Spatial Affairs Bureau can get a lot done. Started in 2010, the multifaceted landscape, architecture, and design practice led by Peter Culley boasts a wide array of diverse and engaging projects in the United States and England, with offices in London, Los Angeles, and Richmond, Virginia. With a background in landscape-focused cultural projects—Culley earned his stripes at London-based landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman in the late 1990s—Spatial Affairs pursues an intellectually nimble practice by pushing project constraints toward broad ends that encompass everything from “interior landscapes” to urban-scaled configurations. As the number of commissions in hand has multiplied over the years, the practice has become well-versed in combining the advice of expert consultants with its own penchant for programmatic and spatial innovation. It does so in an effort to create layered material and historic conditions that always push back toward the landscape in some form or another. The approach has resulted in a string of under-the-radar but dramatically good-looking commissions that aim to create something greater—and more cohesive—than the typical, rigidly defined arenas of normative practice might allow. Aside from the work profiled here, Spatial Affairs Bureau has a number of other significant projects on the way, including several sustainable houses in Los Angeles, a master plan and remodel of the headquarters for advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, and a new pedestrian path and bicycle redevelopment scheme for the Richmond, Virginia, waterfront. Birmingham Markets Park As the city of Birmingham, England, looks to capitalize on a historic opportunity to create a new major civic space and park, Spatial Affairs is working to enrich a community-led proposal by laying out new residential, commercial, and public spaces in synergy with greenery and public health goals. To highlight the potential of the site, Spatial Affairs has developed an alternative approach that appropriates the leftover footprint of a redundant public market as the heart of the new parks complex. The project aims not only to meet the city's stated commercial and residential development goals, but also to use urban design in an effort to focus the benefits of rising land values surrounding the site toward community needs. Metropolitan Museum of Art Spatial Affairs Bureau has worked on several projects with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, both as a part of an interdisciplinary team that provided new outdoor seating areas for the museum’s Fifth Avenue location, and for several other projects as an independent contractor, including at the Met Breuer building. As part of its work with the Met, for example, the firm developed a pair of black metal panel–wrapped security buildings to flank the museum. Here, Culley deploys gently tapering forms designed to “respond to the classical architecture and soften the impact of larger elements as they meet the ground.” The approach was mirrored in a series of sleek bronze ticketing kiosks Culley created to help relieve crowding at both museum locations. Crosstown Arts The Contemporary Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, is an arts and culture complex strategically carved out from within the hulking mass of a landmarked—but currently underutilized—1.5 million-square-foot former Sears warehouse and distribution center. The venue includes galleries, shared art making facilities, offices, artist-in-residence studios, and a bar. These amenities encompass portions of the first two floors of the warehouse, including a 10-story light well located at the center of the complex. With a distinctive, curving red staircase and excavated flared concrete columns populating the main “hypostyle” lobby, the complex represents an attempt to breathe new social life into a long-forgotten relic. Bouverie Mews Culley is also pushing the envelope in terms of housing, especially with the firm’s proposal for a planned 5,400-square-foot arts and residential compound in North London. There, the architect is working on a ground-up duplex anchored by studio space and a sculpture court. The Passive House complex is located atop a former brownfield site and is sandwiched between existing multifamily homes, warehouses, and the Grade II Listed Abney Park Cemetery Wall. Due to the landlocked project site, designs for the complex include multi-tiered gardens, precisely calibrated frameless skylights, and an interior layout that emphasizes borrowed daylight and views between different project areas.
Search results for "museum of the city of new york"
After a summer filled with dueling op-eds, petitions, and general outcry from members of the international architectural community, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) and New York City–based Selldorf Architects have officially broken ground on a controversial $95 million expansion to the museum’s campus in La Jolla, California. The Times of San Diego reports that the groundbreaking occurred Thursday of last week and quotes Selldorf Architects founder Annabelle Selldorf as saying: “This is a special place in the world. But the collection of the museum inspires equal awe. Giving home to this beautiful collection is an incredibly vital thing to do.” The project aims to more than double the size of the museum by adding 37,000 square feet of new spaces to the complex, which was last expanded by Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA) in 1996. The designers aim to achieve this task by adding a new ocean-facing wing along the southern end of the complex, reorienting the museum’s entry and adding a slew of much-needed gallery spaces in the process. The project also aims to renovate the existing 35,000-square-foot original complex, which was initially designed by famed California architect Irving Gill and was expanded several times during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s by local architects Mosher Drew. The reorientation of the museum’s entrance has been seen as controversial by many in the international architecture community, including Denise Scott Brown who has spoken out against the addition. Scott Brown contends that the entry VSBA designed was derived from the “careful study and understanding of La Jolla’s urban form” in a widely-circulated petition, and that as a result, the plan deserves to be preserved. In several phone calls with The Architect’s Newspaper, Scott Brown has explained that she does not see Selldorf’s addition and the preservation of the VSBA elements as mutually exclusive, however, and hopes that a way can be found to retain the logic of the existing entrance while fulfilling the needs of the growing museum. The existing entry arrangement is a chief design contribution from Scott Brown—who aside from being an architect is also a celebrated urban planner—and it is considered an integral aspect of the VSBA addition and its guiding postmodern ideals. The elements that are being retained by the Selldrorf team relate more directly to the bombastic, iconographic forms VSBA is best known for and include the museum’s so-called Axline Court, a starburst-shaped atrium topped by neon-lit archways. According to Selldorf, her team is dedicated to celebrating the many lives of the museum and has worked hard to retain key elements of the VSBA design. Regarding the entrance, Selldorf told AN this summer, “Our task was to add an entrance that people could find,” while adding, “Not everybody thought we should be so determined to keep [the VSBA-designed] portions, but we are doing a lot of work to have those elements retain a significant presence in reinvigorated building.” The proposed renovations have exposed a critical and long-running schism in preservation thinking over not only which types of heritage are worth preserving, but perhaps as significantly, over the scope and scale of what is considered fundamental to postmodernism and postmodern design in architecture. The question here, as with many preservation-related projects, is whether surface-level decoration—neon lights, flamboyant archways, and textured materials—convey the essence of a work enough to allow for fundamental changes in use and organization or whether true preservation requires more. The question has gained greater urgency in the weeks following the death of Robert Venturi and amid a growing climate of uncertainty for not only VSBA’s works, but for elements of postmodern heritage in general. According to Scott Brown’s interpretation, the project’s plan—inspired by the double-coded logic of medieval European town squares and urban economic theory—is as important to MCASD’s status as a postmodern work as the building’s more visually-aggressive elements, highlighting the fundamental disagreement at hand. Either way, Scott Brown’s petition and the global outcry have not been enough to cause thinking on the project to shift significantly. Site work has been underway at the complex over the last few months as crews worked to remove a monumental pergola associated with the VSBA addition. Last week’s official groundbreaking indicates the project is moving forward at full-steam. Despite the demolition of the colonnade, the La Jolla Historical Society was able to salvage one of the two pergola structures and has since installed the fiberglass and steel assembly in a nearby garden that is free to the public and open for visitors. Selldorf Architects’ additions are scheduled to be completed in 2021.
Annabelle Selldorf has been named this year’s recipient of the Lawrence Israel Prize from the Interior Design program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. The prize, which has been given for the past 20 years, was endowed by the late architect Lawrence J. Israel to recognize architects and designers who “enrich students’ course of study.” Past recipients include, among others, SHoP Architects, Gaetano Pesce, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Billie Tsien. FIT says Selldorf, of the eponymous firm Selldorf Architects, is a “role model for all students of design” for her work in architecture, interiors, and furniture. Selldorf Architects has been making headlines with numerous projects in the city and further afield, including the recently opened Swiss Institute on St. Marks and their expansions to the Frick Collection and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Selldorf will deliver a lecture when she accepts the award on Monday, October 29, at the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre at FIT in New York City.
Check out these must-see films at ADFF this weekend
The 10th annual Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF) opened in New York on Tuesday with Leaning Out, a profile of Leslie Robertson, lead engineer of the original World Trade Center. The festival, which showcases films that profile people and places around the world, details the work of Albert Frey, Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi, Jan Kaplický, Renzo Piano, and more. Learn about a bit more about some the films below before you explore this weekend: Frey: Part 1 - The Architectural Envoy is the first installment of two films on the Swiss architect Albert Frey, who worked for Le Corbusier in France and helped bring his ideas to the United States. Here he is associated with Palm Springs desert modernism. Frey first worked with A. Lawrence Kocher, who was also managing editor of Architectural Record, so they were able to use the journal to spread their notions. He most notably designed the Aluminaire House and the Cotton House, and worked on the Museum of Modern Art’s original building with Philip Goodwin. In Doshi, we see how Pritzker Prize-winning Indian architect Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi is as well known for his teaching as he is for his architecture. He started the School of Architecture and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) in Ahmedabad, India, in 1962 after studying with Corbusier in the '50s and supervising his projects in the same city. Eye Over Prague shows the sad last chapter of the London-based Czech architect Jan Kaplický, whose winning design for the National Library in Prague in 2007—nicknamed the “Octopus” and the “Blob”—was canceled the following year. Although supported by former Prime Minister Václav Havel, other politicians and much of the public rejected this organically shaped, yellow and purple structure. Supporters laid down books in the shape of his design in a “book protest.” At this year’s ADFF, Renzo Piano gets two feature films: Renzo Piano: The Architect of Light and The Power of the Archive. The first was directed by the prominent 86-year-old Carlos Saura. The film tracks the design and building of Centro Botín in Santander on the north coast of Spain, just west of Bilbao. The second film, funded by Piano’s own foundation, shows the careful chronicling of works produced by the firm. They see two entities: the atelier and the archive. One makes new work looking to the future, while the other preserves past memories. Mies on Scene. Barcelona in two acts is the story of the Barcelona Pavilion, a structure which was born, destroyed, and resurrected. Fernando Ramos, architect of the reconstruction says Mies van der Rohe’s building presents a strange paradox: “It is the building that may have influenced contemporary architecture more than any other and yet didn’t exist.” Lilly Reich’s role, the story of the 1980s rebuilding, and the use of the space by dancers and others is explored in this film as architects ruminate on this influential building. Experimental City is the story of the Minnesota Experimental City (MXC), a 1960s initiative to build a model city to combat the ills of urban living. Modeled on the NASA moon program, MXC was masterminded by South African-American geophysicist and oceanographer Athelstan Spilhaus. The site was meant to house 250,000 people and quickly attracted the wrath of local residents. The filmmaker, Chad Friedrichs, directed 2011’s The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, about another failed urban venture. The Architecture and Design Film Festival is on view now through Sunday, October 21 at Cinépolis Chelsea in New York City. You can find the remaining showtimes and tickets here.
Last week, “Connie,” a meticulously restored 1958 Lockheed L-1649A Constellation Starliner, was trucked over 300 miles from an airport in Auburn, Maine to New York City, where it will serve as a cocktail lounge for John F. Kennedy International Airport’s new TWA Hotel. After purchasing the dilapidated airliner earlier this year, the hotel’s developer, MCR Development, partnered with Atlantic Models and Gogo Aviation to return it to its original condition. The transformation, which included refurbishing the 116-foot-long fuselage, replacing the missing nose cone, repairing the damaged wings and tail, as well as outfitting the cockpit with authentic controls, was completed in just six months. The L-1649A Constellation was designed for Trans World Airlines in 1956 by renowned aeronautical engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson. Although it was soon surpassed in speed and carrying capacity by the Boeing 707, its sleek shape and signature triple tail stabilizers made it an enduring symbol of 20th-century aviation. Today, Connie is one of only four L-1649A Starliners remaining in the world. “Our Connie started her illustrious TWA career at Idlewild (now JFK) in 1958,” said Tyler Morse, CEO and managing partner of MCR. “She was replaced by jets in 1960 and survived working as an Alaskan bush plane in the 1970s, only to be abandoned by drug runners in Honduras in the 1980s. We’re excited for her return to JFK as the Queen of Queens.” The airliner is the latest piece of Jet Age memorabilia to be added to the 1960s-themed TWA Hotel, a two-wing expansion of Eero Saarinen’s iconic TWA Flight Center. In addition to the passenger-plane-turned-night-spot, the hotel complex will feature an aviation museum and flight observation deck, as well as 512 guest rooms decorated with mid-century modern furnishings, vintage rotary phones, and Hollywood-style amenities. The TWA Hotel was designed by New York’s own Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, and is set to open in early 2019.
Snøhetta has been tapped to design a major expansion to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska. As one of the city and state’s leading arts institutions, the new Joslyn will become a 21st-century cultural destination with increased gallery space, more public programming, and room for arts education opportunities. The Oslo- and New York-based firm will create a masterplan for the museum with a new building designed to “complement and enhance” the original structures on site: the Memorial Building, built in 1931, and the Walter and Suzanne Scott Pavilion, which was designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 1994. Craig Dykers, principal of Snøhetta, is proud to work on a project with such a deep cultural heritage that’s rooted in its geography. “Omaha’s place in the great landscape of the American West is a wonderful inspiration to us,” he said in a statement. “Together with Joslyn’s rich collections of art spanning the globe and its dynamic relationship with the communities that sustain it create a powerful platform to begin designing the next phase of its life, for future generations.” The addition of new galleries to the Museum will allow more room for its growing collections and give existing buildings the space to display art that they previously couldn't. This will include work from the museum's historic and contemporary Indigenous collections, which will be further supported by a newly appointed curator of Native American art. The Joslyn, which is free, has seen an increase in admission over the past decade. This expansion may help bring it even more into the global stage of 21st century art institutions.
Like Chilean Miners...
AN interviews six emerging designers to watch
Who are the names you need to know? Who are the designers to watch? These six up-and-coming talents in architecture and design should be on your radar. Alda Ly New York City Alda Ly likes a good piece of custom millwork. “I like to think about the purposefulness of each cut,” she says. Her namesake practice is built around a similar mission. “We’re pursuing end-user research to develop a more human-centered approach with our designs.” For Ly, both qualitative and quantitative data are imperative to design spaces that break the molds of conventional architectural programs. She designed the Wing’s private women-only professional clubs for flexibility, knowing that users might be recording a podcast on one day, and on another, working solo on their laptops. In this way, she sees herself beholden not only to the client, but also to the client’s stakeholders. Ly has made a name for herself by designing shared spaces, from incubators to offices and apartments. Most recently, the firm designed Bulletin, a store merchandising products from female-led brands that features a social area and a venue for live programming. “There are an infinite amount of situations you have to plan for, but a key point is knowing how to make people feel comfortable.” –Jordan Hruska Brian Thoreen LA/Mexico City “I didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Brian Thoreen. Reflecting on the first show where he unveiled his namesake furniture company at the Sight Unseen outpost during Collective Design in 2015, he admitted: “I was thrown in the deep end—I didn’t even know how to price the pieces.” Since then, Thoreen has gone on to show his works several times at Design Miami, create custom commissions, and be the subject of the first solo exhibit at Patrick Parrish. All of this was born out of his new focus on furniture and a recent move to Mexico City—both of which he was able to fully commit to after leaving his L.A.-based architecture practice, Thoreen+Ritter. In the context of “being somewhere else,” Thoreen now finds himself collaborating with local artists, including Hector Esrawe and Emiliano Godoy on a sculptural series of metal furnishings accentuated by hand-blown amorphous orbs of glass. The material will continue to be at the heart of his future work in a new studio, which he formed with Esrawe and Godoy to continue to collaborate their collaboration on glass and metal projects. As for his own studio, Thoreen also plans to design installations, spaces, and architecture where he can continue work with local artists. –Gabrielle Golenda CAMESgibson Chicago CAMESgibson is a Chicago-based partnership between Grant Gibson and the fictitious late T.E. Cames. Gibson, also a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) School of Architecture, works at multiple scales, from small residential rehabs to a popular community arts center. The practice is not limited to conventional built work. Some of the office’s exhibition work includes a 20-foot-tall quilted column installed in the Graham Foundation foyer and a skyscraper design in collaboration with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill at the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. In each of its projects, a playful sensibility fills spaces with color and soft forms. A recent project involved converting a laundry room into a cool ethereal lounge for the UIC basketball team. Deep blue tones and carefully controlled lighting brand the space instead of the typical kitschy, logo-laden locker rooms of most teams. It is this approach to cleverly transforming spaces, whether they are institutional or private, that sets CAMESgibson apart from the average small practice. –Matthew Messner Material Lust New York City Partners in life and partners in practice, Lauren Larson and Christian Lopez Swafford are indifferent to mass production timelines and trends. Together, they work with artisans to conjure otherworldly objects that cross the boundary between sculpture and decorative art, producing a series of furniture with true grit. Known as Material Lust, their Lower East Side-based company was officially established in 2014 but began long before that. It has been producing works that reflect the historical context of design, including the Alchemy Altar Candelabra inspired by pagan and alchemical symbolism; and the Fictional Furniture Collection of gender-neutral, monochromatic children’s furniture inspired by surrealism. Now the pair is venturing into lighting with their new sister company, Orphan Work. As the story goes, it began when they found lost designs from the Material Lust archive and after they visited Venice’s Olivetti Shop, by Carlo Scarpa. The result? A collection that is somewhere between Scarpa’s richly layered forms and the couple’s unapologetically “metal” aesthetic, with nods to both the musical genre and the material itself. –GG MILLIØNS Los Angeles Los Angeles–based MILLIØNS dubs itself an “experimental architectural practice” that liberally explores space-making as a “speculative medium” that can be manifested in any number of objects, structures, or experiences. Founded by Zeina Koreitem and John May, the growing practice recently designed a communal wash basin that aims to reintroduce shared social interactions into the act of bathing for an exhibition at Friedman Benda gallery in New York City. In the show, a 3-D printed mass reveals itself as a fluted drum containing a sink and a slender, brass spigot that is approachable from all sides. Though better known for writing heady treatises and engineering glitchy, digital media works that use televisions and closed-circuit cameras to create new spatial dimensions, MILLIØNS has some more grounded works on the way. A forthcoming, Graham Foundation–supported exhibition designed and curated by the duo that aims to revitalize the experimental spirit of modernist housing, for example, is headed to L.A.’s A+D Museum early next year. MILLIØNS also has several brick-and-mortar projects on the way, including a retail storefront in Manhattan and a lake house in upstate New York. –Antonio Pacheco Savvy Studio NYC/Mexico City Savvy Studio, an interiors and branding firm with offices in New York City and Mexico City, has been busy this summer with an array of projects popping up in New York. It has just launched a Tribeca seafood restaurant (A Summer Day Cafe) which features a beachy interior with light woods, primary-colored metal accents, and of course, nautical stripes. The studio also redesigned Alphabet City mainstay Mast Books using plywood to elevate the space, making it a “gallery of books, rather than simply another bookstore.” And by combining interior architecture with visuals befitting a fashion campaign, Savvy Studio developed branding language, communications, and interiors of the rental offices and showrooms for the Mercedes House, a Hell’s Kitchen luxury condo designed by TEN Arquitectos. Founder and creative director Rafael Prieto points out that there are “no specific boundaries” between branding and interior design. “The reason we do both is based on our interest in creating and designing experiences, and being able to make an impact in every interaction.” For Savvy Studio, their multifaceted practice is about making sure each space or branded element is simultaneously “emotional, aesthetic, and functional.” –Drew Zieba
Since 2003, Open House New York Weekend has offered an open platform for New Yorkers to discuss and discover the architecture and public space of the city and to get involved in shaping its future. This past weekend, coinciding with Archtober, OHNY held events across the city’s five boroughs that engaged New York’s denizens with the architectural past, present, and future. AN has rounded up a few of our favorite sites for those who didn’t make it out. Bronx Community College: Marcel Breuer Buildings At the Bronx Community College (what was then part of NYU), the legendary modernist icon Marcel Breuer built five buildings, mostly in his signature concrete, over the course of just more than a decade. African Burial Ground National Monument The solemn, curving African Burial Ground National Monument, designed by Rodney Leon, was built in 2007 to commemorate the nearly 15,000 people of African descent, both enslaved and free, that were buried in Lower Manhattan from the early 17th century to the late 18th century. Nevelson Chapel at Saint Peter’s Church A relatively little-known Midtown chapel is also a pilgrimage site for art enthusiasts. One of the 20th century’s most important figures in sculpture, Louise Nevelson, created an installation for this chapel in Saint Peter’s Church, which was designed by Hugh Stubbins and Easley Hamner with interiors by Lella and Massimo Vignelli. Originally opened in 1977, the Nevelson Chapel is currently undergoing a major restoration. Brooklyn Army Terminal The now-defunct, massive Brooklyn Army Terminal has become a sort of landmark for its unusual atrium, featuring abandoned railway tracks and a balcony-punctuated facade, perhaps reminiscent of an austere version of a John Portman interior. The 95-acre complex was designed by Cass Gilbert in 1919. City College of New York: Solar RoofPod & Harlem Garden for Urban Food At The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at City College is an 800-square-foot, net-plus-energy experiment in green urban energy production, adjoined by a rooftop garden for research in sustainable food production. 17th and 18th century houses in Queens and Brooklyn Across Queens are some of New York City’s earliest surviving structures including the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House (1709) in Ridgewood, as well as the Bowne House (c. 1660) and the Queens Historical Society at Kingsland Homestead (1774–1785) in Flushing. Also on the list was New York’s oldest surviving building: the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum (1652). OHNY also featured several special series and days, including Factory Friday, which opened up fabrication studios to the public. Works by Women, a list of projects built by women and designed by women-led firms, like Deborah Berke Partners, Selldorf Architects, and Architecture Research Office, were also available to explore, as well open studios with firms across the city.
15 Years of The Architect's Newspaper
A brief history of architecture in the 21st century
To celebrate our 15th anniversary, we looked back through the archives for our favorite moments since we started. We found stories that aged well (and some that didn’t), as well as a wide range of interviews, editorials, and other articles that we feel contributed to the broader conversation. We also took a closer look at the most memorable tributes to those we lost, and heard from editors past and present about their time here. Check out this history of architecture in the 21st century through the headlines of The Architect's Newspaper:
2003Protest: Michael Sorkin on Ground Zero
Saarinen’s TWA terminal proposed to be Kunsthalle
Philip Johnson retires
Who benefits at WTC?
After Koolhaas and before Piano, Richard Gluckman proposes Whitney addition
Emerging Voices, Class of 2004
Storefront makes an offer to Anselm Franke
Rem Koolhaas and Hani Rashid in conversation
Cataloging new skyscrapers in California
MoMA hires Andres Lepik to architecture department
Gwendolyn Wright interviews Shaun Donovan
Rethinking New York’s coastal infrastructure
Governors Island landscape team chosen
Contractor still working after deadly accident at Trump SoHo
Jean Nouvel wins Pritzker Prize
MoMA neighbors speak out against Nouvel/Hines Tower at LPC
Q&A: Allan Wexler
“Mike’s Angels” Q&A: Janette Sadik-Khan, Amanda Burden, Adrian Benepe
Q&A: Joe Mizzi
SHoP launches a business
Oslo Opera House opens
Scaffolding competition seeks solutions
Q&A: John Portman
Q&A: William Stout
Pictorial: Ken Smith’s tree stumps
Former Trump hotel by Graves is painted white by new owner
Making waves at MAS
Open: Wes Anderson's Bar Luce at Prada Foundation
The history of Richard Neutra’s Avion Village community
50 Years of Watergate
Assemble wins the 2015 Turner Prize
Reverse Commute: Chinese architects in the U.S. and Europe
Crit: AIA Convention (“No more weird architecture in Philadelphia”)
Crit: Spring Street Salt Shed (“In praise of the urban object”)
How institutionalized racism and housing policy segregated our cities
Chinatown residents protest de Blasio rezoning
Roche-Dinkeloo’s Ambassador Grille receives landmark designation
Q&A: Jorge Otero-Pailos: Why the Met Breuer matters
Comment: Ronald Rael on the realities of the U.S.-Mexico border
Detroit Zoo penguin habitat opens
Chicago battles to keep Lucas Museum of Narrative Art from moving
Martino Stierli on the redesign of MoMA’s A+D galleries
WTC Oculus opens
Letter: Phyllis Lambert pleads for Four Seasons preservation
Q&A: Mabel Wilson
#NotmyAIA: Protests erupt over AIA's support of Trump
Snøhetta’s addition to SFMoMA opens
DS+R’s Vagelos Education Center opens
Baltimore’s Brutalist McKeldin Fountain pulverized
Actor Terry Crews is now a promising young designer
Architects design prototypes for Hyperloops
Never Built New York brings unrealized architecture to life
Seasteaders to bring a libertarian floating community to the South Pacific
Crit: Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Jimmy Buffett–themed retirement communities in South Carolina and Florida
Will Jacksonville be a post-climate-change megacity?
Q&A: Henry Urbach on curating architecture, the Glass House, and what’s next
The architecture of addiction
Q&A: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now
AGENCY's Border Dispatches: Reporting from the U.S.-Mexico Boundary
Learning from Baltimore’s approach to Confederate monuments
The 50th anniversary of the Milwaukee housing marchesThank you to USModernist Library, an online archive of architectural publications, for their help in putting this web feature together.
San Fran's Millennium Tower is sinking
Amid protests, AT&T building landmarked
Trump brings back asbestos and AN becomes a meme
Eva Franch i Gilabert selected as new director of Architectural Association
Richard Meier’s #MeToo reckoning
New York City's Institute for Public Architecture (IPA) will celebrate its 6th annual Fall Fête on October 24 at the Plaxall Art Gallery in Long Island City, Queens. The benefit will honor Margaret Newman, FAIA, principal at Arup Planning, and the Queens Museum. Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, and Bevin Savage-Yamazaki, senior associate at Gensler will give introductory remarks. The IPA describes its mission by saying, "We address urgent issues of design and policy by mobilizing our network of activists, professionals, government officials, and community stakeholders." In a statement, they said that the fundraiser will help fund its residency program and expansion of the organization's activities beyond New York City.
Tickets for the event are available here.
It isn’t often that one has the chance to perform in a world premiere. I’ve performed in a few during my forty years as an avocational singer, but never anything like the Mile Long Opera (MLO), which ran in New York City from October 2 to 8, 2018. Because I am also an architect, performing as a singer and actor in the MLO was a special privilege. I was able to see both the dramatic material and the urbanistic setting from an insider’s point of view. I am convinced that David Lang, Liz Diller, Claudia Rankine, Anne Carson, and the producers of MLO created a modern masterpiece. With the rather enigmatic subtitle, “A Biography of Seven O’Clock,” the MLO’s hype suggested that audience members would get a taste, maybe a big gulp, of what makes New York City so extraordinary, and also so ordinary. The first surprise was that they delivered on that promise. By using choirs from throughout the city’s five boroughs, some professional and/or small, others amateur and/or large, the creative team assembled a cast that resonated with just about everyone. Sprinkling some professional opera singers among the throng of ordinary folks provided just enough weight to please the likes of Renée Fleming, who attended a performance in mid-week, and other cognoscenti. It would have been easy to lose the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural flavor of so many New York singers strung single file along a narrow, mile-and-a-half walkway, especially in the evening hours under varied lighting conditions. Here, the production designers earned their stripes by developing several masterful costume and lighting conceits. The most effective was the duck-like baseball cap worn by the majority of us, which bathed the face in a soft, ethereal aurora. Audience members described the effect of the floating faces as dreamlike—we were instructed to wear only dark so our faces would stand out. By lighting the faces of each performer, MLO designers brought both the wonderful variety and the individuality of New York’s inhabitants into focus on the High Line. As the audience walked by, each singer or speaker could touch passing strangers with a look or an expression, while also declaiming their portions of the libretto (some of it in Spanish). I can say that for me, those brief glances from listeners were unforgettable. I thought of the paintings on the wall of a museum gazing out at amazed art lovers—Magritte would be jealous. Was there music in this opera? Yes and no. David Lang, of Bang on a Can fame, has explored sound in just about every possible way during a long career. Thus one would hardly have expected a conventional piece of musical theater, and indeed those of us singing and speaking our parts were initially rather confused by what we heard. There were no chords, no apparent melody, no key signatures, and apparently no “leitmotifs” to provide a map of the work. Even the first rehearsals were puzzling—where would we stand in relation to our fellow choir members? Was there an alto or bass part? All we knew was that this was a piece for voices and that we would be singing without amplification. There were big risks involved in putting singers of varying abilities out in the midst of a bustling urban environment. How could anyone but an operatic diva be heard above the street noise? When I looked at the first robot camera footage of the “cells” (individual areas with specific parts of the libretto and music) that were posted by the sponsor, Target, I was concerned that many voices were not coming through the texture. After performing for a couple of nights I realized what I had missed, and why our composer had written such unusual “music.” This was an immersive experience. Even more important than seeing the piece on the High Line was listening to every voice along the way. Lang gave the audience an active part in the drama as it unfolded before them. You really had to “lean in” to get the full intellectual and sensory power of the narrative. By lighting the faces of each performer, or group of performers, Lang and his collaborators invited the audience to parse the threads of text, sound, and light, both momentary and temporally continuous. The music and libretto established a repeating theme, marked by phrases and distinctive vocal riffs, that would eventually make sense in the context of a moving, walking perceptual gestalt. There was, first of all, the recurrence of the dining table in the spoken narrative. I did not realize how my version of this little “recollection” would strike audience members as they heard me say “Between us, I love my dining room table.” With a common memory, shared by so many of us, Claudia Rankine established an immediate frame of reference. In the music, themes of community, loss, loneliness, love, and deprivation played out in vignettes sung by recognizable characters from the city: a Vietnamese nail salon technician, a construction worker, an eight-year-old walking with his aunt, lovers at the movies, a hotel maid, a window washer. One thousand voices, each distinct, would finally create a “cloud” of meaning, at least in theory. Before each performance, we heard our directors describe the “miracle” that was occurring each night. Press notices were positive, but it was the audience that gave us the best feedback on the piece. They were spellbound, amazed, and entirely engaged. Friends invariably would ask if tickets were available—they had heard the hype. Alas, anyone who failed to get a pass would miss one of the cultural events of the new century. I thought of how pissed I was to have missed Einstein On The Beach. It was like you had to see MLO in order to be a hip New Yorker in 2018, at least among choral geeks. For architects, the allure was just as strong. The tapestry sound would not have been so striking without the incredible setting of the High Line. One should always mention James Corner and the community activists who fought to save the elevated tracks from Gansevoort to 34th Street, because this was adaptive re-use at its best. Architect Liz Diller and her staff saw the potential of the linear park as a performance space and helped to design the enhancements to the setting that made the piece ring so beautifully, in a visual sense. Indeed, it was the synesthetic character of the Mile Long Opera that I believe signaled its importance as a new kind of performance piece. The Mile Long Opera was an intense distillation of the things that make New York the greatest city in the world. It brought us the city of the imagination, the city of technology, the city of skyscrapers, the city of world theater, the city of music, the city of strangers, the city of magic, the city of poverty, the city of transport, the city of wealth, and above all the place that we call New York. At the end of the performance, Anne Carson’s poetry captured everything in a few trenchant, Whitmanesque lines: “Whatever can happen in a city can happen in this city, whatever can happen to anyone can happen to us. Onward rolls the bright current.”
$1.7 billion Gadget
London dispatch: Bloomberg HQ should not have won this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize
This week, Foster + Partners’ Bloomberg European headquarters in London picked up the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize, an award ostensibly given to the best building in the U.K., marking the third time Norman Foster's firm has won the award. But was it actually the best piece of architecture on the shortlist of six projects? No. Let me start off by saying that the Bloomberg headquarters is by no means a bad building. The judging panel, chaired by Sir David Adjaye, was right to say the project “pushed the boundaries of research and innovation in architecture." They added in a statement: “Bloomberg has opened up new spaces to sit and breathe in the City,” and went on to laud “the visceral impact of the roof-top view across to St Paul’s from the concourse space,” the office’s helix ramp and its “dynamic new workspaces.” However, all of these listed items of praise are merely examples of pricey green gadgetry and fancy add-ons. While good in their own right, they have not come together well enough to form an exemplary piece of architecture worthy of winning the RIBA Stirling Prize. Inside, amid the myriad of seating, the scheme feels like a glitzy airport at times with stock markets being displayed on screens emulating departure boards. Views out are also hard to come by, besides one panorama of St Paul’s and a vista of the city reserved for Bloomberg's higher-ups as they dine. The Bloomberg HQ may have also carved a new thoroughfare through this part of London, but it’s hardly space to breathe. The public feels somewhat ushered through the massive slabs of sandstone by undulating bronze fins that dominate the facade, being employed further up to aid air circulation and shun views out in the process. The only spaces where you don’t have to be a paying patron at an establishment to sit are two benches at the site’s southern corner, both of which have seating dividers to prevent rough sleepers. Poor people it seems shouldn’t be allowed to rest when in the presence of a $1.7 billion building. And that’s the project’s biggest issue: money. “Some people say the reason it took almost a decade to build this is because we had a billionaire who wanted to be an architect working with an architect who wanted to be a billionaire,” said former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at his building’s unveiling. Norman Foster is the U.K.’s wealthiest architect. This year, partners at his firm shared $30.4 million between them, a 43 percent increase on last year despite a downturn in profits and turnover with the company having to lose staff in the process. As critic Oliver Wainwright noted in a tweet, Foster's 'non-resident in the UK for tax purposes' status prevented him from even picking up the award in person. What does all this say about architects and the profession? That to design a good building you must find a client with apparently limitless pockets? That as an architect it is more important to be obscenely wealthy over everything else? Bloomberg’s London HQ is a far cry from last year’s winner, dRMM’s Hastings Pier, which exemplified civic architecture at its best. That delightful scheme made extensive use of timber salvaged from a fire that burned down the previous pier. It was truly a community project. dRMM held close consultations with the public and the charity funding it, and the pier was built for the public of Hastings (and those visiting, of course). There were far better examples of architecture on this year’s Stirling Prize shortlist too. Take Waugh Thistleton Architects’ Bushey Cemetery for example. Using walls of rammed earth sourced from the site it rests on, the project demonstrates genuine material innovation and manages to convey a sense of weight and be delicate at the same time. Bloomberg, meanwhile, shipped in 600 tons of bronze from Japan and granite from India, and despite the similar earthy tones, feels dauntingly heavy. An example of working wonders when on a budget was also shortlisted: Storey's Field Centre and Eddington Nursery in Cambridge by MUMA. Like Hastings Pier, this was a celebration of civic architecture, with a community center and kindergarten surrounding a landscaped courtyard. “By building at a lower height than approved at planning…Bloomberg shows a high level of generosity towards the City,” the judges commented. In light of this, Jamie Fobert Architects’ Tate St Ives was arguably more adept at concealing space. Buried underground, yet still allowing bucket loads of light in, the museum has somehow doubled in size. It’s a remarkable piece of architectural contortion that keeps locals and the museum happy. Another shortlisted project, Níall McLaughlin Architects’ Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre for the University of Oxford, like the two aforementioned projects, articulated light in spectacular fashion. The project provided a lecture theater, a student learning space, seminar rooms, and a dance studio of immense quality and leads by example the quality of spaces students deserve. London studio Henley Halebrown’s Chadwick Hall student accommodation for the University of Roehampton, the final project on the list, did the same. A win for the project could have sent a message about what the standard of student housing in the U.K. should be. The majority of current student housing stock is dire. With space standards for student housing thrown out of the window due to it being temporary accommodation, the area has become a safe bet for investors looking to cram as many units in for a guaranteed profit. A message, in fact, was sent, coming in explicit form from RIBA President Ben Derbyshire. “This building is a profound expression of confidence in British architecture—and perfectly illustrates why the U.K. is the profession’s global capital,” he said in a statement. “This role and reputation must be maintained, despite the political uncertainty of Brexit.” This, however, feels like a lazy excuse to award a project the Stirling Prize. Defaulting to listing “Brexit” as a reason should not be in the criteria. Neither should sustainability, a high standard of which should be a baseline for all shortlisted projects. Let BREEAM (the U.K. equivalent of LEED) deal with recognizing that. The RIBA Stirling Prize doesn’t have to send any message, though. It just has to recognize the best building, and this it has not done.