The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has announced that Martino Stierli has been appointed as the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design. Mr. Stierli is currently a professor at the University of Zurich where he teaches the history of modern architecture. Previously, he has organized or co-curated exhibitions at prestigious venues around the world, taught at multiple Swiss universities, and published multiple essays on various topics relating to design. He steps into his new role in March, 2015. “[Stierli] brings an international perspective and possesses an extraordinary ability to brilliantly relate architecture and its image to its cultural context,” MoMA’s director Glenn D. Lowry said in a statement. “With his solid grounding in the history of modern architecture and art, coupled with a keen interest in contemporary practice, Martino will be an effective and energetic leader.” Stierli lavished praise on MoMA and expressed excitement about his upcoming post. “By continually expanding its comprehensive collection, the Department of Architecture and Design has been pivotal to the preservation of modernism for the future, and to making that heritage accessible to scholars and the broader public alike,” he said in a statement released by the museum. “I am excited to continue this tradition at MoMA and look forward to working with the Museum’s extraordinary team to contribute to shaping the current discourse on architecture and the city—locally, nationally, and globally.” Barry Bergdoll, who was the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design from 2007 to 2013, told AN, "I look forward greatly to Martino Stierli's leadership at MoMA Architecture and Design. Stierli is a creative, innovative, and astute historian and critic of modern and contemporary architecture, especially in its intersections with other artistic practices, notably photography and film. I am sure he will work with the collection, and grow it, in interesting ways, as well as develop timely and meaningful exhibitions, publications, and events. He brings a fresh vision to New York and to MoMA."
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Move over, Aalto vases and Eames coat racks: there are some fresh new works available at the Museum of Modern Art Design Store. Sourced in partnership with Kickstarter, 24 products from 20 international designers are getting a shot at icon status over the course of four short weeks. As with the standard stock of the MoMA store, timepieces, toys, and techy items are well represented among these limited editions. An elegant, spare wooden wristwatch by Lorenzo Buffa (716 backers on Kickstarter) is offered in light and dark finishes, with an innovative bonded-wood and leather strap. Created by art professors Pablo Garcia and Golan Levin, the NeoLucida Drawing Aid (11,406 backers) is a portable, prism-based tool that projects the subject matter of a sketch onto a sheet of blank paper, so it can be easily traced. The Powerslayer Phone Charger Kit (597 backers), designed by Justin Champaign and Velvetwire, detects when your smartphone is fully charged, and then frugally breaks the power connection, saving both money and battery life. Emmanuel Platt, the director of merchandising of MoMA’s retail division, came to the museum from another bastion of fine design: The Conran Shop, where he was president of U.S. operations. “We were inspired to pursue this project because so many of the most impressive, new, and innovative products we have been finding lately kept leading up back to Kickstarter,” he said in a statement. “It became clear that Kickstarter is an important new way for good design to come into being, and we wanted to celebrate that.” The Kickstarter collection will be available from through June 16. And there’s a launch party tonight during New York Design week [aka #NYCxDesign] on May 19 at the MoMA Design Store SoHo from 6:00 to 9:00. Meet the makers, eat & drink, and drink & eat. Be polite and RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What was the most popular architecture or design exhibition in 2013? If you guessed MoMA's Le Corbusier spectacular or SFMOMA's landmark Lebbeus Woods: Architect (coming to New York's Drawing Center April 15) you're close but off the mark. In fact the most popular architecture exhibition in the world, according to The Art Newspaper's 2013 Visitors Figures was MoMA's Henri Labrouste exhibition that drew 438,680 viewers (4,100 a day) compared to the Le Corbusier show that had 405,000 visitors (4,010 a day). In fact, MoMA had the top three architecture exhibitions in the world last year with their 9+1 Ways of Being Political the third most attended exhibition with 2,594 visitors a day during its eight-month run on 53rd Street. Lebbeus Woods: Architect was the fourth-most-attended architecture exhibition with 210,122 (2,287 a day). With both Le Corbusier and Henri Labrouste in the top fifty exhibitions of any kind worldwide, clearly MoMA curator Barry Bergdoll has done something right in his time at the museum.
Isa Genzken: Retrospective Museum of Modern Art New York Through March 10, 2014 In the home stretch before it closes on March 10, Isa Genzken: Retrospective at MoMA shows a sculptor whose work is infused with architecture from her sleek early works of lacquered wood in the engineered Hyperbolos and Ellipsoids series to rougher experiments in plaster, concrete, and steel which resemble architectural maquettes on pedestals including Bank (1985), Rosa Zimmer (Pink Room) (1987), Galerie (1987), Kleiner Pavilion (1989), and Fenster (Window) (1990). The architecture of Berlin and New York inspired some of her most significant work. It tackles subjects like the disposable global culture, the relationship between architecture and site, form and space. Fuck the Bauhaus, New Buildings for New York (2000), New Buildings for Berlin (2004), and Der Amerikanische Raum (The American Room) (2004) are the result: colorful, energetic, and made of many found and industrial materials. Genzken has lived in New York and was there on 9/11, which prompted a series of installations, Ground Zero (2008), and a play called Empire/Vampire (2003) with two protagonists, the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building (video and sculptural set designs). On a more personal note, she has made architectural personification of artist friends including Dan Graham and Wolfgang Tilmans, titled by their first names: Andy, Isa, Dan, Wolfgang, Kai. Catch it.
The New York Times is reporting that MoMA has decided to disassemble the white bronze facade of the American Folk Art Museum building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. A controversial expansion plan, by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, calls for the demolition of the building to make way for a new "art bay" and circulation to new galleries in an adjacent tower designed by Jean Nouvel. MoMA director Glen Lowry told the Times, "We will take the facade down, piece by piece, and we will store it. We have made no decision about what happens subsequently, other than the fact that we’ll have it and it will be preserved." The move is a significant change by the Modern, which has been generally dismissive of the building's architectural significance. In an additional interview, Liz Diller objected to the idea that the bronze facade should be reattached to the expanded MoMA on 53rd street, calling that approach a “token gesture to a history.” She added: “We think of buildings synthetically. Facades and buildings and their organization, their logic, are tied entirely together.”
Liz Diller faced down a hostile crowd at the recent “MoMA Expansion Conversation,” hosted by the Architectural League, the Municipal Art Society, and AIA New York. Apparently she’s had some practice. One elder statesman of the New York architecture community reports that Diller made a series of phone calls to prominent architects prior to the public release of MoMA’s plans asking for their advice and support. This gray eminence apparently told her the firm should resign from the commission. At which point Ric Scofidio apparently chimed in, saying, succinctly, “Never!” An editor from another publication reports rumors of dissent within Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Apparently some associates in the firm have asked not to work on the project, fearing a Scarlet Letter on their resumes.
The Architecture League of New York has released a video of the discussion convened last week to discuss to MoMA's planned expansion. The move, which entails the demolition of the adjacent American Folk Art Museum, is a contentious one and has sparked much debate within the architectural community. Tuesday's conversation included contributions from the Museum's director, Glenn Lowry, Elizabeth Diller (principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who is overseeing the project), and a slew of other architects, journalists, and theorists who all questioned MoMA's decision to do away with their Tod Williams Billie Tsien-designed neighbor.
Nearly 650 people crowded the auditorium at the Society for Ethical Culture on Manhattan's Upper West Side on Tuesday to debate MoMA's expansion plans, which include the demolition of the Tod Williams Billie Tsien–designed American Folk Art Museum (AFAM) building. Organized by the Architectural League of New York, the Municipal Art Society, and the AIA New York Chapter, the event was packed with prominent members of the design community. MoMA Director Glen Lowry and chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin spoke of the Museum's growing collection and their need to show art from the "immediate past," the 20th Century, alongside art from the present, and cited large recent acquisitions like the Fluxus and Frank Lloyd Write collections. Liz Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro gave an earnest presentation, repeating her firm's desire and lengthy investigations to save the Folk Art building, calling Williams and Tsien "admired colleagues." Rectifying the alignment of the floors of AFAM with MoMA and creating easy circulation between buildings proved impossible, she said, without destroying the "integrity" of the AFAM building. Cranbrook Academy director Reed Kroloff then led a panel discussion on the expansion plans. Former New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff dismissed the architectural merits of the AFAM building, calling it flawed, and comparing it to Edward Durrell Stone's Two Columbus Circle. Cathleen McGuigan, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record, called the building important and urged the Modern to move more slowly with their demolition plans. Columbia preservation professor Jorge Otero-Pailos said the problem called for a rethinking of what preservation means and about the particular qualities of the AFAM building (some of his work involves the senses, and he praised the "olfactory quality" of the AFAM building, while saying MoMA had "an airport smell"). Architectural consultant and writer Karen Stein questioned Diller's assertion that circulation should be a defining feature of the project, and argued that MoMA had an obligation to the discipline of architecture to save the Williams Tsien building or some piece of it. Architect Stephen Rustow, who worked for KPF on the Taniguchi MoMA expansion, praised Diller, Scofidio + Renfro for addressing MoMA's programmatic goals, but questioned if the institution had framed those goals too narrowly, thereby eliminating any possibility of saving the AFAM building. Simultaneous to the action in the auditorium, an equally lively debate was happening on social media, with competing twitter hashtags, #MoMAConvo (promoted by the Modern) and #folkmoma (initiated by activists trying to save the AFAM structure). Several people on twitter questioned if the event was a forum or a wake. Following the discussion, Lowry, Temkin, and Diller returned to the stage, and it became clear that the building's fate is set. "Our decision has been made," Lowry said. Responding to a question about the value of architecture versus art, Lowry underscored his point. "We don't collect buildings."
Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY February 1 to June 1 Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal will represent the first exhibit resulting from the recent join acquisition of the architect’s archives by MoMA and Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. The models, drawings, and films found within the extensive collection will allow the museum to illustrate the tension in Wright’s urban thinking in the 1920s and 30s. Even as he undertook projects that contributed to the increasingly vertical nature of American cities, he created a radical horizontal vision of urban life known as Broadacre City. The elaborate model of this agrarian metropolis created by Wright and his students will be displayed alongside the architect’s designs for the San Francsico Call Building, Mahattan’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers, and a largely theoretical mile-high skyscraper.
Diller, Scofidio + Renfro announced today that their reorganization of the Museum of Modern Art will include the replacement of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien's former American Folk Art Museum at 45 West 53rd street. Liz Diller said in her briefing that DS+R hoped to save the Folk Art building and repurpose it into a usable exhibit space or a connecting bridge between the new Jean Nouvel tower (which will have three floors of MoMA galleries) and the older parts of MoMA. However, "saving" the structure with its misaligned floors (to MOMA existing galleries) would mean compromising the integrity of the Williams Tsien structure. One can imagine the logic of DS+R's decision, but Williams and Tsien are, like any architects, sad to see the demise of their 2001 building that Herbert Muschamp said "transcend(s) cultural categories even as it helps define them." Here is Williams and Tsien's statement:
In response to the American Folk Art Museum building decision by MoMA January 8, 2014 We have learned of MoMA’s final decision to raze the former American Folk Art Museum building and replace it with a new structure. This action represents a missed opportunity to find new life and purpose for a building that is meaningful to so many. The Folk Art building was designed to respond to the fabric of the neighborhood and create a building that felt both appropriate and yet also extraordinary. Demolishing this human‐scaled, uniquely crafted building is a loss to the city of New York in terms of respecting the size, diversity and texture of buildings in a midtown neighborhood that is at risk of becoming increasingly homogenized. This is a building that we and others teach from and about. It has served as an invaluable learning resource for students, colleagues and scholars, and a source of inspiration for many more. It has a powerful architectural legacy. The inability to experience the building firsthand and to appreciate its meaning from an historical perspective will be profoundly felt. As architects, we must be optimists. So we look to the future and we move on.
Dante Ferretti: Design and Construction for the Cinema Museum of Modern Art The Roy and Niuta Titus Galleries and the Film Lobby Dante Ferretti: Designing for the Big Screen The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters Through February 9, 2014 When you enter the Film Entrance to the Museum of Modern Art at 11 West 53rd Street, you are greeted by two large lions. No, you are not 11 blocks south at the New York Public LIbrary, nor are you in Venice, Italy. You are entering the world of Dante Ferretti, the 70-year old multi–Academy Award–winning art director of films, opera, exhibitions, and even two New York City restaurants, Salumeria Rosi (design inspired by a scene in Federico Fellini’s Satyricon). Large, muscular, physically confident objects dot the floor—the clock-face from Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011), Art Deco chandeliers from Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975), and Arcimboldo figures comprised of vegetables, fruits and flowers (Milan World Expo, 2015). But these are actually lightweight, ephemeral objects made of fiberglass and not meant to last beyond the creation of the film or duration of the event. The clock and chandeliers were on the cusp of being tossed when curators Jytte Jensen and Ron Magliozzi salvaged them. We then descend from the lit ground floor to the darkened subterranean levels where the movie theaters nest and magic happens. Blueprints and models midway down indicate Ferretti’s working practice. Particularly noteworthy are his dividing lines for elements to be built in 3D butt up against a green screen for digitally rendered CGI. As film viewers, we see them seamlessly. The lowest level features a cinematic labyrinth, which echoes Ferreti’s own proclivities for intricate passageways and mazes, let alone the labyrinth of the mind. It is easy to get turned around in a labyrinth, but as Ferretti is our guide, we can rest assured that we will find our way to the end. This immersive 12-screen video maze is technically ingenious using Gerriet’s EVEN “front and rear” pure white screen fabric with identical distribution of image on both sides. Intentionally, the visitor can see projected images both from the correct orientation as you would seated in a cinema or in front of a monitor, and backwards. Upon seeing the screens for the first time just before the exhibition opening, Ferretti declared they would have to be changed since the material appeared too opaque. But once he saw the projection, he was amazed that the image penetrated to the verso without dimming or distortion. The BenQ MX822st projectors deliver short-throw, bright, sharp contrast images. No matter how many visitors are inside the labyrinth, no shadows are thrown. Scenes from many of Ferretti’s films are shown, and with the clips clocking in at different lengths you’ll never see the same combination twice. (This is the first time that MoMA insisted that clearances from all actors and guilds be obtained, rather than simply the studios, so it is doubtful that this sort of undertaking will take place again.) Mirrors at the end of the wall seem to extend the labyrinth to infinity. In fact, the original 1939 Titus lobby by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone had full-length mirrors [see photo at top]. The walls are lined with paintings, which is how Ferretti starts the process. He paints wide-screen canvases depicting key moments in the film with central perspective, pronounced light sources, grids and catacombs, often in a palette of dark reds and browns. The directors then respond to Ferretti’s concept, whether Fellini, Scorsese, Pasolini, Franco Zeffirelli, Anthony Minghella, Kenneth Branagh, Neil Jordan, Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton, Julie Taymor, Claude Chabrol, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Miller, or the many others for whom he has created worlds of the imagination for their films. Ferretti divides his output into three categories, which are represented in the screenings of 22 features shown in MoMA’s theaters: the historic “period” films (Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, 1975 and The Aviator, 2004) “fantasy” (Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1988 and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, 2011) and “contemporary” (Elio Petri’s Todo Modo, 1976 and Scorsese’s Casino, 1995). What does Ferretti surround himself with in his studio to create these designs? Classic Italian modernism.
2013 has proven to be a difficult year for post-war concrete architecture. While some iconic structures have managed to emerge from the maelstrom of demolition attempts unharmed, including M. Paul Friedberg’s Peavy Plaza in Minneapolis and (tentatively) the Paul Rudolph–designed Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York (the fate of which still remains uncertain), others have been less lucky. John Johansen’s daring Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City, Richard Neutra’s Gettysburg Cyclorama and, more recently, Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Woman’s Hospital in Chicago have all been doomed to the wrecking ball. Despite architectural historian Michael R. Allen's claim that the demolition of the Prentice’ Woman’s Hospital would be Modernism’s “Penn Station Moment,” the trend still pushes on. The next in line to fight for its survival is a set of Paul Rudolph buildings in Buffalo, New York. Tomorrow, November 6, at 8:15 a.m., the Buffalo City Planning Board will convene to decide the fate of five buildings included in Rudolph’s 9.5-acre Shoreline Apartment complex. Completed in 1972, the 142-unit low-income housing development was featured in both the September 1972 issue of Architectural Record as well as the 1970 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Like many of their contemporaries, the inventive, complex forms and admirable social aspirations of the development have been overshadowed by disrepair, crime, and startling vacancy rates (30 percent in 2006 according to Buffalo Rising). Now, Norstar Development USA, who have owned the property since 2006, are moving forward with their plans to replace five of Rudolph’s complex, brutalist townhouses with eight new buildings containing 48 new housing units. "With few exceptions, Paul Rudolph's buildings can be recognized by their complexity, their sculptural details, their effects of scale and their texture,” wrote Arthur Drexler, the longstanding Director of MoMA’s Architecture and Design Department, in 1970. Drexler exhibited Rudolph’s original, much more dramatic scheme for Buffalo’s Shoreline Apartments alongside pending projects by Philip Johnson and Kevin Roche in an exhibition entitled Work in Progress. The projects on display were compiled to represent a commitment “to the idea that architecture, besides being technology, sociology and moral philosophy, must finally produce works of art.” Rudolph’s original scheme, composed of monumental, terraced, prefabricated housing structures, provided an ambitious alternative to high-rise dwelling that was meant to recall the complexity and intimacy of old European settlements. Drexler wrote in the exhibition brief that, despite the project’s massive scale, it was “designed to suggest human use, affording both inhabitants and passersby a kaleidoscopic variety." The Shoreline Apartments that stand today represent a scaled down version of the original plan. Featuring shed roofs, ribbed concrete exteriors, projecting balconies and enclosed gardens, the project combined Rudolph’s spatial radicalism with experiments in human-scaled, low-rise, high-density housing developments. The project's weaving, snake-like site plan was meant to create active communal green spaces, but, like those of most if its contemporaries, the spaces went unused, fracturing the fabric of Buffalo. Since 2006, Norstar Development has reportedly spent $19 million sprucing up the complex, adding new facades, windows, and railings to some of the buildings, and combining smaller apartments to make larger family units. The next step of their redevelopment includes the demolition of five currently-vacant Rudolph buildings. This is only “Phase 1” of Norstar’s operation, so stay tuned for more (heart)breaking news from the Queen City.