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On the Ruhr

The Sauerland Museum expansion staggers upward with travertine
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Arnsberg is a small German city located northeast of the Cologne metropolitan region. The city is centered on the Ruhr and is surrounded by protected forested land, and largely survived the damage inflicted on other German cities during World War 2. Arising from this historical context is the Sauerland Museum expansion, one of the citys most significant projects in years, constructed of self-supporting travertine cladding and designed by Bez + Kock Architekten. The project is an extension of the preexisting Sauerland Museum, which is housed in the Landsberger Hof, a former palace constructed in 1605. Typical for the era and regional vernacular, the palace is composed of lime-washed masonry arranged according to classical symmetry and topped with a steeply pitched gable.
  • Facade Manufacturer Lauster Schueco
  • Architect Bez + Kock Architekten
  • Facade Installer Fuellbier GmbH
  • Structural Engineer wh-p GmbH
  • Location Arnsberg, Germany
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Self-supporting masonry rainscreen
  • Products Gauinger Travertine
Bez + Kock’s extension is located at the bottom of a steeply pitched slope leading up to the palace—a challenging location in terms of urban planning and construction. The original concept of the extension called for constructing over the contours of the site, but was ultimately adapted at the request of the client into its finalized form of stepped massing which rises approximately 50 feet into a slender bridge linking the two structures. The facade is sheer and, due to the narrow mortar joints and select window openings, appears monolithic. Window openings, bar that on axis with the connect bridge, are canted from the rectilinear form to diffuse sunlight from the interior curatorial spaces. For the original concept of the museum, the design team intended to use locally sourced Grauwacke sandstone, which is known for its dark heterogeneous coloring—a color palette that would have seamlessly blended with the adjacent retaining wall. However, this dark cast was found unsuitable for the standalone stature of the reoriented extension. In response, Bez + Kock opted for Gauinger travertine produced in the Swabian Alps. While the project’s massing is distinctly contemporary and its facade is stripped of ornament, the masonry components are in part traditional in that they are self-supporting. “The pattern was developed in accordance with the technical requirements of all windows, doors and technical elements in the facade, and the lengths of the individual stones are random, which was a cost-saving decision,” said the design team.  “To enhance the horizontality of the surfaces and tie together the individual elements, we specified that the vertical joints would be flush, while the horizontal joints are mortared.”
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Sanitizer for All

California scrambles to protect its homeless population amidst coronavirus outbreak
With a pandemic sweeping across many of America’s largest population centers, phrases like “shelter-in-place,” “self-quarantine,”  “stay at home” “social distancing,” and “hand sanitizer shortage”  have become fundamental parts of our shared daily language. Yet for thousands of Americans, particularly in cities experiencing high levels of homelessness, these phrases are largely meaningless. For those living on the streets and in shelters, taking refuge from a deadly and highly contagious virus that requires the population to practice vigilance by isolating themselves indoors is, simply, impossible. As reported by Reuters, California Governor Gavin Newsom has warned that up to 60,000 homeless Californians could fall ill with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the coming weeks. A sharp influx of unsheltered people infected with the virus could put further strain on California’s hospitals as medical workers grapple to care for other vulnerable segments of the population including the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. “Over the next eight-week period, we have modeled that of the 108,000 unsheltered Californians that are out on the streets, if you had an attack rate of about 56 percent, you’re looking at 60-plus thousand individuals that may have COVID-19,” said Newsom in a Facebook-streamed statement. “That creates a deep point of anxiety for the existing population but moreover for our healthcare delivery system, our capacity to move people in and out of the shelters safely without contacting other people and putting them at risk as well.” While much attention has been placed on the Seattle and greater Puget Sound region, where the virus first appeared stateside and where the fatality rate remains the highest, and on ultra-dense, hospital bed-strapped New York City, California has also been heavily affected by COVID-19. As of this writing, there are 906 confirmed cases in the state and 18 deaths. (Nationwide, there are 10,755 confirmed cases and 154 deaths.) As health and emergency officials scramble to curb the spread of the virus and care for those already sickened by it, there are growing local efforts to specifically shield the unsheltered population. In Los Angeles, Reuters reports that Mayor Eric Garcetti has launched a sweeping effort to identify the most vulnerable—this includes the elderly and those with underlying health problems— of the city’s unhoused population and provide shelter to over 6,000 of them in 42 makeshift shelters set up in recreational centers spread across the city. Those who test positive for the virus would be isolated in emergency trailers. Per LAist, the move was activated through the Disaster Service Worker Program, which enables Garcetti to redeploy city employees to “combat a crisis, including to house the homeless.” LAist also reported that the initiative, which will be paid for through a mix of state and federal funds, is being rolled out in phases, with over 1,300 beds expected to be set-up in 13 rec centers by the top of the week. The Red Cross is providing the beds and the city’s Homeless Services Authority will do the work in locating those in greatest need. A rule that previously stipulated that homeless people must dissemble their tents during the daylight hours has been scrapped to promote social distancing and slow the spread of the virus. Yahoo News reported that city officials are also mulling converting vacant motels and hotels to house homeless individuals as the outbreak spreads. “This is an immense undertaking logistically and it’s never been done this quickly in a city, anywhere,” said Garcetti in a statement. “If we don’t get folks off the street, they will become the main spreaders or among the main spreaders of COVID-19 and a threat to themselves.” To date, no unsheltered person in Los Angeles has tested positive for the coronavirus. Outside of Los Angeles, a homeless man in the Santa Clara Valley died earlier this week from COVID-19 in the first known instance of an unsheltered individual succumbing to the virus. There are, as of March 17, 138 cases in ultra-wealthy Santa Clara County and 297 across the greater San Francisco Bay Area. San Jose, California’s third most populous city, has installed hand-washing stations, portable toilets, and showers near established homeless encampments to promote improved hygiene, as reported by Bay Area CBS affiliate KPIX. In the wake of the reported death, however, homeless advocates are urging officials to enact greater, more urgent measures a la Los Angeles. “We’re accelerating efforts to identify motels and other locations where we can move folks as soon as the testing indicates we need to get them out and away from others,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in a statement. In San Francisco, plans to provide emergency shelters to its homeless population are also coming together. Trent Rhorer, head of the city’s Human Services Agency, is currently in the process of securing large facilities that could accommodate, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, “at least 3,500 people who are either unsheltered or who live in congregant settings where they have to share bathrooms and kitchens and cannot self-quarantine.” Shuttered college campuses and churches are being considered by Rhorer and other city officials as are vacant hotels and motels. As the Chronicle reports, Rhorer has already secured 500 hotel rooms for the express purpose of housing the homeless. Across the Bay in Oakland, the state government has also secured two hotels with nearly 400 rooms between them in a bid to shield the unhoused from the virus. However, one not-so-insignificant issue remains: how does the city staff these temporary facilities with case managers, drug counselors, and other workers that would normally be on-hand at a non-ephemeral homeless shelter? Rhorer is confident that it can happen. “It’s not like just setting up an emergency shelter in an earthquake,” he told the Chronicle. “But we can do this. We don’t have a cash flow issue in this city, so we can move fast. You brace for the worst and hope for the best.”
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Ando 'Nother Gallery

Former Paris stock exchange building renovated by Tadao Ando as contemporary art gallery
François Pinault, the founder of the luxury group Kering and the investment company Artémis, is known throughout Europe as an avid supporter of contemporary art. In 2017, Pinault announced that he had purchased Paris’s former stock exchange Bourse de Commerce, two blocks north of the Louvre Museum, to house at least a portion of his vast collection. “With the creation of this new museum,” Pinault wrote of the institution, now titled Bourse de Commerce — Pinault Collection, on its official website, “I am writing the next chapter of my cultural project, whose goal is to share my passion for contemporary art with as broad an audience as possible.” With an estimated budget of $170 million, he commissioned famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando to renovate the 19th-century domed structure with the assistance of local talent including NeM Architects, architect Pierre-Antoine Gatier, and engineering firm Setec. Pinault additionally entrusted designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec with the interior and exterior furnishings. Three years later, the project is nearly ready for the public. To renovate the Bourse de Commerce to its condition in 1889, the year in which all of its additions were first completed, the team used archival documents produced by architect Henri Blondel to analyze the original carpentry of the facades, update the marble mosaic tiles lining the interior of the vestibule and rotunda, replaced the glass canopy, and reinforced the iron framework on cast-iron columns. Restoring the paintings lining the interior of the dome proved to be an enormous challenge in itself, yet in the process, the team discovered graffiti and other embellishments from previous eras. Ando’s greatest contribution to the space is a large, cylindrical concrete wall at the center of the multistory interior designed to increase wall space for exhibitions without visually competing with the hand-painted dome above. There will also be a restaurant added on the top floor of the building, as well as an auditorium with 300 seats, and a black-box theater for video installations and experimental performances. According to the museum’s website, the additional components of the building, which was once solely animated by the frenzy of the stock market, “will become the actors in a scenography intended to remove visitors from their daily lives, to allow them to focus on what’s before their eyes, on the here and now.” The institution is expected to have ten special exhibitions a year on average while also featuring work from Pinault’s private collection. The opening date has been pushed more than once; it was first scheduled to be complete in 2019, then once again in June of this year. According to ARTnews, the institution’s opening has again been postponed due to the coronavirus, and is now scheduled to welcome visitors sometime in September. When complete, the Bourse de Commerce—Pinault Collection will be the third gallery Ando has completed for Pinault, following the Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice, Italy.
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Gone But Not Forgotten

Vittorio Gregotti’s death marked the end of an era
Vittorio Gregotti’s passing on the 15th of March truly marks the end of an era. Gregotti is considered by many to be an outstanding figure whose career profoundly transformed the architectural practice in Italy and beyond. Known for his stern commitment to modernism, Gregotti decried the profession’s downward slide into frivolity. The mantra “form follows function” had lost, according to Gregotti, all utility: The market became for all practical purposes the substitute for function. This would lead to the corruption of the design process itself, bringing Gregotti to famously declare in 2008 that the time had come for “the end of design.” Nonetheless, in his own practice, Gregotti remained true to his beliefs, succeeding in culling major architectural and urban design commissions throughout Europe and Asia. Vittorio Gregotti’s reputation reached well beyond architecture—he was also a respected art theorist, editor, curator, and teacher. Gregotti’s interests led him on an intellectual trajectory that presents some contradictions however, at least to the extent that his convictions on architecture didn’t necessarily line up with his broader view on art culture. Gregotti, I would argue, benefited from his close contacts with two intellectual juggernauts of his day, Umberto Eco and Manfredo Tafuri. The first, a noted philosopher, semiologist, and writer, the latter the Marxist architectural historian and theorist. Umberto Eco’s influence on Gregotti in the mid-sixties helped shape the architect’s view on art theory, design, and communications. Manfredo Tafuri, in his assessment of Gregotti a decade later, attempted to expurgate these earlier mediatic dalliances in order to cement Gregotti’s position as one of the forerunners of a rigorous urban scale architectural practice. From my perspective, the 1964 Milan Triennale Tempo Libero (Free Time), co-curated by Vittorio Gregotti and Umberto Eco represents a turning point in the history of experimental exhibitions, one of the rare joint endeavors between an architect and a philosopher. This odd pairing shares similarities with another strikingly revolutionary exhibition organized in the mid-eighties at the Pompidou Center in Paris, when Jean-Francois Lyotard and Thiery Chaput co-curated Les Immatériaux. To create this exhibition at the Triennale, Gregotti and Eco plumbed a brilliant network of artists, philosophers, writers, and theorists who loosely belonged to Gruppo 63. Libero Tempo explored the city and the countryside, green spaces, sport and spectacles, and presented prototypes for domestic and leisure products. The design for the exhibition formed a procession of galleries, and spread into large muraled rooms and led into a spectacular kaleidoscopic volume—a darkened trapezoidal space featuring a multitude of reflected projections. In this hall of prisms, a singular filmmaker, Tinto Brass, then a young upstart recently back from Paris and deeply impressed by the French nouvelle vague cinema, created two short films on Tempo Libero and Tempo del lavoro. The exhibition installed audio works, including musical performances in homage to James Joyce, composed by Luciano Berio. Joyce remained a key figure in Eco’s open work universe. Clearly Gregotti absorbed Eco’s critical understanding of how communications and the mass media were transforming society, along with the importance of bridging the sciences and the arts to better glimpse the future. Gregotti’s fluency with the vast creative world outside architecture, surely bolstered his role when he became president of the Venice Biennale in the mid-seventies. This open-mindedness doesn’t come across much in Gregotti’s curriculum, however. This probably has a lot to do with Manfredo Tafuri, who authored Vittorio Gregotti: Progetti e architetture for the Electa series on contemporary architecture in 1982. Tafuri’s introductory essay “Le avventure dell’oggetto: architetture di Vittorio Gregotti,” (roughly translated as “The adventures of the object: architectures of Vittorio Gregotti” ) went a long way to readdress the contradictions inherent in Gregotti’s practice. First, Tafuri sought to undercut the story of the 1964 Triennale, no doubt because of his general antipathy for Umberto Eco. One should by experience be cautious when translating Tafuri into English, but if I can take a venture, Tafuri literally calls out Eco’s Open Work text before launching into a particularly scathing assessment of the exhibition: “The public therefore bombarded and violated. The sadism that dribbles out…” Tafuri goes on to qualify his view: “At the triennial of 64 the work of the architects, of the semiologists, of the visual operators attempted an inter-coda operation in an attempt to dominate and possess in its entirety the mechanism of technological broadcasters, to build a language of plurality and ephemerality, to operate a multiversum without information centers.” Tafuri here is making a clean sweep of Gregotti’s involvement in this exhibition, considering it a failed attempt to properly harness the protocols of communication. But Tafuri then rescues Gregotti, by demonstrating that when the architect joins with Franco Purini in Palermo in 1970, he becomes transformed, moving ideologically towards anti-utopianism while simultaneously rejecting the facile seductions of the megastructure. Tafuri further declares that Gregotti moved empirically towards an introspective architecture about architecture and territory. Returning to the mysterious essay title concerning Gregotti’s practice, Tafuri states: “From the fetish of the object to the crisis of the object, therefore: the Gregottian arc of research recounts the stages in the historically marked process, experimenting with diverse formal organizations…” I am not suggesting that Gregotti was in any way naïve about how others might have shaped his past. There is no question in my mind that Gregotti welcomed Tafuri’s critical reinterpretation, including the strategic distancing of his contribution to the making of the 1964 Triennale. This shift in tendencies is apparent when Umberto Eco and Vittorio Gregotti meet amicably on the pages of Lotus in 2008; when the two now older and wiser men bring up the discussion on the end of design. While Eco deftly kills the idea of form follows function once and for all, Gregotti falls back on the sanctity of the decorative arts, explaining that design had succumbed to a false aesthetic premise to begin with. This time there was no real meeting of minds, merely a retrenchment on Gregotti’s part. Nonetheless, this does not dismiss the importance of their collaboration back in 1964, and the incredible vision that Eco and Gregotti succeeded in communicating. Would we all have such contradictions in our closets.
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Not Again!?

Landmark Willi Smith exhibition (almost) opens at Cooper Hewitt
In what might be one of the darkest ironies of the COVID-19 saga in New York City, the Cooper Hewitt has been forced to close the Willi Smith: Street Couture retrospective before it opens, the first museum exhibition of the influential American designer Willi Smith (1948–1987), whose career was cut short when he was killed by the AIDS crisis in 1987. Smith, who in 1976 founded WilliWear with partner Laurie Mallet, is often credited as a pioneer—if not the creator of—streetwear, which today is nearly ubiquitous, uniting economic and social classes with a blend of high fashion and everyday-inspired clothing. Through collaborations with artists, designers and performers, such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, and Nam June Paik, Smith captured the creativity and spirit of the cities where culture was being formed. It is this marrying of the avant-garde and the world-at-large that brought together Smith with James Wines and Alison Sky of the art and architecture collaborative Sculpture in the Environment (SITE) built a series of showrooms that served as the backdrop for the gesamtkunstwerk of WilliWear. After seeing a window display at the Rizzoli bookstore designed by SITE, Willi enlisted the group to design a series of showrooms from 1982 to 1987, using found objects from around the streets of Manhattan. As members of the Environmental Art movement, SITE specialized in bringing art into places where you would least expect it, and retail stores were one of their specialties, most famously the BEST department stores. The exhibition, curated by Alexandra Cunningham was designed by Wines along with Sam Chermayeff Architects, who built a modified version of the original stores. The communication designers poly-mode have also contributed a very clear and fresh graphic solution to the display. The show was originally scheduled to be on until Sunday, October 25 2020, but the situation remains fluid. Note: Effective March 14, the Cooper Hewitt is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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Quirky AF

Architecture AF restores a distinctive mid-century Andrew Geller home
The Antler House, a delightfully quirky vacation home designed by the midcentury architect Andrew Geller in the East Hamptons, has been almost irreparably modified since it was first completed in 1968. While previous occupants have replaced original, handmade details with catalog materials and modern appliances more times than one can count, the current owners, Chris Fisher and Blair Moritz, sought to restore the minuscule space back to its original charm after purchasing it in 2014. The clients commissioned the Brooklyn- and Richmond, Virginia-based firm Architecture AF to pour through original documents to return the home to its heyday while carefully adding 21st comforts. The team began by stripping away the subsequent additions and restoring the original cedar cladding, the texture of which now nearly steals the spotlight in every one of the home’s oddly-shaped rooms. All of the original gypsum board has been replaced with fragrant #2 cedar, while midcentury and midcentury-inspired furniture has been added to the space to further the home’s design origins. “In a neighborhood replete with trophy homes,” the architects write on their website, “we are proud and gracious to have had the opportunity to restore a mid-century work of art that another owner may have razed.” The firm’s major design contribution comes in the form of a raised deck accessible via a boldly triangular staircase that compliments the overall geometry of the original building. They were careful, however, to keep the vast majority of the surrounding landscape untouched. “A conservationist at heart,” they explain, “Geller believed that no house should occupy more than 20 [percent] of the site.” The Antler House is just one of many vacation homes Geller designed along the East Coast, all of which are similarly eccentric and creatively low budget. The architect, a relatively unsung design figure, has been behind some of the most significant projects of modern design and political history, including the interiors of SOM’s Lever House in Manhattan and, according to the New York Times, the “typical American house” that shaped the background of the infamous Kitchen Debate between then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev.
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Beantown Lockdown

Boston imposes citywide moratorium on construction

Boston has suspended construction activity throughout the city as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Monday that the moratorium on construction work would go into effect on Tuesday, March 17, and construction sites need to be secured by March 23.

Walsh’s action comes after he declared a public health emergency in Boston, postponed the Boston Marathon, and canceled the St Patrick’s Day Parade over infection concerns. It makes Boston one of the first cities or districts in the U. S., other than those in complete lockdown or quarantine, to ban construction activity as a way of fighting the coronavirus. The move comes at a time when the city and region are booming with construction activity, from affordable housing to high-rise office buildings. Walsh did not say how long work will be suspended, but he indicated it’s likely to be at least 14 days.

“Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, we are suspending all regular activity on construction sites in the city of Boston,” Walsh said in a briefing yesterday. “The only work that we are anticipating right now moving forward in the city will be emergency work” approved by the city’s Inspectional Services Department.

“These decisions that we make are not easy, but they’re out of an abundance of caution,” he added. “It’s about protecting the worker and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“This is a critical time for us right now… I think if we can prevent the spread from happening and try and level the virus off, we’ll be in a better position long term.”

The mayor said he didn’t have an exact figure for how many construction projects are affected by his order, but he knows it is substantial.

“It’s massive, massive,” he said at the briefing. “I don’t have a number. It’s tens of thousands. We’re in the middle of a boom right now, and…today is a difficult decision to make… Construction is at the core of our economy here in Boston. I come out of the trades. I was a construction worker myself. This is something that is very personal to me and to a lot of us.”

Mayor Walsh added that city officials will monitor the situation closely to determine when the moratorium can be lifted.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we ‘re looking at 14 days potentially, and then we’ll revisit it and hopefully they can be the first workers back to work.”

The moratorium is “something that we’re going to be monitoring literally week to week,” he said at another point. “Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to change the policy. But right now, out of an abundance of caution for the workers on the job site and to prevent spreading the virus, we want to make sure those workers are safe.”

According to a statement posted on the city’s website, the city is instructing employers to “maintain necessary crews to keep their sites safe and secure, keep any materials from blowing away, and prevent trespassing. This work needs to be completed in the next week, by Monday, March 23, 2020.” Once sites have been secured, the message said, skeleton crews will be permitted on site “for the remainder of the suspension” to ensure safety, but no construction activity can take place.

Walsh said Boston has 33 confirmed cases of Boston residents with COVID-19 as of Monday, March 16, and the construction moratorium is part of a multifaceted effort to address the spread of coronavirus.

“The coronavirus is one of the greatest public health challenges that our city has ever faced,” he said at a press briefing. “Our primary objective right now is to slow the spread and flatten out the curve so that our medical centers don’t get overwhelmed. This strategy is crucial to helping our most vulnerable residents and make sure that we can rebound from this as soon as possible.”

According to Walsh’s order, the only exceptions to the construction ban are: “emergency utility, road or building work,” such as repairing gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes; new utility connections to occupied buildings, mandated building or utility work; work that “ensures the reliability of the transportation network,” work on facilities that support “vulnerable populations,” and work needed to make occupied buildings “fully habitable.”

Walsh said the city may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for “essential” projects that “support increased public health and safety.” But he said new projects cannot be started after March 17, unless approved by the city. In his briefing, Walsh said he hopes employers don’t fire their employees as a result of his action.

“I want to remind Boston employers that we’re in a robust construction market,” he said. “Boston is home to a talented, hard-working construction workforce and when we get back to work as usual, employers need to bring these workers back and the right thing that we need to do right now is to lay them off and not fire them.”

Meanwhile, one state away, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wants to increase construction of at least one type of building, medical facilities, and he wants the federal government to do it.

“Let’s bring in the Army Corps of Engineers and let’s start building temporary medical facilities because we know we’re going to need them,” Cuomo told CNN. “As many as we produce, if we started today, as many as we can produce, we would need twice.”

Cuomo said he has confidence in the Army Corps of Engineers to move quickly and complete projects that individual states need but don’t have the resources to take on. New York State has one of the highest volume of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, more than 600 people.

“The Army Corps of Engineers builds. I used to be in the federal government. I worked with the Army Corps of Engineers. They build bridges. They build airports. They’re builders. They’re engineers… They build. Let them come in, build with me.”

Cuomo also said he can identify state-owned properties that can be retrofitted to accommodate coronavirus patients. “I’ll find an old dormitory, an old nursing home. Let’s convert it to a hospital and let’s do it quickly so we have some backup space when the wave crashes on the health care system.”

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Wouldn't Be Open Now Anyways

Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall closes for first time for renovations
Like many great cultural institutions the world over, the Sydney Opera House is currently closed to the public as the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) brings life in major population centers to a standstill. The closure of the iconic Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall, however, was a pre-planned and long-awaited maneuver to accommodate a much-needed rehabilitation of the acoustically challenged, accessibility-plagued venue. Renovation work first kicked off in February, marking the first time in its history that the Concert Hall has gone dark for an extended period. Per the New York Times, the gall and the surrounding Opera House complex are normally open to the public 363 days a year. A January 31 performance by Solange was the last held there for at least the next two years. Pending any delays, the 2,500-seat venue is expected to reopen in mid-2021, ahead of the Opera House’s 50th anniversary in 2023. (Other performances and gatherings held in other venues at the concrete sail-topped Opera House complex that were to remain open during the revamp have since been postponed as a proactive measure against the spread of COVID-19.) Sporting a price tag of $200 million that’s being covered by the New South Wales government, the Concert Hall refurbishment is a major endeavor that, after years of planning, will correct numerous shortcomings of the famous—and famously flawed—venue. The upgrades will tackle not-so-insignificant issues with sound quality, performance logistics, and guest accessibility that have vexed Opera House officials, performers, and the general public alike for decades. As the Times and others have noted, the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed structure is one of the world’s most distinctive and instantly recognizable works of modern architecture. But its construction was a notoriously troubled one, complete with ballooning costs, scheduling overruns, technical missteps, bureaucratic in-fighting, a workers’ strike, and the resignation of its architect, Jørn Utzon, long before it was completed. While the interiors are visually ravishing thanks in large part to Utzon’s successor, Australian architect Peter Hall, the Concert Hall has long been regarded as subpar when it comes to its aural qualities—kind of important for a world-renowned concert venue. Writes The Guardian:
“The actor John Malkovich once said the acoustics in the Concert Hall ‘would do an aeroplane hangar a disservice.’ Members of the resident Sydney Symphony Orchestra have long complained that they cannot hear their fellow musicians on stage. And the rise of the rock concert has further challenged the venue, with amplified music and electronic sets being precisely the opposite of what the hall’s infrastructure was built to accommodate.”
As The Guardian explains, these issues largely arise from the fact that the Concert Hall was initially designed to be more of a multipurpose space complete with overhead theatrical rigging that could accommodate opera and plays. But following Utzon’s departure, these types of performances were reassigned to a more intimate venue at the Opera House, the Joan Sutherland Theatre, and the grand hall was redesigned to exclusively accommodate classical music performances. While symphonies continue to dominate the space, it’s also now heavily—and imperfectly—used for rock, pop, and dance acts as well. In addition to issues of bad acoustics, “more basic matters,” as the Times puts it, have long begged for fixing. This includes replacing antiquated electrical wiring and modernizing a rather inconvenient HVAC system. “The air conditioning system is hopeless,” Rory Jeffes, the leader of Opera Australia and former managing director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, told the Times.“It blows out of cannon ports up above, and then falls onto the stage, and very often turns the pages of the musicians as they play.” Improving accessibility for the million-plus visitors that the Opera House receives every year is also a top priority. While it's a pressing matter today, how patrons with mobility issues traversed the sprawling, stair-heavy space wasn’t a main concern in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the building was being designed and constructed. Opening up the space to visitors of all ages and physical abilities has been a challenge, however, considering its designation as a historic landmark. A major aspect of improving accessibility at the Concert Hall tasked to ARM Architecture, the Melbourne- and Sydney-based firm overseeing the project, has been installing elevators, something that didn’t exist before. In addition to elevators and code-compliant accessibility tweaks, other upgrades include: a new acoustic ceiling, specially designed acoustic reflectors, new acoustic panels to be placed over the stage and elsewhere, an automatic drape system, automatic stage risers, a modernized theatrical grid system, revamped backstage areas, and more. Explains ARM:
“The number and diversity of shows being staged in the Concert Hall, as well as their performance requirements, have increased enormously over the decades since the building first opened. It is vital the Opera House invests in new technology and systems to ensure the venue continues to meet orchestral and contemporary performance needs and the expectations of staff, resident companies, performers, and audiences now and in the future.”
In executing the overhaul, ARM is working closely alongside a team of acousticians as well as engineering firms Arup and Steensen Varming to better “understand the building’s existing structural condition” before carrying out more complex aspects of the renovation.  All upgrades and refurbishments are being carried out in accordance with the Opera House’s Conservation Management Plan and will respect Utzon’s original design principles. “We need to not only maintain our fabulous heritage but we need to be as prepared as we possibly can be for the next 50 years,” Louise Herron, chief executive of the Sydney Opera House, told The Guardian. “What is it that audiences of now and the future are going to want and how can we best prepare the Concert Hall for that? That’s been the driving force behind our approach.”
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1927 - 2020

Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti dies of coronavirus at 92
Vittorio Gregotti, the Italian urban planner, writer, and architect behind the Barcelona Olympic Stadium died today, Sunday, March 15, of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. He had developed pneumonia and passed aged 92 away in the San Giuseppe hospital in Milan, where his wife Marina Mazza is also being treated. Gregotti was born in Novara, east of Milan, in 1927. After graduating from the Politecnico di Milano in 1952 he worked for Italian architecture magazine Casabella, first as an editor from 1953-1955, then as editor-in-chief until 1963. Later he founded Gregotti Associati International in 1974, going on to design the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon alongside architect Manuel Salgado, the Grand Theater of Provence in France, the Arcimboldi Opera Theater in Milan, and numerous stadia including the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa. As an urban planner, his studio worked on the Bicocca district of Milan and Pujiang New Town in Shanghai, China. Outside the world of design, Gregotti was a major cultural figure in the Italian Communist Party. Some of his most notable work, however, was a curator. In 1975 he curated Regarding the Stucky Mill (A proposito del Mulino Stucky) which explored options for abandoned granary mills on Venice's Giudecca, being hosted in the Magazzini del Sale alle Zattere. The exhibition focused on land art and architecture and signaled the first steps to be taken by La Biennale di Venezia towards an exhibition on architecture, being a precursor for the Venice Architecture Biennal, established in 1980. “I don’t really know why [they asked an architect to curate the Biennale]—it was very strange,” Gregotti told AN's editor-in-chief William Menking in 2010. “I agreed to do it only if we also had a small first exhibition of architecture. That was the condition because if not, well, I wasn’t going to do it. The biennale had never had an architecture section, so this would be the first one.” In 1976 Gregotti was appointed as Director of the Visual Arts Section of the Biennale and he titled that year’s Art Biennale Werkbund 1907. He expanded the festival to include the visual arts and architecture, hosting exhibitions in seven venues across Venice, with five being dedicated to architecture and design. Gregotti was also Director for the 1978 Biennale, Utopia and the Crisis of Anti-Nature: Architectural Intentions in Italy. “In 1976 we started a different approach to exhibiting architecture,” said Gregotti. “One part was a historical exhibition, and the other was an exhibition of modern architecture featuring a group of Europeans and Americans in order to compare the two different positions. It was the 23 time of the New York Five, and in Europe there were two or three different positions, such as Oswald Mathias Ungers in Germany, James Stirling in England, Serge Chermayeff and a few others.” In response to Gregotti’s death, fellow Italian architect Stefano Boeri in a post on Facebook described a “master of international architecture” who “created the story of our culture.” Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage also added: “With deep sadness I learn of the disappearance of Professor Vittorio Gregotti. A great Italian architect and urban planner who has given prestige to our country in the world. I cling to the family on this sad day.”
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Do Look Down

The Edge debuts over 1,000 feet above Hudson Yards
Edge, a cantilevered observation deck jutting out from the 100th floor of the Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)-designed 30 Hudson Yards supertall, opened to the public yesterday at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards. Before officially opening to the ticket-holding general public in the afternoon, project developers Related Companies and Oxford Property Group hosted an invite-only opening day celebration featuring a jaunty brass band, influencers aplenty, and a dizzying choreographed performance by aerial dance troupe Bandaloop. But before the sky dancers rappelled down the side of the building from high above the outdoor viewing area and proceeded to twirl and twist and leap and flip 1,000-plus feet above the streets of New York City, something else hanging over the assembled crowd was addressed: coronavirus. As relayed to media and others at the event, Edge, which is the tallest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere and the fifth-highest in the world, will operate regularly as planned. The number of ticket sales, however, will be reduced to minimize crowds in a proactive effort to curb potential spread of the virus.*  Once it's deemed safe to do so, normal ticket sales—they run $36 per adult and $34 for New York residents—will resume. In addition to this somewhat somber announcement, the launch of a new Tuesdays-only program offering New York City Public School groups free admission to both Edge and Vessel, another crowd-drawing Hudson Yards attraction, was also unveiled by Jeff Blau, chief executive officer of Related. Following yesterday’s event, a group of fifth-graders from P.S. 33 in Manhattan got a special sneak-peak of Edge before its wider general opening. Floating 1,131 feet above the city and encased in 79 frameless angled glass panels, Edge is no doubt an acrophobe’s absolute worst nightmare. A small section of the triangular, 7,500 square foot viewing deck that boasts see-through glass panel flooring will test the fortitude of even the pluckiest of visitors. But the 360-degree views afforded from the top—especially on a clear and sunny day like yesterday—are magnificent. Premium-priced views aside, Edge itself is a remarkable feat of engineering that, per a press release from Related, “completes the tower’s architectural dialogue with the city.” The deck itself protrudes 80 feet from the side of the skyscraper and is composed of 15 different stone sections, each weighing between 35,000 and 150,000 pounds, that are anchored to the building’s south and east exterior elevations. “The Edge observation deck is the most dramatic in a series of gestures which link KPF’s buildings, in the Hudson Yards development, to the principal surrounding structures of the city,” said William Pedersen, KPF founding principal. “Gesturing directly towards the Empire State Building, and higher than its observation deck, Edge pays homage to its role as the most emblematic of all New York buildings.” Aside from the star attraction observation deck, the 100th floor at 30 Hudson Yards—also home to the controversy-marred $25 billion megadevelopment’s shopping mall which takes up the bottom four floors of the building and is the main access point to Edge—there’s also a spacious indoor viewing area, gift shop, multimedia experience documenting the construction of Hudson Yards, and a champagne bar for fueling up on liquid courage before stepping outside. One floor up, on the 101st floor, is a full-service restaurant and event space named Peak. Edge’s interior spaces and Peak were designed by Rockwell Group. It's also worth noting that the ear-popping elevator ride up to the top takes a little less than a minute. And to get to the actual elevator bank, visitors are led through a winding corridor beyond the ticketing booth where lighting and sound effects make the whole experience akin to queueing up to board a Disney theme park ride. It's the Tower of Terror, Hudson Yards-style. Edge is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. * After this article was published on March 12, it was announced that Edge will temporarily close to visitors on March 13 “following guidance from the Governor limiting gatherings of 500+ people to aid in the containment of COVID-19.”
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And Streeeeeetch

Morphosis designs high-tech headquarters for lululemon in Vancouver
Morphosis has been tapped to design the new corporate home of lifestyle athletic wear retailer lululemon in Vancouver, Canada. The new building, known as the Store Support Centre, will serve as the headquarters for lululemon’s global brand. “We are incredibly excited about the next chapter of our story both globally and in our hometown of Vancouver. Our new Store Support Centre will allow us to consolidate our offices and retain, attract, and grow our talent as we deliver on our strategic growth plans,” said Susan Gelinas, SVP of People & Culture at lululemon, in a press statement. The 13-story center is intended to be intimately connected to the surrounding environment. Both interior and exterior spaces will emphasize a focus on community collaboration and innovation. The building’s exterior façade will feature a high-performance brise-soleil system to limit solar heat gain, which will ultimately reduce energy consumption, modulate the interior climate, and open up views of the center’s scenic surroundings. Interior floors, designed in collaboration with L.A.-based architecture and interior design firm Clive Wilkinson Architects and Vancouver’s Francl Architecture, will be centered around a central atrium carved out of the massing to deliver light deep into the building. The atrium will also serve as a social hub, with stairs wrapping around it that connect to each floor and a gathering space for employees. The Store Support Centre will also include a public plaza at the ground level to help integrate it into the larger community, along with retail space and public art along the Great Northern Way. To fully reflect lululemon’s dedication to health and wellness, the design includes abundant access to sunlight, green spaces, and landscaped terraces. lululemon has also enlisted the help of sustainability and wellness consultant Integral to ensure a holistic approach to sustainable design. In a press statement, Morphosis described its excitement regarding the partnership: “We are thrilled to be partnering with lululemon on this project and joining them at an important time in the evolution of the company,” said Thom Mayne, founder and Design Director of Morphosis. No completion date or budget has been provided yet.
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Instant Icons

3D-printed houses completed for Austin’s homeless population
ICON, a robotics and advanced materials startup based in Austin, Texas, made headlines on the grounds of the 2018 South by Southwest Festival when it presented a prototype for a 3D-printed home created under 24 hours at a cost of $10,000. Two years later, the company applied its tools to the city's affordable housing crisis when it recently unveiled a small neighborhood of six 3D printed homes that will soon be ready for occupancy. The 400-square-foot dwellings, the first full 3D-printed homes in the country, are now a part of Community First Village, a 51-acre master-planned community in northeastern Austin providing affordable, permanent housing and social services for the city’s former homeless community. The structures, designed by local firm Logan Architecture with finishings by Franklin Alan, all feature a single bedroom, bathroom, full kitchen, living room, and porch. “The promise of ICON’s 3D-printing technology is really exciting,” Alan Graham, the founder of the nonprofit Mobile Loaves & Fishes which opened the village in 2016, said in a press statement, “and what better place to start putting it to use than in one of the country’s most innovative neighborhoods designed to serve men and women who have experienced the trauma of homelessness? Vulnerable populations like the homeless are never among the first to access leading-edge anything, but now here in Austin, they’re among the first in line who will be living in some of the most unique homes ever built—and we think that’s a beautiful thing.” To produce the homes, ICON used their 2-ton, 11-foot-tall Vultan II printer, which extrudes a proprietary concrete mixture the team refers to as “Lavacrete.” ICON cofounder and CEO Jason Ballard believes the technology can be easily applied to the country’s affordable housing crisis in light of the relatively short construction time it affords, as well as the often small environmental footprint and design flexibility. Thanks to the ability to print the walls of three homes at a time, the Community First Village project is nearly complete and will open to its first occupants this spring. More tiny home communities will likely pop up across the country in the near future given the recent passing of the YIMBY Act, a bill written to streamline affordable housing production and zoning for high-density single-family and multifamily housing, by the House of Representatives. A similar community of 40 units traditionally-built shelters was recently completed in San Jose, California, on a formerly vacant property owned by the Valley Transit Authority.