The Vanna Venturi House in Philadelphia is for sale. That’s right, the Vanna Venturi House. Robert Venturi’s 3 bed, 2 bath, 1,986-square-foot work of seminal Postmodern architecture can be yours for only $1,750,000. Located in a quiet Philadelphia neighborhood, the house is for sale for the first time in 43 years. The house was built in 1965 and is best known as “Mother’s House,” Robert Venturi’s manifesto that exemplified many of his concepts outlined in Complexity and Contradiction. Many consider it the first self-consciously Postmodern building in the world. The subtle changes in composition and the juxtaposition of classical forms and contemporary language are classic, playful Venturi. Take a look around the interior in AN's tour of the house from 2011. Inside, original Carerra marble floors remain in the entryway, while an oversized fireplace warms the living room, which also features built-in bookcases and a Venturian chair rail. Skylights and shifting volumes give the rooms plenty of light and shadow. The house is located in Chestnut Hill and has been featured on a 2005 postage stamp. The house is also in the school district of Jenks Elementary, which is an ironic and double-coded bonus.
Posts tagged with "Postmodernism":
If there was ever a perfect curatorial pairing, Alain de Botton made it when he selected artist Grayson Perry to work with English architects Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT). Architecturally speaking, their so-called House for Essex is a “built story”—a shrine to an Essex woman named Julie who led a life as a rock chick and later a social worker, along the way marrying twice and finding happiness before being tragically killed by a curry delivery moped. https://youtu.be/qQ1hbD28KDY The dynamic duo of Perry and FAT's Charles Holland collaborated for almost four years on the artwork and its integration into building form. Perry wrote a long poem about Julie and her life, and how her second husband, Rob, promised to build a Taj Mahal for her if she were to die before him. This is that shrine to her life. Perry had the dream of making a secular shrine, and he first started by sketching his visions of the precious, small temple-like house. “My first ideas looked a bit Hobbity, or like something from Game of Thrones: ramshackle with lots of turrets.” FAT helped make his design, well, less "Hobbity," and incorporate the narrative imagery of Julie’s life and death into the building. They decided on green and white tiles, hand crafted for the building, each of which has an iconographic reference to Julie’s life. While practically every surface is adorned with some of FAT’s most intense detailing, there is a subtle touch that allows the more ordinary features to shine through as a spatial enactment of the narrative. Arched clerestory windows are carved out of a richly painted ceiling; their curved voids contrast, Aalto-like, with the surface of the ceiling. Mustard- and ketchup-colored built-in furnishings are detailed with a level of precision that only FAT could make work without going way over the top. The proportions of the telescoping volumes make the outside like a Russian nesting doll, but inside, the interiors are intensely proportioned to keep up with the visual narrative. The cozy, cathedral-like main space soars above, giving way to a chandelier made from the moped that killed Julie. The bedroom features a 15-foot high tapestry by Perry that looks over visitors, and, depending on one’s own reading, gives approval, disapproval, a cheeky glance, jealous yearning, comforting presence, or complete indifference. Every aspect of the home is meant to have multiple layers meaning, like all of FAT’s projects. This one just takes the notion a step further than other projects. The house is the sixth installation of de Botton’s Living Architecture program, “a social enterprise…dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of world-class architecture. It has produced outstanding houses such as MVRDV’s Balancing Barn and the Room for London, a boat by David Kohn and artist Fiona Banner, with Artangel that sits on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall and gives stunning views of central London. The building is the last project for FAT, which disbanded in 2013. The House for Essex has had wide-ranging coverage in the UK, including an hour-long special on Channel 4, which got good reviews. More information is available at the Guardian. Perry also gave an interactive tour of the house here, and it is a must-watch.
Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place, New York Through February 15 Once a seedy, crime-ridden corridor, Times Square has since been transformed into a vibrant and safe, neon-lit entertainment hub for theatergoers. But in 1984, the future of The Great White Way was uncertain. A proposal to erect a set of four skyscrapers and demolish the 1904 Times Tower jump started a debate between urban renewal advocates and preservation-minded urbanists, and gave way to an “ideas competition” for the site, organized by the Municipal Art Society and National Endowment for the Arts. The Skyscraper Museum’s Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment highlights 20 drawings from the juried competition, showcasing a real assortment of ideas, ranging from passionate declarations to more eccentric architectural proposals.
An early Frank Gehry–designed house about an hour south of Minneapolis is on the move—again. The Winton Guest House, which Gehry designed in the early 1980s for Penny and Mike Winton, sits on property in Owatonna, Minnesota recently sold by the building's owner, the University of St. Thomas. They have until August 2016 to relocate the playful, postmodern cluster of forms. It's not the first time the house has been relocated. In 2008 the university divided the structure into eight sections for the 110-mile move from its original site west of the Twin Cities on Lake Minnetonka. Last year the university sold its Gainey C. Gainey Conference Center property, on which the Winton house now sits. Victoria Young, chair of the department of art history at the University of St. Thomas, said there are several options for the move. “We could move the house back up to campus now. We could store the house and move it onto campus in conjunction with building a new Fine Arts Center, something that has been talked about a bit, we could sell the house at auction or a cultural organization could step up and save it. Or a donor could come to be and make any of these things happen,” she said. But wherever it ends up, she added, “my administration has committed to getting the house off the property before the August 2016 deadline, when it would become the property of the new owners.” Young meets with the University body overseeing the move, the Physical Facilities Planning Committee of St. Thomas' Board of Trustees, on Feb. 18, and is expected to determine a course of action the next day. The University has hired Consultant Chris Madrid French, a preservationist and former director of the now-defunct Modernism + Recent Past Initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. French pulled off a similar move with the historic Capen House in Winter Park, Florida. An early and relatively modest example of Gehry's work, the Winton House offers a glimpse at the residential design sensibilities of an architect who would go on to achieve stardom for theaters, pavilions and museums. “I would love for the house to be open to the public to showcase the early part of Frank’s career, when he began working outside California and when important clients, Mike and Penny Winton, gave him the freedom to create art out of architectural form,” said Young. “This paved the way for the Weisman Art Museum, Guggenheim Bilbao, etc. Gehry is one of the most important architects of the twentieth century, and I am committed to a preservation of his legacy.”
[Editor's Note: This post was written by Edward Gunts and James Russiello.] The Portland Building, once considered for demolition, will be spared from the wrecking ball and renovated, according to its architect. Michael Graves, the building’s architect, said in late November that city officials have decided to renovate it for continued use as municipal offices and have asked him to serve on a committee that will coordinate the redesign effort. AN spoke to Graves at a symposium organized by the Architectural League of New York. “It’s going to be saved,” Graves said. “They told me… They said they are saving the building and not only that but we want you to sit on a committee for the redesign.” Graves added that a time frame for the work has not been set but “I would imagine in the next year we’ll do something.” Dana Haynes, communications director for Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, confirmed that the Portland Building is not under threat of demolition and will continue to house city employees. He said Portland's annual capital budget process will begin in January and city officials likely will begin to look at what resources the city might have to address flaws with the building at that time. Haynes said he was not aware that Graves had been asked to serve on a commission to help oversee work on the building, but he said he thought that made sense. Graves’ comments about the building’s status came two months after he made an impassioned plea during a public forum in Portland that the building be spared from the wrecking ball. He said that he believes the public debate over the building’s fate and his proactive preservation stance had a role in the outcome. “I think that was a big part of it,” he said. “They didn’t want to be known as the society that tore down the Portland Building.” City officials in Portland, Oregon have been exploring options for ways to address a series of flaws with the 32-year-old building, from leaks to unpleasant working conditions to questions about its ability to withstand an earthquake. More than one city commissioner has suggested demolition. The city’s internal business services division has recommended that the building be overhauled rather than scrapped. The mayor’s office has not officially disclosed what the city plans to do to address the building’s shortcomings. The 15-story building houses about 1,300 employees. Adjacent to City Hall, it is considered one of the first major America examples of Postmodernism. Constructed for about $25 million and opened in 1982, the Portland Building drew widespread attention for its classically-inflected exterior. Colored in blue, green, salmon and cream, it features a range of decorative flourishes as well as a statue called Portlandia, and it stands out in a city where the architecture is mostly sedate and often unadorned. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, the building also has been criticized for providing a dark, claustrophobic and generally unpleasant place to work and transact business with the city. There have been complaints about its small tinted windows that don’t let in much natural light, leaks, low ceilings, and an unimpressive lobby. To address the complaints, city officials have been pondering a series of options, ranging from renovating the building to moving the employees elsewhere and razing it. Cost estimates for repairing the building have ranged from $38 million to $95 million. According to The Oregonian newspaper, the high figure was based on analysis by the city’s Office of Management and Finance. The $95 million figure included the cost of relocating employees while work was underway and providing alternative space. Much of the cost would go to address structural issues such a making the building more capable of withstanding a major earthquake. The numbers have prompted some city commissioners to discuss the possibility that the building be sold or razed and replaced rather than have the city and its taxpayers spend more money to correct its shortcomings. The estimated cost of tearing the building down and building a new structure is $110 million to $400 million, according to finance office figures obtained by The Oregonian. Graves said that he doesn’t agree with the $95 million estimate for the renovation work and believes the problems can be addressed for much less. “It‘s not $90 million,” he said. “Somebody threw that out to see …if it would stick. It wasn’t true at all. It’s $38 million.” In the past, Graves has also said that although the window dimensions are fixed, it would be possible to replace the tinted glass with clear panes. Another way to keep costs down, he said, is renovating the building floor by floor, rather than emptying it out all at once and finding temporary space for the employees.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announcement that Chicago would launch an international festival of art and architecture—its own take on the famous Venice biennale—drew jeers and cheers from the design community both near and far from The Second City. AN called for the show aspiring to be North America's largest architectural exhibition to go beyond tourism bromides. Now the upstart expo has a name, as well as its first show. The inaugural Chicago architecture biennial will begin in October 2015, and will be called “The State of the Art of Architecture,” in reference to the controversial conference organized in 1977 by architect Stanley Tigerman. Tigerman's show celebrated the postmodern rejection of Chicago's old masters like Mies van der Rohe, forging the position of architectural protest group The Chicago Seven. A press release from the organizing committee alludes to the upcoming exhibition's wide scope:
More than a profession or a repertoire of built artifacts, architecture is a dynamic cultural practice that manifests at different scales and through various media: buildings and cities, but also art, performance, film, landscape and new technologies. It permeates fundamental registers of everyday life—from housing to education, from environmental awareness to economic growth, from local communities to global networks.The biennial's first commission was announced Wednesday by co-directors Joseph Grima—a former curator of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and director of the Ideas City platform of the New Museum—and Sarah Herda, director of the Graham Foundation and AN editorial advisor. Renowned photographer Iwan Baan will contribute an original photo essay about Chicago featuring aerial shots taken at sunrise. The work will “capture the city during a moment of its daily routine,” according to the press release. “Like the Biennial itself, Baan’s expansive photographs interpret Chicago as a realm of architectural possibility, past and future.” The free festival's home base will be the Chicago Cultural Center, but organizers say it won't be restricted to downtown. “Using the city as a canvas, installations will be created in Millennium Park and other Chicago neighborhoods, including new projects and public programs developed by renowned artist Theaster Gates on Chicago’s south side,” reads a press release. “The Biennial will also feature collateral exhibitions and events with partner institutions throughout the city, and will offer educational programming for local and international students.” Tigerman, whose 1977 exhibition is the inspiration for the 2015 show's title, sits on the biennial's International Advisory Committee, which also includes architects David Adjaye, Elizabeth Diller, Jeanne Gang, and Frank Gehry, along with critic Sylvia Lavin, Lord Peter Palumbo and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Ty Tabing, former executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance and founder of Singapore River One, will serve as the biennial's executive director. Oil giant BP has agreed to donate $2.5 million for the show, but Mayor Emanuel is reportedly seeking $1.5 million more.
Times Square 1984: The Postmodern Moment The Skyscraper Museum 39 Battery Place, New York Through January 18, 2015 Times Square is one of the most renowned cultural hubs in the entire world. It is commonly heralded as the perfect tourist attraction: full of bright lights at night, giant LED billboard signs, and men in furry costumes of Elmo and the Cookie Monster. Times Square 1984: The Postmodern Moment, currently on view at The Skyscraper Museum, enlightens visitors with the recent history of Times Square and how it became what it is today. The exhibition is composed of a mix of photographs, blueprints, and films that depict the gradual evolution of the area. The exhibition is key to understanding how the area went from seedy to family friendly, and came to attract media and finance alongside its longstanding theater tenants.
Philadelphia might be the City of Brotherly Love, but it’s not showing any affection for Robert A.M. Stern these days. According to Philly.com, the city’s Art Commission is “deeply dissatisfied” with the architect’s proposal for the new Museum of the American Revolution. The newspaper's critic, Inga Saffron, reported that “the commission asked the architects to remove a Disneyesque cupola, add eye-level windows on Chestnut Street, and reconsider the building's composition.” It’s not quite the shot heard around the world, but, “Disneyesque cupola!?” The Philly Art Commission pulls no punches. This dramatic turn of events may have been ugly, but it’s not likely to stop the entire $150 million project from moving forward. The Commission has reportedly "formed a special committee to work with the museum” and construction could start as soon as this summer. So despite the setback, Mr. Stern will likely be able to add another Philadelphia-based project to his portfolio. Ain’t no stopping him now.
If several Portland city commissioners have their way Michael Graves' alternately loved and hated Portland Building (1982), now facing a $95 million renovation, will be torn down. One of the most famous examples of postmodern architecture in the United States, the 15-story, 31-year-old structure is known for its small square windows, exaggerated historical motifs, playful, varied materials, gaudy colors, and, of course, its cameo on the opening to the show Portlandia (also the name of the larger-than-life statue over the building's front door). While a few elements have been renovated in recent years, most of the building is in bad shape, and residents aren't exactly lining up to save it. Several city officials, writes the Atlantic Cities, have come out against making any more investments in it. And so the question is raised: Can a building be considered too important to tear down even if most people don't like it? Paul Goldberger, in his New York Times review of the building in 1982, called it "The most compelling architectural event of the year...It reminds us that the movement that has come to be known as Postmodernism has become vastly more than a curiosity. Now, at the end of 1982, it is unquestionably something that is having a genuine effect on the cityscape." The final decision will take months, but stay tuned to the fate of a building that everybody has an opinion about.
After a decade at the helm, Paul Gunther is stepping down as the president of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA). Under Gunther's leadership the ICAA expanded to include 15 national chapters, and grew into a 14 person organization. In addition to holding lectures and symposia throughout the year, the Institute publishes the journal The Classicist, and it awards a summer fellowship for landscape painting. Last year the Institute held a provocative symposium reexamining postmodernism's relationship to classicism, which drew a wide audience including senior members of the architectural community who rose to prominence in the pomo heyday of the 1980s as well as young designers drawn to the playful iconography of the period. In a letter to friends and members of the Institute Gunther wrote, "After the 2002 conglomeration of Classical America and the Institute of Classical Architecture, sustaining and applying the classical tradition in architecture, design, and their allied arts is a mission your support and participation has made possible. The results prove...the time is right for new leadership to embark with a strategic imperative comparable to that with which I was entrusted. Change is a vital force for any modern organization competing today in the marketplace of ideas and affirmative civic intent and I herald it knowing that the best days of the ICAA are still to come."
A few years ago Drexel University embarked on an ambitious plan to convert one of Philadelphia’s iconic postmodern landmarks by Venturi Scott Brown Associates (VSBA) into a new home for the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Tonight the University will celebrate the official opening of its new building, dubbed the URBN Center, with a series of performances and demonstrations to showcase student work. Minneapolis-based Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (MS&R) led the renovation of VSBA’s 3501 Market Street, formally the Institute of Scientific Information, and the adjacent building at 3401 Filbert Street (designed by Bower, Lewis & Thrower). Pritzker-winner Robert Venturi and his wife and partner, Denise Scott Brown, famously called their buildings “decorated sheds,” a phrase intended to reflect a design philosophy that spaces should adapt to a variety of uses—hence, making Drexel's decision to overhaul the interior of 3501 Market in keeping with the architecture duo’s original intent for the building. MS&R re-imagined the vast blank floor plan, but the firm was careful not to meddle with Venturi’s colorful mosaic facade. The firm radically changed the 140,000-square-foot facility—creating a dynamic maze of stairways and beams that spill into a number of different work spaces that house a music recording studio, a video game design lab, a printing studio, and a television broadcast production facility. Richard A. Hayne, a member of the board of trustees and the CEO of the Philadelphia-based brand Urban Outfitters, donated $25 million to Drexel to buy the building. The university raised the remaining $47 million to fund construction costs.
The Thompson Center is an easy target. Most Chicagoans only know it as that Po-Mo Behemoth where we transfer between L lines and occasionally visit the DMV in the basement food court, perhaps the only location in America where you can get a slice of Sbarro and a new driver’s license. It’s a beast of a building—so bad, it’s almost good—and has been plagued with problem after problem, most recently the removal of the granite panels along the plaza. Tackling its so obviously deferred maintenance and adapting it for future use would be no small task. That’s why, according to the Sun-Times, the president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and a major labor chief have proposed building a casino in the lower level and first floor of the building. When we think of downtown casinos, we think of Detroit. Look, Eavesdrop loves Detroit and is rooting for its revival on a daily basis, but Chicago doesn’t want to be using Detroit as its urban development role model. If this nutty scheme comes to fruition, there would be a casino in a building located across from City Hall, which also houses hundreds of state government employees. They better get ready to beef up their Employee Assistance Program, as the state might have a few more gambling addicts on their payroll.