buys tickets to see buildings, so you have to think about what purpose you serve: to get people thinking and talking about the built environment. You might write about a building because it's great, bad, or otherwise important. I choose all my own topics. As for conversing about a subject that people care about but may not understand, I do the best I can. I enjoy making things clear.
What can be done to enhance the level of architectural literacy in this country, where only two percent of construction involves architects?
The level of architectural literacy is going up rapidly. The subject is in the magazines and newspapers more than before. Maybe people are more interested because more of them are moving from city to city, or because they are all traveling more.
Did you ever change your mind about anything you've written?
Of course I have; many times. But I don't go back to revisit. There's not much room at a paper to say, "I was wrong about that."
Do you think that having been a practicing architect gives you a special understanding as a critic?
Yes, in the same way that art historians or others bring special perspectives. I understand how collaborative architecture is, and the importance of time and money.
What critics have been significant influences for you?
Jane Jacobs was a huge influence, but beyond her, I can't really cite major architecture critics as my biggest influences. My models are from the English literature side of my background: Randall Jarrell, George Bernard Shaw, and Edmund Wilson.
You have talked about how the single-issue experts are to blame for poorly designed cities, and that generalists—such as designers and mayors—should be running the show. Why?
I don't think traffic experts and others should be deciding issues of city design. You need a broader perspective. The age of the expert is over. I think the worship of experts is way down; even doctors and lawyers don't get the respect they once did. But I'm not sure it's been replaced by healthy collaboration. In the the absence of experts, it is possible to get a kind of populist decision-making, or decision-preventing, in which every interest group or individual is consulted and, as a result, nobody can build anything that anyone dislikes. This leads to a kind of bland common-denominator world, punctuated by the occasional star icon.
Kira Gould is a Boston-based design writer.
A critic is supposed to stimulate a dialogue, not be one. So wrote the great Clement Greenberg. I seem to be one of only a few critics around who wasn't crazy about the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. Maybe I'll change my tune after a few more visits; Greenberg reversed his judgments sometimes, and it's greatly to his credittand if I do, I'll perform a mea culpa. But for now...
It isn't that MoMA's bad. There's nothing bad about it. It's just that it isn't good enough. It's elegant, but it lacks life and imagination, and those are qualities we used to associate with modernism.
New museums often open with a blizzard of hype. It's hard for critics not to be caught up in the excitement. Years ago, that happened with I. M. Pei's East Building for the National Gallery in Washington. More recently, it happened with Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern in London. I didn't like either of them at the time and I still don't. And I think a consensus opinion, over the years, has borne me out. I say this despite the AIA's recent Twenty-Five Year Award to the East Building. I recall when the East Building opened, the architect Jean Paul Carlhian, who founded the AIA's Committee on Design, said, "It is an airline terminal." It was and it is, with most of the art crammed into residual spaces around the edges of a vast, self-regarding, nearly empty concourse.
Anyway, here are my problems with MoMA:
There isn't any architecture. The design architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, was quoted more than once as saying that if MoMA gave him enough money, he could make the architecture disappear. Unfortunately, he's succeeded. Most of the museum consists of an endless rabbit-warren of more or less identical white-walled galleries with track-lit ceilings. Every attempt is made to remove any sense of the presence of architecture. A typical gallery wall, for example, appears not to touch the ceiling, the floor, or the adjacent walls. Instead all surfaces are divided from one another by a thin recessed shadow line. The effect is to make the wall appear to be floating, without substance. It looks not like a wall, but like a white projection screen. The paintings on it, as a result, begin to feel like projected images. You are in the placeless, timeless world of the slide lecture. Because the wall doesn't feel real, neither does the artwork. You begin to feel unreal yourself. Architecture has failed to create a place that either the paintings or you yourself can inhabit with a sense of presence.
MoMA argues that it was trying to avoid creating a destination building, like Frank Gehry's Bilbao, the kind of building that can upstage its contents. "It's all about the art," one curator told me. But this is a false dichotomy. The choice is not between no architecture and too much architecture. What's wanted is the right amount of architecture. Many museums—to cite a few, the Kimbell and Mellon by Kahn, the Maeght and Miro by Sert, the De Menil, Beyeler and Nasher by Piano, the Bregenz by Zumthor, the Pulitzer by Ando, the Dia:Beacon by Robert Irwin and OpenOffice—all find ways to articulate space clearly enough to give the artworks a place within which to exist.
Deyan Sudjic lives in an elegant Victorian house on the fringes of Regent's Park. In contrast to the opulence of the neighborhood, the room where we talk is rigorously stripped of detail, with austere white walls and a vast bleached wood table—not a book in sight. "Truth is," says Sudjic, " I'm between books right now." His latest, The Edifice Complex (just out in the U.S.) has, perhaps understandably, drained his formidable energies. The book, subtitled How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, is a visceral, uncompromising analysis of the 21st century uber-architect, whom Sudjic criticizes as venal, opportunistic, only too eager to deal with tyrants.
This critical stance is characteristic of Sudjic, who co-founded Blueprint in the mid-1980s precisely to provide an alternative perspective on the profession. Sudjic also made time to write books, including the highly acclaimed 100-Mile City (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1992), a scholarly assessment of late-20th century urbanism. A supreme networker, Sudjic was named editor of Domus in 2000. His stewardship of the Milan-based magazine transformed it into a truly international forum for architecture, art, and design, which in turn made him an obvious choice to direct the 2002 Venice Architecture Biennale. He has also curated London exhibitions at the British Museum, the Royal Academy, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He is currently architecture critic for The Observer, the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper The Guardian.
How did you come to write about architecture?
My father was a journalist and my mother was hell-bent I shouldn't follow in his footsteps. I guess that's why I chose to study architecture in the first place but once at university I was forced to realize the dramatic limitations of my skills—not least during my year out in the Chelsea offices of Chamberlain Powell & Bon, architects of the Barbican complex in East London. I was also editing the student newspaper; Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor and Tony Blair's right hand man, was news editor at the time! Given a dearth of architecture work—this was the early 1980s—I reckoned that writing was, despite my mother's dire warnings, the way forward for me. Peter Murray, then editor of Building Design, gave me my first break. After a year I realized I was having a fantastic time. I certainly learned a great deal more about architecture as a writer than I had done studying it.
It wasn't long before you started Blueprint. What prompted you to do it? Did you feel architecture in the UK was too polite or clubby?
Blueprint was meant to be a bit of fun, a youthful sense that the existing UK magazines were run by managers with only a limited sense of what a magazine could be. It was meant to be a co-op, run collectively. We—the writers, designers, photographers and illustrators who got together to do it—all wanted a new, challenging outlet. I was also keen to broaden architecture's perspective, to make it a part of a wider visual culture, I guess influenced by Domus which dealt with art, industrial design, fashion, graphics, and urbanism.
Of course we were clubby too, but every generation succeeds by trashing their predecessors, so we just started another club. Encouraging good writing was also important.
Can you pinpoint key priorities you bring to your work as a critic?
If you are not entertaining, people will not read you. But that does not mean that you should be shallow. I think that you have a duty to be interesting, and interested, to use your eyes as well as your head. It's also important not to take architecture at face value. I would also rather not accept financial support from owners or architects to travel to see projects, but in the currrent climate of reduced budgets at newspapers and ever-more-far-flung projects it's hard to avoid it if you are going to keep up with the key buildings. Of course seeing them gives you a strange world view: Nobody else, not even the architects themselves, see Herzog & De Meuron in California one week, Daniel Libeskind in Tel Aviv the next, Norman Foster in Beijing the month after, followed by Rem Koolhaas in Porto.
What was the climate of criticism when you started out and how has it changed?
There were great people: Reyner Banham was a marvelous inspiration, in his style, and his range of subject matter, and I wanted to be able to write like that. I wanted to ensure that architecture could get into mainstream newspapers, and that meant having a direct approach—approaching the subject not from the preconceptions of architects or taking the work at face value.
You write today for both the general and specialized reader. How difficult is it to switch tone, frame of reference, et cetera? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate your lay audience?
The word "educate" really sets my teeth on edge when applied to journalism. You operate by seducing and surprising your audience into reading you. That means being as stylish a writer as you can, and trying to make sense of complex things in as direct a way as you can. I have not only written for specialists and a lay audience, but I have simultaneously been an editor and a writer—useful in terms of acquiring a sense of perspective.
Have you ever regretted a piece you've written?
I certainly regretted some headlines. By far the worst was for my obituary of Philip Johnson for which some bright spark came up with "A Nazi Piece of Work." There's no going back from that one!
Can you identify key differences between criticism in the UK and that of the U.S., or Italy, where you worked?
These are three very different cultures. Doing Domus I was acutely aware how different the Anglo-Saxon discussion was from the Italian—I could never be sure if it was the quality of the translation, or the sometimes maddening diffusion of the Italian language. Sometimes Anglo-Saxon directness translated into Italian offended people. I remember Mario Botta complaining to the magazine's owner that I had hired a gang of English mercenaries to disparage him. I suspect that Americans think that the British are a bit limited. We do not have the same intellectual rigor. In the newspapers, the U.S. gives its critics more space—2,000 words is common in The New York Times, whereas 800 is a standard length here. Personally I prefer not to write a detailed architectural description, I tend to talk about what a project means, rather than how it looks.
In a recent interview, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, suggested that the basic principles of a museum should celebrate John Locke's civic humanism. Can you point to leading architects whom you feel champion the notion of civic humanism?
I believe great cities are the product of an exchange of ideas. What I fear most is no conversation, no discussion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against shift-making buildings, but let's not just grab the next tower off the shelf, dust it off, and build it. There are inspired architects, great architects who want to engage in real ideas. The key thing is to create a forum where that's possible and it's the role of the critic to build that debate.
Do you believe that criticism has a direct effect on the evolution of architecture? Is there, or should there be, a tangible link?
No. As Charles Jencks says, critics are the messenger boys.
Robert Torday is associate director of ING Media, London, and contributes to Architects' Journal and ICON magazine.
Last week the East of England Development Agency launched what it described, with Pooterish grandiloquence, as an international competition to find a visionary plan for a landmark, or series of landmarks. The agency says it is looking for an icon that will foster a sense of identity for the region as a whole—to underscore its message that the East of England, is a region of ideas. All that was missing from its litany of threadbare received wisdom was a passing reference to its world-class ambitions.
No site has been specified, nor has the development agency committed any money to the project, which hardly inspires confidence, but Yasmin Shariff, an architect who is also a board member claims that this piece of wishful thinking is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together as a region and decide how to present ourselves to the rest of the world.
It's not hard to imagine what an Angel of the East might look like, or for that matter, a Lincoln opera house, faced with titanium fish scales, designed by Frank Gehry as a free-form blob, or an eccentrically exhibitionistic Santiago Calatrava footbridge across the Cam as being the sort of structure that the agency is after. Competitions such as this have become ubiquitous, leading all but inevitably to the kind of architecture that looks best reduced to a logo on a letterhead or to the confined spaces of one of those Eiffel-Tower-in-a snow-storm paperweights. It claims to be about inspiration but ends only in the obvious. The search for the architectural icon has become the ubiquitous theme of contemporary design.
Leaving aside the wounding possibility that the rest of the world is likely to remain just as indifferent to the fate of the Fens and Humberside, however they choose to present themselves, as it has ever since the collapse of the wool trade in the Middle Ages, the agency has a fight on its hands. If it is to stand out from an endless procession of decaying industrial backwaters, rural slums, and development areas that are equally star-struck, equally determined to build the icon that will bring the world beating a path to its door, then it must come up with something really attention-grabbing.
This is the way to an architecture of diminishing returns in which every sensational new building must attempt to eclipse the last one. It leads to a kind of hyperinflation, the architectural equivalent of the Weimar Republic's debauching of its currency. Everybody wants an icon now. They want an architect to do for them what Gehry's Guggenheim did for Bilbao, Jorn Utzon's Opera House did for Sydney, and Piers Gough's green-tiled public lavatory did for the Portobello Road.
Fewer than 45 of the approximately 140 newspapers in the United States, with a daily circulation over 75,000 have architecture critics, according to a 2001 survey by the National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP) at Columbia University and only a third of them pursue architecture criticism full-time. Amazingly, cities like Houston, Detroit, and Las Vegassplaces that have undergone huge building booms in recent yearsslack a regular architecture voice. Of the papers that do have critics, half feature fewer than two dozen stories a year; that's less than one every two weeks. And while architecture implicates not just aesthetics and culture but so much elseepolitical economy, ecology, social welfareethese stories are normally relegated to Arts, Style, or Home sections. Thus, as the NAJP study concludes, major buildings and developments routinely go up with no public discourse on their practical or aesthetic meritssthe most public of art forms receives the least amount of arts coverage.. (The study was overseen by Andrrs Szzntt, director of the now defunct NAJP.)
If this state of affairs is lamentable, it's necessary to acknowledge that architecture journalism for the mass public has long been a rarity in this country, with notable exceptions like Montgomery Schuyler at the New York World in the late 19th century and Lewis Mumford at The New Yorker during the middle decades of the twentieth. It was Ada Louise Huxtable, beginning her tenure at The New York Times in 1963 amid that decade's urban upheavals and preservation battles, who coalesced a wide audience for engaged and outspoken architectural criticism. Today, while the issues affecting the built environment are no less contentious or ripe for debate, architecture criticism in its various local venues inevitably finds itself inflected, and distracted, by a far more advanced and globalized culture industry.
The following brief survey of four contemporary critics at high-profile American newspapers is based largely on a reading of articles published over the last year:
Robert Campbell has been architecture critic at the Boston Globe since 1974. Trained as an architectthe received his MArch from Harvard's GSD in 19677Campbell, now 68, garnered the third architecture Pulitzer (after Huxtable and Paul Goldberger) in 1996 for his knowledgeable writing on architecture.. His short-ish articles are conversational, descriptive, and well-mannered. He complains about conservative Bostonn while at the same time betraying a constitutional mistrust of avant-garde pizzazzz; his taste runs to plain old-fashioned modernism.. This doesn't prevent him from acknowledging that Steven Holl's new Simmons dormitory at MIT, if perhaps too inventive,, is daring and beautiful; he likewise reserves final judgment on Gehry's Stata Center, which, despite appearances of being a big, arbitrary sculpture,, reflects serious thinking about how people live and work.. He frequently covers significant events outside Boston, but writes most often and generously about lesser-known architects at home. His interest in architecture as a register of urban and social history is reflected in a regular city sceness feature for the Sunday magazine section on which he collaborates with photographer Peter Vanderwarker.
Blair Kamin is strongly civic-minded and devoted to nurturing architecture culture in his home city. A self-proclaimed activist critic,, he uses the platform he has held at the Chicago Tribune since 1992 not as a bully pulpit so much as a lectern from which to educate the public and to prod architects and municipal officials in socially constructive directions. A graduate of Yale's Master's of Environmental Design program and, like Campbell, a Pulitzer Prize winner (in 1999), the 48-year-old critic has collected his articles of the last decade in a book, Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2001), that reflects his broad-based but Chicago-centric concerns. Didactic, thoughtful, and judicious, he is given to relative judgments and careful distinctions. Less concerned with architectural form-making as such than its impact on people, he dwells on how skyscrapers meet the ground, the livability of tall buildings, the urban vibrancy produced by the clash of styles in Chicago's downtown. At the same time, in a city dominated during the 1990s by its mayor's retro tastes in civic improvement, he often finds himself arguing for contemporary aesthetics. But the shoddy detailing at IIT's Campus Center irks him, notwithstanding the brilliance of Rem Koolhaas' conception.
Nicolai Ouroussoff is younger than Kamin, at 43. Educated at Columbia's architecture school, he was anointed Herbert Muschamp's successor at The New York Times in the summer of 2004. Muschamp's departure was accompanied by demands for a less star-obsessed, more ecumenical replacement. Ouroussoff was quickly presumed to be in the same mold as his predecessor, however, albeit not as self-involved or flamboyant. Indeed, one of Ouroussoff's debut articles, entitled The New New York Skyline,, applauding a trio of luxury towers by Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry, picked up seamlessly, jumping on Muschamp's favorite hobbyhorse: Manhattan's skyline was once a monument to the relentless forces of modernity, but for decades now the city's reputation as a center of architectural experimentation has been losing ground to London, Barcelona, Beijing, and Shanghaii? Similarly Muschampian was a shrill attack on MoMA's architectural leadership and, in a tribute to Philip Johnson, a description of the Four Seasons as one of the sexiest rooms in the city, with beaded steel curtains that conjure up a woman's slipp?an embarrassing echo of Herbert's evocation of the Guggenheim Bilbao in terms of Marilyn Monroe's skirts. If Koolhaas for years dominated Muschamp's fevered imagination, Ouroussoff's admiration for Gehry and Thom Mayne has likewise already occasioned a lot of New York newsprint. Nor have international celebrities like Herzog & de Meuron and Coop Himmelb(l)au escaped his appreciative attention as, befitting a paper that sees its beat as the whole world, Ouroussoff has begun to file from offshore datelines. At the same time, a string of recent pieces reflecting a firsthand look at New Orleans, and more generally on preservation and urban revitalization issues from Cairo to Columbus Circle and Ground Zero, are evidence of his willingness to take on challenging issues beyond aesthetics.
Christopher Hawthorne, the youngest of the four critics at 35, was appointed to his post at the Los Angeles Times after Ouroussoff's elevation to New York. A graduate of Yale architecture school, he was previously architecture critic a Slate.com. Hawthorne writes lucidly and forcefully, appreciates the complexities of urban planning and the pragmatics of building construction, and doesn't hesitate to tackle intractable issues like the politics of sprawl. He is interested in the back story, and not afraid to state his opinion, even if it's unlikely to win friends. He reserves a certain irony with respect to high-wattagee architecture, as he calls ittnot that he's hostile to it, just streetwise enough not to swallow it whole. Hawthorne effortlessly combines smart visual commentary with informed historical contextualization. It's hard to say whether his greater-depth approach is sufficiently accessible to the general readership. I'm impressed, though, and look forward to following his writing more closely.
It is hardly surprising that in each case the critic reflects the newspaper and city in which he writes. It is also the case that, while all four write professionally, fluently, and at times with passion and verve, none approaches the commanding intellect and culture of, say, a Mumford, or the witty acuity of a Reyner Banham. Huxtable, in her classic Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?? period, used her podium to galvanize a broad base of support for urban improvement, as Jane Jacobs did during the same epoch with her blockbuster Death and Life of Great American Cities. More recently, Muschamp, for all his excesses, was able to grab the public imagination with a maverick style that interspersed flashes of genuine insight and originality. In a more political vein, sharp critics like Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin, contributing to publications like The Nation and the old Village Voice, have attracted loyal adherents, although it's difficult to imagine either of them writing for a mainstream newspaper.
The architecture critic at the general-interest publication has the obligation to write for both a specialist and nonspecialist audience, walk a fine line between advocacy and partisanship, and do more than register new trends. Writing without benefit of historical retrospectionnmost of the time before the project has ceased to be a construction site or computer renderingghe or she has the job of exposing the conditions in which architecture is produced and consumed; to paraphrase Manfredo Tafuri, it's a matter of going backstage rather than continuing to observe the spectacle from a seat in the audience. Beyond this, it helps to love architecture and cities, and to write with a deep knowledge of history, a strong commitment to the public and environmental good, a precise understanding of how buildings are constructed, and (not least) a discerning eye.
Joan Ockman, an architectural historian, teaches at Columbia University and is the director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.
Marisa Bartolucci reads the trades and special-interest magazines,
and sympathizes with architects who say they don't.
This era of kaleidoscopic change shouts out for sagacious critics. We need them to parse the shifting scene and discern imaginative and ethical arcrhitectural esponses. Yet the critical offerings in general interest magazines and the architectural trades are scant. Why some choose to feature criticism, and others don't is bafflinggand depressing. With so much development going on in the city, how can New York magazine be without a critic?
Of what's available, according to this writer's informal poll, little of it is read by architects. Why? Insipid and irrelevant is a common claim. Maybe that's why not long ago a readers' survey at Architecture magazine revealed that its most widely read sections were the editorial and protest pagessthe only places serving up opinion on topical matters.
After perusing an admittedly haphazard sampling of criticism in trade and other special-interest media (i.e., literary, shelter, or weekly publications), I contend there is work out there that's penetrating in analysis, even pertinent to private practice, although little is exhilarating in vision.
Alas, there's no Lewis Mumford on the horizon. (And that may be the fault of magazine editorssgood critics need nurturing.) The Skyline column in The New Yorker long served as the podium for that great thinker. From its heights, he championed Frank Lloyd Wright when others declared him dated; warned against technology dominating human purpose; and railed against the mediocrity of the design for the United Nations Headquarters. (How little things change.)
Today a critic dubbed the great equivocatorr occupies that podium. Although he wields great power, Paul Goldberger seldom strays from consensus views. On occasion, when he does advocate, people listen. A recent article urging that the present plan for Ground Zero be dumped in favor of incorporating cutting-edge residential architecture may have helped galvanize Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to make noises about wresting control of the project.
But if we are not to find challenging architectural criticism in The New Yorker, where else can we look? To the online opinionmaker Slate.com? There, the professorial Witold Rybczynski regularly teaches Beltway readers how to evaluate buildings and understand the forces that shape them. His brief essays range from book reviews to project critiques. An article on why architect-designed emergency housing seldom works was right on the money. But his taste is stale: He applauded David Child's latest version of the Freedom Tower as the best yet.
Until recently, Martin Filler held forth at The New Republic. Why he has absented that post is a mystery and a loss. He is a terrific critic. Flinty principle sparks his writing, which is subtle, but mordant. He insists that great architecture encompasses more than aesthetics. He doesn't shirk from attacking big names.
If the decision makers at Ground Zero had read his review of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum they might not have mistaken schmaltz for architecture. In a prescient line about the museum, Filler summed up all that would be wrong with Libeskind's Freedom Tower plan: There is such a thing as architecture being too artful for its avowed function, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin is a fine illustration of that conundrum..
While at The New Republic, Filler tackled the usual celebrity suspectssprobably the only ones his Washington-focused editors considered worthy. Every so often, for The New York Review of Books, he contributes long, probing essays on subjects like the rebuilding of Berlin or the rebuilding of Ground Zero. These pieces allow him to show off his ample erudition and his fine eye. Architects, take a subscription.
Meanwhile, in his bimonthly column for shelter magazine House & Garden, his choice of subjects has been eclectic, ranging from a celebration of the planned community of Radburn, New Jersey, to a trenchant critique of Yoshio Taniguichi's Museum of Modern Art. The big new MoMA amounts to little, architecturally,, he writes. It is no small irony that the museum that codified the International Style and thus exerted a profound influence on 20th-century architecture again finds itself in a building markedly less distinguished than the unequaled modern treasures it contains..
Filler's unflinching assessment is noteworthy in light of the vacillating judgments of his peers. In Architectural Record, Suzanne Stephens intrepidly enumerated the $450 million building's numerous flaws, but in the end, still heaped on the praise: It's what the Modern always wanted to be.. Is it any wonder why practitioners don't read these journals? Reportedly, even Taniguchi is disappointed.
At this architecture tabloid, Julie Iovine brings bracing realism to her new Crit column. Last July, she took a detached look at the sudden wave of wildly ambitious urban development schemes being proposed for the city and their suspiciously enthusiastic civic and critical embrace. If such clear-thinking, straight-talking works are what's ahead, this column may become a must-read.
But few publications provide the gritty evaluations of what works and what doesn'ttthe information architects crave because it relates to their practices. This should be a service of the trades, as important as their reporting on the latest developments in materials and building science. Instead, they focus only on presenting glossy images of flashy, big-name projects. These are carefully described, but only superficially assessed. Rushing to publish as soon as the last nail is hammered, as if buildings were the latest Paris fashions, leaves little time to gather reports on how a building functions. Without such information how can true judgments be made of an architect's achievements, both aesthetic and technical?
Architectural Record's regular Critique column features alternating essays by Robert Campbell and Michael Sorkin, which ruminate more than provoke. But sometimes sparks do fly. Last April, Campbell carped about the notion of architecture as symbol. Two issues later, Sorkin ambushed him. It wasn't sporting, but in a series of dazzlingly erudite thrusts and parries, he shredded Campbell's argument.
Face-offs like these energize everyone's critical thinking. Last June, The Prospect, a British monthly, published a series of letters between Deyan Sudjic and Charles Jencks debating, coincidentally, the merits of iconic architecture. Following the divergence and convergence of their views on subjects ranging from aesthetics to professional ethics was fascinating.
The most brilliant critic on our shores may be Sorkin. His essays can take you on a thrill ride through learned discourse, lefty idealism, pop culture, and occasionally, Jewish shtick. Why he never won a Pulitzer when he was at the Village Voice is a scandal. (Huxtable, Temko, Goldberger, Campbell, and Kamin all have them.) Sorkin may be a smarty pants, but he is fearless. He skewered Philip Johnson when he was architecture's minence grise. (Most critics waited until after his death to bury him.) A year ago, Sorkin called Frank Gehry on the moral incongruity of designing a satellite to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalemma city with little tolerance for its own Palestinian citizens and neighbors. Eminence has its responsibility,, he observed, which extends beyond the realm of professional practice.. An intrepid thinker, a joker, a scholar, a moral iconoclast, Sorkin represents what every young architecture critic should aspire to be.
Certainly, he is a model for Philip Nobel, who has enlivened the pages of Metropolis for the past few years. Nobel sure writes well. Like adolescent love letters, Nobel's columns can ache with emotion. And that's not a bad thing. He makes you believe great buildings matter. But the trouble with adolescents, who like Nobel swing between idealism and cynicism, is they're self-absorbed. No matter what Nobel writes about, it always comes back to him. At times he verges on slipping into Muschampian territory, which can lead, as we all know, to critical oblivion.
Architecture needs smart, brave voices. Nobel's got one. If he can concentrate on substance, he might make more architects into readers. And just maybe improve the profession.
Marisa Bartolucci lives in New York and writes about design.
Vittorio Gregotti ruminates on criticism in Italy, the epicenter of
architectural publishing, and asserts its inextricable link to history.
The state of architectural criticism in Italyyand probably in much of Europeeis rooted in a theoretical attitude that belongs to the tradition of architectural history. The members of this tradition include the critics and historians of my generation, whose most important representative was Manfredo Tafuri, who was a follower of Giulio Carlo Argan, a Marxist and one-time mayor of Rome, and the most important critic and historian of modern architecture between 1930 and 1960. Two other important critics of the 20th century, albeit ones coming from a different and opposing point of view, are Leonardo Benevolo and Bruno Zevi, who despite their scholarship, were inclined to write occasionally for non-specialized public- ations, such as daily newspapers and weekly magazines. A special position within this generation was occupied, too, by Ernesto Nathan Rogers, known for his accomplishments as an architect, editor of Domus, and Casabella, and cultural polemicist.
In Italy, architecture critics, in the strict sense of the term (thus excluding historians and university professors of history), operate in a relatively narrow field because the mass media are not interested in the specific problems of architecture as a practice and culture. Only two daily newspapers in Italy express an ongoing critical interest in architecture: the economics newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and the general interest La Repubblica. Fulvio Irace writes for the former, while I myself have been contributing to the latter for about 10 years. Of the general-interest weekly magazines, only L'Espresso publishes a regular column dedicated to architecture, which was written for many years written by Bruno Zevi and has been written by architect Massimiliano Fuksas since 2000. Printed articles in other daily newspapers and weekly magazines are both rare and infrequent. Italian television offers few opportunities to speak about architecture; when it does, it is usually in relationship to exceptional exhibitions or events, and done in a very general and superficial manner. When mainstream media does look at architecture, it is to gawk at technical marvels, scandalous episodes of building speculation, and sometimes sociological issues, for example, concerning housing. In recent years, the aesthetic novelties proposed by architects have also generated interest, with special focus on bizarre elements, justified by a generic idea of creativity. Such coverage tends to make architecture resemble objects of mass consumption and entertainment.
Italy naturally boasts a vast range of specialized architectural magazines: Area, the newest and most luxurious publication, is solidly focused on architectural construction; Architettura, cronaca e storia, founded by Bruno Zevi, is now decisively on the wane; Parametro and Abitare, suspended somewhere between interior design and architecture; and Rassegna, which has recently returned with a more aesthetic and technological focus. Op. Cit is a small magazine full of critical reflections that is published in Naples. Lotus occupies a special position because of its thematic format and its attitude towards confronting various issues on a more theoretical level. Giornale dell'Architettura, directed by Carlo Olmo and published every 15 days, appears to be more innovative and aimed at uniting the criticism, discipline, and politics of architecture.
Italy can boast no relevant publications by any architecture school, despite the exorbitant number of studentssroughly 60,0000which is far out of proportion to the actual demand for architects in the country. There are more fashion, furniture, and design magazines that cover the middle ground shared by architects' activities and the problems of architecture.
The saddest story affects the country's two most important architectural magazines, which were once so influential. On the one hand, Casabella (which I myself edited from 1982 to 1996) has lost its traditional critical influence and position in the debate about architecture. On the other, Domus has assumed a conventional and modish take on architecture as fashion. Domus has opened itself to the strong influences of the visual arts or those who wish to substitute buildings with events,, influenced by Koolhaasian sociology of spontaneity.
If we exclude the publications that deal strictly with the history of architecture, even the history of modernist architecture, the architectural essays typically produced in Italy can be divided into two major types: monographs on currently practicing architects (Italian and non) and specifically critical essays. While the specimens in former group are over-abundant, even in the rhetoric of their editorial presentation, examples of the latter are quite rare and tend to receive much less attention. A third type of publication is the architecture exhibition catalogue. In this category, particular importance is helddin my opinion, entirely negativeeby the architectural exhibitions of the Venice Biennale, the Triennale di Milano, or other elaborate, event-like productions, such the 2004 Arte e Architettura exhibition organized in Genoa by Germano Celant, who contributed to confusing architecture and the visual arts, attempting to reduce the first to the second.
Naturally, plenty of writers are producing treatises about fashionable topics, such as computer-generated design, the politics of urban planning, ecology, or general aesthetic trends. These theoretical philosophies are, in general, hurried deductions and poorly interpreted.
The debate between ancient and modern is particularly relevant in the Italian historical-geographical context. It is contested on the one hand by the globalist and anti-contextual ideology that tends to make any work of architecture an enlarged design object, and on the other by institutions that tend to concentrate debate on single, monumental examples rather than dealing with the design of the urban environment or the landscape as an essential part of the actual construction of architecture. In this arena, Salvatore Settis is undoubtedly one of the most seriously involved figures operating at the critical level. The professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and former director of the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art writes for diverse publications, including Il Sole 24 Ore.
Practicing architects write very little, unless it is for reasons of self-justification. If I had to name two writers who are dealing intelligently with theoretically-based issues, I would limit myself to mentioning Bernardo Secchi, who teaches urban planning at the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, for his investigations into urban and territorial issues related to the city and the landscape; and architect Franco Purini for issues dealing with the logic ofarchitectural morphology.
In any case, Italian architecture currently lives a general crisis of uncertainty. It is totally dependent on the ideologies of the global market, marginally concerned with technique and science, and hiding behind the neo-avant-gardism of the diffused aesthetic of consumerism. As a result, critical voices who understand architecture as capable of serving as the foundation for a civil society have become increasingly rare.
Architect, city planner, and author, Vittorio Gregotti is the principal of Gregotti Associati. He contributes the regular architecture criticism column to La Repubblica.
Because the entitlements of loss and grief are the third rail of the [WTC] rebuilding effort, no one has challenged the subversion of the aims and intent of the plan. The parts that speak of hope and the future have not been able to survive the pressure for a single-minded commitment to the tragic past ... No one has had the courage, or conviction, to demand that the arts be restored to their proper place as one of the city's greatest strengths and a source of its spiritual continuity. We have lost what we hoped to gainna creative rebirth downtown. At Ground Zero, what should be first is last. An affirmation of life is being reduced to a culture of death.
Ada Louise Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2005
Rem Koolhaassnow the most overexposed architect since Frank Gehry, is likely to be the token avant-garde contestant. He has already declared his interestt?I seem to be one of the few architects who liked enormously the World Trade Centerr? Self-serving though that tribute to Minoru Yamaski's behemoths may sound, Koolhaas has indeed always indulged a perverse weakness for Nelson Rockefeller's most bombastic architectural boondoggles, particularly those designed by his court architect Wallace K. Harrison, to whose chilly 1950s-style urbanism he paid homage in his retrograde master plan for the French city of Lille.
Martin Filler, The New Republic, September 6, 2002
How skyscrapers meet the ground is as important as how they scrape the sky. It is not encouraging that Calatrava's tower will emerge from a tiered, four-story podium like a stripper popping out of a cake. That is a crude way to bring a skyscraper to the street. It makes this tower resemble a piece of sculpture on a pedestal, fit for an on-the-make, look-at-me Persian Gulf boomtown like Dubai. But this is Chicago, where we don't need to put ourselves on the map. We need great architectureeand the thoughtful civic debate that is essential to creating it.
Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2005
We have high expectations of our best artists because their work and words carry special weight. It is not possible to build this project [Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem] without an opinion on larger issuessreal issues of toleranceein the region. What is Gehry's? This is not a question of the use of titanium versus Jerusalem stone. It is one of justice.
Michael Sorkin, Architectural Record, June 2004
What twins [Marilyn Monroe] and the [Guggenheim Bilbao] in my memory is that both of them stand for an American style of freedom. That style is voluptuous, emotional, intuitive, and exhibitionist. It is mobile, fluid, material, mercurial, fearless, radiant and as fragile as a newborn child. It can't resist doing a dance with all the voices that say ''No.'' It wants to take up a lot of space. And when the impulse strikes, it likes to let its dress fly up in the air.
Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times, September 7, 1997
If the very idea that has, arguably more than any other, helped define Southern California for a century has been rendered obsolete, what does that mean for the region's vision of itself? Will density spell the end of the unique relationship between Angelenos and their houses? Will residential architecture simply fade as a factor in defining the city in the coming century? The great challenge for the city's residential architects over the next couple decades will be making the old model of affordable charisma fresh and relevant again for a post-sprawl (or even a post-post-sprawl) Los Angeles.
Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times,
July 7, 2005
Even at this early stage, the [planned East River] esplanade is one of the few current projects to give voice to a young generation of architects intent on redefining our vision of the contemporary metropolis. Along with the High Lineewhich transforms a section of gritty elevated tracks in downtown into a public gardennit represents a clear and much-needed break from the quaint Jane Jacobssinspired vision of New York that is threatening to transform Manhattan into a theme park version of itself, a place virtually devoid of urban tension. It proves that there are still some in the city who are culturally daring, even if their numbers at times seem to be dwindling.
Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times,
June 28, 2005
Lincoln Center has sometimes seemed less the vibrant source of the neighborhood's energy than the empty hole in the middle of the doughnut. Often there is more buzz on the sidewalk in front of the multiplex theater a couple of blocks north, or amid the parade of mall-like retail stores that now line Broadway, than there is at Lincoln CenterrLincoln Center needs, desperately, a shot of adrenalinee
Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, July 7, 2003
Universities have long served as strong architecture patrons, though the best-known examples have often been secluded, pastoral set pieces for idyllic, semi-monastic educational enclaves. As Sharon Haar observes, however, with the rebirth of the city has come the revitalization of the urban campus. Though urban campuses are confronted with unique problems, such as limited, expensive real estate, they are proving to produce architecture that is provocative both intellectually and urbanistically.
Ask students: The city is in. If at one time America's college-age population was sentt away to school in a cornfield, small college town, or hillside enclave, today they flock to cities, where urban campuses are growing and prospering, making new commitments to their cities, and at the same time enlarging their domain into neighborhoods scarred by urban renewal, urban abandonment, or both. Universities are occupying spaces in the skyline, taking over spaces vacated by businesses that have fled to the suburbs or relocated to more technologically equipped, 21st-century office buildings; they are building new housing and retail developments; and they are finding new ways of partnering with neighboring communities with an aim to avoid the territorial and intellectual antagonisms of the past. And yes, they are building new buildings, many by signature architects.
As towns and their institutions of higher education grew, most often toward one another, the abstract intellectual conflict of town-versus-gown was actualized in physical conflict over space. New York City incrementally chased the fledgling Kings College (established in 1754, which later became Columbia University) to the northern reaches of Manhattan Island, until finally, lodged in Morningside Heights in the late 19th century, the university commissioned McKim, Mead & White to design a campus to protect itself from future onslaught. Many other colonial institutionssHarvard University, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Yale University, established in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticuttgrew to become inextricably intertwined with their urban contexts. When these schools transformed into research powerhouses a century ago, they set the stage for the enormous boom in campus construction and of student populations. Student bodies have spiked steadily since World War II as a result of veterans' enrollment programs, a shift to a service economy, and later, the baby-boom, the expansion of opportunity for women and minorities, and more recently to accommodate non-traditionall (older) students and the echo-boomerr generation.
Many universities' current urban strategies are the result of hasty decisions, failures of modernist planning and some of its architecture, and universities' awkward participation in urban renewal a half-century ago. Yale and the University of Pennsylvania are hoping that their current participation in community renewal will reverse the urban devastation that occurred in part because of land banking in the 1960s. During that period, many schools cleared land in inner-city neighborhoods for buildings that did not materialize or expanded in ways that disrupted the urban fabric and neighborhood cohesiveness.
In contrast, Columbia University has reached out to its community in the process of planning its expansion into Manhattanville, promising new commercial prospects for the neighborhood and architectural transparency. Its president, Lee Bollinger, contrasts the proposal to the blank walls that the university presents in Morningside Heights. But the process must also be understood in relation to the debacle of 1968, when the school's proposal for a new campus gym in Morningside Park fueled a massive student strike. Student activists linked U.S. involvement in Vietnam with the university's attempt to annex neighborhood public space.
Harvard is banking on its ability to design an entire piece of Boston with its plans for expansion in Allston. New York University and Cooper Union know that the neighborhood of residential spaces they are building or leasing downtown is necessary to keep students streaming in, in spite of impossible real estate conditions that would keep them out.
How do sites that were once anathema to higher education find themselves now so intertwined in the future of American pedagogy? A major factor is the revival of cities themselvessnew strongholds for public architecture, cultural institutions, and models for working, living, and playing. In the 1980s PBS series Pride of Place, Robert A. M. Stern extolled the American campus for being a place apart,, and the New York University cultural historian Thomas Bender stated in his book The University and the City: From Medieval Origins to the Present (Oxford University Press, 1988), The university has always claimed the world, not its host city, as its domain.. But more recently social theorist and New School University provost Arjun Appadurai noted in an interview published in Items and Issues Quarterly 4 (Winter 200332004) that the blurring of the line between universities and corporations and the increasing globalization of students and research networks make cities such as New York ideal locations for higher education. Today's academy is rarely a solitary retreat, despite a losss felt by some faculty.
Perhaps echoing the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson when he was designing the University of Virginia, the architectural theorist Kurt W. Forster wrote in From Catechism to Calisthenics: Cliff Notes on the History of the American Campuss in the May 1993 issue of Architecture California, Lasting institutions like colleges and universities invoke a social rationale for their physical installations, a rationale that speaks to their overarching purposes and helps elucidate the ideas behind their operations. In our culture, we are educated to find in our surroundings the manifestations of character and purpose, particularly when those larger abstractions such as character, purpose, and meaning would tend to escape our immediate grasp.. Architecture is critical to pedagogy. From Jefferson to Henry Ives Cobb, McKim, Mead & White, Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen to today's campus designers, the ideals of the campusswhere tradition and innovation, solitary contemplation and global interaction meet and debateemake it an ideal site for inspired architecture.
Sharon Haar is an architect and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is completing a book, City as Campus: Siting Urban Pedagogy.
Location: 23rd to 26th streets along Lexington Avenue, Manhattan
# of students:15,500 (13,000 undergrad.; 2,500 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Davis Brody Bond, 1986
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 2001
G Tects, 20044present
|Proposed renovation of Field Building at 17 Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. A new glass wedge encloses a sculptural stair.|
|courtesy Gordon Kipping / G Tects|
An elegant tower at Lexington and 23rd Street began in 1847 as the first free higher-education establishment in the republic. Over time, it became the anchor of Baruch College. In 2001, when Kohn Pedersen Fox's Vertical Campuss unsheathed 14 sloping stories above Lexington Avenue, Baruch suddenly evoked the fusty philosophy major who'd bulked up over the summer. The Vertical Campus, with running-board details at sidewalk level and glass and brick wings, drew critical praise for giving students a central kibitzing point. In the opinion of Vice President of College Advancement David Gallagher, the sloping tower fulfilled a 1986 Davis Brody Bond master plan by giving the scattered buildings a discernible heart.
Now the school wants to concentrate its burgeoning campus further, and give it a bolder identity. A masterplan, to appear by spring 2007, will chart the unification scheme. The new Baruch, said Gallagher, will weave that building more closely with the old oneesomehow. Whether it's an underground passage or acquisition of buildings, the masterplan will tell,, he said. (Since CUNY relies on annual funding from Albany, Gallagher hedges on Baruch's entering the real estate market.)
Baruch also wants its students (it has 15,500 of them, full- and part-time) to hew closer to campus, potentially with campus dormitories. The school commissioned Gordon Kipping of New York firm G Tects (and Frank Gehry, whom Kipping assists at Yale) in fall 2004 to suggest a format in which buildings might connect. Kipping proposed filling the path between 17 Lexington Avenue and the Vertical Campus with new crowns on two existing courthouse buildings and a new structure with fluid setbacks. His sketchhwhich has no authority over the eventual plannsandwiched 17 Lex's limestone skin in curvaceous glass sheaths. If Kipping's study influences trustees, the new 23rd Street lobby could offer a triple-height atrium space for students. To the public, it would offer Jumbotron views of lectures, with closed-captioning, to let any stroller spend 50 minutes as a student. Let's restore the idea of a free academy,, Kipping said.
On September 15, Baruch named the building for donors Lawrence and Eris Field. Gallagher said the college will issue an RFP for a masterplanning firm on CUNY's approved list, then wait 18 months for the plan. Budgets from Albany and City Hall would dictate the pace of expansion. Gallagher estimated that the unification will take 10 years. By then, Baruch could need another expansionnin cyberspace or Gramercy.
State University of New York
Location: Buffalo and Amherst, New York
# of students:27,276 (17,838 undergrad.; 9,438 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Amherst Campus: Sasaki, Dawson and Demay, 1970
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: Chan Krieger and Associates, 2002
|Courtesy Cannon design|
The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo occupies the heart of New York's second largest city. But the school, whose original buildings straddle the city's Main Street, also has a suburban identity: SUNY created a second campus in 1970 in Amherst, just 3 miles north of Buffalo, following the trend of urban flight that shattered most American cities in the 1960s and 70s. The school rejected the idea of expanding its main campus, including a megastructure proposal by native son Gordon Bunshaft and a downtown waterfront annex, instead commissioning Sasaki, Dawson and Demay to create a compact, inward-looking master plan at Amherst.
The Amherst campus features buildings by some of the leading designers of the 1970ssHarry Weese, I. M. Pei, Ulrich Franzen, Marcel Breuerrand it even has a Birdair sports dome. Despite this impressive list, the effect of these buildings on the area was, according to Reyner Banham in his 1981 book Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, has hardly galvanic, nor their style especially Buffalonian..
But the school is trying to reinvigorate Buffalo, according to dean of SUNY's architecture department Brian Carter, by bringing good architecture back to the city center.
In 2002 the university commissioned Boston firm Chan Krieger to create a third center, called the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus, on a 100 acres of downtown land surrounding the university's Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This complex has just seen the completion of the first of two new buildings: Last May, the school opened the Hauptman Woodward Laboratory building designed by Mehrdad Yezdani of Cannon Design in Los Angeles, a 70,000 square foot medical research facility (pictured). This laboratory will connect via a bridge to a second research facility, the 290,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics designed by Francis, Cauffman, Foley Hoffman of Philadelphia, which opens in December. Both buildings give Buffalo what Banham suggested it needed for a full architectural recoveryynew buildings for economic and functional reasons, but one that are psychologically of high architectural quality..
The campus has also inspired SUNY's school of architectureewhich is located just two subway stops awayyto launch a series of design initiatives on issues dealing with universal design and childhood obesity, for example. This interaction is something that Carter believes can work effectively on an urban campus, where diverse fields can come together to collaborate on research projects.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Location: Astor Place, New York City
# of students:900
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art's unusual tuition-free educational model is the driving force behind the architecture, engineering, and art school's current building initiative. Most colleges rely on tuition as a steady source of income, but since all of the school's 900 students attend at no charge, administrators are always looking for other financial resources to fill the gap. It's a magnificent vision but a terrible business model,, said Ronni Denes, Cooper's vice president of external affairs. Our current plan is geared at leveraging our real estate assets to ensure the school's future financial stability..
The school's real estate portfolio includes desirable properties such as the Chrysler building, whose rents provide more than half of its operating budget. The master plan, devised by a planning committee made up of trustees, aims to increase that percentage by cashing in on its properties concentrated around Astor Place.
Cooper is not expanding like most universities with new master plans, but rather consolidating and modernizing its facilities. Said Denes, It's in our interest to keep the school small and efficient.. Its engineering school will be moved out of an obsolete building from the 1950s and into a sleek, high-tech, nine-story building designed by Morphosis' Thom Mayne (pictured) on the site of the old two-story Hewitt Building at 3rd Avenue and 7th Street, which Cooper leases from the city. The new building will also house the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a public gallery and auditorium on the ground floor.
The vacated property between 3rd and 4th avenues and 8th and 9th streets will be razed and leased to developers, in much the same manner as the nearly completed condominium designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and developed by the Related Companies at Astor Place. The school will reach out to developers for the project, anticipated to be 14 stories high, once the Morphosis building breaks ground in June. The new building will house Cooper's administrative offices as well as other private businesses. The school's master planning committee hopes to have some review of the commercial development's design, as it did with the Gwathmey Siegel building, and even its clients. According to Denes, Cooper would like to attract businesses with some kind of synergy with the school's academics, such as architecture firms, artists' studios, and biotech companies..
Cooper's master plan does not include any gestures to unify the new buildings with their predecessors like the Foundation Building into a more recognizable campus. Our students don't want to be walled in,, said Denes. We think of New York City as our campus..
City College of The City University of New York
Location:138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan
# of students:12,108 (9,117 undergrad.; 2,991 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
George Post, 1905
George Ranalli, Architect, 2004-present
|Courtesy of Rafael Viioly Architects|
In recent years the City College of New York has deepened its commitment to architecture and design, recruiting impressive faculty, creating new degree programs (such as the Urban Design Program, started in 2000 under Michael Sorkin), and most notably, building a new School of Architecture, Urban Design, and Landscape Architecture. The $37.4 million building, designed by Rafael Viioly and slated for a 2008 completion, is a gut renovation and expansion of an existing modernist glass box building that houses administrative offices.
With so much ambition and activity, a campus master plan seems long overdue. In fact, a year and a half ago George Ranalli, dean of the architecture school since 1999, was commissioned to produce one. His plan calls for closing Convent Avenue to create a more sheltered campus center, around which administrative offices would be dispersed, rather than lumped together as they are now in one of the college's two large 1970s block-buildings, described by Ranalli as megastructures that need to be broken up..
To Ranalli's frustration, however, his plan is on the back burner while the campus expands, as it has throughout its history, based on immediate needs rather than long-term vision. (In reaction to the school's ad hoc development, Sorkin, who was a member of Ranalli's planning team, has created his own alternative scheme.) We started working on a master-planning process four years ago, with open forums to talk about current conditions but things have not proceeded in a typical way,, said Lois Cronholm, chief operating officer of City College. For example, with the dormitory building [now under construction], we had a need, so we found a way for to fill it, quickly.. The dormitoryythe first for the traditionally all-commuter schoollis being designed by Design Collective, Inc., of Baltimore, and should be completed in 2006. Capstone Development Corporation is the school's development partner; it will manage the facility for 30 years before ownership is transferred back to the school.
In addition to the architecture building and dorm, the school is presently pushing forward with the construction of two additional science buildings, both designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.
The four new buildings are all located on the college's south campus, a medley of architectural styles that stands in contrast to its historic north campus, a collection of buildings designed in 1905 by George Post. The biggest challenge is putting the south campus together in an integrated way, as soon as possible,, said Cronholm, who foresees no more new construction for the college in the near future, unless the dorms are successful, in which case, we'll see.. The wait-and-see approach to planning appears to be the closest thing to a master plan the college has, and will likely continue to shape the campus.
Location:Morningside Heights and Manhattanville, New York
# of students:23,650 (7,114 undergrad.; 16,536 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
McKim, Meed & White, 1893
I. M. Pei, 1970 (not implemented)
Renzo Piano Building Workshop/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 20033present
|A view west on 131st Street to the Hudson River.|
|courtesy columbia university|
Of the major expansion plans being undertaken by schools in the New York City area, only one is planning to build an entirely new campus: In 2003 Columbia University hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) to create an ambitious master plan to guide the development of nearly 33 acres in Manhattanville, the neighborhood north of Columbia's McKim, Mead & White campus. The $4.6 billion Manhattanville Expansion Project encompasses the blocks between 12th Avenue and Broadway, and 125th and 133st streets, and will be phased in over the next 30 years. The university owns 53 percent of the land within the proposed development site and the MTA owns about 20 percent. Columbia promises to work with residents to acquire the remaining property.
Perpetually growing and space-constrained, Columbia has developed about one million square feet every five years since 1994, though it still lags behind all other Ivy League schools in terms of square-footage-per-student. Columbia has about 326 square feet for each of its more than 23,000 students, while Yale has 866 square feet for each of its 11,359 students and Harvard has 673 square feet for each of its 19,650 students.
Throughout its history, Columbia has had a tenuous town-gown relationship with its neighborhood. The 1968 controversy over the school's proposal to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park was a key turning point in the planning of the university. Nearly 40 years later, the planning process for Manhattanville is transparent, cautious, and considerate. We've learned a lot from our past mistakes,, said Jeremiah Stoldt, director of Columbia's plan for facilities management. We've met with block associations, the community board, and other local groups to present our thinking and gain feedback. A lot of aspects of the plan came from this feedback, such as preserving east-west axes and open space..
Transparency and urbanity are the main goals of the plan,, said Marilyn Taylor, who is leading the project for SOM. We felt from the beginning that the campus had to be open and invite the public in, and that it relate to the neighborhood, which has a rich history and physical legacy.. The area is zoned for manufacturing and one of its most noticeable features are the rugged aqueducts that define its edges.
|A rendering of the new campus and streetscape, looking west from Broadway on 125th Street.|
Now in precertification (pre-ULURP), the master plan shows a deep respect the existing urban grid, with east-west streets left open and sidewalks widened in strategic places to stimulate pedestrian life. The designers have called for buildings to be programmed, scaled, and designed in ways that both announce a unified campus and fortify the character of the neighborhood. The master plan encourages university buildings to devote street levels to uses that are needed by or accessible to the public, to be spaces they feel invited into, whether to grab a sandwich, look at art, or find out about university jobs,, said Taylor.
Like most universities today, Columbia is in need of more modern research facilities, which are often large-scale, defensive buildings. But the Manhattanville master plan explores the idea of open plan and nontenured buildings,, as Taylor described them, which have a flexibility that can encourage more multidisciplinary study as well as a greater possibility of being a part of their community. Design guidelines call for a material palette that includes glass for transparency, terra cotta brick to echo the past but with a more progressive look, and steel, relating to the nearby viaducts while providing a clarity of expression.
The first phase, which will be realized over the next ten years, includes the preservation of several prominent buildings, including Prentis Hall on 125th Streettcurrent home of the School of the Arts and formerly a milk-bottling plant. SOM will oversee its conversion into a public art space. The New Yorkkbased Switzer Group will renovate the Studebaker Building at 615 West 131 Street, a former automobile assembly plant. Another first-phase project is the construction of a new School of the Arts and a new research building on Broadway, both by Piano.
One of the plan's strongest features is its call for improved links to the nearby Hudson River, which is now cut off by the West Side highway viaduct. The architects envision a park or other potential recreational sites. Taking inspiration from Fairway market, a neighborhood institution located between the neighborhood and the waterfront, Taylor envisions the creation of a marketplace or other compatible uses. You could close it down at night, for concerts, festivals, or fairs,, suggested Taylor. But it would have to be a community initiative. What we can do with our plan is include an active urban layer, such as retail on 12th Avenue, that would contribute to these sorts of possibilities..
The current focus of the university and local community boards is to come to an agreement on rezoning Manhattanville. While the city is receptive to rezoning , how dense or commercial the area will be come remains to be seen.
Fashion Institute of Technology
Location:26th to 28th streets along 6th Avenue, Manhattan
# of students:10,513 (10,378 undergrad.; 135 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, 1995-96
ShoP Architects, 20055present
|Courtesy SHoP Architects and Fashion Institute of Technology|
When the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries opened in 1944, it was housed on a few floors of the High School for the Needle Trades at 24th Street and 8th Avenue. As the needle tradess evolved, so too has the school that became the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which is now a part of the State University of New York system. FIT moved into its current complex of buildings (designed by DeYoung and Moscovitz and bound by 26th and 28th streets and 7th and 8th avenues) in 1975, and had periodic smaller campus additions in the 1980s.
All schools in the SUNY system must have a master plan before they can receive public funding for construction projects, so in 1995 FIT hired Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, which identified five major projects: the construction of a conference center and dining hall; the creation of more classrooms in an existing building, the expansion of the student center; and perhaps most dramatically, the conversion of the block of 27th Street already straddled by FIT buildings into a pedestrian mall. In addition to this, Wank Adams Slavin Associates is renovating a building on West 31st Street that will provide 1,100 FIT students with housing.
The first two projects in the master plan were completed in 2004 and 2005 respectively, by Hom and Goldman, and the classroom and student center projects are in the planning stages. The pedestrian mall has proven to be more controversial, however, and has twice been voted down by Community Board 5. According to Brenda Perez, director of media relations at FIT, the school has put the project on hold until all the other elements of the plan have been completed, which may not be until 2009.
At the same time, FIT is in the early stages of developing a new master plan with ShoP Architects, the architects who designed the expanded David Dubinsky Student Center, dubbed C2 (pictured). According to principal William Sharples, the master planning work grew out of the firm's 2004 competition-winning entry for the student center, and is still in its preliminary stages. AG
New York University
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
# of students:40,000 (20,212 undergrad.; 15,884 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Johnson and Foster, 1962 (not implemented)
|woodruff/brown / courtesy kpf|
In March, New York University (NYU) hired Sharon Greenberger, former New York City chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, to fill a new post at the university: vice president for campus planning and real estate. According to Greenberger, the office she heads, which is divided into four sectionssplanning and design, space management, residential services, and real estate developmentt is still in its start-up phase. I've just started the hiring process, and the intention is to have a full staff in place by the end of the year.. Greenberger will be looking for architects and designers to fill positions, especially in the planning and design unit.
According to Greenberger, the new division will not make any decisions about campus planning or architecture until the hiring process is complete. But the office is sure to be extremely busy in 2006. Created by university president John Sexton, who took office in 2001, the division serves in large part to unify the school's scattered planning divisions in the face of an ambitious growth initiative which includes faculty recruitment and an expanding student body. This administration has ambitious plans for the university, which will put more constraints on space and provide more ambitious thinking about its growth,, said Greenberger.
NYU is no stranger to large building initiatives and their complexities. In the 1980s and 90s, the school, then led by president John Brademas, underwent a massive campus expansion in Greenwich Village, which raised the hackles of many local residents and made it the city's third largest landowner (the city is the largest; the Catholic Church the second). (NYU's newest building is the 2003 Furman Hall, bordering Washington Square Park, by Kohn Pederson Fox, pictured left.) The creation of Greenberger's post was meant partly as a gesture of openness toward the community. Figuring out how a school can expand in an urban environment while also being good neighbors to the community can be challenging,, said Greenberger. The administration recognized that it requires more expertise in the fields of campus planning and real estate to make that happen successfully..
Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), agreed that the university could do better in its community outreach. We often find that we don't know what's going on at NYU,, he said. There's always been a great effort to push the university to release information about its long-term planssto no avail.. One contentious issue has been the university's 2001 purchase of a site in the Silver Towers super-block that currently houses faculty apartment buildings by I. M. Pei and and a supermarket. GVSHP lobbied to have the entire block, bordered by Washington Place, LaGuardia, Mercer, and Houston, designated a landmark. NYU did not support the effort, which would limit its ability to alter or further develop the site. DG
Parsons The New School for Design
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
# of students:3,000 (15,800 total enrolled in The New School)
Campus Master Plans:
Helpern Architects, 1995
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2004.
|courtesy lyn rice Architects|
You might feel tempted to flaunt technique when reinventing a design school. If that school sat smack between Union Square and Washington Square, though, you might seek a civic icon. At Parsons, Lyn Rice did both. His newly unveiled design for the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (pictured) opens students' doings to the street with triple-height lobby glass.
Showcasing had been somewhat bass-ackwards throughout the eight-part New School, Parsons' parent, which occupies 19 buildings strewn about the Village and now seeks a firmer identity along lower Fifth Avenue. The design school serves as its lodestar, now that Rice has rearranged it. The school's most valuable real estate,, said Rice, at 13th Street and 5th Avenue, housed maintenance and trash collection. Rice decided to scoop outt the janitorial services to the basement for an upgrade. Replacing it, he installed 3-foot window frames with one long bench. The boundary between salon and sidewalk becomes a place for students to hang out..
It's also, Rice said, a place for students to confront their mandate. The architect uses a glazed roof to create a light-filled urban quadd between seven banks of elevators. Rice describes this as tipping the classic college green on its side so that it fits in a highrise. In an urban quad, circulation is vertical in these elevator cores,, he said. The graphics lining the walls could rotate each semester, Rice suggested, giving students instant sidewalk critics.
The New School's quest for a more cohesive urban identity comes after decades without a master plan. Lia Gartner, its director of design and construction, is overseeing a suite of brand-boosting capital projects. She said the university seeks to show pedestrians the sense of this place being untraditionall and give students and faculty the best use of this miscellaneous collection of buildings..
Gartner said pedestrians can expect more exposure. Cooper, Robertson & Partners is developing a master plan whose focal building, 65 Fifth Avenue, figures to get a new faaade. Another building, around the corner from Parsons, will get interior upgrades beginning this year. Rice's extroversion promises to resound. A lot of students aren't from New York City,, Rice noted. So this will be a great reminder of where they are.. AA
Location:Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
# of students:4,540 (3,068 undergrad.; 1,472 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Whittlesey and Conklin, 1962
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 20033present
|Courtesy Pratt Institute and Steven Holl Architects|
Pratt Institute's greatest asset, in architecture dean Thomas Hanrahan's opinion, is its location in Brooklyn's lively Clinton Hill neighborhood. Aptly, the new campus plan by Cooper, Robertson & Partners looks outward, with some major plans to expand the campus borders,, said Robert Scherr, director of Pratt Institute's Facilities Planning and Design. Anticipating the school's growth within the area, Pratt's president Thomas Schutte took a leading role in the recent formation of the nearby Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (BID). Like many local schools, Pratt owns a significant number of buildings outside of its main campus (Higgins Hall to the south, for example, and Myrtle Avenue to the north), and wants to strengthen their connections to each other and to the neighborhood and community as a whole.
Although the Cooper, Robertson plan, which calls for the development of a digital art center, a student union, and a student services building, has not yet been fully ratified by the school's board of trustees, the implementation of several initiatives is moving forward. A couple of projects were the result of large private donations, such as Juliana Curran Terian's $5 million donation for the Design Center Entrance Pavilion, and Hiroko Nakamoto's $50,000 donation for the new Pratt security kiosk. Years of deferred maintenance were the impetus for campus-wide upgrades: Many of the student dormitories, faculty housing, administrative facilities, and the Main Building are currently finishing major renovations.
The largest current project on campus is the Design Center Entrance Pavilion by dean Hanrahan's firm, Hanrahan + Meyers Architects. In an effort to combine all the principal design programs into what will be the largest design center in the United States, the new entrance and gallery will create a connection between Steuben Hall and the Pratt Studios. The entrance is currently under construction and will be completed in 2006.
The largest project outside of the fence involves the Higgins Hall complex, which houses the School of Architecture. Rogers Marvel Architects is overseeing major interior renovation while Steven Holl Architects designed a new central wing (pictured) which brings together the hall's north and south wings in a single entrance and exhibition space. The Pratt Store, designed in-house by Pratt's office of Facilities Planning and Design, located on Myrtle Avenue and Emerson Place, was completed in December 2004. This design reflects the institute's goals of strengthening the surrounding community by bringing new services and activity to the neighborhood.
As for what to expect from future Pratt development? The Clinton Hill neighborhood is totally gentrified,, said Scherr. Our only growth potential lies to the north toward Myrtle Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway..
Location:New Haven, Connecticutt
# of students:11,000 (5,242 undergrad.; 6,040 grad.) John Russell Pope, 1919
James Gamble Rogers, 1921
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2000
|matt wargo / venturi, scott brown and associates|
Yale has long been a patron of great architecture, commissioning important works from Eero Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Paul Rudolph, and Louis Kahn. The university's current building initiative continues this legacy. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates recently took over the job of designing an addition for Rudolph's famed Art and Architecture building. The addition will house an arts library and classrooms for the art department that are currently located in the Rudolph building, allowing the architecture school to expand into the newly-freed space. (The addition was originally commissioned to Richard Meier & Partners in 2001 but in December 2003, the project was sidelined with the loss of a major donor. The project picked up steam again this summer when a new donor emerged. Though Meier's scheme was complete, Gwathmey Siegel will begin the project from scratch.) Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is overseeing the renovation of the original Rudolph building while Polshek Partnership Architects has recently been retained to renovate Kahn's Art Gallery.
The arts campus expansion is only a portion of a much larger group of projects recently completed or underway at Yale. Some just-finished buildings include an engineering building by Cesar Pelli & Associates, a chemistry laboratory by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and a medical research center by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (pictured). According to Laura Cruickshank, who became Yale's director of University Planning, Facilities Construction, and Renovation in July, The university is improving multiple areas of the campus simultaneouslyyScience Hill, the arts buildings, the central campus, and the medical school.. Projects currently in design include another building by Venturi, Scott Brown building for biology in the Science Hill area and a forestry and environmental studies building by Hopkins Architects.
The massive building initiative is all part of a campus plan completed in 2000 by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, which outlined the development of new construction as well as landscape architecture, circulation, signage, and traffic. The so-called 20-year Framework for Campus Planning was Yale's first attempt at creating a university-wide plan since the 1920s, and addressed the campus' poor integration with the surrounding city of New Haven. With its gated courtyards and inward-facing Gothic building blocks, Yale's campus plan, proposed by John Russell Pope in 1919 and revised in 1921 by James Gamble Rogers, originally contained a number of connective axes and public spaces that may have served to open the campus but were ultimately scrapped. Cooper, Robertson's plan suggested that the university pay particular attention to places where its campus meets the cityyon its streets and sidewalks, and through its landscaping, lighting and signageeto help weave Yale and New Haven into a more cohesive urban fabric..
Developers have been catching on that brand-name architects and community outreach can add dollar value to their projects. That`s a big development in itself, but doesn`t always translate to good development. Peter Slatin reflects on how developers can do good while doing well.
The sudden tussle between developers over Brooklyn`s Atlantic rail yards throws into grand scale a classic New York question: Do developers give a damn about how their buildings impact a given community?
Bruce Ratner, wearing Frank Gehry on his sleeve from the get-go, rode into Brooklyn Borough Hall in December 2003 to unveil a master plan for an arena-anchored district, which includes millions of square feet of office, retail, and residential real estate, much of which will rise from a platform built over the Atlantic rail yard. The plan, which would overwhelm the two adjacent, low-scale neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, has also had community opposition from the get-go. This hasn`t stopped it from ballooning in ambition, scale, and budget. But despite the project`s unwieldy size, difficult financing, and an angry community, Ratner`s chances of winning the bid for the rail yards, being auctioned off by the MTA, are excellent. He started from the top down, lining up powerful political supporters, sports celebrities, investors, and yes, a superstar architect. The MTA soft-peddled its RFP, which has given Ratner`s effort the appearance of a closed deal.
A community group, Develop Don`t Destroy Brooklyn, began contacting developers in hopes of finding one that would make an alternate bid. Enter Gary Barnett and Extell Development Corporation with their scaled-down scheme: 2,000 units topping out at 28 stories compared to Ratner`s 6,000 units at 60, spread out over 8 acres instead of 21. Extell`s architect is Cetra/Ruddy, a decent if uninspired production firm whose vision lacks the punch and excitement of Gehry`s fistful of highrises. The Extell scheme does, however, provide connecting tissue and green space for the two low-scale, old Brooklyn neighborhoods that will be divided under Ratner`s plan.
What does all this say about whether developers care about the places they transform? The answer is, They do careeup to a point. Good development is almost always a trade-off that begins and ends with the pencilland I`m not talking about the drafting pencil.
It also says that good-guy developers can switch hats, well, on a dime. Barnett is a white knight in this part of Brooklyn, but he is under heavy fire from Upper West Siders railing against his plans for two skyscrapers straddling Broadway at 99th and 100th streets. (The project is now under even more scrutiny after a structure on the 100th Street site collapesed on July 14.) Ratner, at one time the city`s commissioner of consumer affairs, is the cat`s meow to sports fans seduced by the idea of the major leagues returning to the borough, but others see his plan as antithetical to everything Brooklyn, even though he has hired one of the world`s great architects. The architects of Cetra/Ruddy might be regarded as heroes in Fort Greene and Prospect Heights, but in Red Hook they are the bad guys, having designed the six-story residential project at 160 Imlay Street that the local Chamber of Commerce recently tried to halt (See By Hook or Crook,, page 1). The point is, you never know who the good guy is.
The good news is that more and more developers want to be the good guy. They are patronizing good architecture, even if their motivations are not entirely altruistic. Good design sells, in the end, better than bad design. It lasts longer, both physically and psychically; it creates its own set of values. Developers have also realized that good design is not the province of well-known architects. Indeed, we`ve seen some pretty horrible work by high-profile architects in prominent locationsswork that can drastically alter the character of a neighborhood, like Astor Place, for example. In such an event, one can only hope that the pre-existing condition has enough depth and breadth to sustain itself.
Given these circumstances and the multiple real-world challenges that confront any project, it`s especially exciting when good developmenttinformed but not intimidated by context and communityycomes into place. And good development is happening throughout the city on a wide variety of scales and property types. Even as examples of tired design and cheap production abound, one can find reason to celebrate smart efforts at different stages of development, especially in residential and office design.
Take the small Chelsea/Meatpacking District projects of developer Jeffrey M. Brown. From the start, both in Manhattan and Philadelphia, Brown has turned to SHoP Architects for his renovations and new projects, and has been unafraid to let them have their own ideas. Brown has pushed the envelope farther than did developer Robert Wennet, another Meatpacking District maven who was also active in neighborhood development in cities such as Miami and Washington, D.C. Developers like Time Equities have also long sought ways to use their project to enrich their neighborhoods, as well as themselves. Richard Meier`s fine Perry Street towers stand out in the way they draw on their neighborhood for context and then alter it with a single stroke. That effect is driven as much by siting as by design. Should developer Frank Sciame`s vision for Santiago Calatrava`s twisting residential palace ever be realized, it too will transform a historic district with a magnificent gesture.
On the office-building or commercial front, there are a handful of projects in the works that are significantly different from the standard-issue skyscraper to indicate that their developers have a committed vision. The least obvious of these is 505 Fifth Avenue, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox for developer Axel Stawski`s Kipp-Stawski Group. It`s a relatively small, neat design that is not all that unconventional. But Stawski has gone the extra mile inside, commissioning reclusive light artist James Turrell to transform the building`s lobby into a light sculpture that is intended to go beyond decoration, setting it a world apart from the granite/ marble standard by requiring something in turn from visitors.
Just a block west is the city`s second largest construction site, after Ground Zero (which is not something we can discuss here while considering good development). The big hole is for One Bryant Park, designed by Cook + Fox for the Durst Organization. In contrast to 505 Fifth, this is a huge building. It deploys crystalline forms in a tapered structure to minimize its undeniable bulk. But the developer`s announced intention to achieve LEED Platinum status is an important step for a commercial structure of this size, especially since about half of the space is being built on spec. The use of an efficient cogeneration energy system, recycled steel, sub-floor air circulation, and graywater recycling are all part of the package.
Finally, there is the Hearst Building at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, designed by Foster and Partners as a corporate and environmental showcase. Without flinching at the sharp contrast between historic and contemporary, the architects scooped out the guts of the old headquarters, built for Hearst by Joseph Urban and George B. Post & Sons in 1927, and inserted a new iconic structure in the base. Hearst is seeking LEED Gold certification. If one can accept (or even consider) the difficult premise that there is such a thing as good corporate citizenship, this building strives to express that.
While developers and architects will always do battle over design`s place in the hierarchy of place-makinggstill a very linear concept in the minds of most development practitionersscontinued pressure can help move that mark. And then there will always be some who understand that architecture is the fulcrum that can successfully balance neighborhoods and returns.
Peter Slatin is the founder of www.theslatinreport.com, and writes our regular real estate column, Curbside. He lives in what was an unglam Upper West Side developer monstrosity when it was built that is considered highly desirable real estate today.
New Yorkers have always been real-estate obsessed, and as housing price records are broken on what seems like a weekly basis, the conventional wisdom is that everyone should get in while they still cannit's not a bubble, it's New York City. There is logic to the sentiment, of course: While the space is finite, the demand doesn't appear to be.
There are plenty of more concrete and measurable reasons, too, for such widespread interest in the real estate market, from still-reasonable interest rates to a noticeably development-friendly climate. The Bloomberg Administration has been more proactive about rezoning neighborhoods in all five boroughs than any in recent memory: West Chelsea, the Hudson Yards, Downtown Brooklyn, and the Williamsburg/Greenpoint waterfront will all become significantly denser over the next decade.
The development process has also become more transparent. According to Laura Wolf-Powers, urban planning chair at the Pratt Institute (and a regular contributor to AN), there are also some institutional reasons. New York is seen as development friendly right now,, she said, explaining that beyond the highly publicized rezoning initiative the Department of City Planning has championed along the Williamsburg waterfront and scuffle over the future of the Hudson Yards, quieter changes have taken place that make it easier for newcomers to get into development.
>Under the Bloomberg Administration, the Department of Buildings has basically moved fromm the 19th to the 21st century, so it is much easier to pull permits. There is a new website [www.nyc.gov/html/dob] where all that information is accessible. It used to seem like an insider's game, in which you had to know somebody, or pay expediters, but that has changed..
All of these forcessboth large and small, based on economics or just gut instinct and crossed fingerssare adding up to what looks like a new environment for development in New York. Here's a look at some of the new buildings that are reshaping neighborhoods all over the city.
Between 14th Street and 59th Street
| Bank of America tower |
Location: One Bryant Park
Developer: Durst Organization/Bank of America
Architect(s):Cook + Fox Architects
Consultant(s): Severud Associates, Jarros Baum Bolles
Size: 54 floors, 2.1 million sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2008
| Along with office space, this project includes a reconstructed Georgian-style theater and was approved for Liberty Bond financing. One of the nation's largest green office buildings, the project includes a graywater recycling system, high ceilings for maximum daylighting, and an advanced HVAC system. It will be the first large-scale office tower to seek LEED Platinum certification. |
| 31st Street Green |
Location: 125 West 31st Street
Developer: The Durst Organization / Sidney Fetner Associates
Architect(s):Fox & Fowle with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s):Gotham Construction Corp.
Size: 58 floors, 459 units, 583,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2005
| This green mixed-use tower will loom over its low-lying Hell's Kitchen neighbors. In addition to hundreds of condominiums, the tower will also include the headquarters for the American Cancer Society and a treatment center and hospice. The building's slim profile will allow natural daylighting into its core, and it includes bike storage areas and low VOC building materials. |
| IAC/InterActivCorp Headquarters |
Location: 11th Avenue between West 18th and 19th Streets
Developer: IAC with The Georgetown Company
Architect(s): Frank O. Gehry Associates with Studios Architecture
Size: 9 floors, 147,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2006
| Frank Gehry makes his contribution to the ranks of glass-facade buildings that are beginning to line the West Side Highway. The block-filling headquarters (financed in part by Liberty Bonds) for Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp media company will be clad in a skin of fritted white glass. |
| Clinton Green |
Location: 10th Avenue at 51st and 53rd streets
Developer: The Dermot Company
Architect(s): Fox & Fowle
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Langan Engineering, Edwards & Zuck, Site Architects
Size: 24 floors, 300 units, 400,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $170 million
| This mixed-use development in Clinton (nne Hell's Kitchen) includes spaces for two theater companies, retail, and loft-style and conventional apartments. The architects and developers will seek LEED certification for the project, which includes bike storage, Zipcar parking, low-energy glazing, and locally produced and low VOC materials. |
| 325 Fifth Avenue |
Location: 325 Fifth Avenue
Developer: Continental Residential Holdings
Architect(s): The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Consultant(s): WSP Cantor Seinuk Structural Engineers, I.M. Robbins Consulting Engineers, Thomas Balsley Associates, Levine Builders, Andi Pepper Interior Design
Size: 42 floors, 250 units, 390,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $200 million
| This tower, right across the street from the Empire State Building, features floor-to-ceiling glass walls and balconies, which is somewhat unusual for a glass curtain wall building. A landscaped plaza designed by Thomas Balsley is open to the public. |
| 4 West 21st Street |
Location: 4 West 21st Street
Developer: Brodsky Organization
Architect(s): H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Bovis Lend Lease, Rosenwasser Grossman, T/S Associates
Size: 17 floors, 56 units, 93,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
Budget: $60 million
| This new loft building in the Ladies' Mile Historic District is a harbinger of the area's many planned residential conversions. The structure gives a nod to its contexttincluding its next-door neighbor on 5th Avenue, which housed the offices of McKim, Mead & White from 1895 to 19155with its masonry facade, cornice lines, and window proportions. |
| Bryant Park Tower |
Location: 100 West 39th Street
Developer: G. Holdings Group and MG Hotel
Architect(s): Nobutaka Ashihara Associates Architects
Consultant(s): Kondylis Design
Size: 45 floors, 93 units, 53,860 sq. ft. (plus 2,052 sq. ft. roof deck)
Completion (est.): Late 2005
| The top ten floors of this new tower a block from Bryant Park are devoted to rental apartments, while the remaining ones will become a 357-suite Marriott Residence Inn, which is oriented towards extended visits. |
| High Line 519 |
Location: 519 West 23rd Street
Developer: Sleepy Hudson
Architect(s): ROY Co.
Consultant(s): ABR Construction
Size: 11 floors, 11 units, 18,600 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
| The first ground-up project for the new development company Sleepy Hudson, this floor-through condo project on a 25-foot-wide lot is nearly adjacent to the High Line. The east wall of the building, facing the elevated tracks, is sheathed in wood and punctured by a small number of windows. Curved metal scrims on the south and north facades function as balustrades and balconies, respectively. |
| 50 Gramercy Park North |
Location: 50 Gramercy Park North
Developer: Ian Schrager
Architect(s): John Pawson
Size: 15 floors, 23 units
Completion (est.): January 2006
| A home that's a refuge, not a second careerr is how Ian Schrager describes this condo building attached to his posh Gramercy Hotel, also under renovation on the site of the old Gramercy Park Hotel. With units going for $5 to $16 million (up to $3,000 per square foot), and only four left at press time, buyers are eating up the building's featured lifestyle managerss ((ber-concierges) and clean, modern design by John Pawson. |
Above 59th Street
| One Carnegie Hill |
Location: 215 East 96th Street
Developer: The Related Companies
Architect(s): HLW International
Consultant(s): HRH Construction, Cosentini, Ismael Leyva Architects, The Rockwell Group
Size: 42 floors, 474 units, 582,000 sq. ft.
| Continuing the trend of marketing residences by their architect, Related Residential Sales is using the name of The Rockwell Group to attract attention to its newest tower. Related chose to give Rockwell two amenity floorss?the lobby and common spacessto design, while Ismael Leyva Architects designed the bulk of the interiors. |
| Cielo |
Location: 438 East 83rd Street
Developer: JD Carlisle Development Corp.
Architect(s): Perkins Eastman Architects
Consultant(s): M.D. Carlisle, Rosenwasser Grossman, Cosentini Associates
Size: 28 floors, 128 units, 247,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Winter 2006
Budget: $50 million
| The twist on this Yorkville luxury condo is a focus on art. There is an art concierge service for residents and free memberships to the nearby Whitney Museum of American Art. Developer and art aficionado Jules Demchick of JD Carlisle also commissioned a mural from artist Richard Haas for the wall of a 19th-century building across the street. |
| 170 East End Avenue |
Location: 170 East End Avenue
Developer: Skyline Developers
Architect(s): Peter Marino + Associates, Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, MGJ Associates
Size: 19 floors, 110 units, 300,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Fall 2006
| In response to this development's location on Carl Schurz Park on the East River, its relatively large site, and developer Oren Wilf's desire to move in to the building with his family, Peter Marino designed the project around the idea of suburban livingg in the city. In translation, that means homes are fairly large and have features like fireplaces and views of grassy yards. |
| Riverwalk Place |
Location: Roosevelt Island
Developer: The Related Companies and the Hudson Company
Architect(s): Gruzen Samton with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): DeNardis Associates, Ettinger Associates, Monadnock Construction
Size: 16 floors, 123,620 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
Budget: $45 million
| Part of Roosevelt Island's larger revitalization, Riverwalk Place is the third building in Southtown, a smaller community on the island that will introduce 2,000 new housing units, some of which will be reserved for students at Cornell University's Weill Medical College. |
Between 14th Street and Canal Street
| 163 Charles |
Location: 163 Charles Street
Developer: Barry Leistner
Architect(s): Daniel Goldner Architects
Consultant(s): Regele Builders
Size: 8 floors, 3 units, 13,671 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): June 2006
| An earlier owner had asked Zaha Hadid to design a tower on this Far West Village site, but developer Barry Leistner wanted Daniel Goldner Architects for the job. Goldner's design for the modestly scaled building has a penthouse triplex and two duplex residences, and uses brick and glass to respond both to the neighborhood and the adjacent Richard Meier towers. |
| One Kenmare square |
Location: 210 Lafayette Street Developer(s): Andrr Balazs and Cape Advisors
Architect(s): Gluckman Mayner Architects with H. Thomas O'Hara
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Gotham Construction, Prudential Douglas Elliman
Size: 6 and 11 floors, 53 units, 84,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Fall 2005
Budget: $26 million
| Balasz originally planned to build a hotel on the site called the Standard, but due to economic conditions after 9/11,, said Gluckman Mayner project architect James Lim, he decided to change the program to condos. Gluckman Mayner also designed the hotel, but chose to start from scratch when the project went condo. |
| Urban glass house |
Location: 328 Spring Street
Developer: Glass House LLC
Architect(s): Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie with Selldorf Architects
Size: 40 units, 90,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): April 2006
Budget: $30 million
| After being put on the back burner for more than a decade, Philip Johnson's design for condos will be built, albeit with a different developer. The original plan was for a radical and multifaceted building,, said project architect Matthew Barrett; it was turned down by local community groups. More recently, Selldorf Architects was asked to redesign the plans for the interiors. |
| Cooper Square / Avalon Chrystie Place |
Location: Houston and Bowery, E. 1st Street and Bowery, 2nd Avenue and Bowery
Developer: Avalon Bay Communities
Size: 6, 7, 9, and 14 floors, 708 units, 877,500 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): April 2006
| This mixed-use residential development includes four individual mid-rise buildings spread out among three adjacent city blocks on the Lower East Side. They include ground-floor retail and a community fitness center, and incorporate two existing community gardens. As the first building on Houston nears completion, some neighbors are excited about the arrival of Whole Foods Market, while others worry about the scale. |
| 255 Hudson |
Location: 255 Hudson Street
Developer: Metropolitan Housing Partners and Apollo Real Estate
Architect(s): Handel Architects
Consultant(s): Gotham Construction
Size: 11 floors, 64 units, 94,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
| At the base of this glass, concrete, and zinc building are three duplex apartments, each with a 60-foot-long private backyard. The backyards arose from zoning restrictions on the project's extra-deep lot: The developer toyed with the idea of creating a courtyard or public park before settling on private gardens to raise the value of the lower units. |
| 40 Mercer |
Location: 40 Mercer Street
Developer: Andrr Balazs and Hines
Architect(s): Ateliers Jean Nouvel with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Cosentini Associates, Gilsanz Murray Steficek, Ravarini McGovern Construction
Size: 13 floors, 50 units, 156,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $60 million
| This super-luxurious condo development incorporates all the comforts of Andrr Balazs' hotelsspersonal shoppers, housekeeping, and continental breakfast deliveryyas well as a bathhouse with a 50-foot lap pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, and private lounge. Nouvel's first residential project in the United States, the building features red and blue glass curtain walls, massive sliding glass walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows. |
| Switch Building |
Location: 109 Norfolk Street
Developer: 109 Norfolk LLC
Consultant(s): Builders & HVAC, Sharon Engineering, AEC Consulting & Expediting
Size: 7 floors, 13,600 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Spring 2006
Budget: $4.25 million
| According to Mimi Hoang, cofounder of nArchitects, her firm got this job when a group of thee independent developers strolled into 147 Essex, a group studio housing several young firms. The developers saw the firm's portfolio and were impressed enough to hire them for their first major building. |
| Blue at 105 Norfolk Street |
Location: 105 Norfolk Street
Developer: John Carson and Angelo Cosentini
Architect(s): Bernard Tschumi Architects with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): Israel Berger & Associates, Thornton Thomasetti, Ettinger Engineers
Size: 16 floors, 32 units, 60,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $18 million
| The irregular form of this building is due in part to a series of site restrictions: The developers purchased the air rights to the building next door so that they could build over it, but zoning regulations do not permit the insertion of a column within the neighboring commercial space, so the architects had to cantilever the upper floors out over the adjacent building. The upper levels taper back because of setback requirements. |
Below Canal Street
| One York Sreet |
Developer: One York Property
Architect(s): TEN Arquitectos
Consultant(s): Donald Friedman Consulting Engineer, Ambrosino Depinto & Schmieder Consulting Engineers, Bovis, Israel Berger & Associates
Size: 12 floors, 41 units, 132,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
| TEN Arquitectos inserted a 12-story condo tower in the center of an existing six-story building on the edge of the Tribeca Historic District at Canal Street and Sixth Avenue. New balconies, roof terraces and windows will embellish the older building, while the top six stories are housed in a transparent volume. |
| Tribeca Green |
Location: 325 North End Avenue
Developer: The Related Companies
Architect(s): Robert A. M. Stern Architects with Ismael Leyva Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Matthews Nielsen Landscape Architecture, Steven Winter Associates
Size: 24 floors, 264 residential units, 350,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2005
| Tribeca Green in Battery Park City features photovoltaic panels in its crown, a green roof, a graywater recycling system, operable windows, and a high-performance curtain wall. Located adjacent to Tear Drop Park, the blocky building has a massive brick-clad lower-level with glass and steel corners. |
| 200 Chambers |
Location: 200 Chambers Street
Developer: Jack Resnick & Sons
Architect(s): Costas Kondylis Partners
Consultant(s): Cantor Seinuk Group, Cosentini Associates, Plaza Construction, Israel Berger & Associates, Thomas Balsey
Size: 30 floors, 258 units, 470,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
| Along with office space, this project includes a reconstructed Georgian-style theater and was approved for Liberty Bond financing. One of the nation's largest green office buildings, the project includes a graywater recycling system, high ceilings for maximum daylighting, and an advanced HVAC system. It will be the first large-scale office tower to seek LEED Platinum certification. |
| 200 Chambers |
Location: 200 Chambers Street
Developer: Jack Resnick & Sons
Architect(s): Costas Kondylis Partners
Consultant(s): Cantor Seinuk Group, Cosentini Associates, Plaza Construction, Israel Berger & Associates, Thomas Balsey
Size: 30 floors, 258 units, 470,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
| Foster and Partners was the original architecture firm behind this project but parted ways with developer Jack Resnick & Sons after the design encountered opposition from the community, which disliked its scale. New York is quite different from Europe,, says to Joy Habian, director of communications at Costas Kondylis Partners, which now has the job. The company has designed more than 46 highrises in New York alone. |
| Vestry Building |
Location: 31133 Vestry Street
Developer: Vestry Acquisitions
Size: 9 floors, 30,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Unavailable
| Despite initial problems with city approval because of its location in a landmarked district, the Vestry building is slated to begin construction within a year. Although it is of a consistent scale with its surroundings, Winka Dubbeldam has designed a cool, glazed-front building that stands in relief from its chaotic neighborhood. |
| River Lofts |
Location: 425 Washington Street, 92 Laight Street
Developer: Boymelgreen Developers
Architect(s): Tsao & McKown with Ismael Leyva Architects
Consultant(s): Alisa Construction Company, N. Wexler & Assoc., Lehr Associates
Size: 13 floors, 65 units, 200,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Fall 2005
| Tsao & McKown scored River Lofts, the firm's first project with Boymelgreen Developers, through Louise Sunshine of the Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group. The project, part ground-up construction and part restoration of a loft warehouse on the edge of the Tribeca Historic District, is designed to respect that marriage, as well as the surrounding neighborhood,, according to principal Calvin Tsao. |
| Historic Front Street |
Location: Front Street at Peck Slip
Developer: Yarrow LLC
Architect(s): Cook + Fox Architects
Consultant(s): Robert Filman Associates, Lazlo Bodak, Saratoga Associates, Steven Winter Associates
Size: 96 units
Completion (est.): 2005
| Located just north of the South Street Seaport at Front Street and Peck Slip, this retail and residential development comprises both sides of the street along a full block, including eleven 18th-century buildings and three new ones. The renovated buildings preserve historic building materials while integrating green technologies such as green roofs, photovoltaic panels, and geothermal heating and cooling. |
| Fultonhaus |
Location: 119 Fulton Street
Developer: Daniell Real Estate Properties
Architect(s): Hustvedt Cutler Architects
Consultant(s): NTD Realty
Size: 14 floors, 19 units, 31,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Summer 2006
Budget: $8 million
| A 7-story addition doubling the height of a 1908 office building by architect Henry Allen, Fultonhaus is a contemporary steel and glass structure half enclosed by early 20th-century masonry. Because the original structure was so narrow, the greatest design challenge, according to project architect Bruce Cutler, was structural and seismic. |
| Millenium Tower Residences |
Location: 30 West Street
Developer: Millennium Partners
Architect(s): Handel Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, I.M. Robbins, Flack + Kurtz, Matthews Nielson Landscape Architecture
Size: 35 floors, 236 units, 410,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Winter 2006
Budget: $180 million
| The tallest of the new Battery Park City residential towers is the Millenium Tower Residences. The building will consume 25 percent less energy than a conventional residential tower, and will include solar panels, green roofs, a fresh air intake system, and locally-sourced building materials. The developers did not apply for Liberty Bonds because they opted aginst a 5 percent set-aside for affordable housing. |
| The Verdesian |
Location: 211 North End Avenue
Developer: The Albanese Organization
Architect(s): Cesar Pelli & Associates with SLCE Architects
Consultant(s): DeSimone Consulting Engineers, Flack & Kurtz, Balmori Assoc., Turner Construction
Size: 24 floors, 253 units
Completion (est.): Fall 2005
Budget: $73 million
| The Verdesian employs many of the same green technologies used in Cesar Pelli & Associates' last sustainable residential tower in Battery Park City for the same developer, the Solaire, such as building-integrated photovoltaics, a fresh air intake system, and low VOC building materials. The developer is seeking a LEED gold certification for the Verdesian. This project was financed in part by Liberty Bonds. |
| Atlantic Yards |
Location: Atlantic Avenue between Flatbush and Vanderbilt avenues
Developer: Forest City Ratner Company
Architect(s): Frank O. Gehry Assoc.
Size: In 17 buildings: 6,000 units, 230,000 sq.ft. retail,
Completion (est.): Arena, 2008
Budget: $3.5 billion
| Another sports team, another railyard: Forest City Ratner Company's (FCRC) proposal to build a deck over the Atlantic Yards and develop the 21-acre site into offices, retail, housing, and a sports arena, is creating some controversy based on its scale and dependence on eminent domain. But by upping the percentage of affordable rental units to 50 percent, FCRC has managed to defuse a great deal of community opposition. |
| Williamsburg Savings Bank |
Location: 1 Hanson Place
Developer: The Dermot Company with Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds
Architect(s): H. Thomas O'Hara
Size: 34 floors, 216 units
Completion (est.): Unavailable
| The Williamsburg Savings Bank building isn't in Williamsburg; rather, it has anchored downtown Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal with a gold-domed clock tower for 78 years. In May, HSBC sold the building to a partnership including basketball star Earvin Magicc Johnson's development company, Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds, which intends to restore and renovate the old commercial structure into a condo building with 33,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. |
| 189 Schermerhorn Street |
Location: 189 Schermerhorn Street
Developer: Procida Realty and Second Development Services
Architect(s): The Stephen B. Jacobs Group
Consultant(s): Rosenwasser Grossman Consulting Engineers, Sideris Consulting Engineers
Size: 25 and 6 floors, 214 units
Completion (est.): 2007
| Architect Stephen Jacobs split this development into a 25-story tower and a 6-story block, and separated them with a courtyard. In the block, there are 15 larger townhouselike apartments, while in the tower, the apartments are somewhat smaller but have a view. |
| Schermerhorn House |
Location: 160 Schermerhorn Street
Developer: Hamlin Ventures and Common Ground Community Development Architect: Polshek Partnership
Consultant(s): Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Silman Associates, Flack + Kurtz
Size: 11 Floors, 189 units; 98,000 sq.ft.
Completion (est.): 2007
| This affordable housing development is built with a cantilevered superstructure to accommodate subway tunnels that consume 45 per cent of area under the site. The building includes a green roof and recycled and low VOC building material, and also includes retail, community and performance spaces, and support services for tenants. |
| 184 Kent Avenue |
Location: 184 Kent Avenue
Developer: 184 Kent Avenue Associates
Architect(s): Karl Fischer Architect
Consultant(s): Lilker Associates, Severud Associates
Size: 10 floors, 240 units, 520,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2008
Budget: $80 million
| For the renovation of this 1913 Cass Gilberttdesigned Austin-Nichols warehouse along the East River, architect Karl Fischer plans to add four new floors to the roof pulled back from the parapet. He also plans to insert an 80-by-20-foot open-air courtyard in the center of the existing 500,000-square-foot building. |
| Schaefer Landing |
Location: 440 Kent Avenue
Developer: Kent Waterfront Associates LLC
Architect(s): Karl Fischer Architect with Gene Kaufman
Size: 25 and 15 floors, 350 units, 530,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2005
Budget: $90 million
| As the first tall residential building along the Williamsburg waterfront, this development provides a glimpse of what is likely to come under the new higher density zoning regulations. The phased two-tower project also includes public park space along the East River. |
| 70 Washington Street |
Location: 70 Washington Street
Developer: Two Trees Management Co. Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle
Size: 13 floors, 259 units, 360,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): December 2005
Budget: $50 million
| The rehabilitation of this 1910 manufacturing building is DUMBO's most recent conversion of a factory-turned-artist's studio into condominiums. The building's relatively narrow floor plates made it more suitable for residential use than many of its bulkier neighbors, several of which will remain as studio space. |
| Beacon Tower |
Location: 85 Adams Street
Developer: Leviev Boymelgreen
Consultant(s): Linden Alschuler & Kaplan, Benjamin Huntington
Size: 23 floors, 79 units, 116,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): September 2006
Budget: $45 million
| At 314 feet tall, Beacon Tower will be the tallest building in DUMBO. The architecture firm Cetra/Ruddy collaborated with feng shui consultant Benjamin Huntington to design what is being marketed as a positive living environment.. Located directly adjacent to the Manhattan Bridge, the building was designed with dual-glazed laminated glass and sound absorbing acoustic liners to keep the noise out. |
| The Nexus |
Location: 84 Front Street
Developer: A.I. and Boymelgreen
Architect(s): Meltzer/Mandl Architects
Size: 12 floors, 56 units, 86,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): January 2006
| This 12-story new condo building is similar in scale to its early 20th-century neighbors, but doesnnt employ their industrial vocabulary. According to principal Marvin Meltzer, the client had already purchased the yellow brick, and so his firm decided to incorporate more contemporary metal panels in green, blue, and metallic silver on the facade. |
| The Windsor at forest Hills |
Location: 108824 71st Road
Developer: Cord Meyer Development Co.
Architect(s): Ismael Leyva Architects
Consultant(s): Rosenwasser Grossman Consulting Engineers, Burrwood Engineering, Bovis Construction
Size: 21 floors, 95 units, 166,242 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): Late 2005
| The site of the Windsor is along a stretch of Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills where there are currently no comparably scaled projects. Mid-rises across the street balance the proposed building somewhat, but project architect Luen Chee of Cord Meyer foresees the neighborhood being developed at a much larger scale in the near future. |
| Flushing Town Center |
Location: College Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue
Developer: Muss Development
Architect(s): Perkins Eastman Architects
Consultant(s): Bovis Lend Lease, Langan Engineering, Urbitran/Rosenbloom Architects
Size: 1,000 units, 750,000 sq. ft. retail, 3.2 million sq. ft. total
Completion (est.): Spring 2007
Budget: $600 million
| On a 14-acre site in downtown Flushing near Shea Stadium, this mixed-use commercial, residential, and manufacturing development on the site of a former Con Edison facility is attracting big-box retailers to its 50,000 to 130,000-square-foot commercial spaces. The Flushing waterfront was rezoned in the late 1990s to accommodate such developments. |
| Queens West Six and Seven |
Location: Centre Boulevard, Long Island City
Developer: Rockrose Development Corp.
Architect(s): Arquitectonica with SLCE Architects
Size: 30 floors each, 965 units, 1,159,000 sq. ft.
Completion (est.): 2006
Budget: $200 million
| This mammoth development on a 22-acre industrial site along the Queens waterfront consists of seven buildings ranging from 7 to 35 stories in height. It will form an urban edge between the traditional mid-rise structures of Queens and the East River waterfront park. |
Researched and written by Alan G. Brake, Deborah Grossberg, Anne Guiney, Gunnar Hand, Jaffer Kolb, and Jenny Wong.
Also in this issue:
CAD enters another dimension, with two new modeling approachessbuilding information modeling (BIM) and parametric modeling (PM))that offer better design, analysis, and management capabilities. Are architects ready to make the leap? Clay Risen finds out.
|Joe MacDonald, an associate professor at the Harvard Design School teaching CATIA and principal of his own firm, Urban A&O in New York, used CATIA to design the Wave Workstation|
Despite significant changes wrought by computer-aided design (CAD), blueprints and drafting pencils still define much of the architectural practiceelargely because software has yet to provide an easy, standardized way to translate complex renderings into practical plans. But that may be about to change. Along two different fronts, software has gone a long way in recent years toward merging design and execution: parametric modeling (PM), which tracks and integrates design parameters set by the user; and building information modeling (BIM), which integrates building schedules, databases, and budgeting software into 3-D modeling. And while the day when PM and BIM comprise the industry standard is a long way off, they are already redefining the cutting edge of the practice.
Last fall, Gehry Technologies, a spinoff of Gehry Partners, shipped the first order of its long-awaited Digital Project, an adaptation of Computer-Aided Three-dimen-sional Interactive Application (CATIA), the PM software Gehry has used on projects like the Guggenheim Bilbao and Disney Concert Hall. Meanwhile, AutoDesk is aggressively marketing Revit, its BIM software package, having gained great publicity after Skidmore, Owings & Merrill announced its use of the program in its work on the Freedom Tower.
It's funny because a year ago, a lot of us in the industry were saying we couldn't wait for this to happen,, said Campbell Hyers of Control Group, an IT consulting firm that works heavily with architecture firms. A lot has happened in a year. This is long overdue.. Parametric modeling responds to a long-standing problem with CAD. While visualization tools, such as Maya, are great for form-finding, they are unable to generate the precise measurements needed to convert complex models into buildable plans. For that, architects must export their work into an engineering program, such as Rhino, then into AutoCAD to produce project documents. Not only is this process inefficient, but it almost guarantees that information will be lost along the way.
|The stereolithography (STL) model viewed in wireframe, can be exported from CATIA at any time during the process to have scale models made on a rapid-prototyping machine, allowing designers to evaluate variations quickly. Any changes will be propagated accordingly throughout the model, a dynamic set of geometric interdependencies.|
All of this software hit graduate schools around 1990 and it delivered an unfortunate and unfulfilled promise of complex curves and geometries that in the end proved impossible to build,, said Joe MacDonald, an associate professor at the Harvard Design School and a principal at Urban A&O, a New York firm that uses CATIA. The building industry had no way of managing or making sense of what essentially were just sexy renderings..
Programs with strong parametric modeling capabilitiesswhich, along with CATIA, include Solid-Works and Bentley Systems' MicroStationntake care of all of that in a single environment and, as a result, the impossibly curvy designs rarely seen outside design school crits and Frank Gehry's portfolio will be well within reach of most firms. We are working in an environment that offers a total simulation of a building to the point where, for example, plans and sections mean very little to our design process,, MacDonald said.
And while PM is only slowly catching on, the firms that have adopted it have proven easy converts. Soon after founding Front in New York two and a half years ago, the firm's partnerssarchitecture-trained Bruce Nichol, Mike Ra, and Marc Simmonssfound themselves in the fortunate but challenging position of working with Gehry Partners on a pair of projects, both of which required them essentially to become a parametric modeling shop. (OMA, Herzog & De Meuron, Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa Architects, and other firms have also come to them for technological support on various projects.) And while they have gone on to do a raft of non-PM workk?CATIA and Digital Project is a tool for us, just as AutoCad, Rhino, and Strand 7 are,, said Raa the trio hasn't shied away from using the technology to tackle one of their own projects, the SCL Glass Head-quarters and Showroom in Brisbane, Australia. For the curvy shed, built entirely of glass made by the client, PM is allowing them to do with glass what Gehry does with titanium, imbedding information on the back end of the job that will be used for fabrication and construction,, said Ra.
|The CATIA model was subjected to surface curvature analyses (screen shots, far right). CATIA's automotive reflection tools were used to simulate reflections.|
And if they decide they want to change any part of the glass-beam structure? A rule change can be propagated into all the other glass beams that might be different in size,, said Ra. The final payback is that the design drawings become shop and fabrication drawings. Thousands of pieces of glass that are different, and you can spit them out as usable shop drawings..
BIM, on the other hand, focuses on improving the production process. By embedding databases and schedules within 3-D models, BIM softwareesuch as AutoDesk's Revit, Graphisoft's ArchiCAD, and Nemetschek's VectorWorks Architecttis able to quickly translate an architect's ideas into schedules, budgets, and orders. We can very quickly generate a schedule that shows, say, the volume of concrete required by contractors,, said James Vandezande, who oversees digital design for SOM's New York technical group. Thus not only architects but clients and contractors can immediately see the cost and duration of a particular project, and what happens to those variables when changes are made to the design.
The two fronts are not wholly distinct: Revit contains some parametric capabilities, while CATIA can deliver some BIM functions. But their relative strengths are different, and, say experts, those differences are drawing more clearly the distinction between service- and design-oriented firms.
The groups starting to use BIM are doing straightforward, normative buildings,, said Dan Schodek, who teaches CATIA at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In Revit you can do some curves and swoops, but not nearly with the design capability of parametric software. Meanwhile, you can get database output from CATIA and other programs, but life is not made easy for you..
|New Yorkkbased Front Inc. is an architecture and engineering firm and a parametric modeling specialist. For the SCL Glass Headquarters in Brisbane, the architects designed a shed entirely made of glass (rendering, left) to showcase the client's various production capabilities such as curving, laminating, insulating, tempering, and shape-cutting. The building was modeled in CATIA (below) to be fabricated directly in the adjacent factory.|
In theory, neither PM nor BIM is wholly new. Gehry and a handful of other architects have been using parametric modeling software for over a decade, while SOM has been using a rudimentary form of BIM for almost 25 years. But those are exceptions, and few firms have found such programs worth the time and effort.
It will take time to get used to. Right now even rich developers can hardly afford it,, said Winka Dubbeldam, principal at Archi-tectonics, who added that she is taking a wait-and-see attitude on the new software. That doesn't mean in the future that they're not going to be more affordable. And then I would love to have one of those multiplatform things.. For the time being, though, she's content with what she hassa cocktail of Maya, Rhino, and VectorWorks.
But most see PM and BIM as the future of the profession. For one thing, parametric modeling has begun to find a place in the nation's top architecture schools, especially as Dassault Systtmes, the French firm that owns both CATIA and SolidWorks, has sought out relationships with faculty and architecture programs. MacDonald noted, At Harvard, CATIA made a big push.. Two years ago, John Nastasi, who taught at the New Jersey Institute of Technology before going to Harvard and studying under Schodek, opened the Product Architecture Lab, a master's degree program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. It's one of the first programs in the country to rely heavily on CATIA. It's the only tool I've found that aligns itself closely with how a building goes together,, Nastasi said.
At the same time, large clients, such as the U.S. General Services Administration, are starting to demand BIM-centric deliverables as a way to speed up the construction process and improve post-construction maintenance.
|Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is using Revit on the design of the Freedom Towerrthe first highrise to be developed in the programmas well as more workaday projects, like the Elizabeth Academic High School in New Jersey.|
And while today there is a sharp distinction between PM- and BIM-centric software, many expect that in the future the two will begin to converge. We have environments like CATIA that are driving themselves to become more user-friendly and relevant to the architectural world,, Schodek said. No doubt those designers of [BIM software] are also trying to make their programs more robust design-wise. Ultimately there might be some coalescing..
Malcolm Davies, CEO of Gehry Technologies, said he hopes his company's Digital Project is a step toward just that sort of convergence. We have mechanical engineering products integrated and all the function of CATIA,, he said. At the same time, he added, the software has a more user-friendly interface and leaves out many of the expensive non-architectural functions in CATIA.
Indeed, the fast-paced developmenttand ultimate convergenceeof PM and BIM technologies point to a common horizon: a seamless relationship between design, construction, and maintenance in which pure data is the only deliverable. Ten years from now,, mused Carl Galioto, a partner in SOM's New York office, we will be having a drink and laughing about how we used to draw in two dimensions and delivering sheets of paper..
clay risen is an assistant editor at the new republic.
As software packages grow more powerful, More Complex, and more expensive, one IT firm is simplifying things for architects. By treating software and support like a utility, purchased like water or electricity, New yorkkbased Control Group may be able to take the sting out of tech investments, and help small firms keep up with the big boys. Sara Moss reports.
IT guys (and they are mostly guys) are the heroes of the modern office. They fix our email when it's not working, retrieve crashed files, advise us on hardware and software needs, debug and reset whatever needs debugging or resetting. But one firm, Control Group, is pushing the idea of technology support to another level. Just as architects hope for enlightened clients to father their procreations, the partners of Control GrouppCampbell Hyers, Colin O'Donnell, and Scott Andersonnare pleased to have clients who challenge them to propose solutions that not merely support but enable more creative design processes.
When Hyers talks about the build-out of their new office, a raw Tribeca floor-through, it's clear that he's as much a design freak as a tech geek: He worked as an architect for half a dozen years at Rafael Viioly Architects before starting Control Group with O'Donnell and Anderson, who have backgrounds in networks and design technology. Their office won't need much design work, though: On any given day, it's near-empty, as most of the company's 19 employees are scattered throughout the city providing support for the firm's nearly hundred clients, the majority of which are architecture and engineering firms, including Studio Daniel Libeskind, 1100 Architects, Nicholas Grimshaw Partners, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Buro Happold, and yes, Rafael Viioly.
Control Group is not the only technology consulting firm geared towards architects, but it is unique in its aspiration to treat technology as a flexible entity. It started out with clients asking us to host their networks and systems,, said Anderson, pointing out the advantage of being able to check on a firm's programs and files remotely and the potential to allow firms to share their work with collaborators. Consequently, Control Group established a server in a former army facility in Brooklyn.
More importantly, they found that most firms' technological growth occurs in an ad-hoc, incremental fashion, which often left them stuck using systems that don't best suit their current needs or future goals. We hate to be the ones telling an architect that he has to invest $25,000 in a new server and software,, said Anderson.
They are now developing an idea which they've dubbed utility computing,, drawing comparisons to how electricity is distributed. Early on, power stations were small, not particularly powerful, dispersed, and many people even had their own generators. The same goes for water, with people tapping into their personal or local resources. Gradually, larger centralized stations served greater areas, bringing efficiencies and savings.
Computing has gone through similar revolutions, with mainframes giving way (not very long ago) to personal computers, which kicked off the software explosion that has changed the global economy forever. But centralized computing never completely disappeared; banking and other business industries are rooted in remote networks, with local workstations serving merely as monitors, without software or memory. The biggest players in the industry, like Microsoft and Apple, who have the most to gain from PCs and individual software licensing, have persistently explored how they might play a role in restoring centralized user resources.
The design fields remain decidedly in the realm of localization. Architecture firms expand and contract with the number and size of jobs in their offices, and purchase hardware and software accordingly. For many small to mid-size firms, the initial outlay is sizable; purchasing a copy of AutoCad can cost $3,500 per employee, and with AutoDesk requiring users to pay a yearly fee for updates and support, prices climb even higher. Hyers likens the standard approach to buying software and servers to building a power plant just to light a single bulb.
With utility computing, however, firms can purchase technology as they need it. Control Group envisions a system in the future in which each user can log onto their computer in the morning and select the programs they will need that day, and pay a low rate per program, only for the days that they need it. You could tap into it like water, by the glass,, said O'Donnell.
We are hosting services and applications, like Microsoft Exchange, offsite for our clients right now,, said Hyers. We are developing relationships with other hardware and software vendors to bring their particular technology to our clients in an affordable by the drink' format, and expect to release those as they are available next year..
Clients welcome this approach. Said Paul Schulhof of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (a Control Group client), A utility-like structure seems to be the trend in other industries, especially when you are dealing with complex software. People prepare their taxes remotely online all the time, and pay for it that one time instead of buying it.. Matthew Johnson of Diller Scofidio + Renfro agreed: Campbell has mentioned that it is something they are working on, and we could definitely use it, since the cost of software is astronomical.. Until about five years ago, we could manage [our computing systems] on our own,, said Schulhof. As we took on more work and our systems grew more complex, it became harder to make sure the network was safe and protected. Also, we are doing more international work now, which means that there has to be a collaborative exchange of information, and a more sophisticated way of working on files together. Since each new piece of software adds complexity and takes time to assimilate, we like to have just what we need, not more..
In general, many firms are now rethinking their CAD strategy (especially with the emergence of building information and parametric modeling programs), and enlisting an outside party to help them take stock and plan for the future. And, according to Hyers, the more Control Group can plan, the more it can control each client's tech environment and working conditions. We're trying very hard not to become enablers of past problems,, said Hyers; that way, they can focus more on developing other ideas to help the profession function better. And it seems that there is more to come; said Hyers, the concept of utility computing is more of a direction than a destination..
Sara Moss is a writer based in New York.
The Cool Hunt Every architecture office has a materials library, though that can mean anything from a pile of product samples to a rigorously organized and staffed archive. Luckily for architects, the explosion of new materials in the last decade has brought with it an array of tools to help architects keep up with it all. Cathy Lang Ho surveys the sources. For an installation in Milan during the International Furniture Fair last month, Steven Holl Architects created a piece (left) that explored the theme porosity,, using a wood-veneered aluminum he found at Material Connexion. The material's ability to be laser cut and creased without breaking perfectly suited the design. Nick Gelpi Is not architecture determined by new materials and new methods?? Le Corbusier wrote in Architectural Record in 1929. The Swiss architect pressed further: A hundred years of new materials and new methods have made no change whatsoever in your [American] architectural viewpoint.. And where do things stand today? American architecture is still not exactly regarded as being on the forefront of material or technological innovation. Architecture is so boring,, lamented George Beylerian, president of Material Connexion, the mother of all materials resources, founded in 1997. What happened to the days when architects were fearless? It seems like only a few are trying to see what they can do with new materials or new ways of using materials.. Of Material Connexion's 1,200 users, architects comprise a minority, far outnumbered by industrial designers, manufacturers, and even fashion designers who tap into Material Connexion's Manhattan library or online database, where thousands of cutting-edge materials and processes have been juried, explicated, and catalogued. Some might consider the cost of Material Connexion's membership an obstacle: An individual membership, which includes access to both on-site and web libraries, is $450 per year. A corporate membership, which allows up to four people to use the on-site and web libraries, is $1,470. Many architecture firms balk at such fees, unlike, say, Prada, BMW, Target, or Steelcase (members all). But the payoff can be immense. With materials harvested from sources like the journal of the Society of Plastic Engineers and industries from medical equipment to aerospace, Material Connexion's offerings are more surprising and fantastical than what one would encounter walking the floors of a building trade fair. Consultation comes with the membership. Designers will come and tell us the characteristics they're looking for in a material, and we'll do our best to narrow down the possible solutions,, said Angela Aldrete, who works in the library. For many of Material Connexion's membersswho include Jean Nouvel, Bernard Tschumi, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Office of Metropolitan Architectureethe amount of time saved by this type of research assistance can be priceless. The most recent issue of DesignAid included MesoOptics' PureFX (left), in which a material is coated with a special film that transforms a laser point into a line with only a five percent loss of light; and Bendywood, available in beech, ash, oak, and maple, can be bent in a cold, dry state at a radius of over ten times its thickness (below). Courtesy Inventables Robin Reigi, whose eponymous showroom in Chelsea provides innovative materials and processes to architects and designers, has also seen a burgeoning demand for material research since she started her business six years ago. Somewhat organically, she has branched into material consultation, with clients like General Motors, Nissan, and Herman Miller recruiting her to hunt down materials to solve specific design problems. But Reigi doesn't expect architects to start paying for advice. We market our products to them but we won't look to them for fees,, she said. The best service she can provide is to act as a filter, offering a carefully edited selection of products that are functionally and visually extraordinary. She represents mostly small (under $5 million) companies, and often works closely with them to improve or develop products and processes that she thinks will appeal to architects. Architects always tell me what they want, and it often makes me think, Does that exist? If it doesn't, why not? And who can make it?? Reigi said. For architects who are part of that large New York demographic that's addicted to having everything delivered, two compelling subscription services have emerged in response to the wave of material-mania. Chicago-based company Inventables launched DesignAid three years ago, a quarterly magazine about fresh technologies and materials that comes with a box of labeled samples (about 20 in each installment). Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht came up with the concept for DesignAid after talking to architects and designers and finding that everyone's office was in chaos,, in Kaplan's words. The service starts at $6,500 yearly and increases according to the size of the firm and number of users. Meanwhile, Princeton Architectural Press is launching a similar publication, though on a smaller scale than DesignAid. Subscribers to Materials Monthly will receive three to five samples per month, for $200 per year or $24.95 per volume. Schacht would not specify how many subscribers DesignAid has, though he did note that architects are the smallest group, lagging far behind manufacturers, industrial designers, and interior designers. One reasonable explanation is that new materials are easier to apply to fashion, products, and interiors than architecture. It takes a lot of guts for an architect to use a material that's new and hasn't been tested,, said Rita Catinella Orrell, product editor at Architectural Record. When she's wading through the thousands of product samples and press releases she sees every year, she pays particular attention to the amount of research a manufacturer has done to back up a product. Sure, there are general trends that manufacturers and architects are interested in at the moment, like translucency and sustainability,, she said. But getting something tested and approved for buildings is a long process.. It's easy to get sucked into the sexy trap,, agreed Morley Bland, resource director at Beyer Blinder Belle, but when push comes to shove, if something is unproven, too expensive, or so special that you have to wait around for it, most architects be reluctant to use it.. Bland is a member of the Research Directors Association, a group of individuals who are formally in charge of their firms' libraries or informally their firms' resident product geek.. Only in its sixth year, the group has chapters across the country and about 200 members, 60 in New York who meet monthly. Their primary aim is to share information, for example, turning each other on to cool new finds or providing recommendationssor warningssabout specific materials or manufacturers. They also share ideas about how to best conduct research and present their findings to their firms. Some make staff presentations, while others send weekly email newsletters. Blaine Brownell, an architect and Seattle-based NBBJ's resident product guru, has gone so far as to offer free product-of-the-week email newsletters to anyone who asks. (He also created his own printed and PDF catalogue of new materials, Transmaterial, available on his website.) The group has also discussed ways of creating a national shared database and of formalizing what they do, perhaps by establishing requirements or at least a clear definition of the resource director's job, which might increase their value to a firm. All this progress on the materials front is sure to pull architecture along with it. Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at AN. RESOURCES www.materialconnexion.com www.robin-reigi.com www.inventables.com www.rdanet.org www.transstudio.com Materials Matter Material Connexion recently launched a quarterly publication called Matter, which is mailed to its library members and distributed at its resource centers in Manhattan, Cologne, and Milan. Featuring case studies, profiles, and topical articles, the latest issue (#3, Spring 2005) also presents four best in showw materialssstand-outs from Material Connexion's monthly jury sessions. The following is excerpted with permission: Cement: Construction Cement (MC# 5151-01) High toughness cement for construction. This cement is a high-performance material that possesses a unique combination of properties including good tensile and compressive strength, ductility, durability, and enhanced aesthetics. It has been designed to serve contemporary architectural creativity and can be used in a highly diverse range of applications. There are currently three different types of this cement: FM contains metal fibers and is suitable for structural civil engineering applications such as load-bearing structures; AF is a variation of FM that includes the same mechanical properties and incorporates excellent standardized fire-resistance behavior; and FO contains organic fibers and is suitable for architectural applications such as wall panels, furniture, canopies, etc. Current applications are for architectural and engineering applications where high-performance cement is required. It can be used as a self-consolidating material, which can replicate fine formwork detail or dry cast, facilitating the creation of highly architectural aesthetic structures. Process: Fragrance Encapsulation (MC# 5167-01) Moldable resin with encapsulated fragrance. A custom-designed fragrance is incorporated into a cellulose base polymer and extruded into pellets. These pellets form the raw material for secondary injection molding into various shapes. The fragrance has a lifespan of 20 years from initial encapsulation and there are currently over 20,000 different fragrances that may be encapsulated. A range of percentage loadings (the intensity of fragrance) as well as color co-ordinations is available in pearlized, gloss, and matte finishes. Current applications include injection molded packaging items for cosmetic and fragrance industries, watchbands, and toys. Naturals: Formable Composite Board (MC# 5165-01) Molded composite panel from recycled carpet. Natural (wool) and synthetic (nylon 6 and nylon 6, 6) fibers from post-consumer carpet is bonded using a synthetic resin (non-urea formaldehyde) with heat and pressure to create rigid paneling for construction. The panels have good compressive and impact strength, are water, mold, and rot resistant, may be machined easily using conventional woodworking tools and exhibit excellent dimensional stability. Thermoforming is possible, creating de-bossed surfaces as well as hemispherical cylinders with radii of curvature diameters as low as 4 inches (10.2 centimeters). Panel thickness ranges from 0.37551 inches (112.54 centimeters) and panel sizes up to 4 x 24 feet (1.22 x 7.3 meters). The panels may be laminated with wood veneers, GRP (glass reinforced plastic) sheets, or painted. Current applications are for wallboard, as an alternative to MDF for cabinetry and office furniture and as an alternative to pressure treated lumber. Polymers: Acoustical Panel (MC# 5174-02) Acoustical panels for interior exposed applications. Expanded polypropylene pellets are bonded together to create a lightweight, non-fibrous sound-absorbing panel used as an exposed tackable surface. The panels are available in white and charcoal gray in 1 and 2 inches (2.54, 5.08 centimeters) thicknesses and in 2 x 2 and 2 x 4 feet (60.1 x 60.1, 60.1 x 122 centimeters) sizes. The panels comply with ASTM E-84 class 1 for flame spread and smoke generation and give absorption of both low and high frequency sound (12554,000Hz). The surface of the panels may be cleaned with regular detergents and are both water resistant and have high impact strength. Current applications are for sound absorption in gymnasiums, swimming pools, and other sports facilities, in manufacturing clean rooms, food processing plants and restaurants as well as machine shops, offices, and gun ranges. Material-of-the-month Club Princeton Architectural Press introduces a subscription-based catalogue of new materials Materials Monthly's first issue (left) includes Polygal's polycarbonate sheets (below), which feature extreme flexibility and durability, and KnollTextiles' Imago resin sheets (at bottom), which are embedded with fabric. Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press This month, a new publication will join the ranks of subscription services dedicated to helping architects specify materials. Materials Monthly, published by Princeton Architectural Press, has a different take on materials than established publications like McGraw-Hill's Sweets catalog, however. Ten times per year, subscribers will receive a cardboard box filled with three to five samples of innovative products, along with leaflets describing their potential applications, technical specifications, and manufacturers. The sheets will be indexed for easy organization, and subscribers will receive a binder system for storage. Subscribers will also have access to a searchable database and an online forum for architects to post their experiences using materials they find through the service (www.materialsmonthly.com). Los Angelessbased architect Jennifer Siegel is editing the content of the first ten boxes. According to publisher Kevin Lippert, guest-edited issues are also in the works. We'd like to do some issues that are related to a specific building, where an architect, say, from Frank Gehry's office, might talk about three interesting materials used in the Disney Concert Hallltheir upsides as well as their downsides,, said Lippert. Inspired by his childhood subscription to a service that sent science kits through the mail every month, Lippert wants the new publication to be playful as well as useful. Getting cool new stuff in the mail is something architects enjoy,, said Lippert. He also sees small firms using the service to build or enrich their libraries without too much hassle. There are so many new materials coming out these days that it's hard for small practices to keep on top of what's going on,, he said. That's especially true for firms based outside of metropolitan areas like New York.. Materials Monthly already has a few hundred subscribers, according to Lippert, and he'd like to see those architects contribute to the direction of the publication. The whole thing is kind of fluid,, he said. We're looking at what the audience is interested in, and that will lead us in new directions.. DEBORAH GROSSBERG is an editor at AN. It's Not Easy Being Green Specifying sustainable materials is still harder than it should be. Deborah Grossberg looks at the problems involved, and the best ways to go about going green. 3form, a Salt Lake Cityybased materials company concerned with sustainability, developed EcoResin, a 40 percent post-grind recycled resin, which serves as a base for all its products. Its newest line of resins, Varia 05, includes layers of sustainably harvested materials from across the globe, as in Capiz (pictured at left), which features Indonesian Capiz shells. Courtesy 3form In the past decade, sustainability has become an essential part of an architect's vocabulary, and the demand for green building materials is growing in step. Materials specialists report that architects and designers are in consistent pursuit of green materials. Though some of those conversations are stymied by lack of availability or high costs, their increased demand has driven manufacturers to develop and test more and more green building products. The Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments, an organization composed of six major companies in the building products businesssPhilips Lighting, Johnson Controls, Forbo Flooring, Owens Corning, JohnsonDiversey, and Milliken Carpetssis one new collaborative that's pushing the movement further by banding together and serving as one-stop shopping for architects or clients seeking green solutions. Paul von Paumgartten, director of energy and environmental affairs at Johnson Controls, said, Everyone who makes a product in the building industry is in the process of making their products green. If they don't get it, they're going to be left behind.. Von Paumgartten's attitude is driven by bottom line as much as a commitment to the environment. As city and state governments mandate standards for energy efficiency based on systems like the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) LEED certification, manufacturers have begun to see sustainability as the future of their largest contracts. Around a quarter of all Fortune 500 companies now do an annual sustainability report,, said von Paumgartten, who has also served on the board of USGBC. What they're finding is that they consume a huge amount of energy in their buildings.. The company is also thinking green at the design level; it utilizes a software application to help architects design with EcoResin in a cost-effective and waste-conscious manner. 3form's booth at ICFF used the software to duplicate and flip its undulating surfaces, thereby cutting in half the number of molds needed. Courtesy 3form But even as talk of sustainability becomes mainstream, problems remain for architects. For one thing, the question of what's green and what's not is a matter of constant contention. Mark Piepkorn, an editor of GreenSpec, a catalogue of green building materials and products published annually by Vermont-based BuildingGreen (which also publishes Environmental Building News), said, It's difficult to figure out which products are truly green. There's no way to make a formula that you can apply the same way to every product every time.. For example, though a product's recycled-content and recycling potential are generally regarded as green attributes, they can pose a conundrum, particularly when considering a material's lifecycle. Polyvinyl chlorides, or PVCs, which are used in most vinyl building products, cause a great deal of damage during processing, use, and disposal, when they release noxious chemicals such as dioxins into the environment. Some companies have come out with recycled PVCs, but these materials still have serious environmental consequences at the fabrication or disposal stages, even though recycling does lessen the amount of PVCs in landfills. LEED decided in February not to provide credits for avoidance of PVCs, stating on its website that the available science does not support such a creditt? a decision many in the industry find irresponsible. Two new green materials available at Robin Reigi Art & Objects are Kirei Board (left), a strong, lightweight wood alternative made from compressed and woven raw sorghum stalks and bonded with formaldehyde-free adhesive; and Icestone (below), a stone substitute made of concrete and 75 percent post-consumer recycled glass, and manufactured in a day-lit facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Courtesy Robin Reigi Art & Objects A major problem for architects hoping to specify green building materials is the lack of a standardized, reliable system for classifying and comparing them. Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs))scientific studies of a material's impact on the environment before, during, and after processinggare expensive, difficult, and time-consuming to perform. Manufacturers pay for them, but without a dependable third-party system for disseminating information about the studies, it is often hard for architects to tell whether the manufacturers are highlighting good results in one category of performance while suppressing negative ones in otherssin effect, greenwashing their products. Some third-party rating systems do exist, but none have been singled out as the definitive source for information about green materials. Of the available systems, Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and available for free online at www.bfrl.nist.gov, allows architects and designers to compare the relative sustainability of 200 classes of generic materials, but not specific products. Another source, ASTM's Standard Practice for Data Collection for Sustainability Assessment of Building Products (coded E2129-03) provides manufacturers and architects with a template for conducting LCAs. A PDF of the document costs $33, and is available online at www.astm.org. The most promising new rating system proposed, a web-based tool called eLCie developed by the International Design Center for the Environment (IDCE), will be launched in June. eLCie will provide manufacturers a chance to submit information for third-party LCAs at reduced rates, and the completed quantitative assessments will be displayed in standardized forms online, allowing architects to compare ratings for specific products at a glance. eLCie will be compatible with Autodesk's Revit software, allowing architects to quantitatively compare the relative environmental gains of using different materials in a given project. Architects interested in trying the software can sign up for a free two-month trial at www.idce.org. Another encouraging development was the USGBC's release of the long-awaited rating system for existing buildings (LEED-EB) in November. The program focuses more on the lifecycle of a building and its materials than LEED for new construction does, and it is significantly cheaper to obtain. Many environmentally conscious architects have skipped the confusion and expense of green materials, choosing instead to think about green design on a macro scale. It's often cheaper to go green with design solutions like daylighting or rain water catchment than green material specification,, said Piepkorn. In any case, a more holistic solution is necessary in the long run. According to von Paumgartten The greening of materials is a trend that's only going to get bigger and broader and bolder.. DEBORAH GROSSBERG Mori, Material Maverick Architect Toshiko Mori designed the installation for the Extreme Textiles show at the Cooper-Hewitt, but her interest in new materials is long-standing. Anne Guiney recently spoke with Mori about her research into textiles and their applications in architecture. all images courtesy toshiko mori architect You have been looking into the possibilities of textiles in architecture for some time now, first with the show Immaterial/Ultramaterial (Harvard Design School, 2001), and the accompanying book (George Braziller, 2002), then with your work for the Extreme Textiles show, and now for your forthcoming book Textile Tectonic (George Braziller, 2005). Immaterial/Ultramaterial started the exploration, and looked specifically at materials and their properties. It is very expensive and time-consuming to develop new materials, and so we [Mori and Nader Tehrani, of Bostonn based Office dA] worked with students to combine two or more materials and their different properties. For example, insect netting used on doors has tensile strength. If you pleat or iron it, you give it structure. By casting it in clear rubber, it becomes solid and stable. Two weak materials can then become one strong one. The question was how to change the original properties of materialssmuch like reinforced concrete. A self-supporting fiberglass staircase Mori recently installed at a house in Florida, shown here in the shop in which it was fabricated. Textile Tectonic is the second version, and deals with issues of fabrication. Once you start talking about materials, you have to start thinking about how to use them in making things, and issues of performance. After you develop a material, and then begin to fabricate with it, you have to ask yourself Why?? The answer is ultimately in how it performs. New materials are often developed by or for the military, the medical industry, or other industries for specific applications, in which one can articulate the performance precisely. In nanotechnology, the idea that you can make new materials for specific purposes is still more theoretical. In a sense with textiles, we are already there. We can use them to protect from heat, to waterproof things, to give strength, and to produce them in any pattern. They can be multilayered and multifaceted. What are some applications for textiles in building? Boat building is an almost didactic example of the ways they have been used. The traditional methods of constructionnwooden plank cladding over a structural wooden frameegave way to plywood, which in turn gave way to composite materials like fiberglass. Now, boats are basically all made out of textiles. With composites, one can weave different materials and different strands, or change the direction of the weave of the fiber in the composites. There can be specific weaves for specific layers, to better distribute load of the wind or the force of the water. In Eric Goetz's shop [a Connecticut-based boat builder also featured in Extreme Textiles], you can see this evolution. He makes hulls for America's Cup yachts, and they have to be very stiff and very lighttlight for speed and stiff to stand up to the extreme forces of the water and the wind. There is a huge amount of money involved, but I am interested in the question of how to make this amazing machine out of textiles. Three projects developed by Mori's students at Harvard in a 2003 seminar called Weaving Materials and Habitation.. Top: This project explored the idea of floppy structures, and the minimum amount support that must be used to create a shelter. Center: To develop an unlikely and weak material into something strong, students pasted five layers of toilet paper together, and then notched and wove the resulting strands into this undulating wall. Bottom: To explore the lateral distribution of force, students sandwiched elastic between two layers of basswood, and then wove them into a wall which responds to touch. Opposite: A rendering of Mori's installation design for the Extreme Textiles show at the Cooper-Hewitt. How have you been able to apply these ideas in your own work? I recently completed a staircase for a house in Florida. The conditions there are extremeethe wind, sun, and water are all very strong. We had to come up with a material that is light and that can stand up to these forces. Stainless steel is good, but it isn't really stain-free. We designed a structural staircase made out of seven layers of composite fiberglass on the stairs themselves; the landing is made out of nine layers. Usually, fiberglass is used as infill paneling, but in this case, there are no supporting beams. Another project I am working on with Eric Goetz is to develop a series of lightweight roof prototypes out of composite materials, almost like an upside-down boat hull. Ideally, a great deal of the infrastructure would be woven into the roof. But boat hulls have much tougher performance criteria than typical buildings, and are much more expensive, so I have to keep telling Eric, It's not for [America's Cup entrant] Team Prada, okay!! We are trying to degrade, or lessen the performance criteria to see if we can incorporate this technology into standard building methods so that the price drops. How did you approach your work for the Extreme Textiles show? I was an adviser to the museum and the exhibition curator Matilda McQuaid, and I designed the installation. The show looks at materials from an architectural point of view, sorting them by their performance qualitiesslighter, stronger, et ceteraanot by their function. The installation wasn't easy, because of the historical context of the Cooper-Hewitt museum building. None of the materials are decorative per se, but their visual quality is important in attracting people and showing how exciting they aree I wanted to use that as a lure. The materials are installed in a series of steel frames, because they are all at very different scales. The frame is meant to be a virtual one in which materials are suspended, and can be seen in the round, not just in a case. The frames are focusing devices. Otherwise, it would be like the World's Fair!
With the real estate market up and public appreciation for design surging, residential buyers are willing to pay more for the cachet of a big-name architecttand developers are catering to the new demand. But are designer buildingss adding quality to New York's urban fabric or just padding developers' pockets? Anna Holtzman finds it's a little of both.
Is residential real estate in New York finally catching up to its stylish inhabitants? The city seems to be going through a design boom: Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, Philippe Starck, Tsao & McKown, Winka Dubbeldam, Gwathmey Siegel, and Michael Graves have all recently made, or will soon make, their mark on the lower half of Manhattan. And there's talk of on-the-boards residential buildings by Frank O. Gehry and Christian de Portzamparc. The projects come with swanky names (the River Lofts, the Downtown), luxury amenities, and high-end price tags to boot.
If you suspect this designer craze is all about name-branding, you're right. The draw of well-known architects for developers is obvioussthey establish a certain price-point, like a designer label; they add status to a project,, said Bassie Deitsch of Boymelgreen, the developer responsible for the Starck and Tsao & McKown buildings, both on the lower west side. But before dismissing this phenomenon as a superficial trend, one must take into consideration the bigger picture. As New York architect and developer Peter Moore put it, any builder taking the risk of high design is a good thingg?whatever the initial motivation. And motives evolve. As Izak Senbahar, developer of the new Richard Meier tower on Charles Street, said, It raises the bar. Everyone is working for profit, but when you drive around the city and see something beautiful and elegant, you're encouraged to do more of that..
|For Frank Sciame's first real estate development, 80 South Street, Santiago Calatrava proposes townhousess floating in the air.|
Opinions vary on what has spurred this recent interest in design. Perry Street, and the amount of press it generated, did a lot to create that awareness,, said Meier, referring to the pair of gleaming residential towers he designed. Others see it as the result of broader influences: The time was right for this,, said Frank Sciame, developer of the Calatrava-designed South Street tower, currently in the works. Five years ago, we would have done a conventional tower.. Ironically, it was the tragic events of September 11 that indirectly led him to select a visionary architect for the project. After 9/11, given the great buildings that were going up at Ground Zero and the fact that this site was [relatively nearby and] at the river's edge, we decided that it should also be a tangible symbol of Manhattan's recovery.. What emerged was an unusual design by Calatrava comprised of 10 boxlike units that seem to float independently in the air.
Senbahar agreed that post-9/11, New Yorkers have a greater appreciation of good architecture. So if you create something of quality, people will pay more for it,, he said.
So why has it taken New York this long to wake up to design, when cities such as Miami and London started using architects to market residential buildings years ago? Senbahar posited, In New York, apartments sell from the inside out. Layout is important.. Meanwhile, faaade is secondary. There's also a greater demand for real estate in New York, so you have a captive audience,, said Senbahar. In Miami, you're talking about mostly second homes, so you have to entice the buyer with attractive buildings.. He continued, In construction, if you keep it simple, it's a lot easier.. So when the real estate market was lower, developers preferred to play it safe by sticking with conventional designs that were cheaper to build. Now that the market is up, developers are taking advantage of the fact that buyers won't blink at higher price-tagssand are using the added value of design to compete with one another.
Dubbeldam, who designed the interiors and undulating curtain wall of the Greenwich Street Project, cringed at this sort of thinking. Quality is not more expensive,, she stated emphatically, because it pays out more in the long run. It's better for the developer in the end.. Dubbeldam is appalled by the majority of American developers, saying that they have no consciousness about energy, no thinking about ecologyythey think that architects are just fancy picture-makers..
|The glazed curtain wall of the Greenwich Street Project by Winka Dubbeldam of Archi-Tectonics cascades to the street.|
Just how far developers are willing to involve architects in their grand plans varies from project to project. In many cases, as with the now two-year-old 425 Fifth Avenue designed by Michael Graves for developer Trevor Davis of Davis & Partners, the exterior and interior designs are done by a high-level architect, but considerations such as floor layouts and interior detailing are determined by a combination of real estate consultants and contract architects. The Sunshine Group is one such consulting firm. In addition to marketing, the group consults developers on pre-development planning, which architects to work with, apartment layouts, ceiling heights, number of bathroom fixtures, closet size, et cetera. Boymelgreen brought in Sunshine to consult on the Downtown, which in turn selected Starck to infuse the interiors and entryway with his signature playful style. Layouts and faaade, however, were left to project architect Ishmael Leyva.
|Terraces, French doors, skylights, fireplaces, Sub-Zero and Miele appliances, and spa-like bathrooms are among the amenities at the River Lofts, a combination restoration and new construction project by Tsao & McKown.|
Some architects are pushing to increase the scope of their roles, however, and changing developers' minds in the process. In the case of Tsao & McKown's River Lofts, for example, Sunshine initially invited the architects to work on the project to add our particular brand of lifestylee to the interiors of the apartments, said Calvin Tsao. However, Tsao & McKown ultimately convinced the developer, Boymelgreen, to let them have a hand in the faaade as welllwith the support of Sherida Paulsen, then chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. When it came to the firm's next project with Sunshine and Boymelgreen, the Spring Street Lofts in SoHo, the architects were brought in at an earlier phase and were able to collaborate with the client in a much more organic way. Rather than look askance at being called in as lifestyle gurus,, said Zack McKown, we saw it as an empowering position..
|The newest Meier tower, still under construction, echoes the first two completed in 2002, in design, luxury amenties, and price points.|
A rare few architects are getting in on development at the ground level. Dubbeldam was brought onto the Greenwich Street Project by developer Jonathan Carroll of Take One before he even had a site in fact, Dubbeldam wound up find ing its location. In the case of Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place tower, the architect found himself in the unusual situation of starting out on the client side, as a board member at Cooper Union. Before signing on as the designer, he hired the developer, Related Companies, and selected the site himself. It was only later, after a series of unscripted events including Gwathmey leaving Cooper's board, that he was brought on as architect and was thus able to shape every part of the project, from the footprint to interiors.
What truly smart developers have come to understand is that taking architecture into consideration from the get-go can only benefit the value of their building in the long run. Senbahar chose Meier for Charles Street in deference to the Perry Street Towers, which were already built by developers Ira Drucker, Charles Blaichman, and Richard Born when he came on the scene. He wanted to maintain a consistent aesthetic among a grouping of buildings that he believes may someday be landmarked. In improving the neighborhood, this move also improves that which remains a developer's main concern: real estate values.
|Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place is being touted by its developer, the Related Companies, as Manhattan's first rotational, asymmetrical, sculptural building..|
Unfortunately, as Dubbeldam pointed out, the vast majority of developers are still stuck in the dark ages in terms of design. I think [these high-design buildings are] just isolated projects,, said Dubbeldam, but I hope they can inspire overall change.. Yet when it comes to the realm of affordable housing, even the optimistic have little hope that these high-end projects will inspire change. Unfortunately,, explained Senbahar, whenever design requires a higher level of construction, it's reflected in the cost, and therefore it would be very difficult, especially with the high land prices in New York.. Developer Moore lamented, We still have a long way to go [towards better design for the city as a whole]. That's where the city should get involved. There's no even-handed aesthetic control. We need an aesthetic cop..
ANNA HOLTZMAN, A FORMER EDITOR AT ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE, IS PRODUCING A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT SUBWAY MUSICIANS.
With the theme Metamorph,the 9th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale is an aquarium of exotic architectural creatures. Richard Ingersoll attempts to make sense of the mmlange.
|Asymptote conceived of the environmental design for the Metamorph exhibition, which occupies the Corderie dell'Arsenale (left). |
Renzo Piano Building Workshop's 2002 Parco della Musica in Rome (below right) resembles three beetles. Foster and Partner's The Sage
Gateshead in Northern England (below left), slated to open in December, looks like a giant sea slug.
It probably all began with a fish. Not GGnter Grass' tale of the world-weary flounder, but Frank O. Gehry's love of wiggly marine life. The hundreds of models that recently washed up for the central exhibition of the 9th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, installed in the half-kilometer-long Corderie dell'Arsenale, appear like partially digested morsels of underwater creatures clinging to a series of colossal, stark white plaster ribs. Snack food for the Leviathan. The trend in architecture, privileged by the Biennale's mercurial director, Kurt Forster, oscillates between the desire to represent natural forms that have metamorphosed from the conventional notion of building and the desire not to represent at all, but to create random shapes through the accidents of computer morphing.. Thus the exhibition's syncretic theme, Metamorph. The ribbed installation, designed by the digitally endowed New York office Asymptote, breaks down the interminable axis of the column-lined hall by placing each exhibition platform laterally, forcing the visitor to meander in picturesque circuits. Each of the three dozen podia has an irregular streamlined shape that is different from but related to the ones nearest it. These sinuous ribbons are fascinating as sculpture, work fairly well for exhibiting the displays (though the flat bases of each of the models had to be adjusted to the platforms' irregular surfaces), and invest the space with a resounding metaphoric unity. Like most of the projects in the show, however, Asymptote's ribs demonstrate a lack of interest in constructional or structural determinants, approaching form as something that could be grown rather than built.
As Hani Rashid, principal of Asymptote and spokesman for a new generation of digital designers put it, With the aid of computing a newly evolved architecture is emerging. It is within the grasp of architects and artists today to discover and evoke a digitally induced spatial delirium, where a merging of simulation and effect with physical reality creates the possibility of a sublime morphing from thought to actualization.. Let us agree that the Vitruvian categories of commodity and firmness have no place in this hallucinogenic purview. And even the third canonical objective, delight, is much abused. Those who visit the main exhibition of the Biennale will come away with a clear sense of a styleevaguely organic, neo-picturesque, and sublimely homely. Most of the projects also seem technically dubious and extremely expensive to build because of their awkward geometries. While there is an undercurrent of concern for the environment and many designs consciously simulate natural forms, there is no attempt to justify the works from a social, technical, or ecological point of view. Thus the show concentrates almost completely on a current tasteea new version of expressionismmthat appeals to some of the cultural elite of advanced capitalism. Forster, a Swiss-born art historian, the founding director of the Getty Center, and for two years the director of the Canadian Center for Architecture, came to the job with a formidable intellectual and institutional background. While one may take issue with the content of the Biennale, its concept has been convincingly displayed and given an excellent pedagogical armature in the three-volume catalogue. In some ways, the basis of the show was prepared by writer Marina Warner, who curated an art exhibition with a similar theme at the Science Museum in London in 2002. In her view, the taste for metamorphosis accompanies the anxious desire for self-transformation in an advanced technological society. Historian Juan Antonio Ramirez sees the trend in a more political light, especially after the events of September 11 in New York and March 11 in Madrid, declaring that the nascent 21st century's love affair with pulverized ruins, relies on the demolition of democratic institutions. Any analysis of our social political reality would define the sides of the triangle in which we move as: lies, usurpation, and ruin..
Unfortunately the critical and skeptical insights of the catalogue are unable to shape the experience of the exhibition, which is by nature an endorsement of style. Forster has pursued a personal theoretical agenda that revolves around two of his close friends: Peter Eisenman, with whom he founded Oppositions magazine in the 1970s and commissioned a project for an unbuilt house, Eleven-A, and Frank O. Gehry, for whom he has often acted as an intermediary or glossator. While recently the architectural styles of Eisenman and Gehry seem to be converging toward an organicist mode, their approaches to architecture are diametrically opposed. Eisenman's methods celebrate the autonomous capacity of geometry and computation to signify, while Gehry relies on artistic intuition and metaphor. Eisenman's line of thought has led to computer morphing, while Gehry's has led to an appreciation of zoomorphic and crystalline iconography requiring computer modeling to be realized. The formal results of each are intentionally monstrous with respect to architectural conventions and urban contexts, appealing to the aesthetic theory of the sublime.
Gehry is well represented at the Biennale with the show's largest model, of the recently completed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, a stainless steellclad sibling of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Eisenman, meanwhile, was given an entire room to make an installation about his work. The most interesting projects, both currently under construction, seem like ventures into land art: the City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. In addition, Eisenman was honored with the Biennale's Lifetime Achievement Award. His built works, so often instant ruins, such as House VI or the Wexner Center at Ohio State, should serve as a parable for the Metamorph style: You can fantasize and digitize all you like, but that won't stop a building from leaking.
|(Abobe) Stavanger Concert Hall by PLOT; (Left) Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry; and (Below) Peter Eisenman's City of Culture in Santiago de Compostela.|
To give substance to the trend toward a new expressionist taste, Forster assembled a separate exhibition on contemporary concert halls. The peculiar demands of acoustical engineering and the monumental imagery often attached to these projects give them a particular iconic power in an urban setting. Like the museum, concert halls serve as a kind of scapegoat for the demise of civic life. To see so many together, one has little doubt that they adhere to the underlying taste of Metamorph. Starting with JJrn Utzon's Sydney Opera House and Hans Scharoun's Berlin Philharmonic, both designed in the 1950s, the 40 models of recent solutions demonstrate that the type has yielded some of the weirdest forms in architectural history. Acoustical engineering seems to have bestowed a functionalist precept for irregular forms that struggle against the orthogonality of most urban contexts. The prize-winner in this part of the show, an unbuilt project for a two part concert hall in Stavanger, Norway, by the Danish office PLOT, is an ingenious solution that unites two monolithic parallelipeds with steps that wrap around the base of the buildings and then continue as a louvered facade to the roof. The risers are translucent, allowing slats of daylight into the structure and at night creating a magical light box effect, like a Noguchi lantern. One can still recognize a humanist bias in the approach, especially when compared to other projects such as the Dutch office NOX's recently completed installation Son-O-House, which looks like guts spilled on a sidewalk. The trend in zoomorphic transformations and picturesque planning is evident even among the most technologically astute offices. Norman Foster's The Sage Gateshead music hall rests like a giant sea slug on the banks of the River Tyne and Renzo Piano's Parco della Musica in Rome resembles three beetles. Despite being the largest international exhibition for architecture, the Biennale this year cannot be said to represent the world's architecture. And while there is no hierarchy or singling out of any particular nation, the curatorial concentration on the quirks of a particular aspect of high style is unavoidably discriminatory. The Biennale has always compensated for its elitism in the dozens of national pavilions, where each country assigns a curator to assemble a show. The pavilion prize went to Belgium, which presented an artist's and anthropologist's vision of Kinshasha, a mod- est consideration of Congolese vernacular adaptations in a situation far removed from the patronage necessary for the projects of Metamorph. A work of postcolonial guilt, it stood out from the rest of the Biennale as a reminder of architecture's misplaced priorities.
The Japanese pavilion was exceptional in its conceptualism, bringing together a myriad of images from pop culture surrounding the figure of the eternally adolescent and aimless computer nerd, christened Otaku. The chaotic but repetitious assembly of plastic toys and bright colored posters creates a convincing idea of how the trivial products, games, and junk of consumerism have become elements of contemporary urbanism. The other pavilion that caught my attention was Germany's, a fascinating photomontage mural that undulated from room to room, seamlessly blending 37 contemporary works of architecture into the landscape of sprawl. Has sprawl finally become beautiful? Finally, the U.S. pavilion, which relies on private sponsors, showed the work of six offices, three of which are very morphy and three that are not. The Biennale's juried prizes went to SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa) for two works, the Contemporary Art Museum in Kanazawa, Japan, and the Valencia Institute of Modern Art in Valencia. Other awards were given to Foreign Office Architects (Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi) for its terraced, undulating hanging garden scheme for a car park at the Novartis campus in Basel, and Marttnez-Lapeea and Torres for its design of an exhibition platform and photovoltaic tower at the new convention center area of Forum 2004, which covers Barcelona's water treatment plant. The new expressionism of Metamorph opens a perennial problem, not just of technique and social program but of aesthetics. Hybrid works such as many of those presented in the Biennale are misfitsslinguistically closed, impractical to construct, and difficult to adapt to. Their meaning is circumscribed by their uniqueness of form, which greatly limits their chances to be understood. They are doomed to extinction as they are unable to cooperate with reality. Will we someday find ourselves rallying to save the architectural whales? Richard Ingersoll is a critic based in Italy. His latest book is Sprawltown (Meltemi, 2004).