With a theoretical site on Mahattan’s 57th Street—the so-called Billionaires’ Row—New York–based Mark Foster Gage Architects (MFGA) was recently asked, “What is the next generation of luxury?” The firm's answer? To bring “higher resolution” to those projects by working at a range of textural scales, and his proposed theoretical tower has been making waves in design conversation around the city. For instance, from far away, the building reads as a figure in the skyline, but up close, there is another level of detail that is not legible from far away. Even closer, the ornament has another level of “resolution” that makes it more visually interesting. Gage told AN that the idea comes from a Leon Krier drawing where a man is looking at a column, and then zooms in to see a capital, and then zooms in even further to see an egg-and-dart pattern. The same man then looks at a Modernist building, which looks like a grid. When he zooms in he sees another grid, and then zooms in again to see another grid. Gage wants to develop this concept for the 21st century, creating high- to super-high resolutions using a technique called “kitbashing,” or taking parts of readily available models and repurposing and reanimating them together as a new whole. Three-dimensional models from the internet become like new primitives for MFGA, where a new vocabulary emerges from a wealth of new shapes. “Architecture, and especially abstraction, has become about picking out products,” Gage told AN. “If a building is going to be 102 stories, it should give more to the city than just a facade product.” He cites Rockefeller Center as a building that has multiple readings, from its iconic profile to the narrative relief sculptures on its walls. The proposed tower on 57th Street does not have the overt political meaning that Rockefeller’s ornament does. Gage is adamant about not assigning symbolic meaning to his architecture. He would rather choose the figures for their formal qualities, and let people assign meaning. And people have certainly been assigning meaning. “The comments are hilarious,” said Gage. Critics’ comments include everything from speculation that Bruce Wayne bought the penthouse, to musings about a 21st century Gothic, to comparisons to a temple to the Norse god Odin. Others likened it to Gaudi and Michelangelo. A person going by the name Andres Duany on a University of Miami listserv had the quote of the day. “NO! Ornament must be handcrafted. We must and we will wrench the clock back two centuries!!! That will assure that is [sic] is good ornament. The good looking and durable is the guaranteed result of handcraft. The bad looking and soon-to-be-decrepit is the inevitable result of machine production. Plus returning to handcraft will employ oodles of workers in a satisfying way.” However, aesthetics are slippery slope. Everyone has different opinions. What matters here is that while the forms are extreme, they carry with them a significant set of ideas about ornament in our time, and the importance of resisting the simplification of architecture into a monotonous skyline of dull boxes. With a boom of residential construction producing a large percentage of high-profile architecture in New York and other cities, many of the most exciting projects are not experienced by the public as an actual building, but rather as an image, or a part of a landscape or skyline. In this regard, the contribution architects can make to the city remains mostly visual. Thus, aesthetic research remains important and timely.
Posts tagged with "Andres Duany":
Prominent planner and architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk has stepped down as dean of University of Miami’s (UM) architecture school after an 18-year-long tenure. Plater-Zyberk will continue to teach at UM, whose faculty she joined in 1979. During Plater-Zyberk’s term, UM’s architecture school became closely associated with traditional and Classical design and New Urbanism. The celebrated dean and her husband, planner and architect Andres Duany, are co-founders of Arquitectonica and planners of the pedestrian-friendly Seaside, a Florida panhandle town and setting of the movie Truman Show. Associate Dean Denis Hector will serve as acting dean. Under Plater-Zyberk’s guidance, UM’s fledgling architecture school achieved nationwide recognition as a unique center for classical design and community engagement. The architecture school was just over a decade old when Plater-Zyberk became dean in 1995, and since then she helped the university create “an identity that ran counter to all trends in architectural education at that time,” according to a UM statement. Before becoming dean, she guided UM’s efforts in preparing the 1992 reconstruction of South Miami-Dade County after Hurricane Andrew. She also lead the university in improving Greater Miami through its Center for Urban and Community Design and impressive projects such as a scheme for West Coconut Grove that resulted in the reconstruction of Grand Avenue as a tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly avenue. Plater-Zyberk will continue to leave her mark on the university by focusing her teaching on an up-and-coming aspect of practice: how cities and towns manage the rising seas and further consequences of climate change.
Postmodernism, the exuberant, eclectic, and ironic style born out of the death of the modernist dream in the 1960s and 70s, was the subject of the two-day-long "Reconsidering Postmodernism" conference last weekend, presented by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. The two marathon days of lectures, panels, and videos was filled with the original rock stars of the postmodernist world, including architects Robert A. M. Stern and Michael Graves, theorists Charles Jencks and Tom Wolfe, urbanists Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and a small but passionate younger crowd who couldn’t help but revel in the rambunctiousness of their vaunted forebearers. The beginning of postmodernism, an active topic at the conference, was assigned multiple dates. It was either with the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe low-income houses in 1972, which Charles Jencks defines as “the day modernism died,” with the publication of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966, perhaps with the opening of Morris Lapidus’ first bodacious beach resort in 1949, or it even could have been at the beginnings of modernism itself, when hairline cracks in the modernist utopian vision had already begun to form. There were even Italian precedents: in the 1950s Torre Velasca, designed by Ernesto Rogers in Milan, and the Venice Architectural Biennale of 1980. Something about the conference compelled people’s interest in the big, chronically under-discussed themes of architecture. Andres Duany championed a broader classical canon, through his 175 (and counting…) orders of classicism. A discussion of stylistic evolution was continually present, causing architectural writer Witold Rybczynski to come to the conclusion at one point that taste is more important than style. “This is something we don’t discuss, but should” was a phrase uttered by many over both days. The conference showed that postmodernism is still controversial, but also that it is extremely alive today, proving to be a resilient and long lasting force in architecture. Reasons for this were debated. Barry Bergdoll, the Phillip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, asked if postmodernism was an attitude or a movement, suggesting the possible eternality of the mode, and that PoMo is not only analogous with the Mannerist or Hellenistic phases of architectural history, but actually the same thing. If modernism discarded everything that came before it, and began from “level zero,” as Gropius said it did, then postmodernism is letting everything flood back in, picking up where the world left off, and making a joke of it to lighten the mood. The “joke” of postmodernism was an important conference theme and recurred frequently. Humor mitigates the promotion of dogma, which was seen as a cause of modernism’s failure, and forces postmodernism to embrace its own flaws. Jokes also accept the world for what it is. As one conference-goer said, “The world isn’t as black and white as it used to be.” Humor was fantastically present over those two days. ICAA president Paul Gunther’s opening remarks on the morning of day one called postmodernism “A case of multiple personality disorders” before becoming a bit more serious and stating, correctly, that the purpose of the next two days was to “overcome the denial of postmodernism.” If not completely embraced by all in attendance, the conference at least succeeded in doing that. At the end of day two, with everything having been said, the final panel was oddly mellow and subdued. Perhaps nobody wanted to leave the reunion, or perhaps the gauntlet was being handed to the young people in the room, like Sam Jacob of the U.K. architecture firm F.A.T., architect and writer Jimmy Stamp, or any others of the wacky new generation of postmodernists.