In the wake of a slew of criticisms on numerous glass skyscrapers' over-reflective properties, some architects and critics are asking if it's time to reassess our view on using glass facades in the future. Contemporary architecture today is at a crossroads: Do we continue to enamor the structures that reach up into the sky in a display of corporate might with reflective sheaths of glass? Take advantage of the new technology that is allowing the sun to power these buildings? Or do we take a step back and re-evaluate our position on the all-glass facade altogether? Fred A. Bernstein of the Architectural Record laments that today the "relentless repetition of glass facades leads to a numbing sameness." "Is that a building?" said a designer to Bernstein , "I thought it was a pavilion for a plexiglass convention." It's no surprise that the person, who was passing by Fumihiko Maki's creation at 51 Astor Place, feels disillusioned. At one end of the spectrum, you have cities like Bath in England where such glass behemoths are nowhere to be found. You are surrounded by the Georgian works of John Palmer, who's Lansdown Crescent, despite its scale, is not overwhelming. At the other end, you have cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai, which are filled with an unprecedented amount of glass high-rise structures, their facades lost in the sky with light bouncing off one another. Where then, do we draw the line? With modern skyscrapers being the architectural product of an ever changing, neo-liberalist, globalization obsessed corporate society, such a line may even be impossible to draw. The case for glass—to pardon the pun—is clear. For companies, having floor to ceiling windows helps break down the stratified hierarchy that was once commonplace in such office buildings by giving all employees, not just the boss, a panoramic view. When used effectively, an elegant glass facade can convey honesty and open-mindedness and even perhaps financial transparency. This may be why the style is so popular amongst financial firms, despite the fact this isn't always the case. Developers are also under pressure to maximize space. Having a thin skin such as glass is an easy solution that enables the architect to sell the building's space as good value for money. Plus, the advancement of photovoltaic cells now means that they can be installed as windows, further advocating the facade style as an economically viable asset. PV company SolarWindow, which specializes in PV-based window solutions claims that when installed on four sides of a 50-story building, 1.3 gigawatt-hours of energy can be generated. Architect Ken Shuttleworth however, has different ideas. Despite being part of the team behind the glass clad Swiss Rae building in London, he has since done a U-turn by stating that he is "rethinking" everything he as done in the last 40 years. Shuttleworth's voice is echoed by many in what is an emerging discourse on the glass structures that run the risk of becoming the scourge of the skyline. "We need to be much more responsible in terms of the way we shade our buildings and the way we thermally think about our buildings," he told the BBC last year. The only thing that appears to be halting the perpetual rise of the glass facade in the United States is a shortage in the material. Failure of the market to produce however, has not stopped developers, who according to WSJ’s Robbie Whelan, have now delved into the glass manufacturing industry. Developer, Related Cos has even gone so far as to take production methods into its own hands—building its own glass factory to create the largest private development in American history. Bruce Beal Jr., Related’s president chose to embark on the endeavor for a handful of skyscrapers and apartments on Manhattan’s West Side as part of the Hudson Yards scheme. Across the Atlantic, the trade association "Glass for Europe" is understandably keen to dismiss the growing concern about the once ubiquitous glass facade and advocate the fact that glass is fully recyclable. Pressure from trade unions isn't enough it seems to sway architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff who, like Shuttleworth, isn't a fan of the glass skyscraper. Speaking to the BBC he said, "as someone who spends their entire life staring at buildings, I am a bit bored by the glass box. They were radical in the 1920s and now they are just cliches, expensive ones at that," he said. "Now we are having to be more thoughtful about how and where we use glass. Maybe architects will become more inventive in how they use windows, instead of plastering them across whole facades." Technological advancements may be the only way this question will truly be answered, but for now, money talks and that appears to be what governs the modern architectural style today.
Posts tagged with "Mies van der Rohe":
Endless House: Intersections of Art and Architecture Museum of Modern Art The Robert Menschel Architecture and Design Gallery 11 West 53rd Street, New York Through March 6, 2016 The Museum of Modern Art pays homage to the single-family home in Endless House: Intersections of Art and Architecture, a rich exhibition comprised of photographs, drawings, video, installations, and architectural models from MoMA’s collection. It showcases the artistic endeavors of both architects and artists alike with works that span seven decades. Intriguing house designs—ranging from historical projects by Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, and Rem Koolhaas, to new acquisitions from Smiljan Radic and Asymptote Architecture—are juxtaposed with visions from artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Bruce Nauman, Mario Merz, and Rachel Whiteread. The inspiration for the exhibit’s name is Frederick Kiesler’s "Endless House," shown in the 1960 MoMA show Visionary Architecture. Courtesy MoMA
New York City’s iconic Four Seasons Restaurant inside the Seagram Building is at the center of a renovation dispute
Traditionalists went into a tailspin over proposed modifications to the landmark Four Seasons Restaurant, a gastronomic and architectural emblem of New York City housed in the historic Seagram Building. The high-ceilinged enclave, clad with French walnut walls, plays daily host to high society a big business in Midtown Manhattan. The eatery garnered landmark status in 1989 for the building’s architectural prowess. Nevertheless, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) cautions that this designation does not shield the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs, Florence Knoll banquettes, Eero Saarinen cocktail tables, and table settings by L. Garth Huxtable. Building owner and noted art collector Aby Rosen of RFR Holdings recently filed plans to make changes to the restaurant, reportedly without consulting owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder. While the LPC approved the proposed new carpeting without qualm, they balked at a removal of the cracked-glass and bronze partitions separating the dining area and bar. Originally installed by legendary architect Philip Johnson, who designed the space with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1959, the partitions would be replaced by movable ivy planters to open up the space. Selldorf Architects is also considering nixing the large walnut panels separating the square-shaped 60-foot-by-60-foot Pool Room from the dining room on the mezzanine. These will be replaced with five panels, the outer two of which would be operable for reconfiguration of the space. According to Rosen, this would improve the flow between the mezzanine and the Pool Room without the upper tier framing the space. “This landmark is elevated to a level where any kind of intervention would not be living with preservation,” objected LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. Conservationists bristled last year when Rosen entertained an eviction of the Le Tricorne Picasso tapestry hanging inside the restaurant in order to facilitate reparations to the wall behind it, where a “potentially serious steam leak” from the two-story kitchen had purportedly crippled the structure. The preservation commission retorted that removal of the tapestry would cause it to “crack like a potato chip.” A New York State judge issued an injunction prohibiting Seagram from removing the painting, but Rosen, a real estate developer and avid collector of post-war art, is in conservationists’ crossfire again for daring to alter a landmark. “These are features that are integral to the sense of space. Not just decorative but have architectural meaning and value,” said Commissioner Diana Chapin. Edgar Bronfman Jr., whose family owned Seagram, claimed that RFR’s proposal displays “utter contempt” for the icon. RFR representative Sheldon Werdiger maintains that the changes are restorative rather than invasive. “We’re not making changes as much as we’re restoring. Our local press is trying to make it into a controversial situation,” he told Arch Record.
The days of China as a staging ground for progressive, even experimental, architecture may be numbered. High-profile projects by Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl, et al, while the delight of design aficionados around the world, haven't impressed Chinese President Xi Jinping—at least in a positive way. At a symposium on the arts held in Beijing at the end of last year, he made statements to the effect that "weird" buildings—an adjective that has not yet been codified—would not be welcome in the future. Government intrusion into architectural aesthetics is not, of course, without ugly precedent. Joseph Stalin—who was called "the father and friend of all Soviet architects" at the All-Union Congress in 1946—essentially conscripted architects to work for the state, forcing them to close their practices to deliver structures like the Seven Sisters, fortress-like buildings topped with Gothic-ish towers. (Un-fun fact: The project manager for these buildings was a KGB honcho, and the construction crews were composed of POWs and political prisoners.) Mies van der Rohe, in an act of cunning integrity, convinced the Third Reich of the importance of keeping the Bauhaus open, only to close the school himself in a statement of artistic principle. We wonder who among the contemporary architectural community might take such a stand—should the need arise—with regard to China.
According to Francisco Gonzalez-Pulido, president of Chicago-based JAHN, contemporary facade design neglects one of the building envelope’s foremost responsibilities: storytelling. “There is a focus now on using the building massing to convey the key message,” he said. “However, I think it’s through the facade that we can bring a more compelling narrative about how the building functions.” As an example, Gonzalez-Pulido pointed to Mies van der Rohe’s One IBM Plaza, which he can see from his office. “When you look at the mechanical floors, they’re treated differently,” he said. “In the lobby, the glass is different. This is actually the responsibility of the facade—it’s more than a piece of glass and metal to cover the building.” Gonzalez-Pulido, who will deliver the afternoon keynote at facades+ Chicago later this month, framed the problem in terms of lightness. “Lightness is not only a physical property but a metaphysical property,” he said. “There’s been a tendency of loading skins with unnecessary elements for the sake of aesthetics. The facade is regulating so many important things that we have to be more conscious of it. If we are, the impact of buildings on the urban environment will be much more positive than it has been.” Architects should take their cue from the automobile and aircraft industries, he said, and discard homogeneity in favor of innovative materials and assemblies. The tendency toward standardization, Gonzalez-Pulido said, does not just have aesthetic consequences. It also sacrifices environmental performance. “It bothers me that buildings are so passive when the environment is changing constantly,” he said. “By facades being so mundane, as they are in a lot of buildings right now, we’re relying more on internal systems as opposed to the skin itself to really improve performance.” In the best-case scenario, the building envelope should facilitate “invisible acclimatization,” explained Gonzalez-Pulido, “creating ideal conditions of comfort and energy consumption without you being an active regulator or manipulator.” One key to correcting the imbalance between form and function, Gonzalez-Pulido argued, is convincing clients that high-performance facades are worth the initial cost. “That’s part of the reason why we’re creating this very boring look to buildings, because clients are so aware of what it takes to make a building inexpensive,” he said. “They’re pushing architects to the cookie cutter. This is dangerous—we’re not inventing things, we’re trying with aesthetics to make a difference.” Luckily, some clients can be talked out of a preference for glass boxes. This is what happened at the Veer Towers in Las Vegas (2010), where JAHN convinced an initially skeptical MGM that external shades were essential in a desert environment. “This is a remarkable story of how we were able to turn around the destiny of a building in its context, through collaborative effort, integrated design, and a committed client,” Gonzalez-Pulido said. Ultimately, it is up to architects to realize the building envelope’s full potential, Gonzalez-Pulido said. “Only if we push our boundaries, remove our preconceptions, and respond to the different context where we’re actually influencing through our design will we be able to make real progress,” he said. “It’s not just a technical question, but a moral question.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s archetypal modernist home, the Farnsworth House, is drowning. The banks of the Fox River served as an idyllic setting for the building’s white steel and glass when it landed in Plano, Illinois. But lately the Fox has gone rabid, spilling over its banks three times in the past 18 years. So what to do? Preservationists are looking at installing hydraulic jacks to lift the house during floods, to the tune of about $3 million. Call it the Three Million Dollar Modernist. Ironically Mies put the house on stilts to prevent such flooding; I guess you can’t outwit a wily Fox.
A group of North Carolina preservationists is trying to protect a local piece of modernist history from the impending wrecking ball. The News & Observer reported that a group called North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH) has started a campaign to save the former Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic building, which was designed by Raleigh architect G. Milton Small over 50 years ago. "The building is really Raleigh’s finest example of international architecture," said George Smart, the head of NCMH, who noted that Small studied under Mies van der Rohe at IIT. The two-story structure is wrapped in floor-to-ceiling windows and a porch, and has a 6,000-square-foot courtyard with a 10-foot decorative brick wall. While the building does not have a national profile or an esepcially famous architect, it was noted for its "taste and design" in a 1965 New York Times cover story. The building is currently vacant, and its owner has filed plans for a structure twice its size on the site. Construction on that project is expected to begin in a few months, but before that happens, NCMH is making its own push to find a new tenant for the building. They will be hosting an open house at the clinic building on May 7th.
Earlier this year, the Washington, D.C. Public Library announced that Martinez+Johnson and Mecanoo had won their competition to design the next phase of the city's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Check out AN's coverage of the winning design here. The firm beat out two other finalists to revamp van der Rohe's iconic work. Here's AN's guide to the competition and the runners-up. According to a press release from the D.C. Public Library, each team “developed two preliminary design ideas: one of a stand-alone library and one of a mixed-use building with additional floors.” All three teams propose ways to respect and restore the structure’s original facade, but re-imagine the library’s interiors and offer ideas for what can go on top of it. There are also two competing proposals to add “a cloud” into—or onto—Mies’ structure. The Runners-up: The Patkau Architects/Ayers Saint Gross proposal removed existing interior floorplates to create what they’re calling a “Community Mixer.” Above this courtyard-like space will be “the cloud,” a “new technological form” that “distributes daylight, broadcasts information, and sustainably generates energy.” The STUDIOS Architecture/The Freelon Group team proposed a completely revamped roof with gardens, a café, a pedestrian walkway, an amphitheater and possible housing. And, yes, they’ve got “a cloud” too; it will be “ever-present through the building” and include “new library programs associated with sharing, innovation and prototyping.” Martinez and Johnson + Mecanoo's winning proposal: Read about the winning plan in AN's recent article on the project.
Norman Foster has broken ground on a skinny residential tower in Midtown Manhattan. Situated adjacent to the 1958 Seagram Building on the site of a former YWCA, Foster + Partners' 61-story white luxury tower at 610 Lexington Avenue will dwarf Mies van der Rohe's 38-story bronze-clad landmark. "It’s not simply about our new building, but about the composition it creates together with one of the 20th century’s greatest," said Foster + Partners' Chris Connell in a statement. "In contrast to Seagram’s dark bronze, our tower will have a pure white, undulating skin. Its proportions are almost impossibly slim and the views will be just incredible."
Out of a crop of 26, ten teams have been invited to present their technical proposals for the renovation of the Mies van der Rohe–designed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. District officials are hoping to transform the landmark 1972 building, Mies’ last built work and his only in D.C., into a state-of-the-art central library fit for the nation’s capital. The finalists are Cunningham Quil Architects and 1100 Architects, Ennead Architects and Marshall Moya Architects, Leo A. Daly and Richard Bauer, Martinez and Johnson Architects and Mecanoo Architects, OMA and Quinn Evans Architects, Patkua Architects and Ayer Saint Gross, REX and Davis Carter Scott Architects, Shalom Baranes and Davis Brody Bond, Skidmorw Owings & Merill, and Studios Architecture and The Freelon Group. With the library’s plumbing, HVAC and elevator systems in need of replacement, asbestos present throughout the building, and annual maintenance costs soaring to $5 million, the aging athenaeum demands some serious work. Library officials have given their chosen architects a few different options, from a simple update of the building’s ailing systems, to construction of two additional floors or a complete gutting the interior. Either way, the transformation is scheduled to wrap up by 2018.
Calling architects, engineers, fabricators, consultants, and other design professionals: don’t miss your opportunity to join the industry’s leading innovators in our series of hands-on technology workshops and in-depth dialog workshops, only at the premiere conference for high-performance building envelopes – Facades+ PERFORMANCE Chicago, October 24th-25th! Register today to take advantage of our Early Bird Special and be ready to get your hands dirty with the latest tools and techniques that are changing the face of contemporary architecture. Join Jonathan Schumacher and Mostapha Roudsari of Thornton Tomasetti, Nathan Miller of CASE Design, Ronnie Parsons of Mode Lab, and other industry professionals for our full-day tech workshops, and gain the valuable skills necessary to deliver cutting-edge facades in today’s dynamic architectural landscape. Registered architects can earn 8 AIA LU credits as they catch up on the ever-evolving tools of the trade in the Mies van der Rohe-designed Illinois Institute of Technology’s Main Campus in Chicago, so don’t miss out! Following the series of stimulating presentations and lectures on day one of the conference, attendees will have the chance to choose from either two seminar-style dialog workshops or one of six daylong tech workshops, presented in conjunction with Mode Collective. In small, one-on-one, classroom settings, participants will gain the knowledge and skills to work with the latest in cutting edge design and analysis technologies to push your practice’s facades to the highest standards of performance. Learn the mechanisms for creating performance-based parametric systems and dynamic patterning with Grasshopper. Explore emerging techniques for the rationalitazion of envelope surfaces and the fundamental concepts of facade panelization and optimization with Galapagos and Kangaroo. Develop new skills for generating facade geometry, utilizing analysis information and managing complex parameters with Dynamo. Gain hands-on experience in the most up-to-date environmental analysis technologies to discover the next generation of high-performance building envelope design. All of this and more, more, more make AN and Enclos' Facades+ PERFORMANCE Chicago the event of the season for groundbreaking facade technologies. Our Early Bird special ends today, so sign up now to take advantage of this great deal. See you in Chicago!
For seven years, Eavesdrop has lived in Chicago without a car and that means we’ve never made the trek out to Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House. But with all the flooding in the Midwest this year, we could have just used a boat. Now, a little bird has whispered in our ear that at least one docent is bent out of shape by recent changes. It would appear that the National Trust for Historic Preservation is replacing volunteer docents with paid part-time tour guides. Can you imaging, the desire to pay your help? Quelle horreur! We say: way to go Trust!