Posts tagged with "David Adjaye":

Placeholder Alt Text

David Adjaye to be knighted

British-Ghanaian architect and Principal of Adjaye Associates, David Adjaye, will be appointed "Knight Bachelor" by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his "services to architecture." Adajye was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1966 and is the son of a Ghanaian diplomat, but has lived in London since he was nine years old. His name made the New Year Honours 2017 Diplomatic Service and Overseas List and will subsequently be known as Sir David Frank Adjaye OBE (he was named Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2007). The official investiture ceremony will take place soon this year at The Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood in St. James's Palace in London. In the official document of honoraries, Adjaye was recognized for his "contribution to architecture and design":
He is one of the leading architects of his generation and a global cultural ambassador for the UK. His designs include the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo in the shell of a disused railway station and the Idea Stores in Tower Hamlets, London where he pioneered a new approach to the provision of information services, as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and numerous private commissions. His most recent major achievement was the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
You can read The Architect's Newspaper's review of the National Museum of African American History and Culture here. His most recent U.S. design–a master plan (in the works) for the expansive San Francisco waterfront–can also be seen here. Adjaye's Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio is also due to open next year. Also included in this year's biannual honors list were British architects Bob Allies and Graham Morrison. The pair co-founded London-based firm Allies & Morrison and have both been appointed as Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Placeholder Alt Text

The National Museum of African American History and Culture proves that architecture is still relevant

In September, the most important American building of the 21st century opened in Washington, D.C.  The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) truly delivers something that few pieces of architecture can: It is a cascade of metaphors for collectivity, but is also in harmony with its content and program. Together they are a vehicle for the triumph of African-American history on the national stage. (While the completion of New York’s One World Trade Center might fulfill some myth of national pageantry, as a building it does not offer very much of architectural note.) To truly appreciate how great this building is, let us start with the story of how it came to be. Exactly 100 years ago, the National Memorial Association was founded, starting a serious debate about the possibility of some kind of monument or museum to African-American history in the United States. The project received funding in 1929 from President Calvin Coolidge but fell through in 1933. Efforts continued, and from 1988 to 2003, Georgia congressman John Lewis introduced a bill every single year that would have finalized the plans for such a museum. President George W. Bush gave the final go-ahead in 2005, and in 2009, the winning team was announced. That team consisted of a trio of black architects. J. Max Bond—of Davis Brody Bond and the namesake of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at City College of New York's Spitzer School of Architecture—joined Phil Freelon and David Adjaye in collaboration with the Smith Group. The collective calls itself FAB/S, and they beat out a high-profile group of competitors, among them Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Foster + Partners, and Moshe Safdie, all heavy hitters in the cultural building sector. The making of the museum, which is the newest building on the National Mall—the country’s public commons—was an expectedly daunting process of building consensus. Who decides on a building that represents an entire group of people? According to Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of NMAAHC, there were many opinions. “The building must be monumental and marble; it must be boldly black; it must look African; it must not look African. In every case, they said, it must not obstruct the public's view of surrounding monuments,” he said in his introduction to Mabel O. Wilson’s book, Begin with the Past, which tells the story of the museum in detail. The result is an object-building that at first seems like an out-of-place, estranged box that confronts and withdraws simultaneously its surroundings. However, it is exactly the opposite of that as an urban experience. Site What makes this building so great is that this backstory—while intensely interesting—really only sets the stage for the building to enact one of the greatest American history stories on one of the most important sites in the country. The large, brown building stands four stories above grade, with the Washington monument in the near distance. While most of the other buildings and memorials on the mall are white, what does it mean to be a brown building that recognizes the contributions of a non-white group? And what does it mean that it is also the closest building to the Washington Monument, a white marble obelisk to a single man who was the slave-owning first president of our country? Now that this building has taken its place on the mall, and thus American history, it cements the story of African American struggle as a part of the American story, which in itself is a great step of progress for both African Americans and the nation in general. One of the ironies of its site is that George Washington actually gave some of his land to former slaves, most notably at Gum Springs, Virginia, where some of his former slaves formed a community. So perhaps he wouldn’t have minded this situation almost 250 years later. Of course, some figures from history would be appalled. But this museum isn't about a confrontation of people, it is about collectivity, sharing, and inclusion. Threshold On the south side of the building, facing the mall, this attitude of inclusion and coming together manifests in the building’s formal site strategy. A covered outdoor space is a scaled-up version of the vernacular American covered porch, which represents a black space that has historically been used by the African diaspora as a place for sharing, socializing, telling stories, and giving lessons. Here, it acts as a mediating threshold between the normative history of America as told through the national mall, and the new story that is being anchored with the NMAAHC. It is meant to be a welcoming place for visitors of all backgrounds to share in this incredible story. This means that the entrance on the ground floor is completely open to the Mall, giving visitors spectacular views and creating a welcoming transparent and continuous space that represents openness and inclusion—foundations of a collective future that the museum might allow us to envision. The overhang is also a shading device, a formal nod to vernacular passive strategies. Form The overall form of the museum’s exterior is what the designers call a "corona"—inspired by a sculpture by Nigerian artist Olowe of Ise that shows a crown with similarly angled masses. The shape also references a group of people with their arms raised in celebration, as if to telegraph the one hundred year triumph that is exalted so proudly in the galleries within. It announces the arrival of African American history in the official Smithsonian. The angle of its tilted facade matches the top of the Washington monument. It is meant to fit in with its surroundings, not confront them. The iconic profile should serve as a marker for those looking for the museum, and it certainly sets the new structure apart from its neighbors in the vicinity, both in color and ornament. Symbol The ornament is an important and complex part of the narrative of the building. Adjaye produced a single patterned cast-aluminum panel that is tessellated to create the iconic, translucent facade. The pattern was abstracted from cast-iron work produced by black workers in Charleston and New Orleans. Adjaye mapped out the welded connections, literally the points where the work was done. There is some artistic license here, and the pattern comes off as somewhat arbitrary, but the story remains. This particularly American form of modernity is a perfect glimpse into the unique history of the American South, but also the contributions that African Americans have made to the country—many of which have gone underreported due to institutional racism. The bronze facade reflects the patterns and creativity that enslaved people brought to the ironwork of Charleston and New Orleans, and thus to American history itself. Experience Which brings us to the galleries. Of course, a building cannot serve only as a metaphor, it must also serve a purpose. In this case, this purpose is to function as a museum that has all of the same goals as the building itself. The 100,000 square feet of exhibition space is home to items selected from roughly 40,000 artifacts assembled over a decade. It is fitting that this building's facade and programs, such as education center, theater facility, and public spaces, represent a collective celebration of African American history and a new space dedicated to it. The galleries extend the metaphors into physical, phenomenological architectural experience. To experience the choreographed architecture of the galleries designed by Davis Brody Bond, visitors start by descending 65 feet below ground in an elevator. Deep underground, the exhibition starts with an overview of the earliest days of the slave trade, in a global seafaring economy. Diagrams of how to pack the most humans in a slave ship are just a few of the haunting artifacts displayed here, where a low ceiling and dark walls recreate the feeling of being in the hull of a boat, with nowhere to go. Working through the timeline of American history, the galleries provide a sensory spatial experience that works in harmony with the content. Much like the museum is a chorus of many people distilled into one building, the curators sought to tell larger stories through single artifacts or single people who could collectively encompass larger narratives. The year 1776 is shown—rather shockingly—with Thomas Jefferson standing on a plinth as if to suggest that he is at a slave auction. A pile of bricks is next to him, each one representing one of his slaves. The museum’s narrative is surprisingly self-reflexive. It is not confrontational with any group of people, but it certainly sheds light on some of the darker parts of a normally whitewashed past. In this moment of freedom, the path opens up to an open, massive four-story space. The story of Jefferson’s slaves problematizes the notion that 1776 was the birth of a free nation. Because freedom from Britain did not mean freedom in any literal sense for all African Americans, it is back into the constricted hallways of history, as visitors work through the antebellum era, with slave memorabilia and Civil War artifacts that include a slave cabin as well as a tent from one of the “contraband camps” of freed slaves who were put up by the government during the Civil War. These proto-refugee camps were dotted all over the south, as many freed slaves worked for the Union Army. Once again, upon the completion of the Civil War, we re-enter the large open space but are immediately back in the dark, constricted space of the pre-civil rights era. This is probably the most poignant part of the museum, where architectural artifacts are brought in at full scale, including a guard tower from Louisiana State Penitentiary that was previously a plantation—an unapologetic reference to contemporary mass incarceration. There is also a segregated rail car, as well as the best part of the whole museum: The actual Greensboro lunch counter where students staged protests against segregation. The museum has rebuilt it, but integrated interactive screens to educate people who can sit at the counter and learn. The final stretch, after the murals and “Whites Only” signs, is the popular culture of the 80s and 90s, followed by the ultimate (symbolic) triumph: the inauguration of President Obama. Walking up the ramp toward this moment is the perfect metaphor for struggle and overcoming. Of course, there is still much work to do, and a screen right next to the image of the 2009 inauguration shows clips of people addressing issues of white privilege and unequally distributed, state-sponsored violence. It will be interesting to see how the museum evolves along with its content, as the two are in constant dialogue. In another perfect metaphor made real in a spatial experience, the above-ground galleries are filled with a celebration of black culture, from sports and entertainment to the contributions of African Americans in society, from science to the military. The circulation spaces in this museum are not very good. They have the feeling of an airport, and the main lobby is sloppily organized and too big. But that is not really the point. The galleries work really well as a narrative, and the symbolic content of the facade and overall form of the building work so well in the context of the National Mall that we can easily forgive some of the shortcomings. Most importantly, the National Museum of African American history transcends its value as a museum and casts a narrative of inclusion, as one of the most important yet marginalized and unrecognized groups of people takes a bold new position in the image of society, partly through architecture that has been carefully calibrated to do just that.
Placeholder Alt Text

David Adjaye to master plan expansive San Francisco waterfront development

Just recently it was announced that David Adjaye, founder of London and New York-based Adjaye Associates, will helm The San Francisco Shipyard development. According to The Registry, he will be the project's "master plan architect and creative director." This comes on the heels of the National Museum of African History and Culture's opening; that project saw Adjaye as the lead designer working alongside the Freelon Group (now Perkins+Will), Davis Brody Bond, and SmithGroupJJR. The area in question is located southeast of downtown San Francisco in the Hunters Point area. The website of FivePoint, who's developing the project, says The Shipyard "includes approximately 800 acres of bayfront property." The website adds that the site will "include approximately 12,000 homesites and roughly 4.1 million square feet of commercial space, making it one of the largest developments of its kind in the history of San Francisco." A sweeping map on the project's website shows a mix of open spaces—over 350 acres—and low-to-medium rise development with a few towers interspersed. The project's shopping and entertainment component will include "1 million square feet of urban retail" and "gourmet restaurant village" while the arts and innovation neighborhood will feature a "5 million-square-foot waterfront R&D center" and "working studios and exhibition spaces for 300 artists." "Sustainable living" is also a key selling point, with native plant landscaping, the restoration of native habitats, and land trails for bikers and runners and water trails for kayakers and canoers. According to The Registry, this is the second phase of the project, with Adjaye's plan building upon the work of New York City-based IBI Architects.
Placeholder Alt Text

AN exclusive: First look at David Adjaye’s completed National Museum of African American History and Culture

Filling the last prominent spot on the National Mall—just east of the Washington Monument—the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has already proven itself a striking addition to the tapestry of monumental architecture at the heart of the nation's capital. Set to open September 24th, the exterior of the building is complete: 3,600 bronze-painted aluminum panels clad the museum's three-tiered structure. The panels reference the intricate cast iron designs that African American slaves produced across the American South; the building's "three-tiered crowns" were inspired by Yoruban art from West Africa, a region where many of the United State's slaves were taken into bondage. As an institution, the museum was established in 2003 and, in 2009, Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup was selected from a group of six invited teams to design the museum. Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup includes Durham, North Carolina-based Freelon Group, London and New York-based Adjaye Associates, New York-based Davis Brody Bond, and Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR. Ground broke on the museum in 2012. The building extends four stories underground; visitors can start at the lowest level to learn about the era of ”Slavery and Freedom,” advancing upwards to the “Era of Segregation,” “1968 and Beyond,” and finally a special exhibitions gallery, theater, and other programming. Notable artifacts range from Nat Turner's Bible to Chuck Berry's convertible and a former slave's two story house built during the Reconstruction Era. Upper floors feature education facilities, staff offices, and multiple galleries. Enjoy this first look at the NMAAHC's exterior! The Architect's Newspaper will continue to cover this project in the near future.
Placeholder Alt Text

SHoP, Snøhetta, and Adjaye named finalists for the National Veterans Resource Complex at Syracuse University

London-based Adjaye Associates, New York–based SHoP, and Oslo/New York–based Snøhetta have been announced as design finalists for Syracuse University’s new National Veterans Resource Complex (NVRC). Selected out of 28 other firms, the three finalists will now visit and engage with the university and veteran community to develop proposals for the multi-use facility. The NVRC will be home to the University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) as well as the school's Regional Student Veteran Resource Center, the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps, the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps, the National Center of Excellence for Veteran Business Ownership, Veterans Business Outreach Center and Accelerator, as well as the University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. The building will be programmed with classrooms, a conference center, gallery space, and a 1,000 seat auditorium to facilitate local and national veteran-focused events. The site of the project is tentatively set for the western end of the Waverly block, which will be visited by each office in the coming weeks. Their visits will also include meeting with the campus community to discuss the possibilities of the project in preparation for the presentation of their final design proposals in April. Also planned for March, the Syracuse University School of Architecture will facilitate lectures by each of the firms. In a statement David Adjaye discussed the relation of his practice to the goals of the University and the NVRC, “Syracuse University’s ambition to make the NVRC a combined educational and community centre as well as a national hub for America’s 22.8 million veterans and their families resonates deeply with my own commitment to architecture that empowers communities and has global resonance.” Both SHoP and Snøhetta remarked on the honor of working on a project for the veteran community. William Sharples, principle at SHoP, noted, "The NVRC at Syracuse University will occupy a special place in the life of the city, the campus, and the community of veterans nationwide it is intended to serve. Everyone at SHoP is honored to be a part of this process." Craig Dykers, founding partner of Snøhetta echoed Sharples, “The poet RJ Heller once wrote, ‘In the aftermath we are because they were.’ Courage is contagious and being a part of this process at Syracuse to benefit our veterans in a groundbreaking new facility is exciting and humbling for all of us at Snøhetta. This is more than a handshake: we are doing something revolutionary for those whose origins are from the same stuff.” Along with competing to design the NVRC, each of these three offices is also contending to design the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago.
Placeholder Alt Text

Obama Foundation announces seven offices to submit proposals for presidential library

The Barack Obama Foundation has announced the seven offices from which it is requesting proposals for the design of the Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. The seven firms include four New York–based offices, one London-based office, one based in Genova, Italy, and one local Chicago office. The offices named are: Picked from over 150 firms who submitted to the Foundation’s request for qualifications issued in August, the seven firms will now be asked to present designs to the President in the first quarter of 2016. If Adjaye or Piano are chosen, they will be the first foreign-based offices to design a presidential library. The selection of the perspective architects comes after a long selection process for the site of the library itself. Not without some controversy, the South Side locations were chosen out of possible sites in New York, Hawaii, and another in Chicago. Public space advocates, Friends of the Parks, argued that the library, technically a private institution, should not be allowed to be built in the city’s public parks, an issue the current Lucas Museum is also dealing with. This was overcome with the help of a deal made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel which would transfer control of the land away from the park system. Each office will submit conceptual designs for both of the possible 20-acre South Side Chicago sites: one in Washington Park and one in Jackson Park. The $500 million project will include the presidential archive, a museum, and office space for the Obama Foundation. After reviewing the proposals, the Obama family and the foundation are expected to make a decision by summer 2016, the expected completion of the project being in 2020 or 2021.
Placeholder Alt Text

David Adjaye given the go-ahead for mixed-use Piccadilly project in London

After beating Jean Nouvel, OMA and Frank Gehry to commission, David Adjaye Architects have been granted planning permission for its residential, hotel and retail development in Mayfair, London which will sit opposite the Ritz Hotel. Rising ten floors high, Adjaye's design for developer Crosstree Real Estate Partners will house street level retail while embedding a luxury hotel into the first and second floors. The rest of the building will be used for residential space and high-end condos. The 119,900 square foot complex brings natural light into the lower interior floors via the use of a large circular void. Meanwhile the external curved and "textured" facade makes use of Portland stone cladding and glazing to offer a "contextually sympathetic design", described David Adjaye Architects, that "draws on the shapes, forms and textures of the neighboring historic buildings." The building's proportionality and roofline emulate its counterparts on the street, including the Royal Academy and Burlington Arcade. "Referencing the classical arrangement of these iconic buildings, the facades of the new development are separated into three distinct sections with a central focal point" the architectural firm said in a statement on the project. The development has also made vast improvements to the Dover Yard and has integrated it into the site so that it acts as a pedestrianized throughway and public plaza. The feature is intended to be an "urban retreat at the heart of the development." "The treatment plays with the traditional sculpted silhouette of binary planes that curve, straighten and invert in a rhythmic sequence – reinterpreting and rearranging the traditional sequence to create a shifting plane of scalloped edges."
Placeholder Alt Text

David Adjaye reveals his design for a museum at the Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio

Architect David Adjaye, known for his modern, site-specific buildings including the upcoming Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, was commissioned by artist and philanthropist Linda Pace to design a structure along San Antonio’s San Pedro Creek for her eponymous foundation’s growing contemporary art collection. The new building, called Ruby City, is expected to open in 2018; groundbreaking will commence in 2016. Pace tasked Adjaye with creating a gallery space reminiscent of a building she saw in a dream. “When I visited San Antonio in 2007, and met with Linda, we sketched out ideas and together, we envisioned a building that would resonate with her dream of the Ruby City. Like a city, the design offers an organic, heuristic encounter with the Foundation’s works and my hope is that it will become a place where artists and the wider community can be inspired to realize their own dreams through a meaningful experience with contemporary art,” said Adjaye. Appropriately, Ruby City will be clad in vibrant red precast concrete panels with expansive windows overlooking the park and city. The 14,000-square-foot, two-story building will house three gallery spaces containing 800-odd paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos. “The building is envisioned as a beacon for San Antonio. The impact of the Foundation’s mission is already evidenced in San Antonio’s thriving contemporary art scene and its creative economy,” Linda Pace Foundation’s President, Rick Moore, said in a statement.
Placeholder Alt Text

David Adjaye’s new Studio Museum in Harlem includes an “inverted stoop” to welcome in the neighborhood

David Adjaye is bringing another significant project to Upper Manhattan. Thirty blocks south of his $80 million affordable housing project in Sugar Hill, another notable building by the architect will rise: the new, 71,000-square-foot Studio Museum in Harlem. The conceptual design for the five-story building boosts gallery space by 50 percent over the museum's current 101-year-old structure which it will replace. The museum said the new building—with its mix of exhibition and archive space, artist-in-residency programs, and public programming—is intended to be a "living room" for Harlem. The building even has an "inverted stoop"—a clever name for a community-facing, multi-use performance space. Adjaye has also created exhibition spaces within the museum that are visible from the street. “This project is about pushing the museum typology to a new place and thinking about the display and reception of art in innovative ways," Adjaye said in a statement. "It is also about a powerful urban resonance—drawing on the architectural tropes of Harlem and celebrating the history and culture of this extraordinary neighborhood with a building that will be a beacon for a growing local, national and international audience.” The total cost of the project is $122 million, which is being partially covered by $35.3 million in appropriations from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office, the City Council, and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President. The museum intends to present Adjaye's conceptual design to the Public Design Commission on July 14, and construction is currently scheduled to start in 2017.
Placeholder Alt Text

Endgame: An Open Letter to the Guggenheim Helsinki Finalists

The following is an abridged version of an open letter by Chicago architect and urban planner Marshall Brown, which was originally presented at the The Design Competition Conference by the GSD and the Van Alen Institute. It follows a previous comment by the author for AN about the state of design competitions in the 21st century. It is in direct response to the Guggenheim Helsinki Competition, which attracted 1,715 submissions before the winner was announced yesterday My Dear Colleagues, I would like to extend sincere congratulations for your recent achievements and the recognition it has brought to your practices. I suppose you may be wondering about the cause for this letter since, at least that I can recall, we have never formally met. One year ago I wrote an essay for AN that criticized the current state of architectural competitions. It concluded with the melodramatic, yet also sincere invitation for likeminded architects to join me in “early, complete, and permanent retirement” from such contests. In the meantime I have mostly managed to follow through on my retreat from the design competition industry, despite several invitations from colleagues to collaborate. Instead of speaking negatively about the Helsinki contest, I would like to speak to the finalists, in hope that some of us might grow in the process, or at the very least, avoid undermining each other in the ways that architects too often do. In 2009 I worked briefly with J. Max Bond, David Adjaye, and Phil Freelon on the competition for the National Museum of African American History, until Max Bond’s untimely passing, after which I withdrew from the project. In 2012, my team was a finalist in the Navy Pier Centennial competition in Chicago, after which I consulted with the winners, James Corner Field Operations. But for various reasons, and despite some measure of success, participation in both of these contests, among others, left an assortment of bad tastes in my mouth. Without airing too much dirty laundry in public, I will say that I trace many of the problems to the nature of design competitions themselves: Competitions create a culture that devalues our labor. Competitions often cultivate animosity among colleagues. And competitions often preference spectacle over substantive architectural development. Your contest is an interesting case, since it involves an American institution staging a competition for a private building on public land in a European country. After examining the Competition Conditions, I found it evident that the competition is not for an architectural commission. The only prizes explicitly guaranteed to the winners are bragging rights and a small stipend. I look forward to being corrected if necessary, but the following passage from page 8 in the conditions seems to disclaim any obligation or commitment of the organizers to build the winning proposal: “A decision on whether to proceed with the construction and development of the museum is expected to be brought to the City of Helsinki and the State of Finland for consideration following the conclusion of the competition and the public announcement of the winning design.” So it appears that yours is actually an ideas competition and marketing campaign that might inspire a building project by someone, somewhere, sometime, in the future. Okay. Fine. The winners will receive enough money to recoup some portion of their actual costs. The rest will console themselves with whatever prestige falls from the brief afterglow of the whole spectacle. As I wrote last year, many architects don’t care that competitions are bad business. That discussion has been well covered by others with deeper knowledge of professional practice, and is not the point of this letter. I am only trying to ask: Where does it all end? How much of our careers and lives are we willing to give? How far will we bend for the ever more limited promise of increasingly uncertain rewards? Despite my early retirement, I had a recent reengagement with the competition industry. Against better judgement, I attended the final presentations for a major design competition in Chicago. It was a closed session for the organizers and a few members of the political and design communities. As usual, each team presented their requisite manifestos, slides, and video animations. I found the entire show to be excruciating, not because of the design proposals, but because of the architects’ performances. Their faces were a mixture of desperation and barely masked contempt for their self-imposed captivity. At one point I found myself head down, ears covered, and overwhelmed by the pathos of the whole scene. One contestant from a well-established Chicago firm actually stripped to reveal a t-shirt with their project logo. Free t-shirts were provided for all in attendance. I left the building that night feeling personal shame, not disappointment in those other architects, after realizing that I had subjected myself to the same indignities on a similar stage just two years ago. At the time I had felt privileged and honored to sit alongside so many accomplished and notable professionals like Bjarke Ingels, Martha Schwartz, and James Corner. But only after witnessing a similar scene from the outside do I now realize that I was just another sad prisoner in the lineup. So what is the end game? You will all submit your projects. After the submissions, you will likely be asked to give public presentations. These performances could be broadcast to the entire world. The jury will meet and hand down their decision. Prizes will be awarded. Critics will pass judgement. Some of you will receive more prestigious academic appointments. A museum may be built. Another blockbuster competition will probably be announced later this year. And we will all move on. Yet while writing this letter I have begun to imagine other endings to the story: What if you had decided not to complete your projects? What if you had completed the projects, but staged a group exhibition instead of handing them over? What if you had insisted on renegotiating the terms of the competition before submitting? What if you had all just walked away? Some will accuse me of being cynical, sanctimonious, overly judgmental, or naive. They may be right on all counts. But in my own defense, these words come from a colleague who has been where you are at this moment, and wishes that he could have sooner had the resolution and foresight to turn from this path we architects are expected to follow. As I wrote one year ago: “The old argument that competitions drive architectural innovation is no longer credible. Developers, cultural institutions, and government agencies have mastered the use of design competitions as publicity campaigns. Their claim of searching for the best ideas is just an alibi that unfortunately continues to seduce too many of our best talents… The real justifications are simple. Developers and institutions gain fantastic and relatively affordable publicity from the mad traveling circus of design competitions. By helping them attract financing and donors, we encourage the proliferation of these sham exercises where enormous projects are fully rendered without contracts, necessary approvals, or even clear programs.” From what I have been able to surmise from a brief examination, the GHDC submits fairly well to this assessment. But most of you probably knew this from the beginning, and soldiered forth regardless of the real odds or evident risks. Therefore I conclude this letter with thanks for your time, an open invitation to respond, and two simple words: Good luck. MARSHALL BROWN
Placeholder Alt Text

Artist Paul Tuller Gives Starchitects the Royal Treatment with “Architecture As Crown” Series

Brooklyn-based illustrator Paul Tuller was inspired to create a new poster-portrait series, Architecture As Crown, by his architect boyfriend. This series features illustrations of famous architect's wearing their most famous works on their heads. Beginning as a parody of Andy Warhol's God Save the Queen, the project includes such figures as Peter Eisenman wearing House I as a crown. Purchase your own posters here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Perkins + Will folds in Freelon Group Architects, expands North Carolina practice

  Design giant Perkins + Will has swallowed up Freelon Group Architects, one of the country’s most prominent African American–led firms. The firms announced Tuesday that North Carolina–based Phil Freelon will help lead Perkins + Will’s design efforts in the region and globally. The local head of the combined practice will have nearly 80 professionals, creating one of the largest architecture and design practices in North Carolina. Freelon started his firm in 1990, growing it from a single-person practice to 45 employees. P+W will combine 18 staff members at an office in Morrisville, NC with Freelon’s office in Durham, as well as a 15-person staff in Charlotte. Freelon Group is best known for its work on the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, which they designed with David Adjaye, Davis Brody Bond Aedas, and SmithGroup. The museum is targeting a 2015 opening. Freelon’s firm also worked on the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture in Baltimore, and the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights. “There’s a sense that we’re contributing to society as a whole, and making people’s lives better through our buildings in my firm, and Perkins + Will—there’s a lot of public sector clients there,” Freelon told the Durham Herald-Sun’s Laura Oleniacz. “We feel good about creating design excellence and beauty for everyday people.”