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Meet Mister Streetscape


Dennis Finnin / Courtesty New York Public Library

With the new Bronx Public Library Center, Richard Dattner, master
of the background building, moves toward center stage, writes Thomas de Monchaux

Bronx Public Library Center

Architect: Dattner Architects; Richard Dattner, principal; Daniel Heuberger, project architect;
Robin Auchincloss, William Stein, George Cumell, Joon Chom, project team
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates Geotechnical/Civil Engineer: Langan Engineering Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Robert Derector Associates Landscape Designer: MKW & Associates Lighting Consultant: Domingo Gonzalez Design Construction Manager: F. J. Sciame Construction


Courtesy Dattner Architects
Central Park Adventure Playground, 1967

You owe Richard Dattner. If you're an architect and urbanist, or just a client and connoisseur, and have ever tried to describe a particular kind of public space that starts at the sidewalk and goes as far as your imagination will take it; and if you have ever used the word, streetscapeeto describe it: you owe him. That's because Dattner, whose 40-year-old New York practice has been concerned largely with the public and civic, copyrighted the term in the 1970s. It was part of a patent he took out on a line of street furniture, which included a prefabricated fiberglass booth whose hemispherical lozenge geometry still adds a certain miniature modernist grandeur to the work of taxi-dispatchers, cops, and others throughout the city. Once you recognize this booth, you see it everywhere, from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to JFK Airport. But it is also so ubiquitous that it has become almost invisibleejust another part of, well, the streetscape. Dattner is philosophical about the fate of the word, concluding, Well, you can't really own something like that.. The term may belong to him, but Dattner will be the first to tell you that the landscape of the street belongs to everybody. Especially in New York.


Courtesy Dattner Architects
P.S. 380, Williamsburg, 1981

It is the fate of much of Dattner's New York work to integrate itself seamlessly into the streetscape and cityscape. His portfolio includes unconventional playgrounds on the West side of Central Park; vast infrastructural complexes like Brooklyn's 26th Ward Sludge Treatment Facility and Manhattan's East 16th Street Con Edison Service Building; the park atop Upper Manhattan's giant North River Pollution Treatment Plant; and public schools like TriBeCa's P.S. 234. A project now on the boards, a grass-roofed Queens Borough Library Branch in Long Island City, is designed to be literally unseen from adjacent residential towers, despite a strong presence at ground level. His is an indispensable body of work, but in the absence of a signature style, it is also an invisible one.


Courtesy Dattner Architects
Modular Ticket Booths, 1974

His approach did not develop this way through a lack of exposure: Dattner has enountered icon-making architects in his time, both as a student and as a teacher. After study at MIT, he had a stint as a student at London's Architectural Association in the late 1950s where he learned, how to do more with lesss from John Stirling and Alison and Peter Smithson. Some twenty years later, he conducted a second-year design studio at Cooper Union and had a very independent-minded and energeticc student called Daniel Libeskind. But in his own work, he has taken what he calls an existential approachh to questions of form, style, and material. Look at Renzo Piano,, Dattner says. Each project is crafted and sensitive to its circumstances. Polynesia is different from the New York Times. Within our office we aspire to that level of thought..


Courtesy Dattner Architects
P.S. 234, Tribeca, 1988

Critical assessment of the results has been varied, generally colored by the low expectations that, especially in New York, greet the public commissions that have made up the bulk of Dattner's work. For instance, Architectural Record found his 1983 Bronx Con Edison Customer Service Facility to be a sturdy,, response to the client's stated need for a simple, functional design avoiding any impression of wasteful expenditure.. That magazine pronounced his 1989 project, P.S. 234, a success, considering the city's web of bureaucracy and the limited means available. [I]n another city it might qualify as just one more well designed building, but in New York City [it] stands out.. Dattner's 1993 sports facilities at the North River Pollution plant were found to be handsome and colorful,, by Jane Holtz Kay, architecture critic for The Nation, but the overall effect was sparsee and perfunctoryy: Even with budget constraints,, asked Kay, why such lack of zest?? Former New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger was unimpressed by the 1972 Riverside Park Community Apartments in upper Manhattan, on which Dattner worked, in collaboration with the firms of Henri A. Legendre and Max Wechsler. The project looks dreadful from Riverside Drive,, Goldberger wrote in The City Observed, where the contrast between its huge size and that of everything around it issdisturbing.. He found the architecture itself, banal..


Courtesy Dattner Architects
Coney Island Comfort Station and Public Restroom, 2004

Dattner suggests that the different circumstances of different projects suggest different details and designs, even commonplace ones: You make the rules out of the specific site and out of the specific problem; some projects call for a background building.. But his latest project, The New York Public Library's Bronx Public Library Center, which opened on January 17th, moves his work from background to foreground. This project has to be seen,, Dattner says, almost conceding the point. It's at the heart of a community, it's on one of the highest points in the borough.. Capped by a dramatic butterfly roof over a penthouse research room, the $50 million, 78,000-square-foot building features stacks and high-tech reading rooms on five floors, along with a 150-seat auditorium, classrooms and meeting areas in a basement level. These, along with a 20,000-volume Latino Cultural Collection and programs for literacy and job training, will serve as a community center for the predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. The below-grade facilities are accessed through a slot of space daylit by a street-level strip of windows, and further illuminated by artist IIigo Manglano-Ovalle's installation depicting a DNA sequence. That slot of space is positioned below a set of generous cantilevers that project the library's reading rooms out past the primary structural elements of the building, back into the streetscape itself.


Dennis Finnin / Courtesty NYPL
The glass-enclosed atrium stair

The library's upper levels are accessed by a rear staircase whose central atrium is enclosed in channel glass. The effect is poetic and pragmatic. According to Dattner, As you step up into knowledge, you step into light.. The glass enclosure also stops a kid from throwing a book downstairs. Or,, he adds drily, a companion.. Elsewhere, a circular half-wall produces a children's reading area in which children feel enclosed but are visible to adultssa gesture that recalls the landforms Dattner designed for Adventure Playgrounds in the 1960s.


Dennis Finnin / Courtesty NYPL
The main reading room is located on the top floor

Unusually for a library, the building features outdoor terraces where Dattner, who, though Polish-born, spent his early childhood in Cuba, imagines, readings, moon-viewing, and piiata parties.. Dattner collaborator and project architect Daniel Heuberger describes the building, with its clear front faaade and crisp details as, instantly readable and transparent, with no complicated wayfinding.. A rear interior wall, pale blue on every level, metaphorically mirrors the glass faaade and subtly distinguishes between private and public spaces. Dattner contrasts this glassy openness with the first library he designed in New York City, the Parkchester Branch Library, also in the Bronx, in 1982: At the time they had this list of things you couldn't do, like no windows along the street wall without bars or screens.. The visual openess of the Bronx Library, Dattner says, is a testament to increased civility in New York City..


Dennis Finnin / Courtesty NYPL
On the ground level, an Installation by IIigo Manglano-ovalle despicts
a DNA sequence
.

Civility is a touchstone of how Dattner describes his work, which includes not only public commissions but what he describes as the unseen public cityy of urban infrastructure. He suggested the term Civil Architecture in his 1995 book of that title, writing, Civic Architecture [was close] to my intended theme but missed meanings resonating around civil''civility, civilization, civil engineering..

The Bronx Public Library Center is the latest in a long series of public commissions that began with Brooklyn's P.S. 380 in South Williamsburg, a Stirlingesque 1969 school featuring an innovative play area that recalls Dattner's contemporary 67th Street Adventure Playground in Central Park. The playground, which was commissioned when the city was newly ambitious about design during the administration of Mayor John Lindsay, was donated by Estte and Joseph Lauder. The Lauders were also the clients for Dattner's first substantial project: in 1964, along with Samuel Brody, he designed Estte Lauder's 350,000 square-foot laboratory complex in Melville, New York. Dattner and Brody developed a low-cost faaade system of curved and flat porcelain-coated steel panels set into neoprene gasket frames. At the time, Dattner was teaching at Cooper Union alongside Richard Meier. One day,, says Dattner, we got a call from Richard, saying, How did you do that with those panels?' Well, you know the rest of that story.. But he is magnanimous about what became a signature motif of his contemporary: Meier is a great architect..


Norman Mcgrath / Courtesy Dattner Architects
Richard Dattner and Samuel Brody collaborated on the Estte Lauder Laboratory Complex in Melville, New York, which was completed in 1964.

Dattner goes on to recall his time in London suring the 1950s : It was just a few years after the war. There were still a lot of rubble.. The way that London kids reclaimed ruined sites as places for play, games, and sports inspired Britain's Adventure Playground Movement, which advocated lively but rough-edged and even perilous landscapes that required imagination and ambition from their inhabitants. Dattner remembers consulting with movement founder Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who told him, Better a broken bone than a broken spirit.. That postwar urban streetscape also engendered the playfully no-nonsense work of the Smithsons, whom Dattner remembers as, tough, tough, tough, but so hospitable.. That's a combination of qualities perhaps familiar to the New Yorker in Dattner, who has designed many of the civic bones of the city and remains a keen observer of its spirit. Asked about his 1987 Louis Armstrong Cultural Center in Queens, a Smithsonesque utilitarian container for sports and community activities, the first thing he says isn't about the architecture: Well,, he begins, it's where they play the best basketball in the city..

Thomas de Monchaux is a writer and architect in New York City.

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POSITION IS POWER
Stephen Talasnik

The fate of a lot more than who will be the next Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art has been hanging in the balance since Terence Riley announced last month that he was going resign from the position he has held for 14 years: That role has been the primary force able to confer star status on architects (or deny it) and to define new directions in architecture, whether they exist or not.

For 75 years, ever since Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock started research for the 1932 exhibition, catalogue, and book that came to be known as The International Style, MoMA has been creating reputations and identifying trends more successfully than any critic, magazine, book, school, or other institution. Though the show was called Modern Architecture, International Exhibition, it described a particular kind of modern architecture which, like the paintings and sculpture the museum was showing at the time, was assertively geometric and came mostly from Europe. The catalogue's title, Modern Architects, implied a wider reach than it had, since the technologically advanced skyscrapers of the age were not included. And although the exhibition had a section on housing, selected by Lewis Mumford, the overall emphasis was on aesthetics. No wonder the show is usually called The International Style, the title of the book published by Johnson and Hitchcock that same year, minus Mumford's material. What had begun in Europe as a social movement was presented as a style. Hitchcock and Johnson even redrew Mies van der Rohe's 1929 Barcelona Pavilion and 1930 Tugendhat House to emphasize the abstract, geometric qualities that they had identified as characteristic of the style.

Four years ago, Riley and Columbia University architectural historian Barry Bergdoll redressed that distortion in MoMA's Mies in America show by exhibiting original drawings for both buildings along with the ones that had been displayed in 1932, noting the earlier alteration in the exhibition and catalogue. That public institutional admission was only one of a series of decisions Riley made that showed he was his own man. When he was hired, in 1991, after he had organized an exhibition at Columbia University on the history of the International Style show, it was widely assumed that he was Johnson's personal choice and, as such, Johnson's influence would continue.

Johnson had been a potent force at MoMA for years. The stars of the International Style show were given exhibitions again and again (ten on Mies, nine each on Le Corbusier and Wright). Johnson's friends Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Michael Graves, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier made their debuts as Five Architects in 1969. When Johnson was flirting with postmodernism, MoMA published Robert Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture as the first and only Museum of Modern Art Papers on Architecture (1966) and held The Architecture of the cole des Beaux-Arts exhibition (1976), when Arthur Drexler was curator. And when Johnson lost interest in the movement, he guest-directed the Deconstructivist Architecture show (1988), an event that not only helped counter the classicizing influence of the postmodern movement but also advanced the careers of all the participantssEisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Wolf Prix of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Bernard Tschumiiby suggesting that they were the heirs of Russian constructivism and practitioners of a new style, rooted in history and modernism at the same time. They all denied that there was any such thing as decon,, none louder than Eisenman who touted deconstructivist philosophy as an continued on page 14 position is power continued from page 13 influence on his own work, was close to Johnson, and was the main personal link between the participants.

The Deconstructivist Architecture show did, however, rekindle interest in modern (or modernist) architecture, which was good for the Modern. The museum hadn't had an architectural blockbuster since Drexler's 1979 survey, Transformations in Modern Architecture. During the heyday of postmodernism, other institutions, such as the Cooper-Hewitt and the Architectural League of New York, shared the role of tastemaker. And MoMA, which had always undertaken historical exhibitions but mainly of modern masters, showed the work of Gunnar Asplund, Edwin Landseer Lutyens, Ricardo Bofill and Leon Krier as well as of Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, and Mies as usual. Also during those years, the museum, which had always practiced what it preached, hired Cesar Pelli to design an addition, instead of Johnson who had designed the garden and the earlier new wings. (Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone designed the museum's main building very much in the International Style, in 1939.)

It was only at the very end of the 1980s that younger modern architects' work reappeared on MoMA's walls. While Stuart Wrede was in charge (1986692), there were exhibitions of Emilio Ambasz (a former MoMA curator), Steven Holl, Diller + Scofidio, and Tadao Ando, as well as of Mario Botta and Louis I. Kahn (his sixth at MoMA).

Riley's first show, in 1992, was the small New Furniture Prototypes by Frank Gehry. Then came his Previews series, with the Nara Convention Hall Competition Exhibition by Arata Isozaki, Rafael Viioly's Tokyo International Forum, Raimund Abraham's New Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, and the show, Bernard Tschumi: Architecture and Event.

Riley's OMA at MoMA: Rem Koolhaas and the Place of Public Architecture appeared at the end of 1994, around the same time S,M,L,XL was catapulting the Dutch architect to superstar status. The following September, Light Construction focused on thin-skinned, transparent and translucent buildings by more than 30 architects from ten countries. Works by Herzog & de Meuron, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Gigon and Guyer, Nicholas Grimshaw, Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Ben van Berkel, many of whom were little known in this country at the time, were shown along with those by well-known Americans, such as Johnson, Gehry, Holl, Tschumi, and Tod Williams Billie Tsien, newcomers like Joel Sanders, Thanhauser & Esterson, and some visual artists. The premise of the show was rather elusive but Riley proved that he was willing to take risks and promote work different than his own. (Like previous heads of MoMA's architecture and design departmenttJohnson, Philip Goodwin, Drexler, and WredeeRiley is a practicing architect, in partnership with John Keenen.)

During Riley's tenure, his department staged, as it always had, historical shows (on the United Nations, Alvar Aalto, Lilly Reich, Wright, Mies) as well as more unconventional presentations like Fabrications (1998), a three-museum event that invited architects to create site-specific installations (at MoMA, contributors were TEN Arquitectos with Guy Nordensen, Office dA, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, and Munkenbeck + Marshall) and A Paper Arch (2000) by Shigeru Ban, a grand latticed canopy for the museum's garden. Riley's ambitious The Un-Private House (1999) introduced a number of new talents (Michael Bell, Thomas Hanrahan and Victoria Meyers, Hariri & Hariri, Winka Dubbeldam) and ways of exhibiting architecture. The gallery was arranged as rooms to sit in, including a living room in front of a large video screen and a dining table with interactive electronic images projected at each place-setting.

Riley also played an advisory role when the museum began planning another addition to almost double its size. Most, but not all, of the architects invited to compete were ones whose work he had shownnHerzog & de Meuron, Holl, Ito, Koolhaas, Tschumi, Viioly, Williams/Tsien. Also invited were Wiel Arets, Dominique Perrault, and Yoshio Taniguchi, who won the commission. The sensibilities Riley had highlighted in his shows were very much in evidence in the museum competition, while Johnson's friends were not.

Johnson's early emphasis on aesthetics, however has been dominant at MoMA in recent decades. The architecture shown at the MoMA, like the art, is chosen for artistic merit and originality first. From the museum's beginning, under its zealous first director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the museum's staff saw their new institution as a populist one whose fundamental mission was to educate the general public about the developing culture of modernism,, former MoMA curator Matilda McQuaid writes in an essay that appeared in the exhibition catalogue Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art (Museum of Modern Art, 2002). Although it was the first museum devoted to modern art, and the first general fine-arts museum to have a curatorial department devoted to architecture,, writes Riley in his contribution to the same catalogue, the MoMA was chartered as an educational institution, rather than a museum.. The museum has always had extensive lectures, tours, and symposia to accompany its exhibitions.

Before World War II MoMA also actively tried to link architects and potential clients,, McQuaid notes in her essay. And because for a long time it was the only place where architecture was exhibited with art, MoMA's influence in the world of architecture may have been greater than its impact on painting and sculpture, which were shown in museums and galleries throughout the world. Placing architecture and design in a fine art museum privileges aesthetics, but it also allows a consideration of their personal, private, technological, handmade, and visionary aspects. At least partly because of MoMA's influence, these dimensions of architecture and design are being celebrated today at the Canadian Center for Architecture, Georges Pompidou Center, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Netherlands Architecture Institute, and a whole host of progeny the world over. But the Museum of Modern Art is still the mother ship, so it matters very much who takes Terence Riley's job and what he or she does with it.

Jayne Merkel is a New York writer whose most recent book is Eero Saarinen (Phaidon, 2005).

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On Criticism

Architecture criticism, whether written for the profession or the general public, has one primary purpose: to parse the good from the bad. Of course, criticism involves much more than thumbs-up, thumbs-down assessments. Architecture is far too complex, demanding analyses on far too many levels. The critics interviewed here describe how their varied concerns—technological, political, ecological, cultural—have shaped their approach to a field they helped create. Meanwhile, a new generation of critics are joining ranks in what Ada Louise Huxtable calls "an uphill battle," setting out to prove that responsible criticism benefits not just the profession but society at large.

Ada Louise Huxtable

 

Born and educated in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable pioneered the field of architecture criticism in the United States. In 1963, she became the architecture critic for The New York Times, a position she lobbied her editors to create, and which she held until 1982. She's still active today, at the age of 84, serving since 1997 as architecture critic at the Wall Street Journal. Over the course of her long career, she not only traced the trajectory of modernism, preservation, and urban development but influenced it.

Huxtable had worked as an assistant curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1950. She was a Fulbright scholar in Italy in 1950 to 1952, extending her research on modern Italian architecture, which she began as a master's student in architectural history at the Institute of Fine Arts. She emerged as a critic at a time when cities were in crisis, losing their built patrimony in the name of modernization and renewal. She built a mass audience for architecture criticism by bringing reason and passion together in straight-talking—sometimes sarcastic, always sophisticated—prose. When she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, her field was validated and papers across the country rushed to add architecture to their critical and journalistic beats.

Her newspaper columns are anthologized in Kicked a Building Lately? (Quadrangle, 1976), Goodbye, History, Hello, Hamburger (Preservation Press, 1986), and Architecture, Anyone? (Random House, 1986). She is also the author of The Unreal America (New Press, 1997), and Frank Lloyd Wright (Penguin, 2004).

What was the attitude toward architecture criticism when you were starting out?

There wasn't any! I'm proud of the fact that I convinced The New York Times that it needed to have an architecture critic. The very first thing I wrote for the Times, even before I started freelancing for them, was a long letter to the editor. This was 1959. The Sunday art section had a praising review of a photography show of a modernist housing project in Caracas. I had just been there and saw the project and the residents were having a terrible time—these were people from the countryside, having to deal with elevators and an alien type of architecture. The paper published my letter in full. Not long afterward, I got to do a cover story for the magazine, on the Guggenheim. I was terrified.

You were freelancing for the Times before they named you the critic. What shaped your story ideas and why do you think they grabbed your editors' attention?

I felt New Yorkers were entitled to more than they were getting from developers. There was so much building in the city but there was a total lack of understanding or care about architecture. I had just gotten married and my husband [industrial designer Garth Huxtable] was part of the team designing the interiors of the United Nations. I was just fascinated with architecture and construction.

The Times had plenty of real estate coverage. There were constant press releases about new buildings, all full of praise. These all came from real estate developers; at that time, there were no publicists for architecture. And I'd go to the editor and say, Good buildings don't just grow on trees, you know.

One day I walked in to see Lester Markel, who ran the Sunday magazine. I remember I had a notebook with a list of all the stories the Times was missing. Well, you tell an editor what he's missing, and he pays attention. I was a young, brash, believing woman. You have to be very naive. I was fixated on what I was interested in, so it didn't occur to me that you didn't barge in on an editor and ask for what you wanted. You have to give the Times a lot of credit.

How much input did your editors have in what you wrote?

Because they didn't know anything about the subject, they pretty much took anything I would suggest. And papers are always hungry for copy. Remember, too, this was a time of urban renewal and the total destruction of Lower Manhattan, when the beautiful warehouses on Front Street were being torn out for street-widening and Greenwich Village was being threatened. Most of the writing was crisis-oriented. You were crusading.

The paper didn't think we could do opinion pieces unless we first reported the facts of a story, so I would write news stories and appraisals that would appear in the daily newspaper. Then my critical columns appeared on Sunday. My criticism pieces were never edited because I was given the title of critic immediately. I don't know how it is at the Times today but back then, critics were edited for length and style. They never meddled with content.

After 10 years, they invited me to join the editorial board. I stopped writing for the daily paper and only wrote the Sunday opinion. That's when they hired Paul Goldberger to write for the daily paper.

How has the role of the architecture critic changed over the years?

The role is the same but the emphasis has changed. A critic has a lot of responsibility. It is largely informational and educational—to let the public know what's going on in the large and small issues and to let them know the difference between good and bad, how to distinguish a work of art. Today, I think the emphasis is too much on chasing celebrities, which has emerged all through society.

I want people to understand that architecture is an art. It's been my life's battle, to increase awareness of the field. But the way things have gone ...don't wish for what you ask for! Architecture is definitely more in the public eye today than before, but I don't think it's understood any better.

How do you deal with any controversy your pieces elicited?

It was always difficult but I'm not capable of doing anything else. I'm of a generation that was not brought up to work in a man's world, to deal with jealousies—I'm fairly thin-skinned. But the Times was always wonderful. There were times that powerful people demanded meetings with the publisher to protest my pieces.

One time, a developer pulled a big advertising section because of something I wrote, but I was never blamed. The publisher only asked me, "Do you have all your facts and are they right?" It's a great lesson for all critics. You've got to have all your facts.

My feelings of insecurity were always before I wrote. I would worry, "Am I going to be able to write this piece?" And I'd work doubly hard. I remember one the first pieces I wrote about Colonial Williamsburg. I wrote about how much of it was wishful thinking, how much was destroyed to build it, and how it was a false form of preservation that denigrated real history. I heard that later that they put up a sign there that read, "Ada Louise Huxtable is a Tory!"

Who do you consider your audience?

I don't really ask myself that question when I'm writing. If you have enough belief and pleasure in what you are writing, and write in an understandable manner, then an audience finds you.

One complaint I've heard from lay readers about architecture criticism—particularly of Herbert Muschamp's writings—is that they think they must have a background in the field to understand it.

That is the fault of the people writing it. A lot of writing has been self indulgent, really. You can imagine how I feel about it. The Times didn't know better, I suppose. It's as innocent about the field as anybody. Architecture criticism is still an uphill battle. That's why the responsibility of the critic is so great. It's the way my editor, Clifton Daniel, felt. He trusted me. He always said, "I knew if you got in trouble I'd hear about it soon enough."

I think my approach works for a changing field. I'm not dogmatic or doctrinaire. I stay open-minded. If you're rigid, you can't be a good critic. I wouldn't be in it if I didn't feel optimistic. I'm still full of wonder, I still love it. I like seeing what's going on with vernacular architecture now, for example. And the arguments over 2 Columbus Circle show that the preservation movement is upside down right now. When they compare its loss to that of Penn Station—I've got smoke coming out of my ears! It's not being lost, it's being transformed. I live and believe in the present. I don't live in the past and you can't live in the future. That's why I'm basically a modernist.

Cathy Lang Ho is an editor at The Architect's Newspaper.


From "Zoning: The End of the Line"
The New York Times Magazine
December 14, 1980
Ada Louise Huxtable

In an attempt to legislate an impossible balance between a profitable city and a livable city, New York has created a monster—call it Frankenstein zoning. The process by which good intentions and innovative practice are turned into an urban nightmare has been gradual and technically arcane. But what has been happening, insidiously and overtly, is that the whole idea of zoning has been turned upside down. It has been subverted from a way to control building bulk and size to a method for getting bigger buildings than ever.

If that seems like an anachronism, it is; exactly the kind of overbuilding is being encouraged that the law was designed to prohibit. The result, which is just beginning to be visible, is the rapid appearance of ranks of oppressively massive, sun- and light-blocking structures of a size that we have never seen in such concentration before. Their outline and impact appeared first on Madison Avenue from 53rd to 57th Street, with the 42-story, block-long Tishman building from 53rd to 54th Street, another tower across Madison at 55th Street, and the gargantuan AT&T and IBM buildings, from 55th to 56th, and 56th to 57th Street. This enclave of blockbusters was joined by the huge Trump Tower looming on the Bonwit Teller site at 56th and Fifth.

When the first of these immense projects designed under the city's revised 1961 zoning regulations appeared, such as Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue or Citicorp on Lexington, they seemed unique; as singular structures they were more interesting than overwhelming. As a standard to be replicated, however, they have become cautionary examples. What must be understood is that this wave of bigger-than-ever New York buildings is not some overreaching passing fancy. It is the new and future norm. The bottom line is that the developers build what they are permitted to by law.

These new buildings, therefore, are equally revealing of the manipulative, negotiable, and mutable art that New York's zoning has become. And because what New York does in zoning is emulated by the rest of the country, whether it is innovative and constructive or dangerous and foolish, other cities will probably follow an example that has evolved from a reasonably system of controls, including creative attempts to balance restraints with public amenities, to an ad hoc exercise in horse-trading that is a clear environmental disaster.


Allan Temko

 

When Allan Temko started writing for the San Francisco Chronicle in the early 1960s, he didn't see himself as a regional critic, despite outsiders' perceptions to the contrary. Back then, the city was a fast-growing metropolis, the Golden State's financial capital. But Temko hardly limited his writings to the region. He wrote a book on Eero Saarinen and countless articles for Architectural Forum (he was its West Coast editor), Horizon, and other magazines. Still, Temko, now 81, is best known as an activist who unhesitatingly took on anything that threatened the Bay Area's soul—the first designs for the San Mateo Bridge, for example, and the horrendous plan to criss-cross San Francisco with freeways. Without Temko's voice, the Bay Area would be markedly different, and decidedly less beautiful, today. Fifteen years have passed since Temko left his post. One realizes, talking with him, that the people he wrote about were often his friends, despite his reputation for making enemies. He was admired, even by his targets, for his ability to place design in a cultural context he so clearly loved.

How did you become a critic?

When I left Columbia University in 1947, my professors helped me get an American Lectureship at the Sorbonne. I was in France, teaching American literature, for seven years. Most of this time, I looked at Gothic churches, which to me had everything—rational structure and daring new forms to suit new conditions. But I also saw modern architecture, like Le Corbusier's. Because there was no good book in English on Notre Dame, I wrote one. [It was published by Viking Press in 1955.] Lewis Mumford edited it. When I returned to the U.S., he suggested I do what he was doing for the New Yorker, but for a mass audience. I knew the executive editor of the Chronicle, Scott Newhall, so I went there.

What's changed since then?

In the 1950s and 60s, people talked about painters, sculptors, and politics. Now they talk about buildings, spaces, and important environmental problems. The need for good criticism has never been greater, but if you look around, it seems mighty sparse. There are some outstanding critics, like Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune, but not many writing today understand activist criticismm the need to get out there and fight with fang and claw. With a big metropolitan paper, you can accomplish a good deal. Looking back, we were much better at stopping bad things than creating good things, but we were far ahead of other metropolitan areas, especially when you consider our resources. One big difference between being the critic of the Chronicle and being one for a great newspaper like The New York Times is that New York is really unmanageable. Here, it was possible to have an effect—to stop the freeways and keep Fort Mason and the Presidio from being ruined.

How were you edited at the Chronicle?

Newhall read my things. So did the city guys, the assistant managing editors, and if they couldn't understand something, I'd rewrite it. They were good stand-ins for the public. Newhall encouraged me to be controversial and shielded me from the owners. When the architect of Pier 39, Sandy Walker, sued me for $2 million, the Chronicle defended me. Actually, Bill German, then the executive editor, told me that if I lost, the paper would pay half! The suit was thrown out, but Walker appealed. When I learned that the case was back in court, I asked Chronicle executive Phelps Dewey why I hadn't been told. "We want to win this thing," he replied. When you're trying to stop something, you have to go straight for the jugular. Most critics today don't have that instinct—but neither do their papers. I'm vain enough to think that I could have stopped the whole Bay Bridge fiasco if I hadn't been ill.

What influenced you as a critic?

My years in France led me to see art and architecture as expressions of great civilizations. I always cared about heightening the public's sensibility. I wrote for the educated public, but I wanted everyone else to be able to understand my articles and enjoy them. I saw my role as achieving better design for the whole region. I might have been the only architecture critic in this period who looked at cities at a larger scale—even as large as, say, the Bay Area's seashore, which became a national park. Today, you can walk on public land along the ocean for 50 miles north and south of San Francisco. That wouldn't have happened without people fighting for it, and stopping things like the nuclear reactor that PG&E wanted to put on Bodega Head. I played a big part in these initiatives, writing articles and then getting the Chronicle behind them. They were great victories. But I took on causes that ran the gamut—protecting Frank Lloyd Wright's store on Maiden Lane from retrofitting, sparing Market Street the mediocrity of the early design for San Francisco Center, taking Silicon Valley seriously, helping make the Presidio a national park. That's an appropriate range for a critic.

Did you make enemies?

Sometimes I was a bit harsh. People say I was brave, but that wasn't the point. It sold newspapers. It still would today but, despite media's resources, there's still not enough serious coverage of architecture and planning. One big difference is that when I was writing, I was often speaking for the paper as an institution. I would write a critical piece and then I would write an unsigned editorial for the Chronicle that supported my stance. Without that endorsement, there's no way I could have accomplished what I did.

What do you think of today's critics?

There are very few people writing things that you'd remember the next day. Part of our purpose, after all, is to be entertaining. Architecture is like tennis—there's a small group playing at Wimbledon, and the rest are playing on the neighborhood courts. Which is not to say that the small courts don't have big players. When I started as a critic, San Francisco was a magnet for good architects. Richard Rogers was among them—he appeared on my doorstep one summer, saying, " Lewis Mumford sent me,"—and I got Chuck Bassett to sign him on at SOM. That influx of talent gave us Bassett in my generation and Stanley Saitowitz in the next—architects whose work is original and unique but which also reflects what they found here.

John Parman co-edits "Commentary" for San Francisco's LINE.


From "Colossal Boondoggle: San Francisco's Airport Mess"
San Francisco Chronicle
April 20, 1964
Allan Temko

All that is maddeningly incompetent, stupidly complacent, brutally insensitive and almost incredibly extravagant in San Francisco—a city that perhaps did know how to build in William Howard Taft's time, but would be hard-pressed to erect a decent municipal doghouse today—is epitomized in our New Era Airport, which in fact is one of the most old-fangled, inconvenient, and wastefully designed air facilities in the nation.

As a gateway to San Francisco, it should be blazoned with the inscription of Dante's Inferno: Abandon all hope, ye that enter. For if this is the best we can do in the way of large public works that, precisely because of their staggering cost, are supposed to serve long-time needs, we had better give up hope for the future environment in this part of the world.

Rather than inaugurating a new era, this sprawling assemblage of malconceived and coarsely executed structures is already obsolete. Almost certainly the entire terminal—which even in its unfinished state measures about half a mile from end to end, and may yet be extended farther—will have to be extensively rebuilt if not totally demolished when the supersonic jets go into operation. Yet by rough estimate the city has thus far sank $45 million in terminal and parking facilities alone, and the end is not in sight.

The Public Utilities Commission—a veritable citadel of mediocrity—is cheerfully prepared to spend as much again, or more, to complete the master plan, which to me is not a plan at all, but a gross improvisation at the taxpayers' expense.

Surely this colossal boondoggle warrants a Grand Jury investigation, such as the one which yielded such fascinating information concerning the genesis of the late Charles Harney's multimillion-dollar beauty, Candlestick Park.

But the public is entitled to know who, precisely, made the efforts which saddled the city with the most unwieldy airport of its size in the country, and why a comparable metropolis, Washington, D.C., obtained at substantially lower cost a resplendent terminal in every way vastly superior to our own. Above all, we should find out what is wrong with the building procedures of the city government, and try to set them right before more damage is perpetrated. For in recent years we have been suffering from an onslaught of architectural butchery that might be likened to a St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, administered by self-righteous hacks.

The airport, in truth, is merely one of a series of so-called civic improvements—the Geary Street expressway is another, and so is the new Hall of Justice, which is the most unjust building in town—which re really public excrescences.


Paul Goldberger

 

Paul Goldberger joined the staff of The New York Times in 1972 at the age of 22, and a year later was named architecture critic of the daily paper. For nearly 10 years, Goldberger was the junior critic under the paper's esteemed senior critic, Ada Louise Huxtable. Shortly after ascending to the role of chief critic in 1982, he won a Pulitzer Prize (in 1984). As critic for nearly 25 years at the newspaper of record, Goldberger was often a champion for architectural values in the civic realm and at other times, an easy target for those who considered his views one and the same with the Times. During the heady 1980s, he was one of the few critics who wrote favorably about postmodernism, fueling a lively debate that pushed architecture further into the public's consciousness.

In 1997, Goldberger left his New York Times post to succeed Brendan Gill as the New Yorker's architecture critic, a position he holds today, simultaneously serving as dean at Parsons the New School of Design. Goldberger has proven to be one of the most prolific and long-standing critical voices in New York.

He is the author of several books, including most recently Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004).

How did you get started in criticism?

I had been interested in architecture since I was a kid. I remember when, once for my birthday, some family friends gave me a subscription to Progressive Architecture, which I found amazing. I didn't understand what was in it but I read most of it and found it very enticing.

I love architecture and I love journalism. And I wasn't very good at making up my mind about which of those professions I wanted to pursue because each one seemed to exclude the other. So I was lucky enough to find the place where they intersected.

Who influenced your criticism?

I went to Yale and studied architecture with Vincent Scully, who played a huge role in shaping my sensibility. If my eye was formed by anybody, it was Scully more than any other individual.

How did you end up at the Times?

I went to the Times first as an editorial assistant on the Sunday magazine. And I really missed architecture, and then I started to do freelance architecture pieces for the Times and elsewhere. But I was increasingly restless being away from architecture. And then I had an amazing opportunity, which was the chance to move within the Times, to become the architecture critic.

That's quite a leap.

It was quite a leap. I use the word lucky a few times. At the time, Ada Louise Huxtable was at the Times. She had been there for many years but she was moving to a new assignment—part time on the editorial board, and part time, she would continue to be the senior architecture critic. So they were very deliberately looking for someone who would be a number two to her. Not someone who had a huge independent reputation. If I had had a more established reputation, I might not have gotten the job. My guess is that she encouraged her bosses to choose somebody who would be quite junior to her, so there's no question who the senior voice was. And I fit the bill.

How did you go about picking your topics?

I was young, eager, loved the opportunity to put my passions into print and would do anything. And the Times had, and still has, a vast appetite for copy. The needs were enormous. I recall very few instances of being told, "No, it's not a good idea. Don't do it."

When you wrote a review, did they ever question your opinion?

I don't remember that happening too many times. The Times has traditionally been pretty good about backing its critics. I recall having two arguments with the executive editor while I was there. One was a piece about the Art and Architecture building at Yale. The editors thought it was too arcane. It was the only time I was ever told that. I was never told that about my writing any other time.

There was another thing that had nothing to do with the newspaper—a freelance piece in another magazine about the truly wretched design of the Times newsroom. This was the first time they re-did it to accommodate the first generation of computers. Big carpets, tile floors and horrible lighting, and fake-wood Formica furniture. It was really tacky. The executive editor was quite upset, and thought I was disloyal. As an employee, I was supposed to say positive things about the newspaper, no matter what.

When you were starting out, were you self-conscious about the role or responsibility of an architecture critic?

An architecture critic has a lot of authority but not much real power. Power is a much more raw and direct force. Authority is respect and trust. I don't think architecture critics have the power. It used to be said that The New York Times theater critic can close a Broadway show. Well, that's power. But nobody tears down a building if an architecture critic doesn't like it.

The most important responsibility of the critic is not to be stupid, not to be vicious, and not to be ad hominem. And I don't believe I've ever been any of those things as a critic. I was never interested in attacking people as people—I only wanted to discuss the work. Negative reviews are often interpreted as personal attacks, which obviously they are not.

Frankly, as I look back at what I did at the Times, I am proud of all of it. The things I might redo are not the times when I was too harsh on something, but situations where I think I was too kind and too generous, too patient and too forgiving.

You're willing to admit you're wrong?

I've been wrong on some things. I think I've been a little bit too generous about good intentions. Therefore what errors in judgment I've made over the years have come from the mistake of putting too much weight on good intentions, which can bring bad results.

What's the most important quality for a critic?

I would say a combination of a passion and a thick skin—two things that don't always go together. Angry responses or reactions are part of the territory. I am the happiest when people realize I'm just doing my job. I would hope [angry readers] would not personally direct their anger to me.

Speaking of having a thick skin, are you friendly with Michael Sorkin today?

Yes, we actually are. I have great respect for him. The issue on which we probably had our nastiest arguments was Times Square, many, many years ago. And that's probably—if I were going to give you any example where my inclination to think in terms of good intentions rather than results was most manifest—it was in my writing on Times Square. I was far too slow to realize how badly conceived that project was, and how bad [Philip] Johnson's design was initially. I don't believe I was wrong in thinking that the basic premise of the master plan was basically right—it was basically right. The basic design schemes were terrible, and I was much too forgiving of them.

Was it the thick of postmodernism that clouded your judgment?

I think that might be right. And I think I was probably a bit more forgiving of postmodernism in general, too, because that, too, was about intentions. In the end, most of that stuff was no more than transition architecture to wean us away from something. Now we've come to a much more mature modernism, a more intelligent modernism.

How has the role of the critic changed since you've left the Times?

Everyone interprets the role differently. I don't think the role or obligation changes very much. The critic of the Times plays a very central role in the civic dialogue of New York.

How is your job different now writing for a weekly magazine?

It's very different. At The New Yorker, we don't try or aspire to be exhaustive. We don't try to cover everything. The New York Times has an obligation to cover everything. It's like, "If a tree falls in the forest and Times is not there to write about it, does it make a sound?" It can tire you out after a while. But at the New Yorker, we just write about what interests us, and what, over the course of the year, would make interesting types of pieces.

Andrew Yang is an associate editor at AN.


From "Green Monster: A Startling Addition to Astor Place"
The New Yorker
May 2, 2005
Paul Goldberger

The first thing you think when you see the new luxury apartment building at Astor Place—a slick, undulating tower clad in sparkly green glass—is that it doesn't belong in the neighborhood. The tone of Astor Place is set by places like Cooper Union, the Public Theatre, and the gargantuan former Wanamaker store on Broadway: heavy, brawny blocks of masonry that sit foursquare on the ground. Louis Sullivan once described one of Henry Hobson Richardson's great stone buildings as a man with virile force—broad, vigorous, and with a whelm of energy. The new building, designed by Charles Gwathmey, is an elf prancing among men.

Of course, cities are often enriched by architecture that seems, at first, to be alien: the pristine glass towers of Mies van der Rohe and the sylph-like bridges of Santiago Calatrava have brought grace to countless harsh, older cityscapes. But this new building, which is on one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan, does not have a transforming effect. If, as Vincent Scully proposed, architecture is a conversation between generations, this young intruder hasn't much to say to its neighbors. Its shape is fussy, and the glass facade is garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place, the tower disrupts the neighborhood's rhythm.

In an inelegant way, Gwathmey's building has exposed a truth about this part of lower Manhattan: inside those rough-and-tumble old masonry buildings is a lot of wealth. By designing a tower with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood, which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other than a place for the rich. The thirty-nine apartments inside the Gwathmey building start at $2 million.

It is a paradox of the New York real estate market that nothing breeds gentility like harsh surroundings. Once, it all happened indoors—grimy factory floors in SoHo became expensive lofts. Sleekness was a private pleasure, not a public display. But the pair of exceptionally elegant glass towers designed by Richard Meier that went up on the western reaches of Greenwich Village a few years ago changed the rules. High-gloss modernism, preferably attached to the signature of a famous architect and dropped into an old industrial streetscape, became the hottest thing in Manhattan apartment architecture since Emery Roth invented the foyer.


Michael Sorkin

 

Michael Sorkin started his career in criticism writing for the Village Voice in 1978 and went on to write the alternative weekly's architecture column for ten years. In the Voice's permissive, freewheeling editorial environment, he developed an unflinching, pugnacious writing style—indebted as much to the gonzo journalists of the 1960s as to iconoclasts in the design fields, from Archigram to Jane Jacobs to Robert Venturi. He quickly became notorious as a silver-tongued antagonist of the architectural elite. Taking Philip Johnson to task for his Nazi past, as well as admonishing The New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger (one of his unforgettable pieces was titled "Why Paul Goldberger Is So Bad: The Case of Times Square"), Sorkin is the embodiment of the fearless critic, becoming a hero to many (and a thorn in the side of a few).

Since his Voice days, Sorkin, now 57, has continued to write, as well as practice and teach. In all his work, he has consistently championed environmental issues, sustainability, and social justice. With his regular contributions to the Critique column in Architectural Record, Sorkin continues to serve as the profession's voice of outrage—and of moral reason.

Currently, he serves as director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at CCNY, a program that he founded. His New York-based architectural practice, Michael Sorkin Studio, continues to promulgate his idealist, socialist vision in both practical and theoretical projects. His Village Voice columns are anthologized in Exquisite Corpse (Verso, 1991) and most recent book is Starting From Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York (Routledge, 2003) and he is currently preparing five other titles, including Indefensible Space: The Architecture of the National Insecurity State (Routledge), Work on the City (Monacelli), and Fifteen Minutes in Manhattan (Reaktion Press).

Why and how did you get started as an architecture critic?

I first started writing about architecture in college, but I had always been interested. My mother gave me a copy of [Lewis] Mumford's The City in History when it first came out, which was always a touchstone for me. For years I thought Vallingby [the Swedish sustainable New Town] was the omega point of urban civilization. Fortunately, I finally saw it! Having always been interested in both architecture and writing, criticism was a natural progression. When I got to New York I quickly started writing for the Village Voice, which allowed me to indulge another of my ardors, left-wing politics.

Do you feel that left politics was much more of a cultural motivator when you started? And did that carry over into the architecture writing of the era?

Absolutely. I was under the spell of the doughty Marxism of the day. But there was very little architecture writing at the time—almost none in the daily press. Ada Louise Huxtable was the major exception, but there was very little architectural journalism in general. There were a few influential documents around—Archigram magazine, The Whole Earth Catalogue, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture—that were beginning to unsettle the moribund architectural climate from very different directions.

Did you have any other influences?

My prose style was certainly influenced by an undergraduate subscription to Private Eye Magazine, which authorized a certain latitude for the ad hominem, not to mention egregious punning. And then there was the triple whammy of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and Rachel Carson, who provide a lovely synthesis of architecture, city, and environment.

How do you choose your subjects?

I have no specific method for choosing my subjects. Part of it is looking for the social meaning of the formal. Part of it is settling scores. And part is just defending one's taste. I've always been a designer as well as a writer so part of my project has always been to advance the agenda of my fellow travelers. And the Voice is a local paper, so I wrote a lot about New York.

Speaking of the Voice, did your editors there have much input in terms of subject matter or the tenor or your articles?

Almost no input in terms of subject matter. It was quite a free situation. They were always happy when I went for the throat, of course.

Who do you consider your audience?

The profession, for starters. Many of my books are directed a little more broadly—to the remnants of the left as well as to a wider circle engaged in urban and environmental struggles. I do feel a bit parochialized, writing primarily in the architectural, rather than more broadly-based, media.

What do you see as the primary role of the architecture critic? And how has it changed?

I see my primary role as an advocate for urban civilization and the planetary environment. That's the big picture. The smaller picture is writing about people, objects, and places I love. That hasn't changed. Of course, the performance of critics fluctuates with the seasons. The majority of critics nowadays are simply flacks: There are too many fashionistas and too few street fighters. We've been taken up into the culture of branding. I think that it is possible for architecture criticism to embody resistance, but it seems in most cases that irony and analysis stops short of availing an original position. People are too accepting of the will of the leviathan and they want their piece of the action.

Do you think that the same can be said of architecture these days? In which case how do you feel about the state of architecture?

I have mixed feelings. Most architecture and criticism is driven by motives too limited, by the bottom line or branding. But both are public projects and my architectural practice and my writing are always concerned with their social effects, their contribution to a more just environment. While I don't believe that architecture creates democracy, architects aren't mindful enough of the distributive effects of planning, the way in which architecture organizes privilege and equity. I think it's important for architecture to make propaganda for a better life, to resist the horror of Bush-world. I truly loathe the smug surfer culture that seems to be in the saddle these days.

Aaron Seward is Projects Editor at AN.


From "Let a Hundred Styles Blossom"
The Village Voice
March 19, 1979
Michael Sorkin

Reports of the death of modern architecture appear to have been greatly exaggerated. This, at any rate, seems to be the drift of the Museum of Modern Art's newly hung Transformations in Modern Architecture. The show has been breathlessly awaited by the architecture set for many years. When, everyone wondered, would Architecture and Design director Arthur Drexler make his move? While fierce controversy roiled over the fate of the modern movement, the museum remained strangely quiescent, almost aloof. The factions raged furiously, each hoping to win the museum to its cause. After all, MoMA virtually made modern architecture in America with its famous show of 1932, and a likewise definitive stand could conceivably have a similar impact today. For Drexler, the opportunity was enormous.

But so was the pressure. Anybody with any sense knew that old-fashioned modern architecture, with all its imputed evils, had to go, but what would replace it? The megastructural maniacs seemed to have been suppressed but did that mean that we were to have the quaint eclecticists or the nouveau neo-classicists? All that was certain was that everyone, except the most unreconstructed Miesians, was yapping for a change...

Still, MoMA temporized, hedging its bets, keeping up but never summing up: All hope for clarification was pinned on Transformations. Designers trembled over drafting tables, pens nervously poised, waiting to be told what to do next. Expectation was apoplectic; fortunes hung in the balance. Seventh Avenue shows a collection every season and the air is electric every time. The Architecture and Design Department makes a major statement only a few times in a lifespan. What was the word to be?

Alas, MoMA copped out. The show is like Hamlet on matte-board: Drexler couldn't make up his mind. Instead of a Cultural Revolution we get "Let a Hundred Flowers Blossom." Instead of leadership, vacillation.

Of course what's really interesting about the compilations is who gets left out. Here, the choices get wiggy. Virtually Philip Johnson's entire oeuvre is included but not a single Alvar Aalto. Anybody could become Philip Johnson given the right historical circumstances but only Aalto could have been Aalto. Vulgarians like Harrison and Abramowitz of Albany Mall fame survive the last cut but Pier Luigi Nervi doesn't even get the court. Is this sensible? Where are those splendid Dutchmen Herman Herzberger and Aldo van Eyck? Where are Steve Baer's Zomes and Bucky's geodesics? Where is SITE? Wasn't the Guggenheim finished in 1959? Some of this seems just plain bitchy. The whole town is asking why John Hejduk's fine work is not to be found with that of the other members of the New York Five, inexplicably reduced for the occasion to Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves...Ultimately, though, what do Drexler's peccadilloes matter: Group shows always entail a certain amount of grievance. Let them form a salon des refusés if they want.


Robert Campbell

 

Since 1973, Robert Campbell has been architecture critic of The Boston Globe and for many years, has been a regular contributor to Architectural Record's Critique column. At 68, Campbell is a consistent, informed voice on the scene, his writing enriched by his backgrounds in journalism and architecture.

In a September 2004 Architectural Record column, Campbell wrote, "I've always thought that a good model for any critic is Alice, the heroine of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Alice is constantly running into creatures who are crazy—the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit—but they're crazy in a special way. They're obsessed by ideas, and they ignore real-world experience. Alice isn't fooled or overly impressed by her crazies, and neither should any critic be." Campbell's sobriety and unique insight, as one of the field's own practioners, earned him a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1996 and the medal for criticism from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1980.

Why and how did you begin your career as a critic?

I was an English major and I didn't want to be a professor, so I went to Columbia University and tried journalism in New York for a few years, but I didn't like it. I decided to become an architect, and got my degree from Harvard's GSD in 1967. I had no thought of writing at that point, and didn't write for many years, while I was practicing. I met an editor from The Boston Globe and started writing for the newspaper in 1973. There was a great deal of enthusiasm about criticism at that time. There was an interest in preservation and the era of urban renewal was ending. Ada Louise Huxtable had begun writing for The New York Times in the 1960s and she essentially generated a career path for many others. Other papers were adding architecture critics to their ranks, like David Dillon at the Dallas Morning News and Paul Goldberger, who was already writing at the the Times as well.

What do you feel your role is, as an architecture critic for a major daily paper and at-large-advocate, observer, something else?

The architecture critic is not a consumer guide like other critics. The chief role of an architecture critic is to stimulate and participate in an ongoing conversation about the world we build and live in and what makes [projects] good or bad. When I started, as I said, there was a lot of interest. There have been periods of less interest. Today, it's hot again, but it is all about the star performer—characteristic of the media culture we're living in. This makes it incumbent on critics not to get sucked into the media whirlwind. We must weigh in on important issues. Blair Kamin does this well in Chicago.

What do you think of activist criticism, which Kamin, as well as Allan Temko in San Francisco, advocate?

I certainly think that activist criticism is appropriate and can be a positive force. Blair Kamin and Michael Sorkin, in different ways, are doing this. It is not my temperament to take that attitude, but it's certainly a valid strategy.

What are your feelings about what's going on in architecture today: the influence of computer technology on design, the rise of sustainable design, and other developments?

Certainly, computers are important. Young people are very good at them and they can make shapes that have never been made before. They are playing a game. It's easy to dream up new shapes, but it's difficult to give them meaning.

I am very interested in the growing importance of landscape architecture and the increasing integration of architecture and landscape. As for green buildings, many are largely symbolic. The bigger issues are sprawl and energy, I think. Certainly, symbols are important, and architects should take opportunities to make high-performance buildings that are also visually exciting in ways that are not just arbitrary. The only long-term green solution involves reorganizing the patterns by which we inhabit the earth.

How do you choose your subjects? How do you converse about a subject that many people may not understand?

I intuit what I think will be interesting. No one buys tickets to see buildings, so you have to think about what purpose you serve: to get people thinking and talking about the built environment. You might write about a building because it's great, bad, or otherwise important. I choose all my own topics. As for conversing about a subject that people care about but may not understand, I do the best I can. I enjoy making things clear.

What can be done to enhance the level of architectural literacy in this country, where only two percent of construction involves architects?

The level of architectural literacy is going up rapidly. The subject is in the magazines and newspapers more than before. Maybe people are more interested because more of them are moving from city to city, or because they are all traveling more.

Did you ever change your mind about anything you've written?

Of course I have; many times. But I don't go back to revisit. There's not much room at a paper to say, "I was wrong about that."

Do you think that having been a practicing architect gives you a special understanding as a critic?

Yes, in the same way that art historians or others bring special perspectives. I understand how collaborative architecture is, and the importance of time and money.

What critics have been significant influences for you?

Jane Jacobs was a huge influence, but beyond her, I can't really cite major architecture critics as my biggest influences. My models are from the English literature side of my background: Randall Jarrell, George Bernard Shaw, and Edmund Wilson.

You have talked about how the single-issue experts are to blame for poorly designed cities, and that generalists—such as designers and mayors—should be running the show. Why?

I don't think traffic experts and others should be deciding issues of city design. You need a broader perspective. The age of the expert is over. I think the worship of experts is way down; even doctors and lawyers don't get the respect they once did. But I'm not sure it's been replaced by healthy collaboration. In the the absence of experts, it is possible to get a kind of populist decision-making, or decision-preventing, in which every interest group or individual is consulted and, as a result, nobody can build anything that anyone dislikes. This leads to a kind of bland common-denominator world, punctuated by the occasional star icon.

Kira Gould is a Boston-based design writer.


From "What's Wrong With the MoMA?"
Architectural Record
January 2005
Robert Campbell

A critic is supposed to stimulate a dialogue, not be one. So wrote the great Clement Greenberg. I seem to be one of only a few critics around who wasn't crazy about the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. Maybe I'll change my tune after a few more visits; Greenberg reversed his judgments sometimes, and it's greatly to his credittand if I do, I'll perform a mea culpa. But for now...

It isn't that MoMA's bad. There's nothing bad about it. It's just that it isn't good enough. It's elegant, but it lacks life and imagination, and those are qualities we used to associate with modernism.

New museums often open with a blizzard of hype. It's hard for critics not to be caught up in the excitement. Years ago, that happened with I. M. Pei's East Building for the National Gallery in Washington. More recently, it happened with Herzog & de Meuron's Tate Modern in London. I didn't like either of them at the time and I still don't. And I think a consensus opinion, over the years, has borne me out. I say this despite the AIA's recent Twenty-Five Year Award to the East Building. I recall when the East Building opened, the architect Jean Paul Carlhian, who founded the AIA's Committee on Design, said, "It is an airline terminal." It was and it is, with most of the art crammed into residual spaces around the edges of a vast, self-regarding, nearly empty concourse.

Anyway, here are my problems with MoMA:

There isn't any architecture. The design architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, was quoted more than once as saying that if MoMA gave him enough money, he could make the architecture disappear. Unfortunately, he's succeeded. Most of the museum consists of an endless rabbit-warren of more or less identical white-walled galleries with track-lit ceilings. Every attempt is made to remove any sense of the presence of architecture. A typical gallery wall, for example, appears not to touch the ceiling, the floor, or the adjacent walls. Instead all surfaces are divided from one another by a thin recessed shadow line. The effect is to make the wall appear to be floating, without substance. It looks not like a wall, but like a white projection screen. The paintings on it, as a result, begin to feel like projected images. You are in the placeless, timeless world of the slide lecture. Because the wall doesn't feel real, neither does the artwork. You begin to feel unreal yourself. Architecture has failed to create a place that either the paintings or you yourself can inhabit with a sense of presence.

MoMA argues that it was trying to avoid creating a destination building, like Frank Gehry's Bilbao, the kind of building that can upstage its contents. "It's all about the art," one curator told me. But this is a false dichotomy. The choice is not between no architecture and too much architecture. What's wanted is the right amount of architecture. Many museums—to cite a few, the Kimbell and Mellon by Kahn, the Maeght and Miro by Sert, the De Menil, Beyeler and Nasher by Piano, the Bregenz by Zumthor, the Pulitzer by Ando, the Dia:Beacon by Robert Irwin and OpenOffice—all find ways to articulate space clearly enough to give the artworks a place within which to exist.


Deyan Sudjic

 

Deyan Sudjic lives in an elegant Victorian house on the fringes of Regent's Park. In contrast to the opulence of the neighborhood, the room where we talk is rigorously stripped of detail, with austere white walls and a vast bleached wood table—not a book in sight. "Truth is," says Sudjic, " I'm between books right now." His latest, The Edifice Complex (just out in the U.S.) has, perhaps understandably, drained his formidable energies. The book, subtitled How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, is a visceral, uncompromising analysis of the 21st century uber-architect, whom Sudjic criticizes as venal, opportunistic, only too eager to deal with tyrants.

This critical stance is characteristic of Sudjic, who co-founded Blueprint in the mid-1980s precisely to provide an alternative perspective on the profession. Sudjic also made time to write books, including the highly acclaimed 100-Mile City (Harvest/HBJ Books, 1992), a scholarly assessment of late-20th century urbanism. A supreme networker, Sudjic was named editor of Domus in 2000. His stewardship of the Milan-based magazine transformed it into a truly international forum for architecture, art, and design, which in turn made him an obvious choice to direct the 2002 Venice Architecture Biennale. He has also curated London exhibitions at the British Museum, the Royal Academy, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He is currently architecture critic for The Observer, the Sunday edition of the daily newspaper The Guardian.

How did you come to write about architecture?
My father was a journalist and my mother was hell-bent I shouldn't follow in his footsteps. I guess that's why I chose to study architecture in the first place but once at university I was forced to realize the dramatic limitations of my skills—not least during my year out in the Chelsea offices of Chamberlain Powell & Bon, architects of the Barbican complex in East London. I was also editing the student newspaper; Gordon Brown, UK Chancellor and Tony Blair's right hand man, was news editor at the time! Given a dearth of architecture work—this was the early 1980s—I reckoned that writing was, despite my mother's dire warnings, the way forward for me. Peter Murray, then editor of Building Design, gave me my first break. After a year I realized I was having a fantastic time. I certainly learned a great deal more about architecture as a writer than I had done studying it.

It wasn't long before you started Blueprint. What prompted you to do it? Did you feel architecture in the UK was too polite or clubby?

Blueprint was meant to be a bit of fun, a youthful sense that the existing UK magazines were run by managers with only a limited sense of what a magazine could be. It was meant to be a co-op, run collectively. We—the writers, designers, photographers and illustrators who got together to do it—all wanted a new, challenging outlet. I was also keen to broaden architecture's perspective, to make it a part of a wider visual culture, I guess influenced by Domus which dealt with art, industrial design, fashion, graphics, and urbanism.

Of course we were clubby too, but every generation succeeds by trashing their predecessors, so we just started another club. Encouraging good writing was also important.

Can you pinpoint key priorities you bring to your work as a critic?

If you are not entertaining, people will not read you. But that does not mean that you should be shallow. I think that you have a duty to be interesting, and interested, to use your eyes as well as your head. It's also important not to take architecture at face value. I would also rather not accept financial support from owners or architects to travel to see projects, but in the currrent climate of reduced budgets at newspapers and ever-more-far-flung projects it's hard to avoid it if you are going to keep up with the key buildings. Of course seeing them gives you a strange world view: Nobody else, not even the architects themselves, see Herzog & De Meuron in California one week, Daniel Libeskind in Tel Aviv the next, Norman Foster in Beijing the month after, followed by Rem Koolhaas in Porto.

What was the climate of criticism when you started out and how has it changed?

There were great people: Reyner Banham was a marvelous inspiration, in his style, and his range of subject matter, and I wanted to be able to write like that. I wanted to ensure that architecture could get into mainstream newspapers, and that meant having a direct approach—approaching the subject not from the preconceptions of architects or taking the work at face value.

You write today for both the general and specialized reader. How difficult is it to switch tone, frame of reference, et cetera? Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate your lay audience?

The word "educate" really sets my teeth on edge when applied to journalism. You operate by seducing and surprising your audience into reading you. That means being as stylish a writer as you can, and trying to make sense of complex things in as direct a way as you can. I have not only written for specialists and a lay audience, but I have simultaneously been an editor and a writer—useful in terms of acquiring a sense of perspective.

Have you ever regretted a piece you've written?

I certainly regretted some headlines. By far the worst was for my obituary of Philip Johnson for which some bright spark came up with "A Nazi Piece of Work." There's no going back from that one!

Can you identify key differences between criticism in the UK and that of the U.S., or Italy, where you worked?

These are three very different cultures. Doing Domus I was acutely aware how different the Anglo-Saxon discussion was from the Italian—I could never be sure if it was the quality of the translation, or the sometimes maddening diffusion of the Italian language. Sometimes Anglo-Saxon directness translated into Italian offended people. I remember Mario Botta complaining to the magazine's owner that I had hired a gang of English mercenaries to disparage him. I suspect that Americans think that the British are a bit limited. We do not have the same intellectual rigor. In the newspapers, the U.S. gives its critics more space—2,000 words is common in The New York Times, whereas 800 is a standard length here. Personally I prefer not to write a detailed architectural description, I tend to talk about what a project means, rather than how it looks.

In a recent interview, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, suggested that the basic principles of a museum should celebrate John Locke's civic humanism. Can you point to leading architects whom you feel champion the notion of civic humanism?

I believe great cities are the product of an exchange of ideas. What I fear most is no conversation, no discussion. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against shift-making buildings, but let's not just grab the next tower off the shelf, dust it off, and build it. There are inspired architects, great architects who want to engage in real ideas. The key thing is to create a forum where that's possible and it's the role of the critic to build that debate.

Do you believe that criticism has a direct effect on the evolution of architecture? Is there, or should there be, a tangible link?

No. As Charles Jencks says, critics are the messenger boys.

Robert Torday is associate director of ING Media, London, and contributes to Architects' Journal and ICON magazine.


From "Landmarks of Hope and Glory"
The Observer
October 26, 2003
Deyan Sudjic

Last week the East of England Development Agency launched what it described, with Pooterish grandiloquence, as an international competition to find a visionary plan for a landmark, or series of landmarks. The agency says it is looking for an icon that will foster a sense of identity for the region as a whole—to underscore its message that the East of England, is a region of ideas. All that was missing from its litany of threadbare received wisdom was a passing reference to its world-class ambitions.

No site has been specified, nor has the development agency committed any money to the project, which hardly inspires confidence, but Yasmin Shariff, an architect who is also a board member claims that this piece of wishful thinking is a fantastic opportunity for us to come together as a region and decide how to present ourselves to the rest of the world.

It's not hard to imagine what an Angel of the East might look like, or for that matter, a Lincoln opera house, faced with titanium fish scales, designed by Frank Gehry as a free-form blob, or an eccentrically exhibitionistic Santiago Calatrava footbridge across the Cam as being the sort of structure that the agency is after. Competitions such as this have become ubiquitous, leading all but inevitably to the kind of architecture that looks best reduced to a logo on a letterhead or to the confined spaces of one of those Eiffel-Tower-in-a snow-storm paperweights. It claims to be about inspiration but ends only in the obvious. The search for the architectural icon has become the ubiquitous theme of contemporary design.

Leaving aside the wounding possibility that the rest of the world is likely to remain just as indifferent to the fate of the Fens and Humberside, however they choose to present themselves, as it has ever since the collapse of the wool trade in the Middle Ages, the agency has a fight on its hands. If it is to stand out from an endless procession of decaying industrial backwaters, rural slums, and development areas that are equally star-struck, equally determined to build the icon that will bring the world beating a path to its door, then it must come up with something really attention-grabbing.

This is the way to an architecture of diminishing returns in which every sensational new building must attempt to eclipse the last one. It leads to a kind of hyperinflation, the architectural equivalent of the Weimar Republic's debauching of its currency. Everybody wants an icon now. They want an architect to do for them what Gehry's Guggenheim did for Bilbao, Jorn Utzon's Opera House did for Sydney, and Piers Gough's green-tiled public lavatory did for the Portobello Road.

Current Criticism

Fewer than 45 of the approximately 140 newspapers in the United States, with a daily circulation over 75,000 have architecture critics, according to a 2001 survey by the National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP) at Columbia University and only a third of them pursue architecture criticism full-time. Amazingly, cities like Houston, Detroit, and Las Vegassplaces that have undergone huge building booms in recent yearsslack a regular architecture voice. Of the papers that do have critics, half feature fewer than two dozen stories a year; that's less than one every two weeks. And while architecture implicates not just aesthetics and culture but so much elseepolitical economy, ecology, social welfareethese stories are normally relegated to Arts, Style, or Home sections. Thus, as the NAJP study concludes, major buildings and developments routinely go up with no public discourse on their practical or aesthetic meritssthe most public of art forms receives the least amount of arts coverage.. (The study was overseen by Andrrs Szzntt, director of the now defunct NAJP.)

If this state of affairs is lamentable, it's necessary to acknowledge that architecture journalism for the mass public has long been a rarity in this country, with notable exceptions like Montgomery Schuyler at the New York World in the late 19th century and Lewis Mumford at The New Yorker during the middle decades of the twentieth. It was Ada Louise Huxtable, beginning her tenure at The New York Times in 1963 amid that decade's urban upheavals and preservation battles, who coalesced a wide audience for engaged and outspoken architectural criticism. Today, while the issues affecting the built environment are no less contentious or ripe for debate, architecture criticism in its various local venues inevitably finds itself inflected, and distracted, by a far more advanced and globalized culture industry.

The following brief survey of four contemporary critics at high-profile American newspapers is based largely on a reading of articles published over the last year:

Robert Campbell has been architecture critic at the Boston Globe since 1974. Trained as an architectthe received his MArch from Harvard's GSD in 19677Campbell, now 68, garnered the third architecture Pulitzer (after Huxtable and Paul Goldberger) in 1996 for his knowledgeable writing on architecture.. His short-ish articles are conversational, descriptive, and well-mannered. He complains about conservative Bostonn while at the same time betraying a constitutional mistrust of avant-garde pizzazzz; his taste runs to plain old-fashioned modernism.. This doesn't prevent him from acknowledging that Steven Holl's new Simmons dormitory at MIT, if perhaps too inventive,, is daring and beautiful; he likewise reserves final judgment on Gehry's Stata Center, which, despite appearances of being a big, arbitrary sculpture,, reflects serious thinking about how people live and work.. He frequently covers significant events outside Boston, but writes most often and generously about lesser-known architects at home. His interest in architecture as a register of urban and social history is reflected in a regular city sceness feature for the Sunday magazine section on which he collaborates with photographer Peter Vanderwarker.

Blair Kamin is strongly civic-minded and devoted to nurturing architecture culture in his home city. A self-proclaimed activist critic,, he uses the platform he has held at the Chicago Tribune since 1992 not as a bully pulpit so much as a lectern from which to educate the public and to prod architects and municipal officials in socially constructive directions. A graduate of Yale's Master's of Environmental Design program and, like Campbell, a Pulitzer Prize winner (in 1999), the 48-year-old critic has collected his articles of the last decade in a book, Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2001), that reflects his broad-based but Chicago-centric concerns. Didactic, thoughtful, and judicious, he is given to relative judgments and careful distinctions. Less concerned with architectural form-making as such than its impact on people, he dwells on how skyscrapers meet the ground, the livability of tall buildings, the urban vibrancy produced by the clash of styles in Chicago's downtown. At the same time, in a city dominated during the 1990s by its mayor's retro tastes in civic improvement, he often finds himself arguing for contemporary aesthetics. But the shoddy detailing at IIT's Campus Center irks him, notwithstanding the brilliance of Rem Koolhaas' conception.

Nicolai Ouroussoff is younger than Kamin, at 43. Educated at Columbia's architecture school, he was anointed Herbert Muschamp's successor at The New York Times in the summer of 2004. Muschamp's departure was accompanied by demands for a less star-obsessed, more ecumenical replacement. Ouroussoff was quickly presumed to be in the same mold as his predecessor, however, albeit not as self-involved or flamboyant. Indeed, one of Ouroussoff's debut articles, entitled The New New York Skyline,, applauding a trio of luxury towers by Richard Meier, Santiago Calatrava, and Frank Gehry, picked up seamlessly, jumping on Muschamp's favorite hobbyhorse: Manhattan's skyline was once a monument to the relentless forces of modernity, but for decades now the city's reputation as a center of architectural experimentation has been losing ground to London, Barcelona, Beijing, and Shanghaii? Similarly Muschampian was a shrill attack on MoMA's architectural leadership and, in a tribute to Philip Johnson, a description of the Four Seasons as one of the sexiest rooms in the city, with beaded steel curtains that conjure up a woman's slipp?an embarrassing echo of Herbert's evocation of the Guggenheim Bilbao in terms of Marilyn Monroe's skirts. If Koolhaas for years dominated Muschamp's fevered imagination, Ouroussoff's admiration for Gehry and Thom Mayne has likewise already occasioned a lot of New York newsprint. Nor have international celebrities like Herzog & de Meuron and Coop Himmelb(l)au escaped his appreciative attention as, befitting a paper that sees its beat as the whole world, Ouroussoff has begun to file from offshore datelines. At the same time, a string of recent pieces reflecting a firsthand look at New Orleans, and more generally on preservation and urban revitalization issues from Cairo to Columbus Circle and Ground Zero, are evidence of his willingness to take on challenging issues beyond aesthetics.

Christopher Hawthorne, the youngest of the four critics at 35, was appointed to his post at the Los Angeles Times after Ouroussoff's elevation to New York. A graduate of Yale architecture school, he was previously architecture critic a Slate.com. Hawthorne writes lucidly and forcefully, appreciates the complexities of urban planning and the pragmatics of building construction, and doesn't hesitate to tackle intractable issues like the politics of sprawl. He is interested in the back story, and not afraid to state his opinion, even if it's unlikely to win friends. He reserves a certain irony with respect to high-wattagee architecture, as he calls ittnot that he's hostile to it, just streetwise enough not to swallow it whole. Hawthorne effortlessly combines smart visual commentary with informed historical contextualization. It's hard to say whether his greater-depth approach is sufficiently accessible to the general readership. I'm impressed, though, and look forward to following his writing more closely.

It is hardly surprising that in each case the critic reflects the newspaper and city in which he writes. It is also the case that, while all four write professionally, fluently, and at times with passion and verve, none approaches the commanding intellect and culture of, say, a Mumford, or the witty acuity of a Reyner Banham. Huxtable, in her classic Will They Ever Finish Bruckner Boulevard?? period, used her podium to galvanize a broad base of support for urban improvement, as Jane Jacobs did during the same epoch with her blockbuster Death and Life of Great American Cities. More recently, Muschamp, for all his excesses, was able to grab the public imagination with a maverick style that interspersed flashes of genuine insight and originality. In a more political vein, sharp critics like Mike Davis and Michael Sorkin, contributing to publications like The Nation and the old Village Voice, have attracted loyal adherents, although it's difficult to imagine either of them writing for a mainstream newspaper.

The architecture critic at the general-interest publication has the obligation to write for both a specialist and nonspecialist audience, walk a fine line between advocacy and partisanship, and do more than register new trends. Writing without benefit of historical retrospectionnmost of the time before the project has ceased to be a construction site or computer renderingghe or she has the job of exposing the conditions in which architecture is produced and consumed; to paraphrase Manfredo Tafuri, it's a matter of going backstage rather than continuing to observe the spectacle from a seat in the audience. Beyond this, it helps to love architecture and cities, and to write with a deep knowledge of history, a strong commitment to the public and environmental good, a precise understanding of how buildings are constructed, and (not least) a discerning eye.
Joan Ockman, an architectural historian, teaches at Columbia University and is the director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.

 

Marisa Bartolucci reads the trades and special-interest magazines,
and sympathizes with architects who say they don't.

This era of kaleidoscopic change shouts out for sagacious critics. We need them to parse the shifting scene and discern imaginative and ethical arcrhitectural esponses. Yet the critical offerings in general interest magazines and the architectural trades are scant. Why some choose to feature criticism, and others don't is bafflinggand depressing. With so much development going on in the city, how can New York magazine be without a critic?

Of what's available, according to this writer's informal poll, little of it is read by architects. Why? Insipid and irrelevant is a common claim. Maybe that's why not long ago a readers' survey at Architecture magazine revealed that its most widely read sections were the editorial and protest pagessthe only places serving up opinion on topical matters.

After perusing an admittedly haphazard sampling of criticism in trade and other special-interest media (i.e., literary, shelter, or weekly publications), I contend there is work out there that's penetrating in analysis, even pertinent to private practice, although little is exhilarating in vision.

Alas, there's no Lewis Mumford on the horizon. (And that may be the fault of magazine editorssgood critics need nurturing.) The Skyline column in The New Yorker long served as the podium for that great thinker. From its heights, he championed Frank Lloyd Wright when others declared him dated; warned against technology dominating human purpose; and railed against the mediocrity of the design for the United Nations Headquarters. (How little things change.)

Today a critic dubbed the great equivocatorr occupies that podium. Although he wields great power, Paul Goldberger seldom strays from consensus views. On occasion, when he does advocate, people listen. A recent article urging that the present plan for Ground Zero be dumped in favor of incorporating cutting-edge residential architecture may have helped galvanize Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to make noises about wresting control of the project.

But if we are not to find challenging architectural criticism in The New Yorker, where else can we look? To the online opinionmaker Slate.com? There, the professorial Witold Rybczynski regularly teaches Beltway readers how to evaluate buildings and understand the forces that shape them. His brief essays range from book reviews to project critiques. An article on why architect-designed emergency housing seldom works was right on the money. But his taste is stale: He applauded David Child's latest version of the Freedom Tower as the best yet.

Until recently, Martin Filler held forth at The New Republic. Why he has absented that post is a mystery and a loss. He is a terrific critic. Flinty principle sparks his writing, which is subtle, but mordant. He insists that great architecture encompasses more than aesthetics. He doesn't shirk from attacking big names.

If the decision makers at Ground Zero had read his review of Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum they might not have mistaken schmaltz for architecture. In a prescient line about the museum, Filler summed up all that would be wrong with Libeskind's Freedom Tower plan: There is such a thing as architecture being too artful for its avowed function, and the Jewish Museum in Berlin is a fine illustration of that conundrum..

While at The New Republic, Filler tackled the usual celebrity suspectssprobably the only ones his Washington-focused editors considered worthy. Every so often, for The New York Review of Books, he contributes long, probing essays on subjects like the rebuilding of Berlin or the rebuilding of Ground Zero. These pieces allow him to show off his ample erudition and his fine eye. Architects, take a subscription.

Meanwhile, in his bimonthly column for shelter magazine House & Garden, his choice of subjects has been eclectic, ranging from a celebration of the planned community of Radburn, New Jersey, to a trenchant critique of Yoshio Taniguichi's Museum of Modern Art. The big new MoMA amounts to little, architecturally,, he writes. It is no small irony that the museum that codified the International Style and thus exerted a profound influence on 20th-century architecture again finds itself in a building markedly less distinguished than the unequaled modern treasures it contains..

Filler's unflinching assessment is noteworthy in light of the vacillating judgments of his peers. In Architectural Record, Suzanne Stephens intrepidly enumerated the $450 million building's numerous flaws, but in the end, still heaped on the praise: It's what the Modern always wanted to be.. Is it any wonder why practitioners don't read these journals? Reportedly, even Taniguchi is disappointed.

At this architecture tabloid, Julie Iovine brings bracing realism to her new Crit column. Last July, she took a detached look at the sudden wave of wildly ambitious urban development schemes being proposed for the city and their suspiciously enthusiastic civic and critical embrace. If such clear-thinking, straight-talking works are what's ahead, this column may become a must-read.

But few publications provide the gritty evaluations of what works and what doesn'ttthe information architects crave because it relates to their practices. This should be a service of the trades, as important as their reporting on the latest developments in materials and building science. Instead, they focus only on presenting glossy images of flashy, big-name projects. These are carefully described, but only superficially assessed. Rushing to publish as soon as the last nail is hammered, as if buildings were the latest Paris fashions, leaves little time to gather reports on how a building functions. Without such information how can true judgments be made of an architect's achievements, both aesthetic and technical?

Architectural Record's regular Critique column features alternating essays by Robert Campbell and Michael Sorkin, which ruminate more than provoke. But sometimes sparks do fly. Last April, Campbell carped about the notion of architecture as symbol. Two issues later, Sorkin ambushed him. It wasn't sporting, but in a series of dazzlingly erudite thrusts and parries, he shredded Campbell's argument.

Face-offs like these energize everyone's critical thinking. Last June, The Prospect, a British monthly, published a series of letters between Deyan Sudjic and Charles Jencks debating, coincidentally, the merits of iconic architecture. Following the divergence and convergence of their views on subjects ranging from aesthetics to professional ethics was fascinating.

The most brilliant critic on our shores may be Sorkin. His essays can take you on a thrill ride through learned discourse, lefty idealism, pop culture, and occasionally, Jewish shtick. Why he never won a Pulitzer when he was at the Village Voice is a scandal. (Huxtable, Temko, Goldberger, Campbell, and Kamin all have them.) Sorkin may be a smarty pants, but he is fearless. He skewered Philip Johnson when he was architecture's minence grise. (Most critics waited until after his death to bury him.) A year ago, Sorkin called Frank Gehry on the moral incongruity of designing a satellite to the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalemma city with little tolerance for its own Palestinian citizens and neighbors. Eminence has its responsibility,, he observed, which extends beyond the realm of professional practice.. An intrepid thinker, a joker, a scholar, a moral iconoclast, Sorkin represents what every young architecture critic should aspire to be.

Certainly, he is a model for Philip Nobel, who has enlivened the pages of Metropolis for the past few years. Nobel sure writes well. Like adolescent love letters, Nobel's columns can ache with emotion. And that's not a bad thing. He makes you believe great buildings matter. But the trouble with adolescents, who like Nobel swing between idealism and cynicism, is they're self-absorbed. No matter what Nobel writes about, it always comes back to him. At times he verges on slipping into Muschampian territory, which can lead, as we all know, to critical oblivion.

Architecture needs smart, brave voices. Nobel's got one. If he can concentrate on substance, he might make more architects into readers. And just maybe improve the profession.
Marisa Bartolucci lives in New York and writes about design.

 

Vittorio Gregotti ruminates on criticism in Italy, the epicenter of
architectural publishing, and asserts its inextricable link to history.

The state of architectural criticism in Italyyand probably in much of Europeeis rooted in a theoretical attitude that belongs to the tradition of architectural history. The members of this tradition include the critics and historians of my generation, whose most important representative was Manfredo Tafuri, who was a follower of Giulio Carlo Argan, a Marxist and one-time mayor of Rome, and the most important critic and historian of modern architecture between 1930 and 1960. Two other important critics of the 20th century, albeit ones coming from a different and opposing point of view, are Leonardo Benevolo and Bruno Zevi, who despite their scholarship, were inclined to write occasionally for non-specialized public- ations, such as daily newspapers and weekly magazines. A special position within this generation was occupied, too, by Ernesto Nathan Rogers, known for his accomplishments as an architect, editor of Domus, and Casabella, and cultural polemicist.

In Italy, architecture critics, in the strict sense of the term (thus excluding historians and university professors of history), operate in a relatively narrow field because the mass media are not interested in the specific problems of architecture as a practice and culture. Only two daily newspapers in Italy express an ongoing critical interest in architecture: the economics newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and the general interest La Repubblica. Fulvio Irace writes for the former, while I myself have been contributing to the latter for about 10 years. Of the general-interest weekly magazines, only L'Espresso publishes a regular column dedicated to architecture, which was written for many years written by Bruno Zevi and has been written by architect Massimiliano Fuksas since 2000. Printed articles in other daily newspapers and weekly magazines are both rare and infrequent. Italian television offers few opportunities to speak about architecture; when it does, it is usually in relationship to exceptional exhibitions or events, and done in a very general and superficial manner. When mainstream media does look at architecture, it is to gawk at technical marvels, scandalous episodes of building speculation, and sometimes sociological issues, for example, concerning housing. In recent years, the aesthetic novelties proposed by architects have also generated interest, with special focus on bizarre elements, justified by a generic idea of creativity. Such coverage tends to make architecture resemble objects of mass consumption and entertainment.

Italy naturally boasts a vast range of specialized architectural magazines: Area, the newest and most luxurious publication, is solidly focused on architectural construction; Architettura, cronaca e storia, founded by Bruno Zevi, is now decisively on the wane; Parametro and Abitare, suspended somewhere between interior design and architecture; and Rassegna, which has recently returned with a more aesthetic and technological focus. Op. Cit is a small magazine full of critical reflections that is published in Naples. Lotus occupies a special position because of its thematic format and its attitude towards confronting various issues on a more theoretical level. Giornale dell'Architettura, directed by Carlo Olmo and published every 15 days, appears to be more innovative and aimed at uniting the criticism, discipline, and politics of architecture.

Italy can boast no relevant publications by any architecture school, despite the exorbitant number of studentssroughly 60,0000which is far out of proportion to the actual demand for architects in the country. There are more fashion, furniture, and design magazines that cover the middle ground shared by architects' activities and the problems of architecture.

The saddest story affects the country's two most important architectural magazines, which were once so influential. On the one hand, Casabella (which I myself edited from 1982 to 1996) has lost its traditional critical influence and position in the debate about architecture. On the other, Domus has assumed a conventional and modish take on architecture as fashion. Domus has opened itself to the strong influences of the visual arts or those who wish to substitute buildings with events,, influenced by Koolhaasian sociology of spontaneity.

If we exclude the publications that deal strictly with the history of architecture, even the history of modernist architecture, the architectural essays typically produced in Italy can be divided into two major types: monographs on currently practicing architects (Italian and non) and specifically critical essays. While the specimens in former group are over-abundant, even in the rhetoric of their editorial presentation, examples of the latter are quite rare and tend to receive much less attention. A third type of publication is the architecture exhibition catalogue. In this category, particular importance is helddin my opinion, entirely negativeeby the architectural exhibitions of the Venice Biennale, the Triennale di Milano, or other elaborate, event-like productions, such the 2004 Arte e Architettura exhibition organized in Genoa by Germano Celant, who contributed to confusing architecture and the visual arts, attempting to reduce the first to the second.

Naturally, plenty of writers are producing treatises about fashionable topics, such as computer-generated design, the politics of urban planning, ecology, or general aesthetic trends. These theoretical philosophies are, in general, hurried deductions and poorly interpreted.

The debate between ancient and modern is particularly relevant in the Italian historical-geographical context. It is contested on the one hand by the globalist and anti-contextual ideology that tends to make any work of architecture an enlarged design object, and on the other by institutions that tend to concentrate debate on single, monumental examples rather than dealing with the design of the urban environment or the landscape as an essential part of the actual construction of architecture. In this arena, Salvatore Settis is undoubtedly one of the most seriously involved figures operating at the critical level. The professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and former director of the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art writes for diverse publications, including Il Sole 24 Ore.

Practicing architects write very little, unless it is for reasons of self-justification. If I had to name two writers who are dealing intelligently with theoretically-based issues, I would limit myself to mentioning Bernardo Secchi, who teaches urban planning at the University Institute of Architecture of Venice, for his investigations into urban and territorial issues related to the city and the landscape; and architect Franco Purini for issues dealing with the logic ofarchitectural morphology.

In any case, Italian architecture currently lives a general crisis of uncertainty. It is totally dependent on the ideologies of the global market, marginally concerned with technique and science, and hiding behind the neo-avant-gardism of the diffused aesthetic of consumerism. As a result, critical voices who understand architecture as capable of serving as the foundation for a civil society have become increasingly rare.
Architect, city planner, and author, Vittorio Gregotti is the principal of Gregotti Associati. He contributes the regular architecture criticism column to La Repubblica.

Because the entitlements of loss and grief are the third rail of the [WTC] rebuilding effort, no one has challenged the subversion of the aims and intent of the plan. The parts that speak of hope and the future have not been able to survive the pressure for a single-minded commitment to the tragic past ... No one has had the courage, or conviction, to demand that the arts be restored to their proper place as one of the city's greatest strengths and a source of its spiritual continuity. We have lost what we hoped to gainna creative rebirth downtown. At Ground Zero, what should be first is last. An affirmation of life is being reduced to a culture of death.
Ada Louise Huxtable, Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2005

 

 

 

 

Rem Koolhaassnow the most overexposed architect since Frank Gehry, is likely to be the token avant-garde contestant. He has already declared his interestt?I seem to be one of the few architects who liked enormously the World Trade Centerr? Self-serving though that tribute to Minoru Yamaski's behemoths may sound, Koolhaas has indeed always indulged a perverse weakness for Nelson Rockefeller's most bombastic architectural boondoggles, particularly those designed by his court architect Wallace K. Harrison, to whose chilly 1950s-style urbanism he paid homage in his retrograde master plan for the French city of Lille.
Martin Filler, The New Republic, September 6, 2002

 

 

 

How skyscrapers meet the ground is as important as how they scrape the sky. It is not encouraging that Calatrava's tower will emerge from a tiered, four-story podium like a stripper popping out of a cake. That is a crude way to bring a skyscraper to the street. It makes this tower resemble a piece of sculpture on a pedestal, fit for an on-the-make, look-at-me Persian Gulf boomtown like Dubai. But this is Chicago, where we don't need to put ourselves on the map. We need great architectureeand the thoughtful civic debate that is essential to creating it.
Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, July 27, 2005

 

 

 

We have high expectations of our best artists because their work and words carry special weight. It is not possible to build this project [Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem] without an opinion on larger issuessreal issues of toleranceein the region. What is Gehry's? This is not a question of the use of titanium versus Jerusalem stone. It is one of justice.
Michael Sorkin, Architectural Record, June 2004

 

 

 

What twins [Marilyn Monroe] and the [Guggenheim Bilbao] in my memory is that both of them stand for an American style of freedom. That style is voluptuous, emotional, intuitive, and exhibitionist. It is mobile, fluid, material, mercurial, fearless, radiant and as fragile as a newborn child. It can't resist doing a dance with all the voices that say ''No.'' It wants to take up a lot of space. And when the impulse strikes, it likes to let its dress fly up in the air.
Herbert Muschamp, The New York Times, September 7, 1997

 

 

 

If the very idea that has, arguably more than any other, helped define Southern California for a century has been rendered obsolete, what does that mean for the region's vision of itself? Will density spell the end of the unique relationship between Angelenos and their houses? Will residential architecture simply fade as a factor in defining the city in the coming century? The great challenge for the city's residential architects over the next couple decades will be making the old model of affordable charisma fresh and relevant again for a post-sprawl (or even a post-post-sprawl) Los Angeles.
Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times,
July 7, 2005

 

 

 

Even at this early stage, the [planned East River] esplanade is one of the few current projects to give voice to a young generation of architects intent on redefining our vision of the contemporary metropolis. Along with the High Lineewhich transforms a section of gritty elevated tracks in downtown into a public gardennit represents a clear and much-needed break from the quaint Jane Jacobssinspired vision of New York that is threatening to transform Manhattan into a theme park version of itself, a place virtually devoid of urban tension. It proves that there are still some in the city who are culturally daring, even if their numbers at times seem to be dwindling.
Nicolai Ouroussoff, The New York Times,
June 28, 2005

 

 

 

Lincoln Center has sometimes seemed less the vibrant source of the neighborhood's energy than the empty hole in the middle of the doughnut. Often there is more buzz on the sidewalk in front of the multiplex theater a couple of blocks north, or amid the parade of mall-like retail stores that now line Broadway, than there is at Lincoln CenterrLincoln Center needs, desperately, a shot of adrenalinee
Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker, July 7, 2003

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House In Town

With New York City's real estate boom, few parcels of land have been overlooked. Even the city's tiny infill lots have become hot propertyyand the perfect sites for reinvigorating the town house type. According to architect and town house expert Alexander Gorlin, these narrow and long residences are the building blocks of the city.

The dense residential urban fabric of Manhattan and Brooklyn was historically defined as much by the blocks of town houses as by the voids between themmthe unbuilt lots that until very recently were a prominent part of the streetscape. Their constricted sites have long made town houses an absurd economic proposition. Multifamily residences have obvious economies of scale and higher returns. Moreover, building a town house has its unique problems in New York: With no staging area for contractors and the need for expensive underpinning of the neighbor's foundations, prices can range from $500 to $1,500 per square foot. But the phenomenal rise of real estate prices and ability to flip even small properties (this, the town of million-dollar studios), it has become economically feasible to build on these empty parcels. With the city's small infill lots being snapped up at unparalleled pace, the experience of walking in the city has been forever changed in a relatively short period of time.

The town house as a building type in fact reaches back to Crete and Pompeii, a city built almost entirely of these narrow-fronted single-family structures. Le Corbusier describes them in great detail in his 1923 Towards a New Architecture. He admired them for the great variety of space and light they allowed within a standardized plan, which fit in with his theories about the potential industrialization of housing, and the relationship of the part to the whole in the house and the city. Leon Battista Alberti and Andrea Palladio also wrote at length about town houses, and in his 1516 socialist tract Utopia, Renaissance scholar Sir Thomas Moore described his ideal city Amaurote as composed of town houses: The houses be of fair and gorgeous building, and on the street side they stand joined together in a long row through the whole street without any partition or separation..

As a former Dutch colony, New York City inherited the town house type originally from Amsterdam, though the local variations derive equally from London precedents. The stoop is of Dutch origin, while the common half-level dropped floor is drawn from the London type. These references persisteddperhaps too persistently. From the massive construction of brownstones and classical townhouses in New York in the late 19th and early 20th century, one can count one hand the number of modernist takes on the town house. There's the glass block front of the Lescaze House of 1937 on the Upper East Side; the lacy stone faaade of Edward Durrell Stone's own uptown house; George Nelson's streamlined Fairchild House of 1941 at 17 East 65th Street; Philip Johnson's Miesian Rockefeller Guest House of 1950, in Midtown; and Morris Lapidus' home and office at 256 East 29th Street, of 1950. The great breakthrough in modern town houses in New York are the ones by Paul Rudolph, primarily his own mirrored extravaganza, designed in 1972, overlooking the East River.

All these houses owe a great debt not only to the modern movement but to a number of houses that areebut almost never referred to asstown houses. Sir John Soane's own London town houseeactually three linked houses, built from 1792 to 18122is one of the best examples. On the exterior it is stately and reticent; inside the house is an archeology of the architect's mind, exploring the house as the site of life and death with a sarcophagus and dome of heaven above. His architectural innovations have inspired Philip Johnson and others for their insight into the town house typology. Le Corbusier's series of town houses of the 1920ssthe Ozenfant House and Studio (Paris, 1922), Maisons Guiette (Anvers, 1926), Maison M. Cook (Boulogne-sur-Seine, 1926), and Maison Plainex (Paris, 1927))are also very important. Despite his loathing for the street and urban life in general, Le Corbusier designed these town houses as respectful neighbors of the urban street wall. On the interiors, however, all hell breaks loose, following the French tradition of the asymmetrical planning of the hotel particulier. The masterpiece of the modern town house is without a doubt the Maison de Verre, designed by Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet in 1931 for the French gynecologist Dr. Dalsace. It is an obsessive exploration of the relationship between technology and the sensual domestic interior. Its striking translucent glass block facade provides privacy and recalls Adolf Loos' dictum that a cultivated man does not look out the window... It is only there to let light in, not let the gaze pass through.. On the interior, industrial details of structural steel bolted columns are surrounded by articulated wood cabinets framed by wrought iron and steel on a rubber tile floor. Its unlikely juxtapositions of materials has provided a model for the town house interior for over 75 years.

Loos himself designed numerous town houses that explored his Viennese contemporary Sigmund Freud's idea about the psyche, that the dream has a faaade like a house.. The Tristan Tzara House in Paris of 1926 contrasts a symmetrical faaade with a labyrinthine interior of stairs, different levels, volumes and materials. Even the Schroeder House by Gerrit Reitveld in Utrecht of 1923, one of the seminal houses of the 20th century, is really a town house. At the end of a block of traditional Dutch houses, it takes the same rhythmic dimensions and explodes into a series of planes, De Stijl primary colors, and interior sliding panelsscontaining lessons that have been rediscovered time and again by contemporary architects.

The New York town houses depicted here show the latest exploration of the ancient building type that is at once inflexible in its constricted frame, generous with opportunities in section, street expression, and circulation, and rich with challenges in lighting, budget, and construction.
Alexander Gorlin, FAIA, is the principal of Alexander Gorlin Architects. He is the author of Creating the New American Town House (Rizzoli, 2005).

 

Town House
Upper East Side, Manhattan
Alexander Gorlin Architects

 

Peter aaron esto / courtesy alexander gorlin

Unlike other urban infill projects that build to the lot line, this jewel-box of a house, which occupies a 25-by-100-foot lot on the Upper East Side, is set back 25 feet from the street. It actually occupies the footprint of a previous structure, a 1958 two-story modernist town house to which architect Alexander Gorlin wanted to pay respect. He also preserved the glazing and mullion rhythm of the original ground-floor faaade, extending them upward, to the renovated second floor and a newly added third floor. In the original house""sandwiched by two big apartment buildingss?it got darker as you went up,, said Gorlin. He made the quite natural decision to glaze both front and rear elevations, and also funneled light through the home via a skylight-topped open staircase. Further, he floored the hallway of the top level with glass blocks, which allow light to penetrate below.

 

 

Gorlin converted the basement into a children's playroom, reserving the entrance level for spaces for entertaininggkitchen, dining, and living room. Private bedrooms fill the second floor and the top floor contains a guest room, office, and an acoustically isolated media room that opens to a terrace. The husband is in the music business so the media room is the ultimate space in the house,, explained Gorlin.

 

 

Cathy Lang Ho

 

Feifer-Chun Residence
Boerum Hill, Brooklyn
Tina Manis

1  bedroom
2  bathroom
3  kitchen
4  terrace
5  office
6  hall
7  patio
8  living
9  entry
10  garbage

 

The clients of this ground-up infill house wanted a suburban house in an urban setting,, said New York architect Tina Manis. They wanted a garage and a big backyard. But they also wanted a rental unit and separate entrances. The challenge for Manis, formerly a project manager at OMA who broke off on her own five years ago, was to design a structure that allowed all the home's future inhabitants to have open views and space as well as privacy. The first two floors are the owners' unit, with a second-floor terrace that overlooks their backyard. The rental unit has its own street entrance, leading to the top floor and a terrace facing the street. Basically, they want the rental to be invisible,, said Manis.

 

 

 

courtesy tina manis

In suburban style, the faaade is wood-sided, though in this case, the elegant cedar-birch panels are arranged in alternating widths and patterns, forming a moirr pattern. The different textures create a screen (left, top) that cleverly hides the owner's entrance, the garage door, and the tenant's entrance. The project features an all-glass back faaade (left, below) that opens to their backyard.
Andrew Yang

 

Town House
Far West Village, Manhattan
Matthew Baird Architects

 

 

 

courtesy matthew baird architects

In addition to being architect Matthew Baird's first ground-up building, this 5,000-square-feet West Village town house also has the distinction of being the first single-family home built in the district in the last 14 years. A former architect at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Associates, Baird used a single, prefabricated 40-foot-tall steel plate to create a sense of privacy within the buildingga feature not unlike the massive metal-alloy faaade employed at Williams and Tsien's Museum of American Folk Art. Inside, the house, which sits on a 20-by-60-foot lot, features such striking spaces as terrace and kitchen that are completely open to each other, a double-height media room, and plenty of skylights. The project is both forcefully modern and context-appropriate, in scale and even material (Baird argues that the house's industrial feel relates to the surrounding Meatpacking District), despite neighbors' initial disapproval of the project.
ANDREW YANG

 

1144116 Hudson Street
Manhattan
BKSK Architects

 

courtesy bksk architects

1  master bedroom
2  second floor terrace
3  kitchen
4  dining
5  entry hall
6  bedroom
7  living room

 

This 19,000-square-foot residential conversion includes an existing five-story 19th- century commercial loft building and an adjacent narrow, vacant 1,615-square-foot lot. We wanted to acknowledge the recent history of the site in our design,, noted George Scheiferdecker, a principal of BKSK Architects. Having something transparent is a reminder of that long-standing gap in the city fabric.. The infill structure has a glass and aluminum faaade. Due to current zoning laws, it is only 45 feet deeppmuch shallower than the adjacent building to which has been attached. With the street appearance of two separate buildings, in fact, the new structure is united, with individual apartments occupying full floors. The new, glazed half is open in plan, housing the kitchen, dining, and living room spaces. Bathrooms, bedrooms, and storage spaces are housed in the more closed existing structure. The new, enlarged ground-floor is now available for lease to one or two commercial tenants while a two-story penthouse was added to the twin structures.
Aaron Seward

 

courtesy bksk architects

 

Donovan Residence and Studio
South 3rd Street, Williamsburg
Standard Architects

 

courtesy standard architects

This three-story apartment and studio for the artist Tara Donovan is a two-level addition to a one-story garage on Williamsburg's south side. For all intents and purposes, it is a new building. Standard Architects developed a scheme in which three very distinct spacessa ground-floor working studio and garage, and second-floor private studio, and a third floor apartmenttare linked by dramatic, skylight-lit stair that runs up diagonally along the side of the three spaces. We had to sacrifice a little bit of floor space, but Tara was really enthusiastic about the idea of the single stair,, explained principal John Conaty.

 

 

The new building is in scale with its neighborhood, but unlike the tenements nearby, is oriented almost entirely toward the rear of its 18-by-100-foot lot, which overlooks a park with mature trees. The street faaade is divided into three distinct elements: Corten steel clads the ground level, while two tilting planes of concrete shield the upper two floors from view. A glazed strip demarcates the division between the floors. In contrast, the rear of the building is almost entirely glazed, and a top-level roof deck is visually connected to the park below by a second-story terrace.
Anne Guiney

 

 

 

270 21st Street, Brooklyn
Coggan + Crawford

 

 

What began for New Yorkkbased Coggan + Crawford as a renovation/addition to an aluminum-sided three-story walk-up turned into a total overhaul. The mid-century building needed so much structural reinforcement that, at a certain point, the architects found themselves faced with gutted and stripped remains. We started with the concept of marrying old and new and we and we wanted to stay with that,, said principal Caleb Crawford, even though the whole new building is basically new..

 

courtesy coggan + crawford

The buildinggnow home to three full-floor apartmentssis clad in stucco in front, presenting a simple face to the street, while halfway back the skin changes to corrugated metal. Front windows are smaller and irregular, while those on the south-facing rear are expansive, to allow for added light throughout the building. The architects sited a skylight-lit stairwell, which leads to the front door of each flat, at the center of the building, to divide the long, narrow spaces.

 

 

The rear elevation features an attached fire escape, which links to each floor as well as a roof garden. Crawford had planned for a green roof and solar panels, both of which were dropped for budgetary reasons. With energy-conserving materials and controlled sun exposure, Crawford still hopes the home will be Energy Star rated.
Jaffer Kolb

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AIA New York 2005 Housing Design Awards

The local chapter resurrects its housing award program. As Anna Holtzman discovers, this year's jury champions affordability.

Murphy Burnham & Buttrick's Bronx Row Houses, designed for Habitat for Humanity.
Each unit has a small front yard with a stoop,
a backyard, three bedrooms, and a skylight-topped stairwell.
courtesy murphy burnham & buttrick

>I don't expect this project to be published in the magazines,, said architect Jeffrey Murphy of his firm Murphy Burnham & Buttrick's award-winning project. His sentiment sums up that of many architects who submitted to the AIA New York Chapter 2005 Housing Design Awards. Displayed in an exhibition at the Center for Architecture and titled Everything Housing: From Homeless Shelters to Luxury Living (open through December 3), the awards span the gamuttfrom a supportive housing development in Brooklyn by Polshek Partnership to Richard Meier's exclusive Charles Street tower. Yet the focus of the judges, and of the AIA New York Chapter housing committee behind the awards, was clearly on the unglamorous side of the shelter spectrum: affordable housing.

1  front yard
2  living room
3  kitchen
4  rear yard
5  master bedroom
6  bedroom
7  storage
8  basement hall

Spearheaded by housing committee chair James McCullar, the nascent program drew 102 entriessincluding built projects and those approved for constructionnfrom which judges Julie Eizenberg, Adele Naude Santos, and Michael Pyatok selected nine awards and five citations. The New York AIA housing committee hasn't held an awards program since 1981, said McCullar, for unexplained reasons. And somehow with the Design Awards program, housing got lost in the shuffle,, he recounted. In the last few years, New York architects have been invited to submit to the Boston Society of Architects (BSA)'s biennial housing awards. [But] with all of the recent zoning changes in New York, such as the Greenpoint waterfront,, said McCullar, there could not be a more opportune time to bring local housing efforts to the forefront. Shaun Donovan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and a guest speaker at the October 17 awards ceremony, drove McCullar's point home when he stated, Since 1990, New York City has added more people than the population of Boston,, creating an unprecedented need for affordable housing.

Jonathan Kirschenfeld Associates' Marcy Avenue Residence in Brooklyn serves the mentally ill.

courtesy jonathan kirschenfeld associates

Donovan lauded such projects as the Schermerhorn House, Polshek Partnership's citation-winning, glass-faced supportive housing project for Common Ground Community, which brings luxuriously light-filled interior spaces to a mix of low-income and formerly homeless residents. Donovan's praise was tempered, however, by a more critical take from the jury. We were hoping to see some new typologies as far as spatial arrangements and clustering of units,, said Santos, but the truth was, there wasn't any of thatton the first pass, we said, Boy, these New Yorkers are really conservative.'' Eizenberg concurred, When everything is brick with sensible windows, you start to get a little worried.. In explaining their initial reaction, Santos proffered, We were very much a West Coast jury.. While Santos teaches at MIT, she is also a partner in San Francisco firm Santos Prescott & Associates; Eizenberg's practice Koning Eizenberg Architecture is based in Santa Monica, and Michael Pyatok practices in Oakland, California. Santos continued, In some ways, it's easier for us,, without the harsh climate, material constraints, stringent codes, and contextual pressures plaguing architects in dense East Coast cities.

The L-shaped building shelters an interior courtyard.

On closer inspection, the jury uncovered a group of projects whose stories go deeper than their practical brick walls. Among the award winners is Jonathan Kirschenfeld Associates' Marcy Avenue Residence, a Brooklyn home for the mentally ill, which the jury likened to the brick buildings of the Amsterdam School because of its carefully articulated faaade on which interior configurations are expressed by gestures such as recessed windows. Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects won an award for theiroriented toward a community garden across the street, and skylights within make the most of limited space. As the jury notes stated, These aren't cheap gestures, but [the architects] decided where to prioritize,, bringing an element of delight to this low-budget scheme. Another standout project, Melrose Commons in the Bronx, took root when Magnusson Architecture & Planning began pro-bono consulting for the client, Nos Quedamos ((we stayy in Spanish), a community group formed in 1993 to protest the city's Urban Renewal plans for Melrose. The project won an award in the Building Communityy category, more for the community-involved design process than for the buildings themselvesstidy rowhouses with sliver-sized front lawns, awnings, and orange-and-terracotta patterned faaades.

Ground-floor plan, top, and second-floor plan, below.

 

Similarly, Murphy admitted of his firm's Habitat project, The architectural expression is not necessarily that exciting, but the result is exciting: The people who live there are now a close-knit group of friends because they worked on the houses together.. As Santos stated, There's always been some kind of ambiguity, as to whether housing is really architecture with a capital A.. And for this reason, Eizenberg posited, People who do housing feel a bit marginalized.. She concluded, I'm glad they're doing [this awards program]]the people working in housing need all the support they can get.. If McCullar has his way, this will only be the beginning. The New York AIA housing committee is in talks with the BSA about coordinating both cities' housing awards, with New York taking the odd-numbered years and Boston the evens. But for its inaugural year, the New York Chapter's Housing Design Awards was all about the home city: Following the same criteria as the New York Chapter Design Awards, announced on September 19, all of the projects had to be either by or for New Yorkers.

 

Courtesy Magnusson Architecture & Planning
Magnusson Architecture & Planning worked with community group Nos Quedamos to draw up a renewal plan for Melrose Commons, a 35-block area in the Bronx. The plan includes several new residences, including a 95-unit coop (top) on 3rd Avenue between 158th and 159th streets.
 


Anna Holtzman is a New York based writer and a former editor at Architecture magazine. She is completing a documentary about New York City's subway musicians.

Eavesdrop Issue 16_10.05.2005

THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS
As MoMA prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of its redesign and expansion, some of its neighbors are in no mood to celebrate. Frustrated members of the West 54th and 55th Street Block Association have barraged us with complaints about the asphalt-covered vacant lot adjacent to the museum. MoMA owns the land and currently uses it to corral its long lines of visitors and, occasionally, for storage as well. “What MoMA’s got up there are these hideous red barricades,” one disgruntled resident describes. “It’s a slap in the face to the people who live on this street and an embarrassment for our city,” he continues, recalling one German tourist who was taking snapshots of the offending lot because “it’s so ugly he told me he had to show it to his friends back in Hamburg.” (It seems not much is going on in Hamburg these days.) He also tells us that, at the earlier suggestion of the project manager for MoMA’s renovation, the Block Association has drawn up an inexpensive plan for trees and benches that would spruce things up until the museum decides what to do with the land. However, “We’ve repeatedly requested the opportunity to show our ideas to someone who is empowered to make decisions,” he says, “but the museum has refused.” In a written statement, a MoMA rep tells us that it “does not have any current long-term plans for the property” and “will continue to have a dialogue with the neighbors [and] keep them informed of new developments.” The neighbors’ likely response? To the barricades!

 

NAME-CALLING
Last month, we attended a lunch at Parsons for the groundbreaking of its new campus center, which will better combine its main buildings, and came to two conclusions. One, we love Lyn Rice’s design for the project. Two, we hate Parsons’s new name. If you haven’t heard, Parsons School of Design is now “Parsons The New School for Design.” And no, that last part is not meant as a tagline. It is the official name, as in, “Hi, I’m Paul Goldberger, the dean of Parsons The New School for Design.” But don’t blame Goldberger; he’s just a victim. The new name was handed down from The New School, of which Parsons is a part. And we here at Eavesdrop The Gossip Column of Architecture think it sounds really stupid…

REAL CELEBRITY ARCHITECTS
Adam Sandler and David Hasselhoff are headed for the covers of Architectural Record and Oculus-at least in Click, a forthcoming movie in which Sandler plays an overworked young architect in a big New York firm, led by Hasselhoff. Sources tell us that the movie’s producers, inspired by the offices of Morphosis, wanted to replicate Thom Mayne’s wall of fame, and asked the magazines’ editors for permission to create mock issues that feature the fictional starchitects. In addition, we’re told the AIA national office provided Call for Entries posters, awards certificates, member pins, and other paraphernalia-all for authenticity’s sake. However, rumors persist that Sandler and Hasselhoff's characters will have a sense of humor…Meanwhile, Architectural Record also supplied back issues to prop a film called Super Ex-Girlfriend, starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, in which Wilson plays an architect who breaks it off with Thurman, who happens to be a superhero. “Apparently, there’s nothing so vicious as a superhero who gets dumped,” says Record’s managing editor Ingrid Spencer. Architects, on the other hand, are used to it.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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Safe and Sound
Philippe Million's Barrier Bench, 2002, turns a steel barricade into a place for sitting. Cameron McNall and Damon Seeley of Electroland designed an inflatable homeless shelter (below) that can be deployed in parking lots and open spaces. Matthias Megyeri's 2004 Heart to Heart chain (below) adds a sweeter side to security.
Daniel Besikian / Courtesy MoMA

SAFE: Design Takes on Risk is the Museum of Modern Art's first major design exhibition since its return to Manhattan last November. Curated by Paola Antonelli, the exhibition features more than 300 contemporary design objects and prototypes from all over the world that have been created in response to dangers, risks, and stresses that range in severity from the displacement of whole populations from genocide or natural catastrophes all the way to protections from the humble paper cut and blister. The objects are presented without passing judgment,, as the show's curator Paola Antonelli put it. We just show how designers can offer grace in emergency situations and times of revolution and turmoillboth historic and domestic. Design can make a difference in how people manage the situation of emergency,, she said.

With characteristic acuity, Antonelli has chosen for her first big show since Workspheres (2001) a poignant themeeone that is bound to resonate with the public, especially in the current climate of fear and anxiety. Interestingly, the show was conceived well before 9/11. At that time the exhibition was framed around the idea of emergencyy and consisted of ambulances and emergency- response equipment and tools. Focusing on such prosaic expressions of design is part of Antonelli's larger mission as a design curator to open people's eyes to the beauty in the everyday and to the things they hadn't previously considered as being part of the design canon. Medical instruments are to designers and people who love design what radio towers are to architects,, said Antonelli. There's this bare-bones beauty, where the function and the engineering skeleton are exposed, that is very meaningful and arresting..

When a very real national emergency struck in the shape of 9/11, Antonelli shelved her exhibition. It was only to resurface when she, Hella Jongerius, and Gregg Pasquarelli chose the theme of safety for the 2003 edition of the Aspen conference that they were charged with organizing. Considering the subject of emergency from the new perspective of safety, and looking at design's role in providing comfort and a sense of security, made the exhibition's premise viable again for the curator.

Matthias Megyeri / Courtesy MoMA

The objects are organized into thematic groupings that reference either the reason for their creation or the type of solace and protection they are meant to provide. The section titled Shelter,, for example, features temporary housing for refugees and disaster victims along with examples of psychological protection against anxiety and stress. Among the exhibits, for example, is Shigeru Ban's shelter designed on the occasion of the Kobe earthquake in 1995 and made out of easily found cardboard tubes, beer crates (or in the case of Muslim countries milk or soda crates), and plastic tarps. The tarp is the beginning of a shelter,, said Antonelli, but the addition of a door can give a displaced person a sense of home and not simply a roof over their head.. This is the difference that design can make. Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE homeless shelter is made from Polyethylene and designed to plug into the outtake ducts of a building's HVAC system. The warm air leaving the building simultaneously inflates and heats the double membrane structure, protecting a homeless person from heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Also included in this section are psychological shelters such as a felt cocoon called Cries and Whispers created by Scottish designer Hill Jephson Robb when his sister died of cancer leaving behind a seven-month- old daughter in need of a womb- or nest-like structure in which to seek refuge.

Another grouping in the show, titled Armor,, features objects designed to protect the body and mind. Included here is Suited for Subversion, the ingenious invention of South African interactive designer Ralph Borland. It's a suit for a protester to wear that inflates when he or she is threatened. The suit is fitted with a camera to document any encounters with the police and a speaker that amplifies the heartbeat to remind the police of their humanity. When gathered in a crowd with other suits, the simultaneous beating creates a dramatic and powerful rhythm. Such innovative and quirky interpretations of the idea of armor enliven more prosaic examples of the genre such as earplugs, welding helmets, and other examples of industrial protective gear, that receive short shrift in the exhibition's press materials. Despite this apparent predilection for the poetic, Antonelli asserted that, Beauty and usefulness alone were not enough to justify inclusion in this exhibition.. Her criteria stipulated that each object had to transcend the outcome of the equation of its form and function by displaying meaninggto an individual, to a community, to the world at large and, last but not least, ingenious beauty..

Cameron McNall / Courtesy MoMA

Safeguarding property is another issue that many designers and architects have addressed through their products and prototypes.

The KOL/MAC Studio has created INVERSAbrane, a concept for an invertible membrane that protects buildings from the elements and other forms of attack. The membrane, made from vacuum-formed DuPont Corian and Sentry impact-resistant glass, is designed with excess surface area that acts as a defensive yet proactive barrier between the elements and the structure it defends. The membrane circulates air, filtering out pollutants and other allergens. Its bladders collect rainwater for daily use as well as for sprinkler action; the surfaces use solar energy to regulate humidity and temperature both inside and out, and it incorporates fire-resistant and thermoactive textiles.

In the domestic sphere is Sweet Dreams Security, Matthias Megyeri's series of safety products that wryly comment both on heightened fears associated with home security and the cult of cute. His barbed wire is woven with fierce butterflies and fish, his iron railings have bunny rabbit shaped posts, and his heart-shaped ring chains are fastened with teddy bear padlocks. The work, which was undertaken while Megyeri was a student at the Royal College of Art in London, addresses the often-contradictory needs for protection and beauty.

Left: Drr Wapenaar's Treetent, 1998, can be fastened to a tree.
Robbert R. Roos/ Courtesy MoMA

The public realm, too, is addressed with the inclusion of Help Point Intercom, recently created by Antenna Design for the New York City Subway. Part of the section called Awareness,, which examines how clarity of information can provide a measure of safety, the intercom system is intended to aid in relaying travel and emergency information between riders and security personnel, while being resistant to vandalism.

A design exhibition at MoMA is clearly going to be about objects. Designers like Bruce Mau have argued, however, that design is increasingly being understood in a wider and more fundamental sense as the capacity to plan and produce desired outcomes. There are some important aspects to the story of safety that, while they are not always easily expressed through tangible forms, would have added an interesting extra dimension to the exhibition. In addition to creating the kinds of beautiful and useful band-aids that this exhibition documents, design is also putting its brains and brawn to the task of changing the policies and attitudes that engender fear and disaster in the first place.

Blue LEDs in Antenna Design's subway intercom convey security without intruding on one's commute.
Bruce Pringle / Antenna Design

Design and design thinking can be used to persuade government, industry, and the consuming public to claim responsibility for and to begin to redress global ailments such as climate change, health crises, violence, terrorism. Such dialogue between policymakers and designers would at the very least prevent such false assurances as the inept color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System. Design can also be used to create powerful but invisible things like networks, infrastructures, and systems that are all instrumental in the prevention of and recovery from disaster. In addition to the many potent objects in the exhibition, evidence of these new directions and applications would have provided a welcome supplement.
Alice Twemlow is a design writer based in New York City.

Eavesdrop Issue 16_10.05.2005

THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS
As MoMA prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of its redesign and expansion, some of its neighbors are in no mood to celebrate. Frustrated members of the West 54th and 55th Street Block Association have barraged us with complaints about the asphalt-covered vacant lot adjacent to the museum. MoMA owns the land and currently uses it to corral its long lines of visitors and, occasionally, for storage as well. What MoMA's got up there are these hideous red barricades,, one disgruntled resident describes. It's a slap in the face to the people who live on this street and an embarrassment for our city,, he continues, recalling one German tourist who was taking snapshots of the offending lot because it's so ugly he told me he had to show it to his friends back in Hamburg.. (It seems not much is going on in Hamburg these days.) He also tells us that, at the earlier suggestion of the project manager for MoMA's renovation, the Block Association has drawn up an inexpensive plan for trees and benches that would spruce things up until the museum decides what to do with the land. However, We've repeatedly requested the opportunity to show our ideas to someone who is empowered to make decisions,, he says, but the museum has refused.. In a written statement, a MoMA rep tells us that it does not have any current long-term plans for the propertyy and will continue to have a dialogue with the neighbors [and] keep them informed of new developments.. The neighbors' likely response? To the barricades!

NAME-CALLING
Last month, we attended a lunch at Parsons for the groundbreaking of its new campus center, which will better combine its main buildings, and came to two conclusions. One, we love Lyn Rice's design for the project. Two, we hate Parsons's new name. If you haven't heard, Parsons School of Design is now Parsons The New School for Design.. And no, that last part is not meant as a tagline. It is the official name, as in, Hi, I'm Paul Goldberger, the dean of Parsons The New School for Design.. But don't blame Goldberger; he's just a victim. The new name was handed down from The New School, of which Parsons is a part. And we here at Eavesdrop The Gossip Column of Architecture think it sounds really stupidd

REAL CELEBRITY ARCHITECTS
Adam Sandler and David Hasselhoff are headed for the covers of Architectural Record and Oculus-at least in Click, a forthcoming movie in which Sandler plays an overworked young architect in a big New York firm, led by Hasselhoff. Sources tell us that the movie's producers, inspired by the offices of Morphosis, wanted to replicate Thom Mayne's wall of fame, and asked the magazines' editors for permission to create mock issues that feature the fictional starchitects. In addition, we're told the AIA national office provided Call for Entries posters, awards certificates, member pins, and other paraphernalia-all for authenticity's sake. However, rumors persist that Sandler and Hasselhoff's characters will have a sense of humorrMeanwhile, Architectural Record also supplied back issues to prop a film called Super Ex-Girlfriend, starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson, in which Wilson plays an architect who breaks it off with Thurman, who happens to be a superhero. Apparently, there's nothing so vicious as a superhero who gets dumped,, says Record's managing editor Ingrid Spencer. Architects, on the other hand, are used to it.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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Campus Life

Universities have long served as strong architecture patrons, though the best-known examples have often been secluded, pastoral set pieces for idyllic, semi-monastic educational enclaves. As Sharon Haar observes, however, with the rebirth of the city has come the revitalization of the urban campus. Though urban campuses are confronted with unique problems, such as limited, expensive real estate, they are proving to produce architecture that is provocative both intellectually and urbanistically.

 

Ask students: The city is in. If at one time America's college-age population was sentt away to school in a cornfield, small college town, or hillside enclave, today they flock to cities, where urban campuses are growing and prospering, making new commitments to their cities, and at the same time enlarging their domain into neighborhoods scarred by urban renewal, urban abandonment, or both. Universities are occupying spaces in the skyline, taking over spaces vacated by businesses that have fled to the suburbs or relocated to more technologically equipped, 21st-century office buildings; they are building new housing and retail developments; and they are finding new ways of partnering with neighboring communities with an aim to avoid the territorial and intellectual antagonisms of the past. And yes, they are building new buildings, many by signature architects.

As towns and their institutions of higher education grew, most often toward one another, the abstract intellectual conflict of town-versus-gown was actualized in physical conflict over space. New York City incrementally chased the fledgling Kings College (established in 1754, which later became Columbia University) to the northern reaches of Manhattan Island, until finally, lodged in Morningside Heights in the late 19th century, the university commissioned McKim, Mead & White to design a campus to protect itself from future onslaught. Many other colonial institutionssHarvard University, founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Yale University, established in 1701 in New Haven, Connecticuttgrew to become inextricably intertwined with their urban contexts. When these schools transformed into research powerhouses a century ago, they set the stage for the enormous boom in campus construction and of student populations. Student bodies have spiked steadily since World War II as a result of veterans' enrollment programs, a shift to a service economy, and later, the baby-boom, the expansion of opportunity for women and minorities, and more recently to accommodate non-traditionall (older) students and the echo-boomerr generation.

Many universities' current urban strategies are the result of hasty decisions, failures of modernist planning and some of its architecture, and universities' awkward participation in urban renewal a half-century ago. Yale and the University of Pennsylvania are hoping that their current participation in community renewal will reverse the urban devastation that occurred in part because of land banking in the 1960s. During that period, many schools cleared land in inner-city neighborhoods for buildings that did not materialize or expanded in ways that disrupted the urban fabric and neighborhood cohesiveness.

In contrast, Columbia University has reached out to its community in the process of planning its expansion into Manhattanville, promising new commercial prospects for the neighborhood and architectural transparency. Its president, Lee Bollinger, contrasts the proposal to the blank walls that the university presents in Morningside Heights. But the process must also be understood in relation to the debacle of 1968, when the school's proposal for a new campus gym in Morningside Park fueled a massive student strike. Student activists linked U.S. involvement in Vietnam with the university's attempt to annex neighborhood public space.

Harvard is banking on its ability to design an entire piece of Boston with its plans for expansion in Allston. New York University and Cooper Union know that the neighborhood of residential spaces they are building or leasing downtown is necessary to keep students streaming in, in spite of impossible real estate conditions that would keep them out.

How do sites that were once anathema to higher education find themselves now so intertwined in the future of American pedagogy? A major factor is the revival of cities themselvessnew strongholds for public architecture, cultural institutions, and models for working, living, and playing. In the 1980s PBS series Pride of Place, Robert A. M. Stern extolled the American campus for being a place apart,, and the New York University cultural historian Thomas Bender stated in his book The University and the City: From Medieval Origins to the Present (Oxford University Press, 1988), The university has always claimed the world, not its host city, as its domain.. But more recently social theorist and New School University provost Arjun Appadurai noted in an interview published in Items and Issues Quarterly 4 (Winter 200332004) that the blurring of the line between universities and corporations and the increasing globalization of students and research networks make cities such as New York ideal locations for higher education. Today's academy is rarely a solitary retreat, despite a losss felt by some faculty.

Perhaps echoing the thoughts of Thomas Jefferson when he was designing the University of Virginia, the architectural theorist Kurt W. Forster wrote in From Catechism to Calisthenics: Cliff Notes on the History of the American Campuss in the May 1993 issue of Architecture California, Lasting institutions like colleges and universities invoke a social rationale for their physical installations, a rationale that speaks to their overarching purposes and helps elucidate the ideas behind their operations. In our culture, we are educated to find in our surroundings the manifestations of character and purpose, particularly when those larger abstractions such as character, purpose, and meaning would tend to escape our immediate grasp.. Architecture is critical to pedagogy. From Jefferson to Henry Ives Cobb, McKim, Mead & White, Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen to today's campus designers, the ideals of the campusswhere tradition and innovation, solitary contemplation and global interaction meet and debateemake it an ideal site for inspired architecture.
Sharon Haar is an architect and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is completing a book, City as Campus: Siting Urban Pedagogy.

 

Baruch College
Location: 23rd to 26th streets along Lexington Avenue, Manhattan
Founded: 1847
# of students:15,500 (13,000 undergrad.; 2,500 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Davis Brody Bond, 1986
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, 2001
G Tects, 20044present

Proposed renovation of Field Building at 17 Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street. A new glass wedge encloses a sculptural stair.
courtesy Gordon Kipping / G Tects

An elegant tower at Lexington and 23rd Street began in 1847 as the first free higher-education establishment in the republic. Over time, it became the anchor of Baruch College. In 2001, when Kohn Pedersen Fox's Vertical Campuss unsheathed 14 sloping stories above Lexington Avenue, Baruch suddenly evoked the fusty philosophy major who'd bulked up over the summer. The Vertical Campus, with running-board details at sidewalk level and glass and brick wings, drew critical praise for giving students a central kibitzing point. In the opinion of Vice President of College Advancement David Gallagher, the sloping tower fulfilled a 1986 Davis Brody Bond master plan by giving the scattered buildings a discernible heart.

Now the school wants to concentrate its burgeoning campus further, and give it a bolder identity. A masterplan, to appear by spring 2007, will chart the unification scheme. The new Baruch, said Gallagher, will weave that building more closely with the old oneesomehow. Whether it's an underground passage or acquisition of buildings, the masterplan will tell,, he said. (Since CUNY relies on annual funding from Albany, Gallagher hedges on Baruch's entering the real estate market.)

Baruch also wants its students (it has 15,500 of them, full- and part-time) to hew closer to campus, potentially with campus dormitories. The school commissioned Gordon Kipping of New York firm G Tects (and Frank Gehry, whom Kipping assists at Yale) in fall 2004 to suggest a format in which buildings might connect. Kipping proposed filling the path between 17 Lexington Avenue and the Vertical Campus with new crowns on two existing courthouse buildings and a new structure with fluid setbacks. His sketchhwhich has no authority over the eventual plannsandwiched 17 Lex's limestone skin in curvaceous glass sheaths. If Kipping's study influences trustees, the new 23rd Street lobby could offer a triple-height atrium space for students. To the public, it would offer Jumbotron views of lectures, with closed-captioning, to let any stroller spend 50 minutes as a student. Let's restore the idea of a free academy,, Kipping said.

On September 15, Baruch named the building for donors Lawrence and Eris Field. Gallagher said the college will issue an RFP for a masterplanning firm on CUNY's approved list, then wait 18 months for the plan. Budgets from Albany and City Hall would dictate the pace of expansion. Gallagher estimated that the unification will take 10 years. By then, Baruch could need another expansionnin cyberspace or Gramercy.
ALEC APPELBAUM

 

State University of New York
Location: Buffalo and Amherst, New York
Founded: 1846
# of students:27,276 (17,838 undergrad.; 9,438 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Amherst Campus: Sasaki, Dawson and Demay, 1970
Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus: Chan Krieger and Associates, 2002

Courtesy Cannon design

The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo occupies the heart of New York's second largest city. But the school, whose original buildings straddle the city's Main Street, also has a suburban identity: SUNY created a second campus in 1970 in Amherst, just 3 miles north of Buffalo, following the trend of urban flight that shattered most American cities in the 1960s and 70s. The school rejected the idea of expanding its main campus, including a megastructure proposal by native son Gordon Bunshaft and a downtown waterfront annex, instead commissioning Sasaki, Dawson and Demay to create a compact, inward-looking master plan at Amherst.

The Amherst campus features buildings by some of the leading designers of the 1970ssHarry Weese, I. M. Pei, Ulrich Franzen, Marcel Breuerrand it even has a Birdair sports dome. Despite this impressive list, the effect of these buildings on the area was, according to Reyner Banham in his 1981 book Buffalo Architecture: A Guide, has hardly galvanic, nor their style especially Buffalonian..

But the school is trying to reinvigorate Buffalo, according to dean of SUNY's architecture department Brian Carter, by bringing good architecture back to the city center.

In 2002 the university commissioned Boston firm Chan Krieger to create a third center, called the Buffalo Niagara Medical campus, on a 100 acres of downtown land surrounding the university's Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This complex has just seen the completion of the first of two new buildings: Last May, the school opened the Hauptman Woodward Laboratory building designed by Mehrdad Yezdani of Cannon Design in Los Angeles, a 70,000 square foot medical research facility (pictured). This laboratory will connect via a bridge to a second research facility, the 290,000-square-foot Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics designed by Francis, Cauffman, Foley Hoffman of Philadelphia, which opens in December. Both buildings give Buffalo what Banham suggested it needed for a full architectural recoveryynew buildings for economic and functional reasons, but one that are psychologically of high architectural quality..

The campus has also inspired SUNY's school of architectureewhich is located just two subway stops awayyto launch a series of design initiatives on issues dealing with universal design and childhood obesity, for example. This interaction is something that Carter believes can work effectively on an urban campus, where diverse fields can come together to collaborate on research projects.
WILLIAM MENKING

 

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
Location: Astor Place, New York City
Founded: 1859
# of students:900

Courtesy Morphosis

The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art's unusual tuition-free educational model is the driving force behind the architecture, engineering, and art school's current building initiative. Most colleges rely on tuition as a steady source of income, but since all of the school's 900 students attend at no charge, administrators are always looking for other financial resources to fill the gap. It's a magnificent vision but a terrible business model,, said Ronni Denes, Cooper's vice president of external affairs. Our current plan is geared at leveraging our real estate assets to ensure the school's future financial stability..

The school's real estate portfolio includes desirable properties such as the Chrysler building, whose rents provide more than half of its operating budget. The master plan, devised by a planning committee made up of trustees, aims to increase that percentage by cashing in on its properties concentrated around Astor Place.

Cooper is not expanding like most universities with new master plans, but rather consolidating and modernizing its facilities. Said Denes, It's in our interest to keep the school small and efficient.. Its engineering school will be moved out of an obsolete building from the 1950s and into a sleek, high-tech, nine-story building designed by Morphosis' Thom Mayne (pictured) on the site of the old two-story Hewitt Building at 3rd Avenue and 7th Street, which Cooper leases from the city. The new building will also house the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a public gallery and auditorium on the ground floor.

The vacated property between 3rd and 4th avenues and 8th and 9th streets will be razed and leased to developers, in much the same manner as the nearly completed condominium designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and developed by the Related Companies at Astor Place. The school will reach out to developers for the project, anticipated to be 14 stories high, once the Morphosis building breaks ground in June. The new building will house Cooper's administrative offices as well as other private businesses. The school's master planning committee hopes to have some review of the commercial development's design, as it did with the Gwathmey Siegel building, and even its clients. According to Denes, Cooper would like to attract businesses with some kind of synergy with the school's academics, such as architecture firms, artists' studios, and biotech companies..

Cooper's master plan does not include any gestures to unify the new buildings with their predecessors like the Foundation Building into a more recognizable campus. Our students don't want to be walled in,, said Denes. We think of New York City as our campus..
DEBORAH GROSSBERG

 

City College of The City University of New York
Location:138th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan
Founded: 1847
# of students:12,108 (9,117 undergrad.; 2,991 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
George Post, 1905
George Ranalli, Architect, 2004-present

Courtesy of Rafael Viioly Architects

In recent years the City College of New York has deepened its commitment to architecture and design, recruiting impressive faculty, creating new degree programs (such as the Urban Design Program, started in 2000 under Michael Sorkin), and most notably, building a new School of Architecture, Urban Design, and Landscape Architecture. The $37.4 million building, designed by Rafael Viioly and slated for a 2008 completion, is a gut renovation and expansion of an existing modernist glass box building that houses administrative offices.

With so much ambition and activity, a campus master plan seems long overdue. In fact, a year and a half ago George Ranalli, dean of the architecture school since 1999, was commissioned to produce one. His plan calls for closing Convent Avenue to create a more sheltered campus center, around which administrative offices would be dispersed, rather than lumped together as they are now in one of the college's two large 1970s block-buildings, described by Ranalli as megastructures that need to be broken up..

To Ranalli's frustration, however, his plan is on the back burner while the campus expands, as it has throughout its history, based on immediate needs rather than long-term vision. (In reaction to the school's ad hoc development, Sorkin, who was a member of Ranalli's planning team, has created his own alternative scheme.) We started working on a master-planning process four years ago, with open forums to talk about current conditions but things have not proceeded in a typical way,, said Lois Cronholm, chief operating officer of City College. For example, with the dormitory building [now under construction], we had a need, so we found a way for to fill it, quickly.. The dormitoryythe first for the traditionally all-commuter schoollis being designed by Design Collective, Inc., of Baltimore, and should be completed in 2006. Capstone Development Corporation is the school's development partner; it will manage the facility for 30 years before ownership is transferred back to the school.

In addition to the architecture building and dorm, the school is presently pushing forward with the construction of two additional science buildings, both designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

The four new buildings are all located on the college's south campus, a medley of architectural styles that stands in contrast to its historic north campus, a collection of buildings designed in 1905 by George Post. The biggest challenge is putting the south campus together in an integrated way, as soon as possible,, said Cronholm, who foresees no more new construction for the college in the near future, unless the dorms are successful, in which case, we'll see.. The wait-and-see approach to planning appears to be the closest thing to a master plan the college has, and will likely continue to shape the campus.
JAFFER KOLB

 

Columbia University
Location:Morningside Heights and Manhattanville, New York
Founded: 1754
# of students:23,650 (7,114 undergrad.; 16,536 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
McKim, Meed & White, 1893
I. M. Pei, 1970 (not implemented)
Renzo Piano Building Workshop/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 20033present

A view west on 131st Street to the Hudson River.
courtesy columbia university

Of the major expansion plans being undertaken by schools in the New York City area, only one is planning to build an entirely new campus: In 2003 Columbia University hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) to create an ambitious master plan to guide the development of nearly 33 acres in Manhattanville, the neighborhood north of Columbia's McKim, Mead & White campus. The $4.6 billion Manhattanville Expansion Project encompasses the blocks between 12th Avenue and Broadway, and 125th and 133st streets, and will be phased in over the next 30 years. The university owns 53 percent of the land within the proposed development site and the MTA owns about 20 percent. Columbia promises to work with residents to acquire the remaining property.

Perpetually growing and space-constrained, Columbia has developed about one million square feet every five years since 1994, though it still lags behind all other Ivy League schools in terms of square-footage-per-student. Columbia has about 326 square feet for each of its more than 23,000 students, while Yale has 866 square feet for each of its 11,359 students and Harvard has 673 square feet for each of its 19,650 students.

Throughout its history, Columbia has had a tenuous town-gown relationship with its neighborhood. The 1968 controversy over the school's proposal to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park was a key turning point in the planning of the university. Nearly 40 years later, the planning process for Manhattanville is transparent, cautious, and considerate. We've learned a lot from our past mistakes,, said Jeremiah Stoldt, director of Columbia's plan for facilities management. We've met with block associations, the community board, and other local groups to present our thinking and gain feedback. A lot of aspects of the plan came from this feedback, such as preserving east-west axes and open space..

Transparency and urbanity are the main goals of the plan,, said Marilyn Taylor, who is leading the project for SOM. We felt from the beginning that the campus had to be open and invite the public in, and that it relate to the neighborhood, which has a rich history and physical legacy.. The area is zoned for manufacturing and one of its most noticeable features are the rugged aqueducts that define its edges.

A rendering of the new campus and streetscape, looking west from Broadway on 125th Street.

Now in precertification (pre-ULURP), the master plan shows a deep respect the existing urban grid, with east-west streets left open and sidewalks widened in strategic places to stimulate pedestrian life. The designers have called for buildings to be programmed, scaled, and designed in ways that both announce a unified campus and fortify the character of the neighborhood. The master plan encourages university buildings to devote street levels to uses that are needed by or accessible to the public, to be spaces they feel invited into, whether to grab a sandwich, look at art, or find out about university jobs,, said Taylor.

Like most universities today, Columbia is in need of more modern research facilities, which are often large-scale, defensive buildings. But the Manhattanville master plan explores the idea of open plan and nontenured buildings,, as Taylor described them, which have a flexibility that can encourage more multidisciplinary study as well as a greater possibility of being a part of their community. Design guidelines call for a material palette that includes glass for transparency, terra cotta brick to echo the past but with a more progressive look, and steel, relating to the nearby viaducts while providing a clarity of expression.

The first phase, which will be realized over the next ten years, includes the preservation of several prominent buildings, including Prentis Hall on 125th Streettcurrent home of the School of the Arts and formerly a milk-bottling plant. SOM will oversee its conversion into a public art space. The New Yorkkbased Switzer Group will renovate the Studebaker Building at 615 West 131 Street, a former automobile assembly plant. Another first-phase project is the construction of a new School of the Arts and a new research building on Broadway, both by Piano.

One of the plan's strongest features is its call for improved links to the nearby Hudson River, which is now cut off by the West Side highway viaduct. The architects envision a park or other potential recreational sites. Taking inspiration from Fairway market, a neighborhood institution located between the neighborhood and the waterfront, Taylor envisions the creation of a marketplace or other compatible uses. You could close it down at night, for concerts, festivals, or fairs,, suggested Taylor. But it would have to be a community initiative. What we can do with our plan is include an active urban layer, such as retail on 12th Avenue, that would contribute to these sorts of possibilities..

The current focus of the university and local community boards is to come to an agreement on rezoning Manhattanville. While the city is receptive to rezoning , how dense or commercial the area will be come remains to be seen.
Andrew Yang

 

Fashion Institute of Technology
Location:26th to 28th streets along 6th Avenue, Manhattan
Founded: 1944
# of students:10,513 (10,378 undergrad.; 135 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, 1995-96
ShoP Architects, 20055present

Courtesy SHoP Architects and Fashion Institute of Technology

When the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries opened in 1944, it was housed on a few floors of the High School for the Needle Trades at 24th Street and 8th Avenue. As the needle tradess evolved, so too has the school that became the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), which is now a part of the State University of New York system. FIT moved into its current complex of buildings (designed by DeYoung and Moscovitz and bound by 26th and 28th streets and 7th and 8th avenues) in 1975, and had periodic smaller campus additions in the 1980s.

All schools in the SUNY system must have a master plan before they can receive public funding for construction projects, so in 1995 FIT hired Kevin Hom and Andrew Goldman Architects, which identified five major projects: the construction of a conference center and dining hall; the creation of more classrooms in an existing building, the expansion of the student center; and perhaps most dramatically, the conversion of the block of 27th Street already straddled by FIT buildings into a pedestrian mall. In addition to this, Wank Adams Slavin Associates is renovating a building on West 31st Street that will provide 1,100 FIT students with housing.

The first two projects in the master plan were completed in 2004 and 2005 respectively, by Hom and Goldman, and the classroom and student center projects are in the planning stages. The pedestrian mall has proven to be more controversial, however, and has twice been voted down by Community Board 5. According to Brenda Perez, director of media relations at FIT, the school has put the project on hold until all the other elements of the plan have been completed, which may not be until 2009.

At the same time, FIT is in the early stages of developing a new master plan with ShoP Architects, the architects who designed the expanded David Dubinsky Student Center, dubbed C2 (pictured). According to principal William Sharples, the master planning work grew out of the firm's 2004 competition-winning entry for the student center, and is still in its preliminary stages. AG

 

New York University
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Founded: 1831
# of students:40,000 (20,212 undergrad.; 15,884 grad.)
Campus Master Plans:
Johnson and Foster, 1962 (not implemented)

woodruff/brown / courtesy kpf

In March, New York University (NYU) hired Sharon Greenberger, former New York City chief of staff to the deputy mayor for economic development, to fill a new post at the university: vice president for campus planning and real estate. According to Greenberger, the office she heads, which is divided into four sectionssplanning and design, space management, residential services, and real estate developmentt is still in its start-up phase. I've just started the hiring process, and the intention is to have a full staff in place by the end of the year.. Greenberger will be looking for architects and designers to fill positions, especially in the planning and design unit.

According to Greenberger, the new division will not make any decisions about campus planning or architecture until the hiring process is complete. But the office is sure to be extremely busy in 2006. Created by university president John Sexton, who took office in 2001, the division serves in large part to unify the school's scattered planning divisions in the face of an ambitious growth initiative which includes faculty recruitment and an expanding student body. This administration has ambitious plans for the university, which will put more constraints on space and provide more ambitious thinking about its growth,, said Greenberger.

NYU is no stranger to large building initiatives and their complexities. In the 1980s and 90s, the school, then led by president John Brademas, underwent a massive campus expansion in Greenwich Village, which raised the hackles of many local residents and made it the city's third largest landowner (the city is the largest; the Catholic Church the second). (NYU's newest building is the 2003 Furman Hall, bordering Washington Square Park, by Kohn Pederson Fox, pictured left.) The creation of Greenberger's post was meant partly as a gesture of openness toward the community. Figuring out how a school can expand in an urban environment while also being good neighbors to the community can be challenging,, said Greenberger. The administration recognized that it requires more expertise in the fields of campus planning and real estate to make that happen successfully..

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), agreed that the university could do better in its community outreach. We often find that we don't know what's going on at NYU,, he said. There's always been a great effort to push the university to release information about its long-term planssto no avail.. One contentious issue has been the university's 2001 purchase of a site in the Silver Towers super-block that currently houses faculty apartment buildings by I. M. Pei and and a supermarket. GVSHP lobbied to have the entire block, bordered by Washington Place, LaGuardia, Mercer, and Houston, designated a landmark. NYU did not support the effort, which would limit its ability to alter or further develop the site. DG

 

Parsons The New School for Design
Location:Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Founded: 1896
# of students:3,000 (15,800 total enrolled in The New School)
Campus Master Plans:
Helpern Architects, 1995
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2004.

courtesy lyn rice Architects

You might feel tempted to flaunt technique when reinventing a design school. If that school sat smack between Union Square and Washington Square, though, you might seek a civic icon. At Parsons, Lyn Rice did both. His newly unveiled design for the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (pictured) opens students' doings to the street with triple-height lobby glass.

Showcasing had been somewhat bass-ackwards throughout the eight-part New School, Parsons' parent, which occupies 19 buildings strewn about the Village and now seeks a firmer identity along lower Fifth Avenue. The design school serves as its lodestar, now that Rice has rearranged it. The school's most valuable real estate,, said Rice, at 13th Street and 5th Avenue, housed maintenance and trash collection. Rice decided to scoop outt the janitorial services to the basement for an upgrade. Replacing it, he installed 3-foot window frames with one long bench. The boundary between salon and sidewalk becomes a place for students to hang out..

It's also, Rice said, a place for students to confront their mandate. The architect uses a glazed roof to create a light-filled urban quadd between seven banks of elevators. Rice describes this as tipping the classic college green on its side so that it fits in a highrise. In an urban quad, circulation is vertical in these elevator cores,, he said. The graphics lining the walls could rotate each semester, Rice suggested, giving students instant sidewalk critics.

The New School's quest for a more cohesive urban identity comes after decades without a master plan. Lia Gartner, its director of design and construction, is overseeing a suite of brand-boosting capital projects. She said the university seeks to show pedestrians the sense of this place being untraditionall and give students and faculty the best use of this miscellaneous collection of buildings..

Gartner said pedestrians can expect more exposure. Cooper, Robertson & Partners is developing a master plan whose focal building, 65 Fifth Avenue, figures to get a new faaade. Another building, around the corner from Parsons, will get interior upgrades beginning this year. Rice's extroversion promises to resound. A lot of students aren't from New York City,, Rice noted. So this will be a great reminder of where they are.. AA

 

Pratt Institute
Location:Clinton Hill, Brooklyn
Founded: 1887
# of students:4,540 (3,068 undergrad.; 1,472 grad./professional)
Campus Master Plans:
Whittlesey and Conklin, 1962
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 20033present

Courtesy Pratt Institute and Steven Holl Architects

Pratt Institute's greatest asset, in architecture dean Thomas Hanrahan's opinion, is its location in Brooklyn's lively Clinton Hill neighborhood. Aptly, the new campus plan by Cooper, Robertson & Partners looks outward, with some major plans to expand the campus borders,, said Robert Scherr, director of Pratt Institute's Facilities Planning and Design. Anticipating the school's growth within the area, Pratt's president Thomas Schutte took a leading role in the recent formation of the nearby Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Business Improvement District (BID). Like many local schools, Pratt owns a significant number of buildings outside of its main campus (Higgins Hall to the south, for example, and Myrtle Avenue to the north), and wants to strengthen their connections to each other and to the neighborhood and community as a whole.

Although the Cooper, Robertson plan, which calls for the development of a digital art center, a student union, and a student services building, has not yet been fully ratified by the school's board of trustees, the implementation of several initiatives is moving forward. A couple of projects were the result of large private donations, such as Juliana Curran Terian's $5 million donation for the Design Center Entrance Pavilion, and Hiroko Nakamoto's $50,000 donation for the new Pratt security kiosk. Years of deferred maintenance were the impetus for campus-wide upgrades: Many of the student dormitories, faculty housing, administrative facilities, and the Main Building are currently finishing major renovations.

The largest current project on campus is the Design Center Entrance Pavilion by dean Hanrahan's firm, Hanrahan + Meyers Architects. In an effort to combine all the principal design programs into what will be the largest design center in the United States, the new entrance and gallery will create a connection between Steuben Hall and the Pratt Studios. The entrance is currently under construction and will be completed in 2006.

The largest project outside of the fence involves the Higgins Hall complex, which houses the School of Architecture. Rogers Marvel Architects is overseeing major interior renovation while Steven Holl Architects designed a new central wing (pictured) which brings together the hall's north and south wings in a single entrance and exhibition space. The Pratt Store, designed in-house by Pratt's office of Facilities Planning and Design, located on Myrtle Avenue and Emerson Place, was completed in December 2004. This design reflects the institute's goals of strengthening the surrounding community by bringing new services and activity to the neighborhood.

As for what to expect from future Pratt development? The Clinton Hill neighborhood is totally gentrified,, said Scherr. Our only growth potential lies to the north toward Myrtle Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway..
GUNNAR HAND

 

Yale University
Location:New Haven, Connecticutt
Founded: 1701
# of students:11,000 (5,242 undergrad.; 6,040 grad.) John Russell Pope, 1919
James Gamble Rogers, 1921
Cooper, Robertson & Partners, 2000

matt wargo / venturi, scott brown and associates

Yale has long been a patron of great architecture, commissioning important works from Eero Saarinen, Gordon Bunshaft, Paul Rudolph, and Louis Kahn. The university's current building initiative continues this legacy. Gwathmey Siegel & Associates recently took over the job of designing an addition for Rudolph's famed Art and Architecture building. The addition will house an arts library and classrooms for the art department that are currently located in the Rudolph building, allowing the architecture school to expand into the newly-freed space. (The addition was originally commissioned to Richard Meier & Partners in 2001 but in December 2003, the project was sidelined with the loss of a major donor. The project picked up steam again this summer when a new donor emerged. Though Meier's scheme was complete, Gwathmey Siegel will begin the project from scratch.) Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is overseeing the renovation of the original Rudolph building while Polshek Partnership Architects has recently been retained to renovate Kahn's Art Gallery.

The arts campus expansion is only a portion of a much larger group of projects recently completed or underway at Yale. Some just-finished buildings include an engineering building by Cesar Pelli & Associates, a chemistry laboratory by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and a medical research center by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (pictured). According to Laura Cruickshank, who became Yale's director of University Planning, Facilities Construction, and Renovation in July, The university is improving multiple areas of the campus simultaneouslyyScience Hill, the arts buildings, the central campus, and the medical school.. Projects currently in design include another building by Venturi, Scott Brown building for biology in the Science Hill area and a forestry and environmental studies building by Hopkins Architects.

The massive building initiative is all part of a campus plan completed in 2000 by Cooper, Robertson & Partners, which outlined the development of new construction as well as landscape architecture, circulation, signage, and traffic. The so-called 20-year Framework for Campus Planning was Yale's first attempt at creating a university-wide plan since the 1920s, and addressed the campus' poor integration with the surrounding city of New Haven. With its gated courtyards and inward-facing Gothic building blocks, Yale's campus plan, proposed by John Russell Pope in 1919 and revised in 1921 by James Gamble Rogers, originally contained a number of connective axes and public spaces that may have served to open the campus but were ultimately scrapped. Cooper, Robertson's plan suggested that the university pay particular attention to places where its campus meets the cityyon its streets and sidewalks, and through its landscaping, lighting and signageeto help weave Yale and New Haven into a more cohesive urban fabric..
DG

Eavesdrop Issue 14_09.07.2005

GAFFES AND GUGGENHEIMS
Enrique Norten probably didn't endear himself to our colleagues when, in an interview published earlier this year in New York magazine, he was quoted as saying, The American [trade publications]]Architectural Record, Architecture> are very bad, but I have to read them.. (Yeah, well, a lot of the buildings you architects design are very bad, but we have to look at them.) Now, however, we hear that Norten's winning scheme for a proposed Guggenheim in Guadalajara, Mexico, may not have necessarily endeared the jury that selected it. We're told at least one juror thinks that Jean Nouvel's competing design (Asymptote's was the other) was by far and quite obviously the best, and all the jury thought so, too.. However, Guggenheim director Thomas Krens was fearful he wouldn't be able to control Nouvel,, our well-placed source says, which is how Nortennwho also has the advantage of his sizable reputation in Mexicoowound up with the job. Could this be true? If the jury wanted a different outcome, they would have voted that way,, a Guggenheim rep insisted. As for Krens preferring Norten because of an unruly Nouvel? That's absurd. A-B-S-U-R-D.. We just hope, for everyone's sake, that this Guggenheim doesn't go K-A-P-U-T, too.

FROM TRAIN SHED TO TRAIN WRECK
SCI-Arc recently lost a complicated legal battle that would have allowed it to purchase its home, an old train depot, and keep the building out of the hands of a company that wants to develop the land next door. (Nevertheless, the prestigious Los Angeles institution will be able to stay put.) But that's not all. This summer, the school saw no less than six faculty departures, people familiar with the situation tell us, which coincides with a litany of alleged grievances: that faculty members close to director Eric Owen Moss have been getting preferential treatment; that the school paid Moss $100,000 to develop an unsolicited feasibility study for the adjacent land (giving the appearance that he was trying to make a client of the developer the school was fighting); that Moss got a huge pay raisee at the expense of cost-of-living increases for faculty; that the lawsuit cost the school $1.2 million in legal fees; that a rise in class enrollments (and, hence, tuition revenue) has lowered the caliber of students; and that prices at the vending machines are way too high (just kidding). This is scurrilous shit you're doing,, Moss shouted when we contacted him, before befuddling us with an abrupt tirade about George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, and McCarthyism when we declined to reveal our sources. If you're not ashamed of yourself, I'm ashamed for you,, he added. He also made sure to tell us that the school has a budget surplus and, for the first time, a development office that has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars. We tried asking about the other stuff, but then he hung up. However, a more level-headed Michael Rotondi, a SCI-Arc board member, confirmed both the faculty departures and the $1.2 million in legal fees, but says that Moss did not get a pay raise, and received $40,000, not $100,000, for the feasibility study. I think this is all part of the pedagogy of the place,, Rotondi says of the turmoil. Every time SCI-Arc has gone through difficult times, we've come out stronger..

CALL ME A DOOR MAT
Which wet-brained New York architecttand bless him for ittrecently proved his hard-drinking reputation at an architecture benefit? You couldn't have missed him; by evening's end, he was blocking the entrance, sprawled across the floor like a hibernating Gila monster.

LET SLIP:achen@archpaper.com

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Architects Turned Developers

With a booming real estate market and an ever-increasing general appreciation for good design, more and more architects are betting their own hard-earned cash that their skills will pay off in the development business. Deborah Grossberg asks New York architects how and why they made the leap to the other side.

For much of the AIA's 150-year history, the organization prohibited architects from engaging in development work. Intent on distinguishing architecture as a noble professionn on the level of fine art, distinct from baser building trades like carpentry and masonryythe AIA also felt the need to protect its members from the economic ruin met by early architect-developers, like Robert Adam in London and Charles Bulfinch in Boston. It was not until 1964 (by then, the profession was well established and the success of architect-developers like John Portman of Atlanta celebrated) that the AIA relaxed its ban on working in property development. It even issued a document in 1971 encouraging architects to pursue it.

But the practice still carries some stigma, harkening to the AIA founders' fears that the crassness of the business would compromise the conduct of the gentleman-architect. Architects have always done development, but high design firms haven't,, said Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects, a firm that's been involved on the development side of its projects since building the Porter House at 366 West 15th Street in Manhattan's Meatpacking District in 2003. But all that's changing now..

The simplest reason why better firms are getting involved in development is the skyrocketing real estate market. Peter Moore, an architect who's been developing his own projects with his firm Peter Moore Associates since the 1980s, said, Because real estate has become so lucrative in the last dozen years, it's attracting more and more people, including good architects.. Another factor is the public's increased sensitivity to design since 9/11. There's more of a recognition now that architecture can create value,, said Jared Della Valle, principal of Brooklyn-based firm Della Valle + Bernheimer, which has been involved with an affordable housing development project in Brooklyn for the past three years. In other words, developers are beginning to see architects on more equal footing, as valuable creative partners who can help them conceptualize a projecttand make it more profitableefrom the outset.

Pasquarelli, who is trained as an architect and holds an undergraduate business degree, agrees that the perception of what designers can bring to the table has improved. We're not just selling a building wrapper, but solving real design problems,, he said. There's been a big shift in the value and vision that architects bring to a project, and we're finally being remunerated in equity, partnership, and property..

For a ground-up construction at 258 East 7th Street between Avenues C and D, Derek Sanders designed a building partly on spec and partly for a clientta couple willing to front the money for the 10,000-square-foot triplex penthouse. The couple's investment helped offset the cost of the rest of the project, which includes seven additional units, mostly two-bedrooms. It is slated for completion in late summer 2006.

It may be a prime time to dive in, but getting started in the development game still has a fair share of challenges. For one thing, the financial interests of developers and architects are often at odds, so doing both can at times feel schizophrenic. Working as both developer and architect, in a way you're negotiating against yourself on fees,, said Della Valle. Since architects' fees are paid at the beginning of a project, you're paying interest on any dollar you get for fees as part of your loan. Architects' fees are one of the things that developers are always trying to reduce.. Besides pouring their own man hours into their project, Della Valle and co-principal Andrew Bernheimer also asked three other firmssArchitecture Research Office, BriggsKnowles, and Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewissto collaborate on designs in an effort to give each unit in their affordable housing development a unique identity.

Aside from conflicting interests, the hardest part for most architects is scraping together the cash for that first down payment on property and construction loans. Small practices often have trouble convincing banks that they're right for a mortgage, and many don't want to risk their entire livelihood even if financing is attainable. The most common solution is to partner with a developer or investors, but on a more equal basis than in a standard for-fee project.

Many architects who develop their own projects swear by starting small. Pasquarelli worked with developer Jeffrey M. Brown on the Porter House project, investing a small fraction of the total cost but a much larger percentage of his firm's net worth. It was really, really frightening,, he said. The risk paid offfone bedroom flats sold for more than $700,000 and the four-bedroom duplex penthouse went to fashion mogul Carlos Miele for over $4 million. Now Pasquarelli is using the profits from the project to finance four collaborative development projects in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Derek Sanders, a 44-year-old architect and principal of CAN Resources who recently began investing in his own projects with the help of a young developer, Seth Tapper, said, With our first project, we started out with a much smaller percentage of the equity. We waived our fees entirely and contributed a little capital. The first project made money, which we rolled into the second one.. According to Sanders, the approach has paid off. Architects don't usually get paid very well anyway,, he reasoned. As long as you have low overhead, you can make multiples of your regular fees [by trading them for shares]..

AvroKO invested about 50 percent of the capital for the development of twin one-bedroom co-op apartments at 23 Waverly Street in Greenwich Village. The firm outfitted each unit with everything you could get excited about,, according to principal Kristina O'Neal, such as bacteria-killing lights, a Murphy bed with an astronaut foam mattress, and energy-efficient appliances.

Architect Galia Solomonoff went even further with the bartering idea for a six-story residential building she's working on in the East Village: She and the couple who owns the lot (they bought it for peanuts in the 1980s) took no loans at all, and convinced all the contractors involvedd Solomonoff includeddto waive part of their fees in exchange for equity. The traditional wisdom of business people is to borrow as much as you can, put your building up as quickly as possible, and flip it before you pay too much interest,, said Solomonoff. The wisdom of artists is don't borrow and don't rush..

Sanders has made his equation work partly by picking a co-developer who's relatively new to the game. Not having done a lot of development already, Seth is open to new ideas,, he said. He's also used some creative methods to offset up-front costs. With the help of real estate broker Larry Carty, Sanders and Tapper managed to find a Japanese couple to pre-purchase the penthouse apartment in a ground-up construction they're working on at 258 East 7th Street. Sanders is designing the top three floors according to the couple's specifications, but the rest of the building is up to him. Because residential work relies so much on the sanity of your clients, I'm of the opinion that the more you can be your own client, the better,, said Sanders.

The young design firm AvroKO also got into development to shed the burden of designing for clients. For us, the core reason to do self-propelled projects is to be able to do something you can't do with conservative clientssto go with the ideas you want,, said Kristina O'Neal, one of AvroKO's four principals. The group owns and operates the restaurant Public, which opened in Nolita in 2004. This year, they designed two fully-outfitted one-bedroom apartments in Greenwich Village under the moniker smart.space. They are marketing the units themselves, and at press time there was a bid on the less expensive, smaller of the two units (the asking price for the 590-square-foot unit is $649,000, and $753,250 for the 655-square-foot space). Investors fronted part of the cash for both projects, though AvroKO owns significant stakes in both. But according to O'Neal, they're not in it for the money. It's been somewhat profitable,, she allowed, but we're mainly supporting ourselves through fee- based work.. The firm is currently planning more smart.space units, to be completed in 2006, as well as another internally-developed project to be released in the fall. We learned a lot from these projects,, said O'Neal. The next ones will be easier and more affordable..

Peter Moore, an architect who began developing affordable housing projects in the 1980s in Brooklyn, is currently involved with five development projects in Manhattan. For a project at 520 West 27th Street in Chelsea, Moore partnered with Flank Architects to develop a new 11-story, 50,000-square-foot mixed-use condominium building currently under construction on the site of an old four-story warehouse and showroom for American Hanger and Fixture.

Developing projects offers as many constraints as freedoms, but many architects have found the new limits compelling. It was fantastic because we only had to answer to ourselves,, said Pasquarelli. We had to ask, Do we really think that extra stainless steel detail is worth it?' And if the answer was yes, then we had to pay for it!! Bernheimer agreed, You have to make decisions informed by economics but there's always the opposite challenge to do something unexpected within the constraints..

The first development project is always the hardest for architects unaccustomed to working in real estate. From an architect's standpoint, the most daunting part of our development project has been the time commitment,, said Bernheimer. The learning curve has been so steep that, of the three years we've spent on the project, a good year was spent learning the ins and outs of the real estate market.. The educational experience can be a plus, though. Solomonoff said, I really enjoy that the team of experts you work with becomes larger. In a project where you have a developer interest there's a real estate person with a different outlook on the architecture and design market, as well as lawyers who have a more conservative point of view about the value of design. It enriches your role as an architect..

Bernheimer and Della Valle brought in partners with more development experience to help them sort out the rigmarole of purchasing land from the city for affordable housing. The firm felt that city RFP requirements, which demand finished designs before a bid is won, tended to force affordable housing developers into cheaping out on architecture services. Developers usually just submit something that's already been done to avoid spending money on architects' fees,, said Della Valle. But for most of the people [for whom affordable housing is created], it will be their first home purchase. That requires more thought about design rather than less..

Moore is working on another 11-story condo project, at 302 Spring Street in the West Village, with Zakrzewski & Hyde Architects. Principals Stas Zakrzewski and Marianne Hyde (who are married with two children) earned a three-bedroom stake in the new project in exchange for waiving design fees. Their design incorporates a small communal courtyard as well as a stainless-steel shutter system which allows residents to control the flow of light and air without losing privacy.

Moore agreed that the city could do more to encourage good architecture along with development. City Planning and the Landmarks Preservation Commission make feeble attempts, but they're not doing enough,, he said. They should encourage a more fully integrated approach to harness the boom.. Since the city hasn't managed to keep developers in check, Moore thinks the biggest strength architects can bring to development is a sense of responsibility for the built environment. It's encouraging to have architects develop because they bring integrity to the process. If you're looking to maximize your value, it's not necessarily a strength to be an architect, but building buildings isn't an abstract thing like selling bonds,, said Moore.

Most architects involved with development are continuing with their regular practice as well. Said Sanders, You have to balance how much risk you want to take on.. Perhaps the most compelling reason for architects to get a taste for what it's like to be a developer is to encourage better understanding across the divide. I'm interested in having the most participatory role possible as an architect,, said Solomonoff. There's both more freedom and more responsibility..
DEBORAH GROSSBERG IS AN ASSOCIATE EDITOR AT AN.