AN has a first look at MoMA’s upcoming architecture exhibition, Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures for Social Engagement, which will include eleven projects from four continents. The show examines how architects working on small budgets can “bring a positive impact to social conditions,” according to curator Andres Lepik. All the included projects are exemplary for their level of community engagement, which often includes developing the skills of local people. For Lepik, this level of community engagement sets these projects apart from what he calls “charity architecture” or “parachute architecture.” While the American architects are fairly familiar, among them Michael Maltzan, the Rural Studio, and the Estudio Teddy Cruz, many of the international examples will be new to the MoMA audience. Lepik was also quick to stress that the projects are also beautifully designed, keeping it in line with the Modern's history. "Many of these architects are tired of architectural utopias. They're not interested in politics particularly, rather they are interested in addressing specific problems," he said. "Even with a very low budget, you can achieve a very high aesthetic standard." Small Scale, Big Change opens on October 3, 2010.
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UPDATE: Get the full story, including renderings, on our main page. Well into its second decade, P.S.1 and MoMA's Young Architect's Program looked just south of its Queens home for this year's winner, selecting Brooklyn's SO-IL Solid Objectives Idenburg Liu to design the now famous summertime pavilion in the P.S. 1 courtyard. They beat out two fellow Brooklynites, Freecell and Easton + Coombes, Cambridge's William O'Brien, Jr., and a dark horse Danish contender BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. Renderings will be released at a MoMA event tomorrow, but a press release describes their entry thusly:
Conceived as a participatory environment that reframes the conceptual relationship between humankind and structure, Pole Dance is an interconnected system of poles and bungees whose equilibrium is open to human action and environmental factors. Throughout the courtyard, groups of 25-foot-tall poles on 12 x 12-foot grids connected by bungee cords whose elasticity will cause the poles to gently sway, creating a steady ripple throughout the courtyard space.While still young, SO-IL is no stranger to success. The firm recently completed a new atelier for Derek Lam above his SANAA-designed showroom on Crosby Street in Soho, and plans are in the works for a trippy green roof not far from P.S. 1 in Sunnyside, Queens. Idenberg's best known work is with another museum, however, as he was the project manager on the New Museum.
Just when we thought the season of giving was behind us, Bernard Tschumi has brought out one last gift for MoMA. The architect announced yesterday that he would donate 43 of his father’s architectural drawings to the museum, making it the only non-European institution with a collection of Jean Tschumi originals. According to the NYT, the donated pieces range from drawings done during the Swiss-born architect's time as a student in 1920s Paris to those of his work on the Nestlé headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland, the project that would be his last, and many would say his best, work. Most of Jean Tschumi's drawings are housed in the Archives of Modern Construction at Lausanne Polytechnique, which he helped found, and in the Basel headquarters of pharmaceutical company Novartis, for which he designed several buildings in Switzerland and France. MoMA's collection already contains pieces by Tschumi the younger that include The Manhattan Transcripts Project and his winning entry for the Parc de la Villette competition. Last year's publication of Jacques Gubler's Jean Tschumi: Architecture at Full Scale went a long way toward highlighting the architect's career as part of the Deconstructivist movement, albeit one that was cut short with his untimely death in 1962 at the age of 57. Though ultimately he followed in his father's footsteps, Bernard Tschumi has said he had little interest in architecture while his father was alive and regrets never discussing the subject with him—a comment that underscores the challenge of understanding the man whose name we recognize largely because of his son's work. In a review of Gubler's book for AN (#18, 11.04.2009), critic Thomas de Monchaux wrote, "One of the detective mysteries of the book is what might have been." Now the mystery promises to deepen as, like the projects discussed in the monograph, MoMA's new acquisition grants insight into the elder Tschumi's world, and into what can be learned from it today.
PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARDS Who among us hasn’t been following the pruning at our beloved Condé Nast? “Cold,” we gasped as the swag was packed up and shipped to the catacombs under 4 Times Square. “Just plain mean!” we stammered when Gourmet was euthanized. Cold and mean are economic realities across the board these days, so we soldier on. Recently, however, we learned of a totally out-of-character editorial move at Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter sent letters, via FedEx, to 80 architects, critics, historians, and others asking them to contribute to an “opinion survey” from which the “five most important” buildings or works of engineering or infrastructure since 1980 would emerge. Respondents were then asked to name, in their opinion, the single most important work completed thus far in the 21st century. The letter went on to promise a lavishly illustrated feature, including interviews with the winning architects. This is not the way we evaluate art, design, and architecture. This is the way we pick the best corned-beef sandwich in town. One of the esteemed invitees opined that if the survey went out to all the usual suspects, then we can expect the winners to be the usual and suspect as well. Another cynic pointed out that the survey relieves the magazine from having to pay a real writer. (Forbes did something similar in 2002, but its search was for the ugliest.) Yet another voter suggested that the article be a roundup of architects who have designed showrooms or headquarters for *Vanity Fair advertisers: Koolhaas, Marino, Koolhaas, Pawson, Koolhaas. BACK TO THE FUTURE Eavesdrop is giddy about the opening of Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity at MoMA. Much to see and do. And yet, we’d like to draw your attention to a footnote, one of those insider’s jokes with historical significance beyond its visual impact. Think back to 1975. Arthur Drexler, MoMA’s director of architecture and design, had just mounted *The Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which many thought was an anachronistic exhibition for a modern museum. As an ironic joke, Suzanne Stephens, now deputy editor at Architectural Record, and Susana Torre, a practicing architect in Spain, designed a “bring back the Bauhaus” button for the 1975 opening. Both Stephens and Torre, alumnae of MoMA’s Architecture and Design Department, wanted to acknowledge the shock value of presenting a show based on a 19th-century academy. According to the package notes, when offered a button at the opening, Drexler refused but by the end of the evening he was caught up in the spirit of the occasion. We are happy to announce that now that MoMA has indeed brought back the Bauhaus, the button has been reissued. Go buy one before someone introduces “bring back the Beaux.” Send Anni Albers rugs and Breuer club chairs to email@example.com.
CHINS UP FOR CHARLIE The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers auditorium (cap. 708) was overflowing with New Yorkers wishing to bid farewell to Charles Gwathmey, who died on August 3. And as impressive as the spoken tributes were by son Eric Steel, director Steven Spielberg, fashion designer Ralph Lauren, and anchor Brian Williams, not to mention by Peter Eisenman and Robert A.M. Stern, the real jaw-dropping detail was that Charlie could do 1,300 sit-ups in 10 minutes. We all knew he was dedicated to ideal proportions, but only suspected he was made of steel. He didn’t need to be made of such solid stuff to earn a permanent place in our admiration. A CASE OF TURRETS SYNDROME There is no more bizarre history of residential hubris than the multi-generational tale of overreaching at the 10-acre oceanfront parcel variously known as Chestertown, Dragon’s Head, Elysium, and now Calvin’s place, in the dunes of Southampton. In 1929, renowned antiques collector, horticulturist, and decorator Henry Francis du Pont completed the dignified, whitewashed brick, Colonial Revival manse designed by the equally dignified New York firm of Cross and Cross. It might have been preserved for posterity like a Newport “cottage,” but instead it passed through a few benignly neglectful hands before financier-turned-scofflaw-turned-tax-evading-felon Barry Trupin snatched it up in 1979 for $330,000. With Southampton architect Vello Kampman playing Dr. Frankenstein, the owner changed the name to Dragon’s Head, stripped the remaining original details, and enlarged the house (without benefit of permit) to 55,000 square feet, complete with 50-foot turrets, 16th-century Norman pub, and a shark tank. When Trupin went bankrupt in 1992, he sold the bloated castle to WorldCom’s Francesco Galesi for $2.3 million, who felled the turrets, renamed the white elephant Elysium, and put it back on the market for $45 million. Enter fashion mogul Calvin Klein, who snapped it up in 2003 for $30 million. This year, Klein performed a community service by razing du Pont’s ravaged remains. After working with British architect John Pawson for a while with no visible results, he turned to New York architect Michael Haverland, who has designed a much smaller replacement out of stucco and steel, but thoroughly Kleinian in sleekness. Smaller it may be in size, but it is no less imperious than the others in ambition. For at the moment, there’s a full-scale, plywood mock-up on the site with life-size plywood furniture, apparently built to provide a virtual-reality experience for Klein prior to building for keeps. If he’s looking for a new name for the joint, perhaps he’ll consider Fata Morgana. Send full-scale martinis and fresh shark bait to firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a lot to like about Chicago's Quincy Court, an alley turned public space outside the Mies van der Rohe-designed Dirksen Federal Building that opened this summer. The General Services Administration (GSA) initiated the project to help beef up security around the federal campus, and they can certainly be praised for hiring a design firm to reimagine the space, in this case Rios Clementi Hale of Los Angeles, instead of just bolting a bunch of bollards into the ground. And while the design has a certain whimsy, which may appeal to some, we're having a hard time getting over the giant plastic palms. According to the press release the "sculptural grove" mediates between the monumentality of federal campus and the smaller scale of State Street. The seating and tables are nicely detailed and the project's Pop sensibility is sure to change the way people think about this alley way. But in this age of ecological crisis, and in a city that has made sustainability one of its hallmarks and has worked hard to green the Loop, the plastic palms seem like the wrong message for the GSA to send. Real deciduous trees, after all, provide shade in the hot summer and loose their leaves in the fall when sun is welcome. Ken Smith's artificial rooftop garden at MoMA, which boasts fake rocks, plastic plants, and few environmental benefits, seems like a similar missed opportunity, a one liner that provides intriguing views for neighbors but does little to improve the hardscape environment of midtown Manhattan. Are we being too rigid in our thinking? Should we loosen up and go shopping for some silk flowers?
A group of Midtown residents and concerned citizens, many from the West 54th/55th Street Block Association, have been the leading opponents of Jean Nouvel's MoMA tower. They have been very vocal during hearings at Landmarks and, just a few weeks ago, City Planning Commission. Now, The Coalition for Responsible Midtown Development, as the group is calling itself, have launched a website, no2moma.com. There, they succinctly recast their previous opposition to the project--light & shadows, traffic & congestion, out-sized & ugly--as well as presenting a six minute documentary that makes the group's best case yet. Our favorite part is the clip above, where the Nouvel tower rises, Frankenstein-like, from "a lot no bigger than a McDonald's drive-thru." The full video is after the jump, but, given statements made by some commissioners during a meeting Monday, all this flash and frustration may be too little too late. At the very end of Monday's scheduled City Planning Commission meeting, the commissioners held an impromptu discussion of the project they were presented at the hearing two weeks ago. Impromptu because the full discussion, and likely the vote, will all come at the next scheduled meeting on the matter September 9. Still, the commissioners are clearly struck by this project, it's Pritzker Prize-winning architect, its heavyweight patron, its skyline-altering design. But as before, the discussion centered on the design and not its surrounding impact, which is the overwhelming concern of the tower's opposition. Asked by fellow commissioner Kenneth Knuckles how she would be voting on the project, chair Amanda Burden gamely demurred, saying she was withholding judgment until the actual vote. And yet at the same time, she seemed to be leaning strongly in favor of the project. "We're an optimistic city, we're a skyscraper city, so this project would not be out of place" Burden said. "It must be iconic, it must be distinguished. To get to that height in the sky, it's got to be great. I don't have a problem with the height. But let's see it, and see where it falls with the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building and if it deserves it." Burden added, underscoring the commission's concern with preserving the building as designed over other issues, "It's very important how we memorialize and freeze critical design elements." This way, the commissioners believe, and the applicant, Hines, seems to agree, Nouvel's tower and nothing else would or even could be built there. It's a valid concern (see: Frank Gehry, Atlantic Yards), but for the building's neighbors nowhere near the top of the list. Perhaps the coalition should have brought this video with them last month, as it might have helped sway the commission in its favor. Then again, there's always the City Council, where Speaker Christine Quinn, in whose district the project lies, has yet to take a position. Perhaps she's more of a cinephile than Burden. The coalition had better hope so.
After both impressing and frustrating the Landmarks Preservation Commission last year, Jean Nouvel's Torre de Verre is making its way through the public review process in order to secure a few zoning variance to allow the funky Moma-ttached tower to be built. Curbed reports the tower was panned by the local community board (it's a largely symbolic vote, however), but the most striking thing to us was this new rendering, which shows how the now-1,250-foot tower would look from Central Park. Quelle horror!
"Everybody's doing it." That's how Erica Stoller of Esto described the august architectural photo agency's foray into web video. Now don't fret. At the heart of these videos remains Esto's unparalleled still camerawork, but given these changing times, experimentation is in order. And, as Stoller's colleague Joel Sanders explained, the philosophy remains the same. "Esto has always been about expressing architecture in its truest, purest, most honest form," Sanders told us over the phone. "We see these videos simply as an extension of that. It's a means to describing the architecture." For its first two videos, Esto showcases the work of photographer Albert Vecerka. One documents the restoration, more than 13 years later, of P.S. 70, a burned out Bed-Stuy school that was transformed by Robert A.M. Stern into the Excellence Charter School. The other presents a time lapse installation from last summer of KieranTimberlake's Cellophane House at MoMA's prefab show, Home Delivery.
When the Modern reopened its Yoshio Taniguchi-designed doors in 2004, critical opinion of the new building was split. Some critics and museum visitors complained that the building, and the institution it housed, seemed to lack a point of view, and that it was geared more toward moving hoards of tourists than to contemplative art viewing. One longtime MoMA watcher, however, cautioned me, “We always hate the new MoMA. Then you get used to it and grow to love it.” While hoards of tourists have not gone away, recently the museum seems to be getting more comfortable in its skin. In the architecture and design galleries, small thematic exhibitions have helped to focus the viewing experience, breaking down the Greatest Hits approach that has made so many design galleries indistinguishable from showrooms. Currently on view are strong capsule exhibitions on Jean Prouvé, the graphic designer George Lois, and a group show called Rough Cut: Design Takes on a Sharp Edge (which is a bit of a rehash of Safe: Design Takes on Risk, but is full of interesting work). Perhaps the most challenging area of the new building is the vast five story atrium, currently, and pleasantly, inhabited by a massive video installation, Pipliotti Rist: Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), commissioned by the Museum specifically for the space. While large-scale installations have become common in museums, and are geared to spectacle hungry cultural travelers, there is something joyful and welcoming about Rist’s piece, especially during the holidays in congested midtown. Pour Your Body Out invites you to recline on a massive circular couch, embedded with speakers, to take in the color saturated show and immerse yourself in what chief media curator Klaus Biesenbach called an image “pool.” Rist has said she wanted the installation to “kiss Taniguchi.” Even at 25 feet high, Rist’s video only begins to fill the atrium, though she cleverly covered the high catwalks with pink curtains, containing the sound and providing some much needed warmth and intimacy to the vast white space. In the video below, Biesenbach discusses the installation and how it is meant to work in Taniguchi’s gallery. Pour Your Body Out is on view through Feburary 2.