Bjane RiestoJust weeks before the shattering act of domestic terrorism in Oslo and on the island of Utoya, Norwegians commemorated an earlier tragedy with the opening of a compelling memorial by Peter Zumthor and the late New York artist Louise Bourgeois. Steilneset, as the memorial is called, acknowledges and interprets the death of 91 people, mostly women, during a spate of witchcraft persecutions throughout the 17th century. Most of the victims were burned at the stake or drowned offshore of the site, located just outside the town of Vardo in the Arctic Circle. Visitors reach the memorial by rounding a slight hill, over which sits a tiny village church and its postcard-worthy graveyard. Beyond, the memorial hugs the shoreline, appearing tiny and fragile along the horizon. It is comprised of two structures: a long, thin timber frame holding a suspended fabric enclosure, and a black glass pavilion, housing Bourgeois’ installation. Visitors enter the memorial via two long ramps, which emphasize the slope down to the shoreline and the surprising height of the 26-foot-tall memorial. The tensile structure, made from a stiffened fiberglass textile, looks like sailcloth pulled taught by cables. The detailing, which includes hand-sewn seams, is beautiful, especially at the ends where the cables pull the fabric into tapering conical forms, reminiscent of the body of an eel.During a tour of the project, Zumthor said his use of fabric was meant to recall “women’s work,” which he said was appropriate given that a disproportionate number of the victims were women. The structure’s simple frame, 4 by 4 posts with a simple corrugated roof, recalls the outdoor fish-drying racks that are common in the region. In addition to a door at either end, 91 windows puncture the structure, one for each victim, each illuminated by a single, naked Edison bulb (leaving a light on in the window is another local tradition, a meaningful gesture in a region where daylight is scarce for much of the year). The use of fabric may also be a nod to Bourgeois, who worked with textiles for decades. But the strangeness of the form, the taught surfaces, and the puckered openings, also recall the work of another female artist, Lee Bontecou, whose work often includes structured voids that evoke terror and the infinite. Inside the enclosure, the interior is dark and narrow, every surface painted black. Visitors walk down a narrow catwalk, as the fabric walls shake in the wind. The bulbs, suspended from black cords, which are elegantly draped along the ceiling, also sway, giving the space an eerie, disconcerting feel. Unusual for the period, complete court records exist for the trials—so much is known about the lives and deaths of the victims, making the interpretive aspect greater than at many memorials. Given the passage of time since the trials, this greater contextualization is helpful, underscoring the individuality of the long dead victims. Simple text panels, made of the same material as the structure, hang next to each window and bulb and feature excerpts of the court records (the texts are in Norwegian only, but tiny guidebooks in English are available at the entrances). The abstract architectural language and the inclusion of individual names draws from the now standard vocabulary of Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial, but Zumthor inverts such conventions in significant ways. While most memorials cling to their sites in, frankly, a grave-like way, and seek to project permanence and the eternal, Zumthor’s tensile structure—moving with the wind, without climate control—emphasizes temporality, the fragility of individual lives. This experience is dramatized by Bourgeois’ installation housed in the adjacent glass pavilion. Following the procession through the court records, visitors enter the pavilion and encounter a concrete ring, surrounded by seven giant mirrors hung from metal armatures. Inside the ring, sits a simple metal chair—reminiscent of a schoolhouse chair—with flames jetting out of the seat. Like the tensile structure, the glass pavilion is also permeable to the elements. Wind passes through gaps in the giant charcoal gray glass panels causing the fire to whip around and snap in the constant breeze. The pavilion has no lighting, so at night the flames become more visible through the dark glass. Indeed, the building itself seems to change from opaque to translucent throughout the day, depending on light conditions. On its own, the Bourgeois piece might feel heavy-handed, even kitschy, but in combination it’s a powerful gesture. Following Zumthor’s meditation on the fragility of human life and the horrors that individual victims faced, Bourgeois’ visceral piece helps to make more immediate how acts of brutality recur throughout history. While the recent violence the country faced was perpetrated by an individual against the collective, Zumthor and Bourgeois remind us that we should never be comfortable relegating collective violence against individuals to the history books.
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Frankfurt’s Zeil gets another facelift with an ever-changing media installationThe Zeil is Frankfurt’s main shopping district, a pedestrian-only street bordered by two large plazas. In 2009, Massimiliano Fuksas’ vortex-clad Mab Zeil mixed-use center brought a new face to the street. Not to be outdone by its neighbor, the Zeilgalerie shopping mall began its own facelift the same year. Designed by Wiesbaden, Germany-based interdisciplinary collective 3deluxe, its LED-illuminated black facade brings a new sense of unity to the street and was recently given the Red Dot 2011 design award in the category of Information Design/Public Space. Originally designed by German architects Kramm & Strigl and completed in 1992, Zeilgalerie was an architectural mix consisting of a glazed semi-cylindrical structure and central entrance tower, to the right of which was a perforated aluminum facade. To make the building read as one structure without losing its original forms, designers at 3deluxe envisioned three all-black facade systems composed of glass and aluminum. The sleek building envelope would be the new canvas for a light installation showing off the latest capabilities in LED technology and multimedia design. The media installation spans the rightmost structure’s entire 2,800-square-foot façade. Double-glazed black glass panels are mounted flush with matte black cladding, behind which a rhomboid grid of 310 LED strips applied to the exterior glass pane creates the computer-controlled lighting display. Each of 19,700 diodes can be controlled separately, allowing the facade to project sharp geometric patterns as well as abstract shapes and the illusion of light and shadow drifting across the building. The facade performs at night (with music). Diagonal lines of light are superimposed by an orthogonal pattern printed onto the transparent film between glass panes. Corresponding to the pattern that is laser-cut into the metal cladding, which itself includes 2,500 LED modules, a dot screen ties the entire display together. The dot screen is repeated in the cylindrical structure to the left, which is clad in horizontal strips of matte-black aluminum outlined on the lower edge with more LEDs. Viewed as a whole, the facades take on a uniformly dark appearance in daylight, but slowly become three pronounced structures at night, each playing off the others’ patterns. Media design firm Meso Digital Interiors created the program to run the lighting display. “The complex layout of the LED fixtures called for a bespoke mapping system, which prepares all of the graphics for the Leurocom-built installation with sub-pixel precision,” describes the team in its design brief. Using graphical programming toolkit VVVV, Meso programmed scenes that would play “hide and seek” in the building’s contours, ensuring that no two performances are ever the same with software that calculates new frames for infinity.
"Drafted: the evolving role of architects in furniture design." It was a MAD idea: To talk about why American manufacturers don’t do the job they once did in supporting American architects and designers at making furniture. Held March 10 at the Museum of Arts & Design’s own restored and midcentury soigné auditorium, the assembled panel really knew what they were talking about: Michael Graves recalled his early days working for George Nelson in riveting detail and why Target has dropped independent designers; Jeffrey Bernett, one of the few American designers routinely designing for B&B, summed up Italy versus Herman Miller; Gisue Hariri of Hariri & Hariri eloquently addressed why architects feel compelled to make furniture, and what happened when her architecture firm tried to go there on a larger scale; and Granger Moorhead of Moorhead & Moorhead gave great reason for everyone to hope there is another golden age, especially for New York furniture designers, just ahead. https://vimeo.com/21070456
"Sometimes the best way to restore a historic structure is to reuse it." The comment came from Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney at the conclusion of Tuesday's landmarks hearing on revisions proposed by Vornado Realty for interiors of the recently landmarked Manufacturers Trust Building on Fifth Avenue. The statement summed up the mood of the commission with regard to changes in the space, originally designed by Gordon Bunschaft, which include dividing the first floor to make space for two retail tenants. Most of the commission picked apart the specifics while maintaining that the architects from SOM overseeing the renovation were generally on the right track. The crisp, well-paced presentation from SOM's Frank Mahan delved into several controversial changes, including destroying all of the black granite wall and interiors that sit behind the Henry Dreyfuss-designed safe door, shifting the escalators from north-south to east-west orientation, and losing the 43rd Street entrance, which would be replaced with two entrances on Fifth. The removal of the granite wall allows for the construction of a partition wall that will separate the space into two retail units. The partition wall will run east to west the length of the 9000-square foot space, dividing it into a 4000-square foot southern section, where the safe and granite wall once stood, and a 5000-square foot space in the northeast corner of the building. Only eleven feet tall, the partition wall is topped by seven-foot high glass panels that stretch to the ceiling. The famous paneled ceiling and its fluorescent glow spans most of the ground floor space and now will continue on through the area once occupied by the safe. In addition to moving the escalators, the retailer proposes to crisscross them. Instead of a twin sculptural mass (the double escalators were once clad in perforated bronze) two new glass-clad escalators split the traffic to go in different directions. From 43rd Street the profile will form a large "X" shape. No one on the commission responded favorably to the configuration and, needless to say, the preservationists didn't go for it either. One aspect that Meredith Kane, representing Vornado, said would not be negotiable was the positioning of the doors, stating that the new retail use necessitated a Fifth Avenue entrance. "The entrance on the side was sort of a discrete hiding of wealth, which is not appropriate for retail," she said, implying that without shifting the entrances, finding tenants would be difficult and put the project in jeopardy. "Without entrances on Fifth Avenue we won't be able to do any of the other [restoration] work," said Kane. The Canadian fashion retailer Joe Fresh will take the larger retail space at street level plus the entire 9000 square feet above. The smaller space does not have a tenant yet. The SOM proposal also includes a new screen inspired by the Bertoia screen that was removed by the building's former owner, Chase, when they vacated the building. A new screen made of anodized aluminum references its predecessor but cleans up its organic qualities with sharper lines and flat panels. Still, the proposed efforts to restore and revamp the space did not satisfy everyone. "Adaptive reuse is not a one way street. In some cases the user needs to adapt to the character of the landmark," said Christabel Gough, secretary for the Society for the Architecture of the City. "Moving the escalators and demolishing the vault would be equivalent, because of the [building's] transparency, to demolishing the Fifth Avenue facade of a traditionally composed building."
With over 270,000 square feet and costs projected at $50 million, the Botswana Information Hub is ambitious on many levels, both literally and figuratively. The winner of an international competition, the SHoP-designed research campus brings green technology to the Gaborone, Botswana. The sinuous structure merges into the landscape, with various levels seeming to kinetically lift from the earth. An "energy blanket" roofscape blends solar and water re-use systems into the sweeping composition. Gregg Pasquarelli tells AN all about it. AN Mixed Media> SHoP in Botswana from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.
While most of the World Trade Center site whirls in mid-construction, the National September 11 Memorial is a mere 208 days from completion. That thought brings both relief and consternation to local residents who have seen their neighborhood become a national flash point for mourning, controversy, and debate. It is also about to become one of the most heavily trafficked tourist destinations in the country. Accommodating the tourists and their means of transportation is key to the success of the master plan, but traffic components of the plan are still two to three years away from realization. Currently the area sees 1.3 million visitors annually, when the memorial is completed in September, approximately four to five million will descend on a site about the size of one city block. Last night, Luis Sanchez, Lower Manhattan commissioner from the Department of Transportation appeared before the World Trade Redevelopment Committee of Manhattan Community Board 1 to update the committee on plans for the huge tourist influx. He was joined by Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the memorial and museum. Daniels said that the memorial will operate for ten hours each day, with access controlled, as it is at the Statue of Liberty and Washington Memorial, through a time reservation system (TRS) for ticketing. Visitors will not be able to simply show up; they will have to reserve a time slot in advance, primarily by going online. Though first responders and members of the community will be given preferential ticketing, they too must go through TRS until the entire construction site is completed. While this may control the pedestrian traffic to and from the memorial, it is also intended to mitigate bus traffic and “flatten peaks.” Tour buses would have curbside access within walking distance from the site and a layover time of two to three hours. Sanchez said that DOT is also pushing remote transfer plans, such as water taxis from Liberty Island and parts of New Jersey. He noted that visitors would stay longer and spend tourist dollars in neighborhood businesses if they didn’t have to rush back to a bus in three hours time. Sanchez said that the DOT will actively reach out to the tourist industry to let them know that remote transfer tour groups will get priority ticketing and non-compliant companies would have passes withheld. "John Doe bus company isn't going to be able to just show up," he said. Several board members argued the DOT’s presentation lacked enough details on enforcement for bus traffic that is already heavy enough to makes the area one of the most congested in the city. “How many buses are there going to be and where are they going to park?” asked one board member. “We already made one suggestion—for example, New Jersey.”
Bjarke Ingels' star-studded ascendancy to New York architecture fame was checked last night as Community Board 4's land-use committee had its first look at Durst Fettner Residential's planned W57 tower in Hell's Kitchen. Already sobered by a two-hour discussion of planned zoning changes only blocks from BIG's courtyard-skyscraper hybrid, the board quietly sat through Ingels' signature multimedia show detailing the strenuous process that guided the sloping tower's design. A light crowd filled the room, with the Durst contingency of architects and developers huddled in the back corner awaiting their turn in the spotlight. After a quick shuffle to reorient the room to the wall-projected presentation--a move requiring Councilwoman Gale Brewer to reluctantly switch seats--Douglas Durst introduced his starchitect: "We've been getting a lot of media attention lately thanks to our swashbuckling architect." And how! But Durst was clearly impressed with his new building, "After many false starts, I think we've finally found a winner." After a brief review of BIG's built work, a barrage of immaculately detailed renderings, and a slick fly-by video of a traffic-free West Side Highway, the board got down to work dissecting the project in detail, immediately jumping onto the buildings signature form. "Is this thing visible from outer space?" one board member jabbed. "When is it approved for take-off?" chimed another. Such a reaction is what Durst anticipated from the introductory meeting. The night's presentation served as a preemptive discussion to take off the building's edge and move the conversation on to the nuts and bolts of development. The Durst and Ingels team responded to clarify questions about W57, suggesting a 130,000 square foot cultural space could be filled by the International Center for Photography, including a small photography school and showroom. The team said they were looking for a "real" grocery as a 30,000 square foot anchor tenant along the river. The remaining retail space would contain small stores to maximize sidewalk life. "West 57 defines the urban perimeter," Ingels told AN in a telephone interview this week. With its adjacency to the Hudson River greenway, "It's an interesting hybrid between public and private spaces." The central courtyard is elevated two floors, allowing treetops in the courtyard to be seen from the park while providing views of the waterfront. Ingels explained that W57's manipulation of the floor area ratio (FAR) allowed him to insert the courtyard. "We flooded the entire FAR at the base and chose to distribute it differently as the tower rises, shifting the center of gravity to the east." Still, the community board pressed their tripartite concerns of contextual sensitivity, affordable housing, and green space. Board members were unsure that W57 was about Hell's Kitchen. "What can you offer the community besides iconic architecture that could be plopped down in Milwaukee or Sante Fe?" one board member asked. Others disliked a proposed driveway between W57 and Durst's already-built Helena tower next door, worrying it would set the building off from the city like an island. Some took issue with the building's 450-foot pinnacle-height, saying it would overwhelm 58th Street, but Ingels insisted that the steep slope of the building would mitigate the height's impact. Always a sticking point with new residential projects, community members requested that 20 percent of affordable housing proposed by Durst for the 650 to 700 unit tower to remain affordable in perpetuity, a condition the developer has not agreed to. Brewer said the community would fight for increased green space, since the central courtyard is planned for residents only. "The building looks lovely," she said. "But what green can the public get into?" When Ingels and Durst struggled to answer, she replied, "As time goes on, that might be an issue...We're a pain-in-the-neck neighborhood." For the board, adjacency to the Hudson River greenway is not enough. No decisions were made at the introductory meeting and W57 must still undergo a series of approvals including gaining proper zoning to allow a residential tower on the site in the first place.
[ As the World Trade Center continues its ascent, AN stops by the massive construction site for a weekly update. ] From behind a blue tarp shielding the remains of the Deutsche Bank building, the sound of groaning metal being bent into submission has stopped. Debris sits separated in two neat piles, one for crushed cement and the other for metal. A polished Peterbilt mack truck with an empty container made its way through gate to take away yet another load. There were no formalities, but by this time next week the last of the World Trade Center ruins will be gone.
Gene Kaufman is putting the finishing touches on designs for the new Hyatt Hotel intended for the southwest corner of 13th Street and Fourth Avenue. Though its interior will be gutted, a century old limestone face will remain to sheath a two-story atrium/lobby. Just behind the facade the building sets back to form a large terrace holding a hydroponic bamboo garden, then continues to climb another eleven stories. Kaufman said the historical context of the old façade is not of particular importance, but Andrew Berman, executive director of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, disagreed. “We are glad that they re-used the facade of the two-story building,” he said. “But the 11-story addition seems woefully out of place.” “Nostalgia is something that’s transient. It’s in people's nature to resist change,” said Kaufman. Though his daughter once took dance classes in the old building, he insists that he didn’t keep the facade for sentimental reasons. He said there were practical as well as aesthetic attributes to consider. The old structure forms a retaining wall that allowed the construction to continue unimpeded by regulations for buildings next to a subway line (in this case, the number six running along Fourth Avenue). Also, the street level structure allowed for Kaufman to conjure a 27-foot high lobby interior, which he foresees serving an amalgam of hotel, bar, and restaurant functions. The tower doesn’t veer stylistically far from its base, a lá Norman Foster atop Joseph Urban. Nor does it rest within a historic district, so it did not have to undergo landmark scrutiny. The aluminum panel clad tower pierced with square widows is capped by a two-story glass curtain wall. An open circular ring supported by six thin posts finishes the corner suggesting an iconic flourish. The architect is also at work on a boutique hotel on the Bowery and another on 13th Street at 6th Avenue. He said that there is no set house style for the firm, instead they respond to the neighborhood. Kaufman remains nonplussed by historic naysayers. “For us the primary relationship is to the avenue.”
[ As the World Trade Center continues its ascent, AN stops by the massive construction site for a weekly update. ] Lunchtime at the World Trade Center site is a colorful sight even on an overcast and foggy day. Hundreds of construction workers in bright yellow and orange safety vests pour into neighborhood delis and pizza joints, but most crowd into the tiny local gourmet food store, the Amish Market. There, burly gents in hard hats hum to the Nat King Cole soundtrack while choosing prosciutto over pastrami. Make no mistake, these guys know food. Back at the site, just two bays of the Deutsche Bank remain to tear down, a row of windows appeared on the northwest corner of One World Trade, and the steel mullions for a glass curtain wall began to wrap their way around Snøhetta's Museum Pavilion.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has put the Gordon Bunshaft-designed Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company Building onto its Public Meeting/Public Hearing agenda for tomorrow morning at 9:30AM. Up for discussion will be the building’s first and second floor interiors, including the entrance lobby, escalators, teller counters, and floor and ceiling surfaces. The iconic vault designed by Henry Dreyfuss, which is visible from Fifth Avenue, and Harry Bertoia’s multifaceted metallic screen both made it on to the agenda. But according to Theodore Grunewald of the Coalition to Save MHT, the Bertoia has already been removed by Chase Bank, the sculpture's owner. "Chase still has the sculpture, but they have not said where it is,” said Grunewald. AN’s Jennifer K. Gorsche joined a chorus of alarmed bloggers back in October and turned up renderings of a proposal for a teen clothing store, Forever 21. “It’s more than world class building, it’s a world monument,” said Grunewald. “People come from all over the world to see this building.” The building also happens to be the subject of several Ezra Stoller photos, two of which shown here, are now on view at the Yossi Millo Gallery through February 12. The gallery is closed on Mondays, but if you need a Stoller-fix stat, there will be lecture tonight on Stoller at the Center for Architecture called Mid-Century Modernism: as seen through the master's lens. Architectural historian Kenneth Frampton will be joined by John Morris Dixon, Brook Mason, and Erica Stoller.
[ As the World Trade Center continues its ascent, AN stops by the massive construction site for a weekly update, nevermind the weather! ] This week, through a haze of snow, we got a glimpse of the last bits of the former Deutsche Bank building. Shrouded behind a fence covered in blue nylon, the once 41-story tower is the last remaining physical remnant of 9/11 to be cleared away piece by piece. With visibility low, the sounds of the site take over. From this vantage, the groaning sound of metal being bent and twisted distinguishes itself from sounds of construction, the swirl of cement inside mixers, the hum of truck engines, and the rhythmic clang of metal banging on metal.