Posts tagged with "Park Avenue Armory":

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Spy Games: Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei explore surveillance and selfies in new installation

Today, New York’s Park Avenue Armory unveiled an interactive exhibition by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei entitled, Hansel & Gretel. Emulating modern day surveillance, drones swirl overhead while infrared cameras document the viewers’ every move, screening the footage along the floor. Visitors in the installation are both watching and being watched, leaving digital “breadcrumbs” behind to be gathered and stored—hence the fairytale name. The effect is disturbing, thought provoking, and surprisingly fun as visitors posed themselves to create works of photographic art on the floor and took selfies (it is unclear if that was the designers’ original intentions). Visitors enter the Park Avenue Armory’s 49th Drill Hall through the Lexington Avenue side door rather than through the main doors. According to Herzog & de Meuron, this helped distance the Armory’s ornate architecture from the very modern display inside. “We wanted people to enter the space as you would a park, and we envisioned an entrance like a mouse hole, so we originally wanted to make a hole through the brick walls, but that was…complicated,” said Jacques Herzog at the opening. “The second best option was to use the existing two doors on Lexington Avenue and create a tunnel leading to the hall.” From the tunnel, a five-foot embankment leads up into the space, which hums with the sound of drones and visitors. Taking advantage of the area's scale, the room is dark and amplified with red laser lights. Upon exiting, the viewers can see the footage of the room being displayed in the Head House, realizing the extent of the “surveillance” at hand. In the hall, iPads allow visitors to use facial recognition software to find additional images of themselves and provide educational materials on drones and surveillance technology. Weiwei, who has been under surveillance in China, explained, “I think everyone is under surveillance to varying degrees. Human nature is searching for truths by any means necessary.” Hansel & Gretel is on view at the Park Avenue Armory through August 6.
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OMA and Taryn Simon design striking concrete installation for Park Avenue Armory

There is a new architectural landmark in New York City but you need to rush and see it before September 25th. That's when it will be taken down and moved to London. The landmark is not a building but a temporary installation of eleven concrete silos by artist Taryn Simon dubbed An Occupation of Loss and located in the Park Avenue Armory. Designed in collaboration with OMA and its lead New York partner Shohei Shigematsu, the silos (or soundproof “inverted wells”) are made of pre-cast concrete. The wells are not simply backdrops to Simon’s theatrical installation—which features a number of professional mourners—but integral elements to the performance and unique architectural objects. They are 45 feet in height and create a sensation of being at the bottom of a well. In total, the eleven towers weigh 165,000 pounds. The odd number of wells was regulated by the artist's preference to have a center point; they are arranged into an ellipse with a 44-foot radius. Each silo is composed of 8 stacked concrete rings that are 8 feet 10 inches in diameter. The wells, which have the appearance of massive Aldo Rossi memory towers, act as acoustic tunnels that echo sound upward and through the massive drill hall during a performance. According to a press release, OMA conceptualized the structures as a collective that resembles an organ: each pipe is intended to be occupied by 1 to 3 performers and produce its own distinct sound (which ranges from purely oral to instrumental to distinct mourning rituals). A singular plinth/platform raises the concrete pipes 9 inches off the ground to distribute their structural load. Furthermore, each well has a ramp for attendees to enter as performances are taking place. A seating ledge for the performers—who are professional mourners—occupies a portion of each space. The silos were manufactured by Coastal Pipeline in Long Island and, while similar industrial pipes would be made of a 9-inch thick concrete, these are only 5 inches thick. An Occupation of Loss is on view at the Park Avenue Armory through September 25, 2016. Mourners activate the installation each evening from Tuesday through Sunday for a series of 50-minute performances. During the daytime, visitors are free to wander and activate the sculpture to produce a cacophony of sound.
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Herzog & de Meuron renovates the Armory’s Veterans Room to its original 19th century aplomb

On March 7, the Veterans Room at the Park Avenue Armory reopened after an extensive renovation by Herzog & de Meuron. The reopening was the latest in the firm’s multiyear restoration of the building, which began in 2007 and has no set completion date. The Veterans Room was originally commissioned in 1879 to Associated Artists—Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, and Candace Wheeler—who later went on to design Mark Twain’s house, five rooms in the White House, and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s house. The Veterans Room’s Gilded-Era style is a rich, riotous mash up of Islamic, Chinese, Greek, and Celtic influences: scrolling ironwork hangs from the ceiling while twisting columns frame Tiffany’s dramatic blue-glass mosaic behind the fireplace, and ornate paneling with wooden bas reliefs and colorful embedded glass evokes an intricately carved jewel box.

The $8 million renovation of the Veterans Room took approximately one year. Herzog & de Meuron focused on two core features in particular: the wallpaper, which had been removed in the mid-20th century, and the lighting.

Fortuitously, a piece of the original wallpaper was found behind a painting and, while the new version is not an exact replica, great pains were taken to honor the original color balance and effect of the design. “How can you recreate an artistic process?” Ascan Mergenthaler, a Herzog & de Meuron senior partner, told the New York Times. “You can’t read their minds, so you can’t just try to do what they did. You have to think beyond that.”

The firm created LED lighting with illuminated glass lenses to replace the original gas fixtures. The resulting refracted light achieves a warm, glowing atmosphere for which the Veterans Room was once so famous.

To further transform the room into a modern venue, it was soundproofed and engineered to concert-level acoustic standards. The now in-demand space is expected to host musical performances, exhibitions, educational workshops, and lectures,

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New York's Armories Look Toward Next Life

New York's historic armories are getting a second chance at life with the city looking to reimagine both the Crown Heights Armory in Brooklyn and the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. The Crown Heights crowd has been wowed by the adaptive reuse of the Park Slope armory as a community gathering spot. Borough President Marty Markowitz favors a roller rink. Up in the Bronx two developers are duking it out to realized that venue as either a Latin-infused marketplace or an ice skating rink sponsored in part by former Rangers captain Mark Messier. Meanwhile, the grandaddy of repurposed armories, the Park Avenue Armory, announce last week that they secured $15 million from the Thompson Family Foundation toward their own $200 million Herzog & de Meuron renovation.
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Herzog & de Meuron Peel Layers Off Park Ave. Armory

At first, the choice of avant-garde architects Herzog & de Meuron to renovate and restore the fabled Park Avenue Armory seems far-fetched. Even at second glance: “I hate preservation,” said Jacques Herzog at a press event to unveil what the firm is doing at the 1880s fortress and popular event space that contains unparalleled gems from the history of American decorative arts, including rooms and furnishings by Stanford White, Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Herter Brothers and others. In fact, the Swiss architects are proceeding with punctilious care and attention to detail as they “unlayer” the past and leave traces of what went before without adding much by way of their own interventions to the $200 million makeover to be completed in phases that have been underway since 2007. The Drill Hall, modeled after the great European shed train stations, will end up looking even more so, once some awful stalls have been removed that have for years hidden the full arch of the iron struts and a delicate catwalk mezzanine is put in to accommodate full theatrical performances. (The shelter for homeless women on the fourth floor will remain in operation throughout construction.) Disparaging the kind of preservation that matches swatches and zeroes in on a purely theoretical “original” date, Herzog described their approach as “revealing and accepting what has been and what we want it to be.” Each of the 18 period rooms will be dealt with on their own terms, neither reconstructed nor made contemporary in some jarring way. Two rooms, full-scale demonstrations of intent as it were, have been completed. Company Rooms E and D are so heavily paneled, molded, and wallpapered that one half expects to find Theodore Roosevelt on a stuffed steed in the corner. In one, the architects have stripped the paneling back to its brighter honey colored woodwork, but revealed the bare plaster with only a hint of mural—a face, possibly a tongue sticking out—to remain where there was once some garish gilt molding. In the other room, where a riot of Aesthetic-era wallpapers all jostle even more energetically through copper “overprinting” to reinstate some shine while damaged spots and patches are not hidden. The affect could be called extreme patina. When asked why she chose Herzog & de Meuron who don’t even have a preservationist on staff, Park Avenue Armory president Rebecca Robertson said, “Because I love Stanford White.” She went on to explain that she admired that consummately American architect’s early experiments with materials and saw that same intense curiosity in the work of Herzog & de Meuron. Their intellectual rigor and thorough research also impressed her: “There’s not a mock-up they won’t do; not a detail too small for them to obsess over,” she said, pointing out the silky, linked-bronze chains that shield the rooms from garish daylight. (In a later phase, the architects will be adding an all steel room-sized elevator, the "Megavator," rising through the front hall.) For Herzog, the commission has been a great opportunity to show “we are not just producers of icons.” He even seemed surprised that this quintessential piece of Americana had been trusted to a European, telling the audience of journalists: “Imagine an American being asked to restore a Gothic cathedral in Basel.”