Search results for "Alvar Aalto"

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No Landmark

Alvar Aalto’s U.N. interiors are in limbo—again
Today the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) added ten new items from its backlog to the official roster of New York City landmarks. While the commission protected Dutch Colonial farmhouses, the Bergdorf Goodman building, and the mega-glamorous Loews movie palace in Washington Heights, it declined to designate a rare and important interior by Alvar Aalto, the Finnish modern architect. The Edgar J. Kaufmann conference rooms, lecture hall, and elevator lobby at 809 U.N. Plaza, designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and his second wife, designer Elissa Aalto, demonstrate pure modern ingenuity. A cobalt-tiled lobby leads visitors to a 4,500-square-foot flexible space divided by an ash partition into two conference rooms and a 300-person lecture hall. The 12th-floor space commands sweeping views of the East River, but custom-designed louvers protect the interior, complete with Alvar's custom light fixtures and furniture, from excessive glare. One particular delight of the space is an abstract, curved birchwood sculpture that evokes the forests of Finland. Completed in 1964-65, the interiors are one of only four projects by Alvar in the U.S. and his only surviving work in New York. The item was first discussed at a public hearing in 2001, and again in 2002. The rooms, as former Architect's Newspaper (AN) editor Julie Iovine detailed in a 2000 piece for the New York Times, could be dismantled and preserved elsewhere—or not. Without landmark protection, its owner, the Institute of International Education (IIE), are free to do whatever it likes with the space. LPC communications director Damaris Olivo told AN that legal issues around public access to the space preclude the rooms from designation. Although privately owned, the rooms can be rented for events consistent with the IIE's mission of promoting international discourse around and through education. John Arbuckle, chair of the docomomo New York | Tri-state chapter, said in an email that the organization is "very disappointed" with the LPC's announcement. The local chapter is figuring out how it will to respond to the commission's decision. Including the Kaufmann conference rooms, thirteen items were considered as part of the LPC's Backlog 95, a plan to address almost 100 historic districts and properties that have lingered on the agency's calendar for years, sometimes decades. Although ten properties were landmarked, a decision on a Con Edison–owned powerhouse designed by McKim Mead and White was deferred, while a Bronx church and Aalto's interiors were removed from the calendar entirely.

The Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center, a vernacular-style townhouse on East 85th Street, Bergdorf Goodman, the Loew's 175th Street Theater, the Excelsior Steam Power Company Building (Manhattan), Brougham Cottage, the Lakeman-Cortelyou-Taylor House (Staten Island), St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, and an Italianate building on Broadway (Brooklyn), as well as the Protestant Reform Dutch Church of Flushing (Queens) were all upgraded from backlog properties to landmarks.

AN is following the fate of Aalto's rooms closely; readers should check back soon for updates.

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Finnish Design

The Bard Graduate Center Gallery puts Alvar Aalto, Aino Marsio-Aalto, and Artek into focus
The Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York is offering a groundbreaking, revelatory exhibition, through October 2, that is the first in the United States to examine Artek, the pioneering Finnish design company founded in 1935, and the first to focus on the two architects who were among its founders, Alvar Aalto and his wife, Aino Marsio-Aalto. The exhibition—Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World—features some 200 works.  Of special interest are the unprecedented number of original architectural drawings from the Aalto Foundation, as well as photographs, sketches, and drawings from the Aalto family and Artek archive. Among the most important are Aino Marsio-Aalto’s student sketchbooks; drawings by Alvar Aalto of his wife; and signed photographs by László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946), which he sent to Alvar Aalto after visiting the Aaltos in Finland in 1931. Also on view are a recently discovered copy of Aino Marsio-Aalto’s travel diary, which she kept while visiting Brussels, Paris, and Zurich just before Artek was founded; unpublished drawings for the Sunila Pulp Factory (1936–37), Villa Mairea (1938–39), Säynätsalo Town Hall (1950–52), the Kaufmann Conference Rooms in New York City (1961–63); and a rare group of bentwood furniture by Alvar Aalto, with original finishes and colors, from a private collection in Finland. Glassware, lighting and textiles are also on display. The backbone of the exhibition is what one of its curators, Nina Stritzler-Levine, director of the gallery and a scholar of modern architecture and design, describes as the “manifesto” of Artek, whose name blended the words art and technology. Focusing on the promotion of modern art; industry and interior design; and advocacy, the manifesto, she said, underscored Artek’s founders’ “commitment to enhancing the cultural and social ideals of modernism throughout the world….And, not incidentally, the company was also dedicated to the manufacture and sales of furniture designed by Alvar Aalto.” In addition to the Aaltos, the other founders of Artek were Nils Gustav Hahl, a leading Nordic art critic, and Maire Gullichsen, a wealthy Finnish patron, with her husband, of the arts and architecture. The exhibition not only provides an in-depth analysis of Artek and its 81-year-old history, but also a fascinating look at the early careers of the Aaltos and their personal and professional collaborations. Both graduated from the architecture school at the University of Technology in Helsinki: Aino Marsio graduated in a class with several other woman, while Finland had the largest number of university-trained female architects in the world in the first half of the 20th century. The couple’s early training can be seen in sketchbooks showing the rigorous curriculum that required them to learn the history of architecture, ornament, and furniture. Other drawings from the Alvar Aalto Archive illustrate their shared practice, as well as Aalto’s knowledge of furniture history and early interest in the leg form later explored in his bentwood furniture. Another theme of the exhibition is the Aaltos’ interaction with other important contemporary European architects and designers, which occurred after Alvar became a member of the International Congress of Modern Architects in 1929; they also frequently traveled to Germany, France, and Holland before World War II. Their international network included Le Corbusier; architect and Bauhaus director Walter Gropius; and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, an artist and Bauhaus teacher who visited the Aaltos and whom Stritzler-Levine describes as “perhaps the most critical for the Aaltos’ formation as modern architects. Moholy-Nagy and Alvar Aalto enjoyed a friendship that inspired creativity for both of them, though Moholy’s impact on Aalto and eventually on Artek was perhaps more visible.” Standardization—a concept she said largely derived from modern architecture in Germany and was later adopted by Aalto and Artek—“was a socially and economically driven notion that extended from architecture to interior fittings and drawings.” A beautiful section of the exhibition uses reproductions of period photography; glass; textiles; and paintings and sculpture by Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec, Leger and others to illustrate how the first Artek store, which opened in 1936 in central Helsinki, functioned; art on display here was actually sold at the store and is on loan from the Ateneum, Helsinki’s national gallery. Other sections of the exhibition explore Artek’s participation in exhibitions, including world’s fairs, in Paris in 1937 and New York in 1939; Artek’s vast distribution network of Aalto’s furniture, extending from retailers in Europe and the United States to buyers in Africa and Latin America, reached by licensees; U.S. interiors decorated with Artek furniture, depicted in photographs by Ezra Stoller and others; and post-World War II works by Artek and Aalto, including the 1946-49 Baker House Dormitory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aalto’s most significant U.S. project and a commission he received when he was a visiting professor of architecture there. The exhibition fittingly closes with door handles designed by Aalto in the mid-1950’s for several buildings in Helsinki that are now in Finnish collections. “From the moment you touch the handle, you’re into Aalto’s universe,” said Stritzler-Levine, much the way the exhibition magically introduces visitors to this.
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Look inside Alvar Aalto’s celebrated works with Google Street View
Google Street View has been snooping way beyond the curb. The see-all service has spread into museums, inside businesses, onto hiking trails, and even leads curated street art tours in cities around the world. Now, the service has expanded into architecture. The newest feature allows curious internet explorers to step inside some of Alvar Aalto’s most celebrated buildings without booking a flight or even looking away from the ever-present glow of their computer screen. The power-house tech company has partnered with the Alvar Aalto Foundation to provide “street-view” images of some of the architect’s famous works in Finland. Among the projects included in the virtual tours are the Alvar Aalto Museum, Aalto's own studio, and the Säynätsalo Town Hall. “This project means something special to many of us at Google," the company said in a statement. "We have built one of our two largest data centers in Finland—and the architect of our data center building was none other than Aalto." The architect originally designed the space in Hamina as a paper mill. Don’t take our word for it—check it out for yourself.
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Aalto Rescued in Russia
The Alvar Aalto-designed Viipuri library fell into disrepair when the territory was seized by Russia.
Courtesy World Monuments Fund

Shifting national borders left a seminal work of modern architecture in peril, until an international community banded together to restore it and update it for the future. Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library was completed in 1935 in what was then Finland, but during the Cold War the region became part of the Soviet Union, and Viipuri became Vyborg, Russia. “For a long time people in the West thought the library was gone,” said Henry Tzu Ng, executive vice president of the World Monuments Fund. A dedicated group of architects in Finland gathered support from around the world, and after a 20 year long effort, has transformed Aalto’s masterpiece from a near ruin into a leading example of modernist preservation. In late October, the project was awarded the 2014 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize.

 
 
 

With the number of modern buildings in disrepair in Russia, the prize has extra significance. But Viipuri is a special case, given its pedigree and Finland’s deep appreciation for design as well as Aalto’s significance for that country’s identity. Led by architects Tapani Mustonen and Maija Kairamo, the Finnish Committee for the Restoration of the Viipuri Library worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for the nearly 10 million euro project. “The prize really tries to recognize heroic efforts to save modern buildings, especially efforts by architects to champion these projects,” Ng said.

The building displays Aalto’s characteristically deft use of natural light and warm materials, blending the functionalism of the International Style with the more sensual approach of Nordic modernism.

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Door Has Closed on Aalto Rooms
ALEX HERRERA

The fate of Alvar Aalto’s Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Center on the 12th floor in 809 United Nations Plaza remains in limbo nearly seven years after it was proposed as an interior landmark before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Designed in 1964 for the Institute of International Education (IIE), the 4,500- square-foot modern space is one of only two interiors designed by the great Finnish architect in the United States, the other being the Woodberry Poetry Room of Harvard’s Lamont Library. “This is one of the city’s great rooms and not enough people know,” said Alex Herrera, director of technical services at the New York Landmarks Conservancy, who worked with the IIE to research and supervise the restoration of the space in 2003. With its undulating plaster ceiling, ash-paneled walls, blue porcelain tiles, and bentwood wall sculpture, the space is typical of Aalto’s work. The original Aalto-designed lighting fixtures and furniture, including black leather and birch chairs and a rolling bar, are still intact.

Until a month ago the conference center, comprising meeting rooms, a lecture hall, and elevator lobby, was available to the public as rental space for functions and events. Faced with a shortage of space, the IIE has closed its doors and will use the meeting rooms as “temporary office space,” said Derrick Wilson, the IIE’s telecommunications manager. There is no foreseeable date for when the space will be available for rent again, said Wilson.

The issue of public accessibility has been the crux of arguments both for and against designating the conference rooms as a New York City interior landmark. According to the city’s Landmarks Law, only building interiors that are “customarily open or accessible to the public” can be designated interior landmarks.

In a New York Times article published after an LPC designation hearing in September 2002, the IIE said that access to rooms was restricted because of security concerns at the building, which is located across the street from the United Nations and is also home to the UN’s missions of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Preservationists, however, have said that the rooms have been accessible to the public since their opening. The rooms have had a special connection to the United Nations, and have been the site of countless Fulbright Scholar programs, which the IIE administers. “Clearly it was Edgar J. Kaufmann’s intention to make the work of Aalto better appreciated in this country by having the rooms always open to the public. It’s unfortunate that an institution whose goal is education is removing the rooms from the public access,” said Theo Prudon, president of DOCOMOMO US.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council (HDC), agrees and sees the closing of the space as a pushback against landmark designation. “By fighting landmarks designation, it makes one very concerned about the space,” said Bankoff. In response to these concerns, HDC has reestablished communication with the LPC and has circulated a petition that calls for the designation of the space as an interior landmark.

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Sick Buildings

London exhibition explores the impact of design on public health
An ambitious exhibition at London's Wellcome Collection highlights the long and complex relationship between design and public health. Titled Living with Buildings, the show explores more than 150 years of thinking about how the built environment impacts social well-being. Ranging across eras and topics from Garden City idealism and 1930s modernist hospitals and health centers to 1960s high-rise housing projects, this beautiful and thought-provoking exhibition reveals how design in the built environment has the potential to be a powerful agent of change, both of healing and of harm. The broad overview is illustrated by a wealth of period artifacts, artworks, and historical documents, beginning with Charles Booth's powerful cartographic depictions of London's Victorian-era slums, which first identified the connections between poverty, illness, and poor-quality housing. Other highlights include original architectural drawings by Erno Goldfinger, Berthold Lubetkin, Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto, all of whom designed pioneering public housing and health centers during the 1930s. Architectural sketches, renderings, and pieces of custom-designed furniture are displayed alongside photographs and video essays by artists including Rachel Whiteread, Andreas Gursky, and Martha Rosler that document the challenges of preserving and maintaining egalitarian social services in the face of declining public and governmental support. A last section of Living With Buildings is dedicated to high-profile, health-conscious contemporary architecture, showcasing the healing environments of Maggie's Centres cancer support charity, and a portable hospital intended for use in disaster relief situations, designed and engineered by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Buro Happold. The free Living with Buildings exhibition will be up until March 3, 2019, at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road in central London. More information is available here.
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Intellectual Appetite

Art platform e-flux opens bar and restaurant in Brooklyn
e-flux, the New York–based orgnaization best known for its criticism and theory in art and architecture, has branched out in a rather unexpected direction: a bar and restaurant. Situated in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, not far from the Pratt Institute, Bar Laika extends e-flux’s ability to do programming beyond their small Lower East Side main location and in more hangout friendly digs. The new space also has some design pedigree: Alvar Aalto lighting adorns the space and seating was provided in part by Artek and Vitra. The name Laika means “barker” in Russian and is a common dog name, much like Spot or Rover in the U.S. It also happens to be the name of the first dog in space. Bar Laika’s local seafood-heavy menu was developed in collaboration with artist and chef Hsiao Chen and the cocktail list was put together by another artist, Danna Vajda. Wines were selected by Florence Barth. The bar will also be pairing screenings and other programming with special set menus, some put together by participating artists. Like their downtown space, Bar Laika will be used for screenings, talks, musical performances, and readings which are being organized by Lily Lewis and Anton Vidokle, along with curator and chef Ingrid Erstad. Bar Laika launched earlier this month with dinner and a screening of Anri Sala’s 1998 film Intervista.
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Put a Cork in It

Renewable, non-toxic, and durable: Cork is ready to pop off
Cork is a unique material characterized by its porous texture, softness, and lightweight quality. Historically, architects from Frank Lloyd Wright to Eliel Saarinen to Alvar Aalto to William Massie have favored the naturally environmentally sustainable material. Cork was first introduced in the built environment in 1904 as flooring, which was disseminated widely by the ’20s. Into the ’30s, Wright favored the bark for its natural properties and look, incorporating it into his organic architecture projects (most notably in the bathrooms in Fallingwater, completed in 1937). There are also contemporary works deploying cork in pleasantly unexpected ways, like the raw cork floor in Massie’s American House in 2008. These new manifestations of the material—in furniture, interior design, and architecture—mark the beginning of a cork revival. Cork has its drawbacks, and has thus remained a niche product: It is hand-harvested, and therefore expensive. When it is prepared for manufacturing, it is heavy to ship. Ten years ago, there were only a handful of cork molding producers around the world (mostly based in Spain and Portugal, where more than half of the world’s cork supply grows). But now more companies are willing to produce cork, and new facilities are even opening up to exclusively manufacture it. Why? Designers and architects alike are thinking about how building materials can be utilized aesthetically, but also how they can create healthy living environments. What better than a completely non-toxic, waterproof, and highly insulating substance that is also a rapidly renewable resource? For these reasons alone, cork will become ever pervasive within architecture and design in years to come.
Sobreiro Collection Campana Studio Humberto and Fernando Campana of Brazil-based Campana Studio designed a collection devised almost entirely of cork: a chair made from natural cork alone and three cabinets fashioned from a wooden structure made from expanded natural cork agglomerate (a material produced by heating the cork that does not contain any additives). The design duo spent time at the major Portuguese cork supplier Amorim to experiment and develop the materials they used to create the furniture before it debuted at the annual Experimenta Portugal arts and culture festival.
Drifted Stool Lars Beller Fjetland for Hem Norwegian designer Lars Beller Fjetland likes to make furniture from recycled materials. This charming stool is no exception. Inspired by pieces of misshapen, smooth cork washed ashore along the beach in the small Norwegian town of Øygarden, Fjetland concocted a stool with a warm oak frame that supports a seat made with both recycled and new cork.
ARMCHAIR KDVA Architects Russian architect Koloskov Dmitry of KDVA Architects dreamed up a cork and metal armchair that stays true to the classic form dating back 2,000 years. The chrome legs support the two arches that form the seat, attached together with just four screws. It is made to order, delivered all the way from Moscow.
Assemblage Side Tables Alain Gilles for BONALDO Belgium-based designer Alain Gilles designed a collection of whimsical wood-topped side tables supported by a bulging cork base. The interesting composition creates a dialogue within the piece itself, considering cork is generally thought of as lightweight but is supporting the heavier material. The raw base contrasts with the stained wood, almost as if the two entities were not meant to be paired together. Dora coffee table Gisela Simas for Epoca
Dora coffee table Gisela Simas for Epoca Brazilian designer Gisela Simas of Original Practical Design teamed up with Portuguese cork producer Amorim to develop a coffee table that was unveiled at the Rio + Design showcase at Salone del Mobile this year. The table features a circular form with spindle-like arms attached to a central supporting base.
COLUM(N) 3.21 Nova Obiecta Parisian furniture purveyor Nova Obiecta offers a limited edition of 100 stools fashioned in cork and brass. The name 3.21 refers to the average ratio between each section of cork and the dividing brass ring. The solid volume comprises new, French-harvested bark and recycled particles.
KorQWalz Steel+Cork Pull up Chair walzworkinc Kevin Walz of New York-based walzworkinc designed a curvaceous seat entirely made out of cork in 1998. Newly reissued and made to order, the cork and steel lounge chair provides natural ergonomics supported by new structural fittings.
GLAÇON end table Lee West for Ligne Roset Independent, Paris-based English designer Lee West cooked up a sofa end table by heating expanded natural cork and coating it with a varnish. The lightweight material is then reinforced by injecting polyurethane foam inside, making it sturdy enough for resting legs, sitting on, or holding dinner plates.
Mini and Standard Sway Stool Daniel Michalik for kinder MODERN Aptly dubbed Mini and Standard, these children-and adult-size stools, designed by Daniel Michalik, flex and pivot under the weight of the sitter. Making calculated slices in a solid piece of cork, Michalik produces each seat himself with his simple yet laborious self-invented production process (which is why the lead time is 8–10 weeks).
Corkdrop Skram This stool/side table is made with a solid walnut core swathed in cork. Upon request, custom sizes are available.
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The New noma

Bjarke Ingels Group designs a new home for Noma
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has designed a new home for one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the world: noma. The Danish eatery moved into their new digs earlier this year, leaving their old home in the Strandgade neighborhood of Copenhagen, Denmark, to the city's Christiania area. Christiania is Copenhagen's "hippie town," a former military base that was colonized by squatters in the 1970s, became a sort of lawless city-in-a-city where drugs were available at street stalls, and is now a mix of informal settlements and super-lux restaurants. The new noma is in a refurbished warehouse that was once used by the Royal Danish Navy and has been re-styled with a Scandi-chic interior for sampling avant-garde takes on Nordic cuisine. The restaurant is split across a variety of little buildings, each assigned a specific purpose (arrival, wine selection, etc.) and all arranged around the kitchen. The arrangement is meant to turn a visit to the restaurant into a culinary experience, one where you can visit the garden that grew the herbs on your plate and you can poke around the science experiments that might show up on the menu next year. The restaurant's garden, test kitchen, and bakery are all on-site along with fermentation labs, fish tanks, terrarium, and an ant farm. Outback Steakhouse this is not. Lest it all become too highfalutin, the interiors are lined with humble, local materials like exposed wood and salvaged brick. A greenhouse is light and unassuming, bordering even on utilitarian, and the overall aesthetic hews more closely to the streamlined humanism of Alvar Aalto than the flash and "hedonism" that other BIG projects are known for. The new location opened in Feburary, 2018, and is now available for reservations.
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Yankee Modern

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

Donald Judd’s furniture exhibition opens at SFMOMA
American artist Donald Judd may be known for his stainless steel and Plexiglas sculptures, but it's his furniture designs that shine at a new show titled Donald Judd: Specific Furniture, currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) through November 4. His rigorous explorations of form in sculpture have carried over to his furniture designs, which compose a parallel practice that began in the 1960s. The exhibition presents a mix of his work and his acquired pieces that served as major influences. He collected pieces by Alvar Aalto, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gerrit Rietveld, Rudolph M. Schindler, and Gustav Stickley, who were among the modernist designers that inspired Judd to depart from the ornate and stylistic designs in fashion in the 1930s. His collection of furniture includes tables, desks, chairs, and beds, featuring a minimalist design language present in his ornament-free paintings and sculptures. “The difference between art and architecture is fundamental,” Judd once wrote. “Furniture and architecture can only be approached as such. Art cannot be imposed upon them. If their nature is seriously considered the art will occur, even art close to art itself.” According to a statement from SFMOMA, “his designs exemplify a singular vision of scale and proportion,” allowing for “a focus on details of form and the clear expression of materials.” His Open Side Chair 84 in wood was put alongside his Desk 10 in enameled aluminum in a photo of his architecture studio in Marfa, Texas, where he moved in 1971 and lived and worked until his death in 1994. In another photo of his former studio, now the Judd Foundation in Marfa, the delicate Frame Table 70 by Judd was ingeniously coupled with the iconic MR Side Chair by Mies. Frame Table 70’s unique design is said to resonate with Aalto’s Table 70, which sports a similar second-tier shelf detail. All in all, this exhibition repositions Judd’s design work within the twentieth-century canon. Check out this link for details and tickets.
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Concrete Dreams

Yugoslav architecture: Hidden no more
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is hosting an extraordinary exhibition surveying late modern architecture from a country that no longer exists: YugoslaviaToward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 is on view now through January 13, 2019. Approximately six hundred items are on display in salon style across MoMA’s galleries including original drawings, newly crafted scale models, and a series of commissioned photographs by a Swiss photographer Valentin Jeck. The material is not presented chronologically but rather arranged spatially as a series of sequential topics ranging from Global Networks to Everyday Life and Identities, each branching into sub-topics. Distinct rooms are reserved for individual architects that the curators have highlighted as key thinkers in the spatialization of the Yugoslav socialist identity, including Bogdan Bogdanović, Juraj Neidhardt, Vjenceslav Richter, and Edvard Ravnikar. An entire gallery is devoted to the brutalist reconstruction of Skopje featuring the work of Kenzo Tange with Janko Konstantinov, a graduate of Yale. While female architects like Milica Šterić, Melanija Marušić, and Svetlana Kana Radević did not get a separate booth, they were largely present in galleries and through an essay on gender in Yugoslav architecture published in the exhibition catalog, written by curatorial assistant Anna Kats and Theodossis Issaias. The show's curators, MoMA’s Martino Stierli and guest curator Vladimir Kulić, begin the show by asserting that this exhibition is a survey of architecture that has been all but absent from modern history. They also make clear that Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc in 1948, removing it from Stalin’s grip on spatial esthetics. The country had a need to search for its collective identity elsewhere. As Vladimir Kulić states, the architecture from Yugoslav socialism is an adaptation rather than copy, giving the work a quality of enhanced interpretation. The work exhibited draws a range of inspiration from U.S. postwar corporate architecture, brutalism on the global stage, most notably from Paul Rudolph and Kenzo Tange, Scandinavia’s organic volumetrics, Alvar Aalto’s sensibility towards nature, and playful forms in concrete relating to Oscar Niemeyer’s Brazilian freeing of form to allow expression of permeability and elegance. MoMA’s exhibit suggests that socialist architecture in Yugoslavia was a success of its own time. Its unique adaptation of late modernism was complementary with other grand narratives of modern architecture worldwide. To someone like me who lived in the architecture of Yugoslavia on display at MoMA, the success of the exhibit is two-fold. First, thanks to daring curatorial decisions to organize the material in topics rather than chronologically or as a fixed narrative, the exhibit avoids the nostalgia that surrounds avant-garde Soviet architecture. And second, these Yugoslav examples are cast as success stories from the recent socialist past, with a post-avant-garde afterlife increasingly relevant to contemporary times. As Stierli points out, a majority of the architecture presented in the exhibition is still in use today. Included in the exhibit are two outstanding works, namely the excerpts from Mila Turajlić’s video arrangement Living Space/Loving Space (2018), and Jasmina Čibić’s mesmerizing video entitled Nada: Act 1 (2016), which turned Richter’s model for the Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 1958 in Brussels into a string musical instrument. At the entrance to the galleries, visitors will find a legendary pan-Yugoslav kiosk K67 by Saša Mächtig of Slovenia doing precisely what the kiosk was meant for: providing information. Barry Bergdoll noted in a follow-up event at the AIA Center for Architecture that this exhibition celebrates an architecture that came out of a now superseded political system, and the show suggests that Yugoslavia's socialism was perhaps not that nefarious after all. Toward a Concrete Utopia is an extraordinary exhibition that is opening doors for research on the subject. Expanding scholarship was reportedly an ambition of Stierli from the beginning of planning for the exhibit. This widening will help bring to view Yugoslav architecture beyond MoMA’s selection. According to the warm reception, architecture from socialist Yugoslavia is on its way to being secured in the legacy of global modernism. Including a single shelf with topical books published thus far would have helped augment the high quality of the exhibition. Such an insertion would have also offset possible critiques of a neo-colonial approach, seemingly the only possible approach while addressing the highly diverse modern design heritage of today’s balkanized countries as a single Yugoslavia, under the roof of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hidden no more. Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, PhD grew up in socialist Yugoslavia and is now a research architect based in New York. He is the author of Socialist Architecture: The Vanishing Act (JRP Ringier, Zuerich) and Socialist Architecture: The Reappearing Act. He is currently faculty at CUNY’s CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture and founder of NAO.NYC.