London-based architect Farshid Moussavi has been selected by His Highness the Aga Khan to design an Ismaili cultural center on an 11-acre site in Houston, Texas. This will be the seventh such center in the world and the first in the United States. Moussavi's scheme was chosen over designs presented by a roster of leading architects including Rem Koolhaas, Jeanne Gang, and David Chipperfield. As home to approximately 40,000 Ismaili Muslims, Houston has one of the largest Ismaili communities in the U.S. Like the other Ismaili cultural centers around the world—in Toronto; London; Lisbon, Portugal; Vancouver, British Columbia; Dushanbe, Tajikistan; and Dubai, U.A.E.—built over the past four decades, the Houston center is intended to serve as an educational, cultural, and spiritual institution for the worldwide Ismaili community and the broader public. The centers are characterized by distinctive designs that blend Islamic aesthetic precepts and symbolism with their local contexts. The Houston center will host a space for prayer and reflection, and will offer areas for public programs, cultural exchange, and discussion. While preliminary renderings for the center have not been released, a spokesperson for the Ismaili Council told the Houston Chronicle that the Center “should be distinctly American and Texan in its approach, but expressive of Houston’s diverse cultures.” The Houston center will be located across from Buffalo Bayou Park, one of the city's main green spaces, and is seen as part of a burgeoning cultural corridor anchored by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, along with other planned public art offerings in the park. The landscape elements of the center are expected to be an integral part of the overall design, and will be led by Thomas Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects. This will be the second U.S. project for Farshid Moussavi, who designed the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, which opened in 2012. Her portfolio includes residential complexes, retail flagships, parks, and office towers in Paris, London, and elsewhere in Europe. In her previous practice, Foreign Office Architects, she also designed numerous award-winning projects that ranged from social housing to master plans, including the Yokohama International Cruise Terminal and the Spanish Pavilion at the Aichi International Expo. Moussavi, who is also a professor in practice at Harvard GSD, has previously taught at the Architectural Association in London, Columbia, Princeton, and UCLA. She is a Royal Academician and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2018 for services to architecture. The design team for the center also includes Hanif Kara, co-founder of engineering firm AKT II and Harvard GSD professor, who will serve as structural design consultant, and Paul Westlake of DLR Group, who is the architect of record. The project is expected to be complete in several years, with the timeline dependent on Moussavi's design.
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This morning at 11:00 AM, a large crowd of women (and male supporters) met just inside the entrance gates of the Biennale’s garden to protest a lack of recognition of “woman in architecture.” The fan waving crowd cheered as co-organizer Martha Thorne read a prepared statement asking for women to receive more recognition and support from the profession and the media. The event, according to Thorne, Odile Decq, and Toshiko Mori, three of the original organizers, started with this small group but has quickly developed into a network of “hundreds of supporters!” The only slip up was that the protest took place inside the gates of the Biennale and thus many young supporters were denied entrance to participate as they did not have a ticket on this media-only preview day. Still, over 100 people participated, including Francine Houben of Mecanoo, Farshid Moussavi, Jeanne Gang, and curators from The Met and MoMA. The organizers claim that architecture school students are now 60% female, so that today’s "Giardini" protest is only recognizing what will become a reality tomorrow. Below is the prepared statement that the group read: “MANIFESTO We as Voices of Women are building conversations and taking actions to raise awareness to combat pervasive prejudices and disrespectful behavior that appears to be systemic in our culture and discipline. We are united in denouncing discrimination, harassment and aggressions against any member of our community. We will not tolerate it. We will not stand silent. Women are not a minority in the world, but women are still a minority in the architecture field and we want it to better reflect better the world in which we live. The Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 FREESPACE is a crucial moment of awakening to promote equitable and respectful treatment of all members of the architectural community irrespective of gender, race, nationality, sexuality and religion. We will join hands with co-workers, students, clients, collaborators, and our male colleagues to create a new path forward toward equitable work and educational environments that promote respectful discourse and open exchange of ideas. Be a fan of voices of women. Make a vow to uphold fairness, transparency, and collaboration in Architecture NOW.”
[ Editor's Note: The following letter is an excerpt of a comment left on archpaper.com. It pertains to the new Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland designed by Farshid Moussavi, which Stephanie Murg critiqued for AN's Midwest edition last November. AN welcomes reader letters, which could appear in our regional print editions. To share your opinion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. ] MOCA’s form is a simple game of extruded geometry. The base form shifts from a hexagon as it rises to a square at its top. A third year architecture student would have been given a C- and asked, “Is that all you could come up with?” The exterior is clad in black stainless steel panels that are already streaking at the corners. They also present a range of colors that indicate the material selection and/or production was not up to the task of producing uniformity. Additionally, the gauge of the panels is such that they reflect extensive oil canning, which makes the black box look cheap. Moussavi introduced slanting windows that have nothing to do with the experience from the interior as they slash through spaces and right through floors, revealing their arbitrary and formal imposition. With exterior walls that slant from side-to-side and warp, tilting in and out, one can quickly become dizzy and nauseous. The only real design feature of MOCA is its stair—Moussavi herself calls it the “dominant architectural feature of the building.’ It is pressed up against the exposed construction of the exterior envelope, which is painted a very dark shade of blue. Everything is painted dark blue, except the white sidewalls of the stair. It shifts angles and doubles back at landings as it drags one upward. As you finally turn for the last half section at the primary exhibition space, you are confronted with a massive exposed air handling unit—painted dark blue—hovering just above your head with its three flywheels waiting to shave off any hairstyle attempting verticality. The light fixtures also hang down into your headroom, obscuring your view down. It is unpleasant and absurd. You perceive that the roof is too low and you feel compressed in the largest open space in the project. Even Wright knew that after “compression” came “release.” Not Moussavi. William T. Eberhard, Eberhard Architects
London-based Farshid Moussavi Architecture has won a competition to design a residential tower in Montpellier, France. The so-called "Lot 2" project will be the first of 12 new buildings in the Jardins de la Lironde brownfield development in the city’s Port Marianne district, with construction set to begin in 2014. The 11-story tower features curving, offset floor plates that wiggle out from the building’s core in a seemingly random pattern to create varied balconies and overhangs, and diverse floor plans. The winning design contains 36 apartments and a ground floor restaurant, and, responding to the competition brief, is meant to represent a “modern folly” in reference to 18th chateaux of Southern France. Iranian-born Farshid Moussavi has garnered praise in the past for her Yokohama International Ferry Terminal in Japan, as well as for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland, the firm's first project in the United States. Moussavi is currently at work on a variety of other projects, including residential complexes in London and Paris.
If you read this column, you know Eaves loves a party. You also know we self-deprecatingly speak of mediocre Midwestern cities (we’re from Louisville). Even with summer winding down, there’s no need to stick out that lower lip. A slew of—well, ok, three–high profile openings will tickle even the slightest art and architecture enthusiast as Cleveland, East Lansing, and Cincinnati compete for the title of Bilbao of the Midwest. First up, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, designed by Farshid Moussavi Architecture, opens on October 6. Will the Mistake-on-the-Lake become the Rust Belt Riviera? On MOCA’s heels comes the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum on November 9. OK, we don’t know anything about East Lansing other than a school’s there, but—hey!—now they have a Zaha Hadid. And finally, Cincinnati, home to America’s first Hadid, will welcome 21c Museum Hotel by Deborah Berke & Partners. Their website says it will open late 2012. Which project will be an urban game-changer? We could be swayed by opening night invites, but right now my money’s on Cincy.
If Foreign Office Architects’ first project, the huge Yokohama International Port Terminal in Japan, was the vast scale of rolling dunes, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland—begun when the firm was still known as FOA and carried to completion by Farshid Moussavi Architecture—is compact as a cube. And size has made all the difference in keeping on track through the economic downturn with the $27.2 million building poised for opening in October. At a New York presentation at the velvety Norwood Club, the museum’s executive director Jill Snyder described selecting the Moussavi from a field of 32 that was then boiled down to three, including SHoP and Office dA (dissolved in 2010), based on criteria that included knowing that the Cleveland museum would be “the most important job in the office for the duration of the project.” In fact, MOCA Cleveland is not only Moussavi’s first museum but her first project in the United States. Located on a gateway site with landmark works of architecture on sites nearby and underway by Frank Gehry, Stanley Saitowitz and Rafael Vinoly, the museum will be Moussavi more sculptural than iconic, and is clad in an opalescent black steel to contrast with the shiny aluminum bodies nearby. James Corner Field Operations is designing the wedge-shaped plaza for Moussavi’s faceted building. A hexagonal ground floor that twists into a rectangle, the museum is further distinguished by vertical window slots that keep the cubically-inclined form buoyant. The geometric shift gives the four-story building a dramatic open atrium, but space was too valuable to waste in this tight 34,000 square foot composition. And so a dramatic staircase—one open stair leading up with an enclosed egress stair stacked beneath—becomes an event space on its own terms with a “cascading effect” allowing visitors to pause, look out, and proceed at multiple levels. Though the project never stalled in 2008, the architects were asked to shave off some ten percent of costs achieved through tightening all aspects of the job and resulting in a net loss of just 1200 square feet of program space. “My respect for what architects can pull off when called upon,” Snyder said, “expanded exponentially. I think restrictions actually made it better.” In a bold, bound to be controversial gesture, walls behind the stair as well as on the ceiling of the top-floor 6,000 square foot main gallery will be painted Some Major Blue—not to be confused with Yves Klein blue—that hopefully will make contemporary art works by the likes of David Altmejd, Katharina Grosse, Gordon Matta Clark and Haegue Yang among others to pop. First rejecting blue out of hand, Snyder said that a day-long discussion with Moussavi and several artists with full-scale mock-ups on the technical limits and opportunities of using such a declarative color led the team to embrace blue, as long as it is dark enough to disappear in an interesting way. With ceilings in the main gallery at 23 feet, that should not be a problem.
The new home of Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art is rapidly taking shape. Designed by Farshid Moussavi, the faceted design is both iconic and responsive to its wedge-shaped site, packing a lot of visual and programmatic punch within a small envelope and with a small budget. The Museum has been keeping a video record of the building going up.The first video is from July 2011. October 2011.
No Joint Custody. Archinect reports that partners Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo of London-based Foreign Office Architects (FOA) have made their professional divorce official. According to a press statement, each partner will now head up his/her own office and all staff will be retained and assigned to one of the two. Urban Fuel. University of Quebec researchers have published a study showing that higher gas prices translate into--logically--less urban sprawl: "On average, a 1% increase in gas prices has caused: i) a .32% increase in the population living in the inner city and ii) a 1.28% decrease in low-density housing units." Read more at Infrastructurist. Lab Experiment. The New York Times profiles the new director of MIT's Media Lab, Joichi "Joi" Ito, a 44-year-old venture capitalist from Japan, who comes to the job with a wealth of experience but no academic credentials. But “He has credibility in an academic context,” Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law prof and Creative Commons founder, told the Times. “We’ve been collaborators, and I’ve stolen many ideas from him and turned them into my own.” Big Bird Brains? Are pigeons just playing dumb for crumbs and sympathy? As far as birds go, city-dwelling pigeons have proportionally bigger brains than their avian country cousins, writes Per Square Mile.
Last night in a presentation at Hunter College, Farshid Moussavi revealed more details about her design for the new Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, including a first look at the plaza designed by Field Operations. Rows of trees will seperate the mirroed black museum from an adjacent development site, and geometrically patterned pavement will pick up on the forms of the building. The plaza will soften the hard-edged building, which is meant to reflect traffic, pedestrians, and the sky. Inside, a cobalt blue inner skin will reveal the structure underneath, and create a dramatic foil to the white walled galleries. A monumental double staircase--one open, stacked on an enclosed fire stair--will offer views out to the city as well as into the main gallery. The ceiling of the column-free main gallery will also be blue, illuminated with spots, resembling the night sky.