All posts in East

Placeholder Alt Text

Beguiling Horizons from Bruno Cals
The almost abstract series of prints by Brazilian photographer Bruno Cals could show race tracks, prisons, railroads, or meadows. But what Cals has captured through his lens are in fact some of the world’s most seductive new buildings. In an exhibition on view through July 31 at 1500, a new gallery in New York with a focus on Brazilian photography, what resembles swells of water in Prada turns out to be the facade of Herzog & de Meuron’s Prada store in Aoyama, Tokyo. Another shot shows not an undulating sheen of ice but the Maison Hermès by Renzo Piano in Ginza, Tokyo. Other images offer close-ups not of trophy architecture but of everyday structures that prove just as surprising. What at first glance looks like a lush field is a brick building in Palermo, Buenos Aires, studded with graffiti and crossed by an electrical wire. Cals, an acclaimed fashion and advertising photographer, divides his time between commercial and personal projects, launching Horizons, his first series of architectural images, in 2008. Six of the twelve images in the series—depicting buildings in São Paulo, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires—are on view as digital C-prints, while the rest are displayed on a LCD screen. Probing themes of “presence versus emptiness, and search versus satisfaction,” Cals finds provocative new perspectives in the everyday world around us.
Placeholder Alt Text

NYC DOT Puts Peddles to the Pavement
First came Times Square, then, all in the course of a few weeks, 34th Street, Union Square North, and Grand Army Plaza. Now, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has set her sites on bus rapid transit for the east side of Manhattan. Granted this project, like those above, have been kicking around her office in one form or another for years. But to see all of them getting off—or should we say on—the ground in such a short window is welcome news, especially as the MTA continues to fumble and falter. For all the talk of parks, and not condos, being the legacy of Mayor Bloomberg's third term, perhaps the exploits of his occasionally maligned Transit Commish should not be overlooked. After all, we've got 42 more months of this. At this rate, we could have a citywide space program going by then.
Placeholder Alt Text

Building Hope for Haiti
On Friday, at Rebuilding a Sustainable Haiti—a public symposium on planning strategies for the country’s future hosted by New York’s Institute for Urban Design—a common sentiment united nearly all of the panelists onstage, as well as those seated in Cooper Union’s packed Rose Auditorium: the scale of destruction from the January earthquake demands a transformation, and not merely a replication, of Haiti’s built environment. “Perhaps a better title for the symposium is ‘Building a Sustainable Haiti,’” Garry Pierre-Pierre, editor and founder of The Haitian Times, said in his opening remarks, which provided a background of Haitian politics from 1986 to the present and stressed the corrupt nature of the state. But this shared recognition of the task at hand quickly gave way to a debate over the competing roles of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the local Haitian community. The first group of panelists, which presented the Action Plan for Reconstruction—the framework within which designers and planners must now build an economically and environmentally sustainable Haiti in the years ahead—emphasized the empowerment of Haitians to take the lead in carving out the future of their country. Ami Desai, who works with the Clinton Foundation in New York, mentioned that giving Haitian farmers tools they need to realize their day-to-day goals is one example of a government action that would simultaneously empower and respect the local population. But during question-and-answer sessions, several audience members challenged what they perceived as the hypocrisy of a plan that would defer to the local Haitian government. Louis Herns Marcelin—a speaker and the Director of the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development in Port-au-Prince—echoed that sentiment. To a round of applause from the audience, Marcelin called the Haitian state “corrupt,” “violent,” and “sick,” emphasizing the potential pitfalls of leaving Haitians in charge of rebuilding efforts. Deborah Gans, an architect who worked in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, added that the presence of diverse neighborhood groups complicates the rebuilding process. Challenging the notion of a single “local level” as too simplistic a way to frame the discussion, she pointed to the extended family networks and various community organizations that formed during her time in New Orleans. Despite the symposium’s divergent threads of discussion, the day ended with near-consensus. As speakers gathered onstage for a plenary panel, representatives of NGOs, Haitian governmental institutions, and the northeast’s increasingly active community of designers and planners expressed the need to bridge grand plans for Haiti with an inclusive local vision.
Placeholder Alt Text

What Were You Thinking, Mr. Foster?
Last night, I was lucky enough to enjoy assorted swells (but not very many architects) at the Hearst building for a screening of the enigmatic “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?", a film devoted to his lordship’s extravagantly photogenic architecture and life of work. Or so it looks in this approximately 90 minute film which sweeps us from the Engadin Alps where Foster annually plows through a 26-mile mile cross-country ski marathon in tight black lycra with some 14,000 others to his redbrick childhood home quite literally on the wrong side of the tracks in Manchester to his current home in a Swiss villa, spectacularly void of human touches, to his 1,000-plus strong office in London to the early Sainsbury Centre; the Swiss Re gherkin; the British Museum Great Court; the Berlin Reichstag, etc, etc, and of course, the Hong Kong Beijing Airport that is the largest building on earth as narrator Deyan Sudjic intones mellifluously. (The trailor below provides but a morsel of this delight.) Many of his buildings are seen as if from the wing of a Cessna gliding overhead—especially the great dinosaur-scaled Millau Viaduct in France—with the nice touch of swelling slow-mo clouds, and almost as if Foster himself were at the controls. And possibly he was, as we learn that he is quite the speed and height freak.  All is accompanied by an original, also very swelling, score performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra. The cocktail party was not so dizzying with guests including Cesar Pelli, Rafael Viñoly, Vishaan Chakrabarti, Mark Wigley, Beatriz  Colomina, Bob Stern, and Paul Goldberger who after the film said he had no recall whatsoever of where or when he was filmed speaking so glowingly of the Hearst tower. Pelli remembered exactly when he first met Foster in the 70s, when he was the partner in charge of design at Victor Gruen and Foster insisted on a meeting. Meanwhile, Foster smiled as graciously and blankly as the many on-hand socialites known primarily to Lady Foster, who produced the film. When asked about the film, Foster said he was amazed that it was so deep in detail. Agreed! And then we were all called into the auditorium where Lady Foster by way of introduction to “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” said: “And we were able to follow Foster closely for three years!” As his wife, I should hope so. And, oh yes, the title comes from a question Buckminster Fuller, a mentor of sorts for Foster in the 70s, asked on visiting his Faber headquarters in Ipswich many years ago.  Apparently it weighed quite a few tons. And for one night of fun, so did his film.
Placeholder Alt Text

Statues Settle In at NYC City Hall
Since Wednesday, an aluminum woman is joyfully resting in the grass of City Hall Park. Among her well-set figurative friends are a bronze giant, an octopus man, and a couple of luminous neon creatures. The new sculptures are part of The Public Art Fund's yearly exhibit in the park, an ongoing project for more than 30 years with the aim of making visitors experience art more directly. This year’s show, named Statuesque, brings together a group of six artists from four different nations­. The ten works experiment with the sculptural tradition of the human figure, and are installed along the park's pathways and on lawns. “City Hall Park is really a great backdrop for this art,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the opening. “The placement invites people to get up close and personal with these more contemporary figures and sculptures.” The featured artists are Huma Bhabha, Aaron Curry, Thomas Houseago, Matthew Monahan, Rebecca Warren, and Pawel Althamer. Never displayed together before, the pieces all tend towards abstraction over realism, and texture over refinement of finish––some exuberant, many robot-like and other almost gruesome. “It is unfiltered, it is memorable and it is immediate,” chief curator and director of The Public Art Fund Nicholas Baume concluded. New for this year is a free cellphone audio tour via an iPhone app.

Now Playing: Every Corner of New York
Our friends over at Urban Omnibus created this delightful video entitled Archipelago, a sort of cinematic corollary to the current New New York show at the site's mothership, the Architectural League. Billed as "a day in the life of five New York neighborhoods: Hunts Point, Jamaica, Mariner’s Harbor, Downtown Brooklyn, and Chelsea," the video really is amazing for how it so succinctly captures the mind-boggling diversity of the city, revealing both the familiar and obscure to even the most stalwart local in a way so seamless that the city, for once, seems truly bound together despite all its disparity. The soundtrack alone, from Mr. Softee in the Bronx to freestyling on Staten Island to the constant sirens, is irresistible. It's the fastest eleven-and-a-half minutes you'll watch for some time. Almost as fast as the city it chronicles.
Placeholder Alt Text

Tobias Wong, 1974-2010
The Architect's Newspaper was saddened to hear of the untimely passing of designer Tobias Wong at age 35. Wong's friend and occasional collaborator Aric Chen captures Wong's influences, ideas, and legacy in this statement:
Through his work, Wong helped bring forth much of what is now taken for granted in contemporary culture. Influenced by Dada and, especially, Fluxus, he questioned authorship through appropriation; held a mirror to our desires and absurdities; upended the hierarchy between design and art, and the precious and the banal; and helped redefine collaboration and curation as creative practices. Working within what he termed a “paraconceptual” framework, Wong prompted a reevaluation of everything we thought we knew about design: its production, its psychological resonance, its aesthetic criteria, its means of distribution, its attachment to provenance, its contextualization and its manner of presentation. Wong was a keen observer, an original mind, a brilliant prankster, and an unerring friend.   Wong’s work was widely exhibited, including at the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. His many projects included those for Colette, Comme des Garcons, Prada/OMA, Cappellini and Swarovski Crystal Palace. In addition to the objects he created, re-created, repurposed, rarefied and otherwise manipulated, Wong’s work included events and happenings that included, among many others, a pop-up tattoo parlor at Art Basel Miami Beach/Design Miami and the Wrong Store, a "store" in New York that was in fact never open. (As with much of Wong’s work, both were collaborations.) Wong was named Young Designer of the Year by Wallpaper* magazine (2004) as well as the Brooklyn Museum of Art (2006). In 2008 and 2009, he served as founding co-creative director of 100% Design Shanghai, affiliated with the 100% Design fairs in London and Tokyo. Born and raised in Vancouver, Wong studied in Toronto before moving to New York in 1997 to attend the Cooper Union, from which he graduated with a major in sculpture. He is survived by his mother, stepfather, brother, partner and BFF.
Placeholder Alt Text

In Riverhouse Lawsuit, Not Easy Being Green
Despite its slow gestation, Battery Park City is widely considered a resounding success today, particularly in the areas of sustainable design, which was required of many of the complex's latter day projects. Standing out among even these green stalwarts is the recently completed Riverhouse, designed by Polshek Partnership and shooting for LEED Gold, though the project now provides a bit of a cautionary tale for ambitious developers. According to the Journal, two tenants recently sued the projects' developers for $1.5 million for breach of contract and fraud because the building was deemed not as green as it had been billed. Among the issues:
[The suit] says the owners' engineers "found a deviation of 49%" over the LEED standards "in the cumulative size of holes and cracks allowing infiltration of cold air." The complaint also alleges that air temperature for heating the apartment was too low, which the owners say is a sign that the building isn't maximizing energy efficiency.
The paper goes on to suggest that the suit may simply be a means to get out of the now exorbitant $4.2 million three-bedroom apartment. The more important lesson, though, may be on the strengths and weaknesses of sustainability in general and LEED in particular. After all, Riverhouse had once been aiming for the crown of first Platinum-rated residence in the city, yet now it has settled for Gold, a sign of the difficulty in meeting such standards. And yet the findings by the plaintiff's engineers that the project is not even performing at that high level are both surprising and not -- for rarely, if ever, are these buildings tested after the fact. (Then again, who needs to test a building's efficacy when you've got Operation Green to make your case?)
Placeholder Alt Text

James Gardner Goes Gaga for Central Park Kiosk
As editors ourselves, we know writers don't usually write the headlines. Still, we were struck by one atop a recent review by our friend and sometimes contributor James Gardner in The Real Deal, which declared, "Central Park's Le Pain Quotidien ranks as one of the best things about New York City." You don't say. And yet, for all the hyperbole, the guy's got a point:
Properly understood, the opening of Le Pain Quotidien, deep in the heart of Central Park, represents one of the most momentous changes to the park in half a century. This highly respected Belgian purveyor of fine breads, salads and soups now has 21 stores in the city, but none of them is as delightful as its newest, on the northern edge of Sheep Meadow. [...] Once it had been far otherwise. For the structure you see today is really a replacement for a lovely Moorish pavilion designed by Jacob Wrey Mould in the 1860s. Known as the Mineral Springs Pavilion, it offered up a variety of salubrious waters to the thirsty citizenry. But with his habitual philistinism, Robert Moses, the once all-powerful parks commissioner, demolished Mould's vision and in its place he erected the unprepossessing structure you see today. For more than half a century it presented itself to the world as nothing more than a narrow concession area looking east, its vague interior filled with storage space for the park department's sundry fences and gardening paraphernalia. The revelation of the new Pain Quotidien starts with the fact that it fully occupies and opens to the public the interior spaces of the pavilion, which turn out to be far vaster than one ever imagined. Like most of this brand's interiors throughout the city, and indeed the world, the present space is adorned with pale woods in the French provincial style, a fully stocked bakery and a long, communal table, as well as individual tables.
For it's true, nothing improves the taste of a fresh tartine, or most things in life, like being at the park.
Placeholder Alt Text

Who Trumps Trump?
The Times' dogged development reporter Charles Bagli had a big scoop yesterday on Christian de Portzamparc's new tower, Carnegie 57, and what it portends for a construction recovery. That said, we couldn't help but notice a minor error in the article's lede: "Gary Barnett, one of New York City’s most prolific developers, is about to start construction of a $1.3 billion skyscraper on 57th Street that will overtake Trump World Tower as the tallest residential building in the city." The only problem is, Trump World Tower was already surpassed by Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower, which topped out in November. That shimmering, Bernini-swaddled building rises to 867 feet, six feet higher than Costas Kondylis' Death-Star-on-Hudson. We wouldn't have mentioned this except that the errant factoid has been picked up all over the place. Granted, Bagli could have meant completed residential buildings, but it also leaves out the issue of other prospective projects like Hines' MoMA Tower by Jean Nouvel, which, even at its haircut height of 1,050 feet, is still taller than Barnett's 1,005-foot tower. Just saying. (Keep in mind that while we were busy writing this frivolous blog post, Bagli was off blowing the lid on another major story, this time that plans to move Madison Square Garden have been revived.)
Placeholder Alt Text

Warm-Up Lap for Pole Dance
Over the weekend, we happened to be biking by the (newly renamed) MoMA PS1 in Long Island City when we noticed something unusual, familiar, even. It was SO-IL's Pole Dance, this year's Young Architects pavilion, taking shape. The museum was closing, so we only snapped one furtive, washed-out photo (let's call it arty) on our cellphone before security made us leave. Fortunately, Frederick Fisher cut some slats in the imposing concrete wall he created as part of the museum's 1997 redesign, so we managed to capture a little bit more of the installation, emphasis on little. Still, it looks like it'll be fun, and we can't help but notice how close it is to the renderings, as you can see after the jump.
Placeholder Alt Text

Zooming In on New New York
Yesterday, we told you the story of how the 100 strong New New York Photography Corps snapped some 4,500 photos of the city in stasis for a new show being put on by the Architectural League, The City We Imagined/The City We Made: New New York 2001–2010. Here now are a bakers dozen of the best. To view a slideshow click here or the photo above.