Posts tagged with "review":

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Martin Filler lyrically recounts the luminaries of modern architecture

Martin Filler's new book Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin is as moving as the other two editions in the series: not only are his portraits individualized, but their particularities are given broad and vast depth in history. As Filler describes the Italian-born Latin American emigre Lina Bo Bardi’s writings, "they are anything but a dry educational treatise." This is equally true of this text. 

Filler has a literate writing style, smoothly telling stories about individuals both liked or strongly disparaged; Maya Lin is a benign favorite and Albert Speer an ominous criminal. The essays were originally written for The New York Review of Books where they found an apt home. Yet, for me, Filler's style could be better suited for creative literature because of the vivid word pictures he draws of individuals, their works, and the generalized historical fabrics in which they belong. 

On most of his critiques I am in agreement, but on Frank Gehry, I part ways. Filler is not uncritical but ends up agreeing with most of the press that Gehry is deservedly the most celebrated contemporary architect, except for his Seattle Museum of Pop Culture. I think that Gehry’s style is too peculiar and doesn’t fit into its siting, although the famous Guggenheim Bilbao is perfectly sited within the urban fabric, in my opinion. 

Filler becomes somewhat poetic when comparing Louis Kahn’s sculptural powers to Michaelangelo’s: both conceived that all forms are embedded within materials and receive their powerful force by coming into being through the artist’s touch. In the Kahn chapter, Filler also sees Kahn’s "irrepressible egotism" most obviously in his philandering personal life.

In dealing with his subjects Filler exhibits keen or probing observant insight. In the introduction, we find that Renzo Piano won his enviable commissions as much from his superbly able and talented skills as from his ability engaging to potential clients. Filler carefully weighs the religious, social, personal, aesthetic, and political strains of his subjects, so we get a crammed-full picture, a three-dimensional image of the individuals, like in Margot and Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn.

When Filler takes on Edwin Lutyens as a figure equal in influence, although polar opposite in style, to Le Corbusier we get a sense of Filler's droll wit. He refers to Christopher Wren’s affecting Lutyens as a "Wrenaissance." In the midst of speaking on Wiener Werkstatte, he brings up Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park's grid, remarking that it resembles a waste paper basket of Josef Hoffman. This is an essay in kitsch, says Filler.

Humor aside, Filler is poetically determined to bring out the breathtakingly serious gift that Frederick Law Olmsted gave to mankind in his designing such landscapes as Central Park and its slightly later progeny, Prospect Park, together with his partner, Calvert Vaux. Regardless of their being created in the 19th century, Filler says, they are ageless. This could be extended to Filler’s historical accounts.

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The best book, building, and exhibition reviews of 2017

We all know the idiom when it comes to everyone having an opinion, but critiques and design discourse are undoubtedly an essential part of the architectural process. The AN office is filled (literally) with piles of architectural and design books, and between our editors and writers, we visit hundreds of exhibitions and buildings each year. Here are the top reviews and critiques that rose above them all. "Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial" By Matt Shaw Exhibition: Chicago Architecture Biennial The second Chicago Architecture Biennial opened in September and immediately caused controversy. We analyze the five key elements that went awry and how we can do better. "What can architects learn from Walmart’s fulfillment centers?" By Kazys Varnelis Book: The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment  Kazys Varnelis argues that The Rule of Logistics is an important book in our current political climate where “the culture of Whole Foods [was] shown up by that of Walmart." “A new book explores Bacardi’s use of architecture going back to the 1800s” By James Way Book: Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity Who knew rum would be one of the unsung heroes of architecture? The history of Bacardi’s relationship to its brand design and its buildings is a fascinating one. "Snøhetta masterfully creates a new museum setting for 17,000-year-old cave art" By Michael Franklin Ross Building: Lascaux IV Museum This review delves deeply into the research and design that Snøhetta put into the newest iteration of Lascaux, in addition to the building’s context and accomplishments. "Architecture's Odd Couple" is a rare design-professional page-turner" By Paul Gunther Book: Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson From Wright referring to Johnson’s work as a “monkey cage” to Johnson accusing Wright of acting as though he was born “from the head of Zeus,” Gunther’s lively review of this architecture rivalry book is a real fun read. "A new book explores John Portman’s influence on American architecture with photos by Iwan Baan" By Andrey Wachs Book: Portman’s America and Other Speculations Four essays and a series of photographs by Iwan Baan places the divisive work of John Portman under a new lens. "SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day" By Michael Webb Building: United States District Courthouse, Los Angeles Learn why SOM’s newLos Angeles courthouse generated such a buzz for its simple, yet impactful glass cube. "How a $500 house tells the story of a changing Detroit" By Matthew Messner Book: A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City If the gritty, American-style story of a 23-year-old buying and renovating a house in Detroit doesn’t lure you in, the thoughtful self-awareness and examination of what “investing in Detroit” really means will.
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“City Works” envisions Chicago’s “dreams and nightmares”

From the abandoned foundations of the ill-fated Chicago Spire to the ghosts of would-be Tribune Towers galore, Chicago’s unbuilt legacy could rival the iconic skyline it actually achieved. An exhibition on display downtown, dubbed City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future, confronts the city with its alternative skyline in the form of a panoramic wall design and a “Phantom Chicago” iPhone app. The overall effect evokes “a dream but also a nightmare,” in the words of curator Alexander Eisenschmidt. It also presents “a series of urban environments that are typical for Chicago,” meditating through the work of four prominent local designers on some of the city’s contemporary challenges: waterways, industry, shelter, and vacancy. To borrow Eisenschmidt’s metaphor, the aim is to turn potential nightmares into visionary dreams. Studio Gang’s work on urban waterways is well-known and their work here, titled “Reclaiming the Edge,” reprises the vision they laid out in Reverse Effect and other publications: a riverfront community and restored natural habitat nourish each other in a kind of urban symbiosis. After years of legal wrangling, Chicago’s Water Reclamation District will soon disinfect the wastewater it dumps back into the river, signaling some substantive progress on water quality. Meanwhile the Chicago Riverwalk grows along the waterway's main branch. UrbanLab / Sarah Dunn & Martin Felsen present “Free Water District,” a vision that also draws on Chicago’s aquatic resources. Rust Belt cities share many challenges stemming from deindustrialization, but they also share a common asset: water. UrbanLab’s piece envisions a Great Lakes region revitalized by water-focused industries, in a “megastructure-scaled public/private land/water partnership.” Stanley Tigerman offers a rumination on shelter in both the spatial and spiritual sense with “Displacement of the Gridiron with the Cloister.” His target is the “ineffable in architecture,” which is philosophical enough to mean many things to many people who might have very different ideas of the city’s urban aspirations. “The Available City” by David Brown displays a similar yearning, manifesting the city’s 15,000 city-owned vacant lots as blots of color bubbling up amid fractured neighborhoods. The bright colors, which appear to denote potential programs for unused space, could mean anything — adaptive reuse, public space, space-age capsule hotel — but the important thing is they reanimate dead spaces that total an area twice the size of the Loop. All four panoramas will eventually connect, sharing continuous topographic or development features. But until the closing days of the show they remain separate, traveling slowly along dotted lines that traverse the small exhibition space. “By pulling them apart,” Eisenschmidt said, “there’s a little suspense.” City Works, adapted from the 2013 Biennale in Venice, returned to its city of origin May 24. And these “provocations” are not Eisenschmidt’s first. In 2011 the University of Illinois at Chicago professor’s Visionary Chicago (reviewed here for A|N by Philip Berger) stirred conversation about bold building while the real estate market languished. The free show is open at Expo 72, 72 E. Randolph St., seven days per week through September 29. Listen to a conference on the topic, held September 22, 2012 and recorded by WBEZ. Watch 50 meters of the "Phantom Chicago" wall panorama scroll by: