Search results for "whitney"

Placeholder Alt Text

Radical Seafaring

How art and architecture hit the water in the 1960s and beyond
In 2005, a group of Brooklyn artists working under a loose collaborative called “Bruce High Quality Foundation” (BHQF) fashioned a small boat with a single replica of one of Christo and Jean-Claude’s bright orange post-and-lintel Central Park “gates.” They then motored around Manhattan, orange gate fabric flapping in the wind, as they chased another large-scale work of art: Robert Smithson’s Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan, which the artist had conceived 35 years earlier, but was realized posthumously in 2005. Here, Smithson recasts Central Park as a detached, unreachable fragment of the city, floating counterintuitively around the island that keeps it landlocked. The reformation of Central Park as an island reframes not only the natural environment of the park but also its relationship to the city, and the city itself. This absurdist scenario—a small motorboat trailing a landscaped barge behind a tugboat—is the jumping off point of the catalogue for Andrea Grover’s Radical Seafaring, which recently closed at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY. Grover told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that she was “born to curate this show,” because “my father started out as a commercial fisherman in the late 1930s and then ran a marina for 50-plus years. My mother was a painter and a sculptor. The two sensibilities merged in my childhood. In 1985 my father crossed the North Atlantic in an outboard-powered boat of his own design, and my mother helped him create some of the safety features that helped him survive the nearly 3,000-mile journey.” The catalogue is a gorgeous silver edition that, like the BHQF’s affection for Smithson, connects the radical water-based art and architecture of the 1960s and 70s with today’s contemporary seafarers. It shows the works indexically, with accompanying essays that elucidate the four categories:

Exploration (the quest for new experiences, the ineffable, and living in an exhilarated state), Liberation (self-reliance, freedom from terrestrial social contracts, the desire to shape one’s world, and utopian (impulses), Fieldwork (hands-on, methodological intelligence gathering about the environment, such as an artist laboratory at sea), and Speculation (waterways as a tabula rasa on which other realities can be built).

Within these headers is a collection of architectural works that have taken maritime themes, from large-scale housing projects to a structure that would facilitate humans' diplomatic relations with marine life. Conceptually, the show has a range of connections to architecture. All of the categories deal with the sea as a new territory where we can redefine ourselves and how we relate to one another and nature. It is not only defined by a different ground plane (water), but also by a different set of rules due its extra-legal, non-sovereign state. Once outside of the limits of “the law of the land,” new possibilities arise from this tabula rasa condition. Dutch studio Atelier van Lieshout (AVL) built a floating abortion clinic for Women on Waves, a Dutch health nonprofit that provides reproductive health services to women in countries with restrictive laws. A-Portable was a gynecological unit that helped women from Ireland, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. The Brooklyn collective Mare Liberum takes its name from the 1609 treatise by Dutch jurist and philosopher Hugo Grotius that described the sea as “one of the last free spaces in this densely occupied urban landscape.” The artists channel Grotius as they work to explore and inhabit New York City’s waterways and waterfronts, the last open spaces where the artists feel they can be marginal and ambiguously outside of civilization. An essay by Dylan Gauthier, a founding member of Mare Liberum, can be found in the front of the book and elucidates how the collective’s two-year occupation of a yacht on the Gowanus Canal was possible due to ambiguous law and overlapping bureaucracies. The group is experimenting with new territories and space-making outside of the traditional realm of architecture or urbanism. Mare Liberum’s work also provokes new ways of living, as does Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for Triton City in Baltimore, where large housing blocks would be built on autonomous ships, and anchored in the ground. The 100,000 units were stacked like blocks within a large superstructure. If this sounds like Metabolism, it is because Fuller and Japanese architect Shoji Sadao originally designed the project for Tokyo Bay, typical of other water-based architectures of the 1950s and 1960s in Japan. When its client died, the team was commissioned by HUD and President Lyndon Johnson. It never was realized, despite being verified by the U.S. Navy as fit for building. The model is now on view at the Johnson Presidential Library. Building out onto the water is a popular proposal these days, as Diller’s Island in New York and the Garden Bridge in London compete for most controversial territory. Also projecting new forms of interaction is Ant Farm’s Dolphin Embassy. The speculative underwater diplomatic center was conceived for exploring interspecies communication. This dolphin research platform DOLØN EMB 1 took multiple iterations, as it grew from a simple catamaran-like vessel to a futuristic, technology-driven vessel called Oceania. While the group published numerous articles and received grants for the research, the project was abandoned when they broke up in 1978. The architectural works in the show fit in well, as they are the spatial manifestation of the pioneering and experimental attitude of the whole exhibition. The works by Pedro Reyes, Mary Mattingly, and Dennis Oppenheim could easily have been included in an architectural survey, because of the territorial and social implications of the art that blur the distinctions between architecture and performance. In a way, getting in a boat is an architectural act and a performance at the same time. This speaks to not only the breadth of the Radical Seafaring catalogue but also to its aesthetic and conceptual clarity.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mori Breuer, Please

Toshiko Mori unifies Breuer home with diaphanous glass “bridge and break” staircase
For a dead architect, Marcel Breuer is blowing up the news this year: After the Whitney decamped to the Meatpacking, the Met annexed Breuer's signature Upper East Side museum building, honoring the architect in a suave rechristening. Virginia's only Breuer building was headed for the wrecking ball, but saved; this year, too, his Atlanta Central Library was scheduled to meet its end, but will not be demolished thanks in part to the dedication of Brutalism preservation activists. Now, Toshiko Mori has revamped a 1951 Breuer project in New Canaan, Connecticut, unifying a two-building complex with a "bridge and break" angular glass staircase that honors Breuer's forms while flooding the home with light. The New York–based architect updated the home's interiors to Breuer's original specifications, save the elimination of a ground-floor bedroom and a skylight she added to the main circulation corridor. "Visually, the skylight connects the original structure to the new addition and connecting stair," Mori told Dezeen. "The massing of the addition takes its cues from the original Breuer house, adhering to the orthogonal lines and modest proportions of the existing site." Like a modernist caterpillar cozying up to a choice leaf, the staircase, diagonally sited between the two original structure, rises gradually from the partially sunken lower level and switches back sharply to take residents to the upper floor. Mori's work adds 3,000 square feet of living space to the original 2,200: Three bedrooms occupy the home's top story, which is clad in transparent glasses and cantilevers out over the lower floor, while a garage, service area, and common rooms round out the program on the ground floor. New York–based Quennell Rothschild & Partners restored and updated the landscape to dialogue with Mori's work.
Placeholder Alt Text

Cup or Cone?

AN tours the saliva-worthy Museum of Ice Cream, a NYC pop-up where you can bathe in a pool of sprinkles

Today The Architect's Newspaper toured the soon-to-open Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) a pop-up space in the Meatpacking devoted to the season's favorite sweet treat. I popped two Lactaid pills and licked everything.

The space is the brainchild of design strategist Maryellis Bunn and Manish Vora, CEO of Lightbox NYC, a company that creates immersive brand experiences for the likes of Hewlett-Packard and Sephora.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIZ-tgpD9tP/

"The Museum of Ice Cream is about joy, experimentation, collaboration, sharing, and playing together, with some nostalgia, too," noted Bunn, who harbored childhood fantasy of diving into a giant pool of sprinkles.

The exhibits deliver on that fantasy. Although it would be generous to call the Whitney-adjacent MOIC a museum, it is a lot of fun. One installation invited participants to practice their scoop by digging vanilla ice cream out of a commercial-sized container and deposit it on a gold chalice. Our guide noted that ice cream was invented in China circa 1000 BCE, which is probably not true.

In the next room, Toronto-based Future Food Studio was spinning balloons made from liquid sugar and filled with helium. MOIC staff encouraged visitors to inhale the helium, say something in an elf voice, and eat the sticky aftermath:

Helium balloons at the Museum of Ice Cream The group also created a cone display for ice cream paired with Synsepalum dulcificum (miracle fruit), a plant from West Africa that temporarily alters how different foods taste. Bright pink vanilla ice cream cones arrived garnished with lemon, which tastes sweet under the berry's influence. Future Future Food Studio founder Dr. Irwin Adam explained that the exhibit is "art meets ice cream meets taste meets science," adding that the chemical interaction caused by the miracle berries is an interesting avenue in the psychology of taste. Sprinkles Pool at the Museum of Ice Cream The museum’s focus on its vigorous second life online is reflected in almost pornographically playful exhibitions where a visitor can point her phone at an angled ceiling mirror to snap the perfect selfie while diving into the sprinkles pool. The reminders from staff and wall text to #MOIC #museumoficecream reinforced the performative quality of the space. The sprinkles are made of cut-up plastic beads, the kind you imagine lodged in the trachea of sea creatures, but they approximated their sugar siblings well enough. I braved the crowds (above) and possible foot fungus to dip my feet in the pool: Sprinkle pool at the Museum of Ice Cream It felt nice, a colorful response to Snarkitecture's Beach. Chocolate display at the Museum of Ice Cream Over in the chocolate room, visitors were greeted with the rich scent of cacao, Dove chocolates, and a video installation of gushing liquid chocolate set to Lord of the Rings transition music. By the exit, there was a (chocolate milk?) fountain splattering its juices against the back wall and basin. Growing up in a house with old plumbing, the fountain was very triggering: Chocolate fountain at the Museum of Ice Cream Pivoting quickly back to the entrance for a Blue Marble Ice Cream vanilla sundae topped with lemon-guava paste, marshmallows, and Froot Loops, I returned to the final exhibit, an indoor playground sponsored by Tinder. The MOIC says the playground—with a loveseat, seesaw, and bench swing—is the ideal place for a first date. To test out the space, I had lined up an actual Tinder date who cancelled last minute, so I had to content myself with watching others try out the seesaw, which is shaped like an ice cream scoop: Seesaw at the Museum of Ice Cream Last licks: When it opens tomorrow, the MOIC expects 30,000 visitors over its monthlong run. Tickets are already sold out, but hours of operation and availability will be updated here.
Placeholder Alt Text

SoHo Towers

New images of Renzo Piano’s luxury Soho residential tower released
New images of Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s first residential building in New York City have surfaced, showing off the façade and a few of its amenities. The 30-story tower will be split into two spires, and will be located at 565 Broome Street in Soho. "565 Broome SoHo" will offer a total of 115 residences, including two duplex penthouses. The other units will range from studios to four-bedroom homes. The tower is being built with luxury in mind, and offers all the amenities one might expect from a top-tier residential building. In addition to a 55-foot-long indoor pool, sauna, and fitness center, tenants will be able to park their cars using a private driveway. All units will offer floor to ceiling windows and custom designed kitchen fixtures, and some will contain an outdoor living room and private pool. The building’s facade is being built with powder-coated aluminum and acoustic glass to keep out the noise of SoHo and the neighboring Financial District. Renzo Piano’s other buildings in New York include the Whitney Museum and the New York Times Building.
Placeholder Alt Text

SFM-Open

Will San Franciscans embrace the new SFMOMA?

In 1995, as Mario Botta’s brand new San Francisco Museum of Art debuted, critic Pilar Viladas wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times, “San Francisco’s MOMA Moment: Mario Botta designed an interior that is sublime. But what happened to the rest of the new museum?” A similar question has been on architecture critics’ minds since Snøhetta’s $305 million expansion to Botta’s original opened to the press on April 28.

The original building was designed as an outpost for culture in a downtrodden area, a muscle man for the artistically curious. Now, billions are pouring into the area with a regional transit center, 5.4-acre elevated park, and new highrise neighborhood planned adjacent to the museum. And so, SFMOMA is evolving to reflect downtown San Francisco’s new inflection point. Interestingly, SFMOMA’s board of directors has done what those of other major national museums like New York City’s Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art, and Los Angeles’s LACMA have not: Drastically expand and reorganize gallery space without demolishing their existing museum or having to relocate to an entirely new building. Snøhetta was tasked with constructing a real building, whereas OMA and Michael Graves Architecture merely proposed similar ideas in their respective Whitney proposals decades ago. But if Viladas’s assertion that Botta’s original was ugly on the outside was proven ultimately false—San Franciscans seem to love the original SFMOMA through and through—Snøhetta’s expansion begs a new, complicated question: What happened to the rest of the old museum?

Snøhetta’s point of view in that regard is a standard one: Emphasize the existing through opposition. The 235,000-square-foot expansion grows out of the original structure’s backside and then rises ten stories above. By filling the narrow site to capacity and adding a new entrance along Howard Street, the architects greatly expanded the program’s public areas. Like in the original museum, the first three floors will be free to the public, a group that now includes all San Franciscans aged 18 and under.

This new entry features a maze of interlocking double height spaces, including a wood-clad amphitheater overlooking a pair of Richard Serra’s Sequence sculptures. The new amphitheater and Botta’s existing monumental rotunda meet at the second floor, creating “a living room for San Francisco,” as Craig Dykers, principal of Snøhetta, relayed during a guided tour. The proportions of this new “living room” are more intimate in nature than Botta’s proud entry. Snøhetta has retooled that existing entry by replacing the original oversize white switchback stairway with a low-slung wood one. Drawing comparisons to the firm’s prior Oslo Operahuset where the plane of the roof is sloped to allow pedestrian access from surrounding streets, Dykers said, “You feel ownership over a space when you can walk on the roof.” That’s a funny way to describe being on the second floor of a ten-story building, but what Snøhetta really did is bring the street indoors by luring up pedestrians from a variety of approaches.

The third floor contains dedicated photography galleries as well as a buzzing coffee shop. A large grow wall and outdoor Calder plaza flank this floor’s entry landing, creating a cool and shaded space teeming with growing things and art objects that grants museumgoers their first real glance at the museum’s icy east facade. From there up, gallery spaces stack neatly and predictably, joined for two floors by existing galleries in the Botta building.

The remaining floors above are accessed by a maze of single-run and increasingly narrow blonde wood staircases Dykers likens to those in a private home. The simultaneously jagged and swoopy perimeters of the staircases are offset by minimalist detailing. Treads, framed by Alvar Aalto-inspired hand rails, are embedded in the wall at the curved side only to pull away from it again in a reveal along the angular boundary. At your feet, singular lengths of stained planks mark the beginning and end of each stair run. “Everything your body touches is made of wood,” Lara Kaufman, project architect for the expansion, explained of the “floating,” ergonomic design of the galleries’ wood floors.

The galleries themselves are obsessive in their minimalist articulation. Dykers said outlets, return air grilles, and lighting subconsciously distract the art viewer and that the firm’s goal was to disappear these components in the gallery spaces. The team was also careful to position overhead lighting in specially calibrated vaulting that complements the galleries’ eastward-facing glazing.

The “contemporary” gallery on the seventh floor showcases recent work in a space with exposed ductwork and framing above the exhibition walls. The three floors above it are dedicated to staff offices.

Ultimately, Snøhetta’s team has made an unambiguous and honest effort to address the complicated calculus involved in adding onto a beloved art institution in a dense urban environment. As with the original structure, only time will tell how San Francisco takes to its new modern art museum.

Placeholder Alt Text

Petition Under Way

Virginia’s only Marcel Breuer building threatened with demolition
Another Brutalist building by noted architect Marcel Breuer is threatened with demolition, this time in Reston, Virginia. The endangered building is the former American Press Institute (API) headquarters, located on a four acre site at 11690 Sunrise Valley Drive. It's Breuer’s only structure in the commonwealth of Virginia. Opened in 1974, it has been a place where newspaper publishers and editors attended meetings held by the non-profit API, founded in 1946. The $3 million, 48,000-square-foot building was constructed in the part of Reston that was reserved for non profit organizations, and its design is an example of Breuer’s sculptural use of precast concrete panels. It was the first building in the then-new town of Reston to be designed by an internationally prominent architect. The API closed in Reston in 2012 after merging with the Newspaper Association of America. Now a private developer controls the building and wants to raze it to make way for residential development. The Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to meet on June 16 to consider the developer’s application to rezone the land and obtain a demolition permit.  If the planning commission and the county’s Board of Supervisors approve the plan, the building will be razed so single- and multi-family housing can be built on the site. An online petition has been created at ipetitions.com, asking county leaders to save the Breuer building. “For nearly 38 years,” the petition states, “tens of thousands of news media executives—representing a “Who’s Who in Journalism”—attended leadership seminars in the nonprofit’s Breuer-designed headquarters in Reston. The API building is historically and architecturally significant. It is a crucial chapter in Reston’s rich history. It should have a second life instead of being torn down.” A coalition of architectural and history experts, both local and national, has questioned the demolition plan. The group includes the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board; the Fairfax County History Commission; the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Historic Resources; residents of Reston and other parts of Fairfax County; architects; historians; preservationists; journalists who have participated in programs at the building, and people who have worked in the building. Some preservation advocates say the building would be ideal for conversion to a regional library and that the county has money in its budget to do that. “The more brutalist reminders of Reston’s awesome concrete past, the better,” says the writer of the Restonian blog. Others say it reflects the vision of Reston developer Robert Simon, who aims to encourage construction of architecturally significant buildings in his planned community. At a meeting in May, the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board passed a motion and sent it with a letter to county officials pleading that “The Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and County agencies consider further historical and architectural evaluation and specific heritage resource significance of the American Press Institute building, and consider appropriate land usage that could lead to the preservation and/or adaptive reuse of the building…so that informed decisions can be made based on professional analysis.” The review board members had written previously that they believe "the property has a reasonable potential for meeting the criteria for listing on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places.” On May 17, David Edwards, Architectural Historian for the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Historic Resources, wrote: "It is our opinion that the API building reaches the level of exceptional importance…and strongly encourages its preservation…. If the API building were to be demolished, the community and the state would lose the work of a master architect. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, Reston would lose a building that is part of its community’s distinctive architectural history.” Despite those and other warnings, staffers for the county’s planning commission have recommended approval of the rezoning application and demolition permit. As of today, the petition to save the Breuer building has more than 1,300 signatures, including signers from Europe and South America. An architect and furniture designer who worked at the Bauhaus in Dessua, Germany, and received the AIA Gold Medal in 1968, Breuer was born in Hungary in 1902 and died in New York in 1981. Breuer designed the 1966 Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue in New York City, which was recently converted to the Met Breuer, a satellite for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Beyer Blinder Belle guiding the conversion. Breuer also designed the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington, D. C. , and, while he was head of the cabinet making workshop at the Bauhaus, the Wassily chair. The Virginia building is one of several Breuer structures in the United States that are facing an uncertain future. In New Haven, Connecticut, his 1970 Pirelli Tire Building is vacant and its base has been modified. In Atlanta, Georgia, public officials are considering construction of a new library to replace Breuer’s 1980 Central Library and Library System Headquarters building at One Margaret Mitchell  Square NW. Preservationists there have been circulating a petition asking the Fulton Public Library Board to save the building and rename it after Breuer.
Placeholder Alt Text

Featured Films

Whitney announces exhibition on immersive cinema and art
The Whitney Museum of American Art's upcoming Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905–2016 will chronicle the ever-evolving world of cinema. Dreamlands, running October 28, 2016 to February 5, 2017, will traces film's evolution across its lifetime, exploring how filmmakers and artists have disassembled and reassembled cinema to create a range of “experiences of the moving image,” as a press release said. The featured artworks will include installations, drawings, 3-D environments, sculpture, performance, painting, and more. The works will be primarily from American filmmakers and artists but some influential 1920s German pieces will also be display. The numerous filmmakers and artists featured will include: Walt Disney, Frances Bodomo, Bruce Conner, Alex Da Corte, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Liam Gillick, Syd Mead, Mathias Poledna, Oskar Schlemmer, Hito Steyerl, and Stan VanDerBeek. The exhibition will consist of three different parts, each  showcasing distinct periods of film's technological evolution from the early 1900s to present-day. The earlier works capture a period of experimentation from 1905 to the 1930s when “sweeping camera shots, abstraction, color, music, and kaleidoscopic space were used to create what [film historian] Tom Gunning has called a ‘cinema of attractions.’” The next part of the exhibition displays work from the 1940s to 1980s. Included in this large breadth is CROSSROADS, Bruce Conner’s 1976 short film capturing the July 25, 1946 Operation Crossroads Baker underwater nuclear test at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific; Destruct Film, a 1967 projective installation by Jud Yalkut which uses the projected light as a sculptural material; and production design paintings for Syd Mead’s 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner. Lastly, the period from the 1990s to present-day exhibit a highly diverse collection of works that demonstrate the introduction and incorporation of more advanced technologies such as touch screen and "virtual space." Also on display will be Factory of the Sun, an installation by Hito Steyerl, originally created for the German Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale.    
Placeholder Alt Text

Office Space

Blinds for walls? ASH NYC installation rethinks conventions of contemporary office decor

Turning mirrors into ceilings, tables into flooring, and blinds into walls, Brooklyn-based design and development firm ASH NYC isn't playing by the standard rules of workspace design. Known for mixing chic interior design and property development, the firm exhibited Office Space at this year's Collective Design held in New York earlier this month.

Covering 1,250 square feet, their installation was situated in the VIP lounge and café at the fair featuring a 60 foot long modular table named Office Table that was made using reclaimed heart pinewood used for the new floors at the Whitney Museum.

Connecting the lounge to the cafe within the fair, the space was encapsulated by an extensive horizontal blind system that doubled up as walls. Also tracing the space's perimeter, an array of sculptural seating cubes—or Office Chairs—offered gathering spaces for visitors to the exhibit.

Keeping with furniture, ASH also produced a limited-edition WC4 chair that was available for purchase on-site. These chairs were interspersed within the vicinity alongside planting that offered a natural counter to the prefabricated space.

A dropped ceiling was also incorporated into the design, employing ceiling panels wrapped in reflective mylar to articulate space seldom—if at all seen in office environments.

Placeholder Alt Text

Verdict

Renzo Piano’s Whitney is an architectural “tourist trap”

When the new Whitney Museum of American Art opened on Manhattan’s West Side a little over a year ago, critical reactions were mixed. Like the majority of contemporary commentary, much of the critique was aimed at the outside of the building. There was also praise for an interior that defers to the art and a bit of positivity about the views. Some gushed about how daring it was for a building to physically engage with its surroundings at ground level.

However, a year after the initial “wait and see,” it is time to call the Renzo Piano–designed Whitney building what it really is: An architectural tourist trap. It is the conceptual built equivalent of Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar (GAKB) in Times Square.

What does a tourist trap do? Like any good tourist trap, the Whitney relies too much on its surroundings. The site at the apex of the High Line along the Hudson River is one of the best in the city. An architect would have to try hard to not have great views. Putting a few couches along floor-to-ceiling windows is not a world-class experience—most locals can get sixth-floor views from a friend’s roof or balcony. Like GAKB in Times Square, the Whitney has such a good location for its purpose that it doesn’t actually need to do anything to attract visitors. It is just there, housing an awkward collection of early modern art—good Hoppers and mediocre Ruschas.

Because it is a tourist trap, it also doesn’t need to inspire anyone to come back. What about this museum makes us want to visit again? We come for Piano, much like diners come for Guy. At GAKB, there is not decadent, diner-inspired food, only limp lettuce and uninspiring Caesar dressing. At the Whitney, where are Piano’s poetic details? Where is the tectonic novelty? What happened to the inventive, integrated systems and materials? The Whitney is all of the bad things about Piano’s work: It is washed-out and soulless, without any of the Piano magic. How can we connect to it?

The outdoor spaces seem arbitrarily proportioned and like afterthoughts. We might find the under-designed railings at an institutional building or a second-rate theme park. The oft-heard excuse is that this is part of the industrial heritage of the site, and is meant to evoke being on a fire escape. Yes, beloved industrial buildings and fire escapes have fine characteristics—materiality, the patina and layers of time, spatial experiences with compression, release, and difficult corners, and odd juxtapositions of railings and stairs—the Whitney has none of these. Instead, it is all out of scale, sterile, and unengaging.

The tourist trap analogy is not one of immediate political context. Yes, many of the visitors to the Whitney are tourists. But the point is that the building has nothing to offer beyond its celebrity status.

Deferring to the art is not an excuse. What if the Four Seasons had “deferred” to the food? What if the Ford Foundation had “deferred” to people working? An off-the-shelf metal shed can do a fine job protecting farm equipment, but isn’t the landscape better off with some actual design? The condos on the Williamsburg waterfront are amazing places to hang out, cook, and enjoy the views. It doesn’t mean they are great architecture.

Connecting with the city and functioning properly should be baseline requirements of a building, not something to hold up as great architecture. We should demand more exciting design and value it as part of the gesamtkunstwerk of a museum: art, architecture, and city in harmony to create a place, as well as an experience. Manhattan already has a problem with stale homogeneity; we need to demand that architects and clients not contribute to it. After all, no one ever said it was form or function.

Placeholder Alt Text

The New New

New Museum to expand into adjacent building on the Bowery

The New Museum will double in size in time for its 40th birthday next year, as it expands into next-door 231 Bowery, which is currently offices, a gallery, and artists' live/work space owned by the museum.

The museum announced yesterday that it had raised $43 million of the $80 million needed to pay for the expansion and to triple the endowment. Although the funds seem modest in comparison to the MoMA (annual operating budget: $147 million) or the Whitney, the capital campaign is the largest in the New Museum's history. The $80 million will also pay for the institution's business incubator, New INC, and programs like IdeasCity, which bring artists, activists, planners, and policymakers together to discuss issues facing cities like Detroit and Athens, Greece.

Lisa Phillips, the museum's director, told The New York Times that “we’ve known for a long time that we wanted an expansion, but we’ve been thinking about what an expansion means for a museum like this. We own the building next door, and it just makes sense to use it. But it was also about thinking about ways to create a parallel structure there, to make something that’s different and a counterpoint to this building.”

Since the museum's move to Soho in 2007, annual attendance has increased from 60,000 to over 400,000. The museum intends to renovate 231 Bowery and connect it to their main Sanaa–designed space, increasing the total footprint from 58,000 square feet to over 100,000. As of now, there are no plans to demolish 231 Bowery. The expansion will allow for improved circulation, and keep exhibitions on view during turnaround periods: The New Museum has a tiny permanent collection, choosing instead to focus on women artists and art that's not usually exhibited in New York.

“I don’t have [the expansion] completely laid out,” Phillips told the Times, “but it’s about trying to do things that museums haven’t done yet or maybe even imagined.”

Placeholder Alt Text

The Met

$600 million Chipperfield expansion for Metropolitan Museum of Art put on hold
Slightly more than a year after British architect David Chipperfield was selected to redesign portions of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the project has been put on hold. Museum officials disclosed last month that they plan to temporarily suspend design work on the $600 million expansion project as part of an institution-wide effort to restructure finances and address a $10 million deficit. They said the restructuring would be a two year process and that a time frame for resuming design work on the expansion would depend on the pace of fundraising for it. The Chipperfield project will “be quiet for a while,” The New York Times quoted museum president Daniel Weiss as saying. “The pace of the project is slowing,” Weiss said, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Met’s disclosure came in the same week that Museum of Modern Art officials announced a $100 million gift from entertainment mogul David Geffen to help fund their expansion, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Three floors of the museum’s new galleries will be named The David Geffen Wing in recognition of the donation, museum officials said. In March of 2015, officials at the Met announced that the museum selected David Chipperfield Architects to design an expansion, which most likely would involve demolition of the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing in the museum’s southwest corner, to increase exhibition space for modern and contemporary art and to double the size of the Roof Garden above the Wallace Wing. At the time, Met officials indicated Chipperfield also might become involved in redesigning other areas of the museum, including “adjacent galleries devoted to the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, as well as additional operational spaces.” In effect, he was being tapped to take on the design role at the museum that Kevin Roche had for many years. Demolition of the 110,000-square-foot Wallace wing, which Roche designed and which opened in 1987, would need approval from New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and others. In April of 2016, museum leaders disclosed that they plan a series of budget cuts and that the timing of the Chipperfield project would be affected. They said the schematic design phase has been completed and that they will wait to proceed with any more design work until money for the project has been raised. Other aspects of the restructuring include a reduction in staff through voluntary buyouts or layoffs or both, a hiring freeze, and scaling back some exhibition programming, as well as efforts to maximize revenues. The cutbacks follow a period of expansion for the Met, including the opening of the Met Breuer satellite museum inside the former home of the Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue, and a reported $3 million campaign to develop a new branding approach for the institution. Chipperfield’s previous museum projects include the Neues Museum in Berlin, Museo Jumex in Mexico City, the Saint Louis Art Museum and The Hepworth in Wakefield, England. Last month, Chipperfield’s design for a new Nobel Center in Stockholm received approval from the city council there. The Met has been drawing more than six million visitors a year, even before the Met Breuer opened. According to a 2014 report in The Art Newspaper, it ranks as one of the three busiest museums in the world in terms of attendance, after the Louvre and the British Museum.
Placeholder Alt Text

Future uncertain for Breuer’s Central Library in Atlanta

Although Marcel Breuer's is most famous for designing the UNESCO Building in Paris and the Met Breuer (the former Whitney), the architect also designed a monumental public library in Atlanta. The future of that building, like so many Brutalist structures, is now in jeopardy.

It wasn't always this way. In the mid-1960s, attitudes towards the architect and his future building were solicitous: The then-director of the Atlanta library system was so impressed by the Whitney (completed in 1966) he urged the library board to invite Breuer to design the Central Library. After negotiating a 275-page program, and significant delays in funding, the project was completed in 1980. The six-story, 265,000-square-foot library featured a 300-seat theater, a restaurant, with space for more than 1,000 patrons and one million books. On the exterior, precast concrete panels are bush-hammered for texture, while inside, floors two through four are connected by a massive concrete staircase.

During the 2008 recession, the city asked voters to approve a $275 million bond referendum to expand two library branches, build eight new ones, and renovate others. If the county could come up with $50 million, over 30 percent of the bond could go towards…replacing the Breuer–designed library with another library.

Although critics like Barry Bergdoll have praised the structure as a perfect example of the "heavy lightness" that characterizes Breuer’s Bauhaus–influenced forms, the Brutalist aesthetic did not play well in Atlanta. Whether this indifference expressed itself through lack maintenance is difficult to determine, but the building has deteriorated, and programs have shrunk: In the mid-1990s, the theater closed after part of its ceiling collapsed while the restaurant was shuttered at the end of that decade. In 2002, the city spent $5 million to renovate the building, adding colorful walls and carpeting to improve its public perception.

As preservation petitions from groups like Docomomo attest, many municipalities struggle to preserve modern architecture, especially buildings that are seen as not user-friendly, or those that are "aesthetically challenging." Stephanie Moody, the chair of Atlanta’s library board, has asked the county to consider reallocating the funds for the central library for use at other, more popular branches. The remaining cash would be used to buy land and build a new library to replace the main branch.

Moody told local blog Creative Loafing that downtown doesn’t need a library the size of Central. County commissioner Robb Pitts framed the situation bluntly: “[Funding] would be for some renovations plus the construction of a brand new Central Library to be located in Downtown Atlanta. Period,” he said. “They’re not renovating the existing one. It’s very clear that the construction [of a new one] is what the voters called for.”

Although the building is listed on the 2010 World Monuments Watch List of Most Endangered Sites, its fate remains undecided, for now.