At first, the choice of avant-garde architects Herzog & de Meuron to renovate and restore the fabled Park Avenue Armory seems far-fetched. Even at second glance: “I hate preservation,” said Jacques Herzog at a press event to unveil what the firm is doing at the 1880s fortress and popular event space that contains unparalleled gems from the history of American decorative arts, including rooms and furnishings by Stanford White, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Herter Brothers and others. In fact, the Swiss architects are proceeding with punctilious care and attention to detail as they “unlayer” the past and leave traces of what went before without adding much by way of their own interventions to the $200 million makeover to be completed in phases that have been underway since 2007. The Drill Hall, modeled after the great European shed train stations, will end up looking even more so, once some awful stalls have been removed that have for years hidden the full arch of the iron struts and a delicate catwalk mezzanine is put in to accommodate full theatrical performances. (The shelter for homeless women on the fourth floor will remain in operation throughout construction.) Disparaging the kind of preservation that matches swatches and zeroes in on a purely theoretical “original” date, Herzog described their approach as “revealing and accepting what has been and what we want it to be.” Each of the 18 period rooms will be dealt with on their own terms, neither reconstructed nor made contemporary in some jarring way. Two rooms, full-scale demonstrations of intent as it were, have been completed. Company Rooms E and D are so heavily paneled, molded, and wallpapered that one half expects to find Theodore Roosevelt on a stuffed steed in the corner. In one, the architects have stripped the paneling back to its brighter honey colored woodwork, but revealed the bare plaster with only a hint of mural—a face, possibly a tongue sticking out—to remain where there was once some garish gilt molding. In the other room, where a riot of Aesthetic-era wallpapers all jostle even more energetically through copper “overprinting” to reinstate some shine while damaged spots and patches are not hidden. The affect could be called extreme patina. When asked why she chose Herzog & de Meuron who don’t even have a preservationist on staff, Park Avenue Armory president Rebecca Robertson said, “Because I love Stanford White.” She went on to explain that she admired that consummately American architect’s early experiments with materials and saw that same intense curiosity in the work of Herzog & de Meuron. Their intellectual rigor and thorough research also impressed her: “There’s not a mock-up they won’t do; not a detail too small for them to obsess over,” she said, pointing out the silky, linked-bronze chains that shield the rooms from garish daylight. (In a later phase, the architects will be adding an all steel room-sized elevator, the "Megavator," rising through the front hall.) For Herzog, the commission has been a great opportunity to show “we are not just producers of icons.” He even seemed surprised that this quintessential piece of Americana had been trusted to a European, telling the audience of journalists: “Imagine an American being asked to restore a Gothic cathedral in Basel.”
Posts tagged with "Herzog & de Meuron":
Bordeaux Dynamo. Herzog & de Meuron designed a new stadium, the Stade Bordeaux Atlantique for the UEFA Euro 2016 in France. According the the architects, the "diaphanous volume looks out onto the grand landscape, its transparency revealing all the energy and activities which will fill this new symbol of the city of Bordeaux’s dynamism." Via Dezeen. Big Bunker Castle. According to Curbed, Steven Huff, chairman of TF Concrete Forming Systems, is building a 72,000-square-foot personal concrete manse called Pensmore. Located on 500 acres in Missouri, the reinforced concrete chateau is built to resist the regions rough weather. "The whole house is in essence a storm shelter," said the Pensmore web site. Humble Abode. If 72,000 square feet is a little too big for your tastes, Treehugger found a slightly smaller abode proposed by TATA, the same company that launched the $2500 car in India. For 32,000 rupees, or about $720, you can have your own house, clocking in at just over 200 square feet. The company hopes the new dwellings, along with an ultra-affordable $7,800 apartment, will help ameliorate India's growing housing problems in poor communities.
Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads Pulitzer Fountain, Grand Army Plaza 60th Street & 5th Avenue New York Through July 15 Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza has been overrun with a menagerie of sorts: the installation of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. This is the first major public exhibition in America for the Chinese artist. This site specific installation is a modern reinterpretation of the 18th century Yuanming Yuan fountain-clock that featured 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac spouting water. With this project, Ai explores the “fake” in relation to the original sculptures (which were ultimately pillaged by French and British troops in 1860; five of the original heads are still missing). In this version, 12 oversized bronze animal heads ring the Pulitzer Fountain, each weighing approximately 800 pounds. While this project explores some rather esoteric themes, it is accessible and “a work that everyone can understand, including children and people who are not in the art world,” said Ai, who collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics.
[ Quick Clicks> A guided tour of interesting links from across the web. And beyond. ] Carchitecture. What happens when you hire Herzog & de Meuron to design your parking garage? People suddenly begin to push out the cars. That seems to be the case in Miami Beach according to a NY Times article on the upscale soirees and and tourists that have become common place in the uncommon structure. Cats on Broadway. No, it's not a return of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, but a proposal to add a little theatrics to Chicago's Broadway. Curbed reports that the proposal is part of an IIT thesis project calling for a pedestrian-oriented street complete with a statue of a giant waving car (or more properly, a Maneki Neko). Please Litter. Could the latest trend in snail mail be a pro-littering campaign? According to TreeHugger, Google has embedded seeds in paper (recycled, of course) for a recent mailer. The letter advises its recipient to "plant in a sunny spot with a thin layer of soil... and watch it grow." Abandonment. Detroit has become infamous for its ruins, and ruins can be oh so seductive, but Noreen Malone at The New Republic says it's time to end our infatuation with "ruin porn." Malone takes aim at the message a deserted photograph devoid of people sends when Detroit's abandoned are left out of the abandonment. [ Photo credit: joevare/flickr. ]
According to both the New York Times and the LA Times, Eli Broad appears to have settled once and for all on a Downtown LA site for his new museum, and has gone so far as to hold a new competition for its architect. Further background has it that Thom Mayne, who had been favored to design Broad’s museum, is now out, and the new finalists are Rem Koolhaas, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Herzog & De Meuron, Christian de Portzamparc, Foreign Office Architects, and recent Pritzker Prize winners SANAA. According to the New York Times, the jury appeared to favor Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Koolhaas. A choice, according to their story, could be made within the week. If built, the museum would be located on Grand Avenue just east of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and across the street from the LA Museum of Contemporary Art where he has played key roles recently in both keeping the museum on keel with a $30 million gift and steering it towards new director, Jeffrey Deitch. AN reported back on March 16 that Broad was leaning toward downtown for his museum. The site is currently slated for retail development within phase two of the now-stalled 3.5 million-square-foot Grand Avenue Project.
Who says starchitecture is dead? While most projects, high-profile or otherwise, are still on the rocks, the market for boldface design remains strong. How do we know? That rinky-dink model of Herzog & de Meuron's 56 Leonard Street that we mentioned last week, well, the eBay auction for it closed just past nine o'clock this morning. After 43 bids, the final price was an astonishing $1,166.11 (if you factor in the 30 bucks for shipping). Seeing as how that's more than some East Village apartments, we're going to take this as a leading indicator of better times ahead. Or maybe it's just further proof of the problems that got us here in the first place.
The outspoken Chinese architect and artist Ai Weiwei has been selected by the Tate Modern as the 11th person to create a work for its massive Turbine Hall in London. A known figure in China and the west, Ai lived in New York for many years and attended the Parsons School of Design before going on to collaborate on projects such as the Beijing National Stadium (with Herzog & de Meuron) at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and was included in the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale, where he collaborated (also with H&deM) on a sprawling installation of bamboo poles and chairs set akimbo. One of the most politically engaged architects and artists working today, Ai has often run afowl of Chinese authorities, and was recently beaten by Chengdu police for drawing attention to shoddy construction that contributed to the death of over 5,000 children in a Sichuan earthquake. He is also a compelling form-maker whose installation work often straddles the line between architecture and art, and seems to have the power to stand up to challenging spaces like the Tate’s vast South Bank space, itself of course created within the shell of an old power plant by Herzog & de Meuron. The installation is sponsored by Unilever, and will open next October.
Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, like many of their starchitect brethren, have not had an easy time of late in New York, from the stalling of 56 Leonard to the continuing reconfiguration of the Parrish Art Museum. (Yes, we know everybody's having a hard time of late, but that's a different story.) Well, the Basel-based architects just got their big break, as they say in the theater: a debut at the Met. No, they are not the latest hot shot firm to proffer an addition to the ever-transforming complex. Better yet, they've designed the set for a new production of Verdi's Atilla, which premiers tonight. We're not exactly sure what to make of the ghostly scenery that somehow floats above the chorus, from a forest picnic of sorts to post-apocalyptic-looking ruins (hopefully not the remnants of some failed project). Yet even in this unusual setting, the designer's unusual forms shine. Fashion doing about as well as architecture these days, does it come as a surprise that Miuccia Prada has lent her talents to the costumes? With any luck, Herzog & de Meuron will take over the Oscars next year.
The maze-like Italian Pavillion hold the work of more than two dozen architects from all over the world, and while the vast majority of it was not produced for the Biennale, it is well worth tasking the time to get lost inside. It starts out impressively: The grand entrance hall, wallpapered in a dense hot orange-and-white graphic print, frames a spare and enigmatic installation by Ai Wei Wei and Herzog & de Meuron.A framework of massive bamboo poles supports a series of tiny bamboo chairs that are seemingly strapped into place. When I wandered through, it was still very much in progress—stacks of raw material were piled on one side of the room, and while a few assistants had knocked off work to check out something on the computer, the three artists were taking a walk-through to check it. In a preliminary walkthrough—and believe, there will have to be many more before before I've seen it all—I was struck by how many of the architects hewed to Biennale curator Aaron Betsky's idea of looking beyond architecture, and outside building. One firm, Ecosistema Urbano of Madrid, developed a massive wall graphic with a few nuggets they've picked up over the years. 10 Things We Have Learned from the City is deceptively straightforward - top-down, formally-based planning is probably bot a great idea, and the like—but smart, since not all of their colleagues have managed to do the same. They also know their audience, because it looks good: the graphics are in larger-than-life 3D, and a series of blue-and-red paper glasses hang on string from the ceiling. One of the most provocative installations there was at the philosophical heart of the pavilion (and I think the physical heart, too, but I was pretty turned around by then). Upload City, organized by Saskia van Stein, presents 100 videos culled from the web, each of which somehow depicts space. These are made by civilians (or non-architects, more precisely) for the most part, so range from a happy-go-lucky YouTube-esque mash-up of cute animals in their habitats to what looked a heck of a lot like a promotional product of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce. Each of these is shown on a small screen strapped to one of the massive concrete columns in the cavernous space; visitors plunk down on massive silver pillows and settle in for a watch. It's a really interesting idea, but I had trouble getting more than a few videos up on my screen, so for me at least, footage of hula skirts and turquoise water is going to have to do until I can get back there. (Which I may soon - it looks like a fantastic place to sneak off for a catnap.)