Search results for "philadelphia"
Pulse, a snaking public art piece linked to the Dilworth Park fountain in Philadelphia, will soon be showing commuters what’s going on underneath their feet. The fountain sits in front of Philadelphia City Hall in Center City, and sculptor Janet Echelman will soon be realizing a light-and-mist installation that will track underground SEPTA trains in real time, thanks to a $325,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation. The project was originally commissioned in 2009 by the Center City District Foundation (CCD), and major pieces of its foundations were embedded in the surrounding plaza when the park’s fountain was built in 2014. Pulse, described as “a living X-ray of the city's circulatory system” by the artist, would create four-foot-tall walls of colored mist that track the trains passing below, specifically, the green, orange, and blue lines. Separate tracks of light embedded in the concrete would project into an atomized mist to create the kinetic effect. Echelman worked closely with the park’s architects, OLIN, to integrate Pulse’s infrastructure into the plaza redesign.' The $325,000 grant that the CCD announced last Monday will cover the construction of Pulse’s green section, which would follow SEPTA’s underground green line trolley. The installation of that phase will come to life this July, though the CCD is still seeking funding for the remaining orange and blue line tracks. The project was conceived as a tribute to Philadelphia’s first water pumping station, and Echelman was brought on board to design the piece back in 2010. However, the CCD has been trying to drum up the $4 million required to complete and maintain Pulse ever since it was announced (though a $20,000 National Endowment of the Arts grant awarded last year helped to get the ball rolling).
The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum has announced the winners of the 2018 National Design Awards, recognizing ten individuals and firms who have used design to shape the world for the better. This year’s winners include: Lifetime Achievement: Writer, educator, and designer Gail Anderson has taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for the last 25 years, and is an active partner at the multidisciplinary Anderson Newton Design. Anderson has written or co-authored a total of 14 books on popular culture and design, and formerly served as the senior art director at Rolling Stone. Design Mind: Landscape architect, award-winning author, and Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning at MIT Anne Whiston Spirn. Spirn was recognized for her longtime advocacy for balancing urbanism with nature, as well as her continued direction of the West Philadelphia Landscape Project. Corporate & Institutional Achievement: Design studio Design for America, which empowers communities to solve local problems through design. Architecture Design: WEISS/MANFREDI was recognized for the way their projects consistently bridge the gap between architecture, art, and the surrounding landscape. The firm’s been on a roll lately, having picked up several cultural commissions and an invite to exhibit at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Communication Design: Digital identity and experience firm Civilization was recognized for its ability to create empathetic connections and commitment to working with companies who are advocating for the greater good. Fashion Design: The Los Angeles-based fashion designer Christina Kim was recognized for her use of traditional hand working techniques and sustainable business practices. Interaction Design: Architect and designer Neri Oxman was recognized for her experimental material usage and continual boundary-pushing forms. Oxman leads the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab, a group whose work frequently bridges the gap between art and technology; their most recent project, Vespers, is a contemporary reinterpretation of the death mask typology that uses living microorganisms. Interior Design: The Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture + Design was recognized for its sense-invoking interiors that are often inspired by local vernacular. The firm has realized projects all over the world from towers in Dubai to the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn, but like many of the other winners, Oppenheim balances their projects within the surrounding natural environment. Landscape Architecture: Boston-based landscape architecture firm Mikyoung Kim Design was honored for its vast body of public work, much of it focused on improving urban resiliency. The firm has tackled projects large and small around the world, from the Chicago Botanic Garden Learning Campus to the Songdo International Plaza in Incheon, South Korea. Product Design: Minneapolis-based Furniture designer and manufacturer Blu Dot was recognized for its playful and modern stylings (including some less-than-functional objects). The National Design Awards have been recognizing exemplary names in the design world since 2000. Nominees must have seven years of professional experience under their belt, while the lifetime achievement nominees must have at least 20 years of experience. Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt, will announce the winner of the Director’s Award at a later date, to be given to an outstanding patron of the design world. This year’s awards ceremony will be accompanied by National Design Week, which will run from October 13 through the 21st.
Who’s missing from this AIA Conference promo video? (Hint: It’s not men)
Usually I speed past ads on social media as quickly as possible without breaking my infinite scroll, but when I saw the video ad for the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 pop up, I was curious to see what the all-knowing algorithms had deemed worthy of my consumption. I expected a standard promotional video highlighting familiar New York City landmarks mixed in with information about conference dates, parties, keynotes–all that good stuff. Something to get me excited about what the AIA describes as the “architecture and design event of the year!” The video is only one minute long. It’s a lighthearted, fast-paced overview of exciting things to come. But it is also a visual, visceral reminder of the status quo of architecture in the United States. Here’s the video. For those of you who cannot view it, a summary of key scenes will follow, with a general description of those present in these scenes. I’ve assumed the genders of the people in the video. At 11 seconds: shot of the Expo floor, approximately 14 cisgender men. Cisgender (or simply "cis") denotes a person whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex. At 12 seconds: shot of the Expo floor, 1 cis man. At 14 seconds: shots of a panel consisting of 3 cis men and 1 cis woman. The woman’s gender expression, which refers to her appearance in this case, is masculine. At 21 seconds: scene of 5 cis women exercising in a park. At 45 seconds: 2 cis women sitting in front of the Whitney Museum. Did you catch it? A total of at least 18 cis men are shown attending the Conference, while only one cis woman makes a fleeting appearance on a panel (where she is outnumbered by three cis men). No women are shown on the Expo floor otherwise. When cis women do show up, there are only 7 of them, and they are represented as mere consumers of architectural designs by cis men. They’re leisurely exercising at Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island, designed by Louis Kahn, and enjoying the view out in front of the Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano. The numbers are telling: roughly 70 percent of people in the ad are cis men, while only 30 percent are cis women. 100 percent of the cis men are depicted as architects. 0 percent of the cis women are. Let’s face it: this advertisement mirrors architecture’s long-running and notorious gender diversity problem. According to Equity by Design, the organization formerly known as The Missing 32%, in the United States, cis women represent less than 50 percent of students graduating from accredited architecture programs, and the number of cis women who are AIA members, licensed architects, and senior leadership fluctuates between 15 to 18 percent of the total. The data gathered from their surveys in 2014 and 2016 confirm what we already know about the architecture profession: women and non-binary people (those who do not identify as male or female) are pushed out of the profession at certain points in their careers, and decision-making power is still largely in the hands of cis men. What does a one-minute video have to do with it? The AIA is aware of its gender diversity problem and, to the Institute’s credit, has been hammering away at it for several years. In 2011, the AIA Diversity Council was formed to confront issues such as the shortage of minority representation in leadership roles, unconscious bias, and sexual discrimination. In 2014, architectural organizations conducted an industry-wide study, Diversity in the Profession of Architecture, which highlighted the gross disparities in the field and the urgent need for a profession that more accurately reflects the demographics of our nation. The results led the AIA to issue a call to action by ratifying Resolution 15:1,“Equity in Architecture,” at the 2015 AIA National Convention. The resolution established the Equity in Architecture Commission. In 2017, the Commission released a report with five “keystone” areas of focus: leadership development; firm and workplace studio culture; excellence in architecture; education and career development; and, last but certainly not least, marketing, branding, public awareness, and outreach. This video, then, is part of the fifth “keystone” area of focus identified by the Equity in Architecture Commission. But the AIA seems to have lost its focus on working toward equity in this arena. Given all of the time, energy, and institutional power that has been invested in increasing gender equity in architecture, this ad betrays the AIA’s appalling lack of intention and commitment to doing the necessary work that the Equity in Architecture Commission recommends. This is disappointing for an organization that has extensive data on its own gender diversity problem and is keenly aware of its own representation to the public. The way architects are portrayed reveals a disturbing image of how the profession views itself. I understand that representation in an AIA Conference ad is not likely to affect gender diversity in architecture. Change doesn’t happen overnight, much less through algorithmically-placed adverts. But this ad does have a real effect on how women and non-binary people (like me!) feel about our inclusion within the architectural profession. Watching the video made me feel invisible, as though I’m not a real architect and I’m not invited to the conference. Barely seeing any women in represented in the ad was a shocking, surreal experience. During my second viewing, I was acutely aware of the implicit message: even if I do attend the conference, people like me don’t visit the Expo floor. I recalled attending the 2016 AIA Convention in Philadelphia and feeling wildly out of place. I could feel my hope for a better, more inclusive experience at A’18 drain away as the messaging sank in. The AIA, despite all of its efforts and good intentions, should do better. As a historically (and currently) cis male-dominated profession, the structure for supporting architects who are not cis men is severely lacking. Women and non-binary people face professional and academic settings that are hostile towards their career advancements. We receive messages in so many ways that we should not be architects. Just last year, a group of more than 50 architectural professionals wrote a letter to the Architect’s Newspaper imploring the AIA to reevaluate their keynote speakers (6 out of 7 were cis men; one was a cis woman and not an architect). We need a cultural change in architecture that also goes beyond representation.The architects who are honored by the AIA and other organizations merely reinforce dominant, patriarchal power structures. When will the five keystones for equity in architecture become a serious priority? When will architectural education become accessible enough to reflect the gender and racial diversity of the country? When will women and non-binary people finally feel represented and welcome at all stages of their architectural careers? I’m tired of having the same diversity and inclusion conversations. We have announced ourselves and have been speaking out. The future of the architectural profession lies in how well it welcomes the next generation. The next generation is here, but we don’t see ourselves reflected and seen. We need you to do better. See you on the Expo floor. A.L. Hu is an architectural designer, organizer, and activist living in New York City.
Everything Old Is New Again
Docomomo US announces 2018 Modernism in America Award winners
The preservation nonprofit Docomomo US has announced the winners of its 2018 Modernism in America Awards, recognizing 13 people or projects that have sensitively preserved, or advocated for the preservation of, modern icons throughout the country. “By recognizing the important design and preservation work being done around the country that often is overlooked,” said Docomomo US president, Theodore Prudon, “the Modernism in America Awards program is bringing further awareness to the substantial contribution that preservation in general - and the postwar heritage in particular - makes to the economic and cultural life of our communities. " The 2018 recipients of the annual Modernism in America Awards, now in its fifth year, will be honored on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at the Design Within Reach Third Avenue Studio in New York City. This year’s jury was composed of Docomomo US’s Board of Directors. The prizes were awarded in the following categories: Design Award of Excellence, one Special Award of Restoration Excellence, and the Citations of Merit. Design Award of Excellence winners: General Motors Design Dome and Auditorium Location: Warren, MI Original Architect: Harley Earl and Eero Saarinen Restoration Team: SmithGroupJJR (See Docomomo US for full list) Client: General Motors Award: Commercial Design Award of Excellence From the jury: “This is the perfect example of how to treat an icon.” Jury member Eric Keune adds, “The renovation demonstrates the great care that was given to the original design team’s vision, while simultaneously bringing the spirit forward with a gentle guiding hand and using contemporary technology. It is noteworthy and commendable that General Motors was willing to invest and upgrade the building for the same use even though the company has continued to transform themselves over time.” Lenox Health Greenwich Village Location: New York, NY Original Architect: Albert C. Ledner Restoration Team: Northwell Health, Perkins Eastman, CANY, Turner Construction, BR+A, Silman, Cerami & Associates, Russell Design, Sam Schwartz, VDA, Langan Engineering, Louis Sgroe Equipment Planning Client: Northwell Health Award: Commercial Design Award of Excellence From the jury: “This beautiful and unique building is an incredible piece of urban architecture whose restoration respectfully honors the building’s original concept while creatively adapting a dramatic structure to a new purpose. This project offers clients and cities alike valuable lessons about the transformative impacts of architecture and design; specifically, the often-surprising elasticity which waits patiently, and at times unexpectedly, in certain works of modern architecture.” Hill College House Renovation Location: Philadelphia, PA Original Architect: Eero Saarinen and Dan Kiley (landscapes) Restoration Team: Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC (Architecture), Floss Barber Inc. (Interior Design), Keystone Preservation Group (Materials Conservation), OLIN (Landscape Design) (See Docomomo US for full list) Client: University of Pennsylvania Award: Civic/Institutional Design Award of Excellence From the jury: “This project highlights the commitment to restore a beautiful but overlooked campus structure and honors the lasting values found in modern architecture. The work accomplished by the design team not only respects the original vision, but also addresses the needs of students today, improving functionality and gaining a LEED certification – Saarinen for the 21st century.” George Kraigher House Location: Brownsville, TX Original Architect: Richard Neutra Restoration Team: Lawrence V. Lof (Project Lead), Texas Southmost College Client: City of Brownsville and Texas Southmost College – Dr. Juliet V. García, president, and Dr. José G. Martín, provost Award: Residential Design Award of Excellence From the jury: “Restoration of the Kraigher House is a compelling story of the power of public and private partnerships. Beginning with the grassroots advocacy efforts of Ambrosio Villarreal, to the Kraigher House's inclusion on Preservation Texas’ and the National Trust for Historic Preservation's endangered lists, restoration of this rare and significant Neutra residence by the Brownsville community is a strong testament to the power of partnerships.” Imagining the Modern: The Architecture and Urbanism of Postwar Pittsburgh Location: Pittsburgh, PA Project Team: Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, and Rami el Samahy with Ann Lui, Mark Pasnik, Cameron Longyear, Shannon McLean, Brett Pierson, Andrew Potter, Rebecca Rice, Valny Aoalsteindottir, Silvia Colpani, Lindsay Dumont, and Victoria Pai - over,under (Architects-in-Residence) (See Docomomo US for full list) Client: Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Award: Survey/Inventory Award of Excellence From the jury: “This comprehensive and multi-dimensional project established a broad context to understand a cross section of modernism through multiple lenses in the context of a single city. The project team is recognized for this deeply researched and beautifully presented exhibition that encouraged participants to take a fresh look at the architecture and urbanism of postwar Pittsburgh.” Starship Chicago: A Film by Nathan Eddy Location: Chicago, IL Project Team: Nathan Eddy (Director) Award: Advocacy Award of Excellence From the jury: “When most preservation efforts are reactionary, Nathan Eddy has taken a unique and proactive approach and sparked much-needed conversation and action before a building faces demolition. Starship Chicago is thoughtful, beautiful, informative, and engaging and brings to light what a powerful medium film can be.” Tom Little: Georgia Advocacy Location: Atlanta, GA Recipient: Docomomo US/Georgia chapter president Tom Little Award: Advocacy Award of Excellence From the jury: “As a result of Tom’s dedication and advocacy, he has been instrumental in saving a number of significant buildings in the region. As the founding president of the Georgia chapter of Docomomo US, Tom continues to be a steadfast advocate for modern buildings and we acknowledge his dedication in sharing the organization's mission through local leadership and advocacy.” Special Award of Restoration Excellence: Unity Temple Location: Oak Park, IL Original Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright Restoration Team: Harboe Architects, PC (Restoration Architects), Project Management Advisors, Inc. (Project Management), Berglund Construction Company (Contractor) Client: UTP, LLC From the jury: “This is a comprehensive restoration of one of the canonical and pioneering works of American modern architecture. It allows future generations to not only use, but learn from, and see this building as it was originally designed by Wright.” Citations of Merit: 115, Geotronics Labs Building Location: Dallas, TX Original Architect: Printz and Brooks Restoration Team: DSGN Associates (Architecture), Constructive – Rick Fontenot From the jury: “It is important to call attention to a project that takes a typical, small company office building and revitalizes it as an example to others who may embark upon similar projects.” Jury member Meredith Bzdak added, “This is a well-executed restoration and a good model for the treatment of other modest mid-century buildings like this around the country.” George Washington Bridge Bus Station Location: New York, NY Original Architect: Dr. Pier Luigi Nervi Restoration Team: The Port Authority of NY & NJ – Engineering Department, Architectural Unit, STV, Inc. From the jury: “As bus stations continue to be lynchpins of modern urban transportation infrastructure, the restoration of the GWB Bus Station was thoughtfully executed and serves as an important example of a government agency choosing to invest in the restoration of a significant modern resource instead of opting for new construction.” Lurie House Location: Pleasantville, NY Original Architect: Kaneji Domoto Restoration Team: Lynnette Widder (Lead) (See Docomomo US for full list) From the jury: “This is a beautiful and well-considered renovation done with extreme care and appreciation of environmental efforts as well as the Japanese-American architect’s cultural orientation.” Banking on Beauty: Millard Sheets and Midcentury Commercial Architecture Location: California Project Team: Adam Arenson From the jury: “Arenson’s research has uncovered an extensive legacy of ‘every man modernism’ that was largely unknown and underappreciated, and brings attention to main street architecture with real design value and the impact of individual grassroots efforts.” UC San Diego Campus-wide Historic Context Statement and Historic Resource Survey Location: San Diego, CA Project Team: Architectural Resources Group – Katie E. Horak, Principal, Andrew Goodrich, Associate, Micaela Torres-Gill, Paul D. Turner, PhD, NeuCampus Planning – David Neuman UC San Diego, Physical and Community Planning - Robert Clossin (AICP, Director), Catherine Presmyk (Assistant Director of Environmental Planning), Todd Pitman (Assistant Director and Campus Landscape Architect) (See Docomomo US for full list) Client: UC San Diego From the jury: “This project is significant because of the ever-increasing pressures universities face in improving their campus building portfolios while maintaining significant architectural resources. The inventory will help better protect these resources and has the potential to educate this particular campus community and other college and university systems across the country.”
57th Carnegie International will bring artists who engage spatial politics around the world
The Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of contemporary art in North America, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896 just one year after the first Venice Biennale. The exhibition was designed to help identify the “Old Masters of tomorrow.” The recent announcement of participating artists in the 57th iteration of the International, which opens on October 13, 2018 at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMoA) in Pittsburgh, is a look at who these new "old masters" might be. Curated by Ingrid Schaffner, who was chief curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia before taking the helm of the International in 2015, the list lives up to her reputation for taking an expansive approach to contemporary art. While only one artist has an architectural background—Saba Innab, an architect and urban researcher practicing between Amman and Beirut—several of the exhibition’s artists explore questions of territory, body, commodity, craft, agency, and spatial practice. The participants are all working on site-specific works for the CMoA, so this International will certainly be an immersive and provocative museum experience. Here’s a look at what’s to come. Innab’s work, pictured above, explores the relationship between architecture and territory, exemplified by her cast depicting the rock of Gibraltar in the 2016 Marrakech Biennale. It is fitting, then, that she will install work in dialogue with the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture, a historic collection of plaster casts of building fragments from around the world. Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary arts collective that explores “Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination,” will also address spatial and cultural politics head-on. Their recent work, Repellent Fence (2015), for example, was a 2-mile work that consisted of 26 balloons stretching across the U.S.-Mexico border. The design of the balloons references both indigenous iconography and “an ineffective bird repellent product,” and signal unity between indigenous peoples, the land, and history. Park McArthur is a New York-based artist whose work examines notions of accessibility, agency, and the city. Her 2014 exhibition at ESSEX GALLERY, for example, gathered the improvised ramps used by twenty galleries in Lower Manhattan in a minimalist arrangement on the gallery floor. Similarly, at SFMOMA in 2017, where she displayed design drawings and improvised ramps made by family and friends to accommodate her wheelchair in everyday spaces. The Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center will host works by Jessi Reaves, known for her sculptural furniture that looks both familiar and somewhat grotesque, with common materials assembled in unsettling combinations that plays with ideas of incompletion in art and design. Reaves’ voluptuous recliners will neighbor work by Beverly Semmes and her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP), which explore issues of censorship and the female body overlaying paint onto pages of “gentlemen’s magazines.” The FRP is one project in Semme’s practice, which otherwise operates at an architectural scale. Schaffner describes Beverly Semmes' art as flowing “from the female body and out into the landscape,” with flowing dresses the scale of a room. New Dehli-based photographer Dayanita Singh’s concern for the physical relationship between the viewer and the photograph has led her into an exploration of architectural and spatial arrangements for her work. Singh designs standalone “museums” for her photographs that, as she described in a recent talk at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, “liberate the photograph from the wall.” Koyo Kouoh, a Dakar-based “exhibition-maker,” will similarly take the visitor’s relationship to artwork into her own hands. Kouoh is founding artistic director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, and for the International she will organize “Dig Where You Stand.” This exhibition within an exhibition will mine the Carnegie Museums’ collections to reconfigure the galleries devoted to “Pre-1300, African, and Asian Art.” “Koyo’s piece would be a lever for clearing this out, something the museum has wanted to do for a long time, a rupture so that we can begin again,” Schaffner said. Though probing the term “international,” the exhibition meaningfully ties into Pittsburgh’s artists and histories. Conceptual artist Mel Bochner will make a homecoming, and Pittsburgh-based artists Lenka Clayton & Jon Rubin will develop a new work based on the International’s archives. This International will feature sculptor Thaddeus Mosley, whose wooden carvings were inspired by the Internationals of the early 1950s. Photograph from the archives of Teenie Harris, a prolific photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, will offer a new look at the post-industrial city’s past. Though the International opens in October, the fun is already underway. One of Schaffner’s aims is to spark “museum joy” in visitors. In fact, the curatorial team is sharing the delight of all aspects of the exhibition, from the design process to the curatorial research, through the International’s website. Wkshps founder Prem Krishnamurthy’s article chronicles the charrettes that brought the editorial, curatorial, and design teams together early in the process to, in Schaffner’s words, “design for the unknown.” Travelogue essays written by writers who weren’t with Schaffner on her extensive travel research take the reader into new territories nonetheless. Illustrator Maira Kalman’s fanciful interpretation of Schaffner’s pilgrimage to Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan and historian Markus Rediker’s analysis of Vodou Surrealism in response to a curatorial trip to the Caribbean are particularly worth a read. Following Andrew Carnegie’s ambitions for the museum, Schaffner has tasked each artist to lead a public workshop, or “Tam O’Shanter drawing session.” Thaddeus Mosley has already done a workshop on jazz playlists, and a class used coffee to paint with Ho Chi Minh City-based collective Art Labor. In April, visitors can make zines with Mimi Cherono Ng’ok and artifact critters with Lucy Skaer. With many more events to be announced in coming months, this is already a very playful and political exhibition not to be missed.
As a fitting kickoff to Earth Day weekend, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) has announced the 2018 recipients of its COTE Top Ten Awards. Honoring ten projects that have surpassed rigorous thresholds in integration, energy use, water conservation, and wellness benchmarks, the award showcases cutting-edge buildings that are not only sustainable, but that contribute to the surrounding neighborhood. This year’s jury included:
- Michelle Addington, Dean, School of Architecture, The University of Texas Austin Austin, Texas
- Jennifer Devlin-Herbert, FAIA, EHDD. San Francisco
- Kevin Schorn, AIA, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, New York
- Julie V. Snow, FAIA, Snow Kreilich, Minneapolis
- Susan Ubbelohde, LOISOS + UBBELOHDE, Alameda, California
Another one bites the dust?
Why we need architecture critics more than ever
Earlier this week we learned that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne would be stepping down to take on the city’s newly-created role of Chief Design Officer. The move is a bold, encouraging one that should go a long way toward, as Hawthorne put it, “raising the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city—and the level of civic conversation about those subjects,” through his employment of oversight, advocacy, competitions, forums, and more. But it’s the second part of that statement, regarding civic conversation, that, regardless of this positive development, is under siege in the architecture world. Until Hawthorne is replaced — and given the turmoil at the L.A. Times that’s no certainty— our country will have still fewer regular architectural critics at its major metropolitan news outlets. You can count them on one hand in fact: Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune, John King at the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Lamster at the Dallas Morning News, Julie Iovine at the Wall Street Journal, and Inga Saffron at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Beyond these dailies, while New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson and Curbed’s Alexandra Lange offer regular critiques, the New York Times’ critic Michael Kimmelman is M.I.A., the New Yorker has never replaced Paul Goldberger, and at The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The Nation, The San Jose Mercury News, and Vanity Fair, Robert Campbell, Alastair Gordon, Michael Sorkin, Alan Hess and Goldberger—all talented voices, as are all the people listed above— haven’t appeared for at least half a year. Papers like The Seattle Times, the Providence Journal, and the Washington Post never replaced their outgoing critics, USA Today has never had one, and half of the nation’s ten largest cities have no critic. It goes without saying that the L.A. Times absolutely must name a new full-time architecture critic, particularly at a time when the nation's second largest city is undergoing unprecedented transformation. Without a well-positioned critical voice, the city will lack a professional to alert them to and analyze these tumultuous built changes, or an advocate to critique decisions that, as they so often do in the developer-driven city, advance private interests over the public good. (Or, on the other end of the spectrum, marginalize design through discourse and work that most people can't relate to.) A critic can and must do much more, from awakening us to triumphs in sustainability and technology to suggesting ways to minimize sprawl or enhance public space. We don’t have to always agree with them, but he or she plays an essential role in instigating and informing a vital public discourse and to alerting us to the critical role design plays in our lives. The same goes for so many of the country’s cities, where nobody is minding the store, architecturally. The results speak for themselves: an overwhelming majority of architecture, both public and private, that’s ok, fine, serviceable. But not enough. It’s an architecture that, like most of our economy, excels for the very richest individuals, corporations and cultural institutions, but offers mediocrity to almost everyone else. Architecture should and must be for everyone, across the board, from housing to retail to schools to government buildings to civic parks. It must help propel our society, and our spirits, forward through inspiration and innovation, not just provide luxury, comfort, or status. Of course, architecture criticism isn’t limited to major commercial outlets. There are fantastic voices at many design periodicals, like this one. But critics at general interest publications still, even in this fractured media landscape, have the greatest ability to reach a wide audience, outside the bubbles of design or niche journalism, who are often preaching to the converted. While the news, sports, fashion, entertainment, and financial media promote and dissect the minutiae of their fields before millions, prompting debate, feedback, and change, the architecture and construction industry — a significant force in overall U.S. GDP—is largely on the fringe of the public conversation. (One example: If you watch March Madness this week, you’ll see more college basketball critics on one telecast than you’ll find countrywide speaking to architecture. Aline Saarinen was once NBC News’ full time architecture critic, but those days of elevated exposure are long gone.) Meanwhile, critics, as with so many players in the ailing journalism world, are increasingly being sidestepped for computerized engines like Rotten Tomatoes or for blogs that aggregate other work and churn out press releases. Or even worse, for abbreviated Facebook or Twitter posts. Algorithms and big data have their place in showing us where we are, but they can’t replace analysis, critique, understanding, common sense, and heart. Having Hawthorne— along with advocates like Deborah Weintraub at the L.A. Bureau of Engineering and Seleta Reynolds at the L.A. Department of Transportation— stationed at City Hall will be bring a keen eye and a valuable voice to the official conversation. But that conversation needs to extend to a much wider public, through experts outside the city payroll. As for his new job, Hawthorne must, as he suggests he will, make his work to improve the civic realm as public as possible, ensuring that design involves everyone, not just those in power. This is a fantastic opportunity for a gifted communicator to bring the public inside a generally opaque realm through his writing, speaking, and facility for public engagement. But he also needs a partner or two (preferably more) in the media, and as more chief design officers (hopefully) pop up around the country, so must they. Architecture is not art in a gallery. Along with landscape architecture and urban design, it is a public profession. It is for the public, not despite them. We need to empower more informed voices to keep it that way.
Alan Schwartzman passes away at 95
Architect Alan Schwartzman has passed away at age 95 on March 9, 2018. Long a figure in Franco-American architectural circles, he was a founding member of AIA Europe. We first met at a luncheon in 1992 with the three other AIA members we had been able to identify in the Paris region. At the time, he was a partner with Davis Brody Bond Architects in New York City, dividing his time between Paris and Manhattan. Alan was immediately enthusiastic and helpful when I announced plans to form an AIA Chapter in Europe. He became the Chapter’s second president, serving ably in 1996 and 1997. With his wife, Ruth, who died last year, he remained a Chapter stalwart, attending Chapter meetings and events for decades. He was a man of constant and generous counsel. He was also a stickler (a word he would have liked) for detail. Alan wrote the first set of bylaws for AIA Europe in mid-1993 and adjusted them for years thereafter. He also became the Chapter parliamentarian, as one of only a handful familiar with Roberts Rules of Order. He knew the rules, and seemed to like them. In the biographical statement Alan filed with the AIA archives, in his characteristically precise handwriting, he noted that he earned a B.Eng. degree from Johns Hopkins in 1943, attended college again in 1950, and earned an M.Arch. from Pratt Institute in 1975. He also noted his birthplace as Baltimore, Maryland, to parents Isadore and Ida. He once told Françoise and me that his family ran a hardware store in the city. Alan was very good to me, freely offering advice and judgment. He was proud of his connections with the AIA. Nominated by AIA New York (his Chapter at the time), he became a Fellow of the AIA in 1976, the year of the US Bicentennial, when the AIA held its convention in Philadelphia. He served as my sponsor for Fellowship. When Alan became a member of the AIA College of Fellows 42 years ago, he earned this citation: “Through his imaginative and creative involvement in design, the practice aspects of architecture, education, and service to the profession, Alan Schwartzman has become the very personification of the complete architect.” That is also a fitting epitaph for a man who will be remembered fondly by all who knew him.
A new Philadelphia Design District to debut this April
In 1991, Philadelphia's Old City Arts Association launched the First Fridays initiative to encourage visitors to explore the art galleries that made the historic neighborhood their home. A quarter-century later, the area has been completely transformed into one of the city's premier cultural hubs, and now there's yet another reason to head to the 'hood: the brand-new Philadelphia Design District (PDD). The new collective celebrates the independent design businesses—showrooms, workshops, galleries, and shops—in the area spanning from Second and Third Streets to Market and Race. The PDD will make its official debut this spring with a showcase curated by design studio Mona Rose Berman Interiors that will run from April 14 to 28 at the new LEED Gold–certified Bridge apartment building by Gluck+. The first of its kind in Philadelphia, a city with a rich history of manufacturing and design, the PDD unites 11 founding members, including Moderne Gallery, a city staple for art deco designs and the work of George Nakashima; Mode Modern, the city's go-to destination for midcentury modern designs; Wexler Gallery, which represents contemporary names like Gulla Jónsdóttir; the multidisciplinary art practice Biello Martin Studio; and more. More events will be scheduled in the future, but in the meantime, be sure to check out Philadelphia's newest design destination.
In a city as old as Philadelphia, it says a lot when a neighborhood is deemed of particular historical significance by the city's citizens. One such stretch in the City of Brotherly Love is Jewelers Row, a block-long concentration of retailers known for being the nation's oldest (and second-largest) diamond district. So when Philly 'burb–based developer Toll Brothers proposed a 29-story residential tower that would require demolishing a handful of Sansom Street buildings, it's no surprise that some in the city fought back. Now, after the latest version of the proposed project was unveiled by SLCE Architects for Toll Brothers, Pulitzer Prize–winning Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron is weighing in on the tower's latest iteration, deriding the building as an "architectural zombie." But that's not the only target of her criticism; Saffron also places some of the blame for its blandness on the city's Civic Design Board. The most recent renderings show an anodyne 24-story glass tower with a series of simple setbacks rising above the brick-lined street. Beyond the incongruity of the design, Saffron calls out the project as a missed opportunity for architectural expression. She places the blame not only on SLCE and Toll Brothers, but also on the city's Civic Design Board, which was founded in 2011 ostensibly to raise the city's level of architectural design by vetting all large projects. The problem, she suggests, is that the board can't outright veto a poor building, leaving developers the ability to apply again and again with simple concessions rather than innovative reimagining. In the case of the Jewelers Row project, earlier versions of the plan included the use of brick to reference the surrounding buildings, an idea that was scrapped after community feedback that the design overwhelmed the neighborhood. A subsequent plan showed an all-glass face with a pleated crown, but a row of third-floor verandas proved too controversial, leading to their removal a month later in the most recent iteration. "That’s how public relations works," Saffron says of the process, "not architectural design." And that, she argues, is the problem.
C-A-T Spells Murder
Artist Alex Da Corte brings eerie neon to New York City in a show at Karma
Artist Alex Da Corte wants you to be scared. In C-A-T Spells Murder, a new show at New York's Karma, the Philadelphia-based artist deploys neon sculpture, video, and neon painting to muse on the feeling of fear and its effects on perception.
Slow Web, pictured above, uses common building materials like vinyl siding and plywood to foreground a luminous orange neon spider's web, creating an homage to a classic symbol of creepiness. The web is partially detached from its frame, drifting off to the left. How did it break free? Is there a ghost in the house or was that just a strong, cold breeze? Another work, Good Window with Candle (Purple), pictured below, uses the same materials as Slow Web, but the shutter-flanked candle beneath an open double-hung window feels more solitary than sinister. The exhibition, which runs through March 18, is accompanied by a book of short but spooky stories and stories to bring the eerieness out of the gallery and into the world.
C-A-T Spells Murder is up through March 18 at Karma's East Village gallery (188 East 2nd Street). More details on the show and hours of operation can be found here.
Seven months after Elon Musk claimed that he had “verbal governmental approval” from the Trump administration to build an underground Hyperloop from Washington D.C. to New York City, it looks like his plans might actually come to fruition. Musk’s The Boring Company has received a permit to begin exploratory digging in Washington, D.C., for what could one day be a stop along a D.C.-Baltimore-Philadelphia-New York route. Musk has made some ambitious claims about the Hyperloop, a high-speed rail system that would reach nearly 800 miles an hour and cut the 229-mile trip between D.C. and NYC to only 29 minutes. For contrast, the fastest train in the U.S. is Amtrak’s Acela Express, which tops out at 150 miles an hour and makes the same trip in three hours. Unlike Amtrak’s light rail network, the Hyperloop system would be more akin to a supersonic subway, moving small pods of up to 16 people, or vehicles, on electrically-powered sleds between widely dispersed stations scattered through each city instead of one centralized train hub in each. Now, The Boring Company will begin excavating a vacant parking lot at 53 New York Avenue NE, near the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives headquarters, after being granted a somewhat vague permit by the D.C. government. The initial exploration is just one piece of navigating a logistical boondoggle, as The Boring Company would need to tunnel under buildings, infrastructure, utilities, roads and just about everything else if an interstate Hyperloop network were to come to fruition. The city’s Department of Transportation has reportedly been trying to determine what other permits Musk’s company would need. Still, every piece of regulatory go-ahead has helped the Hyperloop inch closer to reality. In October 2017, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan gave Musk permission to begin excavation of a 10-mile stretch of Hyperloop track for the future New York-to-D.C. line, although city leaders along the way expressed their surprise at the decision. The federal government would also need to grant the Boring Company the appropriate permits to dig under federally owned land, of which the proposed route crosses several stretches. While testing of the Boring Company’s drilling technology and ability to tunnel under urban areas is still ongoing in Hawthorne, Los Angeles, at least the company will be able to fund its endeavors; at the time of writing, Musk had sold out of promotional Boring Company flamethrowers.