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Cinematic Architecture

The New York Film Festival features architecture on the big screen
The 56th New York Film Festival, running from September 28–October 14, features several films where architecture plays a starring role. The architecture cameos are numerous. Orson Welles’s until-now-unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind features a hillside mansion in Carefree, Arizona, that is down the street from the Paolo Soleri–designed house used in Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970). The laboratory in Diamantino uses multiple locations: the 2011 Alcantara Wastewater Treatment Plant in Lisbon by Aires Mateus, Frederico Valsassina, and João Nunes, the 1926 Lisbon Greenhouse by Raul Carapinha, and the 18th-century Palacio do Correio Mor designed António Canevari. The 2007 Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean by Rudy Ricciotti appears in Transit. The commissioning of Blenheim Palace by Queen Anne for Sarah Churchill is a plot point in The Favourite. A lonely one-story bank building on the open prairie features in an episode of the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. One character burns down and another monitors greenhouses in Burning. Octogenarian Manfred Kirchheimer’s latest film, Dream of a City, is culled from lush footage taken over 60 years in New York, his adopted hometown after fleeing Nazi Germany. Among his other films are Stations of the Elevated, Bridge High, and Tall: The American Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan. In one sequence from Dream, structures are seen in abstract compositions, like a Franz Kline painting. Streetlife scenes feature kids on stoops, old ladies in windows, housewives on fire escapes, the digging up of sidewalks to plant trees, and the wheeling of a bass violin on a crowded street, accompanied by clever music choices. Sinatra’s It Had to be You plays against a building where every window sports the letter “U.” Gropius Memory Palace by Ben Thorp Brown uses the architect's 1911 Fagus Factory as an exploration of psychoanalytic space and means of recollection. Shot in the Gropius building and using contemporary photographs by Albert Renger-Patzsch featuring the building's glass curtain wall and yellow brick structure, the film explores the building through exercises including breathing and words from a hypnotherapist. In From Its Mouth Came a River of High-End Residential Appliances viewers experience a drone's-eye view flying through super-skyscraper apartment buildings in Hong Kong that have cutouts in their centers for mythological dragons to pass through that have been formulated by feng shui practitioners. Every time the camera clears an aperture, a bell rings. Musical instrument maker Rick Kelly, the proprietor of Carmine Street Guitars, uses wood salvaged, purchased, or dumpster-dived from New York City buildings. His preferred materials give a particular resonance to the guitars. McSorley’s Old Ale House, Chumley’s speakeasy at 86 Bedford Street, Trinity Church, and the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral are just some of the sources, which are labeled and often engraved on the guitars. Kelly says it’s using the “bones of old New York” while Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith’s guitarist, says strumming these instruments is “like playing a piece of New York.” As guitarists like Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot, Nels Cline (Wilco), Kirk Douglas (The Roots), Christine Bougie (Bahamas), Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), actress Eszter Balint, and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch visit to try out the guitars, Kelly’s apprentice photographs #guitarporn. Kelly has been making guitars since the late 1970s, and in this West Village location since 1990 (it’s next door to where Jackson Pollock lived), but the threat of gentrification looms. A Colombian drug lord creates a fictional, extravagant mansion from the 1980s nighttime TV soap opera Dynasty in Labyrinth. Although the house is now in ruins, the film intercuts the television program with images of a lavish Latin American lifestyle. Trees Down Here examines Cambridge University’s Cowan Court, a 2016 building by 6a Architects at Churchill College that uses oak and birch in contrast to the original Brutalist 1960s buildings by Richard Sheppard. Plans, models, archival footage, owls, snakes, and swaying trees are set to the music of John Cage and a poem by John Ashbery. The film premiered at the Venice Architecture Biennale.
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In Memoriam

Remembering engineer Robert Silman, 1935-2018
“Hidden in plain sight,” describes the legacy of the beloved structural engineer, Robert Silman, who died at age 83 on July 31. The great landmarks he renewed, along with the new ones he realized, prove this point, from Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, and Fallingwater to the Polshek Partnership’s Weill Recital Hall, Renzo Piano’s Whitney Museum, and Freelon Adjaye Bond’s National Museum of African American History & Culture. Working until just a few weeks before losing his long battle with cancer, Silman communicated through intuitive problem solving, enriched by a lifelong curiosity about the creative intent of his colleagues as well as his forebears, whose accomplishments could only stand with his benevolent intervention. His engineering always deferred to the original intent of the architects he worked with, either in person or posthumously. Mr. Silman’s career as practitioner, educator, and advocate inspired thousands of students and young professionals across two generations and set a standard of engineering excellence that merged scientific knowledge with social need. What distinguished Silman, especially in the realm of preservation architecture, was a determination to go beyond the mandated assumptions of stability and safety by introducing an innovative elegance marrying new technologies with historic form. His solutions attest to a poetry of invisibility—a symbiosis of means and methods that defined new possibilities and set professional precedents. Right to the last, he taught a course at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design called “The Philosophy of Technology,” imbuing a spirit of inquiry best sustained by a broad cultural awareness and willingness to innovate in the face of restrictive axioms. When at Silman's urging, architect Annabelle Radcliffe-Trenner was brought on as a young consultant by the Hillier Group in 1996 to renovate the notoriously complex, leaky roof of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Racine, Wisconsin, Wingspread, she describes it as a time when “shoving in steel” was the common engineering contingency. Silman instead “turned to the nascent art of computer modeling, using data from an exacting load analysis to solve the problem in a bold new way.” Instead of ill-suited roofers, boat builders banded sheets of carbon fiber, used before then only on ships and jets, around the replacement roof. She added, “He made connections between both people and ideas with a generosity of spirit that inspired all of us working alongside [him]. As with so many others, he set my career in motion and did so at a time when opportunities for women practitioners were still limited.” After studying architecture at Cornell and at NYU graduate school, Silman worked entry-level jobs at Ammann & Whitney, Ove Arup & Partners, and Severud Associates before founding his namesake firm in 1966, a year after the passage of New York’s landmarks law. Jobs on early preservation efforts that were too small for big competitors led to a lifetime of civic engagement and advocacy, even at times when such work might be at odds with the more lucrative prospects of demolition and new construction. Just two years later, the 1968 advent of Beyer Blinder Belle spawned a bond, now in its 50th year. Jack Beyer conveys his loss: “We called ourselves the ‘Four Brothers,’ as Bob demonstrated from the start his peerless skill at weaving strict systems into the historic fabric of landmark buildings. Thanks to his conceptual thinking and capacity to listen even to those with little of use to say, he was never intimidated by existing conditions.” Beyer continued, “Bob and I served as volunteer advisers to the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust, where he figured out how to rebuild and seismically stabilize its great 16th-century wooden pagoda temples. Without reimagining their un-mortared brick foundations, any aboveground restoration work would have failed. His impact was global.” Anthony C. Wood, founder and chair of the New York Preservation Archive Project, recalled, “Whenever preservationists were confronted with a building that opponents said was too far gone to save, the ‘go to’ person to call for structural help was Bob Silman. Generously responding to such calls, he could work his magic to find a way to save the day.” For 11-year Silman Associate Justin Den Herder, “Bob reinforced the importance of all the arts. He was a design-minded collaborator because he was genuinely in love with architecture. He was an effective communicator because he was passionate about literature. He even kept a poster of Gustav Mahler over his desk that likely informed his work at Carnegie Hall, where the German maestro conducted his final concert in 1911 just a few months before his death. No doubt Mahler approved the results of Bob’s graceful hand.”
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Grand Opening Sale

José Esparza Chong Cuy named new director of Storefront for Art and Architecture
New York City’s Storefront for Art and Architecture has a new executive director and chief curator, and it is writer and curator José Esparza Chong Cuy. Esparza will be stepping down from his post as curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and will take over from Storefront’s interim director Jinny Khanduja (who will serve as deputy director) come November 1, 2018. Esparza’s selection follows a summer-long search after Storefront’s previous director, Eva Franch i Gilabert, decamped for London earlier this year to lead the Architectural Association. Franch’s eight-year tenure at Storefront saw the nonprofit organization dramatically expand its fundraising activities, programming, lectures, and the variety of its shows (Full disclosure: The Architect’s Newspaper’s editor-in-chief William Menking serves on Storefront’s board). AN spoke with Esparza on what led him to Storefront, his history with architecture and art, and what’s next for the well-known New York institution now that he’s at its head. Esparza, who grew up in Mexicali and studied architecture in Guadalajara—a city deeply influenced by the legacy of modernist legends like Luis Barragán—was hugely marked by the city’s formalist approach to architectural practice at the time he was studying. This eventually motivated his move to New York City in 2007, where he interned at Storefront and eventually became a curatorial associate under the tenure of former director Joseph Grima. That experience in his early years, according to Esparza, is what gave him a “completely different sense of the practice, both the limits and the possibilities.” A research fellowship at the nearby New Museum, his time spent writing for Domus, and the Master of Science he received in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University in 2012, helped expose Esparza to what he described as a radical new type of energy for the profession. In 2013, Esparza co-curated the Lisbon Architecture Triennale and commissioned work by Frida Escobedo and Andrés Jaque, including Escobedo’s tilting civic stage and Jaque’s Superpowers of Ten. He attributed the experimental ideas he wanted to bring to the Triennale as stemming from his time at Storefront and the organization’s history. So, what’s next for Storefront? In discussing the organization’s future, Esparza was sure to mention the “revolutionary” moment in the 1970s and '80s where museums of contemporary culture sprung up one after another to exhibit work that wasn’t being shown anywhere else. The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded in 1968, El Museo del Barrio in 1969, the New Museum in 1977; Esparza explicitly connected the spirit of that moment to the existence of Storefront (founded in 1982). “I think there is a huge opportunity in the flexibility that a small organization allows. I think it’s a really rare case in the landscape of cultural institutions, not just because it operates at the intersection of art and architecture, but also because it’s preserved its alternative voice. This might be one of the few remaining alternative spaces. “I want to design a strong exhibition-based program that builds on itself, so that somehow, one after another, it unfolds this broader message. I want it to build bridges between not only context and geography, but disciplines and audiences.” Esparza, who previously served as associate curator at Museo Jumex in Mexico City, mentioned that he would also like to expand Storefront’s programming beyond a regional scope to wherever groundbreaking work is occurring, “whether it’s in Chinatown or Caracas.” As the program unfolds, a message of what Storefront is working toward and what it stands for will, according to Esparza, become clear to the audience. Esparza stressed that he would look to bolster both Storefront’s experimental critical voice and its foundations, so that the institution could continue to flourish. “We are thrilled to welcome José to the helm of Storefront, the very institution where he began his curatorial career over a decade ago,” said Charles Renfro, president of Storefront’s board of directors. “Since then, he has established himself as an innovative thinker working across disciplines in some of North America's most prestigious cultural institutions. “José’s rigor and insight will reinforce Storefront’s role as a crucial and necessary platform at the intersection of art and architecture. Through his background and experiences in Mexico, the U.S., and globally, he embodies the broad perspectives that Storefront has become known for, bringing a critical voice to contemporary issues at every scale—from local and regional to national and international. We are excited to have him lead the vision for Storefront’s future.”
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Tags and Timelines

Landmark exhibit explores the rise of hip-hop architecture
The Center for Architecture’s latest exhibition in New York City, Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture, combines 20 years of research on a movement that’s barely been covered before and is at the cusp of exploding. Hip-hop architecture, the movement on view, could become the next big design style despite historically being a lesser-known development compared to the global impact of hip-hop culture on music, film, and dance industries. By tackling issues such as hip-hop's role in identity and placemaking, Syracuse University professor Sekou Cooke curated a special exhibition that details the theoretical and physical rise of hip-hop architecture in the built environment and how it can inform a more inclusive design practice for the future. Now showing in New York through January 12, this comprehensive exhibit unveils the work of 21 architects, professors, and students who have imagined architecture as a distinct part of hip-hop’s cultural expression. The show chronicles these figures through history, starting with the “godfather of hip-hop architecture,” Nate Williams, who completed his thesis on the subject at Cornell University in 1993. Also on display is the work of Boris “DELTA” Tellegen of Heren 5, artists Olalekan Jeyifous and Lauren Halsey, and more. Layered behind the images, drawings, and models in the show is extensive tagging done solely in black by pioneering graffiti artist David “Chino” Villorente. Complemented by graphic design from WeShouldDoItAll, the graffiti brings a visual punch to the Center’s main gallery spaces and transforms their walls into a medium for cultural commentary. Repurposed shipping containers painted white are bolted to the walls, providing another layer of backdrop for the framed artwork. Not only is the exhibit eye candy for visitors and passersby, it also includes audio and video components of lectures, podcasts, and hip-hop music reflecting on the built environment. At Monday’s opening reception, Barry Bergdoll, the new board president of the Center, called Close to the Edge a “landmark exhibition” for the movement of hip-hop architecture and compared it to Philip Johnson’s seminal Modern Architecture International Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. That exhibition drew wide praise and helped usher in the International Style in the United States—something similar to what Cooke and his team hopes will come out of this effort. The Center will host the Hip-Hop Architecture Symposium on Saturday, October 6 from 1 to 6 p.m., moderated by Cooke, as well as a workshop with BlackSpace that will explore architecture as a tool for Black cultural preservation.
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Roundup

Weekend Edition: Art in Maryland, urban renewal in New York, and more
Missed some of our articles, tweets, or Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! AN tours the Glenstone Museum's new Pavilions AN toured the $200-million addition to the Glenstone Museum, a new set of galleries and an additional 130 acres of restored natural woodlands in the suburbs outside of Washington, D.C. After a decade-long fight over I-81, Syracuse inches toward a decision As the battle to run Interstate 81 through the heart of downtown Syracuse drags on, community groups and the state's department of transportation are all jockeying for solutions that won't disrupt the city. Opinion: It’s time to recognize Pereira’s LA Times building The current proposal to bisect the Los Angeles Times’ buildings facing City Hall on First Street would delete a key chapter from the city’s collective memory. That's it! Enjoy the end of September.
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Glenstone Greenery

AN tours the Glenstone Museum’s new Pavilions
The Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, may not be a recognizable name to non-art historians, but with the opening of the institution’s new Pavilions to the public, a 204,000-square-foot collection of galleries, that may all be about to change. The original Glenstone building opened in 2006, as an invitation-only showcase of cofounders Mitchell and Emily Wei Rales’s private collection of post-war art on their property, in the vein of New York City’s Frick Collection. The squat, modernist assemblage, designed by Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, only held 9,000 square feet of gallery space. It’s estimated the facility only welcomed approximately 10,000 visitors from its opening in 2006 through 2013 when the Pavilions were announced. The Pavilions, an assemblage of what appears to be 11 separate volumes, but is actually one interconnected building, was designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners (no strangers to high-end museum design) and vastly expands the Glenstone’s exhibition space. The new complex adds 50,000 square feet of gallery space to the campus, with one room per Pavilion section. Phifer and PWP Landscape Architecture have smartly sited the Pavilions, hiding the double- and triple-height buildings amid 230 acres of restored woodlands. The parking lots have been kept on the opposite side of the property, forcing visitors to take a winding path on which the complex rises and reveals itself along with Jeff Koons’s monumental and ever-changing plant installation, Split-Rocker. Guests must first pass through the new visitors’ center, a smaller Phifer addition that foreshadows what’s to come. The center extends the Pavilions’ presence by using the same material palette; smooth-to-the-touch precast concrete blocks that wrap both the facade and interior, cast-in-place raw concrete ceilings, a terrazzo-epoxy mixture for the floors, full-height windows, and a white maple cladding in the more intimate areas. After descending into the main galleries through the entrance hall, visitors realize that the seemingly disparate volumes spied from outside are all linked by glass hallways and that the pavilions are oriented around an 18,000-square-foot “water court” at ground level. The windows, up to 30-feet-tall in some places, flood the hallways and gallery spaces with natural light, and in the enclosed rooms, clerestory windows and acid-etched skylights create an ever-changing lighting condition. The Pavilions proper were designed around the philosophy of what Emily Wei Rales, also Glenstone’s director, described as “slow art.” The close attention to natural lighting, the spotty cell service, the meandering paths through the landscape, and the guides in each room that will replace information placards, are meant to encourage visitors to slow down and pay close attention to the art. Visiting the Glenstone is free, and the Raleses hope that the changing of the seasons, different weather conditions, and changing light over the course of the day will give guests unique views of the art on each visit. According to Rales, the architecture, landscape, and art are meant to act in harmony and balance each other. Though the Pavilions are a bit austere and over-scaled in places—9 of the 11 rooms are given to a single artist, and some hold only a single piece—small surprises abound. Turning the corner and spotting Martin Puryear’s red Big Phrygian at the end of a hallway is a joyful experience, and noticing how slabs of concrete seem to “float” overhead above the skylights adds an element of danger to sometimes staid rooms. One of the 11 rooms, clad entirely in maple, consists solely of a library, bench, and a massive window that looks out on the landscape, turning the ecosystem and other guests into something to pause and reflect on. Other than the Pavilions and the entrance hall, the $200-million project includes two more intimately scaled cafes and an environmental center that are expected to open in 2019. Glenstone’s newest additions, including the Cafe and Patio buildings, will open their doors to the public on October 4. Visiting hours are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.
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Going Greek

Renzo Piano to “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora” in Baltimore

Johns Hopkins University has hired Italian architect Renzo Piano to design a building for its Homewood campus in Baltimore that will “reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century.” Hopkins commissioned the Renzo Piano Building Workshop of Genoa, Italy, to design a home for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute, an interdisciplinary center dedicated to “strengthening democracy by improving civic engagement and civil discourse worldwide.”

The Foundation announced in June 2017 that it would commit $150 million to launch a joint effort with Hopkins to create the institute, assemble a faculty, and build a home for it on the Homewood campus. The project is called the Agora Institute because one of its goals is to reinvent the ancient Greek agora, or public gathering place. A budget for the building has not been established. The target completion date is 2022.

At 81, Piano is considered one of the world’s leading architects, with major projects on five continents and awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the RIBA Gold Medal, and the AIA Gold Medal. He is the subject of a retrospective that opened this month at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Past projects include the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Shard skyscraper in London; and, with Richard Rogers, the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris. Piano has worked with the donor before to design the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, Greece.

Piano said in a statement that he accepted the commission because he has “great respect” for what the university and foundation want to build. This will be his first project in Baltimore, which has a “sister city” relationship with Genoa. “I was attracted to the Johns Hopkins project for its humanistic nature and also because I have always been interested in making places for learning,” Piano said in a statement. “I am very happy and honored to start this new adventure.”

University president Ronald J. Daniels said he believes Piano is the best choice to design the project. “SNF Agora Institute seeks to reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century,” Daniels said in a statement. “The institute will serve as a forum for scholarly research, the robust exchange of ideas, and for sharing strategies to repair civic discourse and strengthen democracy in America and around the globe.”

As “a visionary who understands the power of public space to foster conversation and create community,” Daniels said, “Renzo Piano is the ideal architect and artist to give physical form to the SNF Agora Institute.”

 

The institute is envisioned as an “academic and public forum” that will bring together experts in fields such as political science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history. Its mission, according to Hopkins, is to “forge new ways to address the deterioration of civic engagement worldwide and facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse that is the cornerstone of healthy democracies.”

The building will house a director, 10 faculty members, 10 visiting scholars, and both graduate and undergraduate students. It will be the setting for a wide range of public events, including an annual conference bringing together “representatives of different viewpoints to examine contested public policy issues.” There will be lectures, symposiums, dinners, and performances.

A site for the institute has not been finalized, and Piano is expected to help make that decision, along with determining the building’s size. Given the nature of the project and stature of the designer, officials say, it is likely that Hopkins will want it to be in a prominent location facing out towards the city, rather than buried deep within the campus.

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Yankee Modern

What is New England architecture?
New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
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Progress and Potential

National Smithsonian symposium will celebrate black architects and planners
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., is gearing up for a national symposium that will reflect on a half-century of work by black American design professionals. Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now will be a three-day event in late September featuring talks and presentations from Sir David Adjaye, Justin Garrett Moore, Mabel O. Wilson, Jennifer Newsom, and many more at Adjaye's NMAAHC building and the National Museum of African Art. The event will highlight the work of black architects and planners since the late '60s, and speakers will reflect on the evolving relationship between design and activism. The events are also intended to allow participants to network and form relationships that could help young designers advance their careers. The symposium is one of many events this year that looks at the profession's progress on racial equity since Whitney M. Young Jr.'s 1968 address to the annual convention of the AIA. In that speech, the then–executive director of the National Urban League exhorted architects to take on the nation's social and political issues, especially those of the nation's cities. He also encouraged the profession to embrace diversity and encourage designers from underrepresented groups to take their place in the design community. Although the symposium has already reached capacity, its Thursday and Friday events will be streamed online here. Shifting the Landscape: Black Architects and Planners, 1968 to Now will take place Thursday, September 27, through Saturday, September 29 at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of African Art, both in Washington, D.C.
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Seems Fishy to Me

SCAPE highlights the importance of oysters on Staten Island
Sorry aquarium lovers, but the two massive fish tanks at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island in New York City are no more. The tanks have been drained, the tropical fish distributed to private collectors, and an installation detailing SCAPE Landscape Architecture’s Living Breakwaters project has gone up in their stead. The change isn’t permanent. The tanks will reopen in 2019 with an as-of-yet undecided educational display curated by a committee of marine biologists, designers, educators, fishery and aquarium experts, and museum curators. Whatever changes eventually come to the tanks will be heavily influenced by the Billion Oyster Project (in partnership with the New York City Department of Transportation, Division of Ferries). The nonprofit is seeking to reseed one billion oysters over 100 acres of reefs across New York Harbor by 2035, which would filter the water and break up oncoming waves. Enter SCAPE, which has partnered with the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) to help realize the Rebuild by Design–winning Living Breakwaters project. As part of the project, a series of offshore breakwaters would be installed off of Staten Island in Raritan Bay that would both buffer the shoreline and create a habitat for marine life. The SCAPE team has been working with the BOP and the Harbor School (a water-centric high school on Governor’s Island) to turn the project into an educational opportunity in the form of the newly installed infographics at St. George. Information about the sea life under the route of the Staten Island Ferry, a breakdown of the schools and restaurants the BOP is working with, the ecological impact of Living Breakwaters, and more will greet ferry straphangers at the terminal for the next few months. SCAPE founder Kate Orff was on hand at the unveiling of the terminal on September 12 and discussed how the two installations were divided into education and design—the confluence of the two being how large landscape architecture projects can move from concept to completion. The temporary installations were funded with a grant from the Northfield Bank Foundation.
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Going Down in Tinseltown

Facades+ Los Angeles will scale the heights of Southern California design

From October 25 to 26, Facades+ will bring local and national leaders of the architecture, engineering, and construction industry to Los Angeles for the fourth year in a row. The first day of the conference features keynotes by Thom Mayne, founding principal of Morphosis Architects; and Heather Roberge, principal of Murmur.

Founded in 1972, Morphosis has spread its distinctive presence internationally. In recent years, the firm has completed the Bill & Melinda Gates Hall at Cornell University, 41 Cooper  Square in New York City, and Kolon One & Only Tower in Korea. Opening in late August, the 123,000-square-foot Kolon One & Only Tower features a sweeping primary facade built of high-tech fiber manufactured by the client. Each fiber appendage is latched to the curtain wall with traditional stainless steel brackets that knife through exterior joints to steel mullions that ring the structure.

Heather Roberge founded Murmur in 2008. The firm’s work is characterized by its experimentation with a broad range of materials to create projects unique in layout and form. In 2015, Murmur unveiled En Pointe, a group of conjoined, aluminum-paneled columns standing atop razor-like fulcrums. According to the architect, “to achieve a balanced state, the mass and silhouette of each column are eccentrically distributed to stabilize its adjacent columns.” Other realized projects, such as the pentagonal Vortex House and a multi-sided addition to a Beverly Hills Residence, highlight Murmur’s unique approach to facade fabrication and design.

Over the last decade, Downtown Los Angeles has experienced an upswell of high-rise development. At Facades+, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) and century-old Los Angeles–based firm AC Martin Partners will discuss the immense change underway. SOM’s Olympia complex is one of the boldest being undertaken in the area, composed of three towers of stacked terraces clad in translucent and clear glass wrapping visible concrete piers. AC Martin, with its long Angeleno history, has continually left its imprint in the downtown area with projects such as the twin-towered City National Plaza built in 1972 and the contemporary 73-story Wilshire Grand Center.

Representatives from Walter P. Moore, CO Architects, HKS Architects, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop, will also be on hand to discuss the assembly of complex facades at ever-rising heights as well as significant projects shaping the cultural scene of Los Angeles, such as The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Further information Facades+ Los Angeles can be found here.

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Autumn Art

Five art shows across the U.S. that architects will love
Art and architecture often share a blurry boundary, borrowing from one another as artists explore the built world, and architects experiment with abstraction. In the upcoming months, there are a number of must-see shows across the country for those interested in art with an architectural attitude. Rachel Whiteread Turner-prize winning Rachel Whiteread has long been one of the most prominent contemporary figures of architectural art. The artist, famous for her 1993 House where she made a concrete cast of the entirety of a Victorian home, is receiving her first comprehensive survey, which has been jointly organized by the National Gallery of Art and the Tate Britain. The exhibition comprises over 100 objects from her 30-plus year career, including documents, drawings, and large-scale sculpture. It also features a number of original works on view for the very first time. After a stint at the Tate and the 21er Haus-Museum of Contemporary Art, Vienna, Austria, the retrospective is on view this fall at the National Gallery of Art before it moves on to the Saint Louis Art Museum. Rachel Whiteread National Gallery of Art 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C. September 16, 2018–January 13, 2019 Michael LeVell / CONDO New York As part of CONDO New York, where galleries across New York City collaborate with other global galleries, White Columns partnered with First Street Gallery in Claremont, California, to present a solo show of Michael LeVell. LeVell, who was one of the eight founding members of the artist-run First Street Gallery, which was created by and for artists “living and working with mental, developmental, and physical disabilities,” creates acrylic paintings and miniature ceramic sculptures of domestic spaces and furniture, relying especially on the homes and furnishings featured in the pages of Architectural Digest, a magazine which he has collected exhaustively for years. Michael LeVell / CONDO New York White Columns 91 Horatio St., New York, New York Through September 15 Buckminster Fuller: Inventions and Models The inimitable R. Buckminster Fuller, famous for his geodesic domes among many other inventions, is getting an exhibition that’s a first-of-its-kind for Los Angeles, the city he last called home. Centered largely around the limited-edition print Inventions portfolio, R. Buckminster Fuller: Inventions and Models will feature an array of prints, objects, and structural models produced in the last years of his life that highlight the radical thoughts of one of the 20th century’s most iconic architectural thinkers. Buckminster Fuller: Inventions and Models Edward Cella Art + Architecture 2754 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, California Through November 3 The Mile-Long Opera, a biography of 7 o’clock This October, New York’s High Line will come to life as singers from across the city perform while visitors move down a mile-long stretch of the elevated park. The opera was organized by High Line architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro along with David Lang, who is the opera’s composer, and features a libretto by classicist and poet Anne Carson and an essay from Claudia Rankine. While free tickets are already sold out for all five nights, hopeful attendees can still join a waiting list. The Mile-Long Opera, a biography of 7 o’clock The High Line, New York, New York October 3–7 Landon Metz: Asymmetrical Symmetry Landon Metz likes to get a sense of the space his work is going to occupy before he creates it. In Landon Metz: Asymmetrical Symmetry, Metz’s paintings of abstract forms presented in an array of diptychs, triptychs, and series, are all made-to-measure in sizes and proportions responding to the particularities of the architecture of Sean Kelly gallery. Most strikingly, this approach results in three ribbons of paintings, bending at 90 degrees, that fold from the wall to the ceiling, managing to make two-dimensional work that flows in and fills the intimidatingly immense space of the gallery. Landon Metz: Asymmetrical Symmetry Sean Kelly 475 Tenth Ave., New York, New York Through October 20