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Bone-inspired buildings, MVRDV’s grass carpet rooms, and other updates from the architects of Instagram
Out in Norway, Snøhetta has designed a new building for the Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design (UiB) at Bergen with a glimmering metal cassette facade that changes with the light. It's all flash, in a good way.
While Snøhetta's newest project sparkles from the outside, Foster + Partners is looking deep within the body for architectural inspiration. The firm has partnered with a PhD candidate at the Royal Veterinary College, London, to "study the relationship between structure and function in bone biology and architectural design at various scales." To achieve this, Foster + Partners developed a Grasshopper plugin that helps designers create 3D space frames within almost any shape.
The facade at @kmdbergen is clad with 900 seawater-durable crude aluminum elements of varying sizes. The metal cassettes shift according to the weather conditions on the west coast and reinforces the metallic effect of the aluminum. Swipe to see how it plays with the light! #kmdbergen #bergen #norway #architecture #facade #art #school @statsbygg @rambollnorge @unibergen 📷: Trond Isaksen/Statsbygg & @tomaszmajewski.no
Despite all the talk that digital technologies have killed architectural drawing, there are still many designers who love to render spaces by hand (with a computer assist). KoozA/rch just featured Challenging The Threshold Between Image and Space, a eerily calming pastel computer collage by architect Sven Jansse, founder of Rotterdam's Image & Space, in collaboration with Alexandra Sonnemans.
In meatspace, there's nothing better than plonking yourself down onto a thick carpet. For a lecture hall at Taipei's Jut Foundation for Arts and Architecture, MVRDV teamed up with Argentine rug maker Alexandra Kehayoglou to create a verdant greenscape that covers the stepped floors, creeps up the walls, and conceals an exit door.
Challenging The Threshold Between Image and Space by Sven Jansse in collaboration with Alexandra Sonnemans#art #artitecture #architecture #koozarch To what extent do you agree with the medium is the message – how does the use of collage reinforce the concept behind fragments? Probably the most fundamental concept behind the current work done by Image & Space, is that each visualisation should be able to generate its own value, independently of what they (appear to) represent. They are designed to tell their own story, establish a new truth and present it to the audience to evaluate. The medium is thus even more than the message; the visualisations become the project. They are no longer bound by the physical or economical limits of what they have to make understandable or try to sell, and by presenting the images without their expected context of drawings or a presentation, the spectator gains the freedom to interpret them in a very personal way. In order to stimulate people’s imagination, it’s important that one visualisation never shows the whole building, because it’s up to the audience to connect the different ‘fragments’. In this way, each visitor will ‘build’ a different building, and curate their own spatial experience.
The Wight Stuff
Inside the studio of Chicago’s Wight & Company
Three generations of Wight & Company have operated in the Chicago area for over 75 years. With a main office in the western suburb of Darien and an outpost downtown, the company employs over 175 architects, engineers, and builders. Even with this long history, Wight continues to evolve, and in recent years it has seen major changes. Perhaps the most drastic of these changes happened in late 2015 when renowned Chicago architect Dirk Lohan joined the office and brought his entire firm of Lohan Anderson with him. With the addition of Lohan, the company is now venturing in new directions while bolstering their existing repertoire.
As Executive Vice President, Director of Design Kevin Havens put it: Wight is a “design-lead design/build practice.” While the company does not yet build everything it designs, the underlying goal is to recapture some of architecture’s legacy as a field of master-builders. In this, Wight and Lohan found a common value.
Having studied and worked under his grandfather Mies van der Rohe, Lohan maintains a sense of urgency when it comes to architects being in control of the building process.
“That aspect of Wight & Company was of great attraction to me,” Lohan told AN at Wight’s downtown office. “I have had practices with interior designers and planners, but never any engineers or construction managers. At Wight we have structural, mechanical, a sustainability group. I have always wanted to have an office like this.”
While such a large firm has many moving parts, the downtown office where Lohan’s studio is situated is a more intimate setting where a great deal of the design happens. Located in the landmarked Powerhouse Building, snugly flanked by numerous rail lines the building used to power, the office feels like those of many other, much smaller firms. The periodic deep rumbling of passing commuter trains and an occasional leaky roof make the space somehow endearing.
Such an established firm has a history filled with stories and experiences that inform and guide the practice as a whole. In this, Lohan brings another set of connections to the past, which includes more than just his kinship to Mies. With his own extensive portfolio of notable projects, including the much-lauded McDonald’s corporate campus in Oak Brook, Illinois, Lohan has distinguished himself as an architect in his own right. Yet, one can’t help but feel they are somehow closer to Mies himself when speaking to Lohan. In his slight German accent, Lohan recounts a proud moment that took place early in his career when speaking about Wight’s work on courthouses. Lohan recalled the first courtroom he designed at the famed Chicago Federal Plaza. “I came with a green card to the United States in 1962. At the time, it took five years to become a citizen. So, in 1967, after five years at Mies’s office, I detailed this courtroom. I was sworn in in that same courtroom with 150 other new citizens. Somebody told them that I, as a young designer, had designed this interior and I should be the spokesperson. So they made me come up to judge and say some words in front of everybody, in my own space. Those kinds of projects don’t come around too often.”
Will County Justice Center Joliet, IllinoisSoon to the be the tallest building in downtown Joliet, a large suburb of Chicago, the Will County Justice Center is designed to be more than just a courthouse. With a focus on literal transparency, the center is defined by a large civic square wrapped on two sides by the building’s wings. Programs are arranged in such a way as to give the public maximum access to the justice system while maintaining the high level of security needed in a court of law. The Will County Justice Center represents a long history of Wight & Co.’s experience with civic institutional work. 353 N. Clark Street Chicago 353 N. Clark Street was added to Wight & Co. portfolio with the merging of Lohan Anderson, Lohan’s former office, into the company. The 45-story tower is situated in the River North Neighborhood of Chicago, just north of the loop. The tower represents the direction in which Wight & Co. is hoping to move under Lohan’s leadership: While Wight has extensive experience in institutional and public projects, Lohan has specialized in high-end private projects for much of his career. Mies van der Rohe Business Park Krefeld, Germany With the addition of Lohan to the Wight & Co. leadership, new avenues opened up to the office. As part of an invited competition, Lohan worked on a design for the adaptive reuse of a former power plant, which once served an industrial park designed by his own grandfather, Mies van der Rohe, in the 1930s. Now renamed Mies van der Rohe Business Park, the new building will be used for performances, large gatherings, meetings, and exhibitions. Though not in the same language as the Bauhaus-style white buildings surrounding it, the building is a protected landmark. The design intervention works to be sensitive to the building’s historical context, while updating it for contemporary uses. Hotel Arista Chicago Designed by Lohan Anderson as part of a larger master plan in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, the Hotel Arista will soon be joined by several other buildings designed by Lohan as part of the Wight and Lohan team. The Hotel is the first piece in a larger “urban” center, known as CityGate, in the western suburb. The 144-room hotel was designed to use and waste less, achieving the hotel industry’s Green Seal certification, as well as being the first LEED-certified hotel in Illinois.
Bright colors, bold stripes, and geometric shapes were found in abundance during London Design Festival (LDF), which closed on September 24.
Stealing the show were London designers Camille Walala and Adam Nathaniel Furman. The former’s Villa Walala inflatable castle comprised a series of basic shapes doused with playful colors to match. Walala’s installation, which is in keeping with her previous work, couldn’t be more out of place. Situated in Broadgate’s Exchange Square by Liverpool Street, Villa Walala spruced up an area typically awash with navy-suited bankers on smart phones. The castle was perhaps much needed.
The splash of color continued on to the West. At the Barbican, Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan designed Joy. Spanning the Barbican’s concrete wall along Silk Street were six symbols: a heart represented love, a globe represented society, a sun represented joy, an eye represented London’s openness, a star represented energy, and finally, a flower represented peace.
The same symbols could also be found at the designers’ Peace Garden and Pavilion in the West Smithfield Rotunda Garden. This piece, which was more accomplished, played with perspective and also provided shelter to visitors courtesy of drapes partially spanning the circular walkway, supported by zig-zagging columns.
More of Myerscough’s work could be found south of the river, too, though this was not part of the LDF. Emblazoned onto Grosvenor Arch, the entrance to Battersea’s Circus West Village (an area primed for vapid commercialization and luxury condos), is the word “POWER.” Just as blindingly colorful as the Peace Garden and Pavilion, the piece – known as Power Circus – makes use of marine plywood panels that were hand-painted by Myserscough and her team of artists.
If this aesthetic was to your taste, then one could head even further west to White City. Here, New York and London-based designers Craig Redman and Karl Maier transformed a former gas station. Titled HereAfter, the colorful installation was not part of the LDF but is open to the public indefinitely. HereAfter can be found on 74 Wood Lane.
It should be no surprise that with such vibrant hues being plastered all over the capital, Adam Nathaniel Furman got in on the act. Another star installation which had Instagrammers flocking to it was Gateways. Commissioned by Turkishceramics, Furman designed four 13-foot-by-13-foot tiled gates that referenced the history of ceramics in Turkish. The gates had different shaped passageways through them and were flanked on either side by shallow water that reflected the colorful tiles.
“There is no other architectural treatment that has remained as fresh, relevant and cool as ceramics has from a thousand years BC, right through into the 21st century,” said Furman.
His work, which was located at Granary Square by Kings Cross Station, fronted the Central Saint Martins art school where DesignJunction—a three-day design fair run in tandem with the LDF—was hosted in and around. Here, work from numerous exhibitors could be found, notably Turner Prize-winning architecture studio Assemble. The group showcased work from their Granby workshop in Liverpool which produced fixtures and fittings for the Granby Four Streets project which won the 2015 Turner Prize. Now in its second year, the workshop is expanding to produce tableware known as “SPLATWARE.”
Also on show at the LDF was work from British architecture firm Sam Jacob Studio. Presented in collaboration with car manufacturer MINI, Urban Cabin was a mock micro-house situated in Blackfriars where Londoners could come and swap books. On one side of the cabin, Jacob installed classically-inflected entablature crafted with a range of materials including foam board, MDF and various types of other timber and chipboard. Among a hammock and other furnishings, Urban Cabin came pre-stocked with architecture, design and London-centric books for people to take and replace – on the condition that they left a personal note about the book.
The festival continued at Somerset House. The most popular piece here was PriestmanGoode’s exhibition of interior design strategies for a hyperloop system. Here, visitors could also sit on prototype seat and feel test finishes and surfaces, look at color palettes and provide suggestions for what they wanted inside hyperloop cars.
LDF spread to Greater London, too. In Bexley, East London, Erith Lighthouse was erected for the festival. The polycarbonate lighthouse, designed by architects DK-CM and design studio The Decorators, was erected along the Thames Estuary's edge and hosted a series of food-based events.https://youtu.be/w3KUcQt8Yys
Sticking to light as a medium, the Victoria & Albert Museum showcased the Reflection Room as part of the festival. Created by Flynn Talbot, the exhibition used 56 custom-made stretch membrane Barrisol panels to reflect orange and blue light which emanated from Tryka LED profiles installed at each end of an enclosed corridor .
This is Britain’s ugliest building of the year
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This design team has ideas for a better, more humane jail system
Rhode Less Traveled
Austin student housing tower bends into shape
Hans-Ulrich Obrist on architecture, art, and Metabolism
My interest in architecture, from the perspective of my role as a curator of art, stems from the fact that architecture is the pre-eminent site for the production of reality, as it is uniquely oriented the toward the future, but precisely as a continual negotiation, or as a continually articulated struggle between the present, the past, and the future. This is what I look for, also, in the art that interests me the most; namely, the recognition, following Duchamp, that art is ultimately a game in which the only constant is change itself. Implicit in Duchamp is a vision of history under perennial negotiation; historical truth as forever in situ. My interest in architecture stems especially from the work of English architect Cedric Price, who, beginning in the 1960s, advanced an evolutional model of building premised upon flexibility, change, and renewal. Although many of his concepts never materialized outside the studio, Price is receiving a renaissance in architecture today and I am particularly indebted to his progressive thinking. Price’s vision was to do with the unpredictability of architecture, of its forms and uses, and I am especially interested in pushing at the edges of what is expected of the exhibition-form; and in conceiving unusual sites, formats, and temporalities for exhibitions. Price’s unrealised Fun Palace, 1964, adjusted to its users’ ever-changing needs: "It will probably look like nothing on earth from the outside," it was said. "The kit of service towers, lifting gantries and building components exists solely to produce the kind of interior environments that are fitting and necessary to whatever is going on." The Potteries Thinkbelt, 1966, proposed the construction of a school in England’s North Staffordshire region across a series of railway tracks: the university was rearticulated as a set of interchangeable mobile units which could be attached and detached as necessary. My own practice draws considerably upon Cedric Price’s future of dynamism and his disregard for permanence—his structures often had shelf-lives and once their utility expired, he urged their destruction. Both art and architecture today must be adequate to the most pressing needs of our time, and in particular to the demands of ecology: both sustainability and adaptability; preservation and impermanence. This is why I have tried, wherever possible, to avoid the top-down blockbuster model of curating, and have been more interested in exploring other means to produce reality through exhibitions, delegating decisions and possibilities to artists. Since its inception in 1993, for example, Do It has traveled to over 40 international venues and offers a model of art and exhibition making as the following-through of a variable set of instructions. Perhaps the pre-eminent challenge encompassing this project concerned how to perpetuate a show that no big museum wanted to touch: because it wasn’t the "real" thing—because it was about instructions and interpretations, not concrete "works"—it never hit the primary institutional radar. By consequence, Do It was a huge risk and it perpetuated only through an amazing grassroots mechanism that ricocheted across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and so on. From an economic perspective, the manner in which Do It produced its own circuit, a self-sustaining distribution model, is exemplary and I consider this to be among my proudest achievements. So we come to Metabolism, which, for me, is one of the most fascinating developments in postwar architecture, since it explores all of these important aspects of adaptability, change, and renewal that I see as being especially important in the art context. To some degree, the moment of Metabolist architecture in Japan is inseparable from the tremendous forces of change and renewal affecting that country during the postwar period—the Japanese economic miracle that propelled the country into the premier league of developed nations and only began to stall in the 1990s. This emergence into the "big league" required a distinctively Japanese Modernism, and this is the great achievement of the Metabolists in my view. As one of the movement’s founders, Takashi Asada, clearly stated in regard to the relation between Metabolism and Japan’s phenomenal economic dynamism after the war:
… Those who signed their names on my copy of Metabolism 1960, Ekuan and I as chairman are the eight members of the group… For six years I have encouraged them to realize their proposals in the book so as to examine their validity. In my view, the flexibility that inherently exists in our society and the rapid economic growth in recent years should allow for their proposals to be realized.With regard to Japan’s economic growth, there is a deep optimism inherent in much of the architecture, an optimism appropriately framed by the decade of the 1960s, marked by the signing of Metabolism 1960 and the important Expo 1970 in Osaka. This optimism is, perhaps, most obviously apparent in Kiyonori Kikutake’s Marine City proposal of 1958, which has all the formal revolutionary zeal of Corbusier, and envisions an entirely new mode of life appropriate to the modern age. But it is also there in some of the more modest examples of Metabolist work, which are, of course, the few key examples that have been realized and given to us for posterity. So, Kisho Kurokawa’s ever-controversial Nakagin Capsule Tower in Shimbashi, Tokyo, is a powerful homage to the dynamism of the Japanese capital city and economic powerhouse: a residential building comprising two interconnected concrete towers, intended as distinctively Japanese, but also somewhat Corbusian, "machines for living" for the capital’s salarymen, featuring as standard all the amenities of modern life amid what Ernest Mandel once characterized as the "third industrial revolution" of mass consumption and rising living standards in the advanced economies. But it combines this with that quintessential Western imaginary of contemporary Japanese living: the capsule, which are here able to be reconfigured and combined in different ways according to individual need. Kurokawa’s Capsule Tower is thereby simultaneously expressive of widespread societal change then afoot, as well as the need for individual maneuverability within this larger systemic whole. Expo 70 was billed as a celebration of "Progress and Harmony for Mankind," and is perhaps the summation of the optimistic Japanese orientation toward the future—a unique historical moment that has many lessons for us today. It stands in the Japanese collective memory as a testament to the country’s incredible rate of economic development and rapid recovery during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and is today marked by the Expo Commemorative Park in Osaka. It is indeed fitting that this pivotal event was held in Osaka, which, especially during that period, was of course, the beating heart of Japanese industrialism. Expo 70 in fact marked a turning point, as the culminating point of the steadily accelerating growth of the Japanese economy in the twenty-five years following the end of the war, and the 1970s, during which the country’s great fortune would only further accelerate amid the economic crises of the West that were prompted, not least, by the Oil Crisis of 1973. Change and renewal, as the most important elements of what I understand by the "production of reality," are directly indexed in Metabolist work. Impermanence is a key facet of Kisho Kurokawa’s practice, for instance, and it may not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the idea of unceasing change is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It goes back to the most profound teachings of the Buddha, who argued that attachment to the idea of a permanent self, a permanent ego, in this world of change is the cause of suffering and the main obstacle to liberation. Liberation for Buddha, and for Buddhism generally, means to accept the implacability of change. The enormous changes that Japan as a nation had to face in the immediate aftermath of the war were, I think, fundamental to the visions of renewal and change that we find in Metabolism. Kurokawa, in particular, noted that, apart from Kyoto and Kanazawa, the majority of Japanese cities of any size were decimated during World War II. Whereas, in the West, when a city like London or Dresden was destroyed, there was brick and stone and rubble remaining as evidence of what had been, and out of which new ideas could grow. But Japan’s cities, on the other hand, appeared as blank slates after the dust had settled. Kurokawa noted that Japan’s cities were predominantly built of wood and other natural, perishable materials, and so when they were bombed, they simply turned to cinder. The destruction of both Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto during several battles of the Warring States period in the 15th and 16th centuries also made deep impression on Kurokawa, while into this mix of influences on Metabolist notions of change and adaptability can be added the obvious fact that Japan’s cities are virtually annually struck by natural disasters of various kinds: earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and volcanic eruptions. This ongoing destruction and reconstruction of buildings in Japan has meant that the Japanese population have, as Kurokawa put it, “an uncertainty about existence, a lack of faith in the visible, a suspicion of the eternal.” What is also detectable in Metabolist work is a strong emphasis, stemming from traditional Japanese architecture, on the notion that buildings and cities should be true to their environs. In traditional Japanese buildings there is the idea that architecture should be as natural as possible and should be in harmony with the rest of nature, since it is, after all, only temporarily there. This ethos spurred the entire Japanese tradition of making buildings and cities as temporary structures, with the ideas of temporaneity and autochthony in-built. Autochthony, in particular, I think can be seen in Kurokawa’s design for the Nagoya City Art Museum, completed in 1987, for the way that the entrance, especially, seems to expose the formal structure of the building and seems also to ‘bleed’ into the area surrounding the building itself. This idea of impermanence was reflected in Kurokawa’s work as part of the Metabolism Movement, and his buildings were built to be removable, interchangeable and adaptable, both in time and space. All of these ideas mean that Metabolism infused a particularly Japanese Modernism with some of the key ideas of postmodernism in architecture; especially, truth to surroundings, rather than the implantation of a transposable and monolithic International Style. But there was also a profound sense of experimentation and search for the new, rather than simply the recombination and resurrection of the old, that marks Metabolism out as very much part of the canon of architectural Modernism, however much it may be a kind of proto-postmodernism. Experimentation was inherent in the ways in which the Metabolists worked and collaborated, which echoed the constant reshuffling and disciplinary revolutionizing that is characteristic of, for instance, the Bauhaus under Gropius. As Asada described it:
Group Metabolism has no strict rules or agreements. It’s a free and intimate group of architects, designers, and critics.One of the ways in which this was manifested was in the profound interdisciplinarity of Metabolism as it merged with other fields of knowledge. So, we have Tomatsu’s sociology, Kurokawa’s Institute of Social Engineering, Awazu’s graphic design, as well as an engagement with the broader spheres of science, technology, and biology. Metabolism, it could be said, belongs to the last heroic wave of architectural movements, in a period before the hastening of disciplinary specialization that we find with trends such as the otherwise exemplary Deconstructivist movement of Libeskind and Eisenman. Metabolism was anything but the manifestation of a recursive, architectural argument, but rather was profoundly open to the world, not least in its engagement with questions of environment and ecology. It therefore has many potential lessons for us today, as we search for ways in which design might lead us into the future. On the one hand, the challenges of sustainability, and therefore of urban wellbeing, demand that cultural production today reclaims its old sense of ambition and scale; that it once again embraces the possibilities of total design. Bruno Latour has recently called for an expanded role for design that extends "from the details of daily objects to cities, landscapes, nations, cultures, bodies, genes, and… to nature itself," welcoming this as a novel "political ecology" that might "ease modernism out of its historical dead end." This is not to say that we should resurrect anything like the monolithic aesthetic schemes of modernism itself, but rather that we should borrow from their ambition in order to form our own dynamic, shifting and alterable institutions and spaces of the future. Latour states that: "the little word 'design' could offer a very important touchstone for detecting where we are heading and how well modernism (and also postmodernism) has been faring." But one way of avoiding what is a potential pitfall of grand visions for the redesign and rebuilding of urban environments is to embrace possibilities for future change as an inherent facet of architectural and planning projects, in other words, to embrace impermanence and adaptability. It may not be too much of a stretch to imagine Metabolism as an object lesson in the way in which architecture might straddle these dual demands of the revisioning of the urban context and urban society, while at the same time accommodating uncertainty, becoming, and the changeable.
This article originally appeared as Architecture, Art and Metabolism on urbanNext.
SITU Studio crafts a uniquely flexible display system for a New York City vinyl record and audiophile store
Despite the recent resurgence in vinyl record sales, brick-and-mortar music retail remains a challenging business. New York City’s Turntable Lab—which sells vinyl, high-end audiophile equipment, and merchandise, catering to professional DJs and casual listeners alike—had successfully graduated from its small starting location near the Cooper Union to a larger, 1,200-square-foot space nearby. But Turntable’s owners knew their store needed to be nimble to survive. “Products always change…how you display things, where you might need to move things around. Maximum flexibility was what we were shooting for,” said Turntable Lab partner David Azzoni. The new store required that adaptability, but the owners didn’t want to lose the gritty basement feel of the old location.
They turned to Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary firm SITU Studio; the two teams had already collaborated to design a no-frills, flat-pack turntable stand that was successfully Kickstarted. Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny, partner at SITU Studio, said the firm looked to DIY sources for inspiration for the store. “The brilliant detail: It’s a cleat. It’s actually something very straightforward, something your DIY handyman at home will build in his garage for tools,” he explained. The cleats run throughout the space, supporting around 10 different sets of brackets, hooks, and rails, all of which hold stands, shelves, and display inserts.
This system allows for extreme flexibility, but SITU Studio had to work hard to refine the cleat, ensuring that the racks would be secure without requiring tools or extensive force to change them around. Turntable Lab also visited SITU Studio’s workshop throughout the design process, bringing samples of products, to measure what dimensions and displays worked best. “We spent a lot of time just drawing and cutting these things out, playing with just the round-overs, the radiuses…there was a lot of massaging radiuses,” Lukyanov-Cherny recalled. One major decision was to cut out the center of the display brackets, thereby keeping the cases visually open. “It just flows,” said Azzoni.
SITU Studio selected clear finished and untreated Baltic birch plywood for the entire system, with high-pressure laminate for its heavily used surfaces. The plywood—CNC-milled into shape—retains the old shop’s raw, utilitarian feel but balances it with clean lines. And Turntable Lab’s owners couldn’t be happier with the result. Armed with a basic set of display units, they can easily swap out products and how they’re displayed. In the back of the store, each vinyl storage/display unit rolls on wheels and can be moved to make space for events.
Parked among the vinyl records and T-shirts is the old store’s timeworn turntable stand, still used by DJs for in-store concerts. Its plywood has weathered darkly with use, and it sharply contrasts with the fresh plywood around it. But it won’t be the only aged one for long.
“These things can take a beating; you don’t want to refine things that people will be touching. You want to think about materiality and how it ages over time,” Lukyanov-Cherny said. “Eventually,” he added, gesturing from the new plywood displays to the old turntable stand, “they’re all gonna look like this!”
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Landmarks approves new building around historic movie palace
The LPC is working with the owner to make sure plaster gets put back in place. The two parties agreed to $10 million bond for storage and periodic inspection of the plaster, though the commission said those details still being hammered out. One major requirement of interior landmarks is that they remain open to the public. Patrick Waldo of preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council (HDC), as well as Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City, raised concerns about the accessibility of a space that fronts a future (private) apartment lobby. HDC "strongly" suggested the street entrance be re-examined to expose the interior more fully; at the very least, the group recommended strong wayfinding signage to alert the public to the presence of the landmark.
To get more insight into the theater's place in New York history, Gunts reached out to Anthony Robins, a former senior preservation specialist at the agency who wrote the original designation report, for more on RKO Keith's. Here's what he had to say:
The recent history of the RKO Keith’s—once a mainstay of Flushing—has been dismal. Designed by Thomas Lamb—perhaps New York’s most prolific theater designer—it was planned originally as a vaudeville theater, with movies more or less an afterthought. Lamb designed it as a so-called “atmospheric” theater, attempting to create the illusion that the theater’s customers were seated outside, under the stars, in a picturesque Spanish village. The Spanish-inspired ornament ran throughout the theater into all its major spaces. Located at the major intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard, the Keith’s became a very visible institution in the neighborhood.By 1984, the Keith’s, still in use as a movie theater, was one of only three major “atmospheric” theaters surviving in New York City (the others being the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx and the Valencia in Queens, both now official landmarks). The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation of the Keith’s entire interior that year was cut back at the Board of Estimate to include just the grand foyer—apparently because a politically connected developer wanted to include the site in a proposed new shopping mall. That plan evaporated, as did the plans of a subsequent developer, but the Keith’s remained shuttered; for 30 years it has sat vacant, decaying and crumbling, its interiors long since vandalized, even as other grand movie palaces have been lovingly restored. Now comes the ultimate indignity of the proposed demolition of the theater shell, and the grand foyer’s disassembly and reconstruction, all by itself, as an odd relic of a vanished theater from another era. There can be no happy ending for this story.