Posts tagged with "Postmodernism":

AT&T Building landmarking vote delayed despite outpouring of support

The winding saga of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s hulking 550 Madison took another turn yesterday, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) pushed forward a vote to landmark the postmodern office tower’s granite exterior. Preservationists, architects, and colleagues of Johnson’s took the stand to deliver public testimony in favor of landmarking the exterior, and even ownership spoke on how they would sensitively redevelop the building with input from the commission. The furor over the former AT&T headquarters began with the initial reveal of Snøhetta’s plan to glass over and encase the base of the tower in October 2017, demolishing the great archways and loggias that, at the time of the building’s opening in 1984, formed a looping privately-owned public space (POPS). The original plan would have stripped the base’s defining 110-foot-tall granite archway and redefined the balance between what had been designed as a tripartite structure (the looming base, the center wall of windows, and the ornamental “Chippendale” topper). The LPC moved quickly to calendar the building in November of last year but also noted that, due to development partners Chelsfield America and Olayan America’s decision to demolish the lobby (against the wishes of Community Board 5), only the exterior would be under consideration. At the most recent meeting of the Landmarks Committee, Seth Pinsky, executive vice president of RXR Realty­­­­—now a minority partner on 550 Madison’s redevelopment—spoke on behalf of the building’s owners and discussed the new scheme they would be presenting. Snøhetta’s glass curtain wall is out, and ownership now officially supports landmarking the tower’s exterior. As a result, they would also like to remove the building’s rear annex and renovate the arcade covered by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman during their 1993 renovation for Sony and bring the rear yard condition closer to Johnson and Burgee’s original vision. This would create a much larger enclosed garden and seating area. As for the tower’s interiors, originally designed for single-tenant occupancy and for a maximum of 800 employees, Pinsky stated that the current plan was to build out Class A office space for up to 3,000 potential workers. The vast majority of testimony read at the hearing was in favor of landmarking the former AT&T Building. Some in attendance spoke on the building’s noble intentions but purported failure to connect with the street level; in Richard Rogers’ statement, delivered via surrogate, it was noted that while the tower itself has always been impressive, the successive series of interventions at the ground level have only strayed further from Johnson and Burgee’s original intention. The committee received an additional 12 letters of support for landmark status, including from the National Register of Historic Places. Ultimately, the commissioners decided to punt the decision further down the line. No decision on the fate of 550 Madison was made, and no date was given for the next public hearing. The building's owners will continue to tweak their proposed scheme in the meantime. AN will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Unpacking Selldorf Architects’ controversial addition to Venturi Scott Brown’s Museum of Contemporary Art

As postmodernism comes roaring back in the architecture world, the time finally seems ripe for many unfairly maligned buildings to receive their due respect. But at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), the opposite seems on the verge of happening: A proposed concrete-and-glass expansion threatens to severely damage a lovely and highly functional building by Venturi Scott Brown and Associates (VSBA). The agglomerated museum of today—built in pieces between 1915 and 1996—mixes austere concrete with playful color, oversize plaster columns with powerful round arches, large signs and neon with an intimate courtyard. The original portion, a spare house by the California architect Irving Gill, gently tussles with VSBA’s surrounding addition; together, they embrace the tensions inherent in preserving a house within the context of a museum’s more monumental scale. And yet the complex still manages to fit comfortably in its historic surroundings: a set of buildings also designed by Gill that together form a central green for the village of La Jolla. The proposed expansion, on the other hand, shows little interest in its surroundings. The work of New York City architect Annabelle Selldorf, it includes an interior renovation that would smartly turn the existing auditorium into gallery space with a pleasant set of oceanside terraces. But things go awry in the new galleries and glass-entrance atrium, which, in the architect's zeal for a sort of Tadao Ando–inspired minimalism, end up missing out on an opportunity to contribute to the building’s richness. The most alarming proposal, though, is the removal of VSBA’s dramatic colonnade and, consequently, the courtyard that it helps to form. Selldorf argues that the colonnade obstructs views of the original house, but she overlooks the way in which its exaggerated scale both projects the museum’s civic presence and creates a sense of shelter that allows visitors to experience the house in Gill’s intended intimate setting, separated from the traffic out front. Visitors pass through the compressed courtyard on their way into the building—but then upon entering suddenly encounter the double-height explosion of light, neon, and brightly colored patterns that is VSBA’s iconic Axline Court. Under the new plan, the house would indeed be more visible from the road, but it would appear small and insubstantial, overshadowed by the later additions. Visitors would enter via the glass atrium then proceed directly into the new galleries, undercutting the importance of the house and making the Axline Court into a kind of curious afterthought. Both Selldorf and museum director Kathryn Kanjo say they want the court to remain lively, but given the proposed circulation—in which most visitors will only come across it at the back of the bookstore or after passing through three galleries—it’s hard to see what purpose it could serve. The sum total of the new plan would be a mishmash: an unhappy family of buildings that refuse to talk to one another all jammed together onto a single site. It would lose the crescendoing choreography of spaces that gives it vitality and order, as well the carefully considered relation to the town green. And not for any good reason: it would be quite possible—and substantially cheaper—to add galleries where Selldorf proposes without fundamentally detracting from the existing building. Unfortunately, such an approach would require an appreciation on the museum’s part of its architectural legacy that has so far not been forthcoming. Officials I spoke to seemed to have given little thought to the impact of the new project on the VSBA building, and when pressed on their thinking offered no particular reason that the existing circulation or aesthetics needed to be changed. And the museum made only the feeblest of efforts to contact Scott Brown and Venturi about the plans—former director Hugh Davies says he left a single message at their office in 2014, though by that point they had been retired for several years and consequently never heard it. No follow-up was ever attempted; the duo were understandably surprised when I showed them the plans a few weeks ago. By contrast, when Renzo Piano undertook the renovation of the former May Company department store on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, he immediately contacted the office of the architects who designed it, A.C. Martin, and walked through his ideas with the firm’s current partners. Why are Venturi and Scott Brown, widely recognized as among the most important architects of the postwar era, not accorded a similar respect? The short answer to this question is simply that their work is unfashionable: too old to seem new but not old enough to have that nostalgic patina of “another era.” The longer answer is perhaps that architecture that engages the messiness of the world around it must fight an uphill battle for survival in the world of contemporary building—where architecture is too often seen as a formal game, as a matter of sculpting material and form with little concern for the complexities of place and identity. Too many of today’s architects and clients, not understanding the ethical imperative behind the VSBA mode of design, write it off as postmodern riffing—surface-level ornament without a coherent underlying order. But actually each element of the work relates to the larger whole—to symbolic meanings, to the physical and cultural context, to sequences of spaces. And in those relationships emerge subtle and sometimes even disconcerting distortions and juxtapositions—a traditional dome represented only through a bright neon outline in the Axline Court, an entry sequence that at first leads you toward the old front door of the Gill House and then suddenly turns you sideways. These moments allow us to look at the world a little differently: to see the familiar as strange and to reflect on what it means. This powerful but difficult way of making meaning, so well appreciated in many of the artworks of MCASD’s collection, seems to offend contemporary sensibilities when it makes its way into architecture. Indeed, this is not the first time VSBA‘s work has been mistreated in a contemporary renovation. The 2007 expansion of their 1991 Seattle Art Museum by the minimalist architect Brad Cloepfil similarly disregarded a carefully orchestrated entry sequence, replacing it with—drumroll please—yet another generic atrium. Though the VSBA-designed building’s exterior was ostensibly left alone, Cloepfil’s hefty glass tower flatly declines to engage with it (or with the rest of its context, for that matter). Now the original building has taken on the feeling of an eccentric side wing wedged up against a chunky office block. At this point nothing short of a total renovation could set things right. Fortunately, it isn’t too late for the San Diego museum to learn from Seattle and modify its course. It need not totally redesign the addition, but it ought to let the VSBA- and Gill-designed buildings continue on in their lively interplay of similarities and differences. It ought to leave the columns alone, or at least update them respectfully, and rethink the wisdom of having visitors enter through a generic atrium. As Scott Brown put it to me, “Making a more simple-minded entry could be, maybe, just that—too simple-minded.”

A compromise does seem possible. Earlier this year, value engineering eliminated one of the best features of Selldorfs proposal: translucent skylights above the new galleries and converted auditorium. Why not bring them back by saving money on the new atrium and entry sequence? The worrisome proposed circulation would be improved, as would Selldorfs own galleries. The Axline Court would retain its function as the hub around which the various other parts of the museum are clustered, and the Gill house would remain at the museums visual and circulatory heart.

Such a renovation would recognize a key thing: that effective renovations must be a labor of love. They cannot arise from a dislike of what was there before. If the new addition struggles against the Gill and Venturi Scott Brown buildings, if it chooses not to understand or engage with them, then no one will winnot Selldorf, not the museum, and certainly not the village of La Jolla. The rare vitality achieved in the current building will not be easily recovered.

A shortened version of this story appeared in AN’s June print issue. This story has been updated to reflect new information.

How the 1980 Venice Biennale transformed architectural discourse

One of the first questions raised about this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, “Freespace,” is whether this exhibition has anything in common with previous editions. Edwin Heathcote, writing for the Financial Times, sees similarities with the 1980 exhibition, The Presence of the Past. Heathcote recognizes related themes between these two versions that stand almost 40 years apart, because he sees this exhibition, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, as going back to the civic realm, privileging urban public space. It does not come as a surprise that references to this earlier 1980 Biennale are already being made. Indeed, one wonders just how far Lea-Catherine Szacka’s provocative book, Exhibiting the Postmodern: the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale, has permeated our consciousness, forcing us to reconsider the Biennale as an institution, an exhibition, and as a provocation in the making of contemporary architecture culture. Szacka’s book, which provides a comprehensive assessment of The Presence of the Past, came out in late 2017 and has been gaining significant momentum since. In this tightly researched account, Szacka provides an overview on what might very well be one of the most controversial post-war exhibitions produced for the Venice Biennale. While some might recall the full-scale street facades of the Strada Novissima, or Aldo Rossi’s floating Teatro del Mondo, it is the broader historical context that remains absolutely essential to understanding how the 1980 edition came about. In other words, Exhibiting the Postmodern is much more than a history of the first Biennale dedicated solely to Architecture: Szacka positions this exhibition as the primary vehicle for formulating new discourses on architecture, by understanding how the lead-up to this event, as well as its aftermath, have significantly influenced the way we understand architecture today. The Presence of the Past, curated by Paolo Portoghesi, would turn out to be a game-changer. The exhibition, in the absence of national pavilions (only found in later editions), held forth on numerous thematic fronts, providing seven separate sections, including works by those considered precursors of the architectural style that would come to be known as Postmodernism. The exhibition feted Philip Johnson, whose AT&T building was rising on the New York skyline, as well as solid contributions from Aldo Rossi, who designed the main tripartite gate to the newly refurbished Arsenale and built the Teatro del Mondo, a spectral theatre made to glide across the Venetian lagoon. But it was the novel Strada Novissima, a reformulated version of the famed perspectival street in Genova, assembled by stage craftsmen in Rome’s Cinecittà, that remains the most controversial display in the exhibition. The architects selected to contribute with full-scale facade structures made a notable community: Constantino Dardi, Michael Graves, Frank Gehry,  Oswald Mathias Ungers, Robert Venturi, John Rauch and Denise Scott Brown, Léon Krier, Joseph Paul Kleihues, Hans Hollein, Massimo Scolari, Allan Greenberg, Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, Paulo Portoghesi, Ricardo Bofill, Charles Moore, Robert Stern, Franco Purini and Laura Termes, Stanley Tigerman, Studio GRAU, Thomas Gordon Smith and Arata Isozaki. Szacka, in thinking about the use of this eclectic collection of facades for the Arsenale, asks, “So what exactly were they? Representation, simulacra, signs, images? Were they real or imaginary?” Szacka’s book unpacks this exhibition precisely through this lens. We don’t merely confront an exhibition, we penetrate deep into its subconscious. We learn from Szacka about the polemics surrounding the Venice Biennale’s reconstitution, brought about after mass protests demanded revolutionary changes in the way the Biennale was administered. Other events served as critical precedents: The 1973 Milan Triennale exhibition curated by Aldo Rossi, and in Rome, the Roma Interrotta exhibition set in the Trajan Forum in 1978, which reconceived the famed Nolli map through the urban projects of an international set of architects, many of whom would find their way into the Biennale two years later. “In the 1970s,” Szacka observes, “exhibitions were important events that served to define architecture’s intellectual discourse in the wake of the modern movement,” and were employed as “springboards to display ideas, debate and exchanges.” The direction of this debate, at least as it would be consolidated within the spatial configuration of the Arsenale in Venice, was further redefined by a significant break in the Biennale’s organizational program, when the institution chose to formalize the separation between art and architecture in 1980. Taken together, these prior exhibitions furthered sensibilities in architectural representation, and recent institutional reforms permitted the making of one truly unique architectural extravaganza. The invention of a dedicated architecture exhibition–independent of the arts sector–significantly reinforced the autonomy of the architectural subject and made possible a far more self-referential body of architecture. Access to the Naval yards and the Arsenale for the first time provided a unique building configuration with a monumental central corridor and flanking mezzanines spaces that could be readily adapted into an interior street mall. But in this reviewer’s opinion, the Presence of the Past lost something very precious in the process. The association with the Biennale’s fine arts program served to draw out ideas that went well beyond the built world of architecture and its urban fantasias. Szacka, in her very detailed history of the Biennale, glanced over one particular exhibition for Venice held in 1978, whose curators included Lara-Vinca Masini, and whose exhibition Topologia e Morfogenesi (Topology and Morphogenesis), merged the arts together with architecture. This exhibition would be best remembered for the piece by Superstudio, la Moglie di Lot—the Wife of Lot, the steel-framed mechanical contraption with five salt molds depicting five building archetypes and a dripping water spout that melted them away one by one. Masini, who built a solid reputation as art and architecture critique and curator working from Florence, spoke frequently about how art and architecture contaminated each other, enriching their modes of research and expressions on human nature and the built environment. Architecture, when contaminated with art, became radicalized, experimental and visionary, aspects that would be lost when architecture gained its independence. Nonetheless, 1980 would become a watershed year for postmodernism, and Szacka’s book very successfully points out how Biennales shape our understanding on these transformative and critical processes. She provides more than ample evidence to demonstrate how architecture evolves under the pressures of an international exhibition, from the genesis of a concept to the debates that brought a generation of architects together on a project few would have ever imagined possible. Exhibiting the Postmodern refreshes our understanding of the postmodern relationship between architecture and urbanism; a concern that seems to fuel Grafton’s curatorial vision for Freespace, but also connects to Kenneth Frampton, who is being awarded with the prestigious Leone D’Oro in this year’s Biennale opening ceremonies. In her pursuit of the exhibition’s multiple afterlives, Szacka details an insightful chapter on the exhibition’s follow-up tour through the U.S. and France, along with an insightful account of Frampton’s own controversial role in the 1980 Biennale. Szacka details how the British born architect and theorist felt obliged to step back from this historicist movement, as he could no longer reconcile his critical position within the expanding eclecticism of the postmodern. Frampton responded by formulating, according to Szacka, his own critical theoretical position on regionalism. Szacka’s book pulls together quite a few of these lose ends while brilliantly drawing out the major themes of the day. This extraordinary exhibit on the presence of the past, thanks to Léa-Catherine Szacka, is in no risk of becoming forgotten. Exhibiting the Postmodern: the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale Léa-Catherine Szacka Forward by Adrian Forty $32.50

Are we all postmodernists now?

Revisiting Postmodernism Sir Terry Farrell and Adam Nathaniel Furman RIBA Publishing $47.90 In their new, amply illustrated book, Revisiting Postmodernism, from RIBA publishing, architects Sir Terry Farrell and Adam Nathaniel Furman construct a cross-generational account of postmodern architecture’s birth, evolution, and eventual decline in America and Europe, placing special emphasis on the movement’s development in their native UK in the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s. As the title suggests, the work revisits—and is thus a revision of—a well-known disciplinary narrative. Readers unfamiliar with the subject would do well to begin with first-wave accounts before engaging with Farrell and Furman’s somewhat idiosyncratic views—Charles Jencks’s Language of Postmodern Architecture, for example, or the more academic and comprehensive The History of Postmodern Architecture by Heinrich Klotz. From the start, Farrell and Furman exhibit a sincere enthusiasm for the works gathered in Revisiting Postmodernism, privileging careful, sensitive readings of mostly built individual projects over theoretical generalizations and broad cultural criticism. The works cited are almost entirely illustrated with brightly colored photographs, foregrounding the authors’ endorsement of postmodernism’s potential for populist appeal and mass communication, while affirming critical theorist Fredric Jameson’s assertion that “many are the postmodern buildings that seem to have been designed for photography…” What Farrell and Furman’s text offers is a charming and highly digestible breeze through a famously difficult and hotly contested series of interrelated developments in architectural aesthetics, art practice, academic pedagogy, and theories of city planning from the late 1960s to the present day. The authors present complementary accounts of postmodern architecture’s more than 50-year life cycle through an aggregation of loose chronological narratives, speculative asides, biographical anecdotes, and generous nods to a host of B-side projects and lesser-known offices. The text glosses over oft-recited narratives of competing factions (the Grays, the Whites, the Chicago Seven, and the Silvers) and the contentious positions of their critical/philosophical avatars (the phenomenological, semiotic, psychoanalytic, and Marxist rhetoric that marked academic discourse at that time), favoring the trajectories of projects and bodies of work. Revisiting Postmodernism’s unique contribution to a now-rapidly expanding collection of postwar alternative histories (see Jorge Otero-Pailos’s excellent Architecture’s Historical Turn) is its focus on the much-decried middle and late periods of the movement. This period, Farrell suggests, was ushered in by Paolo Portoghesi’s Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980, and while other critics view the 1980 biennale as the beginning of the end for the once-radical, ideologically charged trajectories of figures like Michael Graves, Aldo Rossi, Charles Moore, and Robert Venturi, Farrell declares it a “watershed.” By Farrell’s account, Portoghesi’s “Presence of the Past” set in motion two decades of unprecedented cultural and financial investment in a variety of interrelated postmodern styles. Indeed, both Farrell and Furman devote a great deal of their attention to the urban (at times, massively) scaled, public and corporately funded works by offices like Ricardo Bofill, CZWG, Richard Rogers, César Pelli, Helmut Jahn, Philip Johnson, and Graves. Farrell’s own giant-scale work from that period, such as his MI6 Building at Vauxhall Cross (1994) and Alban Gate in the City (1992), epitomize the marketability, populist agency, and aesthetic and material limits of high postmodern. Farrell and Furman avoid too-easy critiques of a corporately sanctioned, populist, historical (read: reactionary) architecture built in the wake of Reagan and Thatcher. Instead, they interpret the moment of MI6 and the pre-Disney work of Michael Graves as remarkable anomalies in the history of architecture and capitalism. As Furman writes: “Younger architects, critics and the public were blinded to the incredible opening up of the profession that it had brought about, to its transformation of how planners and architects related to the city, to history, to heritage and the contemporary world, and to how buildings could say something, could tell stories and generate atmospheres…” Farrell and Furman conclude with hopeful, if somewhat disorienting, speculations, briefly touching on the neo-postmodernisms of a younger generation (offices like FAT and WAM) that began to take root in the shadow of corporate pomo’s polemical and commercial decline. The authors seem to suggest that fluid, global networks of information, materials, cultural exchange, and capital have happily rendered us all default postmodernists in this second decade of the 2000s. Where cultural critics like Fredric Jameson paranoiacally theorized the rise of a ubiquitous “postmodern hyperspace,” that is, a space that accurately renders our collective incapacity to map the “multinational and decentered” networks that engulf us, Farrell and Furman celebrate the potential of a multivalent, multicultural architecture of the future—a communal, urban architecture presaged in the first and later waves of postmodernism.

James Stirling’s No. 1 Poultry will soon have a mini golf range

Some may say it is par for the course for postmodern architecture to be allied with gimmicks and today, it seems those who do have cause for delight: James Stirling's No.1 Poultry in London looks set for a mini golf complex on its ground floor.
The endeavor is courtesy of Puttshack, a firm which claims to be the first "super tech" indoor mini golf experience provider. Plans for what the mini golf trials will be can only be seen in the sketches provided, however, Pomo putters can still dream of a course based on the site plan of Aldo Rossi's San Cataldo Cemetery (which would be amazing, let's be honest) or a homage to Michael Graves' Steigenberger Golf Resort in Egypt.
Puttshack's complex appears to come with an island bar and tables for dining and will ultimately be an after-work venue for those in the city. As for the real clubbing going on, Puttshack ensures there will be no fowl play when going for a Poultry birdie—its ball tracking and scoring technology uses a mini-computer inside the golf ball to monitor and share video highlights from each round.
"I’ve always wanted to locate a social entertainment concept in the heart of the city, and there could not be a better location than the symbolic No 1 Poultry address," said Adam Breeden, founder and CEO of Bounce, one of the companies behind Puttshack in a press release. "The area has been up and coming for a long time now and with the introduction of Puttshack it finally establishes itself as a truly varied and vibrant London destination," he added.
Built in 1998, Stirling's iconic work was the first postmodern building in the U.K. to be landmarked and, it was the country's youngest landmark, as well. Residing above Puttshack will be the new WeWork offices, which are slated for completion this March. Those renovations will also refurbish the building's famed staircase.

Could L.A. get a second Hollywood sign?

A newly-released report aimed at finding ways to increase public access to Los Angeles’s Hollywood sign without impacting surrounding residential neighborhoods has made a few surprising recommendations, including the potential of erecting a duplicate sign on the opposite slope of the Hollywood Hills favoring the San Fernando Valley. The report, released earlier this week, was drafted by consultants Dixon Resources Unlimited at the behest of Los Angeles City Council District 4, amid complaints from local residents who would like to see public access to the site restricted. Homeowners in the areas surrounding the sign have complained of higher rates of traffic over recent years, as the sign’s popularity has boomed in the fitness-crazed Instagram age. The sign itself is not formally recognized as a public space, but many people access the grounds via a network of public hiking trails throughout Griffith Park. The sign—visible from across the region and perhaps best seen in sequence, coming in and out of view from twisty Mulholland Drive—is widely photographed from within surrounding neighborhoods, creating traffic and endangering pedestrians. In 2017, the city closed the popular Beachwood Canyon trailhead that leads to the sign, due to neighborhood outcry. Although vehicular access has been maintained to the trailhead, hikers and sign watchers traveling on foot are now instructed to use alternative entrances to the park. Still, however, demand to reach the site is ever-increasing and the City is searching for potential solutions that benefit both sides. The report recommends 29 potential fixes. Many of the proposed solutions involve instituting common sense improvements like additional wayfinding and pedestrian-friendly designs. Other potential solutions, like increasing parking fines and blocking views of the sign from residential streets using new plantings, are directly aimed at making it more difficult to see or access the sign at all. Several suggestions, however, stand out as more highly visible initiatives that would represent substantial investments in public infrastructure while also re-tooling the Hollywood sign’s significance in the city’s urban imaginary as a physical place rather than simply something to observe from afar. Among the larger-scale potential solutions in the report, perhaps most radical is the notion of creating a second Hollywood sign along the northern slope of the Hollywood Hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley. The duplicate sign, the report contends, could “spread out the impact of photo-seekers to both sides of the park.” The report also suggests the potential of adding more than one replica, as well as several ideas for creating a visitor center, viewing platform, transportation terminal, and even a network of gondolas to reach the sign. For now, the recommendations will be taken under consideration; a timeline for the final selection of actionable concepts and their implementation has not been released.

Halprin’s Heritage Park Plaza in Texas will receive complete restoration

Landscape architect Lawrence Halprin loved cities, so it was only fitting that his cliffside Fort Worth, Texas, commission, Heritage Park Plaza (HPP), was the first-ever item on the National Register of Historic Places designated solely as landscape architecture.

Located on the northern edge of downtown Fort Worth, on a half-acre atop a bluff on the Trinity River, HPP is a series of concrete walls, a rambling collection of ceiling-less rooms on the original site of the 19th-century military fortification for which Fort Worth is named. At one time, water, funneled through concrete channels, unified the design and offered a symbolic connection to the river. If you’ve been to the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. (unveiled in 1997), the design here will ring familiar to you; Halprin applied the approach honed in Texas to honor the 32nd president.

Completed in 1980, Heritage Park Plaza was the first project where Halprin began to think in a postmodern way. On-site, he worked with artisans to interpret the location’s history and, by extension, the city’s heritage. In a 1971 master plan for the City of Fort Worth, Halprin originally conceived of HPP as one of a series of public spaces linking the Trinity River to Philip Johnson’s Water Gardens, fewer than five miles away.

The city-owned parklet had deteriorated badly by 2007, when it closed to the public. But why was such an important work allowed to fall apart in the first place?

Reasons abound. Unlike the Water Gardens downtown, HPP’s relative remoteness makes it harder to visit, while people who do come must cross roads and traffic to access the site. The original concrete, though, is in pretty good shape. The real problem, surprisingly, came from the trees themselves. Halprin planted a central bosque with 11 live oaks, a species that sheds its leaves gradually, and consequently a basin for the water feature’s mechanical system became clogged with debris. The new trees proposed for the site—cedar elms—drop their leaves all at once, making cleaning easier to plan.

To address these issues and others, the city hired two local firms to collaborate on a comprehensive restoration: Landscape architects at Studio Outside and architects at Bennett Benner Partners will restore the park, using Halprin’s original specifications (some unrealized in the final built form).

It will cost an estimated $3 million just to repair HPP, but plans are on hold—for a good reason. Although almost all of the construction documentation for the restoration was complete, stakeholders realized that to ensure the park’s long-term survival, a master plan was needed for attracting people to and rebuilding the landscape of the whole area.

Among the changes, the team is moving Main Street and adding a forecourt that can be used for events. The move, said Tary Arterburn, principal of Studio Outside, “will bring life to the park that it never really had.”

WeWork takes over London’s iconic Number One Poultry building

Co-working company WeWork has added London’s iconic Number One Poultry to its growing roster of historically significant buildings, and will reportedly convert all 110,000-square feet of the postmodern landmark into creative office space. Clad in alternating bands of pink and yellow limestone and most recognizable for its periscope-shaped tower above the main entrance, One Poultry has been a distinctive part of London’s urban fabric since its completion in 1997. Completed five years after the death of its architect, James Stirling, the building has gone from being an object of public scorn to being designated as a historical structure worthy of preservation. Earlier this year the building became the youngest ever to win Grade II* historical preservation status, even as the Financial Times reports that it was “voted as the fifth-worst building in London by Time Out in 2005.” The site itself has a contentious history, as Stirling’s playful scheme famously beat out a modernist tower proposed by Mies van der Rohe after public opposition scuttled Rohe's 18-story glass and bronze building. One Poultry is currently undergoing an interior and lobby renovation by London-based BuckleyGrayYeoman Architects in an attempt to attract new tenants. The re-situated office space seems like a natural fit for WeWork, as BuckleyGrayYeoman has managed to fit a more conventional design into Stirling’s bulging and unequal volumes by opening up the floors and exposing the concrete columns and trusses. The new plan also calls for an underground bicycle storage center, a new 4,000-square foot double-height lobby, a reception area, and a locker room. A grand staircase that had been closed off will also be reopened as a separate entrance for private members. WeWork has been on an aggressive expansion lately in both the architectural and business worlds. Earlier this month it was revealed that the company had launched WeGrow, an education-based offshoot, and had hired the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design their flagship school. This week alone has seen WeWork readying itself for a foray into retail, as well as a $32 million investment in the women-only co-working group Wing. As the company continues to grow, it will be worth keeping an eye on what other notable buildings it acquires in the future.

Adam Nathaniel Furman designs hyper-vibrant furniture installation for Milan Design Week 2017

London-based Adam Nathaniel Furman once described a project of his as "eye gougingly colorful." The work in question was a conceptual reaction to the monolithic concrete Corviale housing scheme in Rome. A designer, critic, and champion of postmodernism, Furman has now designed four equally colorful works with an Italian inflection. This time, however, no eye gouging is necessary. Furman was commissioned by Camp Design Gallery for the Milan Design Week/Fuori Salone 2017 to create this new installation, titled 4 Characters in the First Act and curated by Marco Sammicheli. It comprises furniture described by Furman as "bursting with personality." The four pieces are all named. Introducing: Angiolo (aside unit); Anselmo (a table); Annibale (a cupboard with legs); and Augusto (a triangle cupboard). Drawing inspiration from Italy, and what Furman describes as "its incredible ability to always mix, and synthesize, influences from all around the world," the highly decorative pieces draw from Korean, Balian, Thai, and Chinese imagery. Furman continued, noting how the styles he draws upon have been "updated with a bright, glowing, and joyful 21st century aesthetic." The four A's (Angiolo, Anselmo, Annibale, and Augusto) have been made with traditional Italian craft, using hand-made Lombard timber carpentry and painted steel. "Imagine a Thai business lady, and an Italian backpacker, spending a long, exciting, passion and drug-fuelled night together in a Chinese club," said Furman. "Well these pieces are the embodiment of this kind of wonderful, sensual and aesthetic trans-continental exchange." "In an age of increasing isolationism and gloom, this is a collection that picks up on Marco Polo's legacy, and is the celebratory, colorful expression of a desire to travel, and to meet and make exciting, strange new things," he added.

Peter Corrigan, rebellious voice in Australian architecture, passes away

Dr. Peter Corrigan, AM, the dean of a vigorous and difficult brand of Australian architecture passed away on December 1, 2016. His passing marks the end of an era—one in which, initially by his own doing, the Melbourne wing of Australian architecture refused the polite modernist postures of a Seidler or the pastoral narratives of a Murcutt and became a full-throated and, one might say angry critique of post-colonial culture. Corrigan was only 77 but had fought illness for a decade. In a half century Peter Corrigan, with his life and work partner Maggie Edmond, had achieved a career that would be enviable on any continent, but especially in Australia. Australia is a country as challenging as any to establish an architectural practice, let alone one with such a passionate and some might say rebellious voice. Corrigan leaves behind a grand legacy: of many buildings and countless awards received; of numerous protégés and perhaps some enemies; of wild ideas shared selflessly with many students in Melbourne and elsewhere; of an architectural voice in the wilderness built of dreams and hopes set against the small-mindedness of the local political leadership and the usual numbing logics of the construction market. There are few parallels to Corrigan’s work anywhere in North America or Europe left to mention these days, especially in light of the limited recent output of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. Corrigan was a student of Venturi’s at Yale in the late 1960s and yet somehow also a lifelong admirer of Aalto and Schraroun. Despite his vast output he remains, perhaps by design, an internationally undervalued pioneer of what later would be called Postmodern architecture. Charles Jencks and Kenneth Frampton never sang his praise and Corrigan never sought it. However, the life-work speaks to something more than what came to pass as Postmodern in the United States: faux historicism and silly façade games. If Corrigan’s early work too often took up the challenges posed by Kahn’s late work or Venturi’s Guild House and Mother’s House then the mature work extended a unique voice and timbre—as if by kaleidoscopic projection—into an idiomatic and local Australian expressionism. Wildly regional and local in its references and in-jokes, the oeuvre remains oddly imbued with the cosmopolitan and intellectual generosity that characterized the man as a teacher and a scholar. Indeed, Peter was no ordinary architect. His “Cities of Hope,” buildings as varied and often incongruous as suburban churches and fire stations, oddly iconic small home additions, schools, university buildings, galleries, and many designs for single family homes (designed and built or sketched and unexecuted) seem, in retrospect, too provocative for our age. In the place of the needless and endless banality of “next-generation,” technologically-generated, parametric or now object-oriented, nonsensical and mean baubles that get paraded around the schools and the competitions, Corrigan offers us only the sort of aesthetic charms that a Bertold Brecht could understand. Edmond and Corrigan’s work was unstylish, unrefined and lowly (for a love of the Untermenschen and not the Superman). It was sometimes poorly made but never boring, never inoffensive, never generic. The work was ridiculous in the best possible way and always theatrical. In fact, Corrigan spent a great deal of his career designing for the theater and opera, working recently with Barrie Kosky on Falstaff in Graz. His sets were otherworldly. Peter Corrigan was difficult in an age that demands smoothness of both architecture and architects. He was sometimes horrible, even terrifying. He remained a challenging character well into in a time in which upsetting the commons by speaking honestly was increasingly frowned upon. His exhortations to his students were searing and scathing and his demands as a teacher were unrelenting because he knew the world is always so much crueler than the classroom. “Symmetry is Asinine!” he roared one late afternoon to my class. “Architecture is not for Philistines! Next time you come to class bring your brain!” Corrigan was not politically correct but neither was he a bigot. He was usually irate and sometimes publically inebriated, even when he taught a now infamous design studio at Harvard. Yet, as a teacher he supported and nurtured the weakest voices and endured, with patience, the slowest students. As long as his students showed up with work, had hope, or could dream, Peter was their champion as he guided them with a genuine kindness so that they find might their own voices, their own resolve. It would be odd, perhaps, to conclude this dedication without explaining my personal connection to the man and my memories of him, formed over the decade I spent in Melbourne, studying at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT, previously a night school: the Working Men's College of Melbourne where my father studied architecture and design as a European refugee). RMIT, like other independent schools of architecture that formed new voices in the 1980s, was Peter’s laboratory and his ideas were lightening rods for a generation of Melbourne architects who have since reshaped the city. That said, I was never his student or a follower and I never had the desire (or perhaps the will) to endure one of his now famously grueling design studios. In retrospect, I regret the lost opportunity. I did, however, have a few run-ins with Peter. As a first-year or second-year student, I was asked to use some crude and slow early version of CAD to draw up a small project of my choosing. I decided, wrongheadedly, to try draw up one of Edmond and Corrigan’s most complicated projects, the Athan House in Monbulk, Victoria (1986-1988) and I approached his office to acquire the plans. Invited to meet him and then, not surprisingly, made to wait in his remarkable studio library for what seemed like hours, he arrived after what must have been a very long lunch. Corrigan vigorously quizzed me about my intentions and then after vaguely explaining the project to me he instructed me to return for the copies of the plans. I picked them up a few days later but we didn’t speak again for half a decade. The next time we spoke was at an exhibition after party in St. Kilda, a beachside suburb of Melbourne. I don’t recall our conversation exactly but I do remember he and I mixing some red wine and white wine to extend our evening’s merriment. He called it Rose. I thought we were just making do with the night’s leftovers. The house itself is mysteriously a chevron in plan that decided to sprout a series of neo-expressionist spikes, bizarre decks, outriggers, a small masonry bridge and various other unnecessary but crucial appurtenances. Naturally, the house turned out to be nearly impossible to document digitally. While I did eventually manage to faithfully draft up the plans and I returned copies on a floppy disk to his office, I don’t think he ever bothered to review them. Perhaps Peter suspected this would be the case given his suspicions of technology. His office has already painstakingly produced ink on vellum plans and perspectives that were infinitely more refined than anything I could conjure on the computer. Later, as a teacher, I spent the better part of half a decade in RMIT’s Building 8 on Swanston Street, a riotous and rude imposition on an earlier unfinished building by John Andrews (the architect of Harvard’s Gund Hall). At the time I found Corrigan’s polychrome masterwork to be ugly and challenged. But in retrospect I was perhaps too callow to understand his work and even more that a little scared of it as a symbol his formidable and restless intellect. Peter’s impact remains with me over half a globe away and almost two decades on. When I drive or ride around Southern California’s suburbs and communities I have often wondered why so many architects here have elected to see them only as blank canvases for various futurisms or nostalgic recreations instead of places imbued with an extraordinary, beautiful, and melancholy ordinariness. Sometimes I daydream about what an evocatively idiosyncratic but generous architecture might look like in place of the saccharine and anodyne nonsense we render and reproduce, relentlessly in the name of advancing architecture. Last week I looked again with new eyes at Peter Corrigan’s work and I remembered an architect who accepted and valorized the local and the ordinary, an architect who made the most use of the poorest and most mundane materials, accepting the ersatz and kitsch as a good things, not as repulsive things, making the most with the least. Vale Peter Corrigan.

Fate of the glamorous postmodern Ambassador Grill still perilously unclear

Today the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) solicited input on the future of the city's best-known—and most threatened—postmodern interior.

The commission heard testimony from its research department and members of the public on ONE UN New York Hotel's (formerly the United Nations Hotel) Lobby and Ambassador Grill & Lounge, two glittery disco-era spaces designed by Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo Associates

As recently as January, the spaces inside the Midtown East building were set to be demolished by property owner Millennium Hotels and Resorts.

Local luminaries like Robert A.M. Stern, Belmont Freeman, and Alexandra Lange, as well as a bi-coastal Docomomo contingent spoke in favor of landmarking. The item would be the first postmodern interior to be designated a New York City landmark, and the "youngest" after Roche and Dinkeloo's Ford Foundation (1963-68) which has interior and exterior landmark status.

The Ambassador Grill & Lounge, a small U-shaped restaurant in a windowless basement (1976), sports inset light fixtures, vaulted faux skylight clad in trellised mylar panels, and more shiny surfaces than Studio 54, all of which create the illusion of capaciousness and light. Along East 44th Street, the hotel lobby (1983) features a stepped glass dome roof accessed via a freestanding marble-columned hallway. The LPC’s research department called the connected rooms some of the "best public spaces" of New York from that period. 

The researchers' conclusions were reflected in public testimony that invoked the glamour of the rooms and their role in the see-and-be-seen public life of the city. Liz Waytkus, executive director of modern architecture preservation organization Docomomo, called Roche and Dinkeloo's interiors “among the best” public spaces of the era. In contrast to the severity of modernism, the fluid spaces reflect a “humanistic” energy not often associated with the architecture of the time.

Docomomo’s Jessica Smith read a statement on behalf of Robert A.M. Stern. Stern offered “strong support” of designation, noting that Roche designed both the building itself and its interiors. He called the grill and lobby “masterworks of modernism produced by a master at his prime,” comparing them to surviving postmodern peers like Sir John Soane's Museum in London and Adolf Loos’s American Bar in Vienna. Smith also read a statement for Curbed architecture critic Alexandra Lange, who said her research on postwar American corporate design suggests the rooms represent a “key moment” in late modern design. "The interiors change scale and increase the sensuality of a pair of large skyscrapers that draw the prismatic curtain walls of the UN buildings inside, creating a total work of architecture."

To the frustration of many who testified, including Docomomo and the preservation advocacy organization Historic Districts Council (HDC), the commission did not include the lobby’s sunken seating area in the designation. The LPC said it believed the relative lack of original elements in the seating area merited exclusion, as the main lobby and hypostyle corridor under consideration offer a “processional experience” to and from the grill. 

The iconic interiors have attracted attention beyond New York City. Daniel Paul, a Southern California–based architectural historian and expert in late modern glass skin architecture, flew in from L.A. to attend today’s meeting. Early this morning, he went to the hotel to check on the state of the interiors. Millennium, he said, has altered the space substantially but not irreversibly. In the grill, the faux skylight is covered in a semi-opaque “cheap-looking” plastic, while the neon acrylic wine racks were replaced by wood features. The bar’s tivoli lights are gone, and its mirrored backdrop has been replaced with wallpaper. 

Despite the recent changes, Paul, a Docomomo member who with Waytkus drafted the RFE (a Request for Evaluation, the first step in the landmark process), said that Roche and Dinkeloo’s work is one of the most intact “high design” spaces of the era. “Taste goes in cycles,” he said. "When the cycle of appreciation takes a dip, that’s when these spaces are the most vulnerable." Roche has offered to work with the property owners pro bono to see how the distinctive features could be preserved while updating the space to their satisfaction. (Update: In an email to Paul during the hearing today, Roche stated that his office would be willing to do an initial consultation pro bono but then "see where it goes.")

Representatives from Millennium did not comment at today's meeting.

As the discussion concluded, LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that the commission would do further research and vote at to-be-determined meeting.

Ricardo Bofill’s Postmodern La Muralla Roja stars as backdrop for Martin Solveig music video

Martin Picandet, or as he is better known, Martin Solveig is often partial to PoMo imagery in his music videos. A headband, a healthy dash of color, and the odd animal or tennis player are also commonplace. For the French artist's latest hit Do it right ft. Tkay Maidza, the accompanying music video is set at the La Muralla Roja (The Red Wall) in Alicante, Southeast Spain. Designed by Catalan Postmodernist Ricardo Bofill, the 1973 building made arguably as big of a splash in the industry as Solveig does in his music video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQRV5omnBBU Solveig and Maidza pay compliemt to Bofill's use of color, donning the pastel hues of La Muralla Roja's interior, though that's as far as the architectural references go. Seen as a counter to the Spanish political climate at the time, Bofill’s structure distances itself from the modernist buildings that were synonymous with the period. Housing 50 apartments, the building rises up like a fortress from the landscape, taking a form reminiscent to that of North African architecture on the Mediterranean Sea. Bofill employs an array of staircases, platforms, and other connecting devices to create shadow and define the structures spatial qualities. In doing so, the building at times recalls M. C. Escher's illusion lithograph Relativity which depicts an impossible arrangement of staircases and orientated spaces. Do it right, despite not linking back to Bofill's political motives, does do some things right. Overhead shots highlight the building's complex orthogonal floor plan and roofscape, meanwhile other angles, albeit sadly short-lived, show Solveig traveling through the structure. Seen walking across a bridge and running up a fair few stairways (it looks quite the work-out), Do it right does well to showcase Bofill's interlocking volumes and the iconic cross-shaped swimming pool.