Search results for "whitney"

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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
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.

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Building of the Year: East
Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Cooper Robertson

For AN’s third annual design awards, seven jurors gathered in New York to review nearly 500 projects submitted by architects and designers.

The jury included Amale Andraos, dean of Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; Nicholas Koster, project manager at Snøhetta; Chee Perlman, editor and curator of Chee Company; Ana Garcia Puyol, computational designer at Thornton Tomasetti; Ali Tayar; founder of Parallel Design Partnership, Terence Riley, founding partner at Keenan/Riley, and Mimi Zeiger, AN’s west coast editor.

In each category, a winner and an honorable mention were selected, although there were a couple of ties. Over the coming days, we will be posting their selections in the 21 categories.

Building of the Year Winner

Nic Lehoux

Whitney Museum of American Art
Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Cooper, Robertson & Partners
Location: New York

Nic Lehoux

Located on Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, the new Whitney Museum of American Art is at the epicenter of New York’s newest cultural district. Clad in pale blue-gray steel panels, the nine-story, powerfully asymmetric building responds to its low-rise neighbors with a series of linked terraces that step back from the adjacent High Line. Next to the Hudson River, the design anticipates the effects of climate change and protects the museum from storm surges and rising water levels with a combination of integrated flood gates, protection at all possible infiltration points, and temporary deployable barricades.

Honorable Mention

Courtesy Jonathan Levi Architects

Building of the Year: East
Project: Field Public Elementary School
Architect: Jonathan Levi Architects
Location: Weston, Massachusetts


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Taking Buildings Down: Storefront provokes ideas on the built environment in new competition
Perhaps following up on its Halloween Party this year that explored the theme "DEMO," as in DEMO-lition among other words sharing the root, the Storefront for Art & Architecture has launched a competition called "Taking Buildings Down," where “removal is all that is allowed.” The competition takes what is usually considered to be a violent act and calls upon “anyone interested in articulating visions for the future of our built environment” to submit proposals for “the production of voids; the demolition of buildings, structures, and infrastructures; or the subtraction of objects and/or matter as a creative act.” The intent of the “competition of the competition of competitions” is to elicit ideas about demolition, to provoke criticism, and to speculate. Judges include Jeff Byles, author of Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition; architect and professor at Yale University, Keller Easterling; associate professor and associate dean at the New School’s School of Media Studies and adjunct curator of new media arts at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Christiane Paul; and principal of  Selldorf Architects, Annabelle Selldorf. Monetary prizes will be awarded to first, second, and third place winners; winning entries and “any additional entries deemed to be worthy of publication” will be published by Storefront for Art & Architecture. Entries are due on January 20th. More information, including specific eligibility and criteria, can be found here.
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Mathews Nielsen
Courtesy Mathews Nielsen, Heatherwick Studio

The history of landscape architecture in America goes back to the writings and activism of Andrew Jackson Downing and, of course, Frederick Law Olmsted. While there has always been a segment of the profession that focuses on estate gardening and horticulture, there are other firms who have a more socially engaged and expansive view of the profession. One thinks, for example, of Thomas Church, Dan Kiley, Lawrence Halprin, and Garret Eckbo, who all brought new ways of thinking and transforming the built landscape but primarily focused on the public nature of their practice and commissions.

Perhaps the most famous of these figures was Ian McHarg, a Scotsman who founded the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, but who more importantly brought a renewed emphasis on urban planning and what he called “natural systems” (with his 1969 book Design with Nature) into the profession. Today, landscape architecture combines McHarg-influenced environmental awareness, city planning, storm water management, and aesthetic concerns of the in-between spaces we inhabit in the city. This public nature of the profession is the focus of many firms today—no more than at the New York office of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, who work almost exclusively on public, state, and institutional projects. More than nearly any other firm, they have transformed the postindustrial landscape of New York. It is very important, Signe Nielsen said, “that our work is publicly accessible and as a result we don’t generally do private residential projects or we don’t do green field sites, i.e. commissions to transform farmland into housing or forests to shopping centers.” Improving the life of everyone in the city is important, and if there is a social justice component, then all the better.

The 30-member firm (approximately 60 percent are licensed landscape architects) believes that “designers are public intellectuals” and as such they teach, are engaged in professional societies, and lecture around the country on their profession—one that Kim Mathews writes, “embodies hope and requires a longer, larger vision.”

Signe Nielsen has also served as president of the New York Public Design Commission for four years and claims that “we don’t just work in challenged neighborhoods, but our work has to be publicly accessible and leave the city better than before we were engaged.”


Food Center Drive
South Bronx, NY

This transformation of Food Center Drive takes one of the least pedestrian-friendly and polluted boulevards in the South Bronx and makes it a public amenity. This mile-long route serves as an entry into the city’s Food Distribution Center for its 16,000 employees and those who live around the center. The design evolved out of Mathews Nielsen’s earlier South Bronx Greenway Master Plan and creates a shared pedestrian vehicle path by reconfiguring the traffic pattern to a one-way loop, thereby reducing the road from six to five lanes. But even more it incorporates innovative storm-water capture and biofiltration strategies to contribute a significant new biomass. Within the median and new greenway buffer, there are over 700 trees in addition to understory grasses and shrubs. The project is scheduled for completion in October.


Industry City Courtyard
Brooklyn, NY

The redesign of Brooklyn’s long-derelict Industry City courtyard is a model of how to take an impressive, but slightly oppressive interior open area and make it desirable. The space divides two 600-foot-long buildings (and a shorter third side connecting structure) with 33,000-square-feet of courtyard space open toward Gowanus Bay, the sunset, and a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. To complement the large mass and immensity of the overall space, they used a plant palette of ferns and various monotone greens laid out in large directional swaths. Further, the form of the columnar maple trees plays off of the repetition of the building columns as well as the industrial smoke stacks and ventilation pipe remnants. Trees were chosen for the beautiful red fall color that will inevitably complement the weathering steel forms in the courtyard. The schedule of the project from concept to construction was condensed into just ten months.


Pier 55
New York City

In 1993, the firm began designing what would become the most complete (and badly maintained) contemporary park and infrastructure in Manhattan—Hudson River Park. Now, they have been chosen to add to the park with the creation of a new freestanding Pier 55 that sits off the shoreline just north of the new Whitney Museum. The Pier, which they are designing with the English Heatherwick Studio, is meant to be a 2.4-acre public park and performance space on the Hudson River. The form is conceived as a “leaf floating in the water,” and contains “an unexpected topography” of four lifted corners, each manifesting a landscape typology derived from their solar aspect, slope, and relationship to paths and performance venues. A variety of paths and stairs create circuits throughout the pier to maximize engagement and convenience for event-goers. The project is largely funded through a private donation of the Diller–von Furstenberg Foundation and is scheduled to begin construction in May 2016.


Randall’s Island Connector
South Bronx, NY

Mathews Nielsen seems to be single-handedly transforming the South Bronx into a borough of green boulevards, parks, and pathways. Taking off from their South Bronx Greenway Master Plan, they have created a brilliant connecter from the area to the recreational facilities on Randall’s Island. It not only creates access to badly needed recreational facilities, but also increases the area’s green infrastructure by treating all storm water on site and using native, drought-tolerant plants to avoid irrigation.

The quarter-mile connector runs from 132nd Street in the Bronx, underneath the Hell Gate Bridge viaduct piers, through a historic railway facility still in use, and over the Bronx Kill waterway to Randall’s Island. It includes a sustainable landscape, an at-grade rail crossing, pedestrian-bicycle improvements, and a pedestrian-bicycle bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists have a powerful landscape experience as they pass through the massive Hell Gate Bridge viaduct piers. The project will be open to the public fall 2015.

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Aarhus Bling: James Turrell working with Schmidt Hammer Lassen to design ARoS Art Museum Expansion
While the world has been discussing how much Drake’s “Hotline Bling” music video borrowed from James Turrell’s installations (Hint: a lot*), ARoS Aarhus Art Museum in Denmark announced that the artist is collaborating with Danish architecture firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen on the museum’s new expansion. “The Next Level” expansion project will contain a 12,900-square-foot subterranean gallery and two semi-subterranean art installations, The Sphere and The Dome. Intended to “bring the museum into the elite world of modern art museums,” the extension will cost an estimated $32 million. Schmidt Hammer Lassen originally designed the space in the early 2003 and is working with the museum and the artist to retain the building’s original integrity so the expansion will feel seamless and natural. The firm also worked with Olafur Eliasson on Your Rainbow Panorama, which opened last year. “The Next Level project will develop the museum horizontally in contrast to the existing vertical movement and it is exciting to work with the great lines spanning from the river to the square of the Aarhus Music Hall. Our studio is not just designing a new room for a new artwork, we are co-creating the space and the installation simultaneously with James Turrell,” Morten Schmidt, founding partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen said in a press release. It seems that Turrell is having quite the week. In addition to the AroS expansion, it was also reported that Yvette Lee of the Guggenheim and Whitney Museum will be the new director of the Roden Crater in Arizona (The crater’s completion date has still not been released.) Responding to Drake's video set*, Turrell had a few select words. "While I am truly flattered to learn that Drake f*cks with me," wrote Turrell in a statement from his lawyer via Vice, "I nevertheless wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my woes was involved in any way in the making of the ‘Hotline Bling' video." If you want to decide for yourself, we recommend watching the music video below and then glancing at a few installations. (If you want to go further down the bizarre rabbit hole, AN has also previously reported rumors from CityLab that “Hotline Bling” is about poor city planning.)
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God Is In The Details
John Baer

Shrouded in scaffolding for three years, St. Patrick's Cathedral’s renovation is nearly complete. Initiated in 2006, renovations stalled due to the 2007 economic recession, but began again in earnest in 2012.

Why now? The Archdiocese of New York was concerned about stone falling off the aging structure. They commissioned New York’s Murphy Burnham & Buttrick (MBB) to spearhead the renovation with a mandate to repair, stabilize, and preserve.

Built in 1879, the original structure was designed by James Renwick Jr., one of 19th century America's preeminent architects. MBB’s Jeffery Murphy, the renovation's lead architect, stresses that the St. Patrick's Cathedral project is "conservation, not restoration. "While restoration brings a building back to a specific style or time, conservation incorporates features from multiple time periods to display a full history of the space. There are features of the building that are now integral to its appearance but were not part of Renwick’s original design. In the 1940s, for example, archways made of Georgia marble were added to the Fifth Avenue entrances, lending a different character to the building’s exterior.

Whitney Cox / Esto; Courtesy Murphy Burnham & Buttrick

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is beloved locally and protected nationally: The cathedral, as well as the rectory, Lady Chapel, and Cardinal’s residence on the same block, are National Historic Landmarks, a designation reserved for iconic structures with national historical significance. Uncovering Renwick’s original style with only fragmentary visual evidence of the original structure was the project’s overarching challenge.

Commenting on the renovations, Monsignor Robert Ritchie referenced Cardinal Dolan's opinion that "the conservation of St. Patrick's Cathedral is about spiritual renewal." During renovations, the church continued to welcome tourists and worshippers.  Priests held the usual seven masses per day, calibrating their voices over the construction noise. The project is also a financial commitment for the Archdiocese, which estimates that interior and exterior renovations have cost $177 million so far.

Over nine years, approximately 140 designers and consultants, along with a team of 20 engineers, oversaw more than 30,000 interior and exterior repairs and modifications to the structure. Sustainability plays a major, and visible, role in the conservation process. The Archdiocese has invested in green energy, with ten geothermal wells planned for the site. The wells extend 2,200 feet underground, and will provide a 30 percent reduction in energy.

Whitney Cox / Esto

Raymond Pepi, founder and president of New York’s Building Conservation Associates (BCA), led the forensic analysis of the site. The team took an archival, rather than a decorative, approach to the conservation, matching current conditions as closely as possible to their historic origins. The team conducted materials analysis on hundreds of paint samples, scrutinizing each under a microscope to reveal the original color. Once determined, historic paint colors were calibrated again to be seen accurately under (much brighter) modern-day lighting. That level of analysis was applied to every piece of woodwork, plaster, stone, and glass. So far, around 150 masons, painters, carpenters, and other builders have labored on the project.

At times, there were over 100 people working at once on the cathedral. To coordinate the activity, MBB partner Mary Burnham said the team used Autodesk’s BIM 360 Field, an app that enables each team member to identify problems, flag repairs, suggest conservation methods, and allows the design team to follow up on the work as it was completed.

Whitney Cox / Esto

Transparency, inside and out, is a salient feature of new design elements. Monsignor Ritchie is emphatic that the Cathedral keep its doors open to all. New programmatic elements include sliding glass doors at the main entrance on Fifth Avenue so that, even in winter, the 9,000-pound double bronze doors flanking the entrance may remain open without letting in the cold.
Pollution, particularly candle soot, turned the ceiling and parts of the walls army green (low smoke candles are the norm going forward).

Pepi pointed out some of the quirks of the structure that the renovations highlight. St. Patrick’s, unlike textbook Gothic cathedrals, lacks flying buttresses. Renwick intended to create the ceiling in stone, but, when construction resumed post Civil War, stone was too expensive. The ceiling was done in plaster, instead. Lighter than stone, the concrete ceiling no longer required structural support from the flying buttresses. The renovations reveal the original tri-colored ceiling that Renwick cleverly designed to look like stone.

The interiors were curated to increase the space's comfort and reduce visual clutter. Signs and statuary were repositioned to harmonize with the space. Preservationists restored the glass and glazing on 3,200–3,300 stained glass panels in situ. MBB vented the bottom of the windows to improve air circulation, and maintain a more even temperature around the delicate glass. While most of the glass would have been severely damaged by removal, approximately five to six percent of panels in need of intensive repair were removed and shipped to master glass restorer Ettore Christopher Botti of Botti Studios (Chicago).

The exterior received the same level of scrutiny and care. The renovation team scrubbed the facade with Rotec, a gentle (25 PSI) spray of glass and water, to reveal any damage to the building. The original structure, said Murphy, was supposed to look as if it was "poured into a mold and deposited on the sidewalk." Uneven aging of the stone and grout caused the exterior to appear more variegated than intended. The current, cleaned facade recaptures the 1879 look of the building.

BCA catalogued each repair and is in the process of preparing a maintenance manual so that today’s conservation will last well into tomorrow. As Pepi noted, “the day after you’ve finished the building, it starts to deteriorate immediately.”

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Archtober Building of the Day 20> Renzo Piano's Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art 99 Gansevoort Street, Manhattan Renzo Piano Building Workshop in collaboration with Cooper Robertson When the Whitney Museum made the move from its iconic Breuer Building to a new location in Manhattan's Meatpacking District, the institution was “returning to our downtown roots,” Larissa Gentile, New Building Project Director for the Whitney, told today’s Archtober Building of the Day Tour attendees. The museum’s shiny new steel-clad, Renzo Piano–designed building, which opened in May, is situated between two linear parks running through Manhattan. Piano conceived of the building as a link between the High Line, just east of the museum, and Hudson River Park, just west. Visitors to the Whitney never feel far from either of these green spaces—on each of the eight floors of the museum, strategically located windows frame scenes of the Hudson River and out onto the city skyline. The interplay between interior and exterior is a defining element of the new Whitney. Gentile described the institution and the architect’s intentions for the building to engage in a dialogue with its urban context. The building has eastward-facing terraces on each level of the museum, connected by an outdoor staircase. These “outdoor galleries” not only give museum-goers iconic views of stretching across Manhattan, but also allows those strolling down the High Line, or driving down the West Side Highway, an opportunity to see some of the museum’s impressive collection. The exterior staircase allows visitors to move between gallery floors outside, so as to alleviate some internal circulation issues that might arise given the museum’s record-breaking number of visitors. On the ground level, the museum lobby is a porous and open glass space, meant to feel like an extension of the pedestrian streetscape. Passersby glimpse what is going on in the museum—indeed, today, although the museum was closed to the public, people walking by were privy to the installation process of the new Frank Stella exhibition underway. “Exposing the machine of building, and revealing the institution as an entire organism, was an exciting opportunity for the museum,” Gentile told us. Throughout the building, staff offices, research spaces, conservation labs, and educational facilities, that, in the old building, were either non-existent or tucked away, are now revealed to museum-goers. The new Whitney has greatly increased gallery space. Each gallery was designed to be column-free and highly flexible, so as to allow curators and artists to reimagine the space with every show. The gallery size and ceiling height varies from floor to floor, giving the museum a distinctly different feel as you travel throughout it. The top floor gallery is bathed in natural light from a skylight above. Some galleries are much more intimate, displaying smaller paintings and works on paper, while more spacious areas of the museum house impressive sculptures and installations. In addition to adding more gallery space for the museum to display its 22,000-object permanent collection and creating new educational and conservation facilities, the new, soon-to-be certified LEED Gold museum building also houses a flexible theater space with multiple projection options, and retractable seating, allowing the museum to host lectures, performances, and installations. As Gentile told our tour, “No space here has one function.” The highly mutable building provides the opportunity for the institution and visitors alike to engage intimately with both the cultural and urban milieus this city has to offer. Alex Tell is the Committee's Coordinator for the AIANY | Center for Architecture.
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Roadside Renzo
Kum & Go HQ gets the Renzo Piano treatment.
Courtesy Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Menil Collection. Parco della Musica Auditorium. The new Whitney Museum. The Art Institute of Chicago. And, now, Kum & Go Headquarters.

Renzo Piano’s latest client is the family-owned, Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain Kum & Go. His contribution to Des Moines will further move one of the region’s most prominent businesses from a suburban campus choked by cars and cul-de-sacs into a redeveloping district featuring a public library by David Chipperfield and a sculpture park by New York-based architects Mario Gandelsonas and Diana Agrest.

Piano’s design packages all the features that an ever-widening base of clients come to him for. Its strong, terraced horizontal lines hint at the indigenous Prairie Style, lightened with span after span of floor-to-ceiling glass. The five-story building (complete with rooftop garden) is suspended over a glass-walled entrance pavilion via a series of thin steel columns, offering Piano’s best chance in this project for his hallmark structural poetry.

Boasting expansive Prairie Style terraces and a wealth of glass, Piano’s building is expected to open in 2018.

Project manager Danielle Hermann of OPN Architects (the local architects of record) says the plan is intended to have the “building floating over the landscape.” The approximately $100 million project will begin construction late this fall, and is expected to be complete by 2018.

“Lightness, simplicity, and openness are the main concepts expressed in the design,” said Piano in a press release. “The four vast planes flying over the site will emphasize the lightness and the transparency of the building, and will dialogue with the sculpture park nearby.”


A third of the four-acre site will be taken up by Piano’s building, leaving ample room for a landscaped, privately-owned public park space that will serve as an extension to Gandelsonas and Agrest’s Pappajohn Sculpture Park across the street. Piano’s plan is designed to defer to the sculpture garden, while offering cool, shady outdoor space that complement the topography next door.

The Kum & Go building “should serve as a community connector and really fit well in the site—to serve as a natural, artful extension of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park,” said Kum & Go CEO Kyle Krause.


The neighborhood, called Gateway West, is a master-planned area of redevelopment, and a building by a Pritzker Prize–winning architect could be its crown jewel. Beyond Kum & Go and the sculpture park, it hosts the Chipperfield library, several other corporate headquarters, and a raft of new restaurants, several of which have been installed into adaptively reused buildings. Previously an undefined edge-zone abutting the corporate, modernist highrises of downtown, “It’s creating a new place in the city of Des Moines,” said Erin Olson-Douglas, an architect with the city who works on economic development and urban planning.

Krause’s family will own the building, with Kum & Go (who operate 100 LEED-certified gas stations) as a tenant. Krause proffered the vision for moving the company into the city center from the suburban campus they were rapidly outgrowing. Inspired by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (who moved his company from the suburban fringe of Las Vegas to its downtown), Krause wanted to harness the same urban energy that comes through chance encounters in active, vibrant places, according to the company’s senior vice president of store development Nikki DePhillips.

The attention Piano has focused on the city is reason to be proud, said Olson-Douglas, but it is also an opportunity to exorcise some fly-over-country anxiety. When Piano was selected, Olson-Douglas wondered, “Are we really good enough for that?” But, with an art museum by Eliel Saarinen, IM Pei, and Richard Meier, and Drake University’s Eliel and Eero Saarinen master plan, “There’s always been a culture of high architecture,” she said. “The decision the Krauses made ups that ante, and reinforces that history.”

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Pictorial> Conservation work at New York City's St. Patrick's Cathedral is finally (almost) complete
Shrouded in scaffolding for three years, renovations on St. Patrick's Cathedral are nearly complete. Initiated in 2006, renovations stalled due to the 2007 economic recession, but began again in earnest in 2012. Pope Francis' upcoming New York visit advanced the project timeline. The Archdiocese of New York commissioned Murphy Burnham & Buttrick to spearhead the renovation. Built in 1879, the original structure was designed by James Renwick, Jr., one of 19th century America's preeminent architects. Jeffery Murphy, the renovation's lead architect, stresses that St. Patrick's Cathedral is "conservation, not restoration." While restoration brings a building back to a specific time, conservation incorporates features from multiple time periods to display a full history of the space. Commenting on the renovations, Monsignor Robert Ritchie referenced Cardinal Dolan's opinion that "the conservation of St. Patrick's Cathedral is about spiritual renewal." During renovations, the church welcomed visitors and held its usual seven masses per day. The project is also a financial commitment: the Archdiocese estimates that interior and exterior renovations have cost $175 million so far. Over nine years, approximately 140 designers and consultants, along with a team of 20 engineers, oversaw more than 30,000 interior and exterior repairs and modifications. Raymond Pepi, founder and president of Building Conservation Associates, led the forensic analysis of the Cathedral. That analysis enabled the design team to make restoration and conservation decisions on the basis of the strength and integrity of the building's woodwork, plaster, stone, and glass. So far, around 150 masons, painters, carpenters, and other builders have labored on the project. At times, there were over 100 people working at once on the Cathedral. To coordinate the activity, architect Mary Burnham says the team used BIM 360 Field, an app that allows each team member to identify problems, flag repairs, suggest conservation methods, and allow the design team to follow up on the work as it's completed. Transparency is a salient feature of the new design. New programmatic elements include sliding glass doors at the main entrance on Fifth Avenue so that, even in cold weather, the 9,000 pound bronze doors to the cathedral are always open. The team blasted the facade with a mixture of glass and water to reveal any damage to the building. The original building, says Murphy, was supposed to look as if it was "poured into a mold and deposited on the sidewalk." Uneven aging of the stone and grout caused the exterior to appear more variegated than intended. The current, cleaned facade recaptures the 1879 look of the building. The interiors were curated to increase the space's comfort and reduce visual clutter. The design team worked with the clergy to eliminate plastic signage and statuary placed haphazardly in the interior. Signs and statuary were repositioned to harmonize with the space. Preservationists restored the glass and glazing on 3,200–3,300 stained glass panels in situ. Approximately 5 to 6 percent of panels were removed and restored by Ettore Christopher Botti of Botti Studios. Significantly, the Archdiocese of New York has invested in green energy, with ten geothermal wells planned for the site. The wells extend 2,200 feet underground and will provide 30 percent of energy for cathedral.    
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Remember the Battery Park City wheatfield? Conceptual artist is back with a horticultural pyramid in Queens
  [Editor's Note: Socrates Sculpture Park on the Queens waterfront installed The Living Pyramid, a public sculpture by Agnes Denes in May, when this article was originally published. They have just announced that they will extend the life of the sculpture through the end of October. The work is Denes’ first since her iconic Wheatfield – A Confrontation in 1982, sited on a waterfront landfill in what is now Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. Do not miss this chance to see this important artwork before it comes down next month.] Monuments of pre-civilization feats in construction and engineering, pyramids are the latest muse of conceptual artist Agnes Denes who, in 1982, transformed what is now Battery Park City into a two-acre wheatfield. Titled Wheatfield - A Confrontation and featuring the backdrop of a construction site and jostling Manhattan skyscrapers, it’s not difficult to surmise Denes’ intentions. Likewise, her latest project, Living Pyramid resonates with a rebellious call to the wild. Made from soil and thousands of seeds, the pyramid will be erected in late April at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens. On May 17, the public is invited to plant the seeds, which, by early June, will have bloomed into wildflowers and leafy plants. Living Pyramid itself will remain on view until August 30, when cooler weather begins to encroach once again. The sculptural exhibition is Denes’ first major exhibition in the city since Wheatfield, although her work has been displayed at New York City’s prime museums including MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum. “What [pyramids] all convey is the human drama, our hopes and dreams against great odds,” Denes said in a press release. “Transformed into blossoms, the pyramid renews itself as evolution does to our species.” Long a fixture in Denes’ work, pyramids are also central to her exhibition In the Realm of Pyramids: The Visual Philosophy of Agnes Denes on view at the Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects from March 14–May 9.
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Beyer Blinder Belle restoring Marcel Breuer's Whitney building for 2016 reopening under the Metropolitan Museum
The Met Breuer will throw open its doors in March 2016 for the first season of contemporary art programming under the banner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Breuer's iconic building, formerly the Whitney Museum of American Art, is currently being "invigorated by renovations that will support a fluid, integrated experience of art and architecture," as the Met's press release proudly declares. The renovation seeks to integrate art throughout the entire museum. Immediately upon entering, visitors will be greeted by artist-in-residence Vijay Iyer, who will be conducting a performance installation. It's a short elevator ride up to four additional floors of "contemporary art in dialogue with historic works" in the Met's collection. “The Met is proud to become the steward of this iconic building and to preserve Marcel Breuer’s bold vision,” said Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met, said in a statement. “Our approach to inhabiting and interpreting the building honors Breuer’s intent for the space, highlighting its unique character as an environment for the presentation of modern and contemporary art. The wonderfully scaled galleries and interior spaces of The Met Breuer provide a range of opportunities to present our modern and contemporary program, in addition to our galleries in the Fifth Avenue building.” Beyer Blinder Belle is spearheading the restoration efforts, including touching up Breuer's distinct concrete walls, stone floors, bronze fixtures, and lighting. The architects are working hard to preserve the building's weathered patina rather than scrubbing and polishing its history away. A streamlined entry sequence, new restaurant, sunken garden, and "book bar" retail shop are also planned. "What should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan?" Breuer asked in 1963 upon receiving the commission to design the new Whitney. "It is easier to say first what it should not look like. It should not look like a business or office building, nor should it look like a place of light entertainment. Its form and its material should have identity and weight in the neighborhood of 50-story skyscrapers, of mile-long bridges, in the midst of the dynamic jungle of our colorful city. It should be an independent and self-relying unit, exposed to history, and at the same time it should transform the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art." The inaugural showing includes free entry to the lobby and lower-level galleries. According to the Met:
The inaugural season of The Met Breuer features a major cross-departmental curatorial initiative to present a historic examination of unfinished works of art; the largest exhibition to date dedicated to Indian modernist Nasreen Mohamedi; and a month-long performance installation, by Artist in Residence Vijay Iyer. Upcoming exhibitions include a presentation of Diane Arbus’s rarely seen early photographic works (July 11– November 27, 2016), and the first museum retrospective dedicated to Kerry James Marshall (October 25, 2016 – January 22, 2017).
The building has been vacant since the Whitney decamped for its new Renzo Piano–designed Meatpacking outpost perches astride the High Line. Meanwhile Uptown, Richard Morris Hunt's grand Beaux Arts beauty is in the midst of a conceptual plan by David Chipperfield Architects that will eventually guide the redesign of the complex's Southwest Wing.