Search results for "shop"

Placeholder Alt Text

Paris Pops Up in New York

Famous French food spot L'Avenue opens outpost in Saks Fifth Avenue
Of all the places in New York City that might conjure up spatial memories of Paris, apparently French elegance can best be found at Saks Fifth Avenue. In tandem with the recent 53,000-square-foot renovation of the flagship’s main floor, as well as a new OMA/Rem Koolhaas-designed escalator connecting it to the beauty and cosmetics section above, an upscale restaurant within the building offers shoppers a different type of design to invest in: one that’s slightly more delicious and feels world’s away.  L’Avenue is Philippe Starck’s latest take—and New York’s own version—of the iconic eatery of the same name that opened in Paris over 20 years ago under the leadership of owners Jean-Louis Costs and Alex Denise. Its second and only outpost, now gracing the top two floors of Saks, was created with a sense of style and timelessness like its sister site abroad, but with some added comfort. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com. 
Placeholder Alt Text

The time for failure is now

Meet Afterparti: The architecture collective that wants to fail better

“The time for failure is now” reads the front cover of Afterparti, printed emphatically in sans-serif, white type on thick, matte black paper. It’s not the only message on the magazine's cover: “Bring the justice of space to people. Build a new political conversation. You are all the agents of change,” reads another, followed by “p22” — the page where such inspiration can be found. Already, Afterparti, a new architecture "zine" hot off the presses, feels like a call to arms.

Afterparti, I should point out, is a collective, not just a publication. In June 2018, the group held a panel discussion at the Royal College of Art in London also titled, “The time for failure is now.” The group's inaugural members comprise Shukri Sultan; Aoi Philips; Tara Okeke; Marwa El Mubark; Thomas Aquilina; Nile Bridgeman; Samson Famusan; Josh Fenton, and Siufan Adey. Together, the collective is striving to further platforms for radical, underrepresented voices, advocating for a culture of collaboration and inclusivity. “We want to fail better,” they state inside their first magazine, which also includes an interview (read: argument) with Royal Institute of British Architects President Ben Derbyshire, survival tips and tunes for BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) architects, and articles from leading BAME industry professionals such as Pooja Agrawal of municipal planning initiative Public Practice and Akile Scafe-Smith of London design firm, Resolve.

AN sat down with Afterparti—who respond in this article as a collective rather than individually, as is the “parti line”—to find out more.

AN: What’s in the name "Afterparti"? AP: Afterparti is in two parts. The term parti is something that we all share in the language of architecture. What does parti mean? A big idea, a conceptual framing device. And so we take the term ‘parti' to connect with our architectural background and inject playfulness — by which we mean accessible, as the events we put on are for everyone. We want people to share their experiences and input on how we can make the city better for everyone. There's an openness to the term, too. We could roll out a series of different interpretations, but hopefully, the kinds of things we write or put on or stage or curate are going to be open-ended and not too closed. We want it to be a conversation that goes beyond the normal sphere of architecture. Ignoring race, it's often just middle-class people talking among themselves.

The term 'Afterparti' also suggests ourselves as a continuation of the New Architectural Writers (N.A.W.) program, as an idea, a platform, to bring together underrepresented voices. 

What is the N.A.W. program? Is that how you all met? N.A.W is a free writing program for black and minority ethnic people interested in writing about design. There was a mass email which asked: Are you under 30, based in London, interested in writing, with a background in architecture and of this minority? You kinda had to do it, it didn't matter how busy you were — that’s how we felt at least. 

Really what we're doing is an extension of this program but at the same time is the idea of events and a zine series. It’s always about extending that conversation as well: the conversation that happens on stage can happen in print and therefore there's an afterlife to any event. 

Why have you chosen to focus on failure? It was definitely a collective decision. Regarding the initial event we held, we wanted to find a theme for the panelists who were going to be on stage for a live debate. We wanted them to speak more openly and personally about ideas and issues that that might not be able to answer through the theme of failure. We challenged them on how they adapt and respond to failure, putting people on the spot, stopping them from giving us a readymade answer. 

In fact, that's a theme within our work. The zine is a very personal product. Whoever's article you read, it's a very personal piece. We put ourselves into it. The N.A.W. program came about because there's not enough of us [minorities who are writing] out there, so we take great pride putting ourselves into our work, in part, because we have a different background to share. We are a disadvantaged generation, there is potential failure at every turn. Failure isn’t just a singular event, it's systemic and we can develop ourselves through it. 

Why a zine instead of more events? The basis of why we came together was because we could all write in a sense and that was a common denominator. Afterparti is a lot more than just writing, everybody is doing different things and we have different skillsets. Events can take a range: we could be curating something, throwing a disco party, or something else, who knows what might come next. The zine, however, is always the reflection of those events. In this case, it builds upon the panel discussion we had at the Royal College of Art.

The zine also a way of opening up our platform to other BAME people within architecture. 

What made you produce your own publication instead of writing for somewhere else? It's not that we disagree with everything that architectural journalism stands for, it's just that we want a different flavor, something that represents us and how we feel about [architecture].

Aside from N.A.W., we've made it our own thing. There's no glossy front cover, no building reviews. This was all a deliberate choice. We were less interested in the aesthetics of single projects — though we don't ignore this by any stretch, we just don't feel as if what we have to stay stems from this. Of course, we do care about aesthetics in general, our magazine is beautiful! However, all of our articles are socially minded and/or politically motivated. It's less about a shallow, pictorial review of architecture. We are nine individuals, as has been said, all with individual takes and perspectives, on architectural practice and education and the myriad of things that entwine all of that and more together. Our approach to creating this written product comes from a place of play as well as a place of process. Plus we've only got so many pages as well, we want to write about the stuff that's important — important, but often overlooked. 

Did you fail along the way? Of course! We tried to have the awareness that we are in the midst of failure, but that's not a new thing.

What’s next for Afterparti? We are going to try to take more opportunities with different groups and not just stay strictly architecture. We want to continue going outside that sphere: being more intersectional and maintaining accessibility.

That's all we can say for now! Whatever the next theme is, it's going to be about holding the relevant people in power to account. It's always going to be a call to action.

Placeholder Alt Text

Sail Away

Perkins + Will designs tech giant SailPoint’s latest HQ in Austin’s Silicon Hills
For the past two decades, Austin has emerged as a tech industry hub. Giving the well-entrenched Silicon Valley a run for its money, the so-called "Silicon Hills" region has consistently drawn in a slew of upstarts and established companies like IBM, Google, Amazon, Apple, and Intel, seeking out new outposts. Setting up shop in the Texas Hill Country, just west of Austin, these blue-chip giants have taken advantage of the city’s progressive and creative position. This mutual evolution has helped make this state capital one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Joining the party is governance software solutions brand SailPoint. The rapidly-expanding company called on the Austin branch of major architecture firm Perkins + Will to outfit its new 65,000 square foot, four-floor office with an apt, yet subtle, nautical aesthetic. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Same building, New purpose

Atlanta City Detention Center could become mixed-use community development

Atlanta could be poised to convert its now-defunct Atlanta City Detention Center into a mixed-use development catering to the formerly incarcerated and the community at large. The Reimagining Atlanta City Detention Center Task Force, which was convened at City Hall by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for the first time last week, is in charge of determining how the 17-story jail facility will be used. With a whopping 471,000 square feet of available floor space, the building will likely serve numerous needs in the neighborhood.

Mayor Bottoms ordered the closure of the jail earlier this year, due primarily to rising costs and a lack of inmates. She emphasized the need for any revisioning or adaptive re-use project to be of benefit to locals, and especially to those who have already been involved in the city’s justice system. Several justice-oriented organizations, including the Racial Justice Action Center (RJAC) and the Oakland-based agency Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, have been tapped to guide the planning process. RJAC director Xochitl Bervera encouraged people to think big when contributing ideas. So far, informal proposals have included spaces for a daycare center, a food service training restaurant, a skate park, recording studios, and a legal clinic with an attached coffee shop. So long as the new development is not cost-prohibitive and is accessible to diverse swaths of the local populous, Bervera says it has serious potential to be successful.

In terms of the detention center’s physical makeover, concerns that entering the building could be triggering or unsettling to some former inmates have prompted planners to adopt a more transformative approach. The task force and RJAC have asked Designing Justice + Designing Spaces to reimagine the menacing structure with a more transparent and open form. With a glass curtain wall and a far greater number of windows than the jailhouse, initial renderings of the project offer a glimpse of how RJAC and the Atlanta city government will create the proposed Atlanta Center for Wellness and Freedom.

Overall, the effort is reminiscent of similar adaptive reuse projects executed in New York and other cities across the country. In 2016, two years after a film company announced plans to purchase Staten Island’s Arthur Kill Correctional Facility and convert it into the borough’s first movie studio, Deborah Berke Partners won a competition to turn Manhattan’s former Bayview Correctional Facility into The Women’s Building. Elsewhere in the country, detention facilities have been transformed into everything from luxury hotels to apartment buildings. But while the potential for an upscale development certainly exists at the Atlanta City Detention Center, there are concerns that such a proposal could exacerbate changes already seen in one of America’s fastest gentrifying cities.

Placeholder Alt Text

On Mexican SO - IL

SO - IL is building a social housing prototype in the heart of Mexico
For many in Mexico, the phrase “social housing” conjures images of vast housing tracts falling into disrepair, abandoned by workers tired of two-hour commutes. While architects and planners look back to understand what went wrong in the country’s early-2000s push to build affordable housing on city outskirts, authorities and designers are also looking ahead to explore alternative strategies. The Municipal Housing Institute (IMUVI) of León, a city of 1.6 million people in the central state of Guanajuato, invited Brooklyn firm SO – IL to collaborate on the design of a new prototype for social housing in the city’s center, and the team broke ground on the result, the Las Américas project, in May. Designed for low-income families, the building includes 56 apartments, most of which will be sold at far-below-market rates. Guanajuato is traditionally known for its artisanal leatherworking, but more recently, rapid growth in the auto-manufacturing industry has transformed the region; León’s population has doubled since the 1980s. Like many Mexican cities, it grew outward, with limited government planning. Some new arrivals built informal settlements on the city edges or, with access to credit, bought into exurban subdivisions. IMUVI faces two monumental tasks: regularizing the informal settlements, which requires extending utility services and other infrastructure and building housing for those who still need it. According to Amador Rodríguez, director of IMUVI León, 45 percent of the city’s residents don’t have access to federal housing credit or traditional bank loans. Rodríguez estimates that the city needs another 80,000 housing units to meet the demand. Instead of building more units on the outskirts, far from schools, jobs, and services, IMUVI has committed to densifying the city center. Working with SO – IL, IMUVI identified a lot in a downtown neighborhood to build Las Américas, a 62,431-square-foot complex of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. SO – IL’s partnership with IMUVI began when Florian Idenburg, the firm’s Dutch co-founder, was invited to Mexico to share his experience with the firm’s New York City micro-housing project tiNY, lessons from which informed Las Américas. “Affordability should not go against quality,” said Idenburg. “And one of the qualities that is very important to us is light.” Thanks to single-loaded open-air corridors, the apartments in Las Américas receive natural light from at least two sides. No two units directly face each other, maintaining both density and privacy. The housing block wraps around two shared courtyards, while openings in the building’s mass create additional, elevated common spaces. Exterior stairwells link each level. Idenburg said these features foster interaction between neighbors and a sense of community. “It was very refreshing to work with this team in León,” Idenburg said. Even with a limited budget, he said, there are opportunities for customization in Mexico that can lend character to what could otherwise be a uniform building. The team worked with local fabricators to develop a precast concrete brick that can be installed in different positions, creating a variety of wall textures for the apartments. “We made really nice custom windows that are hand-welded,” he added. “You probably wouldn’t be able to do that in the United States because of cost.” The design process included workshops and meetings in León to understand the needs of low-income families. SO – IL worked pro bono on the project. “It was a very productive collaboration,” said Idenburg. “Everything was very collective.” While construction continues, IMUVI is identifying families to move into Las Américas. Out of a total of 56 apartments, 44 will be priced at just under half a million Mexican pesos (about $25,000), the legal limit for a social housing unit. The remaining 12 units will be available at market price to families with federal Infonavit (workers’ housing) credit. “I hope other people will see our project and think it is possible to achieve density and affordability in the city center,” Idenburg said. Finding central but affordable lots is an ongoing challenge for agencies like IMUVI, but Idenburg hopes Las Américas can become a model for social housing in city centers and inspire projects in developing economies facing similar conditions.
Placeholder Alt Text

Oh Sugar Sugar

PAU reinvents the center of a complex postindustrial waterfront
The conversion of a 137-year-old sugar factory into a contemporary office complex requires a delicate touch when the building is landmarked—and even more so when it’s the heart of a complex, 11-acre riverfront master plan. The Domino Sugar Factory sits along the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn on a SHoP Architects' master-planned redevelopment which also includes the James Corner Field Operations–designed Domino Park, SHoP’s doughnut-shaped 325 Kent, and COOKFOX’s mixed-use 1 South First. The facade of the Domino Sugar Factory is landmarked, but the interior, a tangle of sugar refining machinery, much of which acted as support infrastructure, was not. So, when Two Trees tapped Vishaan Chakrabarti’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) to helm the factory’s conversion, the studio proposed a radical solution. Rather than renovate the building, they would instead stabilize the historic brick facade, and drop in an entirely new structure with a glass curtain wall. “The original building has a simplicity and muscularity,” Chakrabarti, told AN, but the building's American Round Arch style arched windows rarely line up across floors and are a variety of different sizes. That meant that using standardized floor plates that touched the landmarked facade was infeasible. Separating the brick walls from the new structure negated the issue. By nesting the new building inside the old one, PAU has created a 10- to 12-foot-wide “breezeway” between the two that allows light to permeate all the way to the ground floor. This also affords each floor a different view of the facade. All of the original windows in the historic facade will be removed, creating a shell that will surround the new building, which will be stabilized with steel supports extending from the new structure. Chakrabarti, who helped lead the master plan while a partner at SHoP, described the site as a bridge between the past and the future, and the design fully embraces that philosophy. The glass topper that rises above the original factory’s roofline (but sticks below the smokestack facing Kent Avenue) consists of structurally-glazed mullions and heavily articulated glass at regular intervals. The barrel-shaped roof is reminiscent of an industrial skylight, but while it was a clear reference, the team didn’t want the contemporary addition to be too industrial nor compete with the heaviness of the surrounding brick. Rather than thinking of the building as having traditional front and back entrances—pitting Williamsburg versus the East River waterfront—PAU lowered the bottom all of the windows on the first floor of the brick facade to the ground, creating a permeable membrane and allowing the public to pass through. According to PAU, merging from the hardscape on Kent Street to River Street and Domino Park fulfills the pledge that SHoP made in the master plan to “pull” River Street out toward the public. While no tenants have signed on to occupy the offices yet, Chakrabarti expects that the building will attract creative industries thanks to the unique atmosphere. No completion date for construction on the Domino Sugar Factory conversion has been given yet, but interior demolition is ongoing.
Placeholder Alt Text

Austrian Influence

Resident Alien will chronicle the contributions of Austrian-American architects
Adolf Loos is widely known for setting the stage for the modernist movement in architecture, and the Austrian architect and theorist is arguably one of the most influential practitioners ever born. At the height of his impact in the late 19th century, when he designing structures both in Austria and what’s now the Czech Republic, Loos began writing seriously on the subject of minimalism and why architecture should do without ornamentation.  Richard Neutra was coming of age at the same time, along with his would-be close friend Rudolph Schindler. Both Vienna-born men had hugely successful careers designing modernist homes in Southern California—structures that were undoubtedly guided by the teachings of Loos.  An upcoming exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York is shining a light on the distinct cultural contributions that Austrian-American architects like Loos, Neutra, and Schindler have made over the last century in the United States. On view starting in September, Resident Alien: Austrian Architects in America will feature numerous practitioners whose expertise not only changed the profession but in some cases, the American zeitgeist. Think Victor Gruen, inventor of the mid-century American shopping mall Curated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Architecture professor Stephen Phillips and Cal Poly Pomona professor Axel Schmitzberger, the exhibition will break down the impact of the migrant architects through three ethereal categories: Cloud Structures, Media Atmosphere, and Urban Terrestrials. The organizers will rely on the help of designer and UCLA professor, Julia Koerner, as well as B+U co-founder and SCI-Arc professor Herwig Baumgartner, to chronicle the works of their Austrian predecessors in America. Both young architects will also be featured in the show.  According to a press release, Resident Alien will bring a much-needed dialogue about the momentous immigration architects made from Austria to the U.S. during the modernist period, and why it so heavily affected American architecture. The curators will also explore the concept of bicultural heritage and how it has been, and is currently, communicated through space, technology, art, education, and more today.  While details on the makeup and materials of the exhibition haven’t been released yet, the other contemporary architects represented will include Carl Pruscha, Hans Hollein, Peter Trummer, and Mark Mack, as well as the partners at Coop Himmelb(l)au, Barbara Imhof of Liquifer Systems Group, Maties Del Campo and Sandra Maninger of SPAN Architecture, and Andrea Lenardin of A-L-M Projects, among others. The late Raimund Abraham, who designed the Austrian Cultural Forum's New York building itself, as well as Liane Zimbler, the first European woman to get an architecture degree, will also be featured. Resident Alien will run through February 2020. 
Placeholder Alt Text

Stranger Sites

For season three of Stranger Things, they built an entire mall
The angular mid-80s architecture of a derelict shopping center in Duluth, Georgia, has garnered fame in recent weeks after the release of the third season of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. Avid fans of the show may recognize that Gwinnett Place Mall—an actual mall located in a suburb of Atlanta, was transformed as the setting for major moments that take place in Hawkins, Indiana’s newest attraction: The Starcourt Mall.  Production designer Chris Trujillo spoke with The L.A. Times about the search and intense-build out for Starcourt Mall, as well as why the writing team chose to center the plot on the all-too-familiar, small-town-gets-big-mall storyline. In the interview, he said it made sense to showcase how Hawkins was changing with the introduction of the mega-shopping center, right alongside how the main characters were themselves changing. No longer little kids who saved the world, everyone was growing up facing their own relationship and materialist concerns. Much of teenage life in Midwestern America at that time was spent at the mall.  After investigating a dozen structures built from 1984-85, the production team settled on Gwinnett Place Mall, a 1.3 million-square-foot space that, during its first 16 years of operation, attracted people from all over Georgia as well as neighboring South Carolina. By 2001, with the opening of both the Mall of Georgia and Sugarloaf Mills, the space began its slow descent into obscurity. Now, thanks to the production team’s massive retrofit—gutting and rebuilding nearly 40 stores and restaurants—as well as a slew of tweets from curious fans that tried to sneak a peak of the set last year, the mall has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity.  According to Trujillo, most of the filming inside the 34-year-old mall took place around its food court, a gem of 1984-era interior architecture with a soaring atrium and vaulted geometric ceilings. It was the showpiece of the mall, he told the L.A. Times. But more than that, the large, two-story interior gave way to the “dynamic camerawork” that the Duffer brothers are famous for.  In an effort to make the Gwinnett Place Mall truly feel like a time warp set specifically for the horror sci-fi series, the production team not only recreated the facades of iconic retail spaces with all period-appropriate signage and window displays, but in some cases, the entire stores themselves were redone. From Orange Julius to the Gap, Radio Shack, and JC Penny, the brief moments these places popped up on screen helped paint an authentic picture of 1980s consumerism. One of the most-filmed spots within Starcourt Mall was Scoops Ahoy, the made-up ice cream shop where Steven Harrington works. Trujillo called that project, which was built entirely from scratch, “our special little baby.” Spoilers ahead: In that ice cream shop is where Steve, Dustin, and newcomer Robin decode secrete Russian messages that lead them to discover there’s a world-ending operation taking place beneath their feet—the portal to the Upside Down is being reopened. That importance to the overarching plot helps explain why so much attention was paid to the layout of the mall. Apart from a scrapbook found on location with old images of the Gwinnett Place Mall from its heyday, the inspiration for the build-out came from the memories of staffers on the production and decoration teams. Most people on the team's leadership grew up in the 80s and 90s and made decisions for Starcourt based on what they remember it felt like to be in those spaces as a kid.  “There is a homogeneity to the architecture of malls,” Trujillo told the L.A. Times. “They’re all calibrated to be similar spaces. We had to be somewhat specific about the regionality, but I definitely brought a lot of my childhood and teenage memories of hanging out and working in malls.” Though the set is closed to the public and is already being dismantled, according to one reporter who chronicled his visit for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), that hasn’t stopped fans from trying to take photos of the interior through fences. As a focal point of “Stranger Things 3,” Gwinnett Place Mall will forever live on in memories of fans forever, despite its soon-to-be demolition. The AJC reported in February that a sports stadium developer plans to build a mixed-use complex with a 20,000-seat cricket arena on the site.
Placeholder Alt Text

Prime Time

Sam Jacob’s wacky Cartoon Museum opens in London
Boom! Sam Jacob Studio has unveiled a punchy new home for London’s Cartoon Museum that takes design cues from comics’  bold graphic tropes and often-cheeky humor. A 3-D explosion graphic marks the entrance, while the exhibition spaces are arranged in boxes like cartoon comic strips. The two main galleries, an education room, and a gift shop (cha-ching!) are encased in a graphic wall of cheery trees, clouds, and drip marks that suggest the museum has leaped off a drawing board. Loony Tunes–esque features abound: The education room is accessed via a hidden door in a fake bookcase, and comically over- and under-sized doors channel visitors into the galleries. A red stairwell is decorated with semi-solemn portraits of famous cartoon characters in a display that’s part comic strip, part Victorian mansion. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

Kings of Kingston

Kingston Creative Exchange in Upstate New York links Pratt students with locals
Kingston, New York, is a charming town on the Hudson River 90 miles north of New York City. It was the first capital of the state before being burned to the ground in 1777 by the British in the revolutionary war, and then, with the discovery of natural cement, it became a center of the country’s industrial revolution. It has three stone and wood historic districts, the Stockade District uptown, the Midtown Neighborhood Broadway Corridor, and the Rondout-West Strand Historic District downtown, but the town seems like its best years are way in its past. This could be changing, as a new effort is driving momentum to build on the village’s industrial core using design and education to create a “creative exchange.” The Kingston Creative Exchange (KCX)—a group funded by southern California based Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP and including an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty from Pratt Institute—have opened a center in Kingston. Students will gain an introduction to the design world and practices through the use of historical techniques once employed in the town. MADWORKSHOP - PRATT CREATIVE XCHANGE, KINGSTON from PLANE—SITE on Vimeo. The new center, a peer-to-peer incubator space in a historic building, will support an exchange of design ideas between the local artisans and young people from Kingston High School and focus on workshops that propose bringing design thinking and education to confront serious urban problems. Architects and designers often use the phrase “design thinking” as a possible solution for all sorts of urban ills, so it will be interesting to see if this experiment has the legs necessary to make a difference in Kingston.
Placeholder Alt Text

Love It or List It

Chicago’s Thompson Center is up for sale
Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker has signed a law that authorizes the sale of Helmut Jahn’s controversial postmodern icon, the James R. Thompson Center. Postmodern buildings have only recently become eligible for landmark status, a fact that highlights the need to preserve significant buildings that have years to go before reaching a minimum of 50 years old. The center is located prominently in Chicago’s Loop at 100 West Randolph Street, where it takes up an entire city block, with a Chicago Transit Authority “L” train station nestled underneath. Stout and glassy, the massive building opened in 1985 as the home of state government offices. It was named after Illinois’s longest-serving governor, James R. Thompson, who chose Jahn’s then-futuristic design. Aiming to invoke ideas of “an open government,” Jahn designed a glass-encased 17-story atrium and a large exterior plaza in a bid to create contemporary large public spaces. Chicagoans either love it or hate it. The story of the Thompson Center is a political saga that could end in a daring feat of conservation or a sad finale of destruction. Preservationists have been rallying and petitioning for the building to achieve landmark status since the first mention of its possible demise in 2007, when Governor Rod Blagojevich said he was interested in selling it. However, since the building is known for its major maintenance issues, like heating and cooling problems and physical deterioration, it will likely be demolished rather than repurposed. The Architect’s Newspaper's Midwest contributor Jamie Evelyn Goldsborough reached out to major figures in the Chicago architecture and preservation community for their takes on the controversy. Alexander Eisenschmidt, designer and architectural theorist, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Architecture: Jahn’s Thompson Center is certainly a quintessential Chicago construct. Not so much for its often cited but rarely understood postmodernism, but because of its urban and infrastructural theater. In fact, reducing it to its material, color, and formal palette (its architecture) diminishes its public function (its urbanism). After all, the building is a subway stop, an elevated train station, a pedway intersection, an interior marketplace, a food court concourse, an exterior plaza, and the list goes on—a kind of city-extension that inhales and breathes public life. In an age of ever-expanding privatization, aggressive outsourcing, and shrinking government investment in public services and facilities, the sale of the Thompson Center is yet another instance of the lack of inventiveness and a blind belief in quick fixes (not unlike Chicago’s disastrous parking meter sell-off). But it’s also a mistake for architects to focus on preservation. There is the potential for crafting solutions for a productive (even lucrative) re-, dis-, mis-, trans-, and cross-use of this piece of the city. John Ronan, architect, professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture: The State of Illinois Building should be saved (and repurposed). It's one of the few good examples of postmodern architecture in Chicago from a period of architectural history that was not particularly kind to the city. Bob Somol, design critic and theorist, professor and director of the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago: The debate over the shaky future of a once-futurist ruin raises paradoxical questions about postmodern preservation and the ongoing privatization of the public realm. What happens when a rhetorical ruin becomes a literal ruin within 30 years of its completion, when a project that inaugurated a mixed public-private model of government itself falls victim to economic expediency? Helmut Jahn’s 1985 Thompson Center was an awkward building at an awkward time, appearing after faith in public monuments had waned, but before the rise of iconic spectacles. It was the James Stirling building that Chicago never got, typical of many atrocities of the ’80s that attempted the shotgun marriage of high tech and historicism. The Thompson Center remains Chicago’s only legitimate heir to this thankfully aborted legacy. And for all of these reasons and more, we should keep the starship boldly going. Stanley Tigerman, architect: I don’t want to comment about it, because I will say something bad. Ellen Grimes, associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: It’s our own lesson in John Portman/Jon Jerde postmodernism, repurposed for retail politics. I love it! It makes the ’80s urban in a way that didn’t happen with similar buildings of the period. There’s nothing like floating up the escalator from the Red Line into a monumental atrium that smells like burgers and falafel. To save it, [Governor] Pritzker should use it as the emblematic policy initiative in reforming the state’s pathetic finances. He should landmark it, lease it to a casino/hotel operator, and send the profits straight into the state’s underfunded mass transit budget. (Imagine playing the slot machines as you get off the train.) That way, we get to keep the thing, and get some money out of it, and it’s climate friendly. And Thompson gets the monument he deserves. Iker Gil, architect, editor-in-chief of MAS Context: It is a significant building with a truly remarkable interior public space. Unlike most buildings, here we have one that welcomes people and celebrates public space. We need to think beyond its current state of neglect and envision its potential. It can become a vibrant 24-7 space with the addition of expected and odd uses that can be combined unconventionally. The building has unique characteristics and it should remain a unique place, but, as Tim Samuelson would say, the building is in a period of aesthetic limbo. It’s not old enough to be appreciated; there is no historic perspective. Given time, care, and a programmatic overhaul, it would find its place in the history of the city. Chicago can’t afford to continue to demolish unique buildings only to replace them with generic ones for a quick economic return. This practice won’t solve Chicago’s structural issues, and the city will lose its assets and identity. Nathan Eddy, filmmaker, Starship Chicago: The Thompson Center shouldn’t just be an official landmark for Chicago; it should also be listed on the National Register of Historic Places alongside Adler & Sullivan’s Auditorium Building or the Chicago Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe. I defy anyone to stand in the Thompson Center’s launchpad rotunda and not be moved by that magical, mirrored-glass cyclone of space. It courses with power and drama and excitement and an expansive, glittering optimism. It doesn’t look dated to thousands of young people who gasp when they walk into it—to them it looks like the future. Are we really prepared to give up this prime, publicly owned forum in the civic heart of Chicago for a bargain-basement price? To be replaced with what?—a mute glass box designed not by an architect but by some false acceptance rate algorithm? And perhaps—if we’re good—a handful of half-hearted privately owned public spaces? Sounds like small plans to me. Judith De Jong, architect and urban designer, associate professor and associate dean for academic programs at the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Chicago: Built 20 years apart, and each very much of its respective time, the Brutalist Netsch campus at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the postmodern Thompson Center are unlikely bedfellows. However, both are hard-to-love forms of architecture that are seemingly out of style, and both once modeled important new forms of public access to public institutions that are perhaps even more important today. The Netsch campus, which opened in early 1965, was a new model of an urban public university, making higher education accessible to a wide range of new audiences. Rather than mimic the pastoral forms of the traditionally rural public university (the model of which was the University of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson), Walter Netsch and his team from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill sought to materialize a new expression of public education through urban and architectural design. Conceptualized as a pebble dropped in a pond, representing “knowledge spreading out,” the dense inner rings of campus contained the shared lecture halls and classroom buildings, flanked by the library and the student union, while outer rings contained discipline-specific buildings. The campus was connected throughout by raised walkways—human highways designed for a projected enrollment of 32,000 students—that came together in a great public amphitheater called the Circle Forum at the literal and conceptual center. Photographs of the campus at the time show the Forum’s use as an important space of daily life. Buildings were also carefully arranged to shape urban parks and plazas for public student life across the site. The Thompson Center, which opened in 1985, was a new model of access to urban public government. Rather than mimic the classical grandeur of the Illinois State Capitol Building, Helmut Jahn and his team from Murphy/Jahn Architects materialized a new expression of state governance through an enormous interior atrium—a lopped off rotunda—limned by 16 floors of the mostly open offices of public employees. The atrium was intended as an active, new, year-round public “plaza” in the middle of downtown, enabled by “retail” government services like the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as shops, a food court, and integrated access to the Chicago Transit Authority trains. At the Thompson Center, government was meant to be as accessible and transparent as the building itself. As experiments in new forms of public institutions, both UIC and the Thompson Center had their issues, all of which were or are solvable, should the political will exist. At UIC, complaints about the walkways, framed through concerns about maintenance, safety, and a lack of “green,” led to their eventual demolition in the 1990s, taking the Circle Forum amphitheater with them. Likewise, the environmental and maintenance issues at the Thompson Center are well-documented, and just as Netsch provided possible solutions to issues at UIC that were ignored, Jahn has provided possible options for the Thompson Center that are being ignored. But whereas at UIC the form of the campus was diminished by the loss of the Circle Forum, its overall organization and many of its original buildings remain basically intact. Moreover, UIC continues to be a state institution, and as such, the architecture and urban design remain a powerful symbol of public access to higher education. While I believe strongly that a robust public life can and does occur in privately owned spaces, which could perhaps be the case at the Thompson Center should it be sold to a sympathetic owner, much more is at stake here. In an era of relentless privatization, where public institutions are under sustained attack, the sale of the Thompson Center would be a significant blow to the idea of public access to state government, and raises a much more fundamental question: Is the public institution, rather than its architecture, going out of style?
Placeholder Alt Text

Going Dutch

The Independent School for the City embraces activism as an ideology for sustainable urban development
In treating the city with an acupuncture-like approach, Rotterdam’s new Independent School for the City combines small-scale and temporary projects with activism to counteract the effects of tabula rasa planning. Strategies and solutions like ice cream trucks and radio stations exemplify the school’s broad perspective on architecture and urban design. The school recently closed its inaugural year with an exhibition of ideas from its eight-day spring program “Borders are for Crossing” which investigated the visible and invisible borders that create physical, social, and economic divisions. Traditionally, the Netherlands holds tremendous collective confidence in its representative democracy, but corporatism and privatization are slowly but surely finding ways to nest in the country. This phenomenon is most widespread in cities—neighborhoods fall, revitalize themselves, land values rebound, and gentrification and inequality follow. As the school sees it, the pattern leads to more conservatism and only expands the need for an activist attitude in architecture and urbanism. The school’s brand of urbanism is exemplified in its home, the Schieblock building, a modernist office building in the heart of the city, which is also home to the school’s founders, Dutch planning and design practices Crimson Architectural Historians and ZUS (Zones Urbaines Sensibles). The area around the Schieblock building had been grossly neglected,  but in 2009, amid the economic crisis, ZUS initiated a renovation of the building that secured six floors of central, flexible rental spaces for creative entrepreneurs. This act—taking a stake in the city—expresses the ideology that drives the Independent School’s agenda. This attitude grows from the credo of the school: independence. Rather than be obsessed with curricula and rankings, students are meant to be free to decide what topics are relevant and important to their fields. The school wants people to oscillate between craft, skill, and fields of knowledge, and wants to reimagine how topics are or could be related. Current research topics include migration, inequality, and climate change—though the school does not assert that these topics are original, new, or surprising. ZUS is now leading a studio and seminar summer program in New York City with Syracuse University titled “Gentrification Lab NYC.” Students will investigate architecture’s role and responsibility around issues of gentrification that revolve around economic, social, and political transformations. After three weeks of field research at the Fisher Center, Syracuse’s academic home base in the city,  students from that program will join the Independent School’s Climate Utopia summer program. Learning from both the U.S. and Europe will provide insight into how people have tried to adapt to their changing local conditions and how climate change, migration, and the need for housing form the critical triptych for the 21st century. The school will continue into the 2019–2020 academic year, offering 12-week and yearlong programs, workshops, and collective assignments. Additional programming includes “School’s Out,” a Friday night celebration open to the public featuring talks, films, drinks, food, and tunes. Previous visitors include Georgeen Theodore, Peter Barber, Dore van Duivenbode, Lesley Lokko, Dirk Sijmons, and Maria Lisogorskaya.