Posts tagged with "Elmhurst":
If you think public libraries are an institution with a proud past but a problematic future you have to visit the new Elmhurst Public Library by Marpillero Pollak Architects. Commissioned in 2004 by New York’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), it’s not just a triumphant work of civic architecture, but one that creates community and celebrates what it means to be a public institution in 2017.
The building is entered through a small community park on the corner of Broadway and 51st Avenue and transforms this amorphous Queens corner adjacent to Queens Boulevard into a centralized urban core. Its primary envelope is a terra-cotta rainscreen facade with aluminum inserts that mark the floor slabs and act as a connector to front and back double height glass cubes. These two structural glass spaces position patrons in the larger environment: a rear community park and the urban thoroughfare of Broadway. The Cubes, which glow as luminous beacons after dark, are calibrated to relate to the scale of the existing historical fabric, including the landmark 1760 St. James Episcopal Church Parish Hall across Broadway. They announce the library’s presence and the front cube floats above the main entry’s “memory wall,” which is made of bricks salvaged from the original Carnegie building. The interior of the Broadway cube is covered by a relief in elm wood from the artist Allan McCollum and is visible through the glass walls from the street.
Elmhurst badly needs this new facility, as it is one of the most diverse residential neighborhoods in the world and home to mostly poor immigrants from 80 countries. It had long been served by a vaguely classical Lord & Hewlett–designed Carnegie library that was built to house 3,000 volumes in 1904, and has had to adapt to changing populations with major renovations and additions in 1920, 1926, 1949, and 1965. These changes led to an interior that was broken into small, fragmented spaces that were insufficient for what had become the second busiest location in the Queens library system.
The original library was centered in a small park, but over time a large adjacent residential building put the space in permanent shadow. In addition, circulation through the old building spilled over into reading and stacks, limiting reading space and other program requirements. The Carnegie library design emphasized the visual control of the library, but this can be intimidating for immigrants and even the ground floor windows were permanently covered. All of these were inadequate to serve a huge population that requires new and different services. The architects were hired to design a modern library able to accommodate the branch’s enormous number of patrons and make it an open, transparent, and welcoming center for the community.
The interior of the new library is color-coded by use: children, teen, media, etc. It is also full of every imaginable representative of this diverse community, who are not just reading books, but doing school homework, playing games on computers, and seeking help from the librarians. The architects intend for the glass structure to open the library up to the side parklet and rear garden, which serves as an outdoor learning center for this dense urban community. Commissioned by the DDC, this design delivers on nearly everything promised by the agency’s Design and Construction Excellence program created under Commissioner David Burney.
One thing is certain about Beatriz Colomina and Pep Aviles’s Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979: It is an evidentiary display proving that architecture and media are complicit partners in shaping society’s view of itself. Born out of research within the Ph.D. program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University’s School of Architecture, Playboy Architecture is an exhaustive index of the ways magazines, architecture, design, furniture, fashion, and sex influence Western society. From the pages of Playboy, one could dream of a glossy packaged life. However, the role of the architect in this context has never been clearer: a precise purveyor of taste, a consummate expert on lifestyles, and a key to liberation—sexual and/or otherwise.
On display through August 28 at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Elmhurst, Illinois, 18 miles west of downtown Chicago, Playboy Architecture is situated within Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House, a centerpiece of the museum and one of three built Mies houses in the United States. Perhaps there can be no better space to display and curate a show like Playboy Architecture, simply due to the fact that this house was meant to be mass produced—a cog in a suburban machine that Mies was never able to create, in part because modernism and its sultry packaging were just not tasteful to the inhabitants of Elmhurst.
The show is divided into four parts: Playboy Pads, Vehicles + Mobility, the Bedroom, and Playboy Architecture. Shifting scales from beds to interiors and from airplanes to houses, the curators locate different punctuations of a complex “lifestylescape,” where design and architecture provide not only the backdrop to where you live, but also a proposition on how to live. The first room in the exhibition when you enter is the Playboy Pads, situated within the old living room of the McCormick House. Sitting on a circular pedestal are some iconic chairs, like Mies’s Barcelona, coupled with blown-up pages of Playboy showing drawings of different interiors. The most compelling pad shown is the one-inch-by-one-foot-long sectional model of the proposed Playboy House in the Gold Coast of Chicago, which is three stories and divided in the center by a pool with a water-to-glass-ceiling atrium, allowing for views through adjacent windows all the way up—a truly panoptic voyeurism.
The next room shows Vehicles + Mobility: Hugh Hefner was famous for living and traveling in style. A vertically displayed plan-section model of an airplane gives an incredible glimpse into the almost Corbusian floor plan of walls within, replete with the creature comforts of high modernism, extending lifestyle during commutes to other far away pads.
In the adjacent room, lies a bed. The Bedroom—or, more specifically, a circular bed—is hidden behind a velvet curtain with peepholes, dimly lit and perhaps the most compelling piece of design in the entire exhibition. This bed was not only meant for the purposes of sleeping and sex, but also was an office and a conference center with shelves and phones, but no chairs. The bed extended past its typical uses and became an ambiguous small architecture in and of itself, suggesting that the real place of modernity in society was to help it reinvent itself, one bed at a time.
Finally, viewers enter Playboy Architecture, situated inside the old kid’s playroom of the McCormick House, albeit non-ironically. This section gives users a glimpse into built residential and visionary housing projects. Matti Suuronen’s portable metabolist Futuro House, John Lautner’s Elrod House, and Ant Farm’s House of the Century are all shown as “evidence of an ever expanding blurring between modern design and pleasure,” according to Colomina.
The physical and conceptual thread that ties all the rooms together is the original magazines themselves, complete with white gloves to handle them carefully. The back and forth between the curated magazine and the modernist McCormick House provides a ripe environment to imagine oneself within the image of modernism. Playboy has always been equated with male sexual pleasure, but Colomina’s curation suggests a much deeper understanding of the relationship between sexuality, architecture, and design, not from a purely objectified space, where this exhibition might be misunderstood to be, but from a transcendent redefinition of oneself fittingly tied into the construction of lifestyle. This inversion is a critical product of the exhibition curation that directly challenges our historical understanding of Playboy, and uses the revolutionary edge of modernist architecture to suggest that creating future images of visionary, free spaces for anybody is what architects have, can, and should continue to do.
Playboy Architecture, 1953–1979 is on view May 7–August 28 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 Cottage Hill Avenue, Elmhurst, Illinois.