New England might not garner the attention that other places get for contemporary architecture, but the region has a legacy of world-class architecture, including some great works of modernism. Two iconic monuments of modern architecture in America are in New England—Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Alvar Aalto’s Baker House at MIT—along with seminal late-modern buildings such as Boston City Hall and the Yale Center for British Art. Today, many contemporary design stars have built structures across New England, including Frank Gehry, Rafael Moneo, Norman Foster, Herzog & de Meuron, Michael Hopkins, Renzo Piano, Charles Correa, Fumihiko Maki, and Tadao Ando. The finalists for a competition for a new contemporary art museum on Boston’s waterfront included Switzerland’s Peter Zumthor and Studio Granda from Iceland. The only local firm considered for the museum was the then relatively young Office dA; principals Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de León went on to fame as architectural educators beyond Boston. Although not unique to New England, the whole mentality of "if-you-are-good-you-must-be-from-somewhere-else" is found here. As one might expect, Boston is the center of most architectural activity in the region. Yet, despite a heroic postwar age of Brutalism, too much contemporary architecture barely rises above the level of commercial real estate. With the exception of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art and David Hacin’s District Hall, much of the frantic new downtown construction features the kind of glass boxes that pierce city skylines from Dubai to Shanghai. The city’s embarrassingly named Innovation District (often called the Inundation District due to its propensity for flooding) is scaleless, overbearing, and disconnected from the soul of Boston. OMA’s new scheme for the area—which the architects gratuitously refer to as “a dynamic and vibrant area that is quickly emerging as one of the most exciting neighborhoods and destinations in the country”—is an 18-story glass cube with the dreary moniker of 88 Seaport Boulevard. One might have hoped for more from OMA’s first Boston commission. The block will offer almost half a billion square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of retail, and a paltry 5,000 square feet for civic and cultural use. Its gimmick is slicing the building into two sections with some terracing and plantings sandwiched in between. OMA disingenuously claims this double-volume exercise “creates diverse typologies for diverse industries,” and furthermore “generates an opportunity to draw in the district’s public domain.” In short, Boston will get an off-the-shelf dystopian nightmare. However, the Engineering Research Center at Brown University by KieranTimberlake is not just another knockoff. Although flush from the controversial but triumphant U.S. Embassy in London, the Philadelphians’ latest New England project is what good contemporary architecture ought to be. The $88-million, 80,000-square-foot laboratory and classroom building is both understated and environmentally responsible. Its 22 pristine labs steer the Ivy League school into uncharted territory in nano research, energy studies, and information technology. The ERC is a triumph, especially given Brown’s decades of struggle to find an appropriate contemporary architectural voice. Recent work on the Providence campus includes an international relations institute by Rafael Viñoly—the design of which was dumbed down to mollify historic preservationists; a tepid Maya Lin sculpture; and an awkwardly sited Diller Scofidio + Renfro art center that was commissioned to show that Brown could do trendy and edgy. These common missteps are best exemplified by the university’s first competition for an athletic center. Although the competition was officially won by SHoP, the donor sponsoring it declared his dislike of modern architecture and demanded the school hire Robert A.M. Stern instead. The cutesy Georgian result is predictably bland. The ERC was ahead of schedule and under budget, and rather than treating Rhode Islanders as rubes, the architects created what Stephen Kieran calls “a nice piece of Providence urbanism.” While the firm’s great strength is diminishing the environmental impact of their buildings, the ERC also contributes a handsome facade to the campus’s traditional buildings. The fiberglass-reinforced concrete fins, the building’s signature element, impose a timeless probity worthy of Schinkel. If KieranTimberlake grows weary of being identified as the designers of the $1-billion embassy that Trump slammed as “lousy and horrible,” imagine how tired Tod Williams and Billie Tsien must be of consistently being tagged with the label “designers of the Obama Library.” Is a client choosing them because of the reflected fame? Will all new works by the New York-based architects be measured against that Chicago shrine? Yet Williams and Tsien have created a number of noteworthy academic works in New England that deserve similar attention, including buildings at Bennington and Dartmouth. Their theater and dance building at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire, is almost complete. Here, the very long shadow is not cast by the architects’ own projects, but by Louis Kahn’s library across campus. Kahn’s brick tribute to 19th-century Yankee mills—and the symmetry of Georgian style—is one of the great pieces of architecture in New England. The big block of the drama building by Williams and Tsien wisely does not choose to echo Kahn but is curiously almost a throwback to the early Brutalism of I. M. Pei. It establishes a more rugged character with a marvelous texture composed of gray Roman bricks. A more satisfying Granite State structure by Williams and Tsien is a library, archives, and exhibition complex at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. MacDowell is a century-old artists’ colony where thousands of painters, writers, and musicians, including James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Willa Cather, have sought quiet and isolation in a collection of rustic cabins in the woods. Thornton Wilder wrote his classic play Our Town during his time here. Williams and Tsien’s sensitive addition to the colony’s 1920s library is only 3,000 square feet, cost around $2 million, and is an exquisitely crafted gem. The single-story library is constructed of a nearly black granite. Set in a birch grove created by the leading modern landscape architects in Boston, Reed Hilderbrand, this gathering place for residents appears at one with the rocky soil and forests of Northern New England. A 23-foot-tall outdoor chimney flanking the entrance plaza to the library makes reference to the hearths in all of the MacDowell studios. It also looks like a primitive stele, giving the entire ensemble an aspect that is more primal than modern. Another prominent New York architect, Toshiko Mori, has produced a simple yet elegant warehouse for an art museum in the faded seaport and art destination of Rockland, Maine. Built to house a long-time contemporary art cooperative that had no permanent collection and only inadequate facilities for exhibitions and classes, the saw-toothed clerestories at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA) make reference to New England factories while bringing in what the architect calls “that special Maine light.” Like those functional structures, Mori used economical, non-custom materials such as plasterboard and corrugated zinc that wrap the exterior, embracing the lack of funds to her advantage. Despite the nod to Rockland’s working class vibe, Mori created a thoughtfully wrought sophisticated work of art on an unremarkable side street. Mori’s Japanese heritage comes through in her subtle proportions based on a 4-foot grid. The CMCA offers a refreshing contrast to extravagantly costly new museums by superstar architects—the 11,000-square-foot arts center cost only $3.5 million. Mori has crafted a museum based on flexibility rather than attitude. A summer resident of nearby North Haven, she endowed her simple statement with an air of Yankee frugality. But perhaps the most encouraging new project is the $52-million John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A cooperative venture of three departments in three different colleges—architecture, landscape, and building technology—the autumn-hued, aluminum-wrapped school embodies the dynamic spirit of New England’s first publicly supported architecture program. The 87,000-square-foot studio and administrative space is the work of Boston–based Leers Weinzapfel and landscape designer Stephen Stimson, with contributions from the faculty-cum-clients. Construction Technology chair Alexander Schreyer, for example, a guru of heavy-timber structural systems, helped fashion what is perhaps the largest wood-frame building on the East Coast. The zipper trusses that span the 84-by-56-foot, two-story-high common area demonstrate the inventiveness of wood technology. The glulam trusses arrived on-site precut and were snapped together with pins. In short, the academic contributors got to show off their research and also benefit from it. In a region noted for some of the nation’s oldest and most renowned design schools, the Design Building announces the arrival of the new kid on the block. Its handsome envelope is pierced by asymmetrically placed tall and narrow fenestration as a nod to the doors of the tobacco barns that are the university’s neighbors in Massachusetts’s Pioneer Valley. From its roots as a fledgling offering in the art department in the early 1970s, design education at UMass has grown into a powerhouse. As the core of a complex of postwar and contemporary architecture, the Design Building helps to bring Roche Dinkeloo’s Brutalist Fine Arts Center into contact with a business school designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). While BIG’s work is sometimes incredibly innovative, the firm’s UMass project looks as if it might be another example of a second-tier work foisted on a boondocks location. Less flashy than its newer neighbor, Leers Weinzapfel’s Design Building is nonetheless a bold, homegrown achievement. New England’s patrimony is a tapestry of local and outside talent. A significant regional building would not be a postmodern structure in the shape of a lighthouse or a neotraditional re-creation of a Richardson library, but something like the UMass studios. Capturing the spirit of the best of New England design depends little upon reputation and huge expenditure. Rather, there is a direct correlation between realizing a quality work of art and understanding the region’s history of wresting a hard-won life from the granite earth. The challenge for successfully practicing architecture in New England is accepting an uncompromising intellectual toughness that demands respect for the eminently practical as well as the aspirational.
Posts tagged with "OMA":
AMO’s tradition of experimentation with imagery, jokey self-referential installations, and the power of perception has arrived in China. From now through August 14, True Me will be on display at the 798 Art Factory in Beijing, presenting guests with distorted selfies, monochrome rooms, and anime-inspired installations. True Me was organized in conjunction with AMO, the Chinese selfie app (and data vacuum) Meitu, and the Beijing Contemporary Arts Foundation to celebrate Meitu’s new logo. The show simultaneously skewers and celebrates “selfie culture”: wavy mirror walls wrap the exhibitions and line the show’s circulation, warping the reflections of guests as they move through the Art Factory. According to AMO, this is to show patrons their heavily post-produced “outer self” that social media users project on image sharing apps. The “inner self” is represented too, with six installations meant to evoke visitors’ raw, softer internal life. These spaces are covered in felt, flannel, and grass, and contain photogenic backdrops that were highly influenced by pop culture. Ironically enough, each installation is highly Instagrammable and will likely feature in just as many “outer self” photographs. The spaces range from neon-pink cosmetic mockups, to a faux arcade wallpapered with anime characters in dynamic poses, to a giant backlit eye, to a long purple hall containing alternative versions of the Meitu logo. True Me was led by OMA Partner and Asia Director Chris van Duijn and is AMO’s first exhibition in China. It’s far from AMO’s parent firm OMA’s first project in the country, however. Most recently the firm won a competition to master plan and design an enormous “Unicorn Island” in Chengdu.
OMA has been selected by the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) to design the new Jersey City Museum, which will become the largest arts and culture center in Jersey City, New Jersey, once complete. OMA and AEA Consulting will provide architectural and programmatic guidance for the city-owned art museum respectively, while AMO will conduct in-house research and design. The museum is slated to open inside of the 57,000-square-foot Pathside Building near Journal Square and will be Jersey City's largest art center, according to OMA. Despite bearing the Jersey City Museum name, the new museum will reportedly have no connection to the former Jersey City Museum nor use its existing collection. The original Jersey City Museum was founded in 1901, but attendance and fundraising steadily dwindled until the museum shuttered in 2010 and its collection was moved into storage. “Historically, Journal Square was not only a transportation hub but also a cultural center,” said OMA partner-in-charge and project lead Jason Long in a press release. “At a time where museums are increasingly serving as dynamic spaces that engage both local communities and global audiences, we are looking forward to working with the Mayor to transform the Pathside Building into a catalyst for Jersey City’s cultural and civic renaissance.” The five-story Pathside Building is located, fittingly enough, adjacent to the Journal Square PATH station, a heavily trafficked stop on the PATH train line for commuters on their way to and from Manhattan. Mayor Steven Fulop’s administration hopes that the proximity to mass transportation will help draw crowds to the new institution. “This Museum and community space is an incredibly important investment not only for the future of Journal Square, but for our City and region as well,” said Mayor Fulop. “I am excited to continue moving this project forward with the help of OMA/AMO and AEA, who have proven their expertise in museum development, and I am confident that they will help us define our vision for a space that will become a destination for artists and visitors alike.” The Jersey City Museum will focus mainly on visual artists, and a section of the building will be reserved exclusively for local artists. No design details or estimated completion date have been announced yet, but this won't be the first arts institution that the OMA New York office has tackled this year.
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery released its latest schematic designs in the AK360 expansion project, revealing a new direction from the previous controversial design concept. The new plan, which was developed in coordination with local, state, and national preservationists, was approved unanimously on Monday night by the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the board that oversees the gallery, according to Buffalo News. Under the new iteration of the AK360 Campus Development and Expansion plan developed by OMA and firm partner Shohei Shigematsu, a freestanding building will be added to the north side of the historic campus that houses the gallery in Buffalo, New York. The new building adds 29,000 square feet of space for displaying special exhibitions and the museum’s permanent collection, allowing the number of artworks that can be displayed to increase dramatically. The extension is also planned to have a double-height wraparound promenade as well as a translucent facade to connect the interior of the building to the site, a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed landscape. This ensures the preservation of the existing Gordon Bunshaft building built in 1962, which was an addition to the original Beaux-Arts museum that was built in 1905. OMA still plans to add improvements to the 1962 building taken from the first design concept. Changes include adding a new education wing in the lower level, transforming the surface level parking lot into a green landscape, and adding a new point of entry into the east façade. The open-air courtyard in the 1962 building will be covered to serve as an “indoor town square” and open the space up for year-round activities. A “scenic bridge” will connect the new north building to the original 1905 building, weaving through the Olmsted Park. Previous expansion plans included drastically transforming the Bunshaft building, rattling preservationists and igniting controversy. OMA/Shohei Shigematsu was first chosen as the lead designer for the expansion in June 2016 and released their first design concept in 2017, which proposed building two architectural volumes—one that would hover above the sculpture garden of the Bunshaft building and one that would be constructed underground along the original gallery. Opposition to that plan halted it from moving forward, until now. Fundraising for the project is almost complete—approximately $125 million is raised for the $155 million project. More refined plans for the expansion will emerge over the next months during the design development phase, which is expected to continue into 2019. Construction is aimed for fall 2019 with an expected opening in 2021.
Situated on a narrow Lower East Side lot between Delancey and Rivington Streets, ODA’s just-completed 100 Norfolk is designed to maximize square footage, starting with a tightly-constricted base, and widening as it rises; taking advantage of its neighboring buildings’ air rights. This reverse-ziggurat strategy is a time-honored one, particularly in tightly-packed cities like New York. Some, like ODA’s, max out tight spots, others create unique programs, or are simply meant to impress by defying gravity. Here are some of our favorites, both realized and not: OMA 23 E 22nd Street A luxury condo set on a tight site down the street from the Flatiron Building, OMA’s 23 E 22nd Street was set to widen over the neighboring building, still leaving room for light and views above and beneath. KPF 40 E 22nd Street For its glassy residential tower just down the street from OMA’s site, KPF used almost the exact same strategy — albeit less dramatically. It’s 40 E 22nd Street, aka Madison Square Park Tower, may have “borrowed” OMA’s idea, but it also actually got built. Adjaye Associates, Bond/SmithGroup National Museum of African American History and Culture David Adjaye’s National Museum of African American History and Culture uses this strategy to help tell a story: in this case African Americans’ passage from slavery into freedom. The museum starts underground, and—thank to bronze-colored walls hanging from massive girders—opens up as visitors progress upward. Kengo Kuma, V&A Dundee drone footage of kengo kuma's V&A museum of design, dundee from designboom on Vimeo. Sometimes inversion works effectively simply for its wow factor. Kuma’s three story building for the V&A in Dundee, Scotland is made up of 21 wall sections, composed of 2,500 pre-cast rough stone panels—none of them straight—creating the appearance of a Scottish cliff face. Harvard Jolly, W Architecture, St. Petersburg Pier (courtesy Harvard Jolly) Located at the end of the St. Petersburg Pier, Harvard Jolly's steel-framed inverted ziggurat (top) served as a festival marketplace from 1973 until 2013. Michael Maltzan was first slated to replace the design, but that plan fell through. Now the project is being led by Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, who seem to be creating yet another inverted structure (bottom), lifted high off the water. Kallmann, McKinnell, & Knowles, Boston City Hall Another example of the symbolic use of the inverted ziggurat is Boston City Hall, a structure whose glassy base is designed to welcome local residents (whether it does that or not is very debatable,) while offices above shade this space and through their extension announce the importance of the public officials inside. Konstantin Melnikov, Rusakov Workers Club Constructivist master Konstantin Melnikov created ever-changing, ingeniously adaptable buildings, including this communist workers club in Moscow, whose upper balconies protrude noticeably from its façade, allowing them to be closed off (via moving partitions) as independent spaces for art, athletics, and so on, or moved into place as theater seating.
Morphosis Architects is one of the four winning design firms in the running to design Chengdu’s Unicorn Island in China’s Sichuan province, competing with Foster + Partners, a team of Arata Isozaki & Associates and Jun Aoki & Associates, and OMA. As China transitions towards a technology-oriented service economy, Unicorn Island was imagined as a centralized location where start-ups and established companies would be given the resources to grow. Whereas OMA’s plan for the island involved a crosshatch of different buildings for start-ups ringed by headquarters for the Unicorn companies (worth $1 billion or more), Morphosis has designed a series of curvilinear facilities that wrap around the island’s edge. While the island in Chengdu is small, Morphosis took the opportunity to bring big ideas, designing a campus that would be walkable, sustainable, and accessible via mass transit while also building up the city’s skyline. The firm broke the 165-acre island up into four quadrants, with each representing a stage of a Unicorn company’s growth. Flexible office space can be found in all four sections, as well as shared community amenities and a central park and hub for each. The northwestern quadrant has been set aside for education and will contain offshoots of the universities found in Chengdu proper, while the convention and showcase quadrant to the southwest will allow companies to demonstrate their wares. The eastern half of the island would be broken into north and south innovation quadrants, holding accelerator spaces, labs, and administrative support services. At the island’s core would be a massive “Unicorn Tower,” which would serve as the headquarters for the campus’s most successful companies. Other than the central tower, Morphosis chose to keep the other buildings low-slung and accessible from the ground level. Pedestrian access across the island was prioritized, and park-to-park walkways were overlain across the entire site. A proposed metro station near the Unicorn Tower would put most of the island within walking distance from mass transit. For their scheme, Morphosis worked with engineers Buro Happold. No estimated completion or start date has been announced yet.
Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, is rapidly transitioning towards a service-based economy and has enlisted OMA’s help in growing its local tech companies. Following an international design competition sponsored by the Chengdu government, OMA and three other high-profile studios have been chosen to master plan a Unicorn Island for startups and more established tech companies alike. OMA has designed a campus that weaves over the entire island, with skyways that overlap and interconnect, which they call a weave. At the island’s core is the Living Lab, a domed complex with working labs that will be open to the public. Branching out from the Living Lab will be the weave, which will hold startups and “Gazelles” (tech companies worth $1 million or more). The weave has been envisioned as a community space, and OMA has described the area as “village-like” in its project description; this interior section will contain residential housing for employees, a mix of office typologies, and amenity spaces meant to foster mingling between different companies. Along the island’s edge will be headquarters for the "Unicorns" (technology companies worth $1 billion or more), with room for expansion as the companies in the weave increase in value and relocate outwards. From the renderings, it appears that the complex will be massive and extend all the way across Unicorn Island. Interestingly, everything except the waterfront headquarters will be elevated; roads will pass below the floating weave, with four courtyards set aside, one on each block. OMA has also revealed some of the tower typologies that will be present in the weave, including a circulation tower, sports tower, education tower, and relaxation tower for the 16 cores. With such a tightly-condensed campus, parking had to be moved underground. From the site plans, it seems that parking will run under nearly the entire island, with the exception of the area below the Living Lab, which will become an underground plaza. The design of Unicorn Island was led by Chris van Duijn, OMA Partner and Director of OMA Asia. Mobility in Chain provided the traffic consultation and Transsolar acted as the climate engineer. No estimated completion date or project cost has been revealed at the time of writing. The other three winners of the design competition include Morphosis, Foster + Partners, and a team composed of Arata Isozaki & Associates and Jun Aoki & Associates.
Following another recent Twitter spree and a series of problematic, rambling public interviews, multidisciplinary artist and designer Kanye West has announced the creation of a new architecture arm called “Yeezy Home” that will seek to expand West’s creative output to include architectural and urban design. In a late-night tweet, the Hidden Hills, California-based rapper solicited the talent of aspiring designers, calling for “architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better.” https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/993221454740185088?s=21 West’s cryptic tweet comes just over a week after the controversial creative visited the Southern California Institute of Architecture’s (SCI-Arc) Spring Show, a showcase of the school’s spring semester work. The visit prompted a tweet from Kanye highlighting the work of M.Arch I student Ashley Morgan Hastings and her desalination-focused project. Following the visit, West tweeted out praise for the student: https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/990734224670867456?s=21 West has a long history of associating himself and collaborating with architects and designers, including a 2012 collaboration with Dutch architects OMA for the design of the 7 Screen Pavilion project, a pyramid-shaped projection room used to screen West’s Cruel Summer film at the Cannes Film Festival. Amid an earlier tweetstorm two weeks ago, West unveiled Axel Vervoordt-designed the interiors for the mausoleum-like Hidden Hills home shared with wife Kim Kardashian. The top-secret designs follow previous collaborations with New York City-based Family and London, England-based architect John Pawson. After proclaiming his “obligation to show people new ideas” following West’s renewed support for Donald Trump in a recent song, Kanye’s latest foray into design seems to be more involved, however. CityLab reports that the rapper recently purchased a 300-acre property in Los Angeles that West intends on developing himself. In a wide-ranging interview with Charlemagne Tha God, West hints at his future plans, saying, “Yeah, we’re going to develop cities.”
With the opening of OMA’s Torre for Fondazione Prada, tours of midcentury Villa Borsani, and (a few days late to the Design Week party and thus not included here) the completion of Zaha Hadid Architects’ Generali Tower, Milan Design Week 2018 was exceptionally steeped in architecture. There was the usual abundance of collaborations with architects, such as Alejandro Aravena for Artemide, John Pawson for Swarovski, and David Rockwell’s The Diner with Cosentino and Design Within Reach, but it was the host of architectural installations and interventions that took it over the top. Here are ten memorable architectural moments of Milan Design Week 2018. Garage Traversi The rationalist 1938 Garage Traversi in Milan’s Montenapoleone District received a facade makeover by Studio Job for Milan Design Week. The Pop Art mural comes in advance of the building’s renovation into a “luxury hub” by British private equity fund Hayrish. The reinforced concrete building, originally designed by architect Giacomo de Min, sits on an odd lot, leading to it being built like a fan and resulting in its popularity. The iconic building has been unused for 15 years, but has retained its reputation as a cultural and architectural landmark. U-JOINT PlusDesign Gallery hosted an immensely satisfying architectural exhibition on joints. The group show offered joints of all sizes, materials, and shapes to demonstrate its importance in objects and buildings alike. Over 50 designers, studios, and research institutes, including Alvar Aalto, Aldo Bakker, Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby, Konstantin Grcic, Jonathan Nesci, Cecilie Manz, Self-Assembly Lab MIT, and Jonathan Olivares, displayed prototypes and products. My Dream Home by Piero Lissoni “My Dream Home,” an installation by Piero Lissoni, stacks twelve shipping containers vertically to host an exhibition by photographers Elisabetta Illy and Stefano Guindani of photos taken in Haiti alongside drawings by Haitian children of their dream homes. Lissoni chose to build with containers as an inexpensive, sustainable option that could potentially be used for multi- and single-family homes in Haiti. Altered States Snarkitecture is no stranger to Milan Design Week installations. For its most recent, the firm partnered with Caesarstone to create “Altered States” inside the 19th-century Palazzo dell'Ufficio Elettorale di Porta Romana. The installation examined water in its three forms (ice, liquid, steam/vapor) and the way it appears in nature (glacier, river, geyser) through a collection of kitchen islands made from Caesarstone’s quartz surface material. Villa Borsani In advance of an exhibition curated by Norman Foster and Osvaldo Borsani’s grandson, the Villa Borsani opened to visitors after being newly decorated by curator Ambra Medda, who collaborated with various artists to bring in floral arrangements, scents, and a playlist that enliven the midcentury villa. James Wines X Foscarini James Wines/SITE collaborated with Foscarini to make the “Reverse Room,” a slanting black box that houses a limited edition set of lights called "The Lightbulb Series." Wines relied on his research on subconscious spatial expectations to keep visitors constantly surprised. “This series comes from the idea of disrupting the classic design of incandescent light bulbs,” Wines said in a statement. “An idea that suggests a critical reflection on the absolutely non-iconic forms of modern LED lamps. The concept, implemented by Foscarini, stems from research on the spontaneous way people identify with forms and functions of everyday objects. In this case, the light bulbs merge crack, shatter, and burn out, overturning any expectations.” Fondazione Prada On April 18, the Fondazione Prada completed the latest, and last, building in its 200,000-square-foot Milan complex. Torre, designed by Rem Koolhaas, Chris van Duijn, and Federico Pompignoli of OMA, is wrapped in white concrete and nearly 197 feet tall. This form offers a two-fold experience: From the exterior, the spare, modern block contrasts with the more ornate buildings of the campus (the Italianate-style entry building, gold-painted tower, and the mirror-clad theater, among others) and from the interior, sweeping views of the surrounding industrial neighborhood. At the back of the building, an exterior elevator core is intersected by a diagonal form that connects the Torre to the adjacent Deposito gallery. The elevator's interior is painted an electrifying hot pink, framing the panorama of the campus in madcap fashion. The gallery's floors, currently occupied by the exhibition Atlas, are similarly eclectic. Floor plans alternate between trapezoidal and rectangular and the ceiling heights increase from about 9 feet on the first floor to 26 feet on the top floor, with glowing pink staircases in between. Even so, the space complements rather than competes with massive, immersive installations from heavy-hitting artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. (Although the maze-like entrance to Carsten Höller's Upside Down Mushroom is so dark, this writer ran into a wall.) 3D Housing 05 Massimiliano Locatelli | CLS Architetti collaborated with Arup, Italcementi, and Cybe to 3-D print a 1,076-square-foot house on-site. The house, located in front of the Piazza Cesare Beccaria, demonstrated that 3-D printing could be used as a sustainable and feasible construction method. The house was 3-D printed from a recycled concrete that, in the event the house is destroyed, could be reused to make a new structure. Lexus Design Award This year marked two firsts for the 2018 Lexus Design Award (LDA) Grand Prix Winner: It was the first time an American design team took home the prize, and the first time a workshop, rather than a product, won. New York design research studio, Extrapolation Factory, “studies the future” and helps communities create and experience their cities’ futures through workshops and activities. “We all have a vested interest in the future. But how many people have taken a class in futures?” asked Extrapolation Factory cofounder Elliott P. Montgomery. “We’ve had classes in history, math, science, but we are never taught how to think about the future. And this seems like a glaring omission in our country’s education.” Montgomery and his cofounder Christopher Woebken conducted a workshop at the Queens Museum and presented a video alongside a few props as their LDA presentation. The unusual urban planning project garnered praise for its focus on community and its exploration of society, technology, and environment. “It’s completely different than the other participants because it isn’t product-based. It is about education and using design as a way to engage with people, and given the context of the theme, CO-, we felt that was incredibly important,” said Simone Farresin of Formafantasma, who mentored the Extrapolation Factory for the LDA. MINI Living House London-based architecture firm Studiomama created four modular co-living spaces for MINI. Each module had its own color and built-in furniture “totems” that distinguish the space’s personality. The four units share communal spaces, including a kitchen (shown above), a dining area, a gym, and home theater space.
A new profile rises almost 200 feet above the tangled web of railroad tracks cutting across southern Milan, dominating the otherwise flat skyline. Following the white concrete nine-story beacon to its source will land you in the OMA-designed Prada Foundation, officially inaugurated in 2015 (the tower was originally scheduled to open at this time). As the final notch in the Prada family’s campus–which boasts a pastel-soaked Wes Anderson-designed cafe-bar, a mirrored cinema, and a gold-leaf-encrusted “Haunted House” amid the century-old refurbished warehouses–Torre, the long-delayed tower is an appropriately startling final act for a foundation that intends to “activate and challenge the senses,” according to its Press Officer Nicolo Scialanga. “It’s not a passive building,” OMA’s Federico Pompignoli says simply of the tower. Working with Rem Koolhaas and Chris van Duijn, Pompignoli has overseen every conceivable aspect of the Foundation’s design since the start of the firm’s collaboration with the Prada family, even moving to the Italian city in 2013 to be closer to the construction. “Instead, every single space becomes a special occasion, an opportunity to curate oneself.” We are sitting on the cantilevering terrace outside the sixth-floor restaurant on perfect Milanese afternoon. The furniture flanks the glassy wall, which retreats to the original alignments of the building while exposing the bar inside. As the triangular terrace narrows, it meets the glass wall at what Pompignoli refers to as the “total convergence point” of the building. It’s among his favorite details in the zig-zagging tower. “We are not fans of the white cube,” admits Pompignoli. “So when Miuccia Prada gave us a brief to develop a building responding to this display condition, we responded with a series of vertical variations that test the architecture as well as the art.” But to merely call the building idiosyncratic would be to ignore the calculated irregularity of the building, which plays out through three main conditions. The floor shape, height, and orientation are used “as axonometrics” to develop nine floors that are “completely different” from each other, suggests Pompignoli. The result is sort of like an architectural Rubik’s Cube, where each floor’s unique style can play out independently and in unexpected ways while remaining rooted to the others through the building’s concrete core. “It’s an attempt at the white cube defying its own boringness,” says Pompignoli. The result is a space that not only stretches vertically, but somehow also through all directions at once. The windows start at under nine feet tall on the first floor and expand to nearly three times this height by the top level. This plasticity creates a sense of mounting anticipation (perhaps a more fitting name here than their recent Parisian project) through not just expanding space but also ever-increasing light. Ascending the tower, the grassy abandon of the railway tracks is replaced by Milan’s receding skyscrapers to the north, which ultimately yield to the brilliant blue sky by the time you hit the restaurant on the sixth floor. Cool light washes over the kitsch interiors of the restaurant, featuring ceramic pieces by Lucio Fontana; it’s more bourgeois Italian Grandma than bleak white cube minimalism. “Like the Prada Foundation at large, the tower is a vertical sequence of surprises and challenges,” suggests Pompignioli. This sensation is magnified by the dynamic floorplan and orientation of the six floors of gallery space, which alternates the glass side from north to east on each floor while maintaining the same silhouette. As you linger in the galleries to take in the art–a sampling of Miuccia Prada’s contemporary collection, ranging from impaled cadillacs by Walter De Maria to Carsten Höller’s magic twirling mushrooms–each level of the tower feels like a new space, without requiring (or justifying) an explanation. Thankfully, OMA seems less than interested in revealing the logic behind their magic tricks of space and light, preferring, like the tower, to leave much up in the air. This motif plays out in another of the architect’s favorite spots: the “ghost” scissored staircase backlit with two-tone millennial pink fluorescence, and where a sheet of glass separates two sets of public and emergency stairs–one white, the other gray– that never meet. In addition to the vertical expansion, OMA’s surprises also lie in the details: like the bathrooms on the second and eighth floors. I start to protest about the cladding detail in the first-floor bathrooms, where individual mirrored stalls open into a trippy black and lime green gridded washroom that conceals the door leading to the toilets. His response is just about as close as you can get to a riddle without telling one: “It could be true that we should make the handles a bit more clear, but it is also true that if you find yourself in a toilet, somewhere there should be a door.” Ultimately, the tower is a space where the curious and the wanderers will be rewarded. In this sense, it is a decisive contrast to the standard operating logic of the white cube. There’s also plenty of moments for second glances–like the view from the staircase between the sixth and seventh floors, which gives a spectacular view down to the tower’s burly support beam that anchors into the rooftop of a century-old distillery warehouse–and for serendipitous encounter, like an apparent dead-end that leads into the second floor’s gallery space (where Jeff Koons’ bouquet of candy-colored steel tulips is presented like a reward). Above all, there’s a feeling of triumph that hits when you stumble out onto the restaurant terrace–out of breath and disoriented from the climb up the staircase–and you are rewarded with a panoramic view of Milan’s skyline. “The rooftop terrace is the last surprise of this tower,” explains Pompignioli. “For us, it’s another opportunity for public programming, a place to go that’s not necessarily linked to the art.” A closer look at the surface of terrace reveals the exact same type of brick used on to pave Prada Foundation’s outdoor campus some 60 meters below: a public space that can be accessed without buying a ticket to the exhibitions. With its own entrance directly from the street, the restaurant connects the Foundation to the rest of the city in unprecedented ways. “Here, we are inviting the city to see itself from an entirely new perspective.”
OMA’s first cultural building for California has been revealed, as the firm provided a first look at the forthcoming Audrey Irmas Pavilion in Los Angeles, a cultural center for the neighboring Wilshire Boulevard Temple. OMA New York was commissioned for the project after winning a design contest in 2015, and the completed cultural center will sit next to, and dialogue with, L.A.'s oldest synagogue. The historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple was built in 1929 in the Byzantine-Revival style, and deference to the institution informed the Audrey Irmas Pavilion’s design. The serious slope on the building’s west façade will push it away from the existing temple, while it also leans south and away from a historic school. Located on an intersection, the dramatic forces that influenced the building’s orientation have also resulted in the pavilion “reaching out” to Wilshire Boulevard. “We wanted to focus on communicating the energy of gathering and exchange,” said lead designer Shohei Shigematsu in a statement. “The pavilion is an active gesture, shaped by respectful moves away from the surrounding historic buildings, reaching out onto Wilshire Boulevard to create a new presence. Within the building, a series of interconnected meeting spaces at multiple scales provide ultimate flexibility for assembly while maintaining visual connections that establish outdoor indoor porosity and moments of surprise encounters.” The pavilion will hold three distinct gathering spaces throughout, including a main event space, smaller multi-purpose room, and a sunken garden. Each of the interior spaces will be stacked vertically and arranged to give visitors specifically framed views, while remaining interlinked. The scattered openings across the pavilion’s hexagonal façade are meant to filter light to each gathering space while also reorienting guests to the rest of the campus. “Audrey Irmas Pavilion, designed by OMA—the firm’s first cultural building in California—will offer an irresistible invitation to gather, celebrate, learn and reach out to others,” said Rabbi Steve Leder in a statement. “In a city so large and diverse, we need community, and we need inspiring, welcoming places. Los Angeles deserves a modern masterpiece devoted to bringing people together, located in the heart of the city’s most diverse neighborhood. We are very proud that Wilshire Boulevard Temple will be a vital part of a cultural, religious and socially conscious conversation that is defining 21st Century Los Angeles.” The Audrey Irmas Pavilion is named after philanthropist Audrey Irmas, who spearheaded the capital campaign for the project in 2015 with a $30 million donation. The L.A.-based Studio-MLA will be serving as the project's landscape architect, while Gruen Associates are cited as the executive architect. OMA expects to break ground on the center this year, with plans to open in 2020.
With 800 million active users and 95 million photos and videos shared each day, Instagram is affecting our visual perception like no other platform. Users distribute literally millions of photos, spreading trends, popularizing places, and ultimately, influencing built and designed environments. Although it is still early for major buildings to outwardly reflect Instagram’s impact, architecture is rapidly becoming saturated from the inside out. Philippe Maidenberg, known for his interior work in hotels across Paris and the UK, including the Holiday House London, is very aware of how social media has altered clients’ expectations. “Clients have shifted from thinking about design to envisioning new ways of life,” he explained. “Hotel owners want public spaces that are more alive and more comfortable than ever before; office owners want spaces that look like hotels. The standards are getting higher and higher for the greater good.” In New York, firms like Paperwhite Studio and Home Studios have made veritable reputations from crafting “Instagrammable interiors” for restaurants such as Jack’s Wife Freda, Cha Cha Matcha (Paperwhite), and Elsa, Ramona, Sisters, and The Spaniard (Home Studios). Rich, memorable colors, personal touches—down to the custom sugar packets—and dramatic moments such as sweeping brass lamps and neon signs all apparently contribute to the restaurants’ Instagram popularity. Maidenberg believes the portmanteau “Instagrammable” merely means photogenic: “In reality, every space inside a project has to be ‘Instagrammable.’ There is a similar way of thinking among architects, directors, and photographers. On the top of their minds, they’re always considering, ‘What will visitors see when they see the building? When they go inside the building? How can we surprise them?’” Obviously, the basic notion of creating photogenic architecture is not new. It can almost be simplified to a 21st-century version of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s “ducks” versus “decorated sheds” in Learning From Las Vegas. But although there are definite parallels to postmodernism replacing modernism and maximalism writ large in pastel whimsy replacing high-minded minimalism, new equivalent definitions of ducks and decorated sheds remain murky. Somewhere in this vague category is the plethora of “museums” that opened in 2017. More pop-up galleries than actual museums, these repositories of vibrant mise-en-scènes provide opportunities for snap-happy visitors to create totally next-level selfies to share with their friends. The most notable are the Museum of Ice Cream (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami), the Color Factory (San Francisco), and 29 Rooms (Los Angeles and Brooklyn). And by notable, we mean that going up against museums such as the Louvre, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Ice Cream landed the tenth spot on Instagram’s “Most Instagrammed Museums” list in 2017, and its Los Angeles location alone claimed the sixth top spot in “Most Instagrammed Museums in the U.S.” Legitimate museums have taken note, crafting photo-worthy installations and creating hashtags to promote sharing across social media. “It’s a level of feedback that we have never really had before,” said Andrea Lipps, assistant curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. “People do use the hashtags, and then we notice the trends of where people are taking these photos and how they are accessing the information and what they are interested in. It’s become a really valuable tool.” But those whose work is on display may see it differently. Brooklyn-based artist and designer Sebastian Errazuriz believes that the best name for these spaces and our new era of obsessive image sharing is “prop art.” “It is very disappointing to see work being misused as a prop for a self-portrait because when that happens, it stops being seen,” Errazuriz said. “And when more content is created just to be shared and to function as a prop, more people will see that as successful content to create and will emulate it.” At the same time, Errazuriz learned to harness the power of Instagram early when he created the entrance installation for the Collective Design Fair in 2013: a series of box fans that had “Blow Me” written across them in neon. “The ‘Blow Me’ fan, if you see it just by itself, is a funny association that is provocative and sexual in nature. But, when I get commissioned to design something like an entry piece in an art fair, I am essentially being told, ‘Go, Sebastian, do that thing you do, do the monkey dance, show me something impressive.’ So, in this case, I made a fan that literally blows them away. It takes a lot of balls for the artist to say ‘blow me,’ and it takes a lot of balls for the client to tell everyone to ‘blow me.’ Then, it has the neon pink which is the cliché of every art fair and was designed as a square precisely to be as Instagrammable as possible. It generated more press than the whole fair combined; and I did the monkey dance and it undermined the effects of the fair.… It was all about distilling enormous amount of stuff in one thing.” Errazuriz was also concerned about the implications of the Snapchat x Jeff Koons Balloon Dog in Central Park. “There is a very real risk of corporations like Snapchat taking over the digital art space and dictating new representations of what art is, like Jeff Koons’s Balloon Dog,” Errazuriz said. “So when I saw that, everyone in my studio stopped what we were doing and in 24 hours managed to recreate an exact replica of the dog, tagged it with graffiti, uploaded it, geotagged it to the same destination, submitted it to Snapchat, and sent out the press release. I think it generated a lot of interesting articles about public space and the notion of virtual vandalizing.” This is the inherent irony in Instagram: Even as designers and architects decry its influence, they are aware that they rely on it. Consider OMA: When it updated its website in 2014, the firm opted to change its landing page to an Instagram feed with software that picked up the geotagged images in a certain perimeter around OMA’s buildings and projects. “We’ve discovered that amateur pictures tell a different story,” said OMA partner Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli. “There are a lot of unexpected surprises and beautiful moments that are not as present in staged photography.” Shifting the power of perspective to boundless viewers creates possibilities, but also engenders limitations. The art, design, and fashion worlds have already begun to chafe against the effects of shortened trend cycles, altered client demands, and distorted design priorities. Will architecture follow suit? #maybe.