Search results for "W Architecture and Landscape Architecture"

Placeholder Alt Text

Only the Bestor

Bestor Architecture and Jamie Bush + Co. bring an unfinished Lautner into the 21st century
In 2013, Bestor Architecture, interior designer Jamie Bush + Co., and landscape architects Studio-MLA were tapped to restore and complete the Silvertop Residence, a domed, cave-like home designed by John Lautner in 1956 for industrialist-inventor Kenneth Reiner. “Big chunks of the house weren’t finished,” Barbara Bestor of Bestor Architecture explained as she described the ad hoc kitchen and bathroom spaces she initially found in the home. “But we tried to bring a 21st-century idea of what progressive architecture might be in this context.” The Los Angeles home represents Lautner’s own attempts to create a progressive architectural vision for domestic life and includes his first spanning concrete shell structure as well as movable glass walls and interior finishes that can conveniently snap off for maintenance and replacement. Within a T-shaped composition of intersecting semicircles in plan, the home is divided into sleeping, kitchen, and living zones that frame opposing outdoor spaces, including a pool patio and a tree-filled courtyard. Bestor explained that Lautner and Reiner had infused the home with a spirit of material inventiveness that included Portuguese cork ceiling tiles, thin-shell concrete finishes, and other factory-produced elements. It was an ethos that Bestor sought to channel, but rather than imposing a new order on the home, her restoration is instead geared toward reviving and perfecting many of Lautner’s original ideas. For example, the architect replaced rudimentary mechanical systems for a movable window wall with a state-of-the-art motorized pulley concealed by scalloped concrete edging and an upturned swoop of terrazzo flooring. She also perfected the home’s master bathroom through the addition of a fully retractable 20-ton glass partition that disappears into the floor. Coupled with a disappearing skylight system, the shower is now a completely outdoor experience that is more true to the original intent for the space than 1950s-era technology allowed. Bestor’s hand also worked silently below the floors and within the walls of the house, where transformative HVAC, digital, lighting, and sound systems were added. In the master bedroom, an original moonroof above the bed has been redesigned to completely disappear. Fully concealed by dummy ceiling panels when closed, the opening is one of several precisely designed and exactly located operable windows around the house. The home’s kitchen received some of the most dramatic transformations of the project. Tucked into a low block between the entry and the space-age living room, the new kitchen is wrapped in vertical bands of thin cypress slats and is lit from above by square-shaped skylights. Glimmering stainless appliances designed by Ilan Dei Studio fill out the space, while overhead, restored and original pieces of cork ceiling intermingle and conceal technological equipment. The stealthy and informed approach, according to Bestor, allowed her team to “think aloud through forms and ideas” in a way that mirrored Lautner’s original work while still remaining respectful to those designs. Today, the home lives on as it was always meant to: completed, occupied, and at least for now, technologically up-to-date.
Placeholder Alt Text

Coming Soon

Theaster Gates, MASS Design Group among list of Chicago Architecture Biennial contributors
Theaster Gates, MASS Design Group, Wolff Architects, as well as Forensic Architecture and Invisible Institute are among the first wave of contributors announced for this fall’s 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The show, titled ...and other such storieswill be an expansive look into global projects that delve into how architecture relates to land, memory, rights, and civic participation. The initial list of participants, announced last week, features 51 artists, collectives, architects, and researches from 19 countries—only half of the soon-to-be full lineup of participants. According to Biennial Board Chairman Jack Guthman, the international showcase will have something for everyone, designers and Chicagoans alike. “The participants who will explore the significant issues raised by our curators will both challenge and entertain the Biennial’s audiences,” he said. Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu noted the broad range of contributors have backgrounds and projects that “resonate deeply” with the four curatorial areas previously laid out by the organization: “No Land Beyond,” “Appearances and Erasures,” “Rights and Reclamations,” and “Common Ground.” Capetown-based firm Wolff Architects, as well as local Chicago artist Theaster Gates, will present “reflections on landscapes of belonging,” while CAMP from Mumbai and New York’s Center for Spatial Research will uncover the political controversies behind contested spaces of memory. RMA Architects and DAAR, the studio helmed by Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti, will think about how architecture can act as a site of advocacy. Lastly, Construct Lab from Berlin and Adrian Blackwell of Toronto will “explore methodologies for intervening” in public space. Works on these topics and more will allow visitors the chance to interpret their own opinions about the ways in which architects advances or inhibits global stories of culture and history. The projects will be placed in the main exhibition at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, housed in the Chicago Cultural Center. The programming also includes broader, city-wide events and talks. You can read the full list of initial participants here.
Placeholder Alt Text

It's the Pitts

Pittsburgh's City Council votes against saving historic Venturi Scott Brown–designed home
In a preliminary vote held on March 12, Pittsburgh’s City Council voted against designating the Venturi Scott Brown–designed Abrams House as a historic landmark according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While the official vote on the house’s fate will be held this coming Tuesday, the six-to-one mock vote (two members abstained) doesn’t bode well for the house’s future. As AN first reported in August of last year, the home, commissioned by Irving and Betty Abrams and finished in 1979, had been purchased by neighbors William and Patricia Snyder. It was at first thought that the Snyders, owners of the adjacent Giovannitti House designed by Richard Meier, might act to preserve the Venturi Scott Brown-designed home, but instead began preparing the building for demolition in secret. The demolition of the Abrams house was part and parcel with the exterior renovation of the Giovannitti House, as the owners want to turn the lot into a landscape complementing Meier’s building. The two-bed, two-and-a-half bath had already been partially gutted before the nonprofit Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation mounted a campaign to recognize the building as a protected landmark. As the Post-Gazette notes, the City Council’s vote is in contrast to the recommendations of both the Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission and the city’s Planning Commission. The council cited the house’s state of disrepair, the hurdles in accessing the building, and the wishes of the owners as reasons they voted against the request. “There is black mold in the walls,” said Erika Strassburger, the councilwoman who represents the district where the Abrams House is located. “There is a risk for persistent water damage. No one has actually come forward to put up the money to restore the house. It is a house that needs an infusion of significant financial resources to restore it to a livable condition.” Other than the deteriorating physical conditions, the house is located on Woodland Road, a private street, and visitors would need to cross the Snyders’ driveway, meaning the Abrams House is only (legally) visible from the street. Without the possibility of another buyer stepping in—the Snyders picked up the house for $1.1 million when it went to market last year—it seems likely that the City Council will vote against landmark designation next week. If no action is taken, it looks like this rare example of Postmodernism in Pittsburgh could soon be razed.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mindful Memorials

Svigals+Partners on designing for 21st-century loss and gun violence
Memorial projects seem to be coming online at a faster pace than ever before due to the fatal events our country has experienced in the last three years. Such rapid production of commemorative architectural spaces appears to immediately bring healing and hope back to the communities and victims where these tragedies have occurred. While it’s more important than ever to honor the countless lives lost from social violence, terrorism, and natural disasters, to Svigals+Partners, the process of memorial creation, sometimes slow and complicated, exposes the heart of the design. The firm recently released renderings of a new memorial garden dedicated to victims of gun violence in New Haven, Connecticut. Led by the company’s Director of Art Integration Marissa Mead and Associate Principal Julia McFadden, the (tentatively-named) Healing Memorial Garden will soon be built at the base of West Rock, a monumental boulder that bounds New Haven. Born from the vision of Marlene Miller Pratt, a school teacher whose son was shot and killed over 20 years ago, the landscape is the result of her many years spent advocating for a communal place to remember her child’s life. She connected Yale University's Urban Resources Initiative and other mothers who’ve suffered similar losses to jumpstart her long-awaited vision. After countless hours of community engagement, Mead and McFadden, the latter of whom was responsible for the redesign of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, discovered that this particular memorial effort has further embedded into them the value of listening. AN spoke with the architects about modern monument design and why they herald conversation and collaboration as the foundation of memorial creation. AN: What drew you both to get involved in this project? Julia McFadden: When this came our way, I was working on a side project—a competition entry for the Sandy Hook Memorial, a tragedy that also resulted from an act of gun violence. I believe experiential design and public art define what a memorial is today, two things Marissa and I specialize in, so this, along with our personal interests, was important to us. I’m also particularly attracted to social justice issues and concerned about the allocation of resources that create economic segregation in neighborhoods, such as unequal community policing. That method was actually born in New Haven and then dropped nationwide, which led to more disproportionate levels of communities of color being sent to jail. Marissa Mead: I’m also interested in creating meaningful environments for people by engaging them in the process and helping to tell stories. As director of art here at Svigals, I aim to create places where we want to be and places where we’re inspired. This has been an ongoing process of raising awareness in the area both about the memorial and education on gun violence. AN: Prior to rethinking designing for school safety at Sandy Hook, had either of you been involved in projects that were birthed out of community tragedy? MM: No, but at our firm, we’ve developed over time a very inclusive and collaborative process for the early stages of our building projects. That’s been hugely successful in school projects. We learned we have to get people together to listen to each other from the start. They need to feel heard and comfortable to share opinions. That’s how we get them to hone in on most important aspirations for the school. AN: What do you both think are the challenges of designing memorials for 21st-century loss? JM: Our impulse to memorialize is a very human kind of thing we’ve seen throughout history. We want to recognize and pay our respects to losses that have occurred by leaving teddy bears and heart balloons at the site of car accidents and house fires. I’m not sure we as a society fully understand what that impulse is all about, but the history of commemorating death is obviously evident with cemeteries and grave sites, which are static tributes. Nowadays, we see through working with people like Marlene that people want these memorials to be interactive.   Today’s memorials dedicated to these types of loss are different than say, memorials around war. Those are typically planned as we expect death from war. I think historically Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial shifted the purpose of what a memorial could serve since the deaths exceeded what was initially projected. The challenges of designing around tragic events today are that we’re constantly trying to balance transitory commemoration versus more permanent sculptures set in place. To me, what leads us to build a permanent memorial is the communal need to remember something for a longer period of time. There must be a recognition that there’s a lesson to be had for current and future generation in memorializing this subject. It must find greater purpose and promote a larger message that has meaning for a broad range of people to tap into some larger universal themes. AN: What about designing memorials that honor America's harsh past years after the fact? MM: A hurdle in highlighting more historic issues is that perceptions may be challenged. People should be encouraged to recognize that the history they’ve learned may be incomplete. It takes some time to get past the layers of defensiveness and/or shame and arrive at acknowledgment. Acknowledging the past is a mechanism that helps us more fully understand the present, so we can begin collectively to heal from painful, even catastrophic, events. In the case of the Newport Middle Passage Port Marker Project, which I’m helping with, a driving reason to create a memorial is to bring stories to light which have been previously hidden. Newport, along with nearly all other major ports in the eastern U.S., has not publicly acknowledged how the city built its staggering wealth. Rhode Island alone participated in the trafficking of over 100,000 enslaved individuals, and the proud historic buildings of Newport were made possible by the trade of human beings. But these truths are not at all evident in the city. It’s an incomplete history, which leads to an incomplete understanding of the continuing impact that slavery has on our communities. A theme repeated in the visioning workshop I helped lead for the Middle Passage committee is that injustice is not was. There is work to be done. AN: We’ve noticed many memorial projects announced in the last year, some of which have fast-paced construction goals. What do you think about this newfound attention to both memorial commissions and competitions? JM: To me, the process is and can often be the point of memorial making. If a project moves too fast or doesn’t get the right input, you’re going to miss some major opportunities and the memorial will have a stifled response that isn’t fully formed. The best memorials create a visceral bodily experience that doesn’t depend on reading a plaque. You feel something because your senses are engaged, and I think it takes a long-term input process to solicit the needs of the community you’re designing for. With the Healing Memorial Garden, we’ve been really conscious about what you’d see, hear, feel, and smell on the site. Through a variety of design components, we want people to connect to the memorial through both their head and their heart. MM: That’s not easily achieved if we don’t know the emotions people want to be expressed through the design. If the design happens in a vacuum, it’s the wrong design. It’s short-changing that front end of memorial making which really is so critical. I truly believe grief compels people into action—they want to be involved. While the final, completed memorial might be the ultimate goal, the journey to get there is healing in its own way. That’s why I think when a memorial project comes online, the commissioning team would start a qualifications-based solicitation process of designers, instead of a full-fledged competition. That way designers are chosen based on their merits and experience, as well as their knowledge of a community, and willingness to truly understand what those people are going through.
Placeholder Alt Text

Font of Creativity

Angela Danadjieva remains an unsung luminary of landscape architecture
In 1967, Angela Danadjieva, a Bulgarian-born architect, found herself working in the San Francisco office of the celebrated landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. From 1967 to 1976, she worked on 20 urban design and city planning projects at Halprin’s office, driving design on some of the office’s best-known projects. Her work was integral to the office’s output, but today, Halprin is remembered in histories of landscape architecture while Danadjieva is almost forgotten. In 2019, when we’re increasingly cognizant about the vital positions of women and natural resources, it seems timely to bring attention to Danadjieva. She was enabled by the socialist privilege of women’s rights in her native Bulgaria, and Halprin’s devotion to the profession. Halprin was a giant in the landscaping field, walking in the footsteps of Frederick Law Olmsted and having learned from Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius. Danadjieva won a competition while living in Paris in 1966, which brought her to San Francisco where she met Halprin. Freeway Park, which covers interstate I-5 in Seattle is their best-known project. For Halprin, it was the poetic outcome of his 1966 book Freeways and was another manifestation of his appreciation of waterfalls, while for Danadjieva, it was an opportunity to shine in Halprin’s eyes and fulfill her design ambitions. However much Danadjieva contributed as a designer, Halprin’s lead as landscape architect made him the architect in charge. But her participation in the Seattle park design can be seen as an object lesson in who gets credit for projects, particularly when one of the designers is a woman. Danadjieva was born in 1931 and was brought up in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Lofty ancient architecture adorned Sofia’s broad cobblestone boulevards, and greenery surrounded the city. But the political background for Danadjieva was highly unsettling. After a period of neutrality, the country was eventually thrust into the theater of World War II, caught between the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Allied Forces, which bombed Sofia in 1941. In 1944, the city was captured by the Soviets, and the subsequent socialist regime seems to have eased the way for Danadjieva. Women made inroads in Bulgarian culture, and the state-supported university helped to cement Danadjieva’s abilities. She studied environmental design and received a degree in architecture. In 1963 she paired off with Ivan Tzvetin to work on a Cuban urban project; they won second prize for it and she was awarded the prize by Fidel Castro. Not fully satisfied with her university education, Danadjieva chose to leave Bulgaria and attend Paris’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts between 1964 and 1966, which seems to have imprinted on her an appreciation for forms from the past. While in Paris she was employed by Denieul-Marty-Paoll. Danadjieva first became a set designer for a state film company—winning a Golden Rose (the Bulgarian equivalent to an Oscar) for The Captured Squadron—and then won the competition that landed her on the West Coast and eventually in Halprin’s office. Halprin and Danadjieva reached common agreement that she would have a creative role in his firm, and as project architect she worked on both the Freeway Park and the Auditorium Fourcourt (now Ira Keller) Fountain in Portland, Oregon. Danadjieva made clay models for the fountains’ concrete forms. Both the Ira Keller and Freeway Park fountains are exciting to the senses. When operative, primal water gushes over primordial masses that resemble brutalist waterfalls. The Ira Fountain, engineered by Richard Chaix, is built on a declivity in the road whereas Freeway Park builds over a tear in the city. Ada Louise Huxtable considered Freeway Park equal to European masterpieces. When the fountains are running crowds of people are drawn to them. There has been danger in Freeway Park—a 2005 murder—which has precipitated adding amusement structures like bandshell and food vendors. The structures around Freeway Park are not that humanistic—large metal and glass buildings like the overbearing Convention Center (which Danadjieva worked on) dwarf the park—but amid the stepped and zigzagging walkways and terraces, the rushing waterworks, and the sylvan plantings, the park is a superb haven. Both Halprin and Danadjieva claim authorship of Freeway Park. Legally, it can be assumed that it was Halprin’s design—it came from his office. While Danadjieva did make the clay models of the brutalist stonework, Halprin’s hand came into play earlier. His Portland Lovejoy Fountain of 1967, which is similar and was inspired by his Sierra watercourse drawings from 1964. And the epitome of the office’s rock and water play comes somewhat later: the Washington, D.C., Roosevelt Monument designed in 1974 but not constructed until the 1990s. Also, it was Halprin’s call at the studio to make models before drawings for the Freeway fountain. But Danadjieva’s hand seems secure at the Ira Keller and Freeway fountains because the bursting water flows over those large bold idiosyncratic forms that seem characteristic of her hand. Danadjieva said in an oral history done by Michael Apostolos in February 2010, the year after Halprin’s death:
At a few occasions he left on my board thank you notes about my work…Walking through the office at lunchtime Larry came to my desk looking at what I was modeling out of clay. Seeing my concept for Seattle’s Freeway Park he turned around and disappeared—saying nothing. I went outside for lunch. We faced each other around the block and he told me: “Angela, I am so excited seeing your Freeway Park design concept. Sorry even could not speak, needed to get some fresh air,” and at that time I saw tears in his eyes. This is how I like to remember Larry Halprin, one of the greatest appreciators of my design work.
Danadjieva is still active, working with her partner, Thomas Koenig. Her work has received numerous awards, including an Honor Award in Design from the American Society of Landscape Architects. One of their projects was an addition to the Freeway Park (a monumental endeavor, including work on the Washington State Convention Center). She and Koenig are responsible for large-scale projects such as White River State Park in Indianapolis, Indiana, and James River Park System in Richmond, Virginia, and have earned a reputation in urban development. The pair live and work in Tiburon, outside San Francisco. She is reportedly a modern woman with old world aristocratic, courtier traits. She is elusive—very difficult to locate and interview and could not be contacted for this article.
Placeholder Alt Text

Empty Vessel

Hudson Yards and its Vessel open to the public
As throngs of tourists and New York City residents descend on Manhattan’s far west side for the opening of Hudson Yards’ first phase, AN joined the first tour of the Thomas Heatherwick–designed Vessel (interested visitors can reserve free tickets). Bill Pedersen, founding partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), Thomas Woltz of landscape architecture studio Nelson Byrd Woltz, representatives from Heatherwick Studio, and Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross, who paid to construct the Vessel out of his own pocket, were also on hand to dive into the design behind the development. With the first phase of Hudson Yards opening to the public today, plenty of ink has already been spilled over the new neighborhood’s “fortress-like” nature, the accusations that it intentionally and discordantly stands apart from the street grid and city as a whole, and that the development is a playground for the one-percent financed through $6 billion in tax breaks (though some might passionately dispute that characterization). Those points have been argued elsewhere. What is definitely true is that the 11-million-square-foot, $16-billion first phase of Hudson Yards is now mainly open, or will open shortly, and it’s likely to draw shoppers, tourists, and High Line hikers to what was formerly an open-air staging area for the Long Island Railroad. The second phase of the megaproject over the still-uncovered western railyard will hold five more residential towers and a commercial project from architectural heavy hitters like Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Robert A.M. Stern. Related expects that infrastructure work on the second phase will begin next year before the site is decked over. Vessel, Heatherwick’s $150 million not-quite-a-sculpture, not-quite-a-building sits at the center of Hudson Yards’ Public Square and Gardens. The climbable installation is made up of 154 flights of stairs connected to 80 landings, and it balloons up to 150-feet-wide at its 150-foot-tall summit. As project architect Stuart Wood explained, Vessel (explicitly not “the Vessel”—although Related will rename the structure later, anyway) was designed to be open in its programming while not “jamming up” the plaza. “The project was built entirely from staircases and landings. They're public, publicly accessible, free to use spaces. It's non-prescriptive. That was absolutely our intent from the outset. This should be a project that is open to interpretation. It's open to different natures of use.” The underside of the piece is clad in warm, reflective metal paneling that distorts the glass towers around it and brings a sense of liveliness to the “sculpture” as more visitors gather at its base. As visitors scale Vessel, climbers see themselves reflected overhead as the panels act as mirrored ceilings; that interactivity is intentional. On the topside, Heatherwick has used wood railings, darkened steel, and stone for the steps and landings in reference to the site's industrial heritage. With a form so often compared to a beehive or garbage can by outside observers, actually entering Vessel produces an unusual effect. Standing in the sculpture’s base feels akin to entering a towering atrium, with the glass handrails resembling windows. Climbing the structure’s numerous staircases, at least when devoid of the crowds that will surely descend on it after the official opening, felt slightly dangerous. The view of Hudson Yards, the Shed, shops and dining areas, and across the Hudson River, open up towards the top, and might induce the same sense of vertigo found on construction sites. For mobility impaired visitors, Heatherwick Studio has added a glass elevator that travels along a curving track along Vessel’s inside rim, though it only stops at one landing per story. The plaza in which Vessel sits is elliptical and gently spirals out to each of the buildings on the site, a decision that Nelson Byrd Woltz came to in tandem with Heatherwick Studio. As such, it serves as the epicenter of Hudson Yards’ public space, and its central location in the neighborhood’s main plaza visually cements that status. Vessel, for better or for worse, is intrinsically at home in Hudson Yards and wouldn’t fit anywhere else in the world. And even if it wasn’t, as Wood explained, Related has copyrighted the design.
Placeholder Alt Text

High Desert Test Sites

Another arts festival returns to the Southern California desert
It’s getting rather busy in California’s High Desert these days. With an ever-expanding set of art-related events, programs, and biennials taking place across the region, High Desert Test Sites (HDTS), a long-running artist showcase in the area, has announced its 2020 return. The event, titled HDTS2020 and conceived of as a “free-roving” art exposition, aims to revisit a 1972 slideshow lecture given by American land artist Robert Smithson titled Hotel Palenque via a series of new public artworks and events. The lecture, given by Smithson to his students at the University of Utah after a trip through Mexico in 1969, centers on an “eccentrically built hotel…simultaneously undergoing decay and renovation” that Smithson encountered while on his travels. Smithson considered the hotel a “de-architecturalized” space that existed both as a ruin and a site of reconstruction in keeping with the artist’s interests in fragmented landscapes and simultaneous states of being. The work, according to the Guggenheim website, was developed in tandem with a photographic series titled Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1–9) that Smithson created by photographing dispersed sites that had been augmented with the installation of 12-inch, square-shaped mirrors. For the 2020 run, HDTS has brought on guest curator Iwona Blazwick from the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The series will feature the work of eight artists, including Alice Channer, Gerald Clarke, Jr., Dineo Seshee Bopape, Erkan Özgen, Dana Sherwood, Paloma Varga Weisz, and Rachel Whiteread. Smithson will also be included in the showcase, which will focus on creating “a poetic narrative on the geometry of ruin, the entropic play of nature, and the ghosts of cultures both ancient and modern.” The artists are slated to create or place their works across the High Desert region, both in urbanized areas and within the desert landscapes. HDTS, a non-profit organization founded by artist Andrea Zittel, Los Angeles gallerist Shaun Caley Regen, and others in 2003, aims to “support immersive experiences and exchanges between artists, critical thinkers, and general audiences—challenging all to expand their definition of art to take on new areas of relevancy,” according to Zittel’s website. HDTS2020 will include a public discussion titled Desert as Situation on April 7 hosted by the Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM) and moderated by Brooke Hodge, director of architecture and design at PSAM. The exhibition series itself runs from April 18 through May 9, 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mall of America

The Hirshhorn Museum's Sculpture Garden set for a Hiroshi Sugimoto overhaul
A year after the Japanese artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto completed his renovation of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden lobby in Washington, D.C., the museum has approved a sweeping redevelopment of the sculpture garden. A unanimous vote by the museum’s board of trustees this morning to advance the renovation was the culmination of two years of design studies on how the space could be better utilized. Sugimoto and his design team, the Tokyo-based New Material Research Laboratory Co., Ltd, and Brooklyn’s Yun Architecture have proposed further opening up the Gordon Bunshaft–designed garden to the National Mall. The sunken sculpture garden is currently difficult to see from the outside and receives little shade. Bunshaft had originally designed a larger, sprawling garden that followed the width of the Mall and featured a larger reflecting pool, but his ambitious design was cut down. The garden was originally opened in 1974 and was last updated following a 1981 renovation courtesy landscape architect Lester Collins. In the revised scheme for the garden, Sugimoto has proposed replacing the garden’s central patch of lawn with a reflecting pool. New trees, the aforementioned Mall entrance, and a reopening of the underground passage to the Hirshhorn’s plaza (part of Bunshaft’s original design) have also been included. “This project creates a ‘front door’ for the Hirshhorn on the National Mall,” said Hirshhorn board chair Dan Sallick. “I can think of no better way to expand our mission than by creating a 21st-century outdoor space for sculpture and performance that will become a beacon for many more visitors.” The Washington, D.C.–based Quinn Evans Architects will serve as the executive architect, and Rhodeside & Harwell Inc. in Alexandria, Virginia, will act as landscape architects. A public consultation meeting, where the museum will further update the public on the project’s finer details, will be scheduled for some time in the near future. After that, the garden renovation must pass muster with the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission on Fine Arts. No timetable or budget for the garden’s overhaul have been made public yet.
Placeholder Alt Text

SAVE THE EGG

Historic Oklahoma City "Egg Church" is in danger of being demolished
The Egg Church. The Church of Tomorrow. An “honest architecture” that’s forever contemporary. Since its opening around Christmas in 1956, these are a few phrases that have been used to describe First Christian Church, a historic, organic modernist building in Oklahoma City. Designed by the then-young local firm, Conner & Pojezny, the 32-acre project quickly became a state treasure and was lauded as a major engineering feat by Life Magazine, Newsweek, and Architectural Record. The dramatic, concrete domed church—which has a mid-century Jetsons look—is newly in danger as its current owners aim to sell it to a buyer with plans to demolish the community icon. Oklahoma’s News 4 reported that dozens of demonstrators crowded outside First Christian Church last week in protest. Those in attendance included the executive director of Preservation Oklahoma and members of Okie Mod Squad, a group led by one of the church's architect's granddaughters, Lynne Rostochil. Representatives told News 4 they’re worried the building might be knocked down once it's successfully sold; the property went on the market in 2016 and only recently snagged attention from buyers when the asking price was drastically lowered from $8.2 million to $5.65 million. The broker behind the sale hopes it'll become a mixed-use development.  Many mid-century structures around Oklahoma City have come under threat in recent years. One of those was Founders National Bank, a Bob Bowlby–designed structure that boasted two, 50-foot exterior arches, It was leveled last October. Like R. Duane Conner and Fred Pojezny, who designed First Christian Church, Bowlby came out of an era in which architectural education in Oklahoma was transforming the industry. Bowlby studied at the University of Oklahoma under the direction of famous American architect Bruce Goff who was internationally known for his expressive, organic designs and for creating an innovative program with the school’s architecture department. Because of Goff's widespread influence, as well as the work coming out of Oklahoma A&M where Conner and Pojezny graduated, the city benefited from a slew of forward-thinking pieces of architecture, many of which have just surpassed or are nearing historic-designation age, meaning they’re potentially endangered if not in use. In order to protect First Christian Church, a Change.org petition started by Okie Mod Squad has been circulating that urges city council members to officially landmark the building, a designation that would require future development on the site to go through a public approvals process. Rostochil noted in a February post that thought the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, this “in no way protects it from being demolished.” The move only now qualifies it for tax credits to repurpose or restore the structure.   The efforts of the “Save the Egg” protestors have resulted in a city council meeting happening on Tuesday, according to News 4, where local lawmakers will discuss whether or not the church can potentially be declared a landmark. If identified as such by the Historic Preservation Commission, then the new buyer would not be able to make significant changes to its original design without prior approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission. The protections would include the entirety of the Edgemere Park property, not just the iconic, egg-shaped main sanctuary. Conner and Pojezny designed three additional structures on the church’s campus, including a four-story education building and a small fine arts complex known as the Jewel Box Theatre, the city’s oldest, continuously-operating community playhouse. It took the architects three separate tries over several years to come up with the current design for the $2.1 million development, which the church’s renowned minister, Bill Alexander, wanted to be a “Church for Tomorrow.” In an old newspaper clipping cited on Okcmod.com, the design team said they aimed to take a “decided departure from conventional church construction” by building an “honest architecture” that would make it forever contemporary.  For residents in Oklahoma City, not only does First Christian Church reflect the history and character of the region’s modern architectural landscape, but it also serves as a place of spiritual solace and refuge in tough times. In October of 1995, families gathered there after a terrorist struck a downtown federal building, killing 168 people and injuring over 600 others. The bombing remains one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history and to many locals, First Christian Church stands as a memorial to community healing.
Placeholder Alt Text

See, Ranch

Sea Ranch comes alive in a new exhibition in San Francisco
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) examines one of the earliest innovations in environmentally conscious development in its current exhibition, The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism. The show chronicles the history of the development at an extraordinary site along a ten-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast, where steep cliffs and coastal bluffs have eroded into layers of marine terraces to frame the luminous and moody ocean below. The story of Sea Ranch begins with the acquisition of the site by the developer, Al Boeke, who obtained the working sheep ranch for Oceanic Properties, a division of Castle & Cooke, a real estate company. Boeke, who had worked with Richard Neutra, was also an architect and saw an opportunity to do something different. He recruited Harvard-trained landscape architect Lawrence Halprin to develop the master plan, as well as a roster of architects, including Joseph Esherick, the firm of MLTW (Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull Jr., and Richard Whitaker), Obie G. Bowman, and others to participate. Halprin’s master plan would not only define the design aesthetic for Sea Ranch, but would also challenge the cookie-cutter approach to planned communities that had emerged throughout the U.S. after World War II. Halprin, who had spent childhood summers on a kibbutz near Haifa, Israel, envisioned a community based on collaboration and shared community. People would “live lightly on the land,” as the indigenous Pomo people, the first inhabitants of this land, did. The curators of the exhibition included photos of dance workshops choreographed by Halprin’s wife, the modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin. These photos, combined with Halprin’s diagrams of the “Sea Ranch Ecoscore,” situate the development, in part, as a period piece of the 1960s, echoing a freewheeling West Coast lifestyle. However, the exhibition clears up any misimpressions of Sea Ranch as primarily a social development with utopian yearnings, making clear that its main subject has always been design and its relationship to the land. If a certain taste and ideas about light, color, and detail distinguish the Sea Ranch design, it is because these were born out of the designers’ sensitivity to climate and place. The slope of a shed roof deflects the wind, and a courtyard creates protected shared spaces. A bay window protrudes to capture a view, and hedgerows are planted as natural wind breaks. The meadows are left open, and houses are set back from the edge of the cliffs, creating a communal landscape. Details matter too. Buildings are clad in unfinished wood that is allowed to fade to natural gray. Skylights puncture the roofs of cabins to capture sky views of the redwood forest. Donlyn Lyndon noted, “We wanted to make buildings part of the land, rather than buildings that sat on the land.” Sketches, drawings, and pages from the designers’ notebooks line the walls and tables of the gallery. These works include the original master plan and concept sketches by Halprin and work by the architects, such as Joe Esherick’s scheme for the General Store and MLTW’s plans for the modules for Condominium One, conceived of as a kit-of-parts. Scale models of Moonraker Athletic Center, Unit 9 in Condominium One, Cluster Houses A, and the Hedgerow Houses were fabricated by architecture students at the University of California, Berkeley. At the center of the gallery, a 1:1 scale partial construction of Unit 9 of Condominium 1, designed by MLTW in 1965, has a soaring loft, built-in benches, and a sleek but cozy feel. It is easy to imagine an afternoon stretched out on the long bench with a book, looking out at the churning sea. Inside the mock-up, a video presents interviews of many of the original players. Donlyn Lyndon, Mary Griffin, Obie Bowman, Anna Halprin, graphic designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, and others recall their impressions, debating whether the dream was deferred or lives on. Hard lessons were learned. A growing awareness of coastal access emerged in the early days of the development. Negotiations followed between the developers and the newly formed California Coastal Commission. The Sea Ranch ceded land to create six public trails. This fight stalled momentum for a decade, and the project shrank in size from its original plat map for 5,200 individual building sites to around 1,700. As a result of the complications around coastal access, sales fell off. Critics saw the development as out of touch, elite, and fuel-intensive, as it is accessible only by car along Highway 1. Getting there meant driving or maybe flying, and once there, there were few retail shops or services. In the video, Lyndon noted, “The myth is that it fell apart, which isn’t entirely true. The truth is that it needs reaffirmation…” The reaffirmation may have appeared in the form of this exhibition. As a powerful and immersive museum experience, a moment in American architecture is captured when ideology, talent, and opportunity converged. Once seen, it would be difficult to dismiss the poetic quality of the Sea Ranch site and the elegiac response of its developers and designers, who allowed the nature of what is there to take form. While setbacks may have colored its utopian vision, they did not negate the project’s importance in the pantheon of American design. From Sea Ranch, designers will continue to glean lessons about building within landscapes, respecting and protecting the natural character of a place, and designing houses that suit their sites, climate, and inhabitants. The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment, and Idealism is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, through April 28, 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

Second Life

Peter Eisenman's Cidade da Cultura buzzes back to life
On a recent early morning visit to Peter Eisenman's Cidade da Cultura I found not one, but two cafés open and buzzing with the chatter of government administrators and entrepreneurial types getting ready to start their workdays. In Spain, and in particular in Galicia, the northwest region where Cidade is located, cafes are the most reliable measure of civic life. Even the smallest village will have its one café-bar (it is common for the same establishment to function as both), where Galicians gather to share gossip and life stories (Galicians are great storytellers). It’s not entirely unreasonable to refer to Cidade as a village—it is after all a “city” of culture, its site, at 173 acres, larger than the Vatican. And like any city, it has had its share of political and economic imbroglios. Not too long ago, the project was left for dead after failing to meet promises to be “the Bilbao of Galicia,” an iconic building that would bring both cultural and economic success to the city and region. In 2015, an article in La Voz de Galicia, a regional newspaper, declared that “not even the Apostle can save it,” alluding to the reputed burial place of Saint James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The old city is an important Catholic pilgrimage site, second only to the Vatican, and Cidade da Cultura was supposed to be another stop for the couple of million visitors that make their way to Santiago de Compostela every year. Indeed, in 2015 it seemed that only a miracle could save the project. Galicia’s government commissioned this ambitious six-building project in 1999 when Spain was going through a real estate boom (Spain is divided in autonomous regions, and so it’s the regional government that makes budget allocation decisions). But by the time the first two buildings opened in 2011, the boom had ended and the project was an easy target—why build such a large, expensive complex when resources are scarce? Construction of the project was eventually halted, leaving behind four largely empty buildings and two “caries,” or cavities where the two missing teeth should be. But Cidade is no longer empty and things are looking up. There are many outdoor events in the fair weather months between April and September, the surrounding ramped surfaces of the roofs forming a kind of amphitheater for the performances in the center. And all year round there are employees from both public and private entities working in Cidade, the people that keep those two cafes in business. When I met with Cidade’s director Ana Isabel Vázquez Reboredo, she reiterated what she had previously stated in interviews since she started in this position two years ago, that her goal is to make Cidade into a resource for the entire region of Galicia, not just the city of Santiago de Compostela where it’s located. Santiago de Compostela is the famous pilgrimage city, and Cidade has become a kind of architecture pilgrimage for students and architects. A new highway entrance promises to make the project more accessible to national and international visitors. Cidade is now a fifteen-minute drive from the airport, and from there, Madrid is a one-hour flight and Paris and London only two hours away. Twenty years on, two of its buildings remain unbuilt, but both its plaza and the four buildings already completed are vibrantly inhabited. There are many outdoor performances in the fair-weather months between April and September, the surrounding ramped surfaces of the roofs forming a kind of amphitheater for the performances in the center. There are also employees from both public and private entities working in Cidade, the people that keep those two cafés I mentioned earlier in business. The project is being used, but much of the original programming has changed. For example, the “Hemeroteca,” or newspaper archive, had originally been given its own building but is now housed in the library. What was originally the Hemeroteca is now the “Centro de Emprendemento,” a business incubator facility. And how does the architect feel about this? In a recent conversation with Peter Eisenman in his office in New York, he was excited to see the spaces in his project utilized in new ways. “The idea of the project was always to offer a framework for new cultural ideas that are constantly emerging,” he said. The project is a case study in the complexities of a large project that has to negotiate local, regional, and international socio-cultural and socio-political concerns. Is the project benefiting the people already living in Santiago de Compostela? Can the region of Galicia feel ownership of this project even though it’s tied so closely, in both location and design, to one city? And how do you get there? One westernmost coastal town in Galicia, Finisterre, was the Roman Empire’s “end of the earth,” and even today getting there still feels like a pilgrimage, completed only by the most faithful. The undulating hilly landscape that makes Galicia so picturesque is also what makes it impossible to get anywhere in a straight line. The A-9 highway wraps around the Gaiás hill where Cidade is located like a ribbon, and driving to it I felt like I was engaged in some baroque dance with it, moving around it in arcs at one hundred kilometers an hour until finally arriving, if not at the end of the earth, at the culmination of a worthy pilgrimage. Maria Sieira is an architect based in New York City. She worked for Eisenman Architects on the Cidade da Cultura during its design development. Currently, she teaches architecture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and in the Compostela Institute summer program in Spain.
Placeholder Alt Text

Always Greener on the BK Side

OMA's first Brooklyn project is a pair of zigzagging waterfront towers
The Greenpoint Landing megaproject in Brooklyn has gained a duo of interlocking rental towers courtesy of OMA. The ten-tower mixed-use development will ultimately bring 5,500 rental units to Greenpoint. Developer Brookfield Properties, who are bringing four towers to the development, and Park Tower Group have revealed the newest additions to the site, two leaning towers joined by a seven-story base. Other than the 745 rental units across both towers, 30 percent of which will be affordable, the project will expand the waterfront esplanade around the site by 2.5 linear acres. Other than the 768,000 square feet of residential space, the podium will also add 8,600-square-feet of ground-floor retail. The two towers will, as has become fashionable across the river in Manhattan, twist, turn, and part in the middle to reveal a wider view of the cityscape to the west. While the 300-foot-tall north tower will narrow as it rises thanks to a series of setbacks-turned-terraces, the 400-foot-tall southern tower will resemble a flipped version of its neighbor thanks to a series of cantilevers. “Brookfield and Park Tower Group have been working together to connect Greenpoint with its waterfront,” said OMA partner and project lead Jason Long, “and we are thrilled to be collaborating with them on our first project in Brooklyn. We have designed two towers—a ziggurat and its inverse—carefully calibrated to one another. Defined by the space between them, they frame a new view of Greenpoint and new vista from the neighborhood to Manhattan.” Both towers will feature large windows and a facade of precast concrete carved with “slices” that alternate direction as each major section changes. The direction of the carvings are aligned with the sun’s relative position in the sky, ensuring that the light is dispersed over the building dynamically throughout the day. James Corner Field Operations will be designing the new waterfront landscape areas, while Beyer Blinder Belle will serve as the project’s executive architect. Los Angeles’s Marmol Radziner will be handling the buildings’ interiors. Construction on the project is expected to kick off in August of this year.