2019 Best of Design Award for Temporary Installation: Soft Civic Designer: Bryony Roberts Studio Location: Columbus, Indiana Soft Civic, a site-specific architectural installation by Bryony Roberts Studio, responded to both the architectural geometry of the historic Columbus City Hall building and its symbolic role as the center of civic leadership in the community. Through the insertion of custom-fabricated structures with colorful woven surfaces, the project activated the public space surrounding the building’s main entrance as a destination for play, performance, and participation. These new structures enhanced existing activity at City Hall and hosted a series of community-driven events on the themes of democracy and leadership as part of the 2019 Exhibit Columbus program. Addressing the monumental architecture of the City Hall build- ing, designed in 1981 by Edward Charles Bassett of SOM, Soft Civic turned its monumental geometry into soft, pliable structures.Honorable Mention Project Name: Salvage Swings Designer: Somewhere Studio Editors' Picks Project Name: Lawn for the National Building Museum Summer Block Party Designer: Rockwell Group Project Name: Coshocton Ray Trace Designer: Behin Ha Design Studio
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The Old College Try
2019 Best of Design Awards winners for Building Renovation — Civic
2019 Best of Design Award winner for Building Renovation — Civic: Keller Center Designer: Farr Associates Location: Chicago Farr Associates and Woodhouse Tinucci Architects have transformed a 1964 Edward Durell Stone building on the University of Chicago’s South Campus into the Keller Center, the new home of the Harris School of Public Policy. Policy-inspired design solutions connect with the community, place policy on display, and shape the project’s approach to sustainability. The existing, expansive concrete structure offered little connection to the exterior environment. With the renovation, a four-story atrium carved into the building brings daylight down to its lowest level. A monumental stair promotes active design and extends the warmth of the forum up through the atrium with reclaimed ash trees, which were harvested from downed Chicago Park District trees and milled by local residents through a collaboration with artist Theaster Gates. Structural Engineer: Stearn-Joglekar Lighting Designer: AKLD Landscape Architect: site design group Civil Engineer: TERRA Engineering MEP Engineer: dbHMS Honorable Mentions Project Name: Centennial Planetarium Designer: Lemay + Toker Project Name: Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art Designer: Sparano + Mooney Architecture Editors' Picks Project Name: Oregon Conservation Center Designer: LEVER Architecture Project Name: National Arts Centre Rejuvenation Designer: Diamond Schmitt Architects
2019 Best of Design Award for Landscape — Public: Josey Lake Park Designer: Clark Condon Location: Cypress, Texas Josey Lake Park is a 140-acre recreational green space that connects users to nature, education, culture, and recreation while serving as a sustainable stormwater detention system. The design took land typically designated for infrastructure and turned it into an amenity with various ecosystem types and multiple levels of active and passive recreation. Creative site grading produced very generous slopes, which provided ample space to accommodate activities both below and above the 100- year flood elevation. Through careful planning and intentional design, this stormwater detention facility has been programmed to create a leisure destination that focuses on ecology, education, and connectivity to benefit humans and wildlife. Client: The Howard Hughes Corporation Architect: Overland Partners Civic Engineer: BGE Honorable Mentions Project Name: First Avenue Water Plaza Designer: SCAPE Landscape Architecture DCP Project Name: Pier 35 Designer: SHoP Architects Editors' Picks Project Name: Scottsdale's Museum of the West Designer: Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture Project Name: Drexel Square Designer: West 8 & SHoP Architects
Defunct office buildings across Los Angeles are transforming into residential complexes
Los Angeles is not known for holding on to its architecture, whether those structures are architecturally significant or hastily constructed. Rare examples of streamline art deco, international modernism, and neo-Egyptian architecture have all met the wrecking ball to make way for contemporary alternatives. In the last few years, however, adaptive reuse has breathed new life into many of the city’s forgotten yet exemplary buildings, and the transformation of office buildings into residential complexes in particular is gaining significant traction as an alternative to demolition. In 2015, a 10-story building in West Hollywood, designed by Richard Dorman in 1964, was purchased by local real estate investment firm Townscape Partners with plans to transform the quirky structure into a residential complex. With the help of Olson Kundig, the international architecture firm behind projects including Washington State University’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum and the renovation of the Seattle Space Needle, the office building will become a 48-unit residential complex. The firm’s approach towards adaptive reuse intends to maintain the original integrity of the building by setting all of the new additions away from the street while renovating much of the building’s modernist exterior detailing, including the signature concrete balconies facing Beverly Boulevard. An innovative curtain wall glazing system on the upper floors and generously-sized roof terraces will help dissolve the boundary between inside and out to complement the openness of the original design. For shading and privacy, the renovated facade will be outfitted with an operable vertical shutter system. And true to the Olson Kundig name, the interiors of the new building will be materially sumptuous, including patinated bronze wall panels, custom-designed bronze detailing, and travertine floors throughout. On the other side of the city on a busy stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown, Jamison Services Inc. has been hard at work converting a 13-story office building from the 1950s into accommodations for 206 units with ample retail space on the ground floor. Local firm CORBeL Architects was hired to oversee the renovation, and renderings reveal that the massing and horizontal bands of the original building will be kept intact, with the addition of distinct red patterning on its most visible corner from the street. The construction team has already begun the process of transforming the building's interiors, and CORBeL Architects estimates that the project will be completed by late 2020. In Downtown Los Angeles, construction recently began on the adaptive reuse of the Lane Mortgage Building, a 12-story structure designed in 1923 by local architect Lester Loy Smith. After the building was acquired by the Delijani Family, they hired Downtown-based architecture firm Omgivning—responsible for renovating several other turn-of-the-century buildings in the immediate area—to oversee the project, which calls for transforming the upper floors of the building into accommodations for 109 rental apartments, some of which will be under 400 square feet. According to the firm, the units will feature “creatively-deployed areas for seating and storage,” to demonstrate the livability of small living spaces within adaptively reused buildings. The largest unit will be an 1,100-square-foot penthouse on the top floor with its own access to private outdoor access. The firm is maintaining several of the building’s quirky details, including the historically significant tilework in its entry lobby created by artisan Ernest Batchelder. Set to be completed by Spring 2020, the project will also include a bar in its basement that is sure to evoke the speakeasies that were common in the area when the building was first completed.
2019 Best of Design Award for Exhibition Design: Calder: Nonspace Designer: STEPHANIEGOTO Location: Los Angeles The design aimed to transform the Hauser & Wirth gallery to create a presence for the show. Deleting the strong classical framework of the existing South Gallery established a neutral context. Adding an illuminated, cloudlike ceiling scrim compressed and unified the two lengths of the interior, establishing a shadow-free volume that emphasized the lines, edges, and negative spaces beyond the Calder sculptures. These interventions created a strong, identifiable language, one that encouraged a dynamic energy and quietly concentrated the viewer’s experience. The works presented an opportunity to capture moments of closeness, to discover their otherworldliness—and to see the many relationships between them. Honorable Mentions: Project Name: VENTS Designer: TEMPO | Catty Dan Zhang Project Name: Nature—Cooper Hewitt Triennial Designer: Studio Joseph Editors' Picks Project Name: Common Threads Designer: ikd Project Name: Model Projections Designer: Agency—Agency
2019 Best of Design Awards winners for Cultural
2019 Best of Design Award for Cultural: Menil Drawing Institute Designer: Johnston Marklee Location: Houston The Menil Drawing Institute, sited within the 30-acre Menil Collection campus, is the first freestanding museum building in the United States dedicated to the exhibition, study, storage, and conservation of modern and contemporary drawings. The project mandated space for the care, study, and display of works on paper with strict conservation requirements as well as flexible space for conferences and intimate rooms for research and exhibition. The low-lying profile distinguishes the structure, which is integrated within the campus fabric of buildings and gardens. Under extended canopies, the two courtyard entrances create a cooling garden threshold between the institute and the campus that, together with branching trees and porous ground cover, diffuses sunlight in and around the building. Landscape Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Structural Engineer: Guy Nordenson and Associates with Cardno Haynes Whaley MEP Engineer: Stantec Lighting Engineer: George Sexton Associates Civil Engineer: Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Honorable Mentions Project Name: NY State Equal Rights Heritage Center Designer: nARCHITECTS Project Name: Ruby City Designer: Adjaye Associates Editors' Picks Project Name: The Evans Tree House at Garvan Woodland Gardens Designer: modus studio Project Name: St. Mary Chapel Designer: PLY+
On November 20, the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum (the Noguchi Museum) announced the digital launch of The Isamu Noguchi Archive and an update of The Isamu Noguchi Catalogue Raisonné. This expansion includes 60,000 archival photographs, manuscripts, and drawings by the Japanese-American artist and landscape architect, some of which are fully accessible to the public for the first time. The launch of the digital archive completes a multiyear project supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. Of the 60,000 items, 28,000 are photographs documenting the artist’s artworks, exhibitions, and studios, as well as his travels and relationships. Other materials include correspondence, exhibition records, press clippings, and architectural drawings that Noguchi collected during his lifetime. The archive's collections are broken down into categories such as Photography, Manuscript, Architectural, Business & Legal, Noguchi Fountain & Plaza, and Publication & Press Collection in a minimal, user-friendly design. The Architectural Collection as a whole contains 3,000 cataloged sketches, detail drawings, and construction documents of both real and unrealized projects. The collection also showcases work with Noguchi’s key collaborators such as Shoji Sadao and Louis Kahn, and a simple search will bring visitors to photographs of Noguchi and Kahn hanging out in Jerusalem, or to a letter in which Noguchi brainstormed ideas with Buckminster Fuller. So far, 1,500 items have been uploaded to the online archive with more to come. First launched in 2011, the Catalogue Raisonné has also undergone an extensive update to include works and exhibitions from the early decades of Noguchi’s career, including the 1920s and 1930s. “Focused efforts to better document this period have led to the discovery of several significant artworks which were assumed to have been lost or destroyed, as well as the identification of a group of heretofore unknown artworks, which the project is now able to confirm as works by Noguchi,” explained Alex Ross, managing editor of the catalog. Both efforts will undoubtedly bring a deeper understanding and appreciation to the vast body of work Noguchi produced throughout his lifetime. “The materials that are now available to everyone with access to the internet manifest the protean, interdisciplinary nature of Noguchi’s work,” said museum director Brett Littman in a press release. “They will not only enlighten those who browse the digital archive and catalogue raisonné, but it will also inform the Museum’s programming as new ideas and directions take form.”
And Not a Drop to Drink
Google Arts & Culture introduces the immersive Bauhaus Everywhere collection
Bauhaus is architecture. Bauhaus is costume design. Bauhaus is textile design. Bauhaus is furniture. Nearing the end of the celebrated design school's centenary, it has never been more clear that Bauhaus is everywhere, and Google Arts & Culture’s newest collection aims to make this revelation concise, user-friendly, and available to anyone with access to the internet. Developed in collaboration with Bauhaus Dessau and six other partners including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the IIT Institute of Design, Bauhaus Everywhere is an online collection that educates visitors through interactive and immersive technologies ranging from animated video to augmented reality. The project has digitized over 10,000 objects, artworks, and virtual tours of iconic buildings through 45 digital exhibitions covering the vast perspectives of the Bauhaus's life, pedagogy, and practice. The first stop on the journey is through five animated videos in the form of minimalistic cartoons drawn using basic geometry and a primary color palette. “Take a look around, chances are there is a boxy building around that was inspired by the Bauhaus," the second video states, demystifying some of the movement's key characteristics and how we engage with its influence today. Keep scrolling and you will come to an introduction on what the Bauhaus is, and some insights from Dr. Claudia Perren, Bauhaus Dessau’s director, on her top ten favorite pieces from the museum’s collection. Bauhaus Everywhere includes many glimpses into the institution that continues to guide the attitude and aesthetics of students within contemporary culture through inspirational “How-tos” such as “How to Dress Like a Bauhaus Student” and “How to Decorate your House, Bauhaus-Style.” One section titled, “What Was It Like To Study In the Coolest School Around?” provides an imaginative guide into student life from the application process, registering for classes, landing your first work-study job, meeting your teachers, and of course, going to the legendary parties. “You want to go to Bauhaus? Then show us what you’ve got. Put together a portfolio of samples of your work and send it to Mr. Gropius. He’ll decide if you have the aptitude…” the project reads. Alongside street-view explorations of built sites such as the Moholy-Nagy House and the Gropius House, you can also explore unbuilt homes in 3D, or if you have the Google Arts & Culture App, in augmented reality. By examining “sketches, scribbles, and vague descriptions” Google has also created AR models of three visionary buildings including the Rundhaus by Carl Fieger and Marcel Breuer's Bambos. Other highlights include profiles of some of the key teachers, a section dedicated to the roles women played at the school, a Google Earth tour of Bauhaus-inspired sites around the world, and high-res closeups of paintings by Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, and Carl Marx, to name a few. As Walter Gropius famously stated, “Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society.” Bauhaus is Everywhere goes to great lengths to prove his point.
Nearly two decades ago, Zaha Hadid's vision for a building that housed art, but more broadly worked to catalyze an urban redevelopment effort in Cincinnati, was to create a structure that made art accessible to the public. She delivered on her goal as a spatially complex series of stacked galleries piled up high over a tight infill site. Accentuated on the ground level by virtually no threshold between the city and institution, Hadid's Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) has since become defined by it's airy public lobby, an "urban carpet" that transitions seamlessly from sidewalk floor to gallery wall, and Corbusier-inspired stairways that form a vertical street, tapping into a set of galleries floating seemingly impossibly overhead. It is only fitting that a show like Props could emerge in a space that set out to reimagine the idea of what a white box gallery could be. Props is a set of eight experimental sculptures from architecture-trained mixed media artist Lauren Henkin, who has found new productive uses for underutilized space in the 16-year-old building. Her solo exhibition joins two other compatible shows concerned with spatial awareness: Confinement: Politics of Space and Bodies, and Cincinnati-based photographer Tom Schiff's Surrounded by Art. The trio of exhibitions will remain open through March 1, 2020. Steven Matijcio, former curator of the CAC, and the current director & chief curator at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston curated the work. "Lauren [Henkin] and I wanted to challenge and expand the typical locations of artistic presentation at the CAC," said Matijcio. "By its very nature, Lauren's series of "Props" was meant to skew the habits, conventions, and assignments that coalesce in even the most avant-garde of structures." Each of Henkin's Props is assembled from an ad hoc material palette—concrete, PVC, wiring cable, plaster scraps, and so on. In one case, scrap wood was pulled from the CAC's basement and piles of debris discarded by installers of the concurrent exhibitions. The development of the work relied heavily on photographic documentation, drawing, and visits to the building. Henkin worked between her Maine-based studio, the CAC, and a nearby Kentucky-based fabrication studio. Props intentionally undermines the programming of the CAC's formal gallery spaces. Why have work in the gallery when it can exist outside of the gallery? Lacking any formalized infrastructure for art viewing (lights, art labels, etc.), the work feels at home amid and within the architecture of the building. The pieces dissolve into walls, hug corners, and playfully grow out from the floor. In this regard, the Props do not come off as menacing or insulting in any way. Instead, they feel like discreet, optimistically friendly characters, producing compelling moments of their own that stop us in our tracks. With no labels or signage, there seems to be a real possibility that some of these Props could be overlooked during de-installation and hang around the museum indefinitely. Henkin, whose background is in architecture, says movement is the organizational force underlying Props: "These pieces are meant to be viewed while in motion where the viewer is moving up and around the work." Henkin flips our traditional relationship to art: the work becomes static, while the viewer is set in motion. However, beyond Zaha's stair, Props can be spotted hiding out in spaces less trafficked, like the entrance to the fourth-floor women's restroom or a forgotten corner of a hall leading to a fire stair. Formalized art galleries offer no escape for visitors who become immediately incorporated into the spatial logic of the institution: you must walk up these stairs, and you must view the work in this order. Henkin, Matijcio, and co. offer an alternative to this. You inevitably pass Henkin's work, but it operates as a filter, or primer, for the other work in the galleries. "The element of play, whimsy, and revelry played an important role in the conception and execution of the project. Lauren's sculptural interventions in the CAC are meant to disorient and befuddle, and provoke," said Matijcio. "Some are imposing and seemingly precarious; others are quizzical and slightly comical. Each one is different, but the unifying thread was to reimagine the structure's non-gallery spaces as fertile terrain to reconsider and activate." While this iteration of Henkin's Props likely won't travel elsewhere due to its site-specificity, the show might still have a legacy. The problem that Henkin's show exposes is that austere, raw, underutilized display and circulation spaces of today's art museum do have the opportunity to be more critically used. What would it look like for an exhibition to spill out into these spaces? What trouble would this cause, between issues of security, lighting, and liability? However, what opportunities this could create, to reimagine the broader curatorial flow to the institution! Props beg us to consider and reinvent our normative, intuitive, choreographed movements through the museum, especially in Cincinnati, where 16 years of exhibitions have begun to familiarize and dull this incredibly significant architectural space. In an institution that prides itself as a "non-collecting" contemporary museum showing "work of the last five minutes," Props exist as a welcome sideshow to the CAC's ongoing spirited circus of traveling acts. Henkin reminds us that a white room can fit only so many paintings before overflowing.
MoMA and PS1 have disclosed to AN that the Young Architects Program (YAP) will be going on hiatus next year, following its 20-year anniversary this past summer. AN had heard from sources close to MoMA PS1 that the program might be shutting down, and upon following up with the Queens institution, Martino Stierli, the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the MoMA, provided the following statement:
"Following the 20th anniversary of the Young Architects Program (YAP), MoMA and MoMA PS1 have decided to place the program on a one-year hiatus. We remain deeply committed to supporting and recognizing emerging architectural talent. "We’ve already started to use the hiatus to bring together a diverse group of influential scholars and professionals, experimental architects and designers, and previous YAP winners to assess the program’s impact for the past two decades, explore its potential, and strategically chart its future. We look forward to sharing more news as we move along in this process."MoMA could be moving toward a more durable, longer-term commission in its courtyard to serve its outdoor summer Warm Up music series, performance events, and art book fair, but that's only speculation. The Young Architects Program's origins go back to 1998, a year after the Frederick Fisher-designed renovation enclosed the PS1 entrance courtyard in concrete walls. That year, Vienna-based artist group Gelatin installed a scrappy "environment" in conjunction with PS1's first series of Warm Up summer concerts. Percutaneous Delights was composed of rough compositions of stacked refrigerators, discarded furniture, Po-mo inflatables, a graffitied shipping container, and an array of sprinklers to activate the space with what the P.R. at the time described as a welcoming hang-out for hot summer days. The following year, PS1 inaugurated its gradual absorption into the MoMA collective with a project by Philip Johnson, ever a follower of fashions (even if it led him, at times, in the direction of Nazism), who designed a Dance Pavilion DJ booth for the 1999 summer concerts as the first collaboration between the two institutions. It wasn't until 2000 that MoMA architecture curator Terence Riley formally established the Young Architects Program as an annual invited competition to promote innovative practices. The program was simple: provide shade, seating, and water for Warm Up. The first winner—if anyone can still remember the now 190-plus person office as a young startup—was SHoP Architects, which demonstrated the kind of digitally designed, people-friendly, carefully crafted form-making that would make them the go-to firm for urban development projects that need a warmer public face. The program frequently created opportunities for younger architects to demonstrate conceptual ideas percolating in academia on a small but meaningful scale. Early winners of the competition included Lindy Roy (2001), William Massie (2002), Tom Wiscombe (2003), nARCHITECTS (2004), Hernan Diaz Alonso (2005), and OBRA Architects (2006). Sometimes the projects leaned in the direction of conceptual follies that had less of a service component, and early projects at times demonstrated the limits of digital design as often as its potential. The initial budget was $25,000, later increased to $75,000, though it became common knowledge that most firms would spend more out of their own pockets and lean heavily on interns to build out the ideas. It was not an open competition: MoMA curators and advisors pre-selected a handful of designers and frequently favored well-connected circles from Ivy League schools and well-connected academics. The arc of the program traces a mini-curatorial history of MoMA, from Riley to Tina di Carlo and Peter Christensen, Barry Bergdoll, Andres Lepik, Pedro Gadanho, Sean Anderson, and Stierli, whose influences are reflected in the selections, along with changes in the profession. Little by little, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center became PS1 MoMA, then MoMA PS1. Some of the better-regarded highlights over the years included WORKac's 2008 P.F.1 (Public Farm One), which installed a demonstration urban farm that could survive the barren courtyard environment and created an ascending staircase of planter boxes on top of the gravel-covered space. SO-IL's Pole Dance (2010) engaged the playful possibilities of the program with colorful beach balls, overhead netting, hammocks, misters, and flexible PVC pipes, programmed with dance performances. On the most service-oriented end, Interboro Partners (2011) used their project as a demonstration of how PS1 could engage the surrounding neighborhood, building out the courtyard with a kit-of-parts based on the expressed needs of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and others in the community who they interviewed and donated components to at the end of the summer. Later projects by MOS (afterparty, 2009), Hollwich Kushner (Wendy, 2012), The Living (Hy-Fi, 2014), Andrés Jacque/ Office for Political Innovation (COSMO, 2015), and Jenny Sabin Studio (Lumen, 2017) increasingly verged in the direction of critical grotesques, parametric design, and environmental remediation experiments to varying degrees of success. Through it all, the surrounding neighborhood blew up in an astonishing, if predictable manner, in ascending towers of luxury apartments, demolishing the beloved 5 Pointz graffiti space in the process. If SHoP's origins as a young firm are hard to remember, it's even more difficult to retrieve the imperative that once made PS1 so improbable and ingenious a proposition in the first place—and the Young Architects Program an innocent delight—when its enterprising founder Alanna Heiss somehow convinced the Queens borough president to hand over a closed-down public school to a group of misfits from the SoHo/ Tribeca alternative space scene who proceeded to saw through floors as sculptures. Notably, one of the names that appears as a funder in the first decade of YAP, along with Bloomberg, Agnes Gund, and Isaac Liberman, is none other than real-estate-reality-show-specter-turned-president Donald J. Trump. How a contemporary art center can meaningfully respond to the current situation, if at all, could be a starting point for the continuation of the program or its eventual cancellation, but the Young Architects Program unquestionably pioneered a model of temporary urban pavilion imitated worldwide, activating public spaces that without major capital improvements or altering their historic character remained inhospitable and inflexible for contemporary needs.
New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art announced on November 14 that they will be adding a second Frank Lloyd Wright house to their permanent collection, making the institution the sole museum in the world to own two of “America’s most important architect’s” buildings. The Toufic H. Kalil House is one of seven Usonian Automatic homes ever built and was put on the market this past September for $850,000. An anonymous donor provided the museum with $970,000 in funds to acquire the property and make it accessible to the public. “This generous donation is a tribute to the philanthropy in our state, and serves as an example for others,” said Steve Duprey, president of the museum’s Board of Trustees, in a press release, which went on to say that with “the impending sale of the Kalil House, there was a real danger that it might be altered, moved away, or even torn down.” The house is located at 117 Heather Street in Manchester, New Hampshire, and was built in 1955 with Wright’s patented technique of individually-cast interlocking concrete blocks reinforced with rods set into the walls and roof. The system stemmed from Wright’s larger vision for more democratic design and planning of modern architecture for middle-class America. Such houses were designed with the idea that home buyers could construct the homes themselves out of a kit. Wright designed approximately 60 homes under the name “Usonian” including the seven Usonian Automatics. The term was used throughout his work to refer to the United States, as opposed to the term America, which of course also includes Mexico and Canada. For Wright, Usonian architecture was to be set apart from all previous “American” architectural conventions specifically. Usonian houses, including the Kalil House, were typically small, single-story dwellings with an L-shaped plan. They made use of natural light, local materials, flat roofs, and radiant floor heating. The Kalil House, a 1,406-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom house meets all of these requirements and, according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, still includes much of the architect’s original furniture, textiles, and kitchen appliances. The house’s mahogany clad interior is illuminated by 350 individual glass windows, both fixed and operable. While many of the features have been maintained, the house has also received updates to the roof, landscaping, and back patio. An unfinished, 264-square-foot guest home is located behind the house and was constructed in the same modular construction technique. The Kalil’s were inspired to build the home after seeing their friend’s FLW-designed home just three doors down the street. The Zimmerman House was also acquired by the museum in 1988 as noted in the owner’s will, alongside an operating endowment for the building's maintenance. Currier Museum’s director, Alan Chong stated in the press release, “Although they are about the same size and on the same street, the Zimmerman and Kalil houses are very different in character... Frank Lloyd Wright intended his Usonian designs to be affordable to the broader American public, but each is a distinctive work of art.” Just like the Zimmerman House, the Kalil house will be preserved and opened up for guided tours next April.
Pittsburgh's MuseumLab renovation finds wonder in history
The thrill of discovery is palpable throughout Koning Eizenberg Architecture (KEA)’s MuseumLab in Pittsburgh. The museum is designed for older kids—tweens ages 10–15 years old—and encourages hands-on learning through arts and technology. The restoration of its building was driven by curiosity and inquiry into a historic structure that had fallen into disrepair. The MuseumLab is an expansion of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the third building to be renovated in what has become the largest cultural campus for families in the U.S. It’s the Santa Monica-based KEA’s second project on that campus, following their transformation of an 1880s-era post office and the adjacent 1940s planetarium in 2004. MuseumLab (along with a charter school and incubator for education-based startups) now occupies the next building in the row, a 40,000-square-foot Richardsonian Romanesque library was once known as the Carnegie Free Library. Commissioned by the industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1886, it was the first of over 1,600 free libraries he would build across the U.S. As the first library in his adopted hometown, Carnegie spared no expense on this Gilded Age gift to Pittsburgh’s workers. Unfortunately, the textured terracotta tiles and ornately carved column capitals were sacrificed in a 1970s redesign that saved the building from urban renewal efforts but covered up its most distinctive qualities under dropped ceilings, plaster, and carpeted walls. In 2006 a lightning strike sent a three-ton piece of granite crashing through the roof, causing damage that led the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to finally abandon the building altogether. In need of new space, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh saw an opportunity to turn the neglected building from a library into a “lab” that offers tweens a maker space for complex projects, a tech lab run in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, and art exhibitions. In working with KEA, the renovation exemplified MuseumLab’s focus on curiosity and discovery. KEA partner Julie Eizenberg described the approach to the project, which didn’t necessarily begin with a fixed outcome in mind. Eizenberg and the Children’s Museum team approached “architecture as an exploration. … We have a philosophy that the building is an armature for learning in every project we do, and that applied here as well. We started pulling the building apart and that’s when we realized that more of the building had been removed than anyone had expected.” Christen Cieslak, director of facilities and special projects at Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, describes how the renovation fits the mantra of the Children’s Museum to encourage visitors to: “Play with real stuff, and be authentic.” She saw the potential for authenticity in the renovation: “This building has a story to tell.” Exposing the crumbling plaster, missing tile, and stripped ornamentation was a way of exploring the many stories embedded in a post-industrial city and brought about unexpected design opportunities. In that sense, KEA’s work was equal parts excavation and renovation, or in Eizenberg’s words, “more of a reveal than restore.” Peeling away layers of midcentury plaster and vinyl flooring uncovered the building’s industrial materials, colors, and textures and offered surprises along the way, like an entryway lined with terra cotta fox head tiles that were only discovered at the last minute. But rather than restore the building to its original splendor, the team decided to celebrate the layered qualities of the space. “We said, ‘we’re not going to make this a clean and tidy restoration, this is going to be a lovely ruin.’ It ended up making a lot of sense economically and poetically, in terms of reinforcing program values,” Eizenberg said. There’s an irreverence to this approach that should resonate with the building’s young users without “talking down to them.” For Eizenberg, the space “needed to be cool, it needed to not to feel like it was your parents’ place or a kid’s place, and it needed to suggest the idea of discovery.” After uncovering the tall ceilings and large windows of the original design, the Carnegie Free Library was treated like a found object. Materials were restored or recontextualized to create a richly textured environment rooted in industrial materials, particularly granite, tile, and the Carnegie-brand steel that built the philanthropist’s fortune. Perforated steel floorplates that once supported the original library stacks were repurposed as a screen wrapping the main staircase, which doubles as a striking backdrop to the lean, low reception desk. The desk and light-wood benches in the lobby were built from repurposed bookshelves. Original iron shelving that once held the stacks now supports an enticing three-story architectural lace climbing structure designed by architect-trained artist Manca Ahlin that will open in January 2020. “We didn’t want a little kiddy climbing structure,” Ciezlak says, “This is art. It’s a little scary.” The renovation also whimsically reimagines the building’s past. In the Grable Gallery, for example, a lost Tiffany-glass ceiling inspired a commission by Los Angeles and New York-based architecture studio FreelandBuck. The team hung a complex layered laser-cut fabric sculpture to create the illusion of a domed Beaux-Arts space as an homage to the lost ceiling. Visitors are also invited into the process. A local mosaic artist used salvaged tile and glass from different parts of the building in a collaborative sculpture to teach visitors how to create mosaics. For Eizenberg, the reveal was a way to respect the past and change the way visitors engage with older spaces. “The key is not to do something clever and new that makes the past less important,” she said, “everything you do with historic buildings has to in some way be part of the story of the life of the building into the future.” It's noteworthy that the project was designed, financed, and built by a team led by women, who among other things oversaw the building’s capital campaign, supervised the construction, led the design, and directed the museum. As to whether this impacted the final result, Eizenberg suggested that “communication is different when there’s a lot of women around. There’s a lot more comfort, psychologically, in asking questions, in looking at options rather than feeling like you had to have the perfect answer for everything.” Altogether, the building has a dynamic feel to it, as though it is in the process of decay and construction at the same time, making the building an engaging experience for users of all ages. Sarah Rafson is the founder of Point Line Projects and teaches at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture.