Search results for "san antonio"

Placeholder Alt Text

In The Lows

Hurricane Maria memorial unveiled for Battery Park City
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has released renderings for the new Hurricane Maria memorial in Lower Manhattan. Designed by Puerto Rico-based architect Segundo Cardona and Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell, the glass spiral aims to be a symbol of resiliency for the Puerto Rican community. Located on Chambers Street overlooking Rockefeller Park, a multicolored glass curve will mimic both the spiral shape of a hurricane and a shell to represent protection against the elements. The iridescent panels will be painted with the words of Farewell from Welfare Island, a poem by Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, written in New York City in 1953. The panels will fan to create the rotating star of the Puerto Rican flag. “We felt committed to working hard to bring together architecture, art, and literature into one single powerful message that we hope will engage and invoke reflection on the fate of the many victims,” Cardona and Martorell said in a joint press statement. The 10-person Hurricane Maria Memorial Commission selected Cardona and Martorell’s design from among the 120 competition entries. The governor’s office announced the commission as the latest development in New York State's support of Puerto Ricans since the hurricane, having dedicated approximately $13 million for over 11,000 displaced victims in New York. “New York stands with Puerto Rico today, tomorrow and always--and we are proud to celebrate and further strengthen the connection between the Empire State and Puerto Rico,” wrote Governor Cuomo in a press release. Community and even committee members pushed back against Cuomo’s site selection, citing the multiple monuments already located in Battery City Park. Critics have also voiced concerns that the memorial should be built in a neighborhood with stronger Puerto Rican ties. Controversy over the memorial isn’t limited to its location in New York City but expands to its timing and appropriateness. Students from the University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture issued counterproposals following the competition launch in 2019. The students created photomontages depicting U.S. memorials overlaid with FEMA tarps and wreckage to make a statement about how the destruction of Hurricane Maria was still ongoing; the images suggest that it’s not time yet for a memorial in New York, but for renewed reconstruction efforts in Puerto Rico. Throughout 2018 and 2019, the state of New York sent 1,150 volunteers to Puerto Rico to rebuild 246 homes and over 1,000 people to restore power. No doubt this wave of humanitarian aid was necessary to the stabilization of Puerto Rico, but over two-and-a-half years later, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without functional housing. Despite pushback, the $700,000 memorial is set for completion in early 2021.
Placeholder Alt Text

This Time It’s Personal

Russia and America cross-pollinate at the Canadian Centre for Architecture
My in-laws are Russian. In fact, they are Muscovites. And they have a very convincing way of narrating their still-fresh memories of life in the Soviet Union. I have not been to Russia since their daughter and I traveled along the canals that connect Moscow to St. Petersburg fifteen years ago. We do not discuss politics much when we visit her family in New Jersey. I have learned that there are differences of perspective, but that those don’t really matter. We have not discussed Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Still, I am quite sure that we would all agree, at some level, that such things are essentially trivial too. Eating a Russian dinner in New Jersey doesn’t feel strange, and despite the fact that this family is in the U.S. because of geopolitics, the very idea of personalizing those politics does seem odd. Upon further reflection, however, there might be no other way to connect memory to history. Only after traveling to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal to view the exhibition of Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture, did I realize that personal view of geopolitics also has a history. The exhibition collects an enormous array of architectural objects and documents that trace the ideas, materials, people, trends that moved between Russia and America over the course of more than a century. Indeed, nations have relationships, almost like people do. And the Russian relationship to America, or more precisely Russians’ views of Americanism (America, as they saw it) is Jean-Louis Cohen’s curatorial theme for the exhibition. Cohen is personally involved in these geopolitics as well, but more on that later. In the forthcoming exhibition catalog, Cohen refers to the work of Reinhart Koselleck, a mid-20th century German practitioner of conceptual history, or Begriffsgeschichte. This historical method hinged on the changing definitions of cultural terms over time, which he called “the semantics of historical time.” The language that binds expression to understanding, according to this theory, is the thread that historians use to enter a period distant from them in both space and time. This is Koselleck’s concept of a “space of experience” that Cohen has drawn into the galleries at the CCA, to understand the contradictory nature of Americanism in Russian architectural culture. This concept, therefore, offers an empathetic entry into an alien world of Russian modernism: We must first accept the various Russian conceptions about America to enter their changing space of experience—in other words, to personalize geopolitics. Of course, generalizations about America were not and are not unique to Russians; they were produced alongside the American Revolution, probably even earlier. Cohen begins the catalog’s introduction and the exhibition’s wall text with the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who explicitly set “Anglo-Americans” and Russians into an incipient geopolitical rivalry, one based in their declared difference from traditional European values. Tocqueville’s theorization of American character for Europeans has, since, become the basis for most claims of national character. Indeed, Cohen is quite clear that Russian Americanism was always mediated by non-Russian interpreters. He and Hubert Damisch wrote on Américanisme et modernité (1993), and a Russian translation of Hugo Münsterberg’s book, Die Amerikaner (1904), appears in one of the beautiful cases designed by MG&Co. [interstial] The cases are crucial to building Cohen’s space of experience: they require close reading and immersive engagement. MG&Co’s beautifully designed curtains serve as transitions between the galleries, each focused on a theme. They also enclose six digital projections—one on each side of three thresholds—chosen to reflect on the contents of each gallery. The gallery walls and the curtains are color-coded, as are the cases that carry the essence of the show: models, drawings, and an overwhelming assembly of books and journals. The general impression is of density. In each one of the cases are numerous objects that reflect on one another, offering a guide from one object to the next. This composition feels like inhabiting a three-dimensional book; galleries are the chapters and the cases are subchapters within. The surprise for this reader came after turning around from the cases, as I faced the walls where the narrative of the chapter played out again, but now at a higher speed. The experience is hugely rich: There are places to stop and read, places to move and scan, and places where connections can be made as one watches a film, such as that of Colonel Hugh L. Cooper, an American engineer, dedicating a Russian hydraulic damn on the Dnieper River. In addition to all this content, Studio Folder (“an agency for visual research,” according to their website) has composed a set of maps that illustrate the connections between Russia and America. Lines describe the “routes of architects, intellectuals, artists and politicians who traveled across the two continents, between 1813 and 1991.” The endpoints of each line are sometimes surprising (Des Moines, Fort Wayne, San Antonio: Baku, Yalta, Novosibirsk) and sometimes not (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.: Leningrad, Moscow, Kyiv). The maps make evident the fact that Americanism was more than a generalization, more than political rhetoric, more than a literary fantasy. In fact, as Cohen has made clear in his selection of themes and objects, the very history of industrial infrastructure, from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, was shaped by its transposition across the globe. The gallery named “Modernization of Czarist Russia” focuses on the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition and 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, sites that represent industrial exchange between the two countries as well as others. But this gallery also reveals the Maxim Gorky’s anguish in his book In America (1906), where he described the Americanism of New York City as “getting into a stomach of stone and iron, a stomach that has swallowed several million people and is consuming and digesting them.” The negativity abates in the third gallery, as the Gilbreths’ Motion Study is traced through the work of Alexey Gestev’s Central Institute of Labor, Ford’s tractors being built in the Putilov plant in Leningrad, and Albert Kahn’s company training over 4,000 Russian architects, draftsmen, and engineers from 1930 to 1931. The exhibition traces a dialectic between Russians attracted to American modernity and those who found it repellant. Often times, these oppositions are enacted simultaneously. The gallery focused on the avant-garde shows this opposition: Adaptations of Hollywood (Buster Keaton and Charley Chaplin) in Russian movie-making are set against the disparaging words of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who found New Yorkers as beset by a “dormant and flaccid rural mindset.” Or, there are those examples of Russians who sidelined American influence altogether—the Nikolay Ladovsky’s Vkhutemas pedagogy or and El Lissitzky’s horizontal skyscrapers. Geopolitical borrowing moves its target when it is politically strategic. Some Russians chose other influences despite the continued interest in American factories and the culture industry. Among the most impressive objects in the exhibition is the model of Boris Iofan’s Palace of the Soviets (1934). The image commonly associated with this winning entry for the international design competition depicts the building from below. A military parade marches in the foreground and fighter planes fly behind Lenin’s figure, who stands atop the neoclassical birthday cake of a building with a book (Das Kapital?) in his left hand, while his outstretched right hand points upward. It was the first time seeing Iofan’s design from above in his wooden model. Despite the monumentalizing efforts in drawing, Stalin’s architects could not overcome a model’s capacity to domesticate political bravado at a toy-like scale. In the sixth gallery, model airplanes are hung from above as though they have escaped from Iofan’s drawing. Some documents below them display the Soviet capacity to build flying warcraft that equaled or exceeded their American counterparts (even if based in their industrial espionage). One object stands out on the wall, drawn from Cohen’s father’s collection of Soviet memorabilia. As a French reporter, he kept a brochure distributed in a 1947 airplane shows. That object opens a clear “space of experience,” an empathetic encounter with Russian Americanism mediated by the Cohen family history. It is touching to think of all those events that historians trace through their narratives that may also be passed along in bedtime stories. In this respect, geopolitics is as historical as it is personal. The CCA, this winter, offered a unique platform to explore the richness produced by the mixture of memory and history, as well as the rigor and beauty of historical documents that display the critical role of architecture in constructing geopolitics. In a recent book by Keith Gessen, which has nothing to do with architecture, the protagonist makes connections among his life, his family’s travails, and the academic study of Soviet history. He sees the Russian tendency to borrow other nations’ advances as an addiction that finally leads to Gessen’s own suffering. I leave you with these musings as they so beautifully summarize the clarity afforded by interweaving human memory into a historical narrative.
“Suddenly everything I have been looking at—not just over these past months in Moscow, but over the few years in academia, and over the past fifteen years of studying Russia—became clear to me. Russia has always been late to the achievements and realizations of Western civilization. Its lateness was its charm and its curse—it was as if Russia were a drug addict who received every concoction only after it was perfectly crystallized, maximally potent. Nowhere were Western ideas, Western beliefs, taken more seriously; nowhere were they so passionately implemented. Thus the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew the old regime; thus the human rights movement, plus blue jeans, which overthrew the Bolshevik one; and thus finally this new form of capitalism created here, which had enriched and then expelled my brother, and which had impoverished my grandmother and killed Uncle Lev. You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.”
Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture runs through April 5.
Placeholder Alt Text

Beverly Center Stage

David Adjaye's first California project will be in L.A.'s Beverly Center
Clocking in at just under 900,000 square feet, the Beverly Center was by far the largest mall in Los Angeles, and one of the largest in the world, when it was first completed in 1982. The mall, which almost exclusively carries luxury retailers, received a $500 million makeover last year by Studio Fuksas that updated the visitor experience by bringing more natural light into its interior, adding a pedestrian path along the perimeter, and breaking up the hulking facade with metal grating. The makeover inspired several new retailers to rent space within the new and improved Beverly Center, including Miami-based, multi-brand fashion house The Webster. On November 20, The Webster announced that it had tapped international architecture firm Adjaye Associates to design a multilevel store on the ground floor of the mall, in a space formerly occupied by a Hard Rock Cafe. With street access on the corner of Beverly and San Vicente Boulevards, The Webster will have an independent entrance and valet-parking service separate from the rest of the complex. The project represents Adjaye Associates’ first project in California, though the firm has completed several significant projects across the country in recent years, including Ruby City in San Antonio, Texas, a “high-design” switching station in Newark, New Jersey, and the iconic Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. There are currently no available renderings of what to expect, but it is likely that the design will demonstrate the firm’s trademark attention to detail and elegant material selection. “It is such an honor to work with David,” said The Webster founder and creative director Laure Hériard Dubreuil. “To have him bring The Webster L.A. to life is an absolute dream! Each one of our locations has its own identity, from the design of the store down to the creatively curated selection of products that furnish the rails and shelves. David truly captured the essence of The Webster DNA and projected it into the future with this new beautiful iteration of The Webster.” The company was founded in 2009 and has since opened six physical locations across North America. When the Beverly Center locations open in January 2020, it will be among the largest at 11,000 square feet.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Labor Parti

Why don’t architects have unions?
In late August 2019, the AIA’s New York chapter hosted a panel moderated by architecture activist group The Architecture Lobby at the Center for Architecture called Firm Handbook and Best Practices for Office Policies. After all the panelists finished listing their offices’ progressive policies, including flexible work hours and codes of conduct, an audience member (in a crowd notably stacked with Lobby members, myself included) asked a question about unions and collective bargaining. The associate director of human resources of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates responded: “Is this a case of wanting a union because the people suggesting it feel like the employer is the jerk and has to be controlled? Or, are you just saying you want to be able to give feedback and be heard and help influence the culture of the firm? Those are two very different things. If the general industry is really that bad and needs to be regulated by something like a union, then we all have a problem.” This statement is ripe for analysis that could keep us here for days, but let’s keep to a few key points. First, what is a union? By our HR professional’s estimation, it is a mechanism for controlling jerks in power. More accurately, however, a union is a twofold agreement. The first part of the agreement is between all the workers of a company or sector to elect representatives to negotiate their interests with the managers and owners of that company or sector. This is collective bargaining, to which everyone has the right under U.S. law. The second agreement is between workers and management that the union will be recognized, have a seat at the table, and be able to negotiate the terms of their employment. Within the scaffolding of this structure, a union can look like and achieve whatever it can agree on collectively, which—and hopefully to our HR professional’s delight—includes giving feedback and influencing company culture.  Now, does the desire for unionization indicate an industry-wide crisis? Yes, it does, but this crisis is not caused by unionization. Rather, unionization is a tool to address it. But this crisis is not unique to architecture. It is a broader issue about the rising precarity for workers in an economy where there are fewer and fewer paths for stability, where the gig economy is the economy, and workers have little choice but to cling to whatever benefits they are given. So to our HR professional’s point, we do all have a problem. A progressive firm owner may point to their policies—as many on the Firm Handbook and Best Practices for Office Policies panel did—and protest “we have health insurance, parental leave, paid overtime, flexible hours, etc.,” and all of these policies are crucial, but they are not the same as worker power. Worker power is not a cudgel to be used against management or regulate an industry; it’s a tool to ensure stability.  The question of why architectural workers (a term that includes designers as well as the administrative, communications, human resources, and business development workers who make the profession externally legible) haven’t unionized is richly complicated. It has as much to do with general labor consciousness under capitalism in the United States as it does with the idiosyncratic structure of the profession itself. It is difficult for workers who consider themselves middle class to imagine that they need a union. It difficult for workers who manage themselves on baroque systems of informal interpersonal relationships (“Our office is a family!”) to imagine they need a union. It is most acutely difficult for workers who do not consider themselves workers at all to imagine they need a union (this point explained is with greater clarity in Marisa Cortright’s excellent piece in Failed Architecture).   In the United States, the middle class is not a solid status. What we have instead is a gradient between precarity and privilege. However, from The Fountainhead to How I Met Your Mother, popular representations of architects code the profession as comfortably middle (or even upper) class. When I speak with architectural workers in the Architecture Lobby about unions, one of their top motivations for pursuing unionization is the gap between their material conditions and the myth of middle-class status. We ask each other, on your salary and benefits alone, can you afford a medical crisis? A pregnancy? Student loan payments? A mortgage? Retirement? Yet one of the many hesitations about unionization is the hope that keeping their heads down and eventually being promoted to management will afford them these forms of stability. But in most architecture firms, even those with yearly reviews, the path to promotion is murky and the trained managerial class is flimsy at best. This stagnation leads to instability, with workers leaving to seek opportunity elsewhere and often getting stuck again. Firms then find themselves retraining and retraining staff while steadily losing institutional memory. I’ve heard architects compare themselves to doctors and lawyers when considering their material conditions, citing length of training and licensure as similarities. But have architects made themselves as essential to society as doctors and lawyers? I do not ask this to insist architects do not deserve to be paid more. However, the purpose of an architecture union should not be to enshine architects materially among a professionalized working elite. I ask this question to point out that architecture has both enjoyed and been limited by an ambiguous position in society, where its value is guarded by mystique. When we feel pain, we look to doctors. When we find ourselves in legal trouble, we look to lawyers. But what triggers a commonplace social need for architects? Unionization would create an opportunity for architects to collectively clarify the profession’s relationship to society by standing in solidarity with all architectural workers and giving a structure for architectural workers to be in solidarity with other organized workforces. As an example, the Service Employees International Union includes healthcare workers who have both created a bargaining structure with their managers as well as a means to advocate for the type of healthcare system they would like to work in. Their advocacy helped to realize the Affordable Care Act. What could a united architectural workforce realize within and beyond the profession? As a member of the Architecture Lobby, which firmly believes in unionization as a tool to bring greater stability to the architectural labor force and to give a clear societal voice to the profession, I talk to architectural workers to help them understand what they can achieve in their offices and beyond. When we begin to talk to each other without fear or withholding, when we are transparent about our experiences, our salaries, our benefits, and our ambitions, when we come together as workers, the shape of the profession becomes more distinct and easier for those beyond the extremely wealthy to connect to. In this condition, a stable and united workforce has the ability to make our perspective essential to society on issues like climate, infrastructure, alternative practice, speculative development, securitization of public space, and much more.  In his essay “Black Box,” Reyner Bahman once quoted the funny anecdote of an architect being “asked for a pencil that could be used to tighten the tourniquet on the limb of a person bleeding to death in the street.” The architect responds “Will a 2B do?” It’s often used to bemoan the profession’s useless fussiness. But the architect had a pencil. The tool was in hand. It’s the mindset that’s missing.  Jessica Myers is an editor, writer, and podcast producer based in Brooklyn. She is the co-steward of New York’s Architecture Lobby chapter.
Placeholder Alt Text

Feature Focus

Three can't-miss views on architecture from the 57th New York Film Festival
The 57th New York Film Festival just ended, but luckily many of the films that feature architecture as a main character will be released in theaters or available online. Here's a breakdown of the must-see flicks where cities takes center stage: Motherless Brooklyn A fictionalized Robert Moses called Moses Randolph (played by Alec Baldwin), drives the plot of Motherless Brooklyn, a film by and starring Edward Norton, scion of the real estate Rouse family. It's set in the 1950s in what he calls “the secret history of modern New York, with…the devastation of the old city from neighborhoods right up to Penn Station, perpetrated at the hands of an autocratic, almost imperial force.” That ruthless force is Randolph, Commissioner of Parks, Buildings and an “Authority.” For reference, the Triborough Bridge can be seen through his office window. In the film, Randolph plans slum clearance in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, just as he has just done in Tremont in the Bronx, which is protested by Gabby Horowitz (played by Cherry Jones), a Jane Jacobs stand-in. Randolph is at the root of a murder, which Norton’s character, a gumshoe with Tourette’s syndrome, is investigating. The film treats us to actual locations: we drive by the Jones Beach Water Tower, hold a rally in Washington Square, and we even visit (in CGI) the original Penn Station, demolished under Moses. Free Time  Free Time, a documentary set in the same period, is a real-life counterweight to Motherless Brooklyn. It celebrates neighborhoods that could be in danger of Randolph/Moses’s slum clearance gentrification plans. The film opens with a sequence of carved stone architectural ornaments, which serve as a leitmotif throughout this black-and-white-filmed poem that was shot between 1958 to 1960 and newly edited by now 88-year old filmmaker Manfred Kirschheimer. With shots filmed in Washington Heights, Hell’s Kitchen, and West 83 Street, it shows construction workers tearing down buildings and putting up new ones, bridges, and, most of all, neighborhoods. Parasite Another kind of ruthlessness is symbolized by the architecture of contrasts in Parasite, winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, directed by Bong Joon-ho. The struggling Kim family occupies a grim basement apartment in Seoul. They attach themselves to the Parks, a wealthy family, and their high modernist house built by a prominent (fictional) Korean architect named Namgoong, who built it for himself before moving to Paris. The Parks identify themselves with the architect’s creativity and maintain the modernist aesthetic. The man levels of the house, including a hidden subterranean fallout shelter, factor into the plot, as does the plate-glass facade leading to the walled-in garden, an oasis in the midst of the capital city. The film is a tale of class conflict, deception, and home. More to see Other films that feature architecture include Pain and Glory by Pedro Almodóvar in which the main character, a filmmaker (played by Antonio Banderas), lives in an art-filled and colorful Madrid apartment with sliding glass walls after growing up in a “cave-like” apartment lit by a skylight. Martin Scorsese sets his new film, The Irishman, in mid-century Philadelphia, New York, and Detroit while Noah Baumbach uses the many apartments and theaters of New York as a contrast to the endless houses, offices, and restaurants of Los Angeles in Marriage Story. Of the short films featured in the festival's Projections category, Kansas Atlas (Peggy Ahwesh) shows split-screen aerials in the dead center of the United States, with land tracts, houses, factories, silos, and turbines, as SIGNAL 8 (Simon Liu), provides a psychedelic, fast-cut journey through the urban archeology and construction sites of Hong Kong as a storm approaches. A Topography of Memory (Burak Çevik) features CCTV footage of Istanbul and Houses (for Margaret) (Luke Fowler) is about a woman who doesn’t want to be confined by a house, but loves going into buildings.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Leg Up

One of the last Ricardo Legorreta-designed homes listed for $77.5 million
Joel Silver, the producer behind blockbusters including The Matrix, Lethal Weapon, and Die Hard, has been living large with his family in a 26,000-square-foot-home in Brentwood, a tony neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles. As the director is currently seeking a smaller home elsewhere in the L.A. area, he recently listed the home with Judy Feder of Hilton & Hyland and Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency for $77.5 million. Named Casa de Plata (Spanish for “House of Silver”), the home was built in 2003 and is one of the last buildings designed by Ricardo Legorreta, the late Mexican architect responsible for Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles and the San Antonio Public Library. Like the majority of Legorreta’s other work, the design of Casa de Plata is inspired by the colorful, minimalist homes of mid-century architect Luis Barragán, while adding a bit of whimsy and surrealism of his own, including glass brick walls and ziggurat-like ceilings. The home also includes a substantial circular atrium with a retractable skylight, a 30-foot-tall family room with hydraulic doors, and a home theater with tiered seating for 20 people. Many of the materials throughout the home were imported from Mexico, including the dramatic limestone flooring in the entryway. The five-acre property includes an English maze garden, a sunken basketball court, a swimming pool, and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. If the property sells for the listed price, Casa de Plata would nearly double the Brentwood price record of $40 million set in 2014 and would become one of the most expensive properties sold west of the 405 freeway. Silver has invested in other architecturally-significant properties, including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Storer House in the Hollywood Hills, which the director sold in 2002 for $2.9 Million.
Placeholder Alt Text

Meditative Monuments

David Adjaye’s Ruby City is an imposing monument to art in southern Texas
Ruby City is an oddity. Sited in a formerly industrial zone south of Downtown San Antonio dotted with islands of gas stations and fast food signs, and abutting a neighborhood known for its artist community, the 14,000-square-foot contemporary art center designed by Adjaye Associates is, by nature of its history, location, and design, a study in contradictions. In 2007, the late Linda Pace, daughter of salsa and hot sauce magnate David Pace, reached out to David Adjaye with a sketch of Ruby City, which she envisioned as a center to present her then 500-piece-strong art collection to the public. An artist herself, Pace would draw her dreams after waking up and have these sketches fabricated into sculptures (the institution's inaugural exhibition includes a work by Pace that renders the word STAY in fake blue flowers). Pace’s idea for Ruby City came during one of these nocturnal fantasias, when she envisaged a complex of towers and minarets in blazing red. Pace met Adjaye shortly before her death from breast cancer to discuss the project, and 12 years later, the building is finally opening. The result is far from a collection of windowless spires but is still, as Adjaye told Texas Monthly, “very shy.” On approach, my initial impression was of a thick-shelled aardvark or beetle, the building’s heavy stone massing and brilliant red color standing in stark contrast to the sea of parking lots nearby. The red, terrazzo-like concrete used to form the facade has been rightly celebrated by critics ahead of the building’s opening; the material was fabricated by Pretecsa, a company based outside of Mexico City, and is also strategically deployed in custom curbside bollards and benches in the sculpture garden. In person, its rich color is true to the photos. Despite the fortress-like street presence, Adjaye has tried to make Ruby City feel inviting. The way the entrance canopy gently lifts from the building and cantilevers over the plaza like the opening of a cave lends some much-needed lightness to the massing, a touch that’s mirrored on the reverse side, over the parking lot. Part of the inward-facing design is practical, as anything built in southern Texas must defer to the elements. To combat the harsh sun, two layers of curtains, one blackout and one shade, have been installed across the windows in all three of the building’s central gallery spaces; the building will be open only four days a week, with the blackout curtains otherwise drawn to protect the collection. Ruby-tinted steel grates, resembling crenelated brick from the ground, have been installed across every skylight to protect against monster hail. Once inside, it becomes clear that Adjaye Associates and executive architects Alamo Architects took great strides to enliven what could have become just another set of white-walled galleries. Flourishes abound. Pulls and fixtures were all designed in-house at Adjaye’s office, as were the molcajete- and metate-inspired benches and reception desk textured in rough, crinkled concrete. Faceted skylights brighten the steep, lengthy staircases, which are specifically designed to block the view of the second floor until visitors nearly reach the landings above. What at first seems to be a straightforward path through two extra-tall exhibition spaces (the third is currently ensconced in blue felt for an installation of Isaac Julien’s Stones Against Diamonds video, which will run for two years) actually meanders and reveals plenty of side passages and nooks with alternate views of the route just traveled. Similarly thoughtful, unexpected details are everywhere: an “eyelid” panel juts away from the building over a window on the second floor to direct views downward to the sculpture park; a conference room centered on a pair of doors taken from Pace’s bedroom is clad in timber; the adobe-colored concrete plaza extends inside to the reception area and into the elevator; a triangular cutout hidden in the overhang above the entrance looks to the sky but is only visible from directly below, Adjaye's James Turrell moment; a central gallery tall enough to comfortably, surprisingly, fit 16-foot-tall sculptures typically reserved for outdoor installation. These moves all spice up an interior that can still feel, at times, a bit too staid. There are now 900 drawings, paintings, videos, and mixed-media pieces in Ruby City’s collection, as the Linda Pace Foundation has combined its holdings with Pace’s personal acquisitions. Exhibitions will draw only from the permanent collection, and will likely rotate every two years, with the kickoff show, Waking Dream, presenting a twisted take on domesticity from international and local artists from the building's opening on October 13 through 2022. Combined with strategic views of Chris Park, a one-acre landscape of palm trees and bamboo groves down the street that is dedicated to Pace’s late son, from the double-height side corridor before entering the galleries proper, there’s enough discovery in both the art and the building to keep visitors coming back. In the end, the gestures add up, turning what could be a simple experience into something more multifaceted.
Placeholder Alt Text

This Year's Best

TWA Hotel, Snøhetta projects, The Shed top TIME's World's 100 Greatest Places
TIME Magazine’s second annual list of the World’s 100 Greatest Places is here and several major, recently-opened cultural marvels secured top spots—two of which were just completed by Norweigan-firm Snøhetta. Put together by the editors and correspondents at TIME, as well as a handful of industry experts, the following parks, hotels, restaurant, and museums were voted highest because they exhibited four key factors: quality, originality, sustainability, innovation, and influence.  It’s interesting to note that only two principals of big-name firms that designed the projects below have made the TIME 100: The Most Influential People list in recent years: Liz Diller (2018) and David Adjaye (2017). The only architect to make the list this year, Jeanne Gang, didn’t have a new piece of architecture up for consideration among the World’s Greatest Places 2019. Not a single Bjarke Ingels Group project made the cut either.  Though it’s not clear why they weren’t chosen, it is possible to guestimate which soon-to-be-finished works across the globe might catch an editor’s eye in 2020 based on this year's finalists. See the TIME’s full list here and AN’s shorter, what-you-must-know version below to learn more:  The Shed New York City By Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Rockwell Group New York’s newest 200,000-square-foot art center only opened in April but it’s been one of the most talked-about building in Hudson Yards. Situated on West 30th Street and surrounded by new glass towers, the kinetic structure features a 120-foot-tall retractable outer shell covered in ETFE panels. It boasts eight different levels for rehearsals, large-scale exhibitions, and events, as well as live music, dance, and theater performances. According to DS+R, The Shed embodies the architecture of infrastructure.  All Square Minneapolis, Minnesota By Architecture Office Austin-based firm Architecture Office created a stand-out space in Minneapolis for the nonprofit/restaurant All Square. Unveiled in September 2018, the 900-square-foot, neon-lit eatery provides the formerly incarcerated with a place of employment and continuing education. The civil rights social enterprise was started by lawyer Emily Turner and has bragging rights to the best craft grilled cheese sandwiches in town. The Gathering Place Tulsa, Oklahoma By Michael Van Valkenburg Associates  Imagined by billionaire philanthropist George B. Kaiser, The Gathering Place is a 66.5-acre riverside park situated two miles from downtown Tulsa. It opened to the public last September and has since welcomed over 2 million people. New York-based landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh and his team transformed a slate of land next to the Arkansas River into a veritable green theme park of activities for adults and children. It’s the largest public “gift park” in U.S. history; 80 philanthropic donors funded the construction of the park and created an endowment to secure its future.  Ruby City San Antonio, Texas By David Adjaye Associates Officially set to open this October, the 14,000-square-foot Ruby City holds the 800-piece art collection of the late Linda Pace, artist, philanthropist, and heiress to the Pace Foods salsa fortune. Constructed with a sparkling, rose-tinted concrete exterior made in Mexico, the museum complex includes a series of open galleries with sculptural skylights that bring the sun into the interior spaces. The project was created in collaboration with local firm Alamo Architects.  TWA Hotel Queens, New York By Lubrano Ciavarra Architects Flanking the backside of Eero Saarinen’s historic midcentury modern TWA Flight Center, the new TWA Hotel is a glass-clad, dual-structure composed of 512 sound-proof rooms, a rooftop infinity pool, and a 10,000-square-foot observation deck that looks out over incoming international flights. Guests started arriving at the Jet-Blue adjacent site in May to enjoy the recently-renovated terminal, completed by Beyer Blinder Belle, and its newly-opened dining options. The ultra-energy-efficient hotel also houses 50,000 square feet of underground events space.  Central Library Calgary, Canada By Snøhetta and DIALOG Snøhetta’s Central Library takes up 240,000 square feet of space in downtown Calgary and stands six stories tall. One of the many design elements that make the public building so attractive is its gleaming facade made of white aluminum and fritted glass, as well as the way it straddles an active rail line. On the inside, a massive oculus and sinuous wooden stair system give the 85-foot-tall atrium a light and airy, yet dramatic feel. The public project opened last November The National Museum of Qatar Doha, Qatar By Ateliers Jean Nouvel Qatar’s highly-anticipated National Museum came online in March and is part of a recent construction boom in the country as it prepares for the 2022 World Cup. Designed to mimic Qatar’s desert rose sand formations, the 430,000-square-foot institution stretches in a series of interlocking discs across a portside site in downtown Doha. The galleries inside tell both the story of the desert's natural history as well as the country’s evolution, cultural heritage, and future. Xiqu Centre Hong Kong, China By Revery Architecture  Hong Kong’s new opera house is covered in 13,000 curved aluminum fins arranged in a wave-like fashion—a design move inspired by the delicacy of theater curtains. Though the architecture itself is shaped like a box, the cladding gives it a texturized appearance that’s almost psychedelic to see up close. The cultural space, which opened in April, includes a 1,073-seat theater that floats above an interior plaza used for exhibitions and performances.  V&A Dundee Dundee, Scotland By Kengo Kuma As the second outpost of London’s Victoria and Albert Design Museum, the staggered, concrete facade of the V&A Dundee is a stark contrast to its historic sister site and makes it stand out amongst the industrial waterfront near downtown Dundee. Kengo Kuma inverted two pyramids for the outline of the structure, some of which juts out into the River Tay, to both evoke Scotland’s craggy, cliff-edged coastline and the shape of a ship on the sea. It opened its doors last September with a set of permanent exhibitions on Scottish design.  Statue of Unity Gujarat, India By Michael Graves Architecture & Design and sculptor Ram V. Sutar Standing 597 feet tall on an island in the Narmada River, this bronze statue is a larger-than-life replica of India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It was completed last November and since then, visitors have flocked to the western India state to climb the statue for unparalleled views of the nearby mountain range. Soon, its base is slated to become a resort.  Under Lindesnes, Norway By Snøhetta Finished in March, Under doubles as a partially-underwater marine biology research station and an ultra-exclusive restaurant. Snøhetta’s sunken “periscope” design dives 16 feet below the North Sea and features a 36-foot-long, 11-foot-tall window wall in the dining room. The exterior is clad in concrete, but the interior boasts other materials such as oak and terrazzo. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Nostalgia by the Numbers

#modTEXAS is crowdsourcing midcentury design across the state
Inspired by Oklahoma City’s Okie Mod Squad, a new group of midcentury modern architecture lovers is documenting the leftover treasures from 50 years ago in Texas. modTEXAS, an Instagram crowdsourcing campaign started by Amy Walton and several statewide preservation organizations, is using the hashtag #modtexas to collect content centered on mid-20th-century nostalgia.  Launched in January, the campaign has thus far garnered over 2,000 posts with a range of images featuring famous architecture such as the Johnson Space Center in Houston, to a not-to-miss modernist church in downtown Dallas with a spiral exterior staircase. Even old signs and interior decor are popping up. Walton changes the theme of photographs that can be tagged each month as well. For example, August’s theme in multi-family, and a former photo editor at the Dallas Morning News took a shot of Paul Rudolph’s Brookhollow Plaza. 
To cull together support for the campaign, modTEXAs is working with some major groups on the project including Preservation Dallas, the Texas Historical Commission, the North Texas and San Antonio chapters of Docomomo, and the American Institute of Architects chapters in Corpus Christi and Dallas. As Walton gleans information on the documented projects from various posts, she’s sharing stats and geotags with the groups for their own conservation efforts. D Magazine reported that a real estate site called Candy’s Dirt has also joined the campaign and has created a map of where photographs are taken. Of course, many people are hashtagging images of architecture in more metropolitan cities around the state, so it’s unclear what treasures might be threatened in rural areas if more awareness isn't built on their existence. 
Placeholder Alt Text

From Mall to Office

Plan to transform Jerde’s postmodern wonderland in San Diego moves forward

A preliminary plan to transform the Jon Jerde–designed Horton Plaza Mall complex in San Diego has taken several steps forward in recent weeks as developer Stockdale Capital Partners detailed plans to reconfigure the dazzling postmodern shopping mall into a mixed-use technology campus.

In mid-April, San Diego’s economic development committee unanimously supported a change of deed request made by the developers to reduce the amount of retail space that must be included in the development. Currently, guidelines require that at least 700,000 square feet of retail spaces be provided on the site, a figure the developer seeks to slash in half. In exchange for the reduction, the developer would build a 772,000-square-foot tech office campus on top of a 300,000-square-foot retail podium.

The plan, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, would require Stockdale to take responsibility for a city-owned park located on the site, as well.

A recent batch of renderings unveiled for the new complex depicts glass curtainwall facades and dark metal structural elements. A mix of indoor-outdoor spaces and ground level shops, gyms, and restaurants would serve up to 4,000 tech workers who could be located on the site.

At the economic development committee meeting, Stockdale cofounder Dan Michaels said, “We’ve done this before,” referencing the firm’s successful redevelopment of a similar mall complex in Scottsdale, Arizona, that brought a slew of marquee tech companies to the city, adding, “[Horton Plaza] is the opportunity incarnate.”

The plan, however, is not without controversy.

Several cultural heritage and historic preservation groups have challenged the plan, which would remove all of the postmodern elements of the complex. Organizations like the San Diego Architecture Foundation and the La Jolla Historical Society have publicly asked the developer to take steps to somehow preserve the iconic postmodern facades that mark the mall’s interior courtyard.

In a letter supporting the preservation of the existing complex, Heath Fox, executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society, said, “Horton Plaza is a highly intact, signature example of postmodernism by an important architect, and large-scale examples of postmodern architecture are exceedingly rare.”

Designed in the early 1980s during an era when defensive urbanism reigned supreme in American cities, Horton Plaza was conceived as a microcosm where some of the unexpected and organic qualities of traditional urban environments were recreated inside a tightly-controlled private development.

As a result, Jerde created stacked and broad covered interior streets that offer new and delightful experiences around every corner.

Richly detailed with traditionally-inspired cornices, pressed tin ceilings, ordered columns, and ever-changing and sumptuous materiality, no two vistas within the mall are alike. Massive mosaic tile-covered facades protrude into the central space to create the illusion of organic development while walkways slope to connect different levels as they might in an Italian hillside town. In other areas, variously styled storefronts project from larger facades and stuccoed expanses of cerulean, goldenrod, and rose-hued masses collide and explode every which way.

The development, heralded as a transformative success when it originally opened in 1985, has fallen on hard times in recent years, even as the areas around it have thrived due to the urban resurgence the complex initiated.

If Stockdale is successful in its efforts, the project could take shape as soon as 2020.

Placeholder Alt Text

It's Electric

Sandy Isenstadt takes readers on a tour of the dawn of electric lighting
Electric Light: An Architectural History Sandy Isenstadt MIT Press $44.95

At the turn of the 20th century, the life-world in Europe and America was deeply transformed by the simultaneous appearance of the telephone, subways, elevators, skyscrapers, cinema, automobiles, and the incandescent lamp. As outlined by Sanford Kwinter in his 1986 article, “La Città Nuova: Modernity and Continuity,” a new order emerged, whose main manifestations also fueled a new aesthetic realm—exemplified by the theoretical program of Italian Futurism.

Electric Light: An Architectural History, written by Sandy Isenstadt and published in 2018 by MIT Press, depicts the same cultural milieu as Kwinter did: It’s an attempt to relate the rise of a novel spatial sensibility with the proliferation of technical innovations. More specifically, Isenstadt, professor in the art history department at the University of Delaware, focuses his attention on electric light as epiphenomenon of a broad paradigm shift: modernity.

The advent of electric light, in fact, not only allowed people to extend conventional daytime activities to nighttime, but also alter the conception of a day-night divide Electric light introduced modern space through two fundamental concepts: instantaneity and action at a distance.

Despite similar premises and a shared chronological framework, Isenstadt’s work differs from Kwinter’s and many other contributions on the same theme in several significant aspects. First, Isenstadt doesn’t directly confront the avant-garde culture of the time. He doesn’t indulge in the typical topoi of movement and dynamism, nor does he introduce Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, and Antonio Sant’Elia, all leading Futurist figures who envisioned a new material world made of speed, electricity, and intensity. On the contrary, Isenstadt is concerned with the impact of electricity on the everyday lives of millions of people. This is because, as he claims, electric light is itself a form of architecture. For this reason, Isenstadt also compiles an inventory of extraordinary objects enabled by electric light, such as cars, lamps, bulbs, animated advertisements, and lighted signs—all of which not only contained novel intrinsic properties, but also forged the emergence of a world that radically altered the perception of existing spaces and created new ones. By compiling these objects, Isenstadt traces a genealogy of modernity crystallized in the description of five different case studies all rooted in the American territory.

Whereas the first case study on the light switch depicts its technical and symbolic relevance—from its use in domestic spaces to the celebration of religious and political events—the second one looks into the experience of night driving; the car becomes a prosthesis of the human body, a projection of desires and curiosities, and the headlamps an instrument to explore unknown territories. The third case study analyses electric light in terms of efficiency and productivity in the workplace, including factories and schools, and the fourth is on Times Square in New York City: a landmark of modernity, a phantasmagoria of signs and billboards that constituted the first example of TEXT-scape, a homogenous field characterized by signs, signals, and advertisements. Lastly, Isenstadt explores the relationship between wartime and lighting during World War II by describing the application in America of collective and individual forms of blackout, which stemmed from paranoia about being bombed.

Regardless of its organization into five different parts, Electric Light: An Architectural History constitutes a narrative continuum on the idea of modernity. A further differentiation emerges. The case studies, in fact, suggest the simultaneous presence of two interpretative criteria. One is merely phenomenological: electric light has altered the perception of the space around us, our experiences, and our feelings. But at the same time, Isenstadt also points out how electricity has physically shaped a new world by inducing the rise of unprecedented spaces and typologies. This twofold perspective translates either into the intriguing description of certain perceptual conditions—such as the act of night driving or the urban reading of Times Square—or into the accurate classification of technical devices and methods of construction.

Whereas the whole narrative skeleton defined by Isenstadt makes his text undoubtedly fascinating, at first sight its subtitle—An Architectural History—can appear misleading. The book, in fact, is not a chronological excursus of architectural episodes, nor does it provide a methodological schema to understand what modernity in architecture is and what its features are. In varying the scope of his reflections—from the detail of the light switch to the suspended temporality of a city’s electrified streets—Isenstadt engages readers on a compelling journey at the intersection of society, culture, and technology. Rather than deploying aesthetic categories, Isenstadt focuses on new visual habits. Here again, the convergence between material, constructive depictions, and phenomenological aspects allows us to look at the five selected cases with a revived interest that reaches beyond sterile disciplinary categorizations.

The end result is a history of electric modernism: in the author’s words, “If modernity itself can be characterized by rapid, incessant change and modernism as the creative and conscious response to such change, then electric light—instantaneous, malleable, evanescent—is modernity’s medium.”

Placeholder Alt Text

New Year, New News

Weekend edition: Thinking about the future of O'Hare, timber, and the U.S.A.
Missed some of this week’s architecture news, or our tweets and Facebook posts from the last few days? Don’t sweat it—we’ve gathered the week’s must-read stories right here. Enjoy! Five finalists release their visions for O’Hare expansion As the deadline to select a team for the O'Hare International Airport's Terminal 2 replacement looms, the five finalists have released their proposals. The U.S. mass timber industry is maturing while it branches out In the U.S. mass timber is moving from niche construction technique to industry standard, and manufacturers across the country are rising up to provide. Former HUD secretary Julián Castro announces 2020 presidential bid The San Antonio native announced over the weekend that he is running for president. Julián Castro joins what is expected to be a crowded field. Dattner Architects organizes campaign for Saturday’s Women’s March on NYC Organized by Dattner Architects’ Women’s Group, firms across the city are slated to show up to Saturday's Women's March on NYC 2019 in support for the “Women BUILD” campaign. Stay safe in the winter weather or enjoy your mild climate, depending on where you are, and see you Monday!