Search results for "whitney"
The offices of the Los Angeles Design Group (LADG) are located on a sleepy street in Venice, California, that even on cloudy days looks a bit sun-bleached. There, a few blocks from the ocean in a diminutive storefront open to the street, one can find Claus Benjamin Freyinger, Andrew Holder, and their small team of designers charting a unique trajectory in what one might call “disciplinary architecture.”
“[Things like] structure are always subordinate to the [disciplinary] agenda we are trying to pursue,” Freyinger said, describing a vibrant grid of project views organized neatly along the main studio wall. He continued, “We are trying to work against the understanding of a building as a collection of integrated systems, one piled on top of the other.” Which is not to say that the firm does not consider structure or systems, but rather that it focuses instead on subverting the all-too-easy tendency those components have of making themselves apparent in the final work. Instead, LADG explodes the building process horizontally and explores each component—drawing, model, and detail—individually, in pursuit of “what happens when each idea develops independently of hierarchy,” as Holder put it.
After 13 years, the firm has produced a compellingly diverse collection of work ranging from installations to interiors to complete structures, swapping disciplinary and professional focus with each project.
The Kid Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Kid Gets out of the Picture, installed at Loeb Library at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2016, was developed in concert with architects First Office, Hirsuta, and Laurel Broughton / Andrew Kovacs for Materials & Applications. The contemporary interpretation of an English picturesque garden is based on priest and artist William Gilpin’s travel sketches, which LADG mined for symbolic and literal inspiration in its attempts to explore “topics left unfinished by the picturesque.” With the installation, the designers explored “clumps,” the collections of heterogeneous objects and plants used by picturesque designers to organize their compositions. Here, the designers arrange a collection of plaster-coated, plywood-rib-framed drapery atop wooden-beam and stacked-block bases.
Surefoot Santa Monica Santa Monica, CA
The interiors for Surefoot Santa Monica are a creative solution for an abstract programmatic challenge: Create a storefront for a shop with no inventory. The ski-boot store acts as a fitting room mostly, where patrons pick out and get sized up for new custom-made ski boots produced off-site. The firm toyed with the formal complexities of lofted and faceted finishes for the project, creating a collection of object-like surfaces that act independently of one another. Gable-shaped plywood display walls—punctuated by boxed-out display cases—hold forth under a billowing plaster tent.
Oyster Gourmet Los Angeles
The Oyster Gourmet is a mechanical kiosk designed to house a champagne and oyster bar in L.A’s Grand Central Market. The structure’s operable walls fold up and down via hand crank, creating an awning for the bar below when fully extended. The structure is made out of plywood ribs, canvas cloth, and steel supports. But the built form of the mollusk-shaped eatery is but one manifestation of the kinetic kiosk—the pink-hued worm's eye axonometric and gray-scale floorplan drawings are also of merit.
Armstrong Avenue Residence Los Angeles
The Armstrong Avenue Residence is a 1,894-square-foot renovation of an existing split-level house in Los Angeles. The charred cedar-clad “upside down house” is organized with a top-floor living room located above an unceremonial set of bedroom, study, and garage spaces. The setup ensures the living areas have the best view of a nearby reservoir, which can also be seen from a cyclopean bedroom window that has been torqued to be in line with the water feature. The inset bay window is mimicked along the back of the house via Marcel Breuer–inspired massing, creating a house that steps out in parallel with the scrubby hillside behind.
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New book tells the story of the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, but can a building this wasteful really be called “green”?
The idea that work by Renzo Piano—winner of a Pritzker Prize, among numerous other awards—could be corrected by anyone, let alone a far less known firm, would be surprising under any circumstances. What made it especially so is the stark disparity of styles between the two offices.But Piano prevailed: “Having initially greeted [Mecanoo founder Francine] Houben with his usual charm, the Italian architect barely glanced at the Mecanoo proposal in late 2013 before rejecting it out of hand.” In the course of writing the book, Newhouse developed expertise on subjects as diverse as the history of philanthropy in the Ottoman world and the acoustical preferences of Southern Europeans. The book is a kind of encyclopedia. But there is one significant lacuna: Newhouse calls the building “a triumph of environmental sensitivity.” In fact, the building, despite incorporating enough “green” features to achieve LEED platinum status, is inherently wasteful. First, it’s not clear it was needed in the first place. The Greek National Opera, though lacking a purpose-built home, has performed “with great success” at the Megaron Concert Hall in the center of Athens, Newhouse reports. As for the library, its existing building, also in the center of the city, could handle far more visitors than it received. Consequently, Newhouse writes, “no one was able to realistically define the new library’s purpose.” Neither organization had a director at the time the planning for the cultural center began. And with the country in economic crisis, the entire enterprise, Newhouse observes, “defied logic.” But the Niarchos Foundation was determined to build something important, and its resolve only strengthened when the Greek economy collapsed. True, Piano’s best buildings, including New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, exhibit an inherent modesty (as does Piano himself). But the Niarchos Foundation encouraged Piano to think big. After visiting the Athens site, he decided to give the library and opera separate buildings, facing a modern agora (through a pair of enormous glass facades) and set them into a manmade hill, more than 100 feet high at its peak. “It was an almost childish idea: I simply lifted the ground’s surface to make way for the architecture,” Piano told the author. Creating the hill would involve building vast retaining walls, moving some 654,000 cubic feet of earth, and protecting all of it against seismic activity. That was accomplished by filling steel tubes with rocks, then hammering the tubes into the earth at 10-foot intervals, creating some 3,500 “gravel piles” in the process. Those processes required vast amounts of energy. Then came the planting of the center’s 40-acre garden, much of it on raised ground, and the extensive irrigation required to keep it alive in arid Athens—a process that involves both pumping water uphill and passing it through a reverse osmosis desalinization plant. The hill, that “childish idea,” is a grown-up energy consumer. Overall, operating the cultural center will require 14 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, Newhouse reports. Producing that much power through the burning of coal—the predominant source of electricity in Greece—will create some 30 million pounds of CO2 or its equivalents, according to the best available figures. That’s about as much 1,500 average Greeks produce each year. True, setting the building in a hill could reduce the cooling load by as much as 7%, Newhouse reports. But counting that as an environmental victory is like counting gambling winnings while ignoring losses. And, true, the vast building has a substantial photovoltaic system. In fact, after the artificial hill, its most prominent feature is the canopy atop the opera house, a kind of flying carpet supporting 87,000 square feet (about two acres) of photovoltaic panels. That certainly sounds green. But the panels, even with the latest technology, will produce just 2 gigawatt-hours of electricity each year, or about 15% of the building’s needs. (And that’s if all goes well.) And even that power isn’t “free,” environmentally speaking. Thirty steel columns, braced by diagonal cable ties, support the p.v. panel-covered canopy, which is estimated to weigh 4,700 tons. The carbon footprint of structural steel is enormous. And solar panels themselves require energy to fabricate, transport, and install. There is no free lunch, energy-wise. Making matters worse, the Center is two miles from the nearest subway stop. Hard to reach by public transit, it contains 1,000 parking spaces, evidence of its reliance on private cars. LEED doesn't take any of that into account. It is essentially a checklist system, conferring points for “moves” like providing bicycle racks and using recycled building materials. Whether the building should have been built in the first place; whether it could have been built closer to public transportation; or could have been significantly smaller than it is—the big-ticket items, environmentally—are the very issues LEED ignores. Of course, I understand the need for symbols, which can help uplift societies (especially societies as troubled as 21st-century Greece). And I believe that the Niarchos Foundation had the best intentions when it vowed to make the building green. But the building it built is anything but green, and LEED is its enabler. With its “platinum” imprimatur, LEED sends a message that even unnecessary buildings, on sites ill-served by public transportation, and requiring vast amounts of energy to build and maintain, are good for the environment. Which, at this time of climate crisis, triggered by energy consumption, is a dangerous message to send. Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens is available from Monacelli Press.
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How James Ramsey of RAAD Studio, Carlos Arnaiz of CAZA, and BalletCollective turned design into dance
Troy Schumacher is a soloist with New York City Ballet, one of the most prestigious dance companies in the country. And while a job as a full-time athlete might be enough for some people, Schumacher is also the artistic director and choreographer for his own chamber-sized troupe, BalletCollective. All of its members are Schumacher’s fellow dancers at NYCB.
For the company’s latest performance at the New York University Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Schumacher explored his observations of how human bodies respond to built space. He approached architects James Ramsey, founder of RAAD Studio, and Carlos Arnaiz, founder and principal of CAZA, to collaborate on a project that would turn design into dance. “Last season, I was already sold on the idea of working with architects because I thought our processes would be very similar,” said Schumacher. “Whether you’re creating performance or buildings, you’re thinking about something that has a larger scope but shows details. You’re thinking on two scales.”
Schumacher and his team took care to thoroughly investigate how the two disciplines could come together for a final project. “We discussed how our respective disciplines are organized, how we record our work, how we make changes to our work as we go, and how our respective practices overlap,” said Arnaiz.
It’s not unusual for architecture and dance to go hand in hand. Just last year, Steven Holl created set pieces for Jessica Lang Dance, while the Guggenheim Museum frequently holds performances in its iconic rotunda. But these dances coexist with built architectural elements—not so for BalletCollective. Instead, Schumacher chose to feature the dancers in a stripped-down environment. The stage at the Skirball center was entirely bare, with curtains lifted to reveal the dancers waiting on the sides, and their costumes were casual rehearsal wear. Until they started moving, there was no indication of the evening’s architectural component.
One of Schumacher’s strengths as a choreographer is his unusual way of using formations. He often asks one dancer to move against the group or pairs a tall woman with a short man. Trios and duets are widely spaced around the stage, playing out contrary to the traditional ballet structure of a principal couple and a shifting background of corps dancers. In Until the Walls Cave In, Ballet Collective dancers moved through lines, boxes or huddles that washed across the stage. Ramsey’s work, in comparison, also carves out space where heretofore there was none. “James’s work is about restoring or facilitating life in a place where it wouldn’t normally exist,” said Schumacher. “We were really driven by light, concrete spaces and the growth happening within them.”
For his part, Ramsey entered the collaboration unsure of what to expect. “I had little to no idea about the creative process for dance,” Ramsey said, “and I was completely blown away by how naturally our processes were able to mesh. Our conversations had to do with the life and death of human spaces, renewal, and the idea of tension as a dramatic architectural design tool.” Here, though, Schumacher might have picked something up from his collaborator. The start-stop energy of his choreography makes it nearly impossible to establish dramatic tension.
Arnaiz’s contribution involved one specific drawing, resulting in The Answer, a duet for Anthony Huxley and Rachel Hutsell. “Choreographers are always looking for new pathways,” said Schumacher. “Carlos emailed us a sketch on top of a photo of Allen Iverson. I was floored by the energy and idea behind it, and we just went with it.” Arnaiz wrote about Iverson in his recent monograph, reflecting on how static geometric forms are brought to life by the creative process of architecture. As a result, The Answer plays off friendly competition.
Huxley is an elegant dancer who, while still able to have fun, is quite serious onstage. Hutsell, who is just beginning her professional career, might be expected to be timid, especially dancing with Huxley (he is several ranks higher than her at NYCB). Instead, she’s remarkably grounded for a woman dancing in pointe shoes, which can complicate quick direction changes and off-balance steps. She eats up space with infectious energy. The dancers’ darting limbs seem to leave trails of lines and spirals across the stage, reminiscent of Arnaiz’s drawing.
Schumacher wasn’t worried about disappointing audiences who might have expected structures or set pieces designed by Ramsey and Arnaiz. “All the artists who contribute to BalletCollective are a source,” he said. “But invariably, the starting and ending point aren’t the same place. Asking for architectural input is about giving us a place to start.”
Arnaiz and Ramsey were both surprised at what that starting place was able to yield. “I’ve worked with musicians, but never with dancers,” said Arnaiz. “It was fascinating to see how something transformed from concept to physical performance.” Ramsey agreed: “Troy brought a level of clarity and rationalism to the projects that was startling, and even led me to understand my own work more succinctly.”
What Comes Next BalletCollective The NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts Fall 2017 season to be announced late April.