Cultural institutions around the world are slowly starting to reopen or staking out tentative dates after coronavirus pandemic-related closures, but design festivals, by their international and communal natures, are by-and-large pushing things back to 2021. That includes London, where infection rates for COVID-19 are still slowly creeping upward. As a result, yesterday the organizers of three major London exhibitions and design fairs announced that they would be delaying their events to 2021 as well. The third edition of the London Design Biennale, which was originally scheduled to run from September 8 through 27, has been moved to June 2021 (no specific dates have been given yet). Additionally, the London Design Fair, which was set to take place from September 17 to 20 as part of the Biennale, will take place at an as-of-yet unspecified date in 2021. Clerkenwell Design Week, a design festival and showroom “crawl” across the eponymous London neighborhood, was originally scheduled as usual to run from May 19 through 21 of this year, but was first pushed to July 14 through 16, then to May 25 through 27 of 2021. “The countries, cities and territories in our international network are core to our mission,” reads the London Design Biennale postponement announcement. “Keeping our visitors and designers safe remains our priority and given the current international travel restrictions and potential quarantine requirements, we are postponing the 2020 Biennale exhibition to 2021. The third edition will now take place in June 2021, still at Somerset House, London.”
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Cultural institutions reeling after weeks of lockdown
For the duration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, AN will use this column to keep our readers up to date on how the pandemic is affecting architecture and related industries. This weekly article is meant to digest the latest major developments in the crisis and synthesize broader patterns and what they could mean for architecture in the United States. The previous edition of the column can be found here. Even as the country starts reopening, this week’s coronavirus-related architecture news hasn’t been great. Though the country is reopening, the effects of the past few weeks of lockdown are becoming clearer. April’s Architecture Billing Index numbers came out, and they were bleak across all sectors and regions, and cultural institutions are grappling with funding cuts and an uncertain future. While museums in Texas are already open again, albeit with social distancing and monitoring measures in place, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is planning on waiting until August to welcome visitors. It has canceled all events for the rest of the year, though, and likely won’t reopen with the same capacity as before. But at least the Met is planning on reopening—a UNESCO and International Council of Museums report came out this week saying that 13 percent of museums worldwide are not likely to reopen. The reconstruction of London’s Globe theater may also be a casualty of the pandemic as the nonprofit company occupying it is ineligible for government relief funds. Meanwhile, Philadelphia, faced with a financial shortfall like many American cities, is looking at a budget that would cut all arts funding, which could devastate the city’s cultural scene. Los Angeles is dealing with its funding cuts differently—the Los Angeles City Council approved measures to use real estate development fees to fund grants for local artists and cultural organizations. Looking internationally, the Venice Architecture Biennale is coping by pushing this year’s festival to 2021, joining the London Design Biennale and associated design fairs. Hopefully, the summer will bring sunnier news!
Over two months after the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it would close to the public to curb the spread of coronavirus, the museum has announced a tentative reopening date, potentially setting the trend for other New York City cultural institutions. Today, the Met revealed that it was eyeing a mid-August reopening, or potentially in the next few weeks after that, but would be canceling the remainder of their events for 2020, including the Met Gala. No tours or talks will be scheduled for the rest of the year either, and it’s likely that any reopening will involve reduced capacity and hours so that visitors can maintain social distancing practices. “The Met has endured much in its 150 years, and today continues as a beacon of hope for the future,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and chief executive, in a statement. “This museum is also a profound reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the power of art to offer comfort, inspiration, and community.” With daily COVID-19 deaths in the city falling below 115 per day for the first time since March, and as seven other New York State regions have already reopened, the state is gradually easing distancing restrictions, meaning an August timetable could be a realistic one. We’ll have to wait and see if other museums such as the MoMA follow suit. Meanwhile, cultural powerhouses across America are slowly dipping their toes into the water and reopening with precautions in place. In Texas, although Governor Greg Abbott gave museums the go-ahead to reopen on May 1, many aren’t taking chances. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, reopened last weekend after a two-month closure, but is implementing a mask policy, mandating temperature checks at the entrance, moving to cashless payments, closing the cafe, and requiring guests to stay six feet apart. Could this become the new norm?
A Bite Out of the Big Apple
Cash-strapped New York cultural institutions continue to slash jobs, exhibition funding
With the dire financial impacts stemming from the coronavirus pandemic showing no signs of relenting, New York City’s leading museums and cultural institutions continue to announce furloughs, layoffs, and hobbled exhibition budgets. As reported by the New York Times, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is the latest normally crowd-drawing NYC institution to make public such sweeping adjustments. The 150-year-old nonprofit museum, which broke ground on a Studio Gang-designed $383 million expansion project this past June, announced last week that it would be reducing its staff off around 1,100 employees by 20 percent. This includes permanently parting ways with 68 administrative staff members, not renewing expiring worker contracts, and moving forward with voluntary retirements. Per a statement shared with the times Times, 250 full-time staffers will also be put on furlough for an indefinite period although they will retain their health insurance and, ideally, brought “back to work in stages as it [the museum] reopens and gradually resumes more normal operations.” Futter, who commands a $1 million annual salary, will take a 25 percent pay cut beginning in the next fiscal year, the Times reported. When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s PAUSE plan is lifted and the museum eventually reopens, it’s expected that there will be reduced operating days/hours, cancellations of public programming and school visits, and delays in the opening of previously scheduled short-term exhibitions. Along with the ANHM, its neighbor across Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced sweeping slashes in April including executive pay cuts and layoffs impacting 80 staffers. In late March, the museum anticipated a $100 million shortfall due to the pandemic although that number is expected to surge to $150 million. A tentative July reopen date was also announced in March yet that too has changed over the past several weeks; Met officials now expect the museum will reopen later in the year. Another beloved uptown cultural institution, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is confronting a $10 million shortfall and, as of last month, had furloughed 92 employees. Despite the dramatic shortfalls, these museums will, in the end, likely weather the proverbial storm. The same, however, isn’t necessarily true for the countless smaller and less lavishly funded arts and cultural organizations that call New York City home. As a means of drawing attention to the grim financial circumstances surrounding these humble yet vital cultural venues and community-based arts organizations, a sobering report published last month by New York’s Center for an Urban Future details how they, “many are teetering on the brink of insolvency,” are fighting—and struggling—to survive. “While some major institutions including the Met Museum, MoMA, the Whitney Museum, Carnegie Hall, and the New Museum have projected stunning financial losses—accompanied in some cases by furloughs and layoffs—much less is known about the full consequences of the pandemic on the city’s small and mid-sized arts organizations and on working artists themselves,” the Center wrote in an introduction to its report. Following conversations with more two-dozen small- to mid-sized arts organizations spread across all five boroughs (Flushing Town Hall, the Staten Island Children’s Museum, the Tenement Museum, and the Brooklyn Conservancy of Music among them) as well as with individual artists, the Center found that most, if not all, had been forced to resort to layoffs and furloughs, and projected revenues losses of 17 to 50 percent or more of their annual operating budgets.
Prior to the spread of COVID-19, ongoing and planned projects were running at full steam. With social distancing measures in place and a recession on the horizon, the real estate market is sure to undergo a significant transformation. Last week’s Trading Notes, “Shovels in the Ground: How Developers Are Preparing for the Next Step,” explored this topic with CetraRuddy founding principal John Cetra, Silverback Development managing principal Josh Schuster, and Clipper Equity executive vice president J.J. Bistricer. The three panelists, who collaborate frequently on projects in the New York metropolitan region, discussed the economic implications for the development industry, and design strategies to reduce perceived and real exposure risk for building occupants. A recording of the panel can be accessed at the Trading Notes website. Tune in at 1:00 p.m. EST today for CPA Ben Sargent’s webinar, "Detailing your Finances: Managing cash flow, stimulus programs, unemployment and taxes," which will dive into CARES Act and the management of personal and business finances.
Movies to Mammoths
Hancock Park may become Los Angeles’s first true urban microcosm
“Tip the world over on its side,” Frank Lloyd Wright once quipped, “and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” As a fresh L.A. transplant in the early 1920s, Wright clearly had trouble finding his bearings, yet nearly a century on, his testimony remains remarkably apt: To the uninitiated, the “fabric” of Los Angeles’s cityscape can feel improvisatory, a game board consisting of extravagantly mismatched pieces. The very same observation can easily be applied to Hancock Park, which counts geological excavations, fiberglass mammoths, contemporary art, and, soon, Hollywood cinema among its many oddities and enticements. No fewer than three cultural institutions are currently situated on the park’s 34 acres, but they are an atomized bunch, existing together in relative isolation. However, plans are afoot that promise to join together these disparate pieces into a museological collection unparalleled in the western United States. The prime mover is unquestionably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which became Hancock Park’s first cultural institution when it opened in 1965. William Pereira’s palatial yet restrained campus—originally a composition of three buildings (the Ahmanson Building, the Bing Center, and the Lytton Gallery) surrounded by reflecting pools—attempted to cast Los Angeles in the role of art-world magnet even as critics placed it at the margins. As the city expanded its influence in this arena, so, too, did LACMA expand within Hancock Park, with the museum adding buildings by Bruce Goff, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, and Renzo Piano. More recently, outdoor artworks by Chris Burden, Michael Heizer, and Robert Irwin have signposted the institution’s desire for outward growth at the expense of a defined center. The La Brea Tar Pits, a group of asphalt lakes from which paleontologists have exhumed the fossilized remains of Ice Age-era Mammalia for more than a century, occupy 13 acres of the park’s eastern half. In 1967, the sculptor Howard Ball created a fiberglass family of woolly mammoths along Lake Pit, the largest tar pit on the property, that dramatically raised the unusual site’s profile. A decade later, the George C. Page Museum, a quietly monumental museum and paleontological research facility designed by Willis Fagan and Frank Thornton to study and display the fossils, took up residence at the northeastern corner of the pits—as far from the LACMA campus as physically possible. For nearly half a century, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits seemed entirely indifferent to one another, even as they remained cheek by jowl. Both offer as many outdoor attractions as they do interior exhibitions, which has the potential to blur user groups, if not visitor experiences. But the parkland stretching between the two campuses has never done much to smooth the jarring transition from art to paleontology. This strained dynamic was brought into question in 2014, when construction began on the 300,000-square-foot Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Hancock Park’s southwestern corner. Operated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the museum plans to split its programming between two buildings: the former May Company Building, a department store designed in a streamlined moderne style by Albert C. Martin in 1939 (and once briefly owned by LACMA), and the Sphere, a striking high-tech belvedere designed by Renzo Piano and featuring a 1,000-seat theater. When it opens this December, the complex will be America’s largest dedicated to the art and science of filmmaking, a craft that turned the orange groves of Los Angeles into a city of global recognition. With this third player in the mix, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits independently saw opportunities to reinvent themselves and, perhaps, finally unify Hancock Park and its aggregate cultural and recreational offerings. In August 2019, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), which manages the La Brea Tar Pits, announced it had selected three firms to develop master plans that would take stock of the site’s invaluable contents while updating its outdated visitor experience. A few months later, after staging a public exhibit of the projects, NHMLAC elected to push ahead with multidisciplinary firm WEISS/MANFREDI’s master plan. The design calls for the preservation of the site’s most locally beloved elements, including Lake Pit and the original Page Museum, and ties them together with a 3,200-foot-long looping pedestrian path. Calling the Page “introverted,” architect Michael Manfredi summarized the scheme’s intention to pull back the curtain on the museum’s ongoing paleontological research: “Because Hancock Park is a public space, and not a nine-to-five destination, our master plan hopes to stretch the hours of engagement by revealing the hidden life of the museum to the public without [visitors] ever stepping inside; to make the science more visible, and make [the displays] a more active element of the park rather than mere inert objects.” Manfredi conceded that the scheme is still in development, and his team expects to incorporate more public input in the next design rounds; so far, the joint effort has collected more than 2,100 survey responses from the local community. Meanwhile, LACMA’s own redevelopment plan has been met repeatedly with public and critical scorn. Since assuming the museum’s directorship in 2006, Michael Govan has been emphatic about his desire to make his mark with a grand new building. In 2013, he unveiled plans to replace Pereira’s midcentury pavilions and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer’s mid-1980s Art of the Americas building with a tabletop design spanning Wilshire Boulevard by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. Only Piano’s 2008 Broad Contemporary Art Museum and 2010 Resnick Pavilion—a campus in themselves—would be spared. Though there have been a handful of public meetings following each successive plan (the project has undergone drastic revisions since first being unveiled), local groups contend they have been purposefully left out of the decision-making process by the parties in charge—namely LACMA, Zumthor’s office, and the county’s Board of Supervisors. Among the most prominent of these is the nonprofit Save LACMA, whose mission statement touts the “enormous pool of goodwill, sentiment and investment” it has accrued in its drive to protect the museum’s beleaguered buildings. Like its ally the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, Save LACMA has decried recent cost estimates putting Govan and Zumthor’s project at $750 million, with $125 million coming from the County of Los Angeles. Rubbing salt in the wound, another report alleged that the new LACMA would contain 10,000 square feet less exhibition space than did its predecessor. Summing up the brouhaha in the Los Angeles Times, art critic Christopher Knight (who just won a Pulitzer for his take on the LACMA controversy) needled the expansion and dubbed it the “Incredible Shrinking Museum.” LACMA fanned the critical flames when, in early April, after stay-at-home orders had been issued to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, it began dismantling the Bing Center. Later that month, as if capitalizing on the controversy, the Citizens’ Brigade unveiled alternative proposals to the Zumthor design, which varied in tone (though nearly all were wistful) and feasibility (with more than one barely-there provocation). None were as audacious as Zumthor’s parti, which is nonetheless poised to improve on LACMA’s current campus. As grand as the Pereira buildings may have been in their day, they formed a visual barrier across Hancock Park’s southern perimeter and created an inelegant walking path along the campus’s expanding east-west axis. From the west, visitors had to scale the Ahmanson Building’s pompously wide stairs before stumbling onto the main plaza, later blocked from Wilshire with the addition of the Arts of the Americas building. Zumthor’s decision to lift all the exhibition spaces and other museum functions into the air (and over Wilshire) grants visitors unfettered access to the central axis of the park. At LACMA in February, Govan quipped that visitors to the future Hancock Park will be able to go from “movies to mammoths” without paying an admission fee. It’s striking that this consequence of Zumthor’s planning has survived all the project’s alterations; clearly, critic Christopher Hawthorne was correct in saying, all the way back in 2013, that the design was less aloof than his peers made it out to be. A composite site plan of all three ongoing projects reveals a Hancock Park that bears little resemblance to its present self: A flock of Piano-designed structures congregates in its western half, absorbed in their own symmetries; Zumthor’s spaceshiplike LACMA retreats from the park’s center and straddles Wilshire Boulevard to the south, touching down on a one-acre park (currently a parking lot owned by the museum); and, while still subject to change, the pedestrian loop winding through WEISS/MANFREDI’s La Brea Tar Pits master plan echoes LACMA’s curves, as if the two entities were at last ready to tango after decades of bumping elbows. This gradual movement toward greater cohesion tracks with two other L.A. projects currently in the works. The first is the addition of seven new stations to the Metro’s D Line along Wilshire Boulevard, representing a major improvement to the city’s underdeveloped public transportation infrastructure. The Wilshire/Fairfax station, sited directly across the street from Hancock Park, is slated to be completed in 2023, three years after the Academy Museum and one year before LACMA (though a construction timeline for the La Brea Tar Pits master plan is still in the works, one may expect that it will attempt to align with its neighboring developments). According to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, LACMA has indicated it would finance a second station entrance on its campus, which would connect the block to the city at large more seamlessly than ever before. Yet even Metro has felt the pressure to accelerate its construction timeline in response to a second, even larger citywide goal: the 2028 Summer Olympics, the third time in the event’s modern history that the games will be held in Los Angeles. As if impelled to replicate the success of the previous iteration in 1984—considered the only profitable games in modern Olympic history—Los Angeles is currently abuzz with construction on large-scale developments, including the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (see page 30), SoFi Stadium, and the renovation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Against this backdrop, the transformation of Hancock Park into a single, coherent block of art, film, and prehistory in time for the Olympics would be a major boon for the city’s title as a cultural capital. (Such a consolidation might even compel Angelenos to finally call the park by its official name, which it shares with a well-heeled residential cluster to its east.) At the time of this writing, Hancock Park is not much to look at. Some elements are dulled by years of neglect, others too shiny for lack of occupation, and others still scarred by the recent violence of demolition. Yet a little patience will likely yield an outsize reward: a true microcosm of a city possibly too large in size and cultural importance to take in by any other means.
A South L.A. Homecoming
Destination Crenshaw celebrates the culture of South Los Angeles as it parades down the community’s main drag
A long drive through Los Angeles, a city famed for both its car culture and the superlative diversity of its residents, will take you through a generous number of officially designated ethnic and cultural enclaves: Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, Persian Square, Historic Filipinotown, Olvera Street, Little Armenia and neighboring Thai Town, and Koreatown, a district so large and so dense that it comprises an entire major neighborhood and surrounds a separate ethnic enclave in the form of Little Bangladesh. But as pointed out by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, a Los Angeles City Council member who represents District 8 in the western section of South Los Angeles, this sprawling patchwork of city-christened cultural districts omits one of L.A.’s largest, oldest, and most established communities: that of Black Angelenos. “There’s nothing in L.A. that officially designates [a cultural district] for the group that’s been here the longest outside of Native Americans,” Harris-Dawson told The Architect’s Newspaper. “Black people founded the city of L.A.” (Harris-Dawson is referring to the Pobladores, the group of 44 settlers, half of whom were of at least partial African descent, who established the city in 1781.) That’s all set to change, however, with Destination Crenshaw, a project spearheaded by Harris-Dawson that broke ground along Crenshaw Boulevard in the South L.A. neighborhood of Hyde Park this past February. Spanning 1.3 miles—or 2.6 miles, if you're counting both sides of the street—along an over-12-block stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard’s historic commercial core, Destination Crenshaw will entail infrastructural and lighting improvements, facade rehabilitation, landscaping, community gathering spaces, “unapologetically Black” public art, and more. It’s easiest thought of as an open-air linear art and history museum celebrating South L.A.’s African American community. Slated to feature over 100 permanent and rotating street-side artworks from established and emerging Black L.A.-based artists, Destination Crenshaw will be an experience that has some of the narrative-driven qualities of a museum but is ultimately rawer, more dynamic, and liberated from the constraints of four walls. The project was born from urgency as a direct response to community uproar surrounding the expansion of the Los Angeles Metro Rail system. The Crenshaw/LAX Line, an under-construction $2.1 billion light-rail line that will run at grade along this stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard, has long been a source of apprehension for residents and community leaders, particularly with regard to the impact that a major transit project could have on local small businesses, homeowners, and the fabric of the community. Transit-spurred gentrification was and still is a major concern. Yet some, including Harris-Dawson, have come to view the arrival of the Crenshaw/LAX Line, which includes two new Metro stations bookending Destination Crenshaw, as an opportunity to create something new. And that something has ultimately taken the form of a streetscape unlike anything that’s been attempted before. “When you simplify it, we’re just building a platform to showcase and grow the things that already come out of the Black community,” said Harris-Dawson. “What we’re doing isn’t rocket science—except for the amount of art, because that’s quite unprecedented.” In addition to implementing long-sought infrastructural improvements, including bike racks, additional parking, and new, “culturally stamped” sidewalks, Destination Crenshaw will, in the words of Harris-Dawson, use public art and design to illustrate “the story, culture, and roots of this neighborhood in a way that you can hear, see, touch, and feel so that it actually reflects where you are.” Funding for the $100 million project has come from a range of sources, including private backers, the City of Los Angeles, the State of California, and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which contributed $15 million earmarked for a large, Metro station–adjacent park at its northern end. To aid in envisioning a dynamic solution that would protect and support Black-owned businesses along Crenshaw Boulevard while also introducing new elements spotlighting South L.A.’s profound global cultural influence, Council District 8 turned to the Durham, North Carolina–based branch of Perkins and Will. Leading the Destination Crenshaw design team is Zena Howard, a protégée and colleague of the late Phil Freelon. Most notably, Howard served as senior project manager for Freelon Group on its work alongside Adjaye Associates at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. (Perkins and Will acquired Freelon Group in 2014, five years before Freelon’s passing.) “Our practice focuses on using the built environment to bring to light and support communities and their untold stories,” said Howard, who is currently managing director of Perkins and Will’s North Carolina office. “And oftentimes these are communities that have been disenfranchised or otherwise marginalized or divided.” “There really isn’t a true precedent for this,” Howard added. “There are some projects that are in the same ilk—people cite the High Line and other things—but there are none that tell a consistent story that had not really been put forth, and that are community-driven and inspired in the way that this is.” The opportunity for extensive community engagement and collaboration with a vast and diverse number of partners was immensely appealing to Perkins and Will. “It excited us…[as] a way to have architecture partner with so many different aspects of our community, culture, and society to help bring this story to light,” Howard explained. “We were up for doing something that had never been done before.” Crucial to the engagement process was working alongside Destination Crenshaw to form a diverse, multigenerational design advisory council or, as Howard referred to it, an “‘A’ team of thought leaders, artists, and people who have lived in the community for decades.” Among the 20-person-strong community partner team is gardener, artist, and community activist Ron Finley; Amanda Hunt, director of education and senior curator of programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Felicia Filer, public art division director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs; filmmaker and activist Ben Caldwell; and street artist ArcherOne. Rapper, activist, and Crenshaw native Nipsey Hussle was also intimately involved in the planning and advisory stages of the project before his death in March 2019. These are “people on the front lines of Black L.A. art culture,” Harris-Dawson said. “Some of them are artists, some are curators, historians, community organizers, and urban planners. But they all have some tie together…and they’re real community stakeholders.” “We chose them because you have to have real authoritative pushback when people design something that does not reflect you,” Harris-Dawson added. The unifying design narrative that emerged from the monthslong charrette process was “Grow Where You Are Planted.” Praising and encouraging endurance against all odds, the design uses African star grass as a central motif. Moving south to north along Crenshaw Boulevard, Destination Crenshaw is divided into four distinct thematic nodes, or “lenses,” that together tell the story of Black Los Angeles’s past, present, and future. Each node features small parks, interactive installations, and, of course, an abundance of public art. Commencing at the planned Hyde Park station, at Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw, is the “Improvisation” node, which was inspired by Hussle and celebrates the spirit of creativity and ingenuity in the face of limited resources. Beginning at 54th Street is the “Firsts” section of Destination Crenshaw, which uses the story of Biddy Mason, one of L.A.’s first female Black landowners, to spotlight numerous other trailblazing individuals and events that came from or took place in South L.A. At 50th Street is the start of the “Dreams” node, which was inspired by the life and career of pioneering African American architect Paul R. Williams, and includes the Crenshaw Wall, a mural-clad 800-foot wall/canvas that dates back to the 1970s. Around the planned Leimert Park station, on Vernon Avenue, Destination Crenshaw concludes in the spirit of “Togetherness,” which, as Howard explained, is “about the ability of this community to come together to celebrate, to resist, and to mourn in times of happiness and protest.” This northernmost section of the project will include its centerpiece, Sankofa Park, a large, open public space straddled by an overlook structure whose form takes its inspiration from the symbol of the mythical Sankofa bird, which flies forward while also looking backward. In addition to Sankofa Park and a multitude of pocket parks punctuating Destination Crenshaw, landscape design firm Studio-MLA is overseeing a major tree planting effort. Nearly all the trees along this stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard were removed by the city in 2012 to make way for the space shuttle Endeavour as it was hauled 12 miles through the streets of L.A. to the California Science Center. Although trees were replanted in other areas of the city that the shuttle traveled through, Crenshaw Boulevard has remained woefully barren. “This is also an environmental equity project,” said Howard, referencing the landscape design. “We are also reforesting, bringing back 822 trees to beautify this boulevard and to make it a humane place to be.” As Kenneth Luker, the project’s lead design principal with Perkins and Will, explained, one of the main challenges in conceiving Destination Crenshaw revolved largely around scale. “How to create a unified experience across such a large urban landscape was challenging when we consider how many other components of the urban context need to coexist with this project, such as the Metro, Crenshaw Boulevard, and many private landowners,” Luker said. “The ‘connective tissue’ of our concept was designed specifically to unite this urban landscape of multiple pocket parks, art installations, and exhibits.” Beyond the interventions by Perkins and Will, Destination Crenshaw is also investing in a facade improvement program for existing small businesses along the corridor, starting with soul food restaurant Dulan’s On Crenshaw. This is important, Harris-Dawson pointed out, because “we want these businesses not only to survive with the new train coming but to thrive.” With an estimated completion date in early 2021, Destination Crenshaw is scheduled to greet riders of the Crenshaw/LAX Line when that project wraps up around the same time. And while concerns linger over how the new presence of mass transit will play out in this pocket of South Los Angeles in the near future, Destination Crenshaw will have at least already made a bold and beautiful mark in a community whose cultural influence—in visual art, music, and film—spans the world but has never been officially saluted in its own backyard. “While this project can’t resolve all of that,” said Howard, referring to the potential for transit-oriented development and real estate turnover resulting from the new Metro line, “we can mark this area culturally with icons, art, architecture, and landscape design that speaks to and memorializes this community and their contributions regardless of any change that may happen later.”
Reaching New Heights Down Under
Australia’s future tallest tower gets go-ahead in Melbourne
The twisty, plant-clad skyscrapers of Southbank by Beulah, a vertical mixed-use development planned for the Melbourne waterfront, have received the formal green light from Australia’s Victorian State Government after garnering enthusiastic support from the Future Melbourne Committee last month. Construction on the dual towers, collectively dubbed “the Green Spine,” is expected to kick off next year and wrap up in 2026. A project of Melbourne developer Beulah International, the self-described “vertical mini-metropolis” was designed by Amsterdam-headquartered UNStudio in close collaboration with venerable Australian firm Cox Architecture, “Today is a day to celebrate on many fronts with the planning approval signalling a momentous achievement for all involved. We are honoured that Southbank by Beulah has received unanimous support for its design,” said Caroline Bos, principal and co-founder of UNStudio. “From the initial concept to one that has evolved into a groundbreaking global collaborative project, the outcome is an exciting prospect, not only for the project team but for Melbourne, reaffirming its reputation as the world's most liveable city.” Reaching 1,197 feet, the lankier of Southbank by Beulah's two skyline-redefining towers will stand as the tallest skyscraper in Australia, a country already replete with very tall buildings in addition to very big things. The title is currently held by the Q1 tower, which looms over the Gold Coast at 1,058 feet. Other supertalls in Melbourne include Australia 108 (1,039 feet) and the Eureka Tower (975 feet). The shorter tower at Southbank by Beulah tops out at a still-impressive 827 feet. In addition to its record-setting height of one its towers, foliage-filled balconies will be a defining feature of Southbank by Beulah's “twisted terraced forms.” As UNStudio writes: “The spine twists into a series of outdoor spaces and green devices along the facades of the two towers, paying homage to Melbourne’s title of the Garden City, symbolically bridging the iconic Royal Botanic Gardens with Melbourne’s Arts Precinct.” In addition to the greenery-filled apartment terraces, the residential tower will also have pocket parks peppered throughout a quartet of sky-high neighborhoods, which will “provide residents with a sense of community and a place to relax, before culminating in a landscaped journey to the publicly accessible rooftop sky garden.” Rising from a parcel currently occupied by a BMW dealership in Melbourne's formerly industrial Southbank district, the development will encompass 2.9 million square feet of largely residential space complemented by commercial offices, retail shops and restaurants, a 220-room “five-star urban resort,” health and wellness facilities, a crèche, arts and culture venues, and more. Over 78,000 square feet will be dedicated to vertiginous public green space including the aforementioned pocket parks and rooftop sky garden. “We sometimes hear people in this city say, ‘Melbourne has never seen anything like it,’” said Nicholas Reece, chair of the City of Melbourne’s Planning Portfolio, in a statement: “That is often said with a little bit of exaggeration but think we can confidently say ‘Melbourne has never seen anything like Beulah.’” The Green Spine scheme was selected as the winner in a 2018 international competition that pitted UNStudio and Cox Architecture against five other international design teams headed by the likes of OMA, Bjarke Ingels Group, MVRDV, MAD Architects, and Coop Himmelb(l)au. Three additional large-scale projects in Melbourne were also approved alongside Southbank by Beulah as part of a construction and development-powered economic rebounding initiative headed by the Building Victoria's Recovery Taskforce. The idea is that these major projects will provide a billion-dollar-plus jumpstart to the regional economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, and ensure the health of Victoria real estate development in the long-term. Southbank by Beulah alone will employ 4,700 workers throughout the construction phases. “This taskforce will help ensure the building and development industry is a driving force for Victoria's economy through this pandemic and beyond,” said Victoria's planning and housing minister Richard Wynne in a statement. “It will help deliver existing projects more efficiently and assist new projects to get off the ground faster.”
With biennials and triennials paused, it’s the perfect time to rethink their place
2019 was another banner year for architectural biennials and triennials. With roots in world fairs and art biennials, the architecture –ennial as a circuit has been expanding on every shore: Chicago, Oslo, Grand Rapids, Seoul, Cleveland, Istanbul, and Columbus, Indiana, were but a few places that hosted architecture and design exhibitions last year. With so much variety in geography and content, it might be worth asking what, exactly, constitutes an –ennial. First, they are disciplinary events hosted outside of museums, and are temporary, itinerant, ever-evolving. Perhaps more importantly, –ennials, at least, those we will examine here, are performances trying to demonstrate why architecture and design matters to a variety of publics, how, as a discipline, architecture hurts and heals, and where the benefit to host cities might be in the future. Or maybe they are just expensive culture festivals manufactured to drive tourism and bolster civic “brand identity.” It’s complicated—and getting more complicated as we continue through the current pandemic. In her book Biennials/Triennials: Conversations on the Geography of Itinerant Display (Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2019), Léa-Catherine Szacka positions –ennials as agents for change operating within the architectural discipline. Over 175 pages, she works to define the “geography of itinerant display” that typifies the –ennial while exploring its “agencies” and effects. She approaches this task in two ways: by erecting (or improvising) a conceptual framework with which to better understand the –ennial phenomenon, and by engaging six of its leading exponents in a series of interviews. Szacka highlights a number of milestones in the development of the –ennial, none as pivotal as establishment of the architecture sector of the Venice Biennale in 1979. The subsequent exhibition in 1980, with its indelible sense for pageantry, built to a kind of global explosion in events by the 1990s. Today, the geography of –ennials is indeed vast, with a program on every continent (yes, even Antarctica). Here in Columbus, Indiana, where we are surrounded by marvels of postwar modern architecture and design, we created Exhibit Columbus in 2016 to explore architecture, art, design, and community through alternating symposia and exhibitions. While we don’t consider Exhibit Columbus a typical –ennial, but rather a project that both investigates the design legacy of this place and presents new ways to engage and care for our community. The copies we have of Szacka’s little volume in the office are filled with Post-It Notes and marginalia; surely, others working in this arena—or those aspiring to—will be glad that the book is saddle stitch bound, as they’ll be flipping back through it for weeks and even in two-to-three years time, when constructing the next exhibition (or project). Architects, planners, and civic leaders should find equal value in Szacka’s study as a reflection on the discipline and practice of architecture, planning strategies, and the creation of city-wide events. I, myself, view the book as a kind of exhibition in itself. A punchy preface by Martino Stierli, MoMA’s chief curator of architecture and design, directs the reader—or “visitor”—to Szacka’s excellent introduction, which, in turn, gives way to a timeline (de rigueur for any exhibition), leading to the main event—the interviews. On the way out you can glimpse the bibliography that underpins the whole enterprise, but which, according to Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, among the handful of curators Szacka interviews, no one will bother to consult (more on that later). And where the credits should be, there is instead a dazzling photographic array. Yes, there are 30 pages of color images culled from Instagram, beginning with “prehistory” (Aldo Rossi’s 1979 Teatro Del Mundo) and eventually crossing over into history (i.e. the launch and popularization of Instagram at the beginning of the 2010s). When it’s all over, you’ll probably spend a lot of time thumbing the pages of images and seeing how many of the Instagram usernames you recognize. It would be easy to criticize the inclusion of Instagram, the same way that we critique each biennial or triennial. But Instagram is as much a part of the performance and response to any –ennial or exhibition today as a catalog, if not more so. Here in Indiana—deep in the Heartland—we know how important it is to have a digital presence that is clear, smart, and visible to folks who may never actually attend our symposium or visit our exhibition and remarkable small city. A smart Instagram account is a critical part of an event’s success, functioning as an exhibition listing, map, a repository for criticism and commentary, and time capsule all in one. In the introduction to her book, Szacka takes a long view of the –ennial, beginning with the 1895 Prima Mostra Internazionale d’arte della città di Venezia. But the real work gets going as she sets up the connections between the –ennial paradigm and Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (published in 1967, around the time when the professionalization of the “curators” first occurred). Debord bemoaned “a world dominated by entertainment events, and commercially driven tourism,” which certainly seems to sum up the –ennial rather well. Architectural exhibitions are at once conceived as places of exploration, speculation, review, and even formulas for generating new knowledge. At the same time, they are directly tied to cultural tourism, civic boosterism, and urban redevelopment; in a word, capitalism. It isn’t always easy to grasp the particular goals of each –ennial, and certainly they are each created for different purposes. Szacka acknowledges that her book is not a full-fledged, critical reassessment of the role of –ennials (and I agree such a reassessment is needed), but it nonetheless acts as a provocatory first step in this direction. She approaches the subject using three points of criteria: format, space, and content. These terms are explained in some detail along with a kind of preemptive conclusion that seems strangely placed, i.e. before the actual interviews. As a framing device, it is unclear, and besides, Szacka’s terms rarely inform the structure of the interviews. What makes the book so accessible, then, is that one need not fully grasp, or accept, Szacka's framework to enjoy the interviews, which are the real draw here. Her interviews sparkle with interest because of their candidness, variety, and complexity. Szacka has a long-standing stake in the historicization of –ennials (her previous monograph examined the events leading up to and including the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale), and so she makes for an ideal interrogator. I often found myself just as interested in her questions as the answers of her interlocutors. All but one of the six interviews revolve around the logistical problem of curating a large-scale exhibition, yet they never grow stale or repetitive. Nevertheless, I found the selection of interviewees to be somewhat narrow; for example, I would have also appreciated hearing from Beatrice Galilee and her shifting role from curating the Lisbon Triennale to working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and beyond. Indeed, some of the interviews seem more geared to insiders who possess a knowledge of which curator or theme appeared at this or that –ennial. Yet, in spite of these occasional moments, I never felt left out of the conversations. While most interviewees reflect on their work with an uncommon candor, I was most drawn to Colomina and Wigley. Perhaps it was their brashness and honesty about their own work, or maybe it was their unblinkered take on the state of the field and their dismissal of the whole genre of writing that fills the pages of –ennial catalogs (“Nobody reads it”). Certainly, their criticisms of the shortsightedness of –ennials and their commissioners—vis-à-vis material and labor expenditures—are valid. Now more than ever, we need for –ennials to become stronger and smarter “disciplinary agents” in the field, whose interventions might cause us to consider our audiences and communities in new ways. In this vein, Sarah Herda’s interview ends the book on an optimistic note, pushing curators and architects to believe in their ideas so firmly that they are willing to defend them even at the risk of the ideas collapsing in on themselves. This notion of risk taking is so very important to –ennials! If we are to use –ennials for bettering the profession, and therefore our cities, we need to create more spaces where risk taking and even failure can be rewarded. Speaking for myself and my team at Exhibit Columbus, we have embraced the idea of experimentation and risk-taking. After the event’s first iteration in 2017, we moved our focus away from notions of commercialization in the design market to community and local benefits. In the subsequent 2019 edition, we tried to find ways for each of the installations to have deep connections to different communities throughout our small city of 55,000 citizens, and more widely, North America. At the same time, we leveraged the context of Columbus as a place in the middle of this country that deserves global attention. Our greatest risk is the nucleus of our whole project: That a place in Indiana has a history that matters to the future as much as it did to the past. We see it as a kind of model for others to understand and present cultural heritage for future generations without being nostalgic. In her concluding remarks, Szacka poses a pressing question: Can –ennials act as spaces for activism? We think so here in Indiana. Here’s hoping that, pending the outcome of the pandemic, Szacka is able to continue her studies into the –ennial. Richard McCoy is the Executive Director of Landmark Columbus Foundation, which produces Exhibit Columbus.
A Seat at the Table
American Roundtable will shine a spotlight on 10 overlooked communities across the country
The ten commissioned reports that will comprise American Roundtable, a new initiative headed by the Architectural League of New York, have been announced. Earlier in the year, AN put out a call on social media for editors who were interested to apply for the program. Selected by a special committee from a pool of nearly 125 total submissions covering 40 states and territories, each report, spearheaded by an editor or editorial team, will focus on an overlooked small or mid-sized American community and its unique set of struggles, strengths, needs, and wants. Geographically, economically, and culturally diverse, these are places that to many Americans are just obscure points on a map, but in actually have untold stories to tell. Through essays, mapping, video, photography, graphics, and other forms of media gleaned from on-the-ground reportage, American Roundtable will tell these stories and give voice to places that have been largely left silent and unnoticed. “The hope for American Roundtable is to highlight, in all their complexity and nuance, communities too often overlooked and to provide platforms for individuals and organizations to share their stories and work imagining, understanding, and improving their local built environments,” reads a press statement, which also pointed out that these are the type of communities “often reduced to caricature and oversimplification.” The commissioned reports will be published online and in print this coming November and be followed by a series of thematic conversations (exact timing is pending due to the COVID-19 pandemic). The focus in each will revolve around five key topic areas: public space, health, work and economy, infrastructure, and environment. “Now, it is even more of an imperative to give voice to local places to envision a better, collective future,” said Paul Lewis, president of the Architectural League and Selection Committee member. The 10 communities to be profiled as part of the American Roundtable project are: Africatown, a historically rich yet underserved neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama; the oft-forgotten Appalachian communities of West Virginia; Brownsville, Texas’s poverty-stricken southernmost border city; South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Reservation, home to the Lakota people and the fourth largest Indian reservation by land in the United States; the small city of Clarksdale, Mississippi, often credited as the birthplace of the Delta Blues; New Mexico’s Lower Rio Grande Valley; Maine’s working-class, natural resource-rich River Valley region; the climate change-vulnerable South Beach communities of Washington’s Pacific coast; North Carolina’s agriculture-dependent Southeast Good Food Corridor that spans Robeson and Scotland counties, and Ohio’s Youngstown-Warren-Lordstown metropolitan area, a former industrial hotbed that has experienced stark population and job losses since the 1970s. “The proposals reflected the tremendous richness and diversity of America’s small cities, towns, and rural regions, so often collapsed into stereotype or dismissed altogether in our national narratives, said Sue Mobley, a New Orleans-based urbanist and activist and member of the American Roundtable Selection Committee member, in a statement. “For every proposal we received there were dozens of stories contained in it: of natural spaces, economic histories, unique cultures, and incredible people that I wanted to hear more about.”
How To Handel Density
Handel Architects design high-rise complex surrounding Hollywood’s Capitol Records tower
An apparent contrast between the low-lying buildings of Hollywood’s Golden-era and a slew of recently constructed towers is currently shaping the skyline of central Los Angeles. The largest development to date in the latter group comes in the form of a billion-dollar high-rise complex one block north of the Hollywood and Vine intersection. Developed by MP Los Angeles, Hollywood Center will be built upon 4.5 acres of former surface parking lots that once served the Capitol Records building, the Welton Becket and Associates-designed tower deemed the world’s first circular office building when it was completed in 1956. Designed by local firm Handel Architects, the development complements the iconic Capitol Records building with opposingly curved facades on its two tallest towers—35 and 46 stories tall, respectively, while their siting and oval-shaped plans are intended to preserve views of the Capitol Records building from the 101 freeway and popular tourist sites within Hollywood. Including two 11-story buildings, Hollywood Center has a total of 1,005 residential units, 133 of which will be set aside as affordable housing for seniors to be managed by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Menorah Housing Foundation (according to Urbanize Los Angeles, the affordable housing component of the project is among the largest in the city’s history). Perhaps inspired by its proximity to the burgeoning L.A. Metro subway system, as well as the recently revealed master plan for the nearby Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Center will provide several public resources in addition to its private residences. The towers will be surrounded by two civic plazas, to be designed by James Corner Field Operations, that will add an acre of open green space to the park-starved neighborhood. The developers hope that the grounds will become a central hub for Hollywood, offering restaurants, cafes, as well as space for concerts and other community events. The most recent Draft Environmental Impact Report estimates that the project will begin in 2022 and will be completed in 2025.
Amid a nearly worldwide quarantine enacted to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, members of the art community have had to come up with new and novel methods of presenting their work without a physical audience. Developments in virtual visualization have seemingly accelerated at an unprecedented pace within the last several weeks, with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) programs attempting to simulate the experience of visiting spaces and artwork in person through a variety of methods. Last month, for instance, the app-based art platform Acute Art presented EXPANDED HOLIDAY, an AR exhibition that placed 12 sculptures from the New York-based artist KAWS around the world. Competing AR company and self-publishing platform ALL World, founded by artists Sebastian Errazuriz and Zander Eckblad, developed a similar, yet more open-access concept for less established artists to share their art with the world in the hopes of finding prospective buyers, in keeping with their tagline “augmented reality for all.” A video released by the company demonstrates the potential application of the app in use through New York City, beginning with a man entering the Metropolitan Museum of Art and digitally placing a bust of Mark Zuckerberg among Ancient Greek statuary, followed by the placement increasingly of large artworks set throughout the city’s public squares. A button on the home page encourages users to create their own “AR exhibition” by uploading a three-dimensional digital version of their physical objects and setting prices for their artworks. While the work will initially attempt to be placed at an accurate scale, users have the ability to enlarge it seemingly ad infinitum. The nascent website offers a small handful of artworks to virtually play with, several of which are provided by Errazuriz, whose work ranges from public art to interior architecture, as well as a speculative proposal for the renovation of Notre Dame.