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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.

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Welcome to the new website of The Architect’s Newspaper
When the Architect’s Newspaper was founded in 2003, the internet was not much more than a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye. “WebLogs” had just started to pick up speed, and the social network Myspace had just hit the market, ready to take over from Friendster. Which is why it is so amazing that we managed to have the same website for the last 13 years, without a relaunch. The Architect’s Newspaper was started “in part, out of frustration that so many important architecture and design stories never find a place in the news dailies, the city weeklies, or design monthlies…We will bring you news, big and small, with a catholic sensibility about what architects and designers might consider newsworthy.” The first print issue had a story announcing the curator of the 2004 Venice Biennale, a preview of the new Morphosis design for the Cooper Union, and an article about the then-nascent “U.S.-Dutch-Austrian blob axis.” While much has changed since these early days—there is no need for two pages of event listings—the independent ethos of the paper has lived on, very much to the too-often-unsung credit of publisher Diana Darling and editor-in-chief William Menking. Both in print and online, AN has been a critical voice both in the city of New York and across the country, with four regional editions: East, West, Midwest, and Southwest. These regional papers and contacts in places like Oklahoma City allow us to cover territory often left uncovered. The in-depth coverage and analysis includes zoning measures, preservations fights, transit issues, and other political issues alongside more traditional design coverage. We also are always expanding our coverage of international issues and our engagement with the discourse that affects us all. Our new web editor Zach Edelson will continue this, while putting his own twist on what is happening today. This relaunch aims to carry on our tradition as the most authoritative architecture and design coverage in the United States in a new, contemporary format that can do the content justice. On the old website, the “news” page and a “blog” falsely divided print and web-only content into confusing silos. This will no longer be the case. Fresh, up-to-the minute coverage of architecture, cities, products, and technology will finally be showcased alongside long-form editorial content from leading authors both established and up-and-coming. We hope that the new website will more accurately convey the quality and breadth of the writing. We will also be able to feature more and larger images in a more interactive display, giving readers more visual insight into the projects we feature. The new site will also work better on mobile devices. Now is a time of tremendous growth for The Architect’s Newspaper. We have launched a series of “Late Edition” email newsletters that feature local architecture stories from each of our four regions. You can sign up for one or all of them here. We have also started AN Interior, which is a burgeoning design and culture magazine with a focus on the latest innovations in architectural interiors and products. Look for more online coverage in this area moving forward. Please bear with us as we work out the kinks, and let us know what you think of the new site. We would love to hear your feedback about how it functions and what is working and not working! Here are a few of our most recent stories that will give you a chance to test out the new site! MoMA to Close galleries dedicated to architecture and design  State of the City Why the Met Breuer matters Designing the Border Wall? Why is SHoP designing SITE Santa Fe? OE House by Fake Industries Zaha Hadid passes away How Graves, Koolhaas, and Piano would have altered Marcel Breuer’s iconic Madison Avenue museum Marina City gets landmark status Salt Shed: In Praise of the Urban Object The Memphis Movement Lebbeus Woods: Blogger
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New Practices New York Winner Presentation: Taller KEN with Ennead Architect’s Michael Caton

Brought to you by AIA New York

Zone 14 Canopy_EA23475_Credit Andres Asturias Join us at the Cosentino Showroom (A&D Building 150 E 58th Street) for a talk by AIANY New Practices New York competition winner Taller KEN. Gregory Melitonov of Taller KEN will present his firm's work, followed by a conversation with Michael Caton, AIA, architect with Ennead Architects and executive board member of the National Organization of Minority Architects New York Chapter (NYCOBA-NOMA). Taller KEN, founded in 2013 by Gregory Melitonov and Ines Guzman, is a New York- and Guatemala-based architecture practice focused on playful design with social and cultural relevancy. The studio’s work ranges from mixed-use development to commercial and residential projects and exhibition and installation design. The firm has received awards from the AIA and has been featured in publications including Dezeen, Domus, Dwell, and The Guardian. Melitonov and Guzman previously worked for Pritzker Prize laureate Renzo Piano as part of the design team for the Whitney Museum of American Art. The biennial competition New Practices New York is a preeminent platform in New York City to recognize and promote new and innovative architecture and design firms. The juried portfolio competition is sponsored by the AIANY New Practices Committee and honors firms that have utilized unique and innovative strategies, both for the projects they undertake and for the practices they have established. 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the New Practices Committee and the New Practices New York competition. When: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23 Where: Cosentino Showroom | A & D Building, 150 E 58th Street More info and rsvp here: RSVP  
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Why the Met Breuer Matters
Today, March 18th, at 10 am, the Met Breuer officially opened in the former Whitney Museum at Madison Avenue and 75th Street. The Marcel Breuer-designed building has been restored and updated by an in-house design team and New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle. I had the opportunity to tour the building with the architects and Jorge Otero-Pailos, Associate Professor and incoming director of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia University GSAPP. For a full schedule of The Met Breuer’s opening weekend events, visit their website.
The Architect’s Newspaper: What do you think the Met Breuer means architecturally? Jorge Otero-Pailos: Consider the first show that they are mounting there: Unfinished, Thoughts Left Visible. I think it is in part the Met’s way of signaling their view of the building. They are putting this question of the “unfinished” in relation to the building as their opening show. This is something that I’m very interested in because a work of architecture is never finished in the sense that a work of art could be finished.  With art you can express that work is purposely left unfinished by the artist, but in architecture, even if the architect would have wanted to finish the building, it is constantly being transformed and switched and replaced. Now, part of the interesting thing about all of these brutalist buildings of the 1960s is that they shun away from what we call finishes, you know, like drywall and like trim and like paint, so the building itself evokes this sense of incompleteness, but in a that incompleteness is also showing a type of directness, or an idea about materiality and construction technique being on the foreground, which was prevalent in brutalist architecture. How does the intervention express this? It’s a very subtle work and I think it’s the kind of work that will be imperceptible to most people.  I think that’s one of the really interesting things. There has been a major investment in upgrading the building done on the part of the Met, and it will appear to most people as if nothing has happened.  That in itself is radical in today’s day and age, because we are so used to the trend that the institution needs to have a mark, that it needs to be present, that the branding needs to sort of appear and that the new needs to be expressed somehow, and that the present needs to be expressed.  But here, the present is being expressed as a choice, as a choice to pick a building as opposed to the choice to build a building, which to me is very different and unique, sort of a real different idea about the city, even, than the idea of having to build and having to express the institution somehow.  So this suggests a type of separation between the identity of the user and the identity of the building, which is quite refreshing. So there is a separation between identity of the institution and the building? Yeah. I mean, there is this distance between the two, they coexist, but they are not the same.  I think that’s quite interesting, given the fact that most buildings go up today are so overtly trying to give expression to some sort of corporate identity or city identity or trying to embody the user or the financier or, it seems to me that this loosening up of that relationship is really important as a contribution. What is also refreshing is the role of the architect in the process, because what you would typically have is all of the discussion, not so much about the building, but about the personality and intentions of the architect. Here, we’re forced into a discussion about the building, about the object itself—its qualities, its successes and failures. We think about what it enables us to do and not do, what kinds of shows can be in there and not be in there, what kinds of audiences can be attracted to it, not attracted to it.  So it’s about the building, and that, I think, is really extraordinary today when you look at architectural journalism or even criticism, so much of it tends to fold back on the biographical and the figure of the architect as the source of what gives unity and that becomes the criteria for judgment of the work. I think it’s a hard thing in today’s reality to even conceive of having to rethink this building and engage with it, and I would say that, that’s the exciting part about it, that here people are going to be looking very closely at the building, be looking for signs of change, and they’re going to find that it’s been very carefully manicured to appear as if nothing has changed where a whole lot has happened. What is the relationship of the building to Breuer? It is interesting that a building, in a sense, can have a life after its architect that it doesn’t have to be beholden to that, and that it doesn’t require a new architect in order to be relevant for today. We often hear so much about the need to hire a contemporary architect in order to make the existing building feel contemporary. And I think here, the fact that the architect has chosen not to leave their mark. Beyer Blinder Belle has chosen to hide their mark, which is very different and suggests that the building can be contemporary. The process by which the building can become relevant and contemporary again is not necessarily through the mediation of a contemporary architect, but that it is concerned about whether people will like it or not. Will people come back? And so, will people choose it?  And that sort of leaving it up to the public without over-manipulating it is, I think, a really daring thing that the Met is doing. Yeah.  How does that contrast with the New Whitney, the last big museum to open up in New York? They, in a similar way, kind of take that back seat.  At least, my reading of that Renzo Piano building is it’s really taking a back seat to a lot of other factors, like the city and the “public” and the city and the art, in a way.  But it’s in sort of a different way, maybe. Do you see a difference in the way the institutions are treating the idea of museum experience? I think what I would compare is not so much the new and old buildings, but the last exhibition that the Whitney put up and the first exhibition that the Met is putting up.  Whereas in the last exhibition at the Whitney, they basically devoted the whole museum to Jeff Koons as a type of “hurrah of a contemporary artist,” to make the building feel contemporary by using this blockbuster exhibition of a major artist, versus this notion of the “unfinished,” which is a much more, let’s say, intellectual proposition, less reliant on individual name recognition, and more suggestive of a relationship to the building— a relationship between the art and the building on a conceptual level. These are completely different types of positions on the building from the point of view of the institutions. What do you think is the Met’s point of view about the Breuer building? Well, I think that they’ve treated it more like an art object than a building. I think, for example, it is actually sort of telling that Beyer Blinder Belle has decided to leave the image of human touch, you know, the rub, the lifting of the patina of the bronze railings, to leave that as if it still retains that human touch, as if nothing has been redone, and then to redo all the other pieces where there is not that sort of focalization of attention, where you don’t put your hand. I think that, to me, is super interesting. So they basically, looking at that lobby, it has been the focus of all the attention, and it has been treated as basically an artwork, like another one of the Met’s interiors. They collect interiors. When you look at the Met’s collection, it has a very large collection of period rooms where you have a Frank Lloyd Wright period room and you have an early American Colonial period room and a French parlor period room. I think that sensibility of the period room is very interesting, and it’s a little bit the way it has been installed. Also, that big display is like a label for the whole building, like an object needs a label, right? Especially in museum studies. And when you walk into a museum, you look at a painting, it always has a little label next to it. And so that screen is, in a way, the label for the building. It tells us what the building is now, how it’s being used and what to attend to and so on. I think the potential for that screen is very high. I wonder what they are going to choose in terms of artists or people to design that screen. It should be site-specific. But it would begin to question this relationship between the label and the object, and I think that’s really quite interesting. Is this the biggest period room? I don’t think so. I think I would pick Grand Central for that. That’s a big period room. The Met Breuer is probablt the biggest period room of the Met. How do you think that the visitor experience changes with the addition of the public café space in the courtyard, which will be unticketed? Opening up the bottom courtyard to the public is really quite a radical move. That courtyard has been closed to the public for a very long time, and to recuperate that as a public space, so we can walk off the street and go downstairs and have access to the garden in that sunken court, I think is really an extraordinary move. It sort of completely changes the entrance of the building and the experience of the building from the street, and the experience of the visitor off the street.  I think that will make it a huge success with New Yorkers and with visitors that this has been given over to the public in a serious way, as opposed to just the paying customers. And I think that in a lot of very successful adaptations of historic buildings and museums or expansions or whatever, there is always a rethinking of the entrance and of the entrance sequence and of the entrance experience. It’s just very important to so-called directors of visitor experience today, but also to architects. If you look at the work of Renzo Piano, he always switches the entrance on the building. Look at his work at Isabella Gardner Museum, or at the J.P. Morgan Library. He always shifts the entrance of the building, of the historic building and makes you enter in a different way and circulate through the existing buildings in a different way. And by circulating through them in a different way, you rediscover them, because the sequence is different, the expectations are different.  So I think that opening up of that bottom court does that. It really changes the whole entrance, even though you’re still walking through that bridge. The other thing to remember is that enduring institutions in Manhattan have always moved around, I mean, changed buildings. Madison Square Garden started in Madison Square and is now on 34th Street occupying its 4th building. The Whitney itself is now occupying its 5th building.  Columbia University used to be downtown; it’s now uptown. A bit like hermit crabs, institutions change buildings as they evolve. I think the Met Breuer is interesting because it invites us to look at at the buildings that institutions leave behind and ask questions about their continued relevance within the cultural life of the city. What does it mean for an institution to take over another institution’s building? What sort of institutions will be able to inhabit the New Whitney after the Whitney is gone? Or what sort of institutions will be able to go into MoMA after MoMA moves out?  What will be left? Will it be an object to be shared by everyone in this city? To what degree city is a part of the conception of the architecture, I think is really important. If you look at the Folk Art Museum versus the Breuer building, two very different attitudes about museum expansion and how to deal with an existing significant work of art, of architecture. Now, the Whitney benefited from the fact that it is in a landmark area. It’s in the Upper East Side historic district that protects it. Which was not the case for the American Folk Art Museum. But these are different attitudes to buildings of the recent past, if we can call them that. I think that’s very interesting as a point of comparison of what’s happening in New York City. I mean, it speaks to different attitudes from different types of institutions, different understandings of their duty of care. And interestingly enough, the Met just really started thinking about architecture as a department. They haven’t had an architecture department; whereas MoMA has had the oldest architecture department in the country, for that matter. Maybe that’s a modern versus a sort of pre-modern attitude toward conservation? Or maybe they’re two competing contemporary views. And I think in that is also the degree to which the public is allowed to be involved in the choice and in the discussion about what to do with a building. I think it’s been interesting in both cases. Buildings are constantly unfinished. And so, to get to a point where Beyer Blinder Belle and the Met are actually making in-fillings in the blemishes of the concrete invisible, where they have to actually push the envelope of technology to make that in-fill, to me, is really suggestive of a different type of sensibility, a different way of collecting the present towards the future. I think that, for me, that’s one of the most important things. I mean, there are certain buildings that as New Yorkers, you can’t imagine the future without.  And that is part of the future. That is part of a future that is more realistic than this sort of frictionless future where there is no resistance from reality. I think that is part of what this building does. It just resists. It was built to resist the city, right? Interview edited and condensed for clarity.
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How Graves, Koolhaas, and Piano would have altered Marcel Breuer’s iconic Madison Avenue museum
This month, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is opening the Met Breuer, replacing the Whitney Museum of American Art that called the Brutalist showpiece home for nearly five decades. Last year, the Whitney moved to Renzo Piano's building in the Meatpacking District. The Met is renting the Breuer (now the Met Breuer) on an eight-year lease while David Chipperfield works on a new space for contemporary art. The site of the Met's latest acquisition, however, has a colourful past, fending off near misses from Graves to Koolhaas and Piano.  AN Takes a look at what so nearly could have been.                                 In 1989, the New York Times ran the headline: "The Whitney Paradox: To Add Is To Subtract." Such was Paul Goldberger's distaste for what Michael Graves had originally proposed to lie adjacent to Marcel Breuer's building. Indeed, Graves' Postmodern proposal gave rise to Goldberger questioning: "What value does the Breuer building have, both as a work of architecture unto itself and as a part of the streetscape? And how gingerly, therefore, should it be treated?" Built in 1966, Marcel Breuer's Modernist granite building may be the epitome of abstract architecture, having remained detached for so long, shooing away any potential plunderers of its monumental message. Breuer, a Hungarian and product of Gropius' Bauhaus, went so far as to erect concrete walls to resist interaction with adjacent buildings, keeping them at arm's length.
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AIA New York announces 2016 Design Awards Winners
On Monday, a jury of eight independent architects, educators, critics, and planners gathered at the Center for Architecture to select the winners of the 2016 AIA New York Design Awards. AIA New York’s annual Design Awards program honors design by AIA New York members, work by New York City–based firms, and work in New York City executed by outside architects. This year, the jury sorted through 366 submissions to confer 31 Honor and Merit Awards, including nine Honor Awards in Architecture, three in Interiors, one in Projects, and one in Urban Design. Winning projects will be recognized on April 15th at a fundraiser luncheon for AIA New York. Beginning that day, winning projects will be exhibited at the Center for Architecture, with an opening reception from 6:00–8:00p.m. See below for the winners and honorable mentions in each category: ARCHITECTURE HONOR AWARDS Manhattan Districts 1/2/5 Garage and Salt Shed Dattner Architects in association with WXY architecture + urban design New York, NY Read more from AN here. The Broad Museum Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler Los Angeles, CA Read more from AN here. Chipakata Children’s Academy Susan T. Rodriguez (Ennead Architects); Frank Lupo; Randy Antonia Lott Chipakata Village, Zambia St. Ann’s Warehouse Marvel Architects Brooklyn, NY Read more from AN here. Carmel Place nARCHITECTS New York, NY Read more from AN here. David Zwirner Selldorf Architects New York, NY Read more from AN here. Ryerson University Student Learning Centre Snøhetta with Ziedler Partnership Architects Toronto, Canada Read more from AN here. LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners Brooklyn, NY Read more from AN here. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Building WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism East Hanover, NJ ARCHITECTURE MERIT AWARDS Sugar Hill Housing Adjaye Associates with SLCE Architects New York, NY Read more from AN here. Quonochontaug House Bernheimer Architecture Charlestown, RI Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Diller Scofidio + Renfro Berkeley, CA Read more from AN here. Ernie Davis Hall at Syracuse University Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects Syracuse, NY Public School 330Q Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Queens, NY St. Patrick’s Cathedral Restoration Murphy Burnham & Buttrick New York, NY Read more from AN here. Choy House o’neill rose architects Queens, NY Whitney Museum of American Art Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Cooper Robertson New York, NY Read more from AN here. CENTRO University TEN ARQUITECTOS Mexico City, Mexico Read more from AN here. Mercedes House TEN ARQUITECTOS New York, NY Read more from AN here. Corning Museum of Glass Thomas Phifer and Partners Corning, NY Read more from AN here. INTERIORS HONOR AWARDS Horizon Media Expansion A+I New York, NY CRS Studio Clouds Architecture Office New York, NY Van Alen Institute Collective-LOK New York, NY Read more from AN here. INTERIORS MERIT AWARDS Pivot Architecture Workshop New York, NY Red Bull New York Office INABA WILLIAMS (Design Architect), SLAB (Executive Architect) New York, NY Read more from AN here. PROJECTS HONOR AWARD 2 World Trade Center BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group New York, NY Read more from AN here. PROJECT MERIT AWARDS Chicken Coop Architecture Research Office East Hampton, NY 390 Madison Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates New York, NY Read more from AN here. Reinvent Paris: Creative Mixed-Use Hub NBBJ Paris, France URBAN DESIGN HONOR AWARD Plaza 33 W Architecture & Landscape Architecture New York, NY Read more from AN here. URBAN DESIGN MERIT AWARD The New St. Pete Pier ROGERS PARTNERS Architects+Urban Designers St. Petersburg, FL
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Sam Fox architecture students build expanding foam boat prototype
Ten architecture students at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis have produced a working boat prototype, using expanding polyurethane spray foam as their primary material. The master’s students are following in the steps of the likes of Frank Gehry, Greg Lynn, and Zaha Hadid, who all have recently designed custom yachts. Paired off in twos, teams designed and tested a half dozen smaller prototypes, which they tested in the Grand Basin in Forest Park near the Washington University campus. Two of the prototypes were chosen to move forward to further development and a full size prototype. The goal of the project was to test the material possibilities of a product that is easily found in typical hardware stores, and usually used for housing insulation. The expanding foam for the project was provided by Fenton, MO–based manufacturer Convenience Projects. “The first half of the project was about learning what the material can do. What are its capacities?” Master’s candidate Benjamin Newberry, told WUSTL’s campus journal. “How do you convert it into something that floats?” https://youtu.be/XuG6f3jldh4 Frank Gehry, an avid boater, recently finished FOGGY 2.0, an 80 foot long sailboat he designed for his friend, real estate investor Richard Cohen. In 2013 Zaha Hadid unveiled plans for a 420-foot superyacht prototype which is being used a base design for further investigations by Hadid and Hamburg-based shipbuilders Blohm+Voss. Greg Lynn launched his own carbon-fiber 42 foot racing yacht last year. Lynn used the sailboat as a means of investigating the possibility of monocoque construction with composite materials.
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Nice To Met You
Ed Lederman / Courtesy Met Breuer

The iconic Marcel Breuer–designed Whitney Museum is set to reopen March 18, giving back one of the city’s most beloved architectural spaces. The building will be reborn as the Met Breuer; the Metropolitan Museum of Art will repurpose our old concrete and granite pal as a contemporary arts outpost in an eight-year lease. The agreement includes a restoration and series of contemporary interventions to bring the museum up to speed.

Courtesy Met Breuer
 

“We wanted to take the building from harsh back to handsome,” said Met exhibition designer Bika Rebek, referencing a 1966 Ada Louise Huxtable article that called the quasi-Brutalist Breuer building “harsh and handsome.” Over time, the Whitney had removed many of the warm, “handsome” parts including rich wood details and colorful carpets.

Courtesy Met Breuer
 

The Met’s in-house design group and architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB) had three main goals in mind at the outset: To create a welcoming visitor experience, to treat the building as a work of art, and to establish a Met identity within the building.

These three goals presented challenges. “We had to figure out how to update the building without erasing history,” said Brian Butterfield, senior exhibition designer at the Met. Four interventions will provide this update, including the removal of the flag display in the front, a large media screen in the lobby, a new welcome desk with a subtle, angular form that nods to Breuer’s geometric twists in the original building, and a new public café space with a row of trees by Swiss landscape designer Günther Vogt.

Courtesy Met Breuer
 

BBB led the restoration, which included refurbishing the bush hammered concrete using a precise matching aggregate. They also refinished the floors and updated the wood and metal around the stairs, leaving the patina to show where hands had worn it away over the years.

The Met Breuer will open with its lobby and lower floor un-ticketed. The outdoor area below Madison Avenue will be open to the public, drawing in patrons and passersby. The inaugural exhibitions, also opening March 18, will be Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, which focuses on a wide range of unresolved artworks by the likes of Cézanne and Jackson Pollock; and Nasreen Mohamedi, a retrospective of the Indian artist’s career that includes more than 130 paintings.

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AIA New York’s New Practices Committee Chooses Six Emerging Firms as Winners
New Practices New York, a distinguished competition that’s part of the AIA New York chapter, announced the six winners of its 2016 biennial competition on January 28. To qualify, the practices had to be located within New York City and founded since 2006; the competition was open to multidisciplinary firms, widening the talent pool. The winners are MODU, SCHAUM/SHIEH, stpmj, Studio Cadena, Taller KEN, and Young Projects. The panel of jurors selected the winners from 53 entries, the members are William Menking, AN’s editor-in-chief, Julian Rose, principal of Formlessfinder, Jane Smith, partner at Spacesmith, Martino Stierli, Philip Johnson chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA, and Ada Tolla, partner at LOT-EK. This year’s theme was Prospect and the jury evaluated the firms based on their ability to leverage multiple aspects of their projects and practices and the architecture profession as a whole. The firms will receive a stipend for an installation and exhibition at the Center for Architecture, which will open May 12, 2016, and will participate in symposia and lectures at the Cosentino Showroom, as well as travel to Spain with underwriter Cosentino. About the winners: MODU Codirected by Phu Hoang and Rachely Rotem, MODU is an interdisciplinary firm that focuses on directing people to their environments. The practice has won numerous awards and was given a commendation for “21 for 21” an award that recognizes “the next generation of architects for the 21st Century.” SCHAUM/SHIEH Founders Rosalyn Shieh and Troy Schaum established their firm in 2009 with an emphasis on the city at the scale of a building and the dialogue between projects and urban plans. They operate between Houston and New York City. stpmj Based in New York and Seoul, Seung Teak Lee and Mi Jung Lim founded their firm to explore new perspectives on material and structure with regard to our current social, cultural, environmental and economic fabric. Studio Cadena Benjamin Cadena founded his eponymous studio in Brooklyn; projects range from city planning and commercial projects to exhibitions, houses, and furniture. Taller KEN Part of the design team for the Whitney Museum of American Art, Gregory Melitonov and Ines Guzman founded their studio in 2013. The New York– and Guatemala-based firm’s work includes mixed-use development, residential projects, and installation design. Young Projects Bryan Young founded multidisciplinary design studio Young Projects in 2010 and projects include a retreat in the Dominican Republic, a townhouse in Williamsburg, and a Hamptons bungalow. The firm received the Architectural League Prize in 2013. The New Practices New York 2016 exhibition will be on view at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City from May 12, 2016.
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Architectural Criticism
Courtesy Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects

In nearly every issue, we invite architects, scholars, industry experts, and editors to candidly discuss high-profile projects, urban issues, and events in our architecture criticism column. This year, Los Angeles dominated the spotlight with its collective boom of new museums and buildings, while over on the east coast, Renzo Piano’s Whitney continued to spark conversation.

 

Princeton Train Station

Rick Joy's design for a commuter rail station in Princeton is endowed with civic importance and grace.

[Continue reading.]

 
 
 

Whitney Museum of American Art

Renzo Piano has not made a building to love, but one in which the art viewing experience is given priority.

 

 

UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

Kevin Daly Architects brings the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music into the digital age.

 
 

Bill & Melinda Gates Hall

Michael Webb considers Morphosis' latest "scaly silver beast," this time at Cornell University.

 
 
 

Petersen Automotive Museum

Inspired by automotive design, the Petersen Automotive Museum stops traffic on Wilshire Boulevard.

 
 
 

Creating Community

Lorcan O'Herlihy designs housing in a precarious context.

 
 

Star Apartments

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Jesuit High School Chapel

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Edward M. Kennedy Institute

Rafael Viñoly's  Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston complements adjacent JFK Library.

 

 

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Desert X to bring the art fair circuit to Coachella Valley
File under “X.” A new happening is coming to California’s high desert. Slated to open in February 2017, Desert X is “three-month site-specific international contemporary art exhibition,” aka, an arid art event timed to align with Palm Spring’s Modernism Week as well as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Writer and curator Neville Wakefield, known for curating site-specific works, will serve as inaugural artistic director. It’s promised that his knack for engaging alternative spaces will be on view as artists install in non-traditional spaces—one might expect landscape interventions a la High Desert Test Sites in Joshua Tree—as well as more conventional settings such as the Palm Springs Art Museum, a late modern design by architect E. Stewart Williams and A. Quincy Jones’ midcentury Sunnylands Center & Gardens, renovated by Frederick Fisher and Partners in 2012. “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul,” noted Wakefield. He sets a high bar for the commissioned art works, asking that they simultaneously reflect the ideals and politics of the contemporary art world and respond to the desert context. The press release suggests that the pieces will “amplify and cast a gimlet eye on the geographies, ethnic/social and historical/geologic layers that exist in the southern California desert, while also looking to major movements in contemporary art world-wide.” The exact hows and whos of Desert X remain a vast and unknowable mystery, to borrow the evocative language of the press materials. “The landscape of harsh desert, high mountains, lush golf courses and a vanishing sea, holds a rich history and maintains mythical proportions in the narrative of the American West—one that includes ancient Indian tribes, prospectors, pioneers, and cowboys,” explained Susan Davis, Desert X founder and board president. “We see Desert X as unique in shining a spotlight on the rich preexisting architectural, natural and cultural legacies of the area, while offering the public a way to explore, activate and interrogate current, timely and historic issues through contemporary, creative practices.” However, Desert X’s board is well connected to the regional, national, and international arts organizations, including major arts institutions, such as Whitney Museum of American Art, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, the New Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, and Creative Time. The truth is out there: Wakefield will share his vision and plans for the inaugural exhibition on January 29, 2016 as part of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2016.
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3595 Broadway
3595 BROADWAY IS NOT NAMED AFTER A PATRON, AND HAS A LOW ONLINE PROFILE , BUT ITS ARCHITECTURE LAYS BARE SOME OF THE MOST PRESSING ISSUES IN UNIVERSITY DEVELOPMENT.
Marcelo Lopez-Dinardi

Designed by Renzo Piano, the Jerome L. Green Science Center at the new Columbia University Manhattanville Campus along 125th street and Broadway is basically a square and less expressive version of the Whitney Museum. The Columbia University Medical Center and Graduate Education building at 104 Haven Avenue between 171st and 172nd streets was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It epitomizes the architectural expression of continuity that was characteristic of the late 1990s and early 2000s and is intended to “foster connection and collaboration” among students, faculty and the medical community.

However, it’s Columbia’s 3595 Broadway, a massive, twelve-story concrete structure on the southwest corner of 148th street, that can help us ask questions about the role of the university and its expansion plans. This building is designed by a “specialized” local architectural firm to create “sustainable communities” through “well-designed and high-performance architecture” projects. These designations are highly questionable.

3595 Broadway is not named after a patron or an academic figure, it is only a series of numbers. The numbers are the product of a lot of parcel consolidation, programmatic swapping, development air rights, easement acquisition, and a site strategy that included the demolition of a townhouse built in 1901. 3581-87 Broadway, 3595 Broadway, 3591-3599 Broadway and 600 W 148th Street are all numbers involved in the real estate and architectural operations.

The Columbia University Medical Center by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler
 

3595 Broadway isn't featured in the same high-profile way on the Columbia site like its uptown companions. Here is 3595 Broadway, Manhattanville, and the Medical Center.

The new building will host the Meeting with God Church Inc., currently next door (occupying 3581-87 Broadway since 2007), formalizing the vacating and lot consolidation with 147th street for a future numbered project (also owned by the university). It proposes to construct and manufacture affordable housing 20 blocks north of the Manhattanville Campus as a measure to supply housing to “some residents” who were displaced by the larger operation on 125th street.

3595 Broadway is a massive opaque structure broken in two main volumes with a distinct brick cladding: Red terra cotta and sand-cream are the agents of contextualism. A third color of brick—black—is used to articulate the space between the two main volumes toward Broadway to formally give the impression that there are two buildings instead of one. A third, setback volume atop is fully clad in sand-cream color with black-brick details. A dark-brown cast-stone base fixes the building to the ground.

Renzo Piano’s Jerome L. Green Science Center.
Courtesy of RPBW
 

3595 Broadway followed its legal capacities to build to the very edge of the plot line, permanently blocking two windows per floor of the adjacent 100-year-old brownstone on the west, condemning those units to gloomy interiors. The site’s previous retail building—built around 1969—had a typical eight-to-ten foot easement space for light and ventilation to the building next door. That space gained adds roughly 3,000 square feet to the first four floors, a drop in 3595’s 150,000-square-foot bucket. It seems that the domestic living environment of at least four units with three to five people each (12 to 20 total) was not enough of a reason to keep the light and ventilation patio for the mental sanity of all; it was not enough of a community.

The building is said to have three green roofs. I have seen one from my building rooftop and it’s adorned with mechanical air handling units and exhausts. There is already a surveillance system in place, as well as exterior lighting that produces yellow light typical of the 1990s, most importantly, it is vandal-proof.

I am glad Columbia University will divest from for-profit prison companies (they should eliminate all their ties with them), but perhaps they should also revise the legibility and legality frameworks for their expansion plans. They could re-evaluate what their architecture can be: provocative, controversial, agonistic, or radical. They could at least clarify what “high-performance” means for the new building, and which “sustainable community” they are sustaining. Unfortunately, they fall into the “well-designed” project rhetoric that lacks a proposition. I believe a research university at the highest level should also have highest design ambitions and competencies.

Renderings of the Jerome L. Green Science Center.
Courtesy of RPBW
 

To what “community” does this building serve by implementing these architectural strategies characteristic of the neoliberal propositions of the 1980s? 3595 Broadway’s apparent non-confrontational formal language visualizes critical conditions about how the university positions itself when speaking to their ivy-league-educated audience in their Manhattanville and Medical Center buildings in comparison to the public around their 3595 Broadway building at 148th street. The building in Hamilton Heights is evidence of how architecture is manipulated and treated with different standards (nothing new here) and how their formal, material, visual, programmatic, and even legal strategies (this is the only project where there is no executive architect separated from the design architect) are a concrete infrastructure for impressing and perpetuating what this seemingly innocuous building is doing: patronizing, marginalizing, and stigmatizing a neighborhood with the this-is-what-you-deserve-community-building proposition. Here, both the legible and legal framework clarify the role of architecture as a media for formulating ambitions, or lack thereof.

What is being manufactured is probably something different—something that will not speak to two-tone bricks compositions or legal compliance of construction codes. It makes legible some of the hard realities of the local and global expanding American university, where the school is both a real estate developer and an educational facility. Can or should the university aim for less apparent legibility in order to truly embrace progressive modes of building the future following its academic mandate? Can or should the university stop contributing as an inane city developer with their apparent mundane buildings? 3595 Broadway should not be a bland and insipid sample of physical reality. I am sure the university aims for an improved future for all, but it cannot fail in communities where it may be needed more.

The selection of the architect as designer and the executive architect also supports the problematic legibility all these projects are communicating willfully or not. The hiring of a “specialist” firm to work on 3595 Broadway reaffirms both the lack of “specificity” that a project may require (and questions the idea of specialization itself) and the problem of disciplinary knowledge in an architectural commission.

All the university’s expansions will for sure score the “green points” needed for institutional validation including that of the Enterprise Green Communities, although I am still struggling to find the “high” and the ‘”performance” in 3595 Broadway. Perhaps it is only in the less apparent numbers that no one in the neighborhood will see or experience with exception of rent hikes. There is much to discuss about the Manhattanville Campus and the Medical Center, their content, and the role of the university in them. Unfortunately, 3595 Broadway is a mute conversation.