All posts in East

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The Life of Riley
In a series of articles over the past week, The Art Newspaper takes an extensive look at the recently concluded art extravaganza in Miami. It reports that the scene was not as grim as last year, offering this roundup of celebrity-studded Art Basel Miami Beach: “The fair attracted its usual tribes of pop stars, fashionistas, museum directors, actresses in sky-high stilettos and dressed-down buyers, including a denim-clad Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire. Lily Allen was sashaying around White Cube, while John Taylor of Duran Duran showed interest in a Richard Prince collage at Gagosian.” But while on the subject of Miami and its art world, the paper reported on Terry Riley’s exit from the Miami Art Museum (MAM), and added a few interesting tidbits to the story. The paper claims that Craig Robins—a MAM trustee and the person behind developer Dacra and the Miami Design District—was surprised by Riley’s departure, given that he had just unveiled plans for the museum’s new $220 million Herzog & de Meuron–designed home. “He saw the writing on the wall. It was either get out now or commit for another five years,” said Robins. Yet Robins also suggested that Riley might not have been the right fit for a protracted building project. “Terry was brilliant,” Robins said, “but his strength does not lie in construction management.” The paper also claims that Riley was frustrated by a spending squeeze imposed by Miami-Dade County earlier this year, which resulted in a $350,000 funding cut. The museum laid off eight members of staff, and senior management saw their salaries cut by 5 percent, all of which, according to the paper, contributed to Riley’s departure from the museum. Riley, as we pointed out in our story, will focus his energy on his Keenen/Riley architecture practice.
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How Green Is It?
Coming out of City Hall today, we stumbled upon a press conference reaffirming the groundbreaking green-ness of the new green buildings measures first unveiled on Earth Day and due to pass the council this week. Measures that include a new energy code and more efficient lighting, energy benchmarking and training for building operators. But one measure no longer included, according to a rather damning story in the Times this weekend, is mandatory decennial energy audits for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet, which would be required to replace inefficient building systems if they are not up to current standards. The main culprit, as with many things these days, is the recession:
“It’s another unfunded mandate, and this is just not the time for it,” said Stuart Saft, chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, an opponent of the plan. “Come back in five years when we’re past this recession. At this point it’s just a slap in the face.”
Hence the press conference today, though it was not being hosted by the building owners and operators opposed to the bill but half-a-dozen environmental groups in favor of it—big ones at that, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, NRDC, and the Urban Green Council (aka USGBC NY)—along with as many council members, who will be voting on the green building legislation Wednesday. This group was not there fighting for the reinstatement of the missing measure but instead bowing to its removal while arguing the package of bills would still set New York on a historic path. "This is fair and responsible," James Gennaro, chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, said. "We'll get to 30 percent one way or another." Let's hope so.
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Come Hear About Designnear
With an iPhone app already proffering the city that never was, how about the one that is, or is about to be? That is the charming task of Designnear. (That's design-near, not design-ear.) From the fine folks at Hopnear, which also has a cool Artnear app, too, Designnear maps out nearby contemporary buildings of interest, replete with lots of cool photos and renderings and vital info. And forget where that cool, new project you just read about in The Architect's Newspaper is? There's a search, function, too, that'll map it out and let you find it. Better yet, anyone can log-on and submit their own projects—that's you, up-and-coming architect—hopefull leading to a comprehensive iPhone catalog of all the city's nifty buildings. UPDATE: A Hopnear rep emailed us to say that Designnear now has landmarks listed for most U.S. cities, and they're poised for a roll out in Asia and Europe.
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Plummeting Pei
Goldman Sachs has been much in the news lately for its continued blockbuster bonuses as much of the workforce continues to languish. But the new headquarters for the company designed by Harry Cobb has also made headlines for some time now thanks (or no thanks) to construction accidents. The latest occurred this weekend, when glass panels fell in the middle of the night from the 38th floor onto the West Side Highway, shutting it down for a few hours according to the Post. The Tribeca Trib also reports the accident also shut down a Battery Park City ice rink that was set to open Sunday, delaying the inaugural opening by a day. What's worse, though, is the Trib says construction managers knew about a crack in the panes that precipitated their fall but delayed fixing it.
Robert Blackman, Tishman’s executive vice president, said workers had spotted a half-inch-long "hairline" crack in a window on the 38th floor of the $2.4 billion office tower on Nov. 13, but chose to put off replacing the glass until after the external construction hoist on the north face of the building was dismantled. “[The broken glass] was deemed not to be a safety concern to us,” Blackman told a Community Board 1 members Tuesday night, upset over this, the fourth reported incident of falling objects from the site. “I would have been the first to have stopped the job if we thought it posed a risk to this community.” Blackman said “unusually high winds” the morning of Nov. 28 were likely what spread the crack across the upper portion of the 10-by-7-foot window. Around 7:30 that morning, pieces of the window fell off of the building, landing on West Street and on a platform inside the construction site.
That's more than two weeks between spotting the damage and the accident. Were this the first problem at the site, that might be understandable, but as has been widely reported with the news of this latest accident, it's not. There was an errant piece of steel that fell onto a neighboring soccer field in the middle of a game, a hammer that hit a cab, and, most tragically, the seven tons worth of girders dropped on a construction trailer that paralyzed the architect trapped inside. What has not been mentioned yet, though, is that falling glass is nothing new for Pei Cobb Freed.
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Cortlandt Coronation
Many New Yorkers were headed for planes, trains, and automobiles last Wednesday as they decamped for the Thanksgiving holiday, but not new MTA chief Jay Walder and a clutch of Lower Manhattan pols. They took the subway to Cortlandt Street, where a re-dedication of the of the the northbound R/W station took place, its restoration—which we first noticed in April—recently completed. “The MTA has played a key role in the revival of Downtown, and we’re excited to provide customers with an improved station just in time for the holidays," Walder said in a release. The station first reopened in September 2002 following the 9/11 attacks only to close in 2005 to accommodate work at Ground Zero. It has undergone a few minor changes since then, including wider stairwells—the better to facilitate the hoards of tourists descending on Century 21—and an expanded platform. The walls look much the same as they always have, though, having retained the trademark tile work of the Broadway line, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. And while work on the southbound station is only beginning, its reopening was also announced: September 11, 2011, just in time for the tenth anniversary and the opening of the memorial.
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Our Inattentive, Unintentional Observation
It was a low-key but engaging evening at The Storefront for Art & Architecture on Thursday at the opening reception for Marina Ballo Charmet's peculiarly-titled exhibition of photos and a video, At Land: Bodyscape & Cityscape. Trained as a psychoanalyst, Charmet's work is driven by her self-professed interest in "inattentive, unintentional observation, irrational and without direction." As you might guess from the exhibition's title, the works on display range in scale from the extremely intimate to the nearly impersonal, and were culled from four separate series the artist has been compiling since the mid-1990s. Their common denominator, explains curator Jean-Francois Chevrier in the text that accompanies the show, is Charmet's proclivity to move "at land, to quote the first film by Maya Deren. [...] She makes her way as one would sail, through cities and parks, among bodies, giving her pictures an oceanic and kinematic dimension." There's something inherently appealing, sexy even, about just setting the gaze to sweep, and exploring the world by evenly skimming the surface of things, regardless of scale or context. In staging the exhibition, Charmet and Chevrier make great use of Storefront's distinctive triangular footprint, balancing smaller prints that focus on Charmet's wide-scope work, namely images taken in some of the greatest parks in Europe and the Americas, with larger prints depicting extreme close-ups of necks and clavicles and stubbly chins. A single video piece, placed on a low pedestal, provides a noisy focal point at the narrow end of the space. The centerpieces, of course, are close-cropped images of the business end of big anonymous buildings that would make both the Smithsons and Darth Vader equally proud—titanic, weather-stained expanses of unyielding concrete, framed at imposing angles. For all her stated interest in "inattentive, unintentional observation," Charmet's photos retain a calculated composition of a kind that's totally absent from, say, the work of a photographer like Daido Moriyama, whose early Provoke-era photos were so spare and without composition, teetering menacingly between accident and nihilism, that it's still tremendously influential today. The kind of work Charmet is doing isn't exactly breaking any new ground, but the juxtaposition of scales and surfaces is very pleasant nonetheless. When she hits the mark, Charmet's sense of composition recalls the odd, disorienting, and occasionally claustrophobic framings that are the trademark of the Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, whose films are always beguiling and about as contemporary as you can get. Viewed together, as it is at the Storefront, this seeming hodge podge coalesces into a concrete whole. At the opening, a small-by-Storefront-standards crowd gathered, though the space's co-designer Vito Acconci did make an appearance. Chevrier cheerfully welcomed guests and gave a brief, improvised introduction to Charmet's approach to the photographic process. He pointed out that Charmet's work has much to do with the gaze (she's a psychoanalyst after all), and he underscored the unique angle of her work's photographic perspective (it evokes the view of a dog, or a child crawling). With a casual air redolent of the works on the wall, Chevrier invited those assembled to enjoy the "fritto misto" of Charmet's works, well-complemented by the wine guests helped themselves to as outside the rain that had threatened all evening finally began in earnest.
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Harlem In Bloom
A crumbling row of ten Renaissance Revival apartment buildings, which were once the first black-owned property in North Harlem, are about to be remade again as one of a growing number of affordable, sustainable housing complexes sprouting up across the city. The project, which according to the Daily News, is set to begin by year's end, is being tackled by affordable housing guru Jonathan Rose and his Smart Growth Investment fund, who bought the buildings in January as the fund's first acquisition in its cheap-and-green portfolio. Dattner Architects, experts on both affordable and sustainable housing, is responsible for the retrofits [PDF], which include a photovoltaic array on the roof, efficient energy systems, lighting controls, new windows and insulation, and sustainably sourced materials. In addition to making it a more conscientious project, it also makes it a more feasible one, as these features open it up to stimulus and HUD moneys targeted at sustainable buildings—to the tune of $3 million.
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The Storefront Files
Storefront
The Storefront for Art and Architecture was founded in 1982 in a small, street-level space on Prince Street. Kyong Park, the founder of the gallery, created a cheaply reproduced catalogue or “newsletter” that he circulated to a mailing list to announce exhibitions. Now the Storefront has published a $69 limited-edition version of the newsletter Storefront Newsprints 1982–2009. It will serve as the definitive archive of this important gallery, but current Storefront director Joseph Grima said that the effort is missing a single newsletter for the 1988 exhibition From Destruction to Construction that documents projects by the Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata. Grima will give a free book to anyone who can locate the missing newsprint, and he can be contacted at 212-431-5795.
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Eavesdrop NY 19
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS Who among us hasn’t been following the pruning at our beloved Condé Nast? “Cold,” we gasped as the swag was packed up and shipped to the catacombs under 4 Times Square. “Just plain mean!” we stammered when Gourmet was euthanized. Cold and mean are economic realities across the board these days, so we soldier on. Recently, however, we learned of a totally out-of-character editorial move at Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter sent letters, via FedEx, to 80 architects, critics, historians, and others asking them to contribute to an “opinion survey” from which the “five most important” buildings or works of engineering or infrastructure since 1980 would emerge. Respondents were then asked to name, in their opinion, the single most important work completed thus far in the 21st century. The letter went on to promise a lavishly illustrated feature, including interviews with the winning architects. This is not the way we evaluate art, design, and architecture. This is the way we pick the best corned-beef sandwich in town. One of the esteemed invitees opined that if the survey went out to all the usual suspects, then we can expect the winners to be the usual and suspect as well. Another cynic pointed out that the survey relieves the magazine from having to pay a real writer. (Forbes did something similar in 2002, but its search was for the ugliest.) Yet another voter suggested that the article be a roundup of architects who have designed showrooms or headquarters for *Vanity Fair advertisers: Koolhaas, Marino, Koolhaas, Pawson, Koolhaas. BACK TO THE FUTURE Eavesdrop is giddy about the opening of Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity at MoMA. Much to see and do. And yet, we’d like to draw your attention to a footnote, one of those insider’s jokes with historical significance beyond its visual impact. Think back to 1975. Arthur Drexler, MoMA’s director of architecture and design, had just mounted *The Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which many thought was an anachronistic exhibition for a modern museum. As an ironic joke, Suzanne Stephens, now deputy editor at Architectural Record, and Susana Torre, a practicing architect in Spain, designed a “bring back the Bauhaus” button for the 1975 opening. Both Stephens and Torre, alumnae of MoMA’s Architecture and Design Department, wanted to acknowledge the shock value of presenting a show based on a 19th-century academy. According to the package notes, when offered a button at the opening, Drexler refused but by the end of the evening he was caught up in the spirit of the occasion. We are happy to announce that now that MoMA has indeed brought back the Bauhaus, the button has been reissued. Go buy one before someone introduces “bring back the Beaux.” Send Anni Albers rugs and Breuer club chairs to shart@archpaper.com.
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Gehry Tops Out
Yesterday, Bruce Ratner and Frank Gehry got together down on Beekman Street to celebrate the topping out of the Santa Monica architect's one Ratner project that did get off the ground. The inimitable Eliot Brown stopped by to snap some pictures and discuss the condo tower with Gehry—Brown's sorta right about that unveiling, as we were there, so it kinda happened, making us one of "those magazines"—and their discussion reminded us of two interesting facts. First, the 76-story jobber is twice as tall as anything Gehry's ever done, and may yet ever do, given the economy and certain other realities. (Gehry did quip, after all, that the building was achieved with "No Viagra!") And it is now officially the tallest residential building in the city, taller even, yes, than the Death Star. Our favorite fact, though, is that they apparently had a specially designed (read: spray painted) silver concrete bucket to do the honors of pouring the last batch. And for something more serious, the salmon-colored site also has a look at a new study out by NYU's Furman real estate center that finds, lamentably but perhaps unsurprisingly—especially if you've read this gem—that New York's minority residents were primarily the target of sub-prime (some call it predatory) lending and eight-times as likely as a white New Yorker to get a bad loan.
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Shrubhenge
If you've passed by One Bryant Park in the past month or so, you may have noticed what looks like a kind of leafy-green Stonehenge clustered in the lobby of the Bank of America building. The three monoliths and twenty-five foot tall archway are made of galvanized steel frames seeded with thousands of ferns, mosses, and lichens, an installation designed by a team from Wallace Roberts & Todd, led by designer Margie Ruddick and sculptor Dorothy Ruddick. The piece is meant as a reminder of the building's green cred, as the Cook + Fox tower achieved LEED Platinum. Unlike the original Stonehenge, we don't have to wonder how this one was built. In fact, you can watch it being assembled in the above time-lapse clip, which compresses the entire 42 hours of installation into a mere 30 seconds. Watch as the mysterious shruboliths rise before your eyes, and check some photos after the jump.
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Kings of Curbed
It must be said that Curbed, in its short life, has become one of the preeminent sites for not just real estate but also architecture and planning news, one of—not the, mind you, as that would us—best places for info on the evolving built environments of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. They are most certainly in our Top 10. Reaffirming that fact is a Top 10 of Curbed's own, a celebration of the best buildings of the past decade, something the site(s) weren't around to see the dawning of, though who cares, since neither were we. Each of the three Curbed sites asked local luminaries—Brooklyn's notorious Robert Scarano and our pal Eric Owen Moss included—to name their favorite new buildings in their respective cities that had been built over the last decade. Noticeable trends: lots of boldface firms, lots of glass, lots of big buildings, lots of Standard Hotels. We woulda voted for the Nehemiya Spring Houses, because it shows that any architect, with the wherewithal, can do stunning affordable housing in the outer reaches of an outerborough—which is not to say Alex Gorlin is just anybody, but, well, you know. Alas, we lost our submission form and could not make the main event. Here are the sites' countdowns, plus their runners-up: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco (no runners-up yet). We're told there's more Top of the Aughts coverage to come, so keep your eyes peels. And, if you're an obsessive reader like us, you may have noticed part of the celebration is a sexy new redesign, to which we give a hearty Mazel Tov and thumbs up.