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1925–2018

Barry Bergdoll, Robert Miller, Jennifer Bonner, and more remember the late Robert Venturi
Robert Venturi passed away at age 93 on Wednesday, and there has been an overwhelming response from the architecture community. From dedicated disciples to former intellectual foes, many architects and critics have taken a moment to recognize how deep and impactful Venturi’s legacy really is. We collected some of those tributes here. Adam Yarinsky: Complexity and Contradiction was truly revelatory for me, as I read it at a moment in my early undergraduate education which coincided with beginning to learn about architectural history and also how to ‘read’ architectural drawings. I never saw it as a prescriptive handbook about making postmodernist forms but rather, in the examples of his work included in the back of the book, as a means of acknowledging architectural practice as critically engaging history (and more generally culture) through design. The idea of thinking about design as part of a constellation of relationships is the progeny of the understanding kindled through his work. Winka Dubbeldam: Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction from now over 50 years ago, was and is a groundbreaking architectural publication. For me it was the book that started my interest in philosophy and critical thinking (theory) in architecture. Venturi was such an important thinker and architect and his work and books influenced so many people in their careers. I personally was very lucky to have met Bob and Denise early on, when I was a young faculty member at Penn and was asked by the then Dean Gary Hack to present my student’s work to the Board of Overseers. I was excited and nervous to note that Bob and Denise both were on the Board, but they were excited to see the work, and we had a great conversation after the presentation. Our thoughts and warm wishes are with Denise.
Barry Bergdoll One of the first books I bought as a freshman in the 1970s was Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, a proud use of my brand-new MoMA student membership (my first copy has its members $2.96 tag). Venturi opened my eyes to seeing architecture, and to seeing modernist architecture. Far from a manifesto for an as-yet-to-be-named postmodernism, it was a love letter to architecture and a primer in ecumenical appreciation of things as seemingly distant as Lutyens and the vernacular.  My copy must be like so many others—a palimpsest of underlinings and marginalia. Dialogue with Venturi continues to this day, his thoughts as fresh as they are of their moment of origin. Catherine Ingraham: I typically write notes when I know I will reread a book. But I have no notes for Robert Venturi who, in concert with Denise Scott Brown, wrote Complexity and Contradiction and Learning from Las Vegas, even though I refer to these books on numerous occasions. Why? Because these texts, coupled with the architectural experimentation they inspired, are still on the main list, still live material embedded in the brains of those of us—young and old—who ran parallel with that epoch. This work made seminal contributions to the difficult category of American architecture and it will continue to contribute to the long, complex, game of the discipline and practice. Robert L. Miller: In time, I believe, the built work and projects of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and VSBA will claim an even higher place than the justly praised writings and theories. There may be no better way to honor Venturi’s memory in these next few days than to look again at one of these projects—ideally a built work, on site and in context, and with some of his incomparable drawings for it. This is an architecture that is at last comfortable with real modern American culture, not 1920s or 1950s modern but an unembarrassed, information-rich modern architecture of now.
 
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Rest in Peace, Robert Venturi🕊

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Jimenez Lai: Robert Venturi’s life and work, together with Denise Scott Brown, inspired us to treat architecture as a platform upon which one can learn “everything." The inclusive mindset Venturi lived by offered us the opportunity to view architecture as an embodiment of human communications that demands all of us to look harder and learn something from every aspect of the everyday around us. Venturi’s disposition towards “everything” as intellectual fodder opened the doors to us to reevaluate the aesthetic framework of the “ugly” or the “ordinary”—whilst enjoying a sense of a humor about it all. We are indebted to Robert Venturi for our continuing desire to keenly observe the world around us, and the sense of lightheartedness from which we tell our stories. Thank you, Mr. Venturi, for shepherding in the qualities of the messy, complex, awkward, and clumsy, so that we can embrace the perfections and imperfections of everything around us. Most importantly, thank you for leading the way to show us that architecture may or may not look like architecture, and architecture communicates on the behalf to the humans inside and outside the architecture. Jennifer Bonner: "I like elements which are hybrid rather than 'pure,' compromising rather than 'clean’, distorted rather than 'straightforward,' ambiguous rather than 'articulated'.... I am for messy vitality over obvious unity." – Robert Venturi (Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture) Robert Venturi gave us the intellectual, the ordinary, and humor in architecture. An undeniable force that has moved several generations, Venturi and Scott Brown showed us a different way of reading architecture. His “non-straightforward” architecture is infectious and especially so for a 17 year old from Alabama who lived in Las Vegas the summer before entering college. My first book to read on the subject of architecture was Learning From Las Vegas. Thank you.
Craig Konyk: Surely an important watershed moment. Ideas carry forward long after we articulate them. He and Denise will forever share the immortality of ideas. Adam Nathaniel Furman: It is almost incomprehensible to lose Robert Venturi, so important and central was his spirit for those practicing in my generation. A thinker, teacher, architect, and writer who played a vital role in massively expanding the notion of what academic architecture was, and could be, and how architectural history and our contemporary environment could be looked at with eager and appreciative eyes, and vivid, intellectually curious minds. May his legacy keep flowering in a thousand different receptive places… Joan Ockman: Robert Venturi’s contribution to the architectural culture of the last third of the twentieth century was original and profound. Equally a thinker and a maker, his early books Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) and Learning from Las Vegas (1972, with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour) were instrumental in articulating the set of ideas that would soon be coined as postmodernism. Projects like the Vanna Venturi House and Guild House translated his theories into built form. While other architects recognized the failures of late modernism by the 1960s, Venturi was among the first to produce a body of work that launched architecture in a genuinely new direction.
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Retail Disaster

An OMA development threatens a landmark of Dutch urban design
Shopping these days is often done online, making street-level urban and suburban commercial retail spaces eerily vacant, but this was not always the case. Consider Rotterdam's Lijnbaan. The Lijnbaan, a large-scale development for Rotterdam proposed by Dutch architect Jo van den Broek, was made of housing and commercial buildings. Around 100 shops were built in two phases: the north part was completed in the 1950s, which is now preserved as a rijksmonument (a national heritage site), and the southern arm was done the 1960s and was open to change. Both arms received much publicity for their pedestrian orientation. This urban complex arose on the ruins of a Rotterdam that was bombed on May 14, 1940, by Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Cornelis Van Traa designed the urban plan for the center of the city and instead of following the historic forerunners of the street system, created a new system, precisely for a changed society. The freshly conceived apartment buildings’ designs were headed by Hugh Maaskant and his associates and, germane for our subject, the handsome "new objectivity" Lijnbaan shops along a mostly “L-Shaped” street system were credited to the architectural firm Van den Broek and Bakema. The main architects were Jaap Bakema and Frans van Gool. The former is the subject of a new book, Dirk Van Den Heuvel’s Jaap Bakema and the Open Society. Bakema gained his reputation for his participation in Team 10 and his large-scale building production. Van Gool designed but also oversaw construction and made stunning perspectives of the shops. However, the authorship of the Lijnbaan quarters is somewhat blurred, since responsibilities were shared by the architects’ offices and city officials, as occurs frequently in many urban projects. Mostly all the shops, placed in double rows in the 18-meter-wide plan, were built of reinforced concrete frameworks with prefab elements and brick walls filled in. Iconic canopies were made of steel and wood; they protected and ran along most of the shop rows. Also, there were seven lines of canopies that stretched across the landscaped areas that separated the shop rows. These in-between areas were furnished with many attractions; landscaped zones with flowers and trees were accompanied by kiosks and benches. Delightful for strollers, they now suffer from wear. While the southern arm of the complex is in turmoil, the northern part is being restored by Robert Wankel of Mei Architects. Most notable is their restoration of the Lijnbaan 77 on the corner of the Aert van Nesstraat. Working under the auspices of an area regulation pact, “Lijnbaanregeerakkoord,” Mei Architects have given the frayed parts of the canopies sensitively treated materials in accord with the preexisting concrete and wood. Even more recent is the work of Kees Kaan who has designed the Schaap en Citroen jewelers and fashion retailer COS shop on the corner of Karel Doormanstraat 278. Formerly Martin’s Tearoom, its 3-story corner block is incompatible with other 2-story Lijnbaan shops. Yet, it is tame in comparison with the towering blocks proposed nearby. The southern arm of the Lijnbaan, which is not eligible for 50-year preservation status, is being threatened by moneyed interests and a high powered designer, Rem Koolhaas, and his firm, OMA. Commerce is vital, but when it drowns out human values it needs to be upended. Multi Nederland is the developer and the "star" architect is Rem Koolhaas—former supporter of the social values of shopping and the preservation of historical modern buildings. Developer and architect have bowed to the expedient forces and designed an ugly tower complex (maybe they think it's delirious). Koolhaas and Reinier de Graaf, OMA's partner in charge, ignore the unified low-rise nature of the Lijnbaan shops. It is all very cynical as Dirk van den Heuvel, says—the city needs the money and automatically forgets the prize-making history of the Lijnbaan, the jewel of postwar Rotterdam’s modernist ideals. As the great urban historian, Lewis Mumford, pointed out, the shopping experience for pedestrians is of great importance. The anti-preservation forces even include Wessel de Jonge, co-founder of the Docomomo organization which purports to preserve endangered modern architecture. Demolition work has already begun on badly maintained shops, so the tragic end may be near.
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Exhibit Columbus’s 2019 exhibition participants join 2018 National Symposium as featured speakers
During the 2018 National Symposium, Design, Community, and Progressive Preservation, all of the participants in Exhibit Columbus’s 2019 exhibition will take the stage for their first public conversations as a group. Before they create temporary installations that will be on view during next year's exhibition, these international leaders will visit Columbus, present their work, and to get to know the community. The J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Recipients—Agency Landscape + Planning, Bryony Roberts Studio, Frida Escobedo Studio, MASS Design Group, and SO-IL—will participate in a conversation moderated by Sean Anderson of the Museum of Modern Art on Saturday, September 29 from 4:30–6:30. The Washington Street Civic Project Leaders—Borderless Studio, Extrapolation Factory, LA-Mas, People for Urban Progress, and PienZa Sostenible—will participate in a conversation moderated by David Rubin of Land Collective on Saturday, September 29 from 11:00–12:30. The University Design Research Fellows will participate in the Afternoon Conversation: States of Design Education at The Republic Building on Thursday, September 27 from 4:00–5:00. Register for the 2018 National Symposium online by September 19. (Note: Tickets will be available on-site as availability permits.) The symposium is produced in collaboration with Docomomo US, the American Institute of Architects Indiana and Kentucky Chapters, and Newfields.
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Lichtvorführung

Marcel Breuer’s Central Atlanta Library to feature light show on its facade
Marcel Breuer’s dark and boxy Central Atlanta Library will literally light up this fall with projected images chronicling the city’s hip-hop and experimental music scene. Curbed Atlanta reported that URBANSCREEN, an artist collective from Germany, will design a light show on the Brutalist building’s hulking facade beginning October 5. The 250,000-square-foot concrete public library is situated at the corner of Forsyth and Williams Streets and is currently undergoing a controversial $50 million renovation by local firm Cooper Carry. URBANSCREEN’s “Superposition” installation will bring temporary color and motion to the exterior as part of the Goethe-Institut’s “Lightart Meets German Architecture” project. In partnership with the organization, the artists will illuminate two other iconic German-American pieces of architecture outside of Atlanta: the Athenaeum in Indianapolis and the German ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. Not only is the project a celebration of these enduring buildings, but it is also a chance to reflect on the history of German architecture in the U.S. and what that means to the countries’ relationship today, according to URBANSCREEN. For Atlanta, digital art, dance, and music will be integrated within the project “to unite several universal languages that transcend geographical definitions,” says a press release cited by Curbed. In an interview with the Goethe-Institut, the URBANSCREEN team described their inspiration for the projection on the Atlanta library. “We first had an entirely different idea, but then changed our minds completely when we arrived on site,” said Majo Ussat. “Now we are presenting a highly graphical projection in collaboration with local youth groups who will dance hip-hop—a kind of 'Bauhaus meets hip-hop.'" The team will install four projectors around the library, some in a nearby building and on the roof of a gallery, since the surrounding block is too tight to set them up efficiently. Per Curbed Atlanta, the event will also include a street festival replete with food and beer trucks. The revamp of the Central Library, as well as the light show, signals a rededication to the historic architecture scene of Atlanta. Back in 2016, the city was considering demolishing the building, but local and national preservationists came to the rescue. Cooper Cary’s retrofit will transform 50,000 square feet of the library into private, leasable space in an attempt to enhance its program. On August 24, the site was unanimously voted to the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Georgia Register of Historic Places by the Georgia National Register Review Board.
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Experience modernism in the heartland during the 2018 National Symposium in Columbus, Indiana
The 2018 National Symposium, Design, Community, and Progressive Preservation, takes place September 26–29 in Columbus, Indiana. This year’s symposium is produced by Docomomo US and Exhibit Columbus, in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects Indiana and Kentucky Chapters and the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. Experience newly created tours that will take you behind the scenes and set the stage for how Columbus secured its place as an architectural mecca and earned the nickname the “Athens of the Prairie.” Join enthusiasts, architects, and preservationists alike for a four-day experience unlike any other, including engaging conversations with more than 40 visionary leaders in architecture, art, design, and community, and special programs like the kick-off events in the newly reinstalled Design Gallery at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and a screening of the documentary Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future plus a question and answer session with Eero Saarinen’s son, Eric Saarinen, and much more. Register for the 2018 National Symposium by September 19 and book your travel to Columbus today!
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Earn a year’s worth of AIA learning units at the 2018 National Symposium in Columbus, Indiana
The 2018 National Symposium, Design, Community, and Progressive Preservation, takes place September 26–29 and marks a new collaboration between the American Institute of Architects Indiana and Kentucky Chapters, Docomomo US, Exhibit Columbus, and Newfields. Register by September 19 to be a part of enlightening conversations with more than 40 visionary leaders in architecture, art, design, and community and experience exclusive tours of the iconic modern buildings that have made Columbus, Indiana, known as an architectural mecca. And with up to 25 AIA Learning Units (18 HSW) available, AIA members can earn an entire year’s worth of learning units in just 3-4 days at the 2018 National Symposium! In addition to completing AIA continuing education for a year, members will experience the AIA Kentucky/AIA Indiana Products Forum Trade Show on Friday, September 28. The Trade Show will showcase the most innovative products and services in today’s design and construction industries from more than 40 exhibitors (a handful of slots and sponsorship opportunities remain!). Register to participate in the Trade Show today.
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Columbus Connection

Miller Prize winners announced ahead of the Exhibit Columbus 2018 National Symposium
Exhibit Columbus has announced the winners of the 2018-2019 J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize competition. The five winning firms will be featured in the Docomomo US and Exhibit Columbus 2018 National Symposium, titled Design, Community, and Progressive Preservation, taking place September 26 through 29. Firms will then return on January 19 to present their design concepts to the community. Each firm is tasked with constructing site-responsive installations that interact with Columbus’s midcentury modern heritage, with the final works opening to the public on August 24, 2019. This is the second year that the Miller Prize has been awarded. Here are the five winning firms: Agency Landscape + Planning With work that ranges from the Chicago Riverwalk to a two-year examination of the post-Hurricane Sandy landscape, Cambridge-based Agency has a deep commitment to ecological and social mindfulness. Agency is currently leading the White River Vision Plan, a year-long strategic plan for redeveloping 58 miles of southern Indiana river. Bryony Roberts Studio New York-based Bryony Roberts Studio uses design to bring intangible heritage and social histories to contemporary audiences, often through distinctive collaborations. As a participant in the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Bryony Roberts brought the South Shore Drill Team to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Center for an electrifying performance that used careful choreography to mirror the lines of the iconic modernist plaza. Frida Escobedo Studio Fresh off her commission to design the 2018 Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens, Mexico City-based Frida Escobedo creates sophisticated structural forms using vernacular materials and methods, including concrete block, brise-soleil, and post and beam. MASS Design Group Based in Boston, and Kigali, Rwanda, non-profit MASS Design Group believes that architecture is never neutral, and that it has the power to heal. The firm’s work includes both research and design. This spring MASS Design Group unveiled the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. SO-IL With work that creates “structures that establish new cultures, institutions, and relationships,” New York-based SO-IL created L'air pour l'air for the second Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2017, a project that brought the firm to the Garfield Park Conservatory, where they encased an ensemble of wind instrument players in air-filtering mesh enclosures, designed to clean the air through breathing.
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Pirelli Believe It

Breuer’s Pirelli Tire Building will be reborn as a hotel
One of Marcel Breuer's two New Haven, Connecticut buildings will be preserved and converted into a hotel. When it was finished in 1969, researchers and administrators at Armstrong Rubber worked out of the company's Pirelli Tire Building, a Brutalist structure whose office tower core is bisected by beguiling angled windows. The building—vacant since the 1990s—is now owned by IKEA and sits aside a store parking lot. IKEA is in talks with a developer to convert the I-95-adjacent concrete building into a hotel, the New Haven Independent reported. AN IKEA spokesperson told the paper that the company hasn't gone public with its plans for the structure yet. The conversion scheme were revealed at a meeting of the city's development commission. Breuer's work is enjoying a strong revival, thanks in part to renewed popular interest in Brutalism. In Atlanta, city officials are looking to revamp the Breuer-designed main library, while back in 2016, the Metropolitan Museum of Art restored the Whitney's former home and re-christened it the Met Breuer. (H/T NHVmod and Docomomo US)
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Viva Spud

Seattle preservationists fight to grant Googie restaurant landmark status
It's an all-too familiar story: a beloved local institution bites the dust as a developer swoops in to build apartments. But one modest Seattle restaurant has found a number of advocates that are fighting for it to gain lazndmark status. The restaurant is Spud, a fish-and-chips spot with roots that date back to the 1935, and it's the restaurant's Green Lake location that's at the center of campaign (several other Spud restaurants exist, though they are run by different ownership). After a developer announced plans to raze the six-decade-old structure in order to build a four-story apartment building, representatives from Historic Seattle and Docomomo WEWA are speaking out in support of having the building designated a city landmark, with a Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board hearing scheduled for later this month. The current plan has Spuds reopening on the first floor the new building, but preservationists argue that demolishing the current structure would mean losing one of the finest examples of the modernist style in all of the Northwest, Seattle's Daily Journal of Commerce reports. Dating back to the 1950s, the 1,637-square-foot fish shack was designed by Edward L. Cushman in the playful Googie style of midcentury modernism. The popular postwar style was designed to attract the attention of drivers to roadside fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and motels, and, like many of the type, Spud features a distinctive butterfly roof and neon sign. So far, the developer of the proposed apartment building, Seattle's Blueprint Capital, is going along with the landmark process, even requesting the landmark hearing as a proactive measure. Meanwhile, local preservationists, citing the fact that the building has been occupied with a working Spud location ever since it was built, have proposed looking at alternative designs, such as a scheme that would incorporate the new structure into the existing site.
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Joining Forces

Preservation groups protest Union Carbide demolition and appeal for its landmarking
Shortly after JPMorgan Chase announced that they would be demolishing their Midtown Manhattan headquarters at 270 Park Avenue, preservationists, architects and critics railed against the move on social media and through letters to the city. Now, the U.S. and New York/Tri-State chapters of non-profit preservation group Docomomo have teamed up for a joint effort to persuade New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to consider protecting the building. In a letter sent to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, both groups stressed the importance of the SOM-designed Union Carbide building in the canon of corporate architecture, and the role Natalie de Blois played in its design. Seeking to get ahead of the demolition, the letter states,
“As the agency charged with implementing the Landmarks law, we urge you--as the Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission--to immediately calendar 270 Park Avenue for local designation. We appreciate the need to partner and work with other city agencies to advance the goals of the City on behalf of its citizens. However, the goals of one large corporation should not nullify or ignore the public interest, the law or the authority of one agency over another.”
Now that the tower is on the chopping block, calls for the building’s calendaring have intensified, as the New York-based Historic Districts Council has also advocated for the landmarking. It’s important to note that 270 Park Ave. had been identified as a potential landmark by the city once before, in 2013 ahead of the rezoning, and that 12 surrounding buildings were given protection. The city had also seemed on board at the time, saying in the Greater East Midtown Rezoning Final Environmental Impact Statement that, “One of the City’s greatest modern buildings, this 53-story [skyscraper] exudes strength and elegance in its protruding stainless steel mullions and simple but bold façade patterning created by the black matte metal spandrels...The ultimate pin-stripe building.” It remains to be seen whether these letters and lobbying will fall on deaf ears, as Chase is on track to raze the tower early next year, giving it the dubious distinction of being the largest voluntarily demolished building in history.
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Hung Up

What is going on with the AT&T Building lobby?
Last month The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reported that the AT&T Building's lobby was demolished. Now, though, preservationists believe the lobby at 550 Madison Avenue is more intact than previously thought. Permits for the lobby demolition were issued in December, and in January, developer Chelsfield and investment group Olayan America, the team behind the postmodern tower's redesign, confirmed the interior had been sledgehammered. Acting on that information, Manhattan Community Board 5's (CB5) Landmarks Committee voted on a draft resolution last month that condemned the development team's decision to demolish the lobby in the middle of talks with the board and preservation groups like the Municipal Art Society (MAS) and Docomomo US, among others. Although the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) excluded the lobby of the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed tower from landmark consideration last November, 20th century preservation experts consider the interior and exterior of the building to be one cohesive space, even after early 1990s renovations enclosed the lobby and surrounding arcades. Earlier this month, however, preservation activist Thomas Collins said he walked by the building and saw most of the lobby was still intact. Most of the granite walls, the oculus, and the ceiling appear to be there. At the top of the arch, the north wall was still visible, but when Collins walked by the building today, the lobby was scaffolded up to the oculus level. It appears the main plan is to rotate the elevators a quarter-turn, opening up a sightline from Madison Avenue into a garden that will replace an annex and the enclosed arcade between 55th and 56th streets. In Collins's estimation, the programmatic requirements of the proposed work do not necessitate cosmetic changes outlined in the demolition permits. He believes the elevators could be rotated while "[retaining] 80 to 90 percent of the historic fabric.” When prompted for an accurate and detailed description of the work performed, a spokesperson for the developer issued the following statement, which was attributed to Chelsfield Managing Director David Laurie:

"We are six weeks into an approximately eight-week demolition process, consistent with LPC-approved permits issued in December. The entire space is beyond restoration with the majority of the lobby’s features now removed. This renovation work is in accordance with our plans to revitalize 550 Madison, making it viable for multi-tenant occupancy."

Through the spokesperson, Laurie declined to elaborate on repeated requests to give details on whether the floors, fixtures, and interior partitions had been demolished per the permits for the $100,000 project that were issued in December. Architect Scott Spector, principal of Spector Group Architects, is signing permits for this phase of the lobby project. Given the developer's reluctance to share details on the state of the lobby, the community board is trying to determine the exact scope and scale of the demolition-in-progress. "Until we know it is not correct, we cannot take any information as fact until [the board] can verify it," CB5 Landmarks Committee Chair Layla Law-Gisiko said. "If we were to find out that it was a misrepresentation, it would be very disappointing and worrying. We're always trying to work in good faith with all the stakeholders." She added that the board knows the building must be altered to prepare it for multi-tenant occupancy, but that the alterations must be contextual. "Putting Philip Johnson's architecture in the dumpster? No," she said. At the full CB5 board meeting last week, members approved a resolution in support of landmarking, and encouraged the LPC to review the lobby as-is for potential interior landmark designation. The resolution also recommended reverting the public spaces Sony (the primary tenant after AT&T) had converted to retail in 1993 back to public use. Although community board decisions are non-binding, the LPC takes them into account in its deliberations. In addition to CB5's voice, five local politicians signed a letter to Laurie urging the development team to "engage in a good-faith dialogue" with preservationists and others to make sure the renovations honor Johnson and Burgee's original design intent. The undersigned—two state senators, two assembly members, and new City Council District 4 rep Keith Powers—said they understood the lobby wasn't up for landmark consideration, but encouraged Chelsfield and Olayan America to treat the space sensitively nonetheless. This latest controversy is an aftershock from the October reveal of Snøhetta's renovations, which sought to replace 550 Madison's imposing pink granite facade with an undulating glass curtain wall that would expose the 37-story tower's steel framework. The $300 million redo was met with an avalanche of criticism, with some architects and pomo enthusiasts taking to the streets to protest the planned changes. Collins took the lead on the landmarks nomination, preparing the LPC paperwork for the building's nomination. These are the first major changes to 550 Madison, as the building is now officially known, since Olayan America acquired the property for $1.4 billion in May 2016. Since last February, records show the owners have paid two lobbying firms over a quarter-million dollars to attempt to influence the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of City Planning, and various council members—not an unusual move for a development of this caliber. This year, the group has retained the lobbyists at Kasirer to speak with the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of Buildings, community boards, and the LPC, among other entities. Records show the group, working as OAC 550 Owner LLC, has spent no money so far in 2o18 on these efforts, however. An AN reporter went to eyeball the lobby on February 2, looking for possible changes. Whereas it was previously possible to see into the space through cracks in the butcher paper, workers have taped the cover-ups to the glass so thoroughly that none of the lobby is visible from the street. For his part, Collins believes the permits are for preemptive demolition. "They don't have a plan for the interior; they just want to mess up enough of the interior so the LPC won't touch it," he said. This story has been updated to clarify the scope and impact of the interior renovation.
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Out of Service

It’s official: The AT&T Building lobby is gone
Last night Manhattan Community Board 5's (CB5) Landmarks Committee unanimously approved a resolution in support of protecting the AT&T Building, Philip Johnson and John Burgee's 1984 postmodern tower on Madison Avenue. Although the objective was primarily to discuss building's historic merit and landmark eligibility, the committee's wide-ranging conversation returned repeatedly to the owner's decision to sledgehammer the building's lobby in the midst of talks with preservation groups, CB5, and other stakeholders. Much of the lobby talk focused on what constitutes interior or exterior space in a young-ish building whose public areas were cocooned by a major renovation less than a decade after it opened. In 1993, Sony Corporation, the building's new tenant, tapped Gwathmey Siegel (now Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman) to glass in a rear arcade as well as the loggias on either side of the Madison Avenue entrance, a move that created retail from previously open, public space. Although the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has already said it will not landmark the formerly exterior, now interior spaces, this didn't stop the Landmarks Committee from expressing its disappointment towards the agency's decision to okay demolition permits. The committee, seated before reporters and a half-dozen members of the public, heard remarks from the project team first. David Laurie, managing director for developer Chelsfield America, read a statement to the board on behalf of his company and Olayan America, the owner of the building and Chelsfield's partner in the redevelopment. "We have taken our role as stewards very seriously," he said. Their goal was to adapt the building, erected as the headquarters for AT&T only, into multi-occupant Class A office space for future tenants of 550 Madison, as the building is now officially known. On the ground floors, he said, renovations will "finally deliver on the building's promise for public space." Laurie explained his team has commissioned a public garden that will be "marginally larger" than the sculpture garden at MoMA, which is 21,400 square feet. Floorplans on 550 Madison's site give an idea of how the new spaces will flow together. The lobby, at center, remains in a similar configuration, as does the existing retail on either side. Behind that, plans show that the garden will replace an adjoining annex and the enclosed arcade between 55th and 56th streets. Despite these renovations, the lobby is—or rather, was—one of the best-preserved public postmodern interiors in New York. CB5 Landmarks Committee Chair Layla Law-Gisiko confirmed that, per permits the LPC signed off on in December, the lobby has been demolished. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to Chelsfield America for comment on its decision to alter the lobby but had not heard back at press time. On February 1, a representative for the developer confirmed the work described in the permit—the removal of interior partitions, ceilings, elevators, and finishes—has been completed. The representative could say whether the patterned marble floor remained intact. The ground floor plans are part of Snøhetta-led renovation of the building that was unveiled in October 2017 and immediately condemned by leading architects as context-clueless and disfiguring. Among other changes, the Oslo- and New York-based firm proposed a striking exterior alteration of the structure's monumental Madison Avenue facade that would have swapped the rosy Stony Creek granite, a contextual reference to the city's classic Beaux-Arts skyscrapers, for an undulating glass curtain wall. The outcry over the design prompted preservationist Thomas Collins to initiate the building's landmarking, which usually (though not always) stops the clock on major renovations. The LPC subsequently added the structure to its calendar for landmark consideration last November. Over objections from Collins and others, however, the LPC is only considering 550 Madison's facade and public spaces, not the lobby, for landmarking. Four members of the public spoke in support of landmarking. These included Collins, a representative of civic group the Municipal Art Society, and Liz Waytkus, the executive director of modern architecture preservation group Docomomo US. "The historic nature of AT&T is one whole design," Waytkus said. She decried what she characterized as "backroom lobbying" that led to the LPC's approval of lobby demolition permits. Others praised the building's completeness and its singular place in 20th-century architecture. "Beyond its 'period room' appeal, the AT&T lobby is a uniquely attractive space with exceptional materials and attention to detail," Collins said. "It has aged well and offers valuable lessons to a younger generation of designers bored with the antiseptic minimalism currently in vogue." Landmarks Committee Vice Chair Renee Cafaro largely agreed, calling the recommendation to landmark the (formerly) granite-walled, black-and-white marble-floored lobby "imperative." "The intent of the interior, historically, was to be the exterior—to be exposed to the elements was holistically part of the building. Even if some of the grandeur is gone, presumably the original height of the space is still there," she said. "All they really did here was throw some glass in the main archways." After some back-and-forth on the interior-exterior question, the committee drafted and approved a resolution that recommended the designation of the exterior and expressed disappointment at the LPC's approval of the lobby demo permits, saying the agency's move sets an "unfortunate precedent." The full board will vote on the Landmarks Committee's resolution at its meeting this Thursday. Although community board resolutions do not carry the weight of law, the LPC takes their decisions into account during its own deliberations. This post has been updated with new information about the state of the lobby.