After a year of feuds, cancellations, and dramatic revivals, the Thomas Heathwick-designed Pier 55 is making real progress. Pier 55, a 2.75-acre park “floating” in the Hudson River off of West 13th Street in Manhattan, was originally revealed by billionaire businessman Barry Diller in 2014 at a cost of $130 million. The park was to sit on a jumble of sculptural concrete pilings and included an amphitheater as well as two landscaped staging areas for performances, with the project’s costs falling solely on Diller and wife Diane von Furstenberg. As those costs rose to $250 million, and as the nonprofit Hudson River Park Trust, responsible for managing the floating park, was buffeted by lawsuits from the Douglas Durst-backed City Club of New York, Diller withdrew his support and the project looked dead in the water. That was all before some last-minute mediation between Governor Cuomo, Diller, and the City Club of New York that guaranteed ecological protections for the Hudson River and state funding for the unfinished 30 percent of Hudson River Park. With funding in place for the stretch of Hudson River Park that runs from Battery Park City to West 59th Street, it looks like construction is now back on at Pier 55. Concrete piles are being laid into the river for the walkways that will eventually lead to the park and performance space, and the southern path has already begun to receive its covering. As revealed in a recent interview with Diller by the Hollywood Reporter, the concrete pods that will hold the park up are currently being fabricated, and work at the site actually began in earnest back in March. Outside factors might still be able to throw the Pier’s construction off track yet again. Governor Cuomo has pledged $50 million in state dollars to finish the remaining stretch of Hudson River Park (no state funding is going towards Pier 55), but only if New York City matches the contribution. While the city seems game to put aside its own $50 million, the deal that revived Pier 55 could fall through if this funding pledge isn’t met; and even if it is, the Hudson River Trust pegs the total cost of finishing Hudson River Park at $619 million. If construction on Pier 55 continues apace, it should be finished sometime in the next few years.
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Handel Architects and developer MP Los Angeles have unveiled renderings for a $1 billion twin tower complex slated for downtown Hollywood. An earlier proposal for the site was dogged by concerns over the location of a possible earthquake fault underneath the site, an issue that has been since resolved after intensive geological and environmental review, including peer reviewed study by third party experts and extensive geological testing, according to the developers. The project aims to bring two curving, glass-clad 46- and 35-story towers, a pair of mid-rise apartment structures, and a collection of pedestrian walkways and plazas to two adjacent sites surrounding the iconic, Louis Naidorf-designed Capitol Records building. The project sites are currently occupied by surface parking lots. Urbanize.LA reports that the 1,005-unit development will also bring the largest number of affordable dwelling units of any development in the history of the city. The project’s 133 deed-restricted affordable housing units will housed within a pair of 11-story apartment blocks and will be targeted for low-income and very-low income seniors. The affordable housing component is a product of the city’s new inclusionary zoning ordinance and resulted from the developer’s lengthy environmental and community reviews, according to a project website. Renderings for the so-called Hollywood Center project depict a sprawling complex punctuated by sculptural towers whose forms echo those of the Capitol Records building. The towers and gridded apartment buildings are depicted as being connected by broad pedestrian areas and terraced landscaped planters filled with trees in the renderings. James Corner Field Operations has been tapped to design the project’s outdoor areas. The now-relieved seismic concerns at the Hollywood Center project preceded real structural problems for another Handel-designed tower complex located in San Francisco. There, the 58-story Millennium Tower as been listing increasingly to one side over the last few years to growing worry of residents and neighbors alike. Problems with the Millennium Tower are due, experts believe, to faulty design of the tower’s friction-bearing pile foundation systems. The Hollywood Center towers join a growing cluster of high-rise developments slated for the Hollywood area, including the LARGE Architecture-designed 1755 Argyle apartments, the Crossroads Hollywood project by SOM and RCH Studios, the recently-completed Columbia Square development, also by RCH Studios, and the long-stalled Palladium Residences complex by Natoma Architects. The Hollywood Center project is expected to begin construction in 2022.
The rumor mill is buzzing around the purportedly budding relationship between Boston-based architect and artist Neri Oxman and actor Brad Pitt. According to Page Six, Oxman met Pitt when he was referred to her for guidance on an architectural project. Since then, the two have developed what the publication called a "professional friendship." Celebrity gossip mag US Weekly took it a step further, claiming the two have been secretly rendezvousing for months, with Brad even tagging along on Oxman’s professional trips across the globe. The Israeli-American Oxman, a professor at MIT and founder of design group Mediated Matter, is known for her forward-thinking approach to architecture and design that fuses natural, biological forms with the growing capabilities of digital fabrication. Oxman has produced acclaimed pieces such as “The Silk Pavilion,” a CNC-fabricated scaffold coiled with silk thread produced by 6,500 silkworms, and “Gemeni” a solid wood chaise crafted to resemble a cocoon, adorned with cells of varying colors and rigidity. Her ventures into 3-D printed wearables also include a design for Björk's Vulnicura tour, a movable mask that mimicked the musician's own bone and tissue based on scans. Oxman’s work is exhibited widely, including at MoMa, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. This is not Pitt’s first flirtation with the world of architecture. The Hollywood star met and befriended Frank Gehry in 2001, leading to an internship focused on computer-aided design at the international architect’s Los Angeles office. Since then, Pitt has gone on to found Make it Right, a non-profit focused on delivering environmentally-friendly housing to post-Katrina Louisiana. During this venture, Gehry designed a duplex in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, his only residential project in the state of Louisiana. While Pitt has dabbled in architecture and design, he has nothing on Oxman’s impressive record of academic and design accolades, including the 2016 MIT Collier Medal, the Textiles Spaces 2015 Award, and the 2014 Vilcek Prize. Whatever the truth about their relationship is, Oxman is probably too good for Pitt.
A California judge has ruled in favor of Gehry Partners’s proposed 8150 Sunset development in Los Angeles, agreeing with the architects and developers Townscape Partners that preserving the historic Lytton Savings bank would make the project “infeasible." The decision comes nearly a year after a separate judge ruled against the project, arguing that the Googie-style, Kurt Meyer-designed bank was worth preserving. Gehry’s controversial project has faced a litany of complaints from the community since it was first announced in 2015, both from NIMBY-driven and preservation-focused groups. Initially, the project was tarred for being too tall, too dense, and for blocking views of the city from the adjacent Hollywood Hills. Next, preservation groups such as the Los Angeles Conservancy and Friends of Lytton Savings came out against the project for its proposed demolition of the historic bank. Following this initial dust-up, the 1960s-era Googie-style structure was swiftly landmarked, cited for its clean modernist aesthetic and its folded plate concrete roof. After last year’s ruling—precipitated by a suit from the L.A. Conservancy—it was hoped the bank could be saved and incorporated into the 229-unit mixed-use development. That opportunity has now disappeared. The Gehry project, as currently designed, consists of a cluster of five wobbly towers of various heights organized around a series of public outdoor spaces and ground floor retail. The development’s tallest tower is expected to rise up to 15 stories high. Hopes that 8150 Sunset would move toward final approval were dashed with the most recent ruling, however, which all but cleared the project’s forward movement. The ruling issued last week, according to the Los Angeles Times, stipulates that although the Kurt Meyer structure was not reason enough to stop the project, the project’s approval was incorrectly administered nonetheless. At issue is a proposed street vacation that would eliminate a right-turn lane bounding the project in favor of adding pedestrian sidewalk space to the project. Because the development is a private project, the judge ruled, closing off the right turn late equates with vacating a street, a measure that requires strict and separate approval. The court is sending the project back to the city so the lane closure can be properly approved.
This year’s Sundance and Slamdance festivals delve into memory and value in art and architecture
The 2018 Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals took place in Park City, Utah from January 18–28. The festivals featured a range of films exploring art and architecture—whether by profiling artists, addressing the relationship between buildings and memory, or exploring the value of art and architecture in the world, or the experiential possibilities of space. “A house is a universe. It’s an entire world.” So says Alan Lightman, an MIT physicist in 306 Hollywood (2018), a film made by Elan and Jonathan Bogarín, a brother and sister, about their grandmother’s house after her death. Grandma Annette was a fashion designer and a self-proclaimed packrat. Her modest Newark house was piled with stuff, which their mother instructed them to toss. Defying the phrase, “Each time someone dies, a library burns,” the siblings decided instead to take an archeological expedition that turns the everyday objects they unearth into talismans. They arranged her stuff by color and typology into beautiful catalogues, made a 3-D model of the house, and pinned the dresses she designed onto the exterior of the house including the rooftop. The film tells the story of a life and a way to remember centered around the house and its objects. The memory of a building is also the idea behind Sarah Meyohas' Cloud of Petals (2017), which was shot at the former Bell Labs Holmdel Complex (now Bell Works), designed by Eero Saarinen in Holmdel, New Jersey. 10,000 hand-dissected rose petals were photographed and made into datasets, in homage to binary code pioneered at this facility. The filmmaker says “the bit of information was invented at Bell Labs….the transistor, the laser, and the very ones and zeroes of information theory.” In the film, this poetic activity enlivens the now ghost-like space. One of the themes that emerged at the festival was value and success in art. The latest documentary by Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect (2003), The Price of Everything (2018), delves into the monetary value of art and how the market drives the art world. Interviews with representatives from auction houses, galleries, critics, curators, collectors, and artists explore this question. The inclusion of artist Larry Poons’s inclusion is notable. Poons, now 80, saw his work fall out of favor after garnering attention in the 1960s, but regardless, he has pressed on. Here, he is an articulate voice countering the marketplace as arbiter. A different questioning of the art's value occurs in a film set in 1989 Cuba. In Un Traductor [A Translator] (2018), the central character, Malin, a Russian literature professor at the University of Havana, is reassigned from his teaching post to a hospital to serve as a translator. 25,000 Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant victims with radiation poisoning were sent to the hospital for medical treatment, and Malin is assigned to the pediatric ward. While at first resistant, he reluctantly comes around to the hospital work by reading the victims stories, and getting them to write and draw their experiences. Malin’s wife is a contemporary art curator preparing an exhibition. As he gets more involved with the kids’ life and death struggles, he become critical of her work, declaring, “It’s only art,” to which she responds that art is life. The value of art versus human life is a core question that upends this man’s life. The Korean-American performance artist Vivian Bang, who co-wrote and stars in White Rabbit (2018), would agree. Her character went to art school, and now makes performances in supermarkets, parks and on the sidewalk about Koreans during the Los Angeles riots. She performs anywhere she can, because she must, despite the lack of any economic rewards. In American Animals (2018), the value of art takes a criminal turn. A bored art student and his cohorts steal rare books which they try to sell to Christie’s. They are caught and sent to prison. Upon release, the protagonist makes his living drawing birds. The filmmakers intercut interviews with the actual perpetrators of the crime with the actors who portray them, making their plight more understandable as a reckless act of youth in a misguided quest for meaning and fast economic rewards. Another tale gone awry is Arizona (2018), where the housing bust from the 2008 financial crisis wreaks havoc. A town outside Phoenix has multiple, nearly vacant gated communities with Spanish names, all including the word “d’oro,” or golden. A man tries to hang himself, a realtor is six mortgage payments behind, and a man about to foreclose takes out his frustration on his realtor. So begins a bloody hostage/murder spree in a desolate housing complex on an unfinished golf course. It’s an urgent, out-of-control romp through a land of dispiriting ghost towns. Other films relished in the delight of art and artists, and the possibilities of new technologies. Two profiles of women artists stood out at the festival. Kusama – Infinity (2018) shows the 89-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama who is best known for Infinity Rooms and her fields of polka dots, and, according to the film, is now the most “successful” contemporary artist in the world. She is shown as a young, ambitious, obsessive artist whose pioneering work was eclipsed by male artists whose similar works were praised, while hers were ignored. Her early contact with Georgia O’Keefe, who helped with her move to the U.S., and Joseph Cornell is cited, as is her return to Japan in the 1970s where checked herself into a mental hospital where she continues to live, with a studio a short walk away. She opened a museum in Japan devoted to her work last year. Impresario fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is shown as a classic artist, filled with energy, creativity, originality, and spunk in Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018).The excellent music choices—no punk included—mirror her designs. In the short documentary, I’m Not Sure (2017), directed by Gabriel Hensche, surrealist paintings by René Magritte are verbally described by an app that amusingly scrambles the meaning. The titular phrase is vocalized whenever the app is stumped by such iconic works as The Treachery of Images (the famous “This is not a pipe” painting) and Time Transfixed (which depicrs a train chugging out of a fireplace). The “neural image caption generator” the filmmaker used was developed to provide automatic verbal descriptions for the blind. Finally, at New Frontier, the Sundance section devoted to the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology, one virtual reality project stood out with possibilities for architecture, design and physical space. Space Explorers: A New Dawn, developed by a team helmed by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, is experienced by viewers in synchronized Voyager chairs with haptic technology that rotate, vibrate, and move. Made in conjunction with NASA, the documentary takes viewers underwater along with astronauts in training at the Johnson Space Center, to the International Space Station, and ride in the back seat of a small aircraft.
- 306 Hollywood (2018). Directors: Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín
- Cloud of Petals (2017). Director: Sarah Meyohas
- The Price of Everything (2018). Director: Nathaniel Kahn
- Un Traductor (2018). Directors: Rodrigo Barriuso/Sebastián Barriuso
- White Rabbit (2018). Director: Daryl Wein
- I’m Not Sure (2018). Director: Gabriel Hensche
- American Animals (2018). Director: Bart Layton
- Arizona (2018). Director: Jonathan Watson
- Kusama – Infinity (2018). Director: Heather Lenz
- Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018). Director: Lorna Tucker
- I’m Not Sure (2017). Director: Gabriel Hensche
- Space Explorers: A New Dawn. Lead Artists: Félix Lajeunesse/Paul Raphaël
Cyprien Gaillard’s 3-D “Nightlife” offers mesmerizing look at cities and their histories of resistance
Marcel Duchamp Prize-winning artist Cyprien Gaillard’s film Nightlife (2015), currently on view for the first time in the United States at Gladstone Gallery in New York, is a portrait of the living city. Gaillard, who was born in Paris and lives and works between New York and Berlin, practices across media, including photo, film, and sculpture. He is known for his meditations on memory, history, and failure—including work on the legacy and present of modern architecture. His latest film, Nightlife, was filmed with advanced imaging techniques and drones, and the camera flows and glides between close-up, abstract shots to floating arial views with ease. Upon entering the gallery, a nautilus shell in a recessed light box mounted in a black wall marks the entrance to the screening area. Viewers are offered 3-D glasses, which enhance the hallucinatory, ecstatic nature of the piece. Though comprising seemingly abstract shots—swaying trees, fireworks, city streets, aerial views of buildings, all, of course, shot at night—the film is deeply allegorical, telling a complex history of revolution and resistance through objects, plants, and buildings that live and breathe as characters. Presented without caption or narration, the film advances in what might be described as four acts through Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Berlin, coming full circle in Cleveland again. The film opens on an almost indiscernible closeup of a plant before moving on to Rodin’s The Thinker, outside the Cleveland Museum of Art. The spinning camera revels in the sculpture’s apparent decay, the result of a 1970 bombing by the radical left-wing organization the Weather Underground. Nightlife then advances to Los Angeles, where it depicts dancing, rioting trees on the streets of the city—primarily the Hollywood Juniper, a non-native species that has been a recurring motif in Gaillard’s work. Shored up against the architectural forms, the trees not only trouble the boundaries of natural and artificial, but also evoke notions of indigeneity, migration, and belonging. The trees' movements might also be read more explicitly as a reference to the so-called L.A. riots of 1992 and to other forms of civil action and resistance. Though arguably all of Nightlife depicts the city as protagonist, the most explicitly architectural moment is the third act, which features the Berlin Olympiastadion. Built for the 1936 Olympics, the stadium served as a monument to the Third Reich. It now functions as a space for a variety of events, including an annual fireworks competition, the Pyronale, which is displayed in the film in explosive technicolor. The film returns to Cleveland, landing on American runner Jesse Owens's Olympic oak tree planted at the Ford Rhodes High School. Owens, whose four gold medal wins as a black athlete at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany flew in the face the Third Reich’s extensive racist propaganda campaign, was awarded an oak sapling for each of his gold medals (the oak tree serves as a symbol of Germany). In lieu of the sound of its settings, the film loops a sample of Alton Ellis's Blackman's Word (1969) throughout, its repetition pulling the viewer into Nightlife’s self-contained world even more completely and unifying the disparate scenes. (Originally featuring the refrain “I was born a loser,” it was re-recorded in 1971 as “I was born a winner.” Critically, both versions feature in the film.) Not merely a vibrant portrait of cities at night, Nightlife traces the residue of history left on the landscape—be it "natural" or built. Nightlife originally appeared at Sprüth Magers in Berlin and is on view at Gladstone Gallery through April 14th. Cyprien Gaillard: Nightlife Gladstone Gallery, 530 West 21st Street,New York, NY Through April 14th
While much of the buzz surrounding the Academy Awards centers on the winners and the red carpet, there's one thing all eyes are sure to be on: the stage. And that's why the Academy has gone all out this year, with a maximalist fantasy of a set design to honor the awards' 90th anniversary, which takes place on Sunday, March 4. The crystal confection is the brainchild of Derek McLane, a Tony and Emmy award–winning scenic designer who incorporated a whopping 45 million Swarovski crystals into the design. This is McLane's sixth time designing Hollywood's most-watched stage, and it's his most ambitious–and abstract—yet. The centerpiece of the design is a crystalline proscenium, made of octagonal tiles blending crystal, metal, and mirror, while the stage itself is a dynamic design that will shift throughout the event, thanks to a combination of physical and digital effects. And, fittingly for the Oscars' 90th anniversary, the stage design pulls inspiration from a wide range of references from throughout film history, from classic Hollywood Regency design to Art Deco. It's too soon to call it, but the stage might just be the night's best dressed.
Five shows that stretch the boundaries between furniture and art
While the boundaries between art, architecture, and design are already often quite murky, the following artists are troubling the bounds even further, using furniture’s familiar forms to examine intimacy between people and objects, reconsider how bodies negotiate space, or offer a platform for new activities. These five exhibitions are sure to provoke a reconsideration of furniture and its relationship to domesticity, technology, and history. A two-for-one, C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G’s Bushwick, Brooklyn location has on display simultaneous shows of artists reinventing domestic forms. Hannah Levy: Swamp Salad C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G 396 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY Through March 11 Hannah Levy’s fleshy furnishings in Swamp Salad feature her signature space-age grotesque sculptures in molded steel and flesh-hued silicon. Pearl-accented lounge chairs (derived from French modernist Charlotte Perriand’s iconic designs), coat racks of elongated steel bones, and alabaster bicycle helmets circle around a screen, mounted on an intrusive, curvaceous steel bar descending from the ceiling which a video of long-nailed hands plucking pearls from oysters. Categories like natural and artificial, familiar and strange, pull apart to uncanny effect in Levy’s mixed-up alien universe. Daniel Dewar & Grégory Gicquel: Rosa Aurora Rosa C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G 396 Johnson Avenue, Brooklyn, NY Through March 11 Also at C-L-E-A-R-I-N-G, Daniel Dewar and Grégory Gicquel, who have been collaborating since 2003, go on a psychosexual escapade in stone, both reveling in and being irreverent of sculptural tradition. Rosa Aurora Rosa, a name derived from the Portuguese pink marble that makes up the central massive sculptures of the show, blends body and bathroom in forms that seem at once ancient and contemporary. Along the walls are “paintings” in stone, also depicting with bodies, vessels, and holes. BLESS N°60 Lobby Conquerors Mathew 46 Canal Street, New York, NY Through April 3 BLESS, the Berlin and Paris-based creative collective founded by Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss, has reimagined classic Artek products as “architurniture.” Expanding on their 1998 BLESS Nº 7 Livingroom Conquerors,. BLESS moved into public space with BLESS N°60 Lobby Conquerors. Originally commissioned for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Lobby Conquerors have been brought to New York’s Mathew gallery in collaboration with architecture magazine PIN–UP and furniture manufacturer Artek. Taking designer Ilmari Tapiovaara’s iconic 1960 Kiki benches and lounge chairs and 1954 Lukki stools for Artek, BLESS dressed up the modernist seating with fur, fabric, and architectural add-ons that invite a whole new confrontation between people and furniture. Welcome to the Dollhouse Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art Pacific Design Center 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, CA Through April 8 Welcome to the Dollhouse, at L.A. MOCA’s Pacific Design Center, uses objects from the museum’s permanent collection to come to terms with and trouble notions of domesticity. Featuring art across a range of media, the exhibition plays house with artists includinge Lynn Aldrich, Julie Becker, Meg Cranston, Ross Bleckner, Moyra Davey, Judy Fiskin, Robert Gober, Jim Isermann, Mike Kelley, Roy McMakin, Rodney McMillian, Bill Owens, Jorge Pardo, Richard Prince, among others. Jillian Mayer: Slumpies Tufts University 40 Talbot Avenue, Medford, MA and 230 Fenway, Boston, MA Through April 15 Artist Jillian Mayer has been designing furniture for the digital age. These amalgamations of fiberglass, epoxy, resin, wood, and paint are designed to be a new ergonomic solution for perhaps our most common activity, looking at our phones. The so-called Slumpies invite new postures of standing, sitting, and lying alone or with friends to stare at your screen endlessly without having to worry about neck strain. By equal measures practical and parody, the Slumpies are currently on view around Tufts University’s Boston and Medford campuses in conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston’s exhibition Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today.
Ever popular and prescient, the Slumpies are also currently on view at New York's Postmasters gallery.
Jillian Mayer: Post Posture
Through March 31
Harvard Graduate School of Design–based architect Volkan Alkanoglu recently completed work on a new 2,000-square-foot cloud-inspired playscape installation at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The playscape takes after Verner Panton’s Visiona 2 installation from 1970, also postulating an ethereal multi-sensory fantasy landscape, this one filled with pint-sized bubbly geometries and rounded nooks and crannies that can be occupied, climbed over, and enjoyed by traveling children of all ages. For the airport installation, Alkanoglu and his team naturally drew inspiration from the clouds—“fluffy, airy, white cushions [that] simply resemble a picturesque landscape,” according to a press release—that kids can see from the airplane cabin. Ultimately, Alkanoglu has designed an obstacle course from these “sublime formations,” a playscape that can be experienced safely on the ground while waiting to board a flight. The installation is made up of four cloud pods that contain integrated benches, a slide, and climbable stepped elements, among other features. The pods are constructed from ¾”-thick, Fire 1–rated Medite, a type of medium-density fiberboard, colored in white automotive paint and finished in clear polyurethane. The play areas sit atop a two-inch poured-in-place slab made of rubberized flooring material and are lit from above using recessed lighting from Louis Poulsen. The project was commissioned by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners’ Cultural Division and is located along a mezzanine level in Terminal 1 at FLL.
The Julius Shulman Institute (JSI) at Woodbury University is currently exhibiting There is Only One Paul R. Williams: A Portrait by Janna Ireland at the school’s WUHO Gallery outpost in Hollywood, a show that re-calibrates and reorients Paul Revere Williams’s built legacy through architectural portrait photography. The exhibition features the work of photographer Janna Ireland, who created a series of black and white photographs that highlight minute elements of buildings designed by the Los Angeles architect. Over the course of getting to know Williams’s work, Ireland, a self-described neophyte to architecture, created over 200 photographs, ultimately gravitating toward, as she explained via email, “the small details because, taken together, they allowed me to make sense of the larger picture. It was a meditative process.” According to curators Andrea Dietz and Audrey Landreth, the monochromatic works on display aim to reconsider the oeuvre of the “prolific yet under-appreciated” Williams, a boundary-smashing African American architect who designed roughly 3,000 works across the Los Angeles area and was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal in 2017, the institute’s highest honor. “The images that made the final cut did so for the elegant lines and simple geometries that identified the work as Williams's," Dietz explained via email. "The goal was to demonstrate both the consistency and range of Williams's hand—and the unique clarity of Janna's eye.” The finely-considered nature of Ireland’s meditations on Williams’s work brings out subtle and meticulous qualities in the buildings themselves, revealing the romantic and deeply personal moments peppered throughout the homes and structures Williams designed over his 60-year-long career. Working together with the curators, Ireland is able to use the physical space of the gallery to set up conceptual oppositions between idiosyncratic bits of Williams’s work, harnessing the 500-square-foot space to depict a complex and heretofore uncharted portrait of an overlooked genius. Utilizing groups of images to reveal these competing aspects, Ireland breaks down Williams’s monolithic and largely unknowable body of work into more digestible elements, comparing modern and period staircases in one set of images and showcasing the architect’s delicatesse with resolving complex, intersecting geometries in another. Describing this eclecticism, Ireland said that “Williams had to be versatile because he was already at a disadvantage due to his race.” Williams's multi-style approach cloaked a deep fascination—and facility—with the basic components of architectural form. That fascination takes different routes, depending on the project, client, and their desired treatment. In his more modern works, for example, Williams backlit spare, open staircases with vertical runs of glass, filling the areas below the treads with tropical plants and rock gardens. Under more Spanish-inspired stylings, staircases zigzag back and forth solidly, concealing spaces below tile-topped treads. In another instance, a colonial staircase takes on more elegant motions: The doubly-curved underbelly of a stair’s stringer swooping up, revealing a thin and pliable surface decorated with a curved skirtboard, projecting treads and thin balusters. In these images, Ireland conveys a sense of mindful specificity that, when coupled with the various stylistic treatments, makes one yearn for the days before architectural components all came off-the-shelf. Instead, Ireland makes clear the labor of the architect, the hand-built nature of buildings, and the cornucopia of skills necessary to bring drawings and details to life in wood, stone, and plasterwork—aspects that are not only lost in contemporary building, but sorely missing as well. Another grouping—a set of three images—focuses on the skill with which Williams deployed curved geometries, embedding sinuousness deeply and subtly within his work from an era typically associated with straight lines and flat planes. With an undercut swoop of stucco gliding past an eclectic revival doorway, views of colonial-styled trim meeting at unresolved edges, and the freeform, french curve-derived arcs of a midcentury ceiling, Ireland highlights a dexterity with trim, plaster, and ruled surfaces that perhaps also has been lost to time. The swooping eaves and projecting window hoods in other photos describe some of Williams’s best eclectic works, concealing—and creating—unique material collisions that arise inside each building, qualities that are enriched through built-up layers of fondant and trim. “[Williams] labored to find out exactly what his clients wanted and then labored to give it to them. It was more important to him to design for the clients' desires and needs than it was for him to push a singular, distinctive vision," Ireland said. The architect's stylistic dexterity is well-known—his work ran the gamut in terms of style, embodying Hollywood Regency, midcentury modern, as well as Spanish-, Tudor-, and Second Empire- Revival styles—a quality that comes through in the nearly taxonomic photographs Ireland has created to compare their respective components. Though the vast majority of Williams’s works are residential in nature—glitzy chateaus, solemn haciendas, and sprawling ranches that work to convey the clients’ proclivities through curb appeal—the show also highlights his commercial and civic projects, including designs for the stately Golden State Mutual Life Insurance building. The exhibition succeeds where very few have tried and perhaps none have succeeded, painting an intimate, personal, and meticulous portrait of one of the postwar era’s most prolific and virtuosic architects. Ireland said this outcome was self-fulfilling: “If his work seems personal, I think it's because it was. It was of personal importance to him that his work be impeccable, and he was also very consciously designing for the personalities of the people who would be using his buildings.” The maturation of Williams’s prodigious built legacy has generated renewed interest in his work, but much of this interest is too broad in nature. The sheer scope and breadth of Williams’s oeuvre has eluded considered academic examination. "[In] many ways [Williams] has been written out of L.A.’s architectural canon. We’re trying to bust through the dam of people not doing shows on his work," said architect Barbara Bestor, JSI’s director and a major force behind the exhibition. “There’s not enough source documentation of Williams’s work,” she added, alluding to the fact that much of the Williams archive was destroyed by fire following the 1992 L.A. Riots, before the works could be digitized. “In the digital era, if you’re not published online, you cease to exist as a research topic,” Bestor said. “My job as an architect and student of 20th century design is to figure out why so many of my heroes don’t have Wikipedia pages.” Regarding the exhibition, Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, dean of Woodbury School of Architecture, said, "WUHO is committed to hosting exhibitions that celebrate diversity and reposition important voices often overlooked by mainstream media. Notable past exhibitions have included the 2013 show, Deborah Sussman Loves L.A., a long overdue celebration of this pioneering environmental and graphic designer, and the exhibition of the photographs of Pedro E. Guerrero by the [JSI]." Williams’s work, along with much of the press and academic research associated with it, was collected in a 2010 exhibition organized by the Paul R. Williams Project, an initiative of AIA Memphis and the Art Museum of the University of Memphis. The exhibition was created to highlight the architect’s career and to begin the process of formally documenting his work while re-elevating Williams to the perch atop the discipline he had occupied before his death in 1980. Leslie Luebbers, project director for the Paul R. Williams Project, explained via email that work was currently underway to bring the exhibition to other parts of the country in a few years. For now, the group is touting a bibliography of Williams’s writings and mentions in the press in an effort to spur new academic research on the architect. As those efforts take flight, Ireland’s photographs will perhaps provide impetus for new insights into Williams’ storied career. “Looking at details (and shooting in black and white) allowed me to focus on form and design,” Ireland explained. “I interpret his work as being meticulous yet really warm and human, and those are the qualities I wanted to convey.” The exhibition is on view through February 11, 2018. See the WUHO Gallery website for more information.
Emerging Voices 2018
LA-Más’s vibrant, socially conscious architecture sweeps L.A.
The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices award and lecture series highlights individuals and firms with distinct design “voices”, singling out those with the potential to go on to even greater heights. 2018 saw two rounds of judging; first by a panel of past Emerging Voices winners, and a second to pick the winners. The first-round jury included Virginia San Fratello, Sebastian Schmaling, Wonne Ickx, Lola Sheppard, Marcelo Spina, Carlos Jimenez, and Marlon Blackwell, as well as members of the second-round jury, Sunil Bald, Lisa Gray, Stella Betts, Jing Liu, Paul Makovsky, Tom Phifer, Chris Reed, and Billie Tsien. AN originally profiled all of the emerging voices firms in our February print issue. LA-Más founders Helen Leung and Elizabeth Timme will deliver their lecture on March 22nd, 2018, at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. For LA-Más, architecture does nothing if it doesn’t address a need. Guided by co-executive directors Elizabeth Timme and Helen Leung, the nonprofit urban design organization believes that too many young architects have become disconnected from this fundamental aspect of the discipline. By combining expertise in both design and policy, and by forming productive partnerships with other nonprofits, community groups, and local governments, the duo is creating street-level strategies for empowering communities that are often overlooked or threatened by demographic shifts. Working in collaboration with district councils or local business development groups, LA-Más has developed a series of vibrant projects, throughout L.A. designed to create a safer and more accessible pedestrian experience. These high-impact, low-cost projects include wayfinding, murals, street furniture, and temporary parks like the cartoon-inspired interventions of Hollywood Pop!, which converts a vacant corner lot into a privately owned public space where passersby can share their thoughts about the neighborhood’s future. More substantial transformations have resulted from their small business support program, which was created to provide local mom-and-pops with design services and additional support. LA-Más doesn’t just give these businesses a new storefront; they give them a new outreach network and help with leases, licenses, and websites. “They don’t just feel like they’re surviving,” said Timme, “but that they’re supported, which is a huge paradigm change.” These projects aren’t the result of abstract planning exercise but of listening to the people who live and work in the neighborhood. Timme added: “That’s what Helen and I do—we facilitate a conversation between a community and the city.” LA-Más’s work with accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is its most ambitious, and perhaps most impactful, project yet. Created to combat the housing crisis in L.A., its ADU Pilot Project is an opportunity to get residents directly involved in the development of their communities by building affordable housing in their own backyards—literally. In collaboration with organizations including the mayor’s office, local council, and Habitat for Humanity, the firm is building their first ADU in the Highland Park neighborhood. The two-bedroom, 1,000-square-foot project will not only be a model for affordable and contextual housing solutions but for innovative financing and future ADU policy. And it’s the best example yet of the benefits offered by LA-Más’s unique blending of policy and planning. As Leung said, “Because we can combine all these skills, we get to test ideas, implement, figure out what works, ground it in the need of the community, and really push the boundaries of what’s possible.”
Los Angeles–based La Terra Development and Urban Architecture Lab are working to bring a combined 246 apartments and 23,300 square feet of retail to two sites adjacent to Barnsdall Art Park—home of the Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Hollyhock House—in L.A.’s Los Feliz neighborhood. Dubbed Los Feliz I and Los Feliz II and located at 4850 and 4900 Hollywood Boulevard, respectively, the two apartment complexes are designed to preserve views from the street toward the Hollyhock House, according to community preferences for neighborhood development. Renderings released by the developer show a pair of contemporary structures that feature a mix of vertically- and horizontally-oriented bands of projecting window assemblies, with the 4850 structure stepping back as it rises, creating rooftop terraces along lower sections. This structure contains a wide street frontage along Hollywood Boulevard that is occupied by storefronts and features a second-level courtyard, as well. The 4850 project aims to bring 96 apartments and 9,500 square feet of retail to the area, while the larger 4900 project will contain 150 units and 13,800 square feet of retail uses. The 4900 proposal, on the other hand, is articulated as a more conventional apartment block with a solid wall of repeating window bays and projecting balconies running the length of Hollywood Boulevard. Located just a few blocks from the Vermont-Sunset stop on the Red Line subway, the projects are also being marketed by the developers as having commanding views of the Hollyhock House, the Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Sign. The twin developments join a growing list of medium-density projects that are on the way to the transit-adjacent area, including a trio of similarly-massed apartments headed for Sunset Junction, a 202-unit complex from Killefer Flammang Architects, and a 96-unit project by architecture firm KTGY. The La Terra projects are currently under development, but a timeline has not been released for either project, Urbanize.la reports. For more information, see the La Terra Development website.