Search results for "whitney"

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CALDER-ON

Rendering LOL: How architects are absurdly using Calder sculptures
Why do so many architects use Alexander Calder sculptures in their renderings, even when the works have nothing to do with the institution or project depicted? The Calder Foundation has been tracking this phenomenon, and the results are featured in the slideshow above.  A new exhibition at the Whitney Museum in New York explores mobiles—kinetic sculptures in which carefully balanced components reveal their own unique systems of movement—created by American sculptor Alexander Calder from 1930 until 1968, eight years before his death. Running through October 23, the exhibition features almost 40 sculptures, including three that served as models for possible architectural commissions. In addition, Alexander S. C. Rower, who is the sculptor’s grandson and head of the Calder Foundation, will bring one of three motorized maquettes Calder created as proposals for the 1939 New York World’s Fair to the Whitney later this summer for a temporary viewing and activation.
Other Calder works on display that were designed for architectural projects include Octopus and The Helices, both made in 1944 as part of a series of bronze works Calder envisioned as 40-foot monuments and created for an International Style architectural project proposed by Wallace K. Harrison. Interestingly, more recently, many well-established architects have used Calder’s works to illustrate renderings of their own designs, often without the Calder Foundation’s permission. OMA in particular apparently finds Calder’s sculptures perfect for its projects: It used his 1973 Crinkly with a Red Disc, actually in the collection of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, in Germany, in its rendering of the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow. The rendering for the firm’s Park Grove condos in Miami pilfered Calder’s 1973 Flamingo, which actually sits in Federal Plaza in Chicago, while the rendering for 11th Street Bridge Park in Washington, D.C., by OMA and OLIN, features the same sculpture. Other architectural firms that favor Calder’s works in their renderings include Ateliers Jean Nouvel, whose 53 W. 53rd Street project in Manhattan features Calder’s 1961 Sumac, actually in a private collection. Shigeru Ban Architects used Calder’s 1971 The Eagle, now at the Seattle Art Museum, and his 1972 Trepied rouge et noir in renderings for, respectively, the Tainan Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan and Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport in Japan. Renzo Piano Building Workshop (which designed The Whitney’s current home in Manhattan’s meatpacking district), Diller Scofidio + Renfro, SOM, and Studio Libeskind also find the display of Calder’s works an attractive way to promote their concepts. Calder’s works reside today in some major venues: In addition to the sculptures in Federal Plaza in Chicago and at the Seattle Art Museum, the home of his Five Swords is Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, N.Y. Asked about contemporary architects’ practice of borrowing—to put it politely—images of Calder’s works to illustrate their designs, Rower said that during the artist’s lifetime, Calder was friendly with Mies van der Rohe, Josep Lluís Sert, Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer and Wallace K. Harrison, and “frenemies” with Frank Lloyd Wright. As the first artist commissioned to make a public sculpture by the General Services Administration, he said Calder was “the obvious go-to for architects designing new buildings or plazas. Given this history, it comes as no surprise to me that, even today, he is the most prolific artist depicted in architectural renderings. His iconic vocabulary is instantly recognizable; thus, contemporary architects use his imagery to suggest the superior qualities of their projects.” “The genius of Calder’s work,” Rower added, “is that it transforms space—and our experience of it—in real time. While his great invention, the mobile, does this in an overt way—performing in front of us and literally embodying movement—Calder’s stabiles (stationary sculptures) imply movement and affect how we encounter surrounding plazas, facades or even natural landscapes. Architects intuitively understand that effect, and are excited by the prospect of how a Calder sculpture can deepen the experience of whatever space they are designing.” “As long as it’s done in a respectful way,” Rower admitted that rendering actual Calder works that have not been manipulated “is gratifying. I’m interested in Calder’s works in architectural mock-ups—allowing me to imagine his sculptures in many different settings and contexts. And it’s rewarding that Calder remains a favorite amongst architects.”
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Well-Balanced

Extensive Alexander Calder exhibition now on display at the Whitney Museum
An extensive exhibition featuring works by Alexander Calder, who renowned for the use of kinetic movement in sculpture, is now on display at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility, offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s works as they were meant to be—in motion. Previously, the dynamic pieces of art were thought to be difficult to show in museums and were often left static. The moving pieces of artworks are motorized and wind-propelled, creating a choreography of rotations and unpredictable movements. Some of Calder’s earliest works are on display, including his early motor-driven abstractions and wall panels with suspended active elements, as well as other major examples from his later years. While people could actually touch Calder’s works themselves during his lifetime, the sculptures at this exhibition can only be set in motion by ‘activators,’ people who are trained to handle the delicate pieces. There’s an intrinsic relationship between the art and the city that only a location at the Whitney can offer. The exhibition space on the eighth floor of the Whitney Museum, where the works are on display, opens up to the city and creates a connection between the city and the gallery space. “This is a show that can only happen in New York,” Jay Sanders, curator of performance at the Whitney, said at the press preview, adding that the exhibition exaggerates the inter-relation between the urban bustle and the artist’s works. “Calder’s works is a wonderful hinge between these realities.” In addition to the gallery display, there will also be a series of performances, concerts, screenings, and episodic, one-time demonstrations led by the Calder Foundation. These contemporary artists will work in dialogue with Calder’s works. Calder: Hypermobility is on view from June 9 to October 23, 2017, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
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#AIACon17

AIA Convention 2017: Message Over Substance?
The tenor of the sessions, keynotes, and discussions at the AIA conference this year seemed markedly different from those of recent memory. Issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and “social-impact design” were front and center. The convention was keynote-heavy, with appearances by Francis Kéré, Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group, and “The Hip Hop Architect” Michael Ford, to name a few, as well as Michelle Obama in her first public appearance as a private citizen. Many of these keynotes were, in effect, a sales pitch for progressive values. But the thunderous applause of the audiences at the keynotes indicated that the vast majority of the 16,000 architects at the convention didn’t need to be convinced that race and gender equity and working for the social good are important. After all, architecture is a profession that draws those who want to build something positive in the world—a fact corroborated in several sessions that highlighted survey data indicating the importance of doing meaningful work on a daily basis to employee retention. So while the inspiration and earnestness of the keynote presenters can not be put to question, a cynical observer could be forgiven for believing that the whole event was a calculated response to the outcry over Robert Ivy’s posts election comments. Regardless of intent, the PR slick felt like the AIA preaching to a choir that had begun to doubt its pastor's faith. The real lost opportunity of the convention, then, was asking the question: Why, if we do as a profession hold these values dear, do we have such a problem putting them into practice? An earnest exploration of that question is by definition complex, difficult, unsexy—a fact that was revealed during a smaller keynote follow-up session with Alejandro Aravena, Francis Kéré, and Michael Murphy. When asked by Rosa Sheng (a leader of the excellent Equity by Design group) how these architects had made doing social impact architecture a viable business model the response from Murphy was clear: “It’s not.” This bold admission was followed by each of the panelists describing the torturous journeys they've embarked on to make projects aimed at the greater good part of their practice. In spite of Murphy's pleas to retire the phrase "social architecture" to avoid creating a false divide, the tensions between the current economic structure of architecture and the desire to embrace a more expansive notion of who we serve was a real, but never more than nascent, backdrop to the discussion. This session above all demonstrated the long-term failure of the AIA. It's not that architects don't want to do work that benefits the entirety of the public or solve architects’ demographic crisis. Rather, it’s that structural problems in society and in the economics of architectural practice create immense barriers to translating intent into outcomes. We don't need convincing. We need the resources we've pooled together in our largest professional organization to start to address the things we can't alone, the things we can't with a single project. We need to confront the crisis of value in architectural work that renders us subservient to developer logics that thrive on the inequity we claim to stand against and render moot the commitment to the public implied by licensure. On that score, the national AIA clearly remains at a total loss. They might understand a problem exists but their inability to diagnose its systemic roots means their solutions are woefully inadequate. A case in point was when AIA president Tom Vonier introduced Amy Cuddy with a line that held great promise: "to confront these [social] issues we need to know our own value." However, any hope for a substantive dialogue on the subject was erased as Cuddy proceeded to talk about how power poses increase perceptions of self-worth for the better part of half an hour. While I don't doubt the importance of good posture, some comments from Twitter noted the shortcomings of this approach. @_YoungCommodity satirically noted, "oh our profession is definitely undervalued by the general public [because] there's a perception that architects sit hunched over and not upright." User @sekucci referenced Cuddy's riff on the relation of sexism to posture and wrote "Amy Cuddy, speaker at #AIACon17 explains teaching girls power poses to solve inequity. Hasn't mentioned teaching sexist men not to be sexist." A shallowness of discourse also pervaded the majority of sessions covering non-technical issues at the conference, many of which had promising titles that hinted at the larger issues (things like “Win More Work: Communicate Your Value,” “Attracting and Retaining Talent,” and “Big Data, Civic Hacks, and the Quest for a New Utopia”). In most instances, the content on offer was limited to a panoply of buzzwords or "tips and tricks.” This is a profession in danger of losing its relevance to all but the most decadent corporate and wealthy clients—where are the sessions on that? Where are the sessions on figuring out how we can increase the pitifully small percentage of buildings designed by an architect? That isn't to say there weren't silver linings. Discussions with the apparatchiks from some state and local AIA components as well as officials from the other architecture collateral organizations (particularly NCARB) revealed a more robust understanding of the issues facing architecture and good faith efforts to address them with new initiatives, like the integrated path to licensure. It's hard to say what makes this architectural deep state so much more in tune with the larger needs of the profession, but one could surmise it is the result of a more intimate knowledge of how the legal and regulatory frameworks surrounding licensure and state practice acts can be shaped to create real change in the structure of the profession. For this middle layer of officialdom, these laws are not immutable facts of existence but the battleground for defending and defining what is we do as architects and how it is valued. Likewise, the "emerging professional" leadership of the AIA, are for the most part clear-eyed about the ways in which a culture of overwork and under compensation are turning away potential future architects in droves. Similarly, small practitioners voiced concerns in the handful of sessions tailored to them about struggling financially and being left voiceless in the AIA, despite making up nearly 80 percent of the membership. The conference remains an important venue for bringing together the many diverse constituencies of architectural practice and taking the pulse of the discipline. If there is a conclusion to be drawn from this year’s events it that in spite of all the talk about “leadership,” the national AIA will not be the force behind sweeping changes in architecture. In a striking parallel to the failures of liberal institutions in 2016, we have on our hands an organization that smugly conflates messaging with real solutions and says all of the right things but is one step out of touch with the struggles of being a working architect. Next year’s convention will mark the fifty year anniversary of Whitney Young Jr.’s famous keynote where he excoriated the profession over our lack of action on issues of racial and social justice. He received a standing ovation then as he would today—underscoring that the profession's failures do not lie in our world view. The 2018 event will be a chance to see if the AIA can make a leap from a progressive affect to progressive action; a leap from positive-but-reactive piecemeal initiatives to a compelling forward-looking outlook and sweeping plan for an architecture that is relevant and helpful to society-at-large. If they don’t, we may be looking back in another fifty years, stuck in the same place, at an era where most of us did little more than applaud all the right things. Keefer Dunn is a nearly-licensed architect based in Chicago. In addition to being adjunct faculty at the IIT College of Architecture, he serves as the national organizer for The Architecture Lobby, a labor advocacy organization for architects, and is the host of Buildings on Air, a radio show about politics and architecture.
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Green Machine?

New book tells the story of the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, but can a building this wasteful really be called “green”?
Last year, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, a 1.28 million-square-foot complex built into an artificial hill in Athens, was inaugurated to great fanfare. The building will provide two institutions, the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, pristine new homes, and it is a significant addition to the Athens cultural landscape. This year saw a related achievement: the publication of Victoria Newhouse’s Chaos and Culture: Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, a richly detailed account of the creation of the $800 million complex. The book could have been a dud; after all, as Newhouse herself notes, the realization of the Athens project was “nearly trouble-free.” But Newhouse lucked out, in part because Greece didn’t: The country was in dire financial and political straits for most of the time the complex was in the works, providing the “chaos” of the title. Only the commitment of the deep-pocketed Stavros Niarchos Foundation kept the project on track. But the plan was always that the complex, once completed, would be turned over to the Greek government, which would operate it with taxpayer funds—a result that now seems unrealistic. (Worse, the agreement between the foundation and the government stipulates that if the government fails to meet its obligation to operate the Center, it will refund the foundation’s entire investment in the project—money the government doesn’t appear to have.) So the book became as much a tale of politics and economics as of architecture. And right now, that tale is a cliffhanger: neither the library nor the opera house has fully moved into the building. True, there is some architectural intrigue, usually involving firms other than the always-dependable Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW): Newhouse details the master-planning work of the New York firm Cooper Robertson that preceded the selection of RPBW to design the complex. She then reports that almost nothing of the master plan can be seen in the RPBW design. And she delves into the hiring, in 2013, of the Dutch firm Mecanoo, to rethink RPBW’s library design. Newhouse writes:
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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Virtual Arcade

AN’s architectural highlights from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, including V.R. experiences
At Tribeca’s “immersive” Virtual Arcade, the virtual reality (VR) film The People’s House offered a tour of the public and private rooms of the White House with tour guides Barack and Michelle Obama. Highlighting artifacts and artworks as the embodiment of the philosophies and policies of their administration (Michelle cites Alma Thomas’s painting Resurrection, 1966, in the Old Family Dining Room), it is a stark reminder of how quickly life has changed. It was comforting to think that The People’s House is a vessel that will continue to change as administrations come and go. The following is a rundown of films and VR installations that use architecture and art that appeared at the recent festival, and that you should look out for. A few referred to the dilemma of finding or keeping housing in New York City. The Boy Downstairs finds Zosia Mamet’s character locating the perfect Brooklyn apartment when she returns to New York from a few years in London; her character is granted approval by the resident bohemian landlady who takes her under her wing, only to find that her ex-boyfriend is in the basement apartment. Will real estate triumph over emotional health? Black Magic for White Boys is an independently produced TV pilot where New York real estate plays a key role: a landlord is frustrated that he cannot raise his tenants’ rent, a magician hatches a devilish plan to save his small theater, and gentrification is causing an older version of New York to fade away. Permission finds woodworker Will (Dan Stevens) fixing up a brownstone for his long-time girlfriend Anna (Rebecca Hall), to whom he can’t quite propose. As they begin to experiment with other people, Will’s handmade furniture and house are no longer creating a home. I LIVED: Brooklyn investigates the borough’s distinct neighborhoods. If you missed Manifesto at the Park Avenue Armory, its segments have been woven into a film featuring Cate Blanchett playing different characters (newscaster, homeless man, puppeteer, punk rocker) who deliver architecture manifestos by Bruno Taut (1920/21), Antonio Sant’Elia (1914), Coop Himmelb(l)au (1980), Robert Venturi (1993), as well artists’ manifestos including Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, Lars von Trier’s Dogma 95, and others on Dadaism, Surrealism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Situationism, Merz, Spatilaism, and The Blau Rider written by Tristan Tzara, Kazimir Malevich, André Breton, Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Sturtevant, Sol LeWitt, Jim Jarmusch, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, and others. Artist Laurie Simmons stars in her directorial debut, My Art. Although her character has been able to sustain her life as an artist by teaching, she has not broken out, while her students (real life daughter Lena Dunham’s character, for example) and friends have. She accepts the summer loan of a gracious summer house, complete with gardens and pool, and spends the summer making films that recreate Hollywood films. These finally give her both the satisfaction and attention she craves. Scenes take place at the Whitney Museum and Salon 94 Bowery. Shadowman is Richard Hambleton, a street artist who was part of a trio that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s whose work appeared all around New York City streets. The other two became art stars, their work came inside to galleries and was widely collected, and both died young (drug overdose and AIDS). Although Hambleton at first attained commercial and critical success—featured in LIFE magazine, and with works displayed at the Venice Biennale—he spun out with homelessness and an addiction to heroin. The film chronicles his rediscovery and a planned comeback, sponsored by Giorgio Armani, with Hambleton still painting his mesmerizing shadow-like figures. Movingly, he says that although he is still alive while his fellow artists are not, he is the waking dead. What a contrast to Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, which chronicles this confident, gregarious artist and filmmaker from his childhood in Brooklyn and Brownsville, Texas, through his rise as a Neo-Expressionist painter (remember his plate paintings?). Schnabel came to be acknowledged for his extroverted, excessive approach to his work and life (frequently seen in silk pajamas, he lives and works in Montauk, Long Island, and in a 170-foot-tall pink Venetian-styled house in the West Village called Palazzo Chupi) as he moved into filmmaking (Basquiat, 1995, Before Night Falls, 2000, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007). We have access to Schnabel and to friends and colleagues Al Pacino, Mary Boone, Jeff Koons, Bono, and Laurie Anderson. Schnabel is one of many art luminaries who appear in Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World which lifts the curtain on the art world economy, or the glamorous and cutthroat game of genius versus commerce where art is created, exhibited, and sold. Museum directors (Glenn Lowry, Michael Govan), collectors (Michael Ovitz), auctioneers (Simon de Pury, Amy Cappelazzo, Lisa Dennison), gallerists (Iwan Wirth, Andrea Rosen), artists (Rashid Johnson, Marina Abramowitz), and many more, appear. Another crash and burn, but with a comeback, is Zac Posen in House of Z, the name of his fashion house. Son of an artist father, he attended St. Ann’s in Brooklyn with Stella Schnabel, Paz de la Huerta, Claire Danes, and Jemima Kirk, for whom he created outfits. He rose quickly at age 21, then his brand fell out of favor and his challenge was to rebuild his company and his reputation in a tenuous dance between art and commerce. More consistent is Hilda, a short about octogenarian Hilda O’Connell who has been making art since the 1950s. She started in a studio on 10th St. alongside Willem de Kooning, Milton Resnick, and Esteban Vicente, and showed at the Aegis Gallery. She continues to make paintings that use language and alphabets in colorful, gestural work. At Tribeca Immersive, in Apex we see a city withstand a violent windstorm created by a looming sun. The viewer is surrounded by buildings being whipped by the elements. Island of the Colorblind is inspired by Pingelap, a tropical island in Micronesia with an extraordinarily high percentage of achromatopsia (complete colorblindness), a highly hereditary condition. The filmmaker says, “Color is just a word to those who cannot see it. If the colorblind people paint with their mind, how would they color the world, the trees, themselves?” The Island of the Colorblind consists of three kinds of images; ‘normal’ digital black and white photos, infrared images, and photo-paintings. Together they are symbolic attempts to visualize how the colorblind people see the world. A highlight is Hallelujah, which reimagines Leonard Cohen’s song. The experience is centered around a five-part a cappella arrangement sung by one singer with a wide vocal range in-the-round. As you rotate your head to view each rendition, the directional sound moves with you. Hallelujah employs Lytro Immerge, which enables live action VR content to behave as it does in the real world. The opening night film was Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, which profiles the music impresario behind the careers of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and more. Best Documentary Feature, Cinematography and Editing prizes went to Bobbi Jene, which follows dancer Bobbi Jene Smith’s return to the U.S. after starring for the Israeli dance company Batsheva. Also of note are: Blues Planet: Triptych, which explores music written in response to the Gulf Oil spill and performed by Taj Mahal; Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is about the screen siren who was also an inventor; actors John Turturro and Bobby Cannavale dialogue on the vital subject of hair in the aptly-named Hair; Letter to the Free is about jazz behind bars; New York is Dead depicts artists who become hitmen to ear money; Nobody’s Watching is about a successful actor in Argentina who can’t get noticed in New York; Tom of Finland is about cult artist Touko Laaksonen who comes to Los Angeles; King of Peking is about a pirate movie company run by a 1990s projectionist in Beijing; When God Sleeps is about exiled Iranian musician Shahin Najafi living under a fatwa after terrorist attacks in Europe; and two films are about war photographers, Hondros and Shooting War. And I was charmed by Auto, which takes on self-driving cars: an Ethiopian immigrant driver with 40 years experience is forced to “drive” one and picks up a couple more accustomed to the service with amusing consequences. The People’s House, project creators Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël (Felix & Paul Studios) The Boy Downstairs, directed and written by Sophie Brooks Black Magic for White Boys, director Onur Tukel Permission, director and writer by Brian Crano I LIVED: Brooklyn, project creators Jonathan Nelson and Danielle Andersen Manifsto, director and writer Julian Rosefeldt My Art, director and writer Laurie Simmons Shadowman, director and cinematographer Oren Jacoby Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait, director and writer Pappi Corsicato Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World, director and writer Barry Avrich House of Z, director and writer Sandy Chronopoulos Hilda, director and writer Kiira Benzing Apex, project creator Arjan van Meerten Island of the Colorblind, project creator Sanne De Wilde Hallelujah, project creators Zach Richter, Bobby Halvorson, Eames Kolar, Within, Lytro Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, director Chris Perkel Bobbi Jene, director and writer by Elvira Lind Blues Planet: Triptych, director and writer Wyland Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, director and writer Alexandra Dean Hair, director John Turturro Letter to the Free, director and cinematographer Bradford Young Nobody’s Watching, director and writer Julia Solomonoff Tom of Finland, director Dome Karukoski King of Peking, director and writer Sam Voutas When God Sleeps, director and writer Till Schauder Hondros, director and writer Greg Campbell Shooting War, director Aeyliya Husain Auto, project creator Steven Schardt
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Oculus Here, Oculus There

Breuer-inspired Los Angeles house turns old split-level conventions upside down
The Los Angeles Design Group (LADG) recently completed work on their Armstrong Residence, a 1,894-square-foot renovation of an existing, split-level single family house in Los Angeles’s Silverlake neighborhood. The house's massing is directly inspired by Marcel Breuer’s former Whitney Museum in New York City, except that instead of jutting out over a busy Manhattan street, the Armstrong House instead steps out along its back facade, mimicking the slope of a gentle hill located behind the house. Along the street front, an inset-bay window—Breuer’s streetside eye juts out from the structure—interrupts the otherwise monolithic, charred cedar wood exterior. The front window is contained within an overhanging car port and its panes are torqued to align perpendicularly with the nearby Silverlake Reservoir. On the back side of the house, a projecting oculus is similarly torqued and arranged here, in parallel with the slope. Both windows are an attempt, according to the LADG principals Andrew Holder and Claus Benjamin Freyinger, to “interiorize” exterior landscape features as elements of interior scenography. Along areas where the exterior envelope is broken, like along the lids of the oculus or the planes of a stepped-back, third-floor facade, the wood siding shifts to a natural finish. The house is designed as an “upside down house,” organized with a large, clear-span living room at the top floor with two levels containing two bedrooms, bathrooms, a study, and a laundry room located below. The new top floor acts like a hat over the existing spaces. The living room organization, much like the original split-level design, maximizes the house’s viewshed toward the reservoir. The space is organized around its views, with a built-in kitchen assembly on one short end of the rectangular great room, and a relaxed seating area located opposite. The areas between these spaces are animated through the presence of a pair of operable window-walls that open onto a generous exterior terrace. The indoor-outdoor living room—its front wall pulled back from the facade and clad in naturally-finished cedar—looks out over the surrounding hillsides and reservoir.
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Building Ballet

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.

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Open House

Liz Glynn turns a corner of Central Park South into a Gilded Age living room for all
For her Public Art Fund piece in Central Park, artist Liz Glynn has spilled the contents of a super-rich enclave out onto the sidewalk for all to enjoy. Open House's cast concrete furnishings, laid out on a public plaza at the southeast corner of Central Park, reference the interiors of one of Manhattan's most famous Gilded Age mansions. Notably, the now-demolished home of politician William C. Whitney featured a 1,000-person ballroom, the kind of mahogany-and-silk fantasia where Ellen Olenska might have caught Newland Archer's eye. Gracing a corner just eight blocks north of the exhibition, the Stanford White–designed home was a lavish gathering place for New York elite. Turn-of-the-century society mingled in its ballroom, one of the grandest private spaces in the city, luxuriating on real and reproduction 18th-century French furniture. Glynn, who's based in Los Angeles, reproduced 26 of those couches, chairs, footstools and graceful entryways in concrete—a material of the people, she told The Architect's Newspaper, that she chose for its associations with working-class modernist housing, particularly in the work of Le Corbusier. The spacious outdoor interior (what Glynn calls her "ruin") was informed by archival research into the gracious homes of old New York, when (like now) the gap between the haves and have-nots defined the production of space in the city. The work reflects too on the decadence of today's ultra-rich, whose tastes shape the New York skyline into wastebaskets and all-glass everything. By turning the private into public, Glynn questions how social class in the city is performed and displayed. "In putting together this exhibition," said associate curator Daniel S. Palmer, "we asked, 'How can we make something that engages the entirety of the plaza, and make this an embodied architectural space?'" Although it officially opens tomorrow, New Yorkers were already making the most of their new living room. A woman was lounging in one of the armchairs, applying chapstick, while another scooped her pug up onto a couch to chat with a friend. To withstand three seasons' worth of weather but allow for design flexibility, the GFRC concrete was blended with an acrylic polymer that allowed Glynn to imprint patterns into the cushions, while decorative wood details are rendered evocatively in the same material. The furniture retains the elegance of its Whitney predecessors, but at 500 to 900 pounds apiece, they are theft-proof and durable enough for ten thousand butts. Open House is on view through September 24 at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, at the northwest corner of 60th Street and Fifth Avenue.
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R.I.P

Abba Tor (1923-2017), the engineer of the almost impossible
The two most daring architects of the middle of the 20th century, Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn, both went to the Abba Tor when they needed help designing groundbreaking buildings. Saarinen enlisted Tor’s help on the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport, the Deere & Company headquarters, and the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center. Kahn worked with him on the Yale British Art Center and the Roosevelt Island Four Freedoms Park. Abba Tor died peacefully of heart and kidney failure, on February 11 at age 93, in Hastings-on-Hudson, where he had lived for the last 50 years. He was born in Warsaw on November 1, 1923, but grew up in Palestine (before Israel became a state). He joined the Israeli underground when he was an engineering student at the Technion, where he met his wife Nomi, who was studying architecture. He was also involved in the establishment of the Israeli Defense Forces, the unusual co-ed military that aligned the army, navy and air force. The IDF sent him to the United States in 1952 to work with the U.S. Bureau of Standards. While here, he earned a Master’s degree at the Columbia University School of Engineering. His daughter, Shuli, was born in America, too, but the family returned to Israel the next year. Two years later, however, Tor left the military to start his own engineering practice and ended up back in New York where he soon became associated with the firm of Ammann & Whitney. He also taught at the Columbia University School of Architecture and did peer reviews nationally for the Connecticut Society of Engineering, though he went back to Israel in the mid-60s and, using a Danish system, built Carmiel, the first prefabricated housing community in the country. Abba Tor loved to tell stories about the ways his clients operated. He liked working with architects who pushed boundaries but noted that they did so very differently. Saarinen was a form giver—searching for the appropriate image and experiential feeling for every building. He just wanted the engineer to help him make it stand up. Tor would have to cajole him into logical (or at least practical) solutions. At the TWA Terminal, that meant convincing Saarinen that the entire roof, all 1.4 acres of it, could not be made of one continuous embracing shape. It had to be built in pieces with joints and separations. A single pour would lead to shrinkage—and later to cracks. But there was a benefit to the solution. The joints between the shells created the dramatic three-foot-wide skylights. But it was not easy. The engineer had to follow the architect’s dictates and talk him into sustainable forms. In 1962, after Saarinen had died, Tor left Ammann & Whitney to form a partnership with Henry Pfisterer, an engineer who had worked with the Saarinen firm on Yale’s Morse and Stiles Colleges and on the North Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana. Working with Louis Kahn presented different challenges. It was, in a way, more a true partnership since Kahn wanted to understand structural forces at the beginning and develop designs to accommodate them, though his buildings, too, were unique and unprecedented. “Abba Tor was an invaluable partner to Louis Kahn in the design of the Yale Center for British Art helping to structure the most sublime moments of the architecture. Abba rationalized the building and contributed significantly to the resolution of the Center's interdependent ‘served’ and ‘servant’ spaces,” as George Knight, the New Haven architect who recently renovated the Center, explained. But even working with Kahn had its challenges. Tor recalled that once, when told that he could not do what he wanted, Kahn had said, "'You engineers are all the same; you are like sausage cutters!' I said to him, 'Lou, we are not sausage cutters, we are more like the male dancers in a classical ballet. Sometimes we jump and soar, and other times we stand there firmly on the stage and when we see the ballerina take the big leap, we catch her in mid-air, we turn her around, and we make sure the she lands gracefully and doesn't fall on her face.'" (This recollection, from the archives of the National Building Museum, was posted recently in a podcast by architectural photographer Timothy Schenk.) Even in recent years, as his health failed, Tor traveled when he could and stayed abreast of current events around the world, following newspapers from several continents. He had opinions on everything. He made several appearances in the recent film shown in the Public Broadcasting System's American Masters series, "Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future" in December. Abba Tor was predeceased by his wife Nomi and his son Daniel. His daughter, Shuli Tor, survives him.
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A Reflecting Lens

Phyllis Lambert looks back on her 75 years in architecture

For the occasion of her 90th birthday on January 24, architect Phyllis Lambert sent the following text about her life and career—from her early days as a sculptor to her work as a photographer, preservationist, and patron. It is taken from the exhibition Phyllis Lambert: 75 Years At Work, on view until April 9 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal.

1 / Beginnings

Art has always been for me the essence of existence.

A sculptor from the age of nine, at eleven I began exhibiting in annual juried exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Société des Sculpteurs du Canada. My sculpture teacher instilled in me objective self-criticism, and I learned manual skills and close observation. I have always drawn. As an undergraduate at Vassar College, in addition to studying art history, in the studio I focused on painting, intrigued by technique, especially that of Rubens (although this is not evident in the self-portrait). However, I was not interested in making small works for private collections. I dreamed of creating monumental sculpture in the public realm: Architecture would be the answer, but I did not know this yet.

2 / Seagram Building

With extraordinary good fortune five years out of college, and while studying the history of architecture at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, I became involved in my father’s decision to erect an office building for Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in New York City. In 1954, living and painting on my own in Paris, I received a proposal from him to which I responded in an eight-page, closely spaced typed letter beginning with one word repeated very emphatically: No No No No No. I concluded, “You must put up a building which expresses the best of the society in which you live... You have a great responsibility.” For me the new building had to be a wonderful place to be, to work, for people passing by on the street, for buildings around it, for the neighborhood, for the city, for the world.

With a mandate to select the architect, after six weeks visiting architects in their offices everyone was talking in terms of Mies. There was the aura and generosity of the man, the gentle power of his architecture. I chose Mies.

With the title of director of planning, my job, as I saw it, was to assure that Mies could build the project he envisioned. His beautifully proportioned bronze-clad building rose straight, set back from the street on its half-acre plaza. Seagram changed New York. After 1961, the New York City zoning code introduced incentive zoning to encourage open plazas at ground level by permitting developers extra floor space. Plazas appeared everywhere.

At the turn of the century, in The New York Times Magazine, Herbert Muschamp declared Seagram to be his choice for the millennium’s most important building, bringing the fusion of gothic and classical elements “in a supremely elegant whole.” “The business of civilization is to hold opposites together,” he wrote. “That goal, often reached through conflict, has been rendered here by Mies with a serenity unsurpassed in modern times.”

Contemporary artworks and those we commissioned were publicly accessible in the great spaces of the Four Seasons restaurant designed by Philip Johnson, and strategies were established for changing installations of sculpture on the plaza. It is also essential to note that high standards of documented maintenance have conserved the Seagram building’s exceptional value.

3 / Architecture School

Following four years immersed in the process of designing and building Seagram, in 1958 I entered the Yale School of Architecture. After a few semesters I found that Mies’s school at the Illinois Institute of Technology offered what I wanted to learn—the careful craft and consequences of putting materials together. Mies’s most brilliant student, Myron Goldsmith, was my lieber-meister. Our graduate class designed hangars for the new 747 airplanes. My master’s thesis, “A Study of Long-Span Concrete Roof Structures,” was written under the supervision of Goldsmith and the innovative structural engineer Fazlur Khan. Myron liked to say that I never did anything with this investigation; however, the work extended and intensified my predisposition for gathering information in the field, first-hand. 

With this proclivity and my passionate interest in the city, seizing on President Lyndon Johnson’s new anti-poverty “Model Cities Program,” I volunteered with Antonis Tritsis—a PhD student in urban planning who would later become minister of planning in Greece—to work on changing the city of Chicago’s plan to replace Bronzeville, a notoriously deteriorated neighborhood rich in Black cultural history, with new high-rise “ghettos.” The city ultimately designated Bronzeville as an area of “Conservation and Rehabilitation.” The experience proved to be an invaluable training ground for my work with community groups in Montreal.

Seagram was always on my mind. While in Chicago I made a scheme for Seagram East, and I also worked with the director of the mayor’s office of Midtown Planning and Development in New York City on the possibilities of transferring Seagram’s unused air rights in order to remove future pressure to build on the Seagram plaza. The present owner of the Seagram building has recently transferred the air rights to the adjacent site facing Lexington Avenue that he purchased, where he is now erecting a very tall tower.

4A / Projects: Saidye Bronfman Centre

After I obtained my master’s degree in 1963, my family commissioned me to design an arts center in Montreal to be known as the Saidye Bronfman Centre of the YM-YWHA, in honor of our mother. Fazlur Khan urged me to experiment with precast concrete; however, I wanted the personal experience of designing a Miesian structure. My intention was to connect building and community, so that people inside would be conscious of the landscape and of the people outside, and those outside would be aware of the activities inside. I especially loved the theater’s great seating shell, which is seen in the photographs. Unhappily, it was demolished in order to increase the number of seats.

Commuting to Montreal from my office in Chicago, I reconnected with the city I had left twenty years earlier and became aware of the unique architectural quality of its neighborhoods of greystone buildings.

4B / Projects: Photographic Missions

Greystone. A theory class in city planning at IIT raised my desire to tangibly understand city building. Photographing the greystone buildings of Montreal was a way to do so. I had worked with a 35mm camera to investigate structure and environment, but to avoid distortion and to obtain a high level of resolution I asked Richard Pare, a young Englishman studying photography in Chicago, to join me with a view camera.

Among the possible ways of analyzing city fabric, the focus on a material of construction provides insight into a wide range of topics. This approach would be impossible in cities like Paris or Jerusalem, where all buildings are faced with local stone. However, in Montreal, the North American city with the greatest number and concentration of stone construction, such focus is revelatory. At first pragmatic, Montreal gray limestone buildings came to hold special symbolic value. In the 17th and 18th centuries, thick stone walls provided protection against attack, against fire, against the cold. Eventually they became prestigious markers of status.

Observation of the architectural language of these buildings—which includes how the stone is cut and surfaced and laid, building location and siting—indicates not only the dates of construction, but also their ethnic, religious, political, economic, and social contexts, coupled with the aspirations of their owners and builders. Sectors possessing buildings with various combinations of these characteristics differentiate the territorial divisions of the city, which still correspond to the seigneurial system of land tenure established during the French regime.

Photographing greystone buildings (1972–1974) brought me back to Montreal to fight against urban demolition and heightened my desire to undertake more photographic missions.

Courthouse: A Photographic Document (1978), edited by Richard Pare, was initiated by me for the United States Bicentennial. Rather than photographing many buildings of one material and many functions contained in one city, this photographic mission investigated a single building type as it spread across the continent and the change in a nation’s view of itself. The county courthouse registers basic human transactions, but above all it embodies the rule of law, a fundamental component of American democracy. Wolf von Eckardt, in The Washington Post (May 20, 1978) found it to be equally as important as the Seagram Building as it “acquaints us with the richness and ingenuity of our own indigenous architecture.”

Similarly, under my direction, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) commissioned photographers to investigate other concepts relating to human settlement. Clara Gutsche and David Miller made the images of An Industrial Landscape Observed: The Lachine Canal (1992), a publication and an exhibition that traveled in the Montreal region, to raise awareness of the extraordinary spaces of 19th-century structures that were being abandoned but could be repurposed—as many have since. Viewing Olmsted (1996) is the work of three photographers of different generations and practices whom the CCA commissioned to investigate Frederick Law Olmsted’s design of landscape in different ecologies in all seasons. The project extended over seven years. The CCA continues to commission photographers as well as filmmakers in relation to exhibitions and publications.

5A / Conservation and Restoration: Montreal

Photographing in Montreal in the early 1970s brought me into contact with architects who felt an urgent need for Montrealers to know about the city’s overlooked buildings and unobserved history. Each contributor wrote a chapter for Exploring Montreal; my chapter is titled “The River Edges.” At the same time, Richard Pare and I focused with tripod and camera on greystone structures, passersby commented, “Why that building? It’s old, it will be demolished.”

The demolition of the Van Horne mansion on Sherbrooke Street in 1973 ignited twenty-three citizen groups to form Sauvons Montréal. In 1975, Héritage Montréal raised funds so that conservation groups could take action in order to give a face to each building, like family portraits. Our tools to stop demolition included marching in the streets, publishing ads and booklets, working with residents, and ultimately working with a whole neighborhood and the Federal government to establish Canada’s largest not-for-profit cooperative housing renovation, Milton-Parc. Also known as the McGill ghetto, Milton-Parc was exemplary; community values were asserted; no one was evicted, and families could continue to live in security in the downtown, without risk of gentrification.

Investment in renovating low- to medium-income neighborhoods is as important as the conservation of monuments or building anew. Since 1997 the Fonds d’investissement Montréal (FIM), which I head, has brought private sector investment to the urgent need for communitarian housing beyond the limits of government programs.

5B / Conservation and Restoration: Abroad

In the mid-seventies, along with urban guerrilla activities in Montreal, and distressed by wanton demolition in other cities and less-than-thoughtful real estate development, I formed a firm as architect and developer with Gene Summers (then partner-in-charge at C. F. Murphy Associates in Chicago and formerly Mies van der Rohe’s major assistant). We were convinced it was possible to vastly improve the quality of life in cities and also to be financially successful. We proved this in pioneering the renovation of a major hotel property, the 1,000-room Los Angeles Biltmore, which was slated for demolition. Built in 1921 in connection with the rise of the era of the automobile, the renovated hotel re-established its prominence and encouraged rebirth of part of the old downtown.

My work in conservation and renovation led the president of the World Jewish Congress, in connection with the Camp David Accords, to ask me to study the conditions, and then to take the steps needed to substantiate an interfaith religious center in Egypt. The very presence of the three monotheistic religions in close proximity in Old Cairo—the Ben Ezra Synagogue and the surrounding Coptic and Marianite churches within the fourth-century Roman fortifications, with the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, the first mosque erected in Egypt, close by—offered the necessary context. The synagogue had been abandoned since the Six Day War: Were it to fall into ruin, the evidence of the cohabitation of the three religions would have been lost to history. Furthermore, its symbolic message was urgently needed. Conservation of the synagogue (whose foundations, we discovered, date from the 11th century) and its precinct was complicated and fascinating, but for me it was indispensable above all to document the process and to undertake and publish archaeological and historical research on the synagogue, for this was the only way to substantiate the existence of this cohabitation.

6 / Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA): Idea and Design

More was needed to make architecture a public concern. Much more. Everyone seems to know something about painting, sculpture, and films, but not about architecture. Architecture frames our daily lives; it creates the medium in which we grow and learn, and live. Yet as an art form and social structure its language is mostly unknown. Clearly, architecture is unequivocally a public concern.

It was crucial to establish a place where the many aspects of creating the built world could be discussed, a new type of cultural institution, with the specific aim of increasing public awareness of the role of architecture in contemporary society and promoting scholarly research in the field. An international and interrelated collection composed of prints, drawings, photographs, architectural archives, and books would support research and induce knowledge and debate generated through publications, exhibitions, seminars, and other programs. Such places existed only in part. I discussed creating such a place with art historian and museum director Daniel Robbins and asked him to undertake a study of the mission, collections, operations, and staffing of institutions with related programs, whether library or museum or research center.   

Slowly and in stages the collection was formed in temporary quarters in New York and Montreal. Our activities tested conservation, operational requirements, and programming for the design of a purpose-built institution. Finally the Shaughnessy House (which was built in 1874 and I had acquired in 1974 to stop the wave of demolition in the city—and it was then classified as a heritage building) and new construction would accommodate the CCA that I planned. In the fall of 1983, Peter Rose and I began to discuss qualities of light and air needed to enjoy and yet protect the works of art on paper of which the collection is largely composed. We tried many ways of relating the mansion and the much larger new structure. We wished to make the new building and the restored Shaughnessy House an inspiring place to be, for those who work there, those who engage in research, and those viewing exhibitions or consulting the collection. Construction began in May 1985; the building opened to the public in May 1989; Melvin Charney’s sculpture garden, which is part of the Quebec government’s program for the integration of art and architecture, was dedicated a year later.

The mandate for the CCA building and Mel Charney’s garden was to repair the damage to the urban fabric caused by mid-century in-town-highway engineering. The intention for the garden, like the intentions for the research center and museum, was to initiate dialogue between architecture, nature, and the urban fabric, and to relate architecture’s past and present, evoking its future.

7 / CCA Explorations

The CCA was conceived and designed to fulfill several functions: to collect (as a museum and research library); to archive and document (conservation and curation); to support research (a study center); and to conceptualize and broadcast knowledge (exhibitions and publications). In the early years after opening, we discovered ways of presenting ideas about architecture. I have selected a few exhibitions that have represented our purposes and provided a sense of the broad range of our collection as well as the research involved in their presentation.

Our first exhibition and publication, Photography and Architecture: 1839–1939, not only showed the CCA’s unique collection for the first time, but also established the subject, bringing together these two arts when they were beginning to be recognized as art forms in their own right, and their artifacts purposefully collected. The exhibition traveled to Cologne, Paris, New York, and Ottawa from 1982 to 1984, even before the design for the CCA building had begun.

In 1989, its building complete, the CCA held its opening exhibition, Architecture and its Image: Four Centuries of Architectural Representation. It was designed to present works from our collection cutting across media, period, and place while also providing an in-depth look into the nature of architectural representation and insight into the purposes of the CCA. The exhibition emphasized the fact that architectural artifacts are not actual buildings, but evidence of the study and critical thought inherent in their creation.

The Pantheon: Symbol of Revolution, also exhibited in our inaugural year, demonstrated that a number of related works, of different mediums, different dates, acquired at different times, from different sources, can provoke new research and interpretation when held by one institution. At the CCA, drawings, prints, books, and various printed documents and manuscripts show key aspects of the creation of Soufflot’s church Sainte-Geneviève for Louis XV and its transformation to the Panthéon, temple of the great men of France during the French Revolution. Soufflot’s classical church revolutionized French ecclesiastical architecture. However, his use of columns, rather than massive piers, to support a heavy dome caused structural problems threatening its stability. The collection holds numerous documents from the early 19th century studied by famous architects and engineers to stabilize the building. Other documents relate to desacralization of the church during the French Revolution, and the changes made in order to create an atmosphere commensurate with the Panthéon, in which the illustrious dead of the nation are buried. After its return to worship in 1822 under the restoration of the monarchy (indicated by a pediment design by Baltard), the church’s vocation as the Panthéon, a civic monument, was finally and definitively reasserted with the funeral of Victor Hugo in 1885.

Opening the Gates of Eighteenth-Century Montreal was the first of a series of exhibitions over the years, in which the CCA explored unknown histories of Montreal. A decade of unprecedented research on the walled town was based on extensive archival material on land holding and building contracts, together with volumes on civil law and other primary sources, undertaken by the Groupe de recherche sur Montréal, which I had formed. The exhibition and book focus on the interrelationships of three key elements of Montreal’s urban form over a century and a half: the fortifications; the ownership, distribution, and use of property within the fortifications; and the character of buildings. For the exhibition, the CCA borrowed extraordinary, essentially unknown artifacts from museums and archives in France, Ottawa, Quebec, and Montreal, and, in its first venture in the use of the digital, created interactive databases to reconstruct aspects of the town and its defences through which visitors could navigate the streets of Montreal three hundred years ago.

In the years approaching the 100th anniversary of Mies van der Rohe’s birth, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, based on its holdings, planned the exhibition and publication Mies in Berlin, and the CCA, based on its holdings, planned Mies in America. Mies had declared in 1955, “My kind of architecture they should just call a structural approach,” but his work in America was not understood. Closely studying his drawings at MoMA and the CCA, I set out to learn how, after 1939, in the heartland of industrial America, step by step, Mies moved from the romantic poetics of his German years to the poetics of a rational, structural architecture. Mies commented on the difference between the way we think about and use the word structure. In the English language, he said, everything is a structure. In Europe it is not so. A shack is called a shack and not a structure. “By structure we had a philosophical idea. The structure is the whole from top to bottom, to the last detail—with the same ideas.” In addition to exhibiting drawings and models, we commissioned films in order to help to immerse the visitor in Mies’s idea. The exhibition opened in 2001 at the Whitney Museum in New York and traveled to Chicago before its last showing in Montreal. Mies in America was my last exhibition as director of the CCA.

For more details on Phyllis Lambert: 75 Years At Work, on view until June 4 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, see the CCA's website here.

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Breuer Revisited

New photography exhibition explores four Marcel Breuer projects from all over the world
For the Met Breuer’s first architecture exhibition, curator Beatrice Galilee has commissioned photographers Luisa Lambri and Bas Princen to revisit the iconic work of Marcel Breuer. The exhibition presents two distinct series of photographs paying homage to Breuer’s still-existing monumental modernist buildings from the 1950s and 1960s. The selected buildings include Saint John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Minnesota and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris which are Breuer’s first two important institutional buildings. These buildings were significant because they allowed Breuer to expand beyond what was essentially a residential practice. The IBM Research center in La Gaude, France (which is Breuer’s personal favorite) is known for its modular prefabricated concrete facade panels and distinctive double Y-shaped plan. The final building selected for the exhibition is the former Whitney Museum of American Art (now the Met Breuer). The museum is a New York City landmark known for its strong urban form as an inverted ziggurat. Lambri and Princen’s uniquely idiosyncratic approaches to the commission provide a welcoming juxtaposition of photographs. Lambri’s work documents the ephemeral experience of interior space through focused studies of light and materiality. The hexagonal screen at Saint John’s and the trapezoidal window at the Met Breuer are each documented as a series of photographs displaying the calm modulation of light over time. Princen’s dramatically large scale photographs document the post-occupancy use of buildings and their evolving relationship with nature. The sculptural, tree-like pillars at Saint John’s library are framed by a row of ordinary public library book shelves in the foreground. Upon revisiting the unoccupied IBM research center, Princen’s photos place the building within what appears to be an overgrown forest—a distinct contrast to the 1965 site which was sparsely covered by small trees. Long after Marcel Breuer’s passing in 1981, the influence of his work continues to gradually develop much like the life of buildings after they leave the drafting table. Both Lambri’s and Princen’s photos present us the opportunity to contemplate Breuer’s work unencumbered by the great modernist architect’s own intentions. Breuer Revisited: New Photographs runs through May 21, 2017, at The Met Breuer.
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Dear Mr. President,

Over 250 architects sign open letter to Donald Trump
A letter written by the grassroots coalition Architects Advocate has been signed by 276 architecture and design firms and sent to President-elect Donald Trump. The letter focuses on three specific actions addressing climate change, a clean and competitive U.S. economy using renewable energy, and standing up against special interest money in politics. “The President-elect has pledged to create jobs in urban and rural communities. We believe the best way to achieve this is to take decisive action on climate change by investing in a low-carbon US economy because it is a win-win for businesses, people, and the environment alike” said Tom Jacobs with Krueck+Sexton Architects, one of the letter signatories. “The consensus about needed action on climate change among design industry professionals is overwhelming, and the general public supports such actions with significant majorities across party lines as well. We are not being political by speaking out—we are acting in the best interest of every American, present and future, and are inviting the President-elect to join us moving forward.” The letter is copied below: President-elect Trump, As American architects, we are dedicated to creating healthy, productive, and safe communities for all. We are committed to doing so in a way that is economically viable, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable. In these communities, families and businesses thrive. Throughout our great history we have always depended on the natural environment. It has nurtured us and has enabled vast freedom, growth, innovation, and profit. Today we are already experiencing the potentially irreversible negative impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. American prosperity is at risk. Our children and grandchildren face the real possibility of our country and world in turmoil. Because buildings alone account for almost 40% of total U.S. energy use and 72% percent of U.S. electricity use, America’s architects are on the front line addressing climate change in a meaningful way. Action on climate change is supported across party lines by significant majorities of Americans, including the military and leaders of industry, faith, science, and education. By taking decisive action now we all can be remembered as historic and courageous actors who helped secure humanity’s future. We can turn our climate challenge into an unrivaled economic opportunity that creates desirable and healthy jobs in rural and urban communities alike. All Americans win if:
  • We invest in a clean and competitive U.S. economy that is powered by renewable energy through cost-effective and innovative solutions. This creates jobs and lowers the costs of living and doing business.
  • We stand up to the influence of special interest money in politics to create a truly level playing field. Subsidies for renewable energy technologies should be equal to the many hidden and costly subsidies that support fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Alternatively, all subsidies across all energy sources should be removed in their entirety.
  • We re-affirm America’s commitment to addressing climate change through the continued participation in the historic Paris Climate Agreement.
We invite you to join our commitment to developing healthy and prosperous communities, and to designing and building the great America that future generations deserve. Together, we can ensure our children and grandchildren will remember us with pride. Signed, 229 Architecture Firms 24 Landscape Architecture Firms 21 Design + Consulting Industry Firms 2 Organizations see following pages for all signatories Architecture Firms: agps architecture, Los Angeles CA AIM Associates, Petaluma CA Alchemy Architects, St. Paul MN Alima Silverman Architect, Santa Rosa CA AltusWorks, Chicago IL Anderson Krygier, Inc., Portland OR Angela Klein Architect, Alameda CA Ankrom Moisan Architects, Portland OR Anthony Belluschi FAIA Consulting Architect, Portland OR Antunovich Associates, Chicago IL Archimage Architects, Ltd., Chicago IL archimania, Memphis TN architect’s office, San Francisco CA Architecture Is Fun, Inc., Chicago IL architecture+, Troy NY ARExA, New York NY Bailey Edward Design, Inc., Chicago IL Bassetti Architects, Seattle WA Bauer Latoza Studio, Chicago IL beta-field, Charlottesville VA Bisbee Architecture + Design, Santa Rosa CA bKL Architecture, Chicago IL Blue Truck, Inc., San Francisco CA BNIM, Des Moines IA Booth Hansen, Chicago IL Bora Architects, Portland OR Boyer Architects LLC, Evanston IL Brewer Studio Architects, Sebastopol CA Brininstool + Lynch, Ltd., Chicago IL Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles CA Brubaker Design, Chicago IL Brush Architects, LLC, Chicago IL building Lab, Emeryville CA Burhani Design Architects, Chicago IL CAMESgibson, Chicago IL Caples Jefferson Architects, Long Island City NY Carlo Parente Architect, Chicago IL CaVA Architects, LLP, Philadelphia PA Charles Pipal, AIA, Riverside IL Chen & Associates, A+E, Sebastopol CA Chris Binger Architect, San Diego CA Christoper Strom Architects, St Louis Park MN Circle West Architects, Phoenix AZ Circo Architects, Inc., Riverside IL Constantine D. Vasilios & Associates Ltd, Chicago IL Cook Architectural Design Studio, Chicago IL Cordogan Clark & Associates, Chicago IL Dan Miller Architects Ltd., Chicago IL David Crabbe Architect, San Carlos CA David Fleener Architects, Chicago IL Deam + Dine, Sausalito CA Deanna Berman Design Alternatives, Chicago IL Deborah Berke Partners, New York NY Design Smak, Evanston IL Design Team, LLC, Highland Park IL Design2 LAST, Inc., Edmonds WA Dev Architects, Woodside CA Dilworth Eliot Studio, San Francisco CA Dirk Denison Architects, Chicago IL DOES Architecture, San Francisco CA Dragani Martone Studio, LLP, Philadelphia PA DRIFT-Design, Oakland CA DSGN Associates, Dallas TX Duvivier Architects, Venice CA Dwyer/Oglesbay, Minneapolis MN Eastlake Studio, Chicago IL Eckenhoff Saunders Architects, Chicago IL Ellipsis Architecture, Chicago IL emar Studio for Public Architecture, Culver City CA Environ Architecture, Inc., Long Beach CA Equinox Design, Sebastopol CA EQUINOX Design and Development, Windsor CA Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, New Orleans LA Farr Associates, Chicago IL Feldman Architecture, San Francisco CA Fiona E. O’Neill, Architect, The Sea Ranch CA Fletcher Studio, San Francisco CA Fougeron Architecture, San Francisco CA Frank Zilm & Associates, Inc., Kansas City MO GEMMILL DESIGN Architectural Studio, San Francisco CA General Architecture Collaborative, Syracuse NY Gerhard Zinserling Architects, Chicago IL Gray Organschi Architecture, New Haven CT Greater Good Studio, Chicago IL Green Building Architects, Petaluma CA Hacker Architects, Portland OR Handel Architects LLP, New York NY Harboe Architects, Chicago IL Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, Chicago IL Heidrun Hoppe Associates, Evanston IL Heitzman Architects, Oak Park IL Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, San Francisco CA Holbert and Associates, Architects, Chicago IL HouseHaus, Chicago IL HPZS, Chicago IL husARchitecture Inc., Chicago IL Huth Architects, Newton MA Ibañez Architecture, Fort Worth TX Imai Keller Moore Architects, Watertown MA INVISION planning | architecture | interiors, Waterloo IA JAHN, LLC, Chicago IL JAMTGÅRDESIGN, San Francisco CA JDD-Architects, Chicago IL JGMA, Chicago IL Jones Design Studio, PLLC, Tulsa OK jones | haydu, San Francisco CA Jones Studio, Tempe AZ Jurassic Studio, Chicago IL Kaplan Architects, San Francisco CA Katherine Austin, AIA, Architect, Bend OR Kathleen Hallahan, Architect, San Diego CA Kathryn Quinn Architects, Ltd., Chicago IL Kipnis Architecture + Planning, Chicago IL Klara Valent Interiors, Tucson AZ Klopf Architecture, San Francisco CA Klopfer Martin Design Group, Boston MA Krueck+Sexton Architects, Chicago IL Kuklinski+Rappe Architects, Chicago IL Kupiec Architects PC, Santa Barbara CA Kuth Ranieri Architects, San Francisco CA lab practices, Syracuse NY Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio TX Lance Jay Brown Architecture + Urban Design, New York NY Landon Bone Baker Architects Ltd., Chicago IL Latent Design, Chicago IL Lawton Stanley Architects, Chicago IL LEDDY MAYTUM STACY Architects, San Francisco CA Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Boston MA Legat Architects, Chicago IL Liv Companies, Burr Ridge IL Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, Los Angeles CA Lucy C. Williams, Architect, St. Louis MO Lundberg Design, San Francisco CA Marble Fairbanks Architects, Brooklyn NY Marilyn Standley, Architect, Sebastopol CA Mark English Architects, San Francisco CA Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville AR MAS Studio, Chicago IL Merryman Barnes Architects, Inc., Portland OR Michael Hennessey Architecture, San Francisco CA Mitchell Garman Architects, Dallas TX Mithun, San Francisco CA Morgante Wilson Architects, Evanston IL Morse and Cleaver Architects, Sebastopol CA moss, Chicago IL MRSA Architects, Chicago IL MSR Design, Minneapolis MN MW Steele Group Inc., San Diego CA MX3 ARCHITECTS, Chicago IL NADAAA, Boston MA NEEDBASED, Santa Fe NM Nicholas Design Collaborative, Chicago IL Norman Kelley, Chicago IL Northlight Architects LLC, Chicago IL Nushu, LLC, Chicago IL OKW Architects, Inc., Chicago IL Opsis Architecture, Portland OR Page, Austin TX Pappageorge Haymes Partners, Chicago IL Patricia K. Emmons Architecture & Fine Art, Seattle WA Paul Preissner Architects, Chicago IL Paulett Taggart Architects, San Francisco CA Payette, Boston MA PLACE, Portland OR Propel Studio, Portland OR Public Design Architects, Oak Park IL RATIO Architects, Indianapolis IN (r)evolution architecture, LaGrange IL Risinger + Associates, Inc., Chicago IL River Architects, Cold Spring NY RL Dooley Architect, PLLC, Bremerton WA RNT Architects, San Diego CA Rockford Architects Inc., Rockford IL Rockwell Associates Architects, Evanston IL Ross Barney Architects, Chicago IL Rubiostudio, Chicago IL Ruland Design Group, San Diego CA Conger Architects, Chicago IL Salus Architecture Inc., Seattle WA Sam Marts Architects & Planners, Ltd., Chicago IL Sanders Pace Architecture, Knoxville TN Sarah Deeds Architect, Berkeley CA Scott / Edwards Architecture, Portland OR scrafano architects, Chicago IL Searl Lamaster Howe Architects, Chicago IL Serena Sturm Architects, Chicago IL Shands Studio, San Anselmo CA SHED Studio, Chicago IL Siegel & Strain Architects, Emeryville CA SKJN Architekten Corp., Chicago IL Smith-Miller+Hawkinson Architects, LLP, New York NY SMNG A Ltd., Chicago IL Snøhetta, New York NY Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis MN SPACE Architects + Planners, Chicago IL SRG Partnership, Portland OR Stefan Helgeson Associates, LLC, Edina MN Stephen J. Wierzbowski, AIA, Chicago IL STL Architects, Chicago IL Strawn + Sierralta, Honolulu HI Strening Architects, Santa Rosa CA Studio Dwell Architects, Chicago IL Studio KDA, Berkeley CA studio M MERGE, Oakland CA Studio Ma, Phoenix AZ Studio Nigro Architecture + Design, Chicago IL Studio VK, New York NY Suski Design, Inc. Architects, Chicago IL TannerHecht Architecture, San Francisco CA TEF Design, San Francisco CA Thomas Roszak Architecture, Chicago IL Tilton, Kelly + Bell, LLC, Chicago IL Troyer Group, Mishawaka IN UrbanWorks, Ltd., Chicago IL Van Meter Williams Pollack LLP, San Francisco CA Vinci | Hamp Architects, Inc., Chicago IL Vladimir Radutny Architects, Chicago IL von Oeyen Architects, Los Angeles CA von Weise Associates, Chicago IL Walter Street ARCHITECTURE, Chicago IL Whitney Inc., Oak Brook IL Will Bruder Architects, Phoenix AZ Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects P.C., Chicago IL Wrap Architecture, Chicago IL WRNS Studio, San Francisco CA ZGF Architects LLP, Portland OR 2 Point Perspective: Architecture + Interiors, Chicago IL 2rz Architecture, Chicago IL 34-Ten, LLC, Chicago IL Landscape Architecture Firms: Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, San Francisco CA Coen + Partners, Minneapolis MN Fieldwork Design Group, Chicago IL GLS Landscape/Architecture, San Francisco CA Ground Inc. Landscape Architecture, Somerville MA Hargreaves Associates, San Francisco CA Hargreaves Jones, New York NY Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape, LLC, Chicago IL Lenet, Crestani, Tallman Land Design, LLC, Chicago IL LENS Landscape Architecture, LLC, Bend OR Mark Tessier Landscape Architecture, Inc., Santa Monica CA Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, New York NY Mauro Crestani & Associates, Landscape Architects, Chicago IL McKay Landscape Architects, Chicago IL Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles CA Prassas Landscape Studio LLC, Chicago IL Reed Hilderbrand, Cambridge MA Rinda West Landscape Designs, Chicago IL site, Chicago IL Terry Guen Design Associates, Chicago IL The Organic Garden Coach, Downers Grove IL Topiarius, Inc., Chicago IL Ulrich Bachand Landscape Architecture, LLC, Dedham MA Wenk Associates, Denver CO Design + Consulting Industry Firms: Atelier Ten, Environmental Design, New Haven CT Corey Gaffer Photography, Minneapolis MN Development Management Associates, LLC, Chicago IL EHT Traceries, Inc., Washington DC Green Dinosaur, Inc., Culver City CA HJKessler Associates, Chicago IL Interface, Atlanta GA Jaros, Baum & Bolles Consulting Engineers, New York NY jozeph forakis...design, Brooklyn NY Lee Bey Architectural Photography, Chicago IL Lightswitch Architectural, Chicago IL Medical Facility Innovations Ltd., Leavenworth WA New Voodou, Santa Fe NM Paul Hydzik Photography, Chicago IL Spirit of Space, Milwaukee WI Talentstar, Inc., Petaluma CA The Walker Group NW, Seattle WA Thirst, Chicago IL Threshold Acoustics LLC, Chicago IL Tom Harris Architectural Photography, Chicago IL visualizedconcepts inc., Chicago IL Organizations: Archeworks, Chicago IL Architects Advocate for Action on Climate Change, Chicago IL