Posts tagged with "Met Breuer":

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Met Breuer exhibit introduces an Ettore Sottsass you’ve never seen before

Although Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass is perhaps most famous in the United States for his legendary design collective, Memphis, his life and career involve far, far more, as a fascinating new exhibition at the Met Breuer in New York reveals. Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical, on display through October 8, reevaluates his career in a presentation of works across a broad range of media, including architectural drawings, interiors, furniture, machines, ceramics, glass, jewelry, textiles, painting, and photography. These are presented in juxtaposition with ancient, more modern, and contemporary objects from the museum’s collection, which the museum said places Sottsass “within a broader design discourse.” Sottsass was born in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1917; his father, Ettore Sottsass Sr., was an architect who trained in the Viennese tradition of the modernist Otto Wagner and his pupils Josef Hoffmann and Kolomon Moser of the Wiener Werkstatte, whose designs influenced the younger Sottsass, the museum said, “with their elegant proportions and spare elegant forms.” Thus, the exhibition’s first gallery features a late 19th/early 20th-century plan for a house by Hoffmann; a 1920 desk set designed by Hoffman and made by the Wiener Werkstatte; Bauhaus textile designs; and a 1903 armchair designed by Moser and Hoffmann, shown with Sottsass’s late 1950s enameled copper round plates and an early 1960s hybrid table/desk/shelf/cabinet/chest of drawers designed for the Mario Tchou residence in Milan. A section of the exhibition on corporate design discusses the influence of American industrial designer George Nelson on Sottsass: The latter worked in the former’s New York office for a few months in 1956 during Sottsass’s first trip to the United States. According to exhibition curator Christian Larsen, Nelson’s impact can be seen in Sottsass’s early 1970s office furniture for Olivetti and in his 1980s patterns for Memphis. Larsen said that although mass production “allowed for miraculous economies of scale that dramatically provided the latest innovations to the wider public, it also seemed to indicate a culture of rabid consumption sameness and even alienation. Sottsass wrote that he would create ‘tools to slow down the consumption of existence ... to curb loneliness and despair.’” The exhibition also explores Sottsass’s designs for Poltronova, the visionary furniture company. Larsen believes these designs were influenced by everything from ancient Egyptian shabti boxes (containers for a deceased person’s needs in the afterlife, of which one is on display here) to the sculpture of American artist Donald Judd (also on display). Sottsass's own groundbreaking “Environment,” a system of movable modular cabinets, each containing a different domestic function, proposed for MoMA’s 1972 exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, is illustrated with a film made for that exhibition. There is also a section on Sottsass’s ceramics, influenced by his first visit to India in 1961 and a near-death illness in 1962, that features a striking forest of ceramic and earthenware Sottsass totems, one over nine feet tall, and another section devoted to his glass vase designs, some inspired by Native American katsina dolls, on display with ancient Greek and Roman glass and Hopi katsina. According to Larsen, “despite working on a variety of scales and in an array of mediums, Sottsass always called himself an architect. This vocation informed his fundamental approach to making and living.” To illustrate this, the exhibition features Sottsass’s drawings for the 1986-89 Wolf residence in Ridgeway, Connecticut, which he considered his first mature architectural work, as well as his “paper architecture” Planet as Festival series created in the early 1970s for Casabella magazine. Clearly, no Sottsass exhibition would be complete without a discussion of his designs for Memphis; this one displays his iconic 1981 “Carlton” room divider and 1985 “Ivory” table alongside other Memphis pieces by Andrea Branzi and Shiro Kuramata. In an interview last week, Larsen called Sottsass “a bottomless pit of production that will never run dry,” as well as someone whose work “both cut across the grain” and “makes us smile, which is important in today’s charged political times.”
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Met Breuer exhibit will explore Ettore Sottsass’s decades of works

An upcoming exhibition at the Met Breuer will examine the works of Ettore Sottsass (1917 - 2001), the celebrated Italian architect and designer who founded the Memphis group. Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical is a retrospective of Sottsass’s extremely productive—and provocative—career, which spans more than six decades. His earlier works include iconic designs for Italian electronics manufacturer Olivetti, for whom he designed office equipment, typewriters, computers, and furniture. It was there that he produced the Olivetti Valentine typewriter, a cherry-red portable, plastic typewriter that suddenly made office furniture cool again. His functional and rational approach to these machines and furnishing systems, however, was merely transitory. He moved away from his modernist beginnings by the 1960s, favoring qualities beyond the functional. Emotional appeal, symbolism, historical references, and the human condition all began to shape Sottsass’s postmodern works. His shift in ideology coincides with his travels to the U.S., where he worked briefly at designer George Nelson’s office, as well as his trip to India in 1961. Sottsass is perhaps best known for his work with Memphis, a design collective that peaked in the 1980s and challenged the conventional design norms of that era—the streamlined, midcentury style. Memphis exemplified postmodern 1980s design: saturated colors, geometrical motifs, plastic laminate, and eccentric forms that rejected established styles. While short-lived, the design movement has seen a resurrection, with a previous exhibition at the Jewish Museum, an auction featuring David Bowie’s collection of Memphis furniture, and now the Met Breuer’s exhibition. The exhibition will be presented in a range of media—including architectural drawings, interiors, furniture, machines, ceramics, glass, jewelry, textiles and patterns, painting, and photography. Juxtaposed with ancient and contemporary objects that influenced Sottsass, the exhibition aims to place him within a broader design discourse. Landmark projects, including visionary projects that influenced the founding of Memphis, will be on display. His later, lesser-known work will be highlighted in dialogue with pieces by other important 20th-century designers, including Piet Mondrian, Jean Michael Frank, Gio Ponti, and Shiro Kuramata. Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical will be open to the public on July 21st, with an education program on October 1st featuring David Kelley, co-founder of IDEO, on Sottsass. See the Met Breuer website for more details.
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New photography exhibition explores four Marcel Breuer projects from all over the world

For the Met Breuer’s first architecture exhibition, curator Beatrice Galilee has commissioned photographers Luisa Lambri and Bas Princen to revisit the iconic work of Marcel Breuer. The exhibition presents two distinct series of photographs paying homage to Breuer’s still-existing monumental modernist buildings from the 1950s and 1960s. The selected buildings include Saint John’s Abbey Church in Collegeville, Minnesota and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris which are Breuer’s first two important institutional buildings. These buildings were significant because they allowed Breuer to expand beyond what was essentially a residential practice. The IBM Research center in La Gaude, France (which is Breuer’s personal favorite) is known for its modular prefabricated concrete facade panels and distinctive double Y-shaped plan. The final building selected for the exhibition is the former Whitney Museum of American Art (now the Met Breuer). The museum is a New York City landmark known for its strong urban form as an inverted ziggurat. Lambri and Princen’s uniquely idiosyncratic approaches to the commission provide a welcoming juxtaposition of photographs. Lambri’s work documents the ephemeral experience of interior space through focused studies of light and materiality. The hexagonal screen at Saint John’s and the trapezoidal window at the Met Breuer are each documented as a series of photographs displaying the calm modulation of light over time. Princen’s dramatically large scale photographs document the post-occupancy use of buildings and their evolving relationship with nature. The sculptural, tree-like pillars at Saint John’s library are framed by a row of ordinary public library book shelves in the foreground. Upon revisiting the unoccupied IBM research center, Princen’s photos place the building within what appears to be an overgrown forest—a distinct contrast to the 1965 site which was sparsely covered by small trees. Long after Marcel Breuer’s passing in 1981, the influence of his work continues to gradually develop much like the life of buildings after they leave the drafting table. Both Lambri’s and Princen’s photos present us the opportunity to contemplate Breuer’s work unencumbered by the great modernist architect’s own intentions. Breuer Revisited: New Photographs runs through May 21, 2017, at The Met Breuer.
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Iconic architecture plays off of updated decor in the Met Breuer’s Flora Bar and Flora Coffee

At the end of 2015, restaurateur Thomas Carter and chef Ignacio Mattos, the duo behind Matter House, were tapped to create the new restaurant and coffee shop at the Met Breuer in collaboration Beyer Blinder Belle, the architects that led the building’s overall renovation. Carter and Mattos previously created trendy downtown restaurants Estela and Café Altro Paradiso, and Thomas P. Campbell, the director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hoped that the pair would bring the same kind of hip ambience to the stately Brutalist Upper East Side building that now houses the modern and contemporary branch of the museum. With the opening of Flora Bar and Flora Coffee, the Met Breuer’s reinvention takes another step forward.

Flora Bar is open to the public without a ticket and is located one level below the sidewalk with a seating capacity of 74. Throughout the space, iconic elements play off of updated, modern decor. For example, an ample wood-and-marble bar and custom stools by Brooklyn-based designer Steven Bukowski complement the original concrete walls and columns, while the ceiling, with Marcel Breuer’s original disc-shaped lights, is mirrored by the circular Mountain White Danby marble tables. Flora Bar will maintain separate hours from the museum and will be accessible through the main entrance even when the museum is closed. 

Flora Bar and Flora Coffee 945 Madison Avenue, New York, NY Tel: 646-558-5383 Designers: Beyer Blinder Belle with Matter House

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Building of the Day: The Met Breuer

This is the twenty-second in a series of guests posts that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours! With only six days left in the month, the Archtober 2016 Building of the Day tours are sadly coming to a close. We've seen a variety of new and innovative spaces mixed with old favorites and hidden gems that presented a mosaic of New York’s most impressive architecture. This year’s list would not be complete without Marcel Breuer’s iconic Whitney Museum, now known as the Met Breuer.

The Met Breuer, which opened in March of this year, houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s expanding modern and contemporary collections within its modest 29,000 square feet of exhibition space. When the Met moved into the building, its main goals were to restore and rejuvenate the space while still preserving the patina of the past. To that end, the Met gave the former Whitney the kind of exacting precision and gentle care it uses on its most treasured art objects.

That precision and care resulted in a building that both honors Breuer’s original vision and updates the space to meet the challenges of contemporary museums. The Met enlisted the help of Beyer Blinder Belle, a firm that specializes in the revitalization of historic buildings and has significant experience with the restoration of other midcentury modernist icons (Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport and Wallace Harrison’s Lincoln Center Promenade are two great examples). The restoration of the building took just under a year.

The updates that the Met and Beyer Blinder Belle incorporated show an informed understanding of Breuer’s subtle, graceful materiality and his ingenious structural engineering. A multitude of restoration and revitalization techniques needed to be devised for the various materials used in the building, which includes terrazzo, concrete, walnut parquet, and the famed gray granite exterior. The bluestone floors were treated with a natural, black wax to bring a soft luster while the walls, which required both chemical cleaners and water, were treated with a gentle, painterly approach. Breuer designed with the effects of time on materials in mind. The Met and Beyer Blinder Belle followed this example by leaving the bronze handrails of the staircase unfinished, allowing them to show their wear.

The lobby showcases the updates made for a contemporary museum with greater visitor numbers. The space was completely redesigned with multiple ticket sales points, self-service kiosks, and a substantially decreased retail footprint. Additionally, the lighting in the lobby has been updated to Breuer bulbs that can dim and provide a warmer uniformity of color temperature. The plexiglass and stone information center originally installed has been changed to a LED screen.

For the time being, the Met and the Whitney share ownership of the building. The Met will occupy the Breuer masterpiece for eight years, with a possible extension to 15 should the Met Breuer prove to be a success.

Despite its fame, the Breuer building is not a New York City landmark. Perhaps with a new tenant and renewed interest in the space, the building will get the recognition it deserves. Otherwise, its fate will be another question for the city and architecture lovers, should the Met end up vacating.

About the author: Anna Gibertini is a freelance journalist based in the New York metropolitan area. She contributes regularly to The ArtBlog, a Philadelphia-based arts and culture publication, and has had work published in Charleston, South Carolina’s Post & Courier and Syracuse, New York’s The Post Standard. She recently graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications with a master’s in arts journalism.

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Why the Met Breuer Matters

Today, March 18th, at 10 am, the Met Breuer officially opened in the former Whitney Museum at Madison Avenue and 75th Street. The Marcel Breuer-designed building has been restored and updated by an in-house design team and New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle. I had the opportunity to tour the building with the architects and Jorge Otero-Pailos, Associate Professor and incoming director of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia University GSAPP. For a full schedule of The Met Breuer’s opening weekend events, visit their website.
The Architect’s Newspaper: What do you think the Met Breuer means architecturally? Jorge Otero-Pailos: Consider the first show that they are mounting there: Unfinished, Thoughts Left Visible. I think it is in part the Met’s way of signaling their view of the building. They are putting this question of the “unfinished” in relation to the building as their opening show. This is something that I’m very interested in because a work of architecture is never finished in the sense that a work of art could be finished.  With art you can express that work is purposely left unfinished by the artist, but in architecture, even if the architect would have wanted to finish the building, it is constantly being transformed and switched and replaced. Now, part of the interesting thing about all of these brutalist buildings of the 1960s is that they shun away from what we call finishes, you know, like drywall and like trim and like paint, so the building itself evokes this sense of incompleteness, but in a that incompleteness is also showing a type of directness, or an idea about materiality and construction technique being on the foreground, which was prevalent in brutalist architecture. How does the intervention express this? It’s a very subtle work and I think it’s the kind of work that will be imperceptible to most people.  I think that’s one of the really interesting things. There has been a major investment in upgrading the building done on the part of the Met, and it will appear to most people as if nothing has happened.  That in itself is radical in today’s day and age, because we are so used to the trend that the institution needs to have a mark, that it needs to be present, that the branding needs to sort of appear and that the new needs to be expressed somehow, and that the present needs to be expressed.  But here, the present is being expressed as a choice, as a choice to pick a building as opposed to the choice to build a building, which to me is very different and unique, sort of a real different idea about the city, even, than the idea of having to build and having to express the institution somehow.  So this suggests a type of separation between the identity of the user and the identity of the building, which is quite refreshing. So there is a separation between identity of the institution and the building? Yeah. I mean, there is this distance between the two, they coexist, but they are not the same.  I think that’s quite interesting, given the fact that most buildings go up today are so overtly trying to give expression to some sort of corporate identity or city identity or trying to embody the user or the financier or, it seems to me that this loosening up of that relationship is really important as a contribution. What is also refreshing is the role of the architect in the process, because what you would typically have is all of the discussion, not so much about the building, but about the personality and intentions of the architect. Here, we’re forced into a discussion about the building, about the object itself—its qualities, its successes and failures. We think about what it enables us to do and not do, what kinds of shows can be in there and not be in there, what kinds of audiences can be attracted to it, not attracted to it.  So it’s about the building, and that, I think, is really extraordinary today when you look at architectural journalism or even criticism, so much of it tends to fold back on the biographical and the figure of the architect as the source of what gives unity and that becomes the criteria for judgment of the work. I think it’s a hard thing in today’s reality to even conceive of having to rethink this building and engage with it, and I would say that, that’s the exciting part about it, that here people are going to be looking very closely at the building, be looking for signs of change, and they’re going to find that it’s been very carefully manicured to appear as if nothing has changed where a whole lot has happened. What is the relationship of the building to Breuer? It is interesting that a building, in a sense, can have a life after its architect that it doesn’t have to be beholden to that, and that it doesn’t require a new architect in order to be relevant for today. We often hear so much about the need to hire a contemporary architect in order to make the existing building feel contemporary. And I think here, the fact that the architect has chosen not to leave their mark. Beyer Blinder Belle has chosen to hide their mark, which is very different and suggests that the building can be contemporary. The process by which the building can become relevant and contemporary again is not necessarily through the mediation of a contemporary architect, but that it is concerned about whether people will like it or not. Will people come back? And so, will people choose it?  And that sort of leaving it up to the public without over-manipulating it is, I think, a really daring thing that the Met is doing. Yeah.  How does that contrast with the New Whitney, the last big museum to open up in New York? They, in a similar way, kind of take that back seat.  At least, my reading of that Renzo Piano building is it’s really taking a back seat to a lot of other factors, like the city and the “public” and the city and the art, in a way.  But it’s in sort of a different way, maybe. Do you see a difference in the way the institutions are treating the idea of museum experience? I think what I would compare is not so much the new and old buildings, but the last exhibition that the Whitney put up and the first exhibition that the Met is putting up.  Whereas in the last exhibition at the Whitney, they basically devoted the whole museum to Jeff Koons as a type of “hurrah of a contemporary artist,” to make the building feel contemporary by using this blockbuster exhibition of a major artist, versus this notion of the “unfinished,” which is a much more, let’s say, intellectual proposition, less reliant on individual name recognition, and more suggestive of a relationship to the building— a relationship between the art and the building on a conceptual level. These are completely different types of positions on the building from the point of view of the institutions. What do you think is the Met’s point of view about the Breuer building? Well, I think that they’ve treated it more like an art object than a building. I think, for example, it is actually sort of telling that Beyer Blinder Belle has decided to leave the image of human touch, you know, the rub, the lifting of the patina of the bronze railings, to leave that as if it still retains that human touch, as if nothing has been redone, and then to redo all the other pieces where there is not that sort of focalization of attention, where you don’t put your hand. I think that, to me, is super interesting. So they basically, looking at that lobby, it has been the focus of all the attention, and it has been treated as basically an artwork, like another one of the Met’s interiors. They collect interiors. When you look at the Met’s collection, it has a very large collection of period rooms where you have a Frank Lloyd Wright period room and you have an early American Colonial period room and a French parlor period room. I think that sensibility of the period room is very interesting, and it’s a little bit the way it has been installed. Also, that big display is like a label for the whole building, like an object needs a label, right? Especially in museum studies. And when you walk into a museum, you look at a painting, it always has a little label next to it. And so that screen is, in a way, the label for the building. It tells us what the building is now, how it’s being used and what to attend to and so on. I think the potential for that screen is very high. I wonder what they are going to choose in terms of artists or people to design that screen. It should be site-specific. But it would begin to question this relationship between the label and the object, and I think that’s really quite interesting. Is this the biggest period room? I don’t think so. I think I would pick Grand Central for that. That’s a big period room. The Met Breuer is probablt the biggest period room of the Met. How do you think that the visitor experience changes with the addition of the public café space in the courtyard, which will be unticketed? Opening up the bottom courtyard to the public is really quite a radical move. That courtyard has been closed to the public for a very long time, and to recuperate that as a public space, so we can walk off the street and go downstairs and have access to the garden in that sunken court, I think is really an extraordinary move. It sort of completely changes the entrance of the building and the experience of the building from the street, and the experience of the visitor off the street.  I think that will make it a huge success with New Yorkers and with visitors that this has been given over to the public in a serious way, as opposed to just the paying customers. And I think that in a lot of very successful adaptations of historic buildings and museums or expansions or whatever, there is always a rethinking of the entrance and of the entrance sequence and of the entrance experience. It’s just very important to so-called directors of visitor experience today, but also to architects. If you look at the work of Renzo Piano, he always switches the entrance on the building. Look at his work at Isabella Gardner Museum, or at the J.P. Morgan Library. He always shifts the entrance of the building, of the historic building and makes you enter in a different way and circulate through the existing buildings in a different way. And by circulating through them in a different way, you rediscover them, because the sequence is different, the expectations are different.  So I think that opening up of that bottom court does that. It really changes the whole entrance, even though you’re still walking through that bridge. The other thing to remember is that enduring institutions in Manhattan have always moved around, I mean, changed buildings. Madison Square Garden started in Madison Square and is now on 34th Street occupying its 4th building. The Whitney itself is now occupying its 5th building.  Columbia University used to be downtown; it’s now uptown. A bit like hermit crabs, institutions change buildings as they evolve. I think the Met Breuer is interesting because it invites us to look at at the buildings that institutions leave behind and ask questions about their continued relevance within the cultural life of the city. What does it mean for an institution to take over another institution’s building? What sort of institutions will be able to inhabit the New Whitney after the Whitney is gone? Or what sort of institutions will be able to go into MoMA after MoMA moves out?  What will be left? Will it be an object to be shared by everyone in this city? To what degree city is a part of the conception of the architecture, I think is really important. If you look at the Folk Art Museum versus the Breuer building, two very different attitudes about museum expansion and how to deal with an existing significant work of art, of architecture. Now, the Whitney benefited from the fact that it is in a landmark area. It’s in the Upper East Side historic district that protects it. Which was not the case for the American Folk Art Museum. But these are different attitudes to buildings of the recent past, if we can call them that. I think that’s very interesting as a point of comparison of what’s happening in New York City. I mean, it speaks to different attitudes from different types of institutions, different understandings of their duty of care. And interestingly enough, the Met just really started thinking about architecture as a department. They haven’t had an architecture department; whereas MoMA has had the oldest architecture department in the country, for that matter. Maybe that’s a modern versus a sort of pre-modern attitude toward conservation? Or maybe they’re two competing contemporary views. And I think in that is also the degree to which the public is allowed to be involved in the choice and in the discussion about what to do with a building. I think it’s been interesting in both cases. Buildings are constantly unfinished. And so, to get to a point where Beyer Blinder Belle and the Met are actually making in-fillings in the blemishes of the concrete invisible, where they have to actually push the envelope of technology to make that in-fill, to me, is really suggestive of a different type of sensibility, a different way of collecting the present towards the future. I think that, for me, that’s one of the most important things. I mean, there are certain buildings that as New Yorkers, you can’t imagine the future without.  And that is part of the future. That is part of a future that is more realistic than this sort of frictionless future where there is no resistance from reality. I think that is part of what this building does. It just resists. It was built to resist the city, right? Interview edited and condensed for clarity.
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How Graves, Koolhaas, and Piano would have altered Marcel Breuer’s iconic Madison Avenue museum

This month, The Metropolitan Museum of Art is opening the Met Breuer, replacing the Whitney Museum of American Art that called the Brutalist showpiece home for nearly five decades. Last year, the Whitney moved to Renzo Piano's building in the Meatpacking District. The Met is renting the Breuer (now the Met Breuer) on an eight-year lease while David Chipperfield works on a new space for contemporary art. The site of the Met's latest acquisition, however, has a colourful past, fending off near misses from Graves to Koolhaas and Piano.  AN Takes a look at what so nearly could have been.                                 In 1989, the New York Times ran the headline: "The Whitney Paradox: To Add Is To Subtract." Such was Paul Goldberger's distaste for what Michael Graves had originally proposed to lie adjacent to Marcel Breuer's building. Indeed, Graves' Postmodern proposal gave rise to Goldberger questioning: "What value does the Breuer building have, both as a work of architecture unto itself and as a part of the streetscape? And how gingerly, therefore, should it be treated?" Built in 1966, Marcel Breuer's Modernist granite building may be the epitome of abstract architecture, having remained detached for so long, shooing away any potential plunderers of its monumental message. Breuer, a Hungarian and product of Gropius' Bauhaus, went so far as to erect concrete walls to resist interaction with adjacent buildings, keeping them at arm's length.