Search results for "Far West Side"

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Out In FRONT

Cleveland’s FRONT festival ties the city together with art and history
The expressed goal of the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art is to shine a spotlight on the cultural landscape of Cleveland, a city many might overlook when thinking of art hubs. The organizers of FRONT, of which there are many, are taking their chances on yet another triennial/biennial event but are decidedly not relying on a market-based model, like Art Basel or the closer Expo Chicago. In doing so the city is hoping to set itself apart and focus on the cultural aspects of the art, rather than the scene of art culture. The first thing that will strike visitors to FRONT is its scope. With this year’s theme, An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises, it can honestly be said that the show spans much of the city, including dipping its toes into Lake Erie. With no single institution claiming the show as its own, each of the city's major art museums and a number of galleries and universities have worked in unison to produce the encompassing show. It is a credit to Curator Lisa Kurzner, Artistic Director Michelle Grabner, Executive Director Fred Bidwell, and their team that such a complex undertaking could be negotiated. Public spaces and government buildings also get in on the act with massive new murals, large-scale sculptures, and a number of temporary installations. In many ways, these pieces, outside of typical presentation settings, are the most striking. Possibly the least expected of the non-traditional spaces to show art is the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Completed in 1923, and fully adorned in ornate gold and marble details, the lobby of the bank is home to a mesmerizing video and sound installation entitled Volatility Smile by New York-based Midwest-native Philip Vanderhyden. The 24-channel video of digitally rendered abstract forms plays with imagery pulled directly from the space itself. A similarly poignant installation fills the large gallery of the downtown Cleveland Public Library. The American Library continues Yinka Shonibare's research-based cultural art practice. The piece is composed of thousands of books covered in African cloth and embossed with the names of American immigrants. The bright color and context of the piece make accessible the timely content, which builds on Shonibare's work dealing with post-colonialism around the world. The work within the established art museums and galleries is broad-ranging and varied, and many pieces are not to be missed. At Case Western University and MOCA Cleveland, a giant silver hand by sculptor Tony Tasset welcomes guests to the museum and the university, both of which are also participating in FRONT. The inside of the Farshid Moussavi-designed MOCA Cleveland echoes with the soundtrack of Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, a slow-motion 3-D video installation of animated urban plant life. It is as intoxicatingly beautiful as it is hypnotizing. Equally powerful, if not much quieter, is what may be the hidden gem of the entire exhibition. Located in the oldest church in Cleveland along a quiet street, Night Coming Tenderly, Black by photographer Dawoud Bey exemplifies the type of work that FRONT is aiming to promote. Both regionally specific and universally accessible, the large installation fills the pews of St. John’s Episcopal Church with almost completely black images depicting landscapes that escaped slaves traveling the Underground Railroad would have encountered. Appropriately, the church itself was the final stop along the perilous system of safe heavens before escapees crossed Lake Erie into Canada. The placement of the large-scale prints in the pews allows for viewers to sit unusually close to the images, making them incredibly immersive as one studies their intense shadowy detail. In many ways, FRONT International has set itself up to achieve its goal of bringing the world to Cleveland. The array of work is a testament to the cooperation between institutions, which would seem unlikely to happen in the more competitive art scenes of larger cities. The work is often both specific to Cleveland as well as relevant to outsiders. Taken in all together, the show is exciting and shows the potential when a city like Cleveland puts on an international exhibition. Does the world need another art festival? Perhaps not, but if we are going to get one, Cleveland seems to have figured out a way to make it worthwhile.
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Green House

This mental health facility creates calm with a perforated green facade
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San Miniato is a small Italian hill town just outside Florence. In medieval times, the town connected northern Europe and Rome, and today its hilltop landscape is dotted with luxury tourist lodgings scattered between landmarked palaces, seminaries, and homes. Arising from this historical context is the town's newest building, Casa Verde, a mental health facility for young women.
 
  • Facade Manufacturer Saverio srl and Carmine Pagano srl (perforated metal panels)
  • Architects LDA.iMdA architetti associati
  • Facade Installer Carmine Pagano srl (general contractor)
  • Facade Consultants STUDIO TECNO srl (structural engineer)
  • Location San Miniato, Pisa, Italy
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System steel frame w/ cement board and perforated metal sheet cladding
  • Products Knauf AQUAPANEL® Exterior Wall
The project is inspired by historical and social values of “home” paired with the spirit of the forested surroundings. A loose arrangement of dormitories are arranged around a central courtyard and clad with a perforated green metal skin that is held off of ground level to offer transparency to the surrounding landscape, which is peppered with centuries-old cypress trees. Casa Verde prioritizes social sustainability as well as sustainable land use. Hillside maintenance efforts were supported by reusing existing foundations from vicoli carbonai, or charcoal alleys, which were developed in the Middle Ages as an extension of San Miniato’s defensive system. Lightweight paneling on the facade helped minimize dead loads on the foundation to maintain the slope stability. Art by and about the patients has shaped the facility. Drawings from younger patients were edited, scaled, and applied to the ground floor glazing system, while Italian artist Mercurio-S17S71 created Shamans, a contemporary work that features portraits of Casa Verde’s patients. The extension to the existing orphanage was sensitively planned to protect the formal massing of the original plan, while additions to the complex are articulated through more contemporary expressions of shape and material. Openings on the main elevation connect users of the existing structure to the addition. The facade coloration results from a study of leaf shades in different seasons. Like a full tree canopy, the facade’s perforated screens are perceived as porous from up close, but massive and opaque from afar. Openings in the metal panels filter daylight while ventilating the thermal envelope beyond the screen. Beyond the facade, the architect explained that the interior spaces were purposefully designed in a minimal scheme to “recreate the feeling of being in a carded wool space (in view of neuropsychiatric disorders).” A base light gray color is paired with a color scheme of greens, blues, and oranges that covers furniture and architectural detailing to delineate the facility’s services.  
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Railing Against Related

Construction workers protest developer behind DS+R, SOM towers
Hundreds of construction workers crowded New York City's Park Avenue on Wednesday during rush hour in protest against Related Companies, developer of New York’s $20-billion Hudson Yards project. Hudson Yards is the massive real estate development on Manhattan's West Side that has towers by DS+R, SOM, and KPF along with DS+R and Rockwell Group's The Shed and Heatherwick Studio's Vessel. As part of the #CountMeIn movement to fight against open shop or non-unionized workplaces, 37 people were arrested at the scene according to Crain’s New York. The demonstration shut down the street at 345 Park Avenue, an office tower home to the headquarters of the National Football League where billionaire Miami Dolphins owner and Related chairman Stephen Ross works. Protestors called for Ross’s resignation from his new seat on the NFL’s social justice committee, which seeks to appease the professional players who oppose the league’s ban on kneeling during the national anthem. Crain’s said that the #CountMeIn protestors—who claim Ross is anti-union—wore teal T-shirts designed to mimic a Dolphins’ jersey that read “Step Down Steve” in orange lettering. The large-scale gathering is the biggest public display so far from organized labor groups in their ongoing dispute with Related, which wants to use nonunion labor for the second phase of construction at Hudson Yards. Crain’s reported the company filed a $100-million lawsuit earlier this year to undercut the efforts of the city’s strongest labor organizer, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, in negotiating new union opportunities for the construction of the upcoming towers at Hudson Yards. The real estate and construction powerhouse believes union workers abused their hours on site and caused inflation over the last five years while working on the first phase. Crain’s wrote that Wednesday’s protests were seen by many as a personal attack on Ross and that he’s discriminating against laborers by condoning racism, sexism, and union-busting. Targeting Ross’s new position on the NFL’s social justice committee is an avenue for the union groups to bring greater awareness to this ongoing fight.
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Storm's a Comin'

Offshore wind primed to proliferate in New England’s waters
Offshore wind power may finally be coming to the U.S. if recent developments are any indication. Relatively common in Europe, the technology is still rare on this side of the Atlantic, with just five turbines operating in U.S. waters. That may change, however, as several northeastern states have set offshore wind energy goals and have greenlit several key projects. Yale Climate Connections recently reported on potentially bright developments in the industry. The state governments of Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey have all put in place mandates that will require those states to draw a certain amount of their electricity from offshore wind farms as part of broader sustainability goals. Other New England states are pushing forward projects that would generate hundreds of megawatts of power (for reference the Hoover Dam generates approximately 2,000 megawatts). Connecticut and Rhode Island approved a 400-megawatt project, and smaller projects are coming to Long Island and Maryland. While offshore wind farms may finally be getting their moment, similar efforts seem to consistently get doomed from a wide range of opposing forces. The Navy opposes turbines on much of the West Coast. Conservationists have piped up against plans in the Great Lakes. Although New Jersey had created an offshore wind goal in 2010, the initiative sat dead under Governor Chris Christie, who was apparently not motivated to pursue such projects. NIMBY groups and the fishing industry have killed plans before, to say nothing of politicians who generally oppose any moves away from fossil fuels. Still, falling costs and gradually evolving attitudes on alternative energy may be finally tilting the political landscape in offshore wind's favor. If these New England projects come through, they may set a precedent for other developments across the country.
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Climate Irony

Texas fast-tracks seawalls for oil and gas infrastructure
Exactly one year after Hurricane Harvey touched down in Texas, Gulf Coast oil and gas industries have reportedly been lobbying hard for protection against the rising tides. As Houston residents prepare to go to the ballot over a $2.5 billion resiliency and flood mitigation bond package on August 25, the Texas state government has already approved $3.9 billion to protect oil refineries. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other state leaders had proposed a $61 billion plan for rebuilding and hardening the state’s coast in November of last year, but at the time, officials in the fiscally conservative state balked at the cost. Texas was far from the only state swamped by a heavy hurricane season last year, and with wildfires raging across the West Coast, lawmakers claimed that disaster relief funding had been stretched thin. The most ambitious portion of the Rebuild Texas plan proposed last year was the “Ike Dike,” a $12 billion series of levees and seawalls along the Gulf Coast that would form a protective “spine.” If the plan were funded, three large barriers would be installed along the Houston-Galveston coast to protect against flooding. Now, as AP reports, while the state is still trying to secure the public funding necessary to build the spine, the aforementioned $3.9 billion will go towards building three smaller seawalls to protect oil and gas infrastructure. That was deliberate on the part of the Texas Land Commissioner’s Office, as Hurricane Harvey knocked out about a quarter of the area’s refining capability. Refineries along the Gulf Coast are responsible for 30 percent of America’s refining capacity. The taxpayer-funded sections will provide a six-mile-long stretch of 19-foot-tall seawalls along Port Arthur on the Texas-Louisiana border, 25 miles of floodwalls around Orange County, and the final swath would protect Freeport. Construction is slated to begin in the next few months and once these disparate projects are complete, they could become part of a larger protection network if the rest of the funding is secured later. Still, the irony of the fossil fuel industry asking for money to protect against the effects of climate change was not lost on advocates and casual observers. “The oil and gas industry is getting a free ride,” Brandt Mannchen of the Houston Sierra Club told AP. “You don’t hear the industry making a peep about paying for any of this and why should they? There’s all this push like, ‘Please Senator Cornyn, Please Senator Cruz, we need money for this and that.’”
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In Memoriam

Costas Kondylis, architect of Trump’s New York City towers, dies at 78
Architect Costas Kondylis, the prolific designer behind over 86 buildings in Manhattan, died Friday at age 78, according to The Real Deal. The cause of death has not yet been announced. Kondylis was best known as one of Donald Trump’s closest and most frequent collaborators in New York City. He designed the 90-story Trump World Tower, formerly the world’s tallest residential structure, in Midtown East for the real estate mogul as well as the Trump International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle, and several buildings at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard. While Kondylis’s extensive resume reveals a handful of projects associated with Trump, the architect’s 50 years designing in New York included countless high-rise designs for various local developers Born in Central Africa, Kondylis studied in his parent’s home country of Greece before earning a graduate degree at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. After finishing his second masters at Columbia University in 1967, he began working for Davis Brody & Associates. While employed by Philip Birnbaum & Associates, he designed his first notable building, Manhattan Place Condo, in 1984. As one of the first high-rise condo projects in the city, as well as one of the few to focus on luxury design at the time, it caught the eye of Trump who was then expanding his New York building empire. Five years later, Kondylis launched his own firm, Costas Kondylis and Partners in 1989. During this busy time in his career, he designed 65 buildings—one building every six weeks—from 2000 to 2007, TRD reported. Once the practice dissolved two decades later, Kondylis started his own firm, Kondylis Design. It’s argued that Kondylis influenced the New York skyline more than any other architect in history. His more recent projects, Silver Towers, River Place, and Atelier, all towering residential properties, have helped shape the newly-developed far west side of Manhattan. He was largely recognized as the “developer’s architect,” a term he grew to embrace, having worked well with everyone from Silverstein Properties to Moinian Group to Vornado Realty Trust and Related Companies. Though his work was usually on time and on budget, it wasn’t highly favored by critics who saw his large-scale structures as too conventional. Larry Silverstein told The New York Times in a 2007 interview that Kondylis’s name is almost synonymous with the city’s condominium architecture. “He designs an attractive, buildable, functional building,” he said. “If I’m going to do a residential building in New York, the most natural thing in the world is to pick up the phone and call Costas.” Kondylis repeatedly stated that his primary goal was always to please the client. He was regarded as one of the most professional, humble, and patient architects in the business despite criticism or praise of his work.  Kondylis died last week in his home and is survived by his two daughters, Alexia and Katherine. A service in his honor is scheduled for October.
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Glass on Strike

The Commonwealth Club’s San Francisco headquarters honors its union history
The slow days of summer are a good time to catch up on important projects that somehow fell through the editorial cracks during the year. One such project is the Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects (LMS)-designed headquarters for the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The Club, one of the institutions that make San Francisco such a unique and progressive city, was founded in 1903; as a public affairs forum, it presents more than 450 events a year. It has been looking for a home since it was founded and its “early plans to acquire a headquarters building were derailed by the 1906 earthquake.” A few years ago, the organization purchased a site fronting San Francisco’s Embarcadero waterfront boulevard that was occupied by a building almost as old as the organization and once the home of the city’s Longshoreman’s Association. The dock workers union was led by Harry Bridges, who famously shut down the city for four days in 1934, and for a city proud of its union history, this qualifies as an important historic site. LMS have created a fitting monument and organization headquarters on the Embarcadero. The firm designed a workable plan for the Club that includes two auditoria, meeting rooms, a library, gallery, boardroom, roof terrace, catering facilities, and a state-of-the-art audio/broadcast system and high-tech communications platform for the club’s weekly radio broadcast. But the firm’s most important addition to the new headquarters is its facade design, and the building, as a pass-through property, has two entrances. The Steuart Street entrance was the principal entry for the longshoremen, and is where three workers were shot (two of whom died on what is called “Bloody Thursday”), which was preserved by the architects as an important historical marker. But on the Embarcadero, which is one of the most important thoroughfares in San Francisco, LMS designed a beautifully detailed new glass curtain wall facade. The curtainwall is clear glass with operable windows that highlight the top floor auditorium where the lectures and talks take place, and opens up to welcome the city inside. It’s a beautiful and elegant public face for this important public policy institution, and Marsha Maytum claims “we were thrilled to be able to create a home for civil discourse that is needed more than ever.”
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Petrourbanism

Initial notes on Houston after theory
1 We landed in Houston two weeks before the storm. For newcomers to Texas, Hurricane Harvey provided a terrifying crash course in the geography and hydrology of the city, its micro-differences in topography and macro-differences in resources across the city’s communities. We were told that after the water receded, nothing would be the same, that the magnitude and destruction of the storm would simply be too hard to ignore. Yet less than a year later, as rebuilding continues on the verge of another hurricane season, it is hard to see how much—if anything—has changed for the better. Money was spent reconstructing homes on their original sites, and large-scale infrastructures that were designed to flood, like Buffalo Bayou Park, have performed admirably well as examples for designing resilient landscapes in Houston and elsewhere. A slew of well-intentioned policy reports were issued in the wake of Harvey, many reiterating similar proposals that preceded the storm, seemingly to little avail. The heuristic measures of the so-called 500-year event were questioned in light of a new reality in which such mega-storms will now be separated by years, not centuries. And then the city went back, it seems, to the combination of development and dread that has apparently become the new normal. 2 I came to Houston expecting to tap into a rich body of urban writing from the late 1970s to the 2000s that placed the city firmly at the center of broader attempts to theorize the contemporary metropolis. These formed part of what Joel Warren Barna described as “a long American tradition of minority reports” in which the social, political, economic, and psychological dimensions of architecture and the city were probed. Houston’s horizontal field provided an ideal environment for such speculations. For Joe Feagin, it offered the example par excellence of the “free enterprise city,” a case study of the unceasing urban transformations wrought by capitalist development unburdened by zoning. For Doug Milburn, Houston was “the last American city,” characterized by its ever-unfinished status as process rather than product. For Lars Lerup, its diffuse ecology of mega-shapes and micro-stimuli heralded the demise of the traditional city: a fluid condition of natural and artificial strata, a metastasizing field of events and affects punctuated by moments of stim and dross. At its peak, metropolitan Houston served as a radical testing ground for new ways of understanding the relentless permutations of 20th-century urbanism at large. Far from finding new extensions of these threads of writing the metropolis, probing their limits, or harnessing their potential for new speculations, instead, I encountered a city that seemed to have little nostalgia not just for its architecture, but also for its own prior theorizations. While cities like New York and Los Angeles capitalize on the major authors of their urban histories, Houston, by comparison, has largely fallen out of the center of contemporary discussions of urbanism and its possible futures. The most significant attempts to characterize Houston ultimately left a shrinking footprint on the contemporary urban scene, perhaps condemned by their avoidance of fixed definitions in relation to a metropolis endlessly in becoming. 3 Perhaps the major characteristic of Houston in the age of its most provocative theorizations was its lateness. An economy centered on petro-capital meant that its cycles of boom and bust happened a full decade out of step with urban development elsewhere in the U.S., with its peak following the spike in crude oil prices in the 1970s at the same time that the rest of the nation suffered from a deep recession. The city was similarly subject to the end of the oil boom in dramatic fashion, as plans to build the world’s tallest tower in Houston ran aground as prices crashed after 1983. The city’s authors reinforced the sense of Houston as late: for Milburn, the “last” truly American city in its combination of frenetic pace and untimely development; for Lerup, a model for what comes “after” the conventional city. Inevitably, Houston became a capital of late modernism and its manifestations. These included lapidary icons of petro-development, like the faceted, symmetrical towers of Pennzoil Place (Johnson/Burgee, 1976), along with local masterpieces like Four Allen Center (Lloyd, Morgan & Jones, 1984), which MoMA curator Arthur Drexler praised as “absolutely staggering” in its mirrored-glass effects. Houston’s later corporate development encapsulated its seamless, stylistic transition to postmodernism in buildings often designed by the same architects, like Johnson/Burgee’s RepublicBank Center of 1984, just across the street from Pennzoil Place. Houston’s theorizations provided valuable frameworks for understanding these economic and aesthetic cycles together, from the city’s boom to the period that Joel Warren Barna called the “see-through years” in homage to the hollow, abandoned development projects that littered the city’s landscape in the 1980s, begun a decade too late. 4 Houston has emerged as ground zero for what architecture and the city have become—for good or evil—in the midst of our national politics. The genuine multiculturalism of the country’s fourth-largest city—its greatest resource—offers conflicting signals with regard to architecture’s complicity with, or resistance to, the rise of xenophobia, racism, and nationalism in the U.S. This year provided welcome news of an international competition to design the country’s first official Ismaili Center, sponsored by the Aga Khan, with the hope of producing a distinguished building worthy of serving the nation’s largest community of Ismaili Muslims. Emancipation Park, established in 1872 as the first municipal park for African Americans in a segregated Houston—but long fallen into disrepair since the 1970s amid the decline of the historically underserved Third Ward—reopened last year to much fanfare following an extensive program of renovation and new construction by a team of designers led by Phil Freelon. Such initiatives are tempered by the news that Southwest Key Programs, a Texas nonprofit, plans to repurpose a warehouse near Houston’s downtown—which previously housed families displaced by Harvey—as a detention center for “tender age” immigrant children under the age of 12 who were forcibly separated from their parents by ICE. Meanwhile, the first federal contract for an immigrant detention center under the Trump administration was awarded in April 2017 to GEO Group, a private prison company, to build a $110 million, 1,000-bed facility in Conroe, a city just north of Houston. Such cruelties underscore the presence of the vast prison-industrial complex that underlies much of the financial landscape of the city’s politics, in parallel with the multinational conglomerates centered here—such as Halliburton—that have tied the city’s petrochemical industries to the construction of military detention facilities abroad. 5 What lessons can we learn from Houston today, from its dissonant combination of the hopeful and the horrifying amidst the city’s current urban transformations? How can new thinking emerge from the multiculturalism of an expanding city? Perhaps Houston’s lateness can be redeployed in its favor: While it may be behind the beat in offering responses to climate change, urban development, and cultural conflict, Houston’s apparent condition of being out-of-time can be reclaimed as a mode of resistance, a slowness in relation to contemporary politics. In this context, what can we do differently, and what must we think anew? For one, future criticism and speculation on the city will have to become more intersectional, no longer centered around a dominant—white, male—set of voices. (Look again at the list of authors on the previous page.) New ideas will have to come from beyond the domain of the academy, from the full spectrum of actors, interests, and constituencies that together represent Houston’s enviable diversity. The way forward might be indicated by the remarkable success of Project Row Houses, established in 1994 by artist Rick Lowe as a residency program for artists, architects, and writers—primarily women and people of color—to create and exhibit work in a series of restored shotgun houses in the Third Ward. The project’s model, based on a commitment to public art and an alternative model of community development—one that includes dedicated residences for young, single mothers—offers a true praxis for how cultural identity and community work can intersect in rethinking and remaking the city. Another lesson in joint urban practice can be found in the recently announced initiative by the University of Houston and the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to create a partnership focused on Latino and Latin American art and culture. In seeking to connect students to the culture and heritage of Latino communities that make up some 43 percent of the urban population, this initiative suggests how architecture and design can respond more fully to a deeply multicultural city. Such examples offer the hope of a new Houston urbanism to come, one that expands the range of those who can participate in interpreting its transformations and reclaiming its prior theorizations toward new, untimely, and more humane futures.
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Zipped Up

BIG’s Serpentine Pavilion lands in Toronto for the fall
The Bjarke Ingels Group’s (BIG) 2016 summer Serpentine Pavilion, an unzipped exploration of the flat wall, has made an intercontinental leap to Toronto and is set to open in September. During the day visitors will be able to explore an architectural exhibition titled Unzipped, curated by BIG, inside of the “unzipped wall," and at night talks and events will be hosted by developer and owner Westbank. The curvilinear pavilion will be reconstructed to its original size: 88.5 feet long, 39 feet wide, and 49 feet tall. BIG’s design for the structure began with a two-dimensional wall, and then “pulled it apart” from the base to form the vaulted event space. Rather than the traditional brick, BIG stacked extruded fiberglass frames to allow sunlight inside, a material-structure-daylighting confluence also seen in Frida Escobedo’s 2018 Serpentine Pavilion. The soaring interior evokes the awesomeness of sacred interiors, but here, visitors are encouraged to get comfortable and climb on the outside of the installation. The unzipped wall is currently being installed at the intersection of King and Brant Streets, directly in front of BIG and Westbank’s mixed-use King Street West development. The stepped building will resemble the pavilion, as the development also uses cascading, angled units to maximize sunlight exposure. The installation will remain at its current location until November of this year, but Toronto is only the first stop in the pavilion’s multi-city tour across Canada. The structure will ultimately land on the West Coast in front of Westbank’s Shaw Tower on the Vancouver waterfront. Serpentine Pavilions are sold after the summer season ends and leave London's Hyde Park for homes all over the world. Last year’s pavilion, a swooping saucer that loomed over triangularly-patterned walls from Diébédo Francis Kéré, was purchased by Ilham Gallery in Kuala Lumpur and will likely end up in the Malaysian capital city. Smiljan Radic’s fiberglass pebble from 2014 landed on the Hauser & Wirth art campus, located on Durslade Farm in Bruton, England, and SelgasCano’s plastic polygonal color show from 2015 is slated for a second life in Los Angeles. And what about Zaha Hadid’s original tent from the show’s first year in 2000? The multi-gabled pavilion eventually became a public gathering place (and frequent wedding venue) at Flambards Theme Park in Helston, Cornwall.
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Tried All the Angles

Judge clears way for controversial Brooklyn development at Broadway Triangle
Last Friday in New York City, a lawsuit against one of North Brooklyn’s most contentious, high-profile developments was dismissed after a six-month delay in court. The lawsuit, filed by the Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH) and local groups in February, claimed the Broadway Triangle project would discriminate against people of color and further segregate the predominantly black and Latino community from the rest of Brooklyn. Currently a vacant piece of land situated at the corner of Union and Flushing Avenues, the contested site is slated to become a massive eight-building, mixed-use complex. It was formerly owned by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. In their complaint, the plaintiffs said the development violates the federal Fair Housing Act and asked the city to stop the rezoning of the site. They also urged the city to consider requiring racial impact studies when rezoning areas in low-income communities throughout New York. Alexandra Fennell, network director at Churches United, told The Architect’s Newspaper that such a study could easily be incorporated into the Environmental Review process when properties are up for development. “The land use process provides opportunities for tangible remedies for issues that are present,” she said. “If the city refuses to even study segregation in our neighborhoods then we are almost certain to perpetuate it.” The plaintiffs also noted that the Pfizer site’s current developer, Rabsky Group, has a longstanding history of building luxury homes and apartments exclusively for larger Hasidic families with three- and four-bedroom options. They argued these sizes don't make sense for smaller black and Latino families who might be interested in applying for the 287 affordable housing units being offered at the Pfizer Project.  The planned 1,146-apartment complex will include those subsidized units, 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, and green space, designed in conjunction with the NYC Department of Planning and Manhattan-based firm Magnusson Architecture and Planning (MAP). According to the architects, the new design will aim to improve the local pedestrian experience on the southwest corner of the 31-acre Broadway Triangle, boost economic activity in the area, and beautify the surrounding neighborhoods of South Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Magnus Magnusson, the firm's principal, said since the first goal of the project was to receive the zoning change, the initial drawings specifically show the urban design approach taken to the site. You can’t tell from the images, he said, but going east the scale of the buildings get lower to match the surrounding neighborhood. The tallest structures on Union Avenue—a busy, car-ridden street—feature up to 18 stories. “Another big urban design feature we added was a large, public open space in the middle of the complex,” Magnusson said. “The neighborhood today lacks green space and we wanted to make it a place for the entire community to come together.” Magnusson also noted that there hasn’t been any talk of a luxury development by Rabsky so far. “There are seven apartment buildings ranging in various sizes, so each one could be for a different use and feature either affordable housing versus market rate,” he said. “The attraction here for us was the fact that for decades, this was an empty property. To build a new mixed community is really what New York is all about in trying to do to make the city more inclusive. Even though the opposition wanted more, this will probably be the best compromise." Broadway Triangle has been a public topic of controversy for nearly a decade. The city voted to rezone the area, which it owns, in 2009 to make way for new development and affordable housing options, but a federal judge blocked such actions three years later, citing that it would be detrimental to the local minority populations. After the city agreed to find a new developer for the site last year, plans restarted. In March the court put a temporary restraining order on the site, but the ban was lifted with the final ruling last week. “The city needs more housing...a lot more,” Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron wrote in his ruling. “The Pfizer Project has already passed political process muster; today it passes judicial process muster. This court finds no legal impediment to it and will not stand in its way one more day.” Judge Engoron also stated that the city has no obligation to carry out a racial impact study when it considers rezoning properties and noted that concerns of gentrification and displacement speak to broad social trends rather than the hidden agenda of developers. For the past month, Churches United has hosted the “Take Back Bushwick” campaign, a series of 17 “actions” or events calling out future local market rate developments that are driving up rents, displacing residents in Brooklyn, and have zero affordable housing options. The last and final action, a rally against an incoming 27-story residential building on Wyckoff Avenue, was held this morning. Fennell calls this particular project the “ultimate middle finger building” in Bushwick and a development that “could not be farther from what the community needs.” “Today’s action was not related to Pfizer but it also focuses on the city’s failure to create policies that encourage development of low income housing which we desperately need in favor of luxury development,” she said. “New York is one of the most segregated cities in the country and this type of development is only segregating us further.” Council member Antonio Reynoso, who represents District 34 where the Pfizer Project will be developed, also spoke at the rally and urged the local community to continue getting involved in these discussions. “Bushwick looks a certain way, it has a character,” he said “That’s what makes it so popular and that’s what's being taken away from us. We’re allowing developers and big money to dictate and determine exactly what they want to do in this community, instead of allowing the community to be the sayers of how we want things to be.” This article was updated on August 2nd with comments from Magnusson Architecture and Planning.
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Fluid Boundaries

How the Rio Grande came to separate the U.S. and Mexico
This article is the fourth in a series that originally appeared in AN's July/August 2018 issue which focuses exclusively on Texas and was guest edited by AGENCY. The rest of the essays will be released in the coming days and examine architecture and practice across the southern border of the United States. In the border metropolis of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, the power relations of international negotiation are not only performed through the apparatus of control over the movement of bodies, but are also embodied in a concrete architecture that exposes the calculus of separation and asymmetrical infrastructural development between the two countries. In the borderland, the control of water—as territory, commodity, and reproductive agent—produces its physical spaces. While the shared waters of the river and the underground aquifers contribute to the reproductive capacity of land within the desert climate, the infrastructures of water supply and sanitation are material evidence of the socio-spatial injustices and imbalances that structure and reproduce social relations within the border cities. Negotiation The geopolitical history of the river as a border and of the partitioning of its waters is inscribed within the built environment as a thick constructed zone. The international border between the United States and Mexico was defined by the 1848 and 1884 Treaties, which delineated that the border follow the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo del Norte) from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. This rendered the border an unstable condition, as its line needed to be redefined by the International Boundary Commission each time floods caused the river to relocate. A treaty in 1933 attempted to “fix” the river by engineering it into a constructed channel. However, this location left several hundred acres of disputed Mexican territory to the north of the river—the result of a violent change in course in 1864. The 1963 Chamizal Agreement relocated the river and the international boundary once again, moving the Rio Grande back to its 1852 survey location. In this highly publicized moment of international diplomacy, the disputed land was “returned” to Mexico, and a new channel was constructed to reroute the Rio Grande north so that both river and international border aligned. The division between the two countries was now emphasized, further asserted by the open lands of the former riverbed on the Juárez side and a new elevated border highway on the U.S. side of the channel. Management The colonization of the U.S. would not have been possible without the massive campaign of dam projects in the early 20th century that commodified the waters of the West and irrigated the farms and settlements of homesteaders. Four dams manage and distribute the Rio Grande waters in the El Paso-Juárez region: Elephant Butte, Caballo, American Diversion, and the International Diversion Dam. Water is distributed according to the 1944 Water Treaty, drawn up when the population of Juárez was less than one-tenth its current size. In 1965, the binational Border Industrialization Program enabled maquiladoras, foreign-owned manufacturing plants, to be located within Mexico’s border zones, and to move materials and products with reduced tariffs and trade barriers. This propelled an influx of new residents who arrived to work in the Juárez border zone maquilas. The treaty, which retains the majority of the river water in the U.S., has not been revised since and contains no provisions for sharing the rapidly depleting Mesilla and Hueco Bolson aquifer waters, which traverse the binational region underground. The division of the river water produces politically charged urban spaces. The U.S. Franklin Canal materializes as a physical barrier within the U.S. border zone, flowing deeply and rapidly in a concrete channel alongside the Rio Grande. In Juárez, the diverted water flows along the Acequia Madre, which takes a diagonal course, traversing some of the city’s main public spaces. This once green irrigation channel and common space is now largely neglected and has deteriorated into a toxic line of sewage and trash. Biopolitics Water is not only scarce in the desert city of Juárez—it is also dangerous. The paper worlds of politics materialize as realities on the ground and in the tissues of bodies. Due to the explosive population growth of Juárez, large portions of the city have been rapidly and often informally constructed, typically without proper municipal sewage or drinking water services. The residents of these informal settlements, known as colonias, rely primarily on truck-supplied water, which has a much higher likelihood of being contaminated and results in high rates of water-borne diseases. Only about a third of the city’s sewage is actually treated.  Some colonias have additionally encroached on the city’s drainage gullies and arroyos, putting residents at further risk during flash flood events. In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly “explicitly recognized the right to clean drinking water and sanitation as essential to the realization of all human rights.” If this mandate is taken seriously by the binational region of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez, new treaties and agreements will need to be negotiated that address not only the scarcity and distribution of its shared waters, but also the shared responsibility of water rights to citizens on both sides of the border. What remains to be seen is not only what shape these take in terms of political agreements, but also how they will reshape the physical urban spaces of the paired cities.
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Complexity and Preservation

Fight over Venturi Scott Brown’s work in San Diego escalates as new petition emerges
As a controversial plan to expand the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) San Diego campus by Selldorf Architects forges ahead, Denise Scott Brown and other notable figures have come out in defense of a 1995 Venturi Scott Brown Associates-designed (VSBA) postmodern addition to the complex that is in danger of being altered. Selldorf Architects unveiled their $55 million expansion plans for the 75-year-old museum in La Jolla, California, in 2015, promising to double its overall size to 104,000 square feet while also quadrupling the museum’s galleries to include a total of 40,000 square feet of exhibition space. Originally opened in 1941 in a private residence designed by noted California architect Irving Gill in 1915 for journalist and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps—founder of the nearby Scripps Research Institute and of Scripps College in Claremont, California—the MCA complex has been heavily altered and adapted over the years. Major renovations by San Diego architects Mosher Drew added formal galleries to the home in 1950 and an auditorium in 1960. A subsequent renovation by the firm in 1980 added the first climate control system for a west coast museum. VSBA’s additions came roughly 15 years later and included adding a new entry sequence while also expanding the museum’s footprint by adding 5,000 square feet of new galleries and a cafe, restaurant, and gift shop. According to Scott Brown, the 1995 addition, executed in association with architect David Singer, was designed to align the growing museum with the town of La Jolla by creating a series of artful gathering spaces where the museum could hold public events without exposing valuable artworks to wear and tear. Describing the carefully crafted entry sequence and the addition’s signature entry hall, Denise Scott Brown told The Architect’s Newspaper, “We added a place that is artistic and fun but with no paintings that could get hurt.” The iconic space, known as the Axline Court after a donor who contributed to the project, is made up of a previously-existing courtyard VSBA closed-in. Starburst shaped, supported by scattershot piers, and topped with clerestory windows and sculptural, neon-lit arches, the hall has acted a grand entry vestibule for the complex for over 20 years and is an iconic postmodern space if there ever was one. The $6.18 million project aimed to “enrich the museum’s image and civic presence,” according to the firm’s website, a feat that was accomplished by uncovering and recreating certain historical elements while also adding new, dramatic spaces imbued with a late 1990s sensibility: cool beige and blue terrazzo floors to compliment the sea, oversized archways echoing neighboring buildings, and of course, copious neon signage. Venturi and Scott Brown also worked to expose and restore several elements of the original Irving Gill-designed façade along the town-facing side of the complex, including portions that had been demolished or covered up by the earlier Mosher Drew interventions. In spectacular PoMo fashion, the designs included a pair of super-sized, vine-covered pergolas recreated out of fiberglass and steel in homage to Gill’s original designs. The pergolas, bookended by the cafe and Axline court, created a new, multi-faceted entry for the complex articulated as a breezy, covered walkway. The initial Gill-designed building was itself originally fronted by a set of pergolas—crafted out of wood—as are several other buildings in the area also designed by Gill, including the nearby Women’s Club building, now home to the La Jolla Historical Society. To the south of the pergolas, the VSBA-designed facade wraps the main entry containing the Axline Court as well as the auditorium from 1960. The volumes are sheathed in stucco walls punctuated by a series of arch-topped windows. The arched windows are another nod to the Gill-designed buildings nearby. Along its backside, the VSBA additions spill out over a sandy cliff overlooking the ocean. Designed after the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the VSBA addition brought accessibility to the complex, as well, adding a series of sloped concrete ramps along this exposure that are terraced into the hillside as a meandering trail. Selldorf’s addition to the complex would reconfigure and hollow-out the auditorium along the front of the building into a new main entry, gift shop, and large double-height gallery. The building would be extended southward from there in a collection of smaller new gallery spaces organized into a pair of bars the form a wedged shape in plan. Another oceanside terrace would be added at the back of the new wing, as well. Annabelle Selldorf, principal of the New York City-based Selldorf Architects, explained that the expansion is vitally necessary for the museum because the 1995 addition “devoted little new space to exhibiting art,” due in part to a change in scope for the project partway through design. The museum in its current configuration simply doesn’t have enough space according to Kathryn Kanjo, MCA executive director and has “remained constrained” over the years despite the 1995 addition. Kanjo explained in a call that she and the museum board are interested in being able to display MCA’s permanent collection while also showcasing traveling exhibitions. Under the current configuration, the museum has to choose between those options, an untenable position for an institution striving to serve a broad and diverse public, Kanjo said. With the additions, the director hopes to reshape the complex “strategically” and “sensitively” in a way that adds “coherence to complexity” but also remains respectful to the existing portions of the building. “Annabelle [Selldorf] appealed to us as an architect for this reason,” Kanjo said. Selldorf echoed the sentiment, explaining that her office sought to “have a dialogue with the existing buildings and to to examine how they can evolve” while creating an addition that allows visitors to “understand they’re moving through different eras of the building,” with activity to be funneled through the new portions. Selldorf added that although the Axline Court “won’t be the entrance anymore, it will have a more distinct function and will feel a bit like the center of gravity” for the complex. Scott Brown is not buying it, however. The award-winning architect described the latest renovation plans as “pretty enough” to win the approval of board members but severely lacking in terms of its relationship to La Jolla’s street life among several aspects of the designs she takes issue with. Scott Brown is particularly against the idea of a new entrance as proposed by Selldorf, saying that the proposed addition did not understand the intricate “retail choreography” embedded in the existing layout and that relocating the entrance would destroy the “linkages” between museum and town VSBA’s designs sought to put into place. Scott Brown said, “[MCA] needs the support of the town and the town needs its support—If they pull the two apart and place the entrances too far apart from each other, it won’t work anymore.” Supporters of the VSBA project recently sent Kanjo and the MCA board a petition calling the proposed additions a “tremendous mistake” that damage “a cultural landmark” while also “severely weakening La Jolla’s beloved village center.” The petition is signed by 70 architectural thinkers, academics, and practitioners, including the deans of Harvard and Penn and several chief architecture curators at the Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Research Institute, and the MAXXI Museum. Scholars Stanislaus von Moos, Esther da Costa Meyer, and Jean-Louis Cohen, critics Charles Jencks, Martin Filler, and Paul Goldberger, and architects Toshiko Mori, Robert A.M. Stern, and Sir Terry Farrell signed on the petition as well. In part, the petition reads:
VSB’s design, unlike that of the proposed expansion, arises from careful study and understanding of La Jolla’s urban form. Its street frontage, museum store, and cafe extend the rhythm of Prospect Street’s lively storefronts, celebrating the museum’s location in the village commercial center and drawing visitors toward the building. At the entrance, visitors then encounter an urbane courtyard that fronts the museum’s Irving Gill-designed Scripps House: it invites them to rest for a moment, enjoy Gill’s architecture, have a coffee, and then enter the museum. This well-loved urban space is now threatened by the museum’s expansion plan. The plan, drawn up by New York-based Selldorf Architects, would tear down much of VSB’s facade as well as their dramatic colonnade—interrupting the urbane rhythm of the street and destroying the courtyard. And it would move the museum’s entry to a formulaic glass lobby that thumbs its nose at Gill’s architecture. Demolishing the colonnade is billed as a way of making the house more visible—but actually, it would prevent visitors from experiencing it in the way Gill intended: from the intimate, pedestrian-scaled space in front of it. And it would destroy the sense of enclosure that VSB created for the adjacent town green formed by a group of surrounding Gill-designed buildings. The new plan is a slap in the face to Gill: to the composition of the group as a whole and in particular to the Scripps House, which without the colonnade would be left looking small and insubstantial, overshadowed by the museum’s later additions.
The petition implores the museum to “come up with a plan for expansion that is sensitive and respectful to the village of La Jolla” as well as the VSBA designs and references the recent landmarking of VSBA’s Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London as an appropriate way of acknowledging VSBA’s work in San Diego. For now, MCA’s plans are moving full-steam ahead. The museum has been closed since last year and groundbreaking is scheduled for this fall. The project is fully-entitled and construction documents are currently in development. Worse yet to Scott Brown’s efforts, removal of existing sections has already begun. One of the VSBA-designed pergolas was removed a few weeks ago and was transferred to a new privately-held parklet being planned by the La Jolla Historical Society. Explaining the rationale behind moving the pergola structure, Heath Fox, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society told AN, “I happen to be a person who appreciates postmodern architecture and envisioned an opportunity to save the VSBA pergolas as a piece of new garden.” Fox added, “The park will add an important piece of history to the neighborhood and will keep the pergola in the Scripps community.”