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Big Dreams, Small Buildings

National Building Museum receives gift of tiny souvenirs
From precious lockets concealing portraits of distant lovers to souvenir Statue of Liberty pencil sharpeners, miniatures have long been associated with memory. More potent than postcards or photographs, there’s a weight—real and figurative—to novelty architectural objects that you can hold in the palm of your hand and proudly display on your bookshelf or mantle—perhaps as a welcome reminder, after a long day of corporate drudgery, that you were once someplace genuinely spectacular. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., recently announced the donation of more than 3,000 of these tiny totems from the collection of architect David Weingarten. The 20th Century Souvenir Buildings Collection represents more than 40 years of travel across 60 countries. What prompted Weingarten’s passion for collection? His first object, a miniature version of the Speyer Cathedral, was purchased in 1976 during a trip to Germany with his uncle, the architect Charles Moore who was known for his appreciation of place and memory. Moore purchased a larger representation of the cathedral, and both objects are now part of the Building Musem’s permanent collection. In addition to historic cathedrals, the collection includes anonymous American banks—perhaps given away with a free checking account—and iconic landmarks like the Tower of Pisa. Many of these souvenirs are solid casts made from metal, wax, or rubber; others conceal unexpected functions, like the Tower of Pisa lipstick case, which houses a striking red shade that promises to make your lips look leaner as you wistfully recall that magical summer in Tuscany. “Among the surprising truths of souvenir buildings is that they almost never cause us to recall just buildings,” said Weingarten in a statement. “Rather, we think of the place and its setting, ourselves and those with whom we visited, of the day or night, the time of year, moments momentous and everyday—that universe of reflection we associate with memorable places. Inevitably and ironically, for each of us, the identical souvenir building arouses extravagantly varied reminiscences.” Items from the collection are already on display at the National Building Museum, inviting visitors to recall their own “moments momentous and everyday,” and perhaps this collection will inspire others to go someplace genuinely spectacular.
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Playground for Mammoths

SelgasCano’s 2015 Serpentine Pavilion will land in L.A. this summer
The ethereal, colored fabric tunnels of 2015’s Serpentine Pavilion will arrive at Los Angeles’s La Brea Tar Pits this summer. From June 28 to November 24, the public can wander through the repurposed pavilion courtesy of a collaboration between the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) and London company Second Home. The installation, designed by the Spanish studio SelgasCano, will be transformed into a multi-purpose space that will host events at the intersection of art and science. Public talks and film screenings, including a series from streaming service MUBI, as well as other free events curated by Second Home and NHMLAC will be held regularly at the pavilion. Bringing the double-skinned, 866-square-foot playscape to the park adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits will precede the opening of the Second Home Hollywood office space later this year. This will be the first time that a Serpentine Pavilion will be displayed in the United States, and the installation won’t leave L.A. The pavilion will be open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily and will be free to enter. Second Home Hollywood, also designed by SelgasCano, will introduce a sprawling 90,000-square-foot urban campus to L.A. once complete, and the company expects to host up to 250 organizations in the new workspaces. A restaurant, book store, auditorium, and other event spaces across the development will be open to the public. Once Serpentine pavilions finish their tenure at the Serpentine Gallery in London, they tend to be sold off and often travel the world. BIG’s 2016 installation, Unzipped, toured Canada courtesy of developer Westbank last year, and more recently, Frida Escobedo’s 2018 pavilion was sold to a green spa company.
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A Basket Case

Ohio’s iconic big basket building is back on the market
A year after Newark, Ohio’s famed Longaberger basket building was sold, the seven-story “Big Basket” is back on the market. The 185,000-square-foot office building was designed by NBBJ and Korda/Nemeth Engineering as the headquarters of the Longaberger Co., which produces pottery and baskets (or used to—Longaberger went out of business last year). The “Big Basket,” complete with enormous heated “handles” that arc over the building, was built in 1997 and resembles the company’s Longaberger Medium Market Basket. Preservationists breathed a sigh of relief last January when the vacant basket and its 21-acre campus were purchased by Ohio developer Steve Coon for $1.2 million. Coon had pledged to restore the building, working with Cleveland’s Sandvick Architects to keep the unique basket shape intact. At the time of the sale last year, it looked like a triumphant story of revitalization for a failing landmark; community members had been paying the Big Basket’s utility bills, and the development team was going to nominate the building to the National Register of Historic Places. Now, interested parties can once again buy or lease the giant facsimile for an undisclosed price. After a year of renovations, Coon has listed the building through the real estate brokerage NAI Ohio River Corridor. The NAI listing floats several potential uses for interested buyers, such as converting the basket into a hotel, conference center, condo building, or coworking space. The building’s restoration was completed quickly, in part thanks to the relatively good condition that Coon purchased it in. From the photos, it appears that the cherry wood used for the basket’s interior and the seven-story, 30,000-square-foot internal atrium may have been kept intact, along with the building’s “woven” facade. “It’s an iconic building,” Dan Blend, vice president of operations at Coon Restoration, told The Columbus Dispatch. “There’s not another one like it in the world.” More images are available on the NAI online listing.
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Still No Floorplans

New batch of renderings for Zumthor’s LACMA proposal unveiled
Just a few weeks after receiving formal approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Atelier Peter Zumthor has unveiled a new batch of renderings for its contentious plan to remake the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA) campus. Urbanize.LA first reported the latest renderings Tuesday afternoon. The new images depict the oil stain–inspired complex in a similar level of detail as previous images released for the project, and provide little new information in terms of the potential interior layout of the elevated galleries, the ways in which the complex will meet the ground, or the spatial and urban qualities of the underpass areas to be created when the complex spans Wilshire Boulevard. The images depict a more polished view of what has already been unveiled, however, including new views of the gallery spaces. According to the renderings, the new continuous galleries that will house the museum’s permanent collections will sit on an elevated platform lifted off the ground by a series of thick piers, with each pier containing circulation spaces and other forms of programming, including an auditorium on the southernmost parcel of the site. The renderings show sleek floor-to-ceiling glass walls wrapping the outermost layers of the proposed building. The galleries are shown sandwiched between thick, monolithic concrete floor and roof plates, with the building’s large, flat roof shown projecting beyond the walls to create a shading overhang. The renderings also depict Tony Smith’s Smoke sculpture, currently located on the ground level of the existing William L. Pereira–designed complex that will be demolished to make way for the new design, tucked underneath the new elevated galleries. The views of the galleries show discrete concrete-walled rooms filled with an eclectic mix of permanent collection items in spaces framed by black terrazzo floors and concrete ceilings studded with golden spotlights. The renderings come as LACMA prepares to put detailed models and plans for the project on public display for the first time in coming weeks.
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Spring Awakening

A twisting treehouse by modus studio blooms above the forest floor
Following a soft opening last June, Modus Studio’s hovering Tree House has been captured amid its fully-installed landscape in the firm’s native Arkansas. Tree House sits above the Garvan Woodland Gardens, a 210-acre botanical garden owned by the University of Arkansas—frequent Modus collaborators. Rather than sitting at the base of the oak and pine trees found in the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, Tree House has been elevated to the top of the forest, allowing for expansive views of the canopy. The L-shaped treehouse snakes through the trees, ballooning from a child-sized opening at one end to a two-story observation area, capped with a steel screen, fabricated in-house by Modus, that mimics leaflike capillaries. Other than its biomorphic shape, the treehouse is strongly defined by its central steel spine and 113 timber ribs, which were sourced from local Southern Yellow Pine. The fins simultaneously allow the elements to pass through the treehouse while potentially obscuring the forest and adding a sense of mystery for the occupants. The first of three planned treehouses, the structure was envisioned as a refuge for children to explore the outdoors while learning about nature. Everything from the infrastructure, to the programming, to the intricate finishes, reference dendrology, the study of trees. Visitors can access the treehouse either from an elevated trail or directly from a staircase at the forest’s floor. The Fayetteville-based modus, an Emerging Voices 2018 winner, cited its deep ties to Arkansas’s rural landscape in designing Tree House and were directly involved in every step of the project's process.
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Gates of Stone

Artist Theaster Gates helps renovate Edward Durell Stone building
After five years of planning and construction, Chicago-based architecture and planning firm Farr Associates and artist Theaster Gates have dramatically transformed a 60-year-old dormitory at the University of Chicago into a state-of-the-art research center and student hub, known as the Keller Center. Originally designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1962, the once dark and closed-off concrete structure served as the University of Chicago’s New Graduate Residence Hall. While some of Stone’s initial design was preserved—including the building’s slender columns, projecting canopy, and mid-century modern aesthetic—the addition of a glass roof and brilliant limestone facade illuminates the fully renovated interior, which is now home to the university’s Harris School of Public Policy. The design team foregrounded sustainability—the Keller Center will be the first LEED Platinum building on the University of Chicago campus and one of the first university buildings to pursue the strict Petal Certification of the Living Building Challenge—but also thought about ways to tie the new design to the building’s past, context, and community. Farr Associates salvaged as much as possible for the renovation, preserving old doors, hooks, mailboxes, mirrors, light fixtures, and shelves for the new design. Theaster Gates came up with the idea to use lumber from damaged ash wood trees that were removed from Chicago’s city parks for a main building material for the interior of the center. Gates then hired local workers to process the trees at a mill just south of the project site, where he was able to provide job training to people on Chicago’s South Side. The center also features a rainwater harvesting system, which captures water from the roof and transports it to the building’s toilets, along with rain gardens that accommodate the region’s native species. There were many design challenges associated with carving a new interior from the existing concrete skeleton of the building. For example, the structure lacked insulation, and it was riddled with columns and steel supports that could not be removed. The architects were forced to work around those structural hindrances, while trying to keep the space open and inviting. The result was a visually inspiring interior complete with shimmering, glass-walled classrooms, lounges, offices, meeting rooms, and a four-story atrium called the Harris Forum, which serves as a central collaboration space. The sun-streaked atrium, which was carefully shaped out of the existing structure, represents the heart of the Harris School, and it is home to a variety of discussions, world-class speakers, and events.
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Eternal Gradient

Chicago’s Graham Foundation spotlights Arakawa and Madeline Gins

Over 40 drawings and decades of archival materials from the late artist-architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins have arrived in Chicago, documenting an early period in their practice that would later go on to influence their architectural projects—buildings designed to reverse aging. Geometric line art, cages, architectural models, and section drawings all break down the evolution of “Reversible Destiny,” the concept that the built environment is able to influence human physiology. Architecture was the starting point and inspiration for a body of work that included traditional art as well as sculpture and poetry. The duo would later go on to form the Reversible Destiny Foundation, which partnered with the Estate of Madeline Gins to make the show possible. Eternal Gradient originally ran at Columbia University’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in 2018 before moving to its current home at the Graham Foundation. Chicago and New Orleans–based practice Norman Kelley was responsible for the exhibition design.

Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient Graham Foundation Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place Chicago Through May 4
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The Notre Dame Greenhouse

Foster + Partners pitches new Notre Dame spire as competition heats up
Norman Foster has jumped into the international competition to design a replacement spire for Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral, proposing a glass-and-steel topper to replace the cathedral’s ruined roof. According to an interview in English publication The Times, Foster presented his vision for a new “light and airy” roof for the fire-ravaged cathedral. The previous attic space dated back to the 12th century and was nicknamed “The Forest,” as it contained a tangle of 1,300 timber frames, each coming from a unique oak tree—the sheer amount of wood likely fed the fire that ravaged it last week. Foster’s updated vision for the cathedral calls for installing a glass topper, arched to mimic the original wooden roof, ribbed with lightweight steel supports. The new spire would be made of glass and steel and could potentially include an observation deck at its base. “In every case, the replacement used the most advanced building technology of the age,” Foster told The Guardian. “It never replicated the original. In Chartres, the 12th-century timbers were replaced in the 19th century by a new structure of cast iron and copper. The decision to hold a competition for the rebuilding of Notre Dame is to be applauded because it is an acknowledgment of that tradition of new interventions.” The modernization scheme drew an immediate reaction online, where social media users compared the revamped cathedral to a Foster-designed Apple store or the glass Reichstag dome in Berlin. Additionally, several people pointed out that the plan to flood the interior with light would be hamstrung by the stone vaulted ceiling below the attic space and would blow out any light coming in from the historic stained-glass windows. Of course, Foster isn’t the only architect to propose a radical overhaul of the 19th -century spire. Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, known for his neo-Gothic, laser-cut steel sculptures, announced last week that he would be entering the design competition as well. Since the international competition was announced, plenty of people have gotten creative in envisioning “adaptive reuse” projects that give the historic cathedral a bland, modernist overhaul without regard for its surroundings. Even though these have been done in jest, some of them have come quite close to what Foster has proposed. Foster + Partners has clarified that the illustration formerly accompanying this article was not produced by the office or Norman Foster.
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Leggo My Eggo

Architect Andrew MacNair sends a giant egg to Korea
The Egg Chapel is located on the side of a small mountain outside of Seoul up the Han River in the W-Zone Park—a “people’s health, love and happiness park”—built and run by the Hi family under the direction of Pastor Song. The chapel was commissioned to be one of the world’s smallest churches—an ecumenical pilgrimage destination to hold small prayer and song services, baptisms, weddings, and musical performances—inside the chapel as well as outside on the front porch. It was made with Jaesung Jung, Lawrence Marek, and Johanna Post. We built it in Bristol, Rhode Island, with old-school, wood, ocean yacht builders Dan Shay and William Harmon in a series of twelve long curvilinear, vertical shells like small Biblical boats. The shells where shipped from Bristol to Seoul via boat through the Panama Canal and were trucked up to the mountain where we erected it together in one month with four carpenters working by hand with no lifts nor cranes—a 10 meter (32 foot) wooden egg standing straight and tall. The egg is topped off with a wooden dome connecting all hulls into one. It contains a front door facing west and one oval oculus window up high facing east. There are two long, thin windows left and right—a vertical one faces south, a horizontal one faces north. When a person goes into the compressed space of the chapel, first one looks up high to the oculus, bending the neck. Then, entering the 14-foot circular floor, the body brings together the two thin windows so that the horizontal window light comes together with the vertical window light, completing a metaphysical cross of energy and light: the human body connects post and arm of the Christian cross. This first Egg Chapel is part of an ongoing life-work, a Merzbau called “Egg City.” This includes work into an alternative “Not Not Architecture.” The Egg Chapel stands as one example. Simply put, the building is made of just two lines: one circle-line in plan, one vertical egg-line in elevation. We did not design it. It is a generic found object made and given to and for us all.
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Architectural Atrocity Tourism

The Cursed Architecture Twitter feed showcases the best of the worst
What drives the internet’s (perhaps morbid) obsession with bad design? Strange angles, melting paint, oddly-placed and vaguely threatening toilets, signage that hinders rather than helps, stairs to nowhere, and misplaced windows have all caused digital rubbernecking. Whether it’s critiquing the bric-a-brac nature of suburban homes assembled by the nouveau-riche in McMansion Hell, or posting abject failures in the 1.5-million-member-strong r/CrappyDesign subreddit, the demand for “bad design” to critique seems bottomless. The worst offenders are frequently aggregated on Instagram, meme-y Facebook pages, Twitter, and listicles, repackaged and reshared failures of design for new audiences. Enter the Cursed Architecture Twitter account, which has been posting baffling, incomplete, and/or possibly haunted buildings since September of last year. When asked about where they compile their material from and why they think it has such an enduring appeal, the owner of Cursed Architecture had this to say: "I started collecting the images a couple of years ago because I thought they were funny, and later on made the account for my own entertainment. I never expected it to be so popular—or popular at all. I’m a little stunned by it, honestly. The images come from all over the Internet: house listings, DIY forums, and so on. Some are submitted to me. "We live in a very planned, sanitary, squared-off world. I think that’s why the failures are so funny, and why they resonate. So much current architecture is totally impersonal, but a bizarre mistake is the opposite. It invites the question of who did it, and why, and who thought three urinals crowded into a corner or a staircase to nowhere was a good idea. There’s something very human about that." Perhaps the collective fascination with such failures stems from the internet’s ability to give would-be critics a seat at the table, allowing anyone to weigh in. It’s also possible that when faced with overwhelmingly terrible design that fails at a basic level, everyone can put aside their quibbles and unite to make fun of it, together.
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Churches Under Fire

St. Patrick’s Cathedral also potentially threatened by fire this week
In the wake of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, cities around the world are surely taking note on how to best preserve and protect local architectural landmarks. In New York, two highly-trafficked churches, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, have already come under closer watch. Vice News reported that on Wednesday night, New York City Police counterterrorism officers arrested Marc Lamparello, an adjunct lecturer in philosophy at Lehman College, who walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral with four gallons of gas, several bottles of lighter fluid, and a handful of lighters. While officials are still unsure whether he planned to commit a crime, the 37-year-old suspect was “emotionally disturbed,” police said. Lamparello has been charged with attempted arson, reckless endangerment, and trespassing as of this afternoon, according to the NYPD News's Twitter.  The neo-Gothic church sits on Fifth Avenue across from Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan. Completed in 1878, it was designed by renowned architect James Renwick, Jr. Today, it’s one of the city’s most iconic places of worship and a National Historic Landmark that sees an influx of over 5 million visitors each year. The cathedral has been added on to and renovated extensively since first opening; MBB Architects most recently completed a $177 million restoration of the building in 2015. This isn’t the first time St. Patrick’s has been subject to some form of terrorism. In 1914 and 1915, respectively, a small bomb exploded on the northwest corner of the cathedral and a trio of Italian anarchists tried to detonate a bomb inside the church. While St. Patrick's Cathedral was only threatened with potential arson this week, a beloved parish uptown actually did get some real heat. The crypt at the historic Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the largest Gothic Revival structure in the world, caught fire on Sunday morning. New York Daily News reported that a small blaze broke out at 10 a.m. and was extinguished by the fire department in under an hour. Located in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood, the late-19th-century piece of architecture was most recently renovated in 2008 after a 2001 fire swept through the north transept of the church, damaging the gift shop and a bit of its famous Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ. In 2017, the building and its historic grounds were designated a New York City Landmark.
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Albright Albright Albright

Albright-Knox Art Gallery reveals new expansion renderings
OMA’s expansion of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, is continuing apace and has gained a new collaborator: Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and his art and architecture workshop, Studio Other Spaces (SOS). The $160 million AK360 expansion project—up from what was originally $80 million—was first announced back in 2016 when the art institution decided to add another 30,000 square feet to its campus. Any changes to the gallery would have to be done with care, as the gallery’s central Gordon Bunshaft–designed building from 1962 sits on a Frederick Law Olmsted landscape. Bunshaft’s wing was an addition to an even older Beaux-Arts museum built in 1905. After unanimous approval by the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the board that manages the gallery, a revised scheme by OMA was approved in 2018. On April 11 of this year, further details, including the groundbreaking date for the expansion and design refinements to the scheme, were unveiled. The AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project will add an entirely new OMA and Shohei Shigematsu–designed building to the north side of the Albright-Knox campus. The new building is intentionally ethereal and appears draped in a translucent sheet; a wraparound promenade will allow visitors to take in views of the historic landscape. Inside, the northern building will add visitor amenities and 30,000 square feet of gallery space for special exhibitions and the gallery’s permanent collection. The revision last week revamped the internal galleries according to an update from the Albright-Knox Gallery, but a full layout won’t become public until further in the design process. One major detail that has come to light is an addition by Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann of SOS. Covering an adjacent open-air sculpture garden, added in 1962 alongside the Bunshaft building, to create an all-weather gathering space had been part of the renovation plans since the beginning, but SOS has proposed turning the new roof into an art piece. Common sky, a fractalized canopy of glass and mirrors within a steel diagrid, would sprout from a central “trunk” and rise from the center of the courtyard to cover the new Indoor Town Square. The central column of Common sky would be hollow, allowing rain and snow to fall and drain away without directly exposing visitors to the elements. With construction expected to begin at the end of this year, the gallery has announced that operations at its main Elmwood Avenue campus will wind down as 2020 approaches. At the beginning of next year, the 15,000-square-foot Albright-Knox Northland, located at 612 Northland Avenue in Buffalo, will open and display special exhibitions and installations that don't require museum-quality conditions. Programming for the new space will be announced in the coming months. Furthering the gallery’s mission during construction will be the Albright-Knox Art Truck, which, beginning in spring 2020, will travel Western New York providing publicly-accessible classes, activities, and projects.