Posts tagged with "San Francisco":

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A Set Design That Moves

Every architect has a mental file of unusual client requests, but few, if any, have been asked to make a wall dance. Yet, in essence, that’s what San Francisco architect Christopher Haas created—not for a client, but for a collaborator, Alonzo King, the San-Francisco-based choreographer. For King’s LINES Ballet company’s spring season that premieres April 15-24 at the city’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Haas created a wall that performs,  but not as a soloist. The set's recycled cardboard walls, some 10-feet high and 32-feet wide, are pushed and pulled by the dancers. The performers also literally climb the walls. Playing off the classical pas de deux, the wall both supports and spotlights a male dancer (instead of a ballerina), who is suspended horizontally by the wall. At one of the most spellbinding moments, the wall practically overtakes a male soloist and then completely envelops the company. Historically, sets created by architects for dance companies have been sculptural backdrops that may be sublime, but nevertheless static. Even the recent and much anticipated backdrops by Santiago Calatrava for the New York City Ballet and Herzog and de Meuron for the Metropolitan Opera fell into that category. So Haas—best known as the project architect behind Herzog and de Meuron’s de Young museum—was taking a huge leap. This is the second time that Haas and King have worked together. They met in 2004 when Haas’ wife, Corinne, was a dancer in the company, and King was looking for sets for his “Before the Blues” production. Haas quickly answered the call, creating what he calls “simple, Donald Judd-looking boxes” out of copper and blackened copper scraps left over from the de Young, which had been lying around his studio. “He did them so quickly, and we hadn’t had much dialogue,” said King. “I thought, if there was that much artistic sympathy when we hadn’t spoken, how interesting would it be if we had a real conversation?” For this collaboration, that conversation between Haas and King began two years ago. Contrary to what you’d expect, the choreographer envisioned something large, heavy and architectonic and the architect wanted something that would respond to the dancers. “I really wanted to do something where we could explore the intersection of architecture and movement and see how the two relate to each other. If you configure space in a particular way, how does that affect the dancer? If the dancer can change the space around them, what opportunities do they create for themselves? I was really looking at the relationship between the body and movement and the built environment in space," said King.   Both ended up getting what they wanted. King got a sculptural backdrop and Haas got his movable, interactive set. Haas created between 20 and 30 study models before ending up with a design that allows the walls to be manipulated into a variety of forms. About half of the cardboard planks—each about four feet long, eight inches wide and four inches tall—have a hole with two dowels and a rod going through them, enabling the walls to be folded. The rest of the planks have slots that run almost the whole length of the board, which allows the boards to hinge and the slotted pieces to slide through. The wall can expand to 50 feet wide and contract. Prototypes were made from the cardboard alone. Since the walls are so manipulated by the dancers, they don't wear well. So Haas sandwiched the cardboard between layers of 1/8-inch chipboard for added strength. Haas has also created another interactive set for this production: several thousand elastic cords attached at the top and bottom to aluminum tubes some 40 feet wide and 50 feet high. The intention is the same: the company “dances” with the cords. Haas chose recycled cardboard and elastic cord to illustrate the surprising beauty that can be found in such simple, light and inexpensive materials. And while King may be the first choreographer Haas has worked with, Haas was not the first architectural collaborator for King, who’s made dances with Shaolin Monks, central African pygmy singers and a sextet of Moroccan musicians, among others. King worked with Frank Gehry for a set to accompany Wagner’s “Tannhauser” in 2004 until the funding fell through. King said some of the same ideas discussed with Gehry are being explored in these sets: “How do you manipulate energies? How do you get involved in risk taking? What shapes don’t move? What shapes move through space? When do you feel cloistered and protected and when do you feel imprisoned?” For architects, Haas says its unusual to work in such a collaborative, changeable and organic fashion, in which changes may be made right up until the curtain rises.  “It’s very different from an architectural project where you have a very finite static result,” he says. “That’s a really interesting part of this—the allowance for architecture to change and the end user to change it.”    
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Quick Clicks> Icelandic Sculptures, Painted Trees, Carnegie, and Parklets

Icelandic Borders. Today at 5PM, "the largest temporary public art exhibition... in New York City Parks history," titled BORDERS, will be unveiled at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza. The UN-conscious installation is a collaboration between the Parks Commissioner, an Icelandic Ambassador, and Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, consisting of 26 androgynous, life-size sculptures. Painted Trees. Gerry Mak of Lost at E Minor adoringly shares the curious images of the vibrantly painted trees around Colorado by artist Curtis Killorn. Because of the unexpected colorings, these trees do not look like they came from land, but from the sea. Green Carnegie. We were worried when gbNYC reported that the good ol' Carnegie Hall is planning to undergo a massively ambitious, full-spectrum retrofit this year. But don't worry, the architecture firm Iu + Bibliowicz, which is in charge of all this, swears to preserve "the building’s distinctive 19th-century architectural grace notes" while making dramatic green building improvements. Parking to parkletting. The SF Examiner reports that more temporary public spaces, called 'parklets,' are exploding throughout San Francisco parking spots. The public battle between those who want to park cars and those who want to seat customers out on the sidewalk seems to have a clear winner-- the Department of Public Works is stamping out countless approvals for businesses to have their own parklets despite complaints.
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Quick Clicks> Sprawl, Prize, Endangered, Bids

Tightening the Greenbelt. Per Square Mile explores why greenbelts fail to hold back city sprawl. Using London and San Francisco as examples, Tim De Chant writes that perimeter actually parks attract suburbs to form outside their borders. Role of a lifetime. The AIA has awarded Portland U's Sergio Palleroni the Latrobe Prize for his research on the role of architects in future public interest projects. A Portland Architecture interview plays well with De Chant's article above, as Palleroni casts a critical eye on Portland's sprawl. Going, Going. The list of the top seven endangered buildings in Chicago was today released by Preservation Chicago. Curbed Chicago pounced on list an hour after it went online. At the very top is a relative youngin': the 1975 Prentice Tower (by Mies student Bertrand Goldberg), whose uncertain fate AN's Julie Iovine covered in a recent issue. Bids 4 Bush... Bids for yet another NYC waterfront property are begin accepted by the New  York Economic Development Corporation Crain's reports, and this one comes with a 99-year ground lease. The 130,000 square-foot property sits on Gowanus Bay at Bush Terminal in Sunset Park Brooklyn.    
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Quick Clicks> Greenways Coast to Coast

Hell's Gate. Gothamist reports that the NYC Economic Development Corporation is planning to spruce up a trail beneath the Hell's Gate Bridge railroad trestle on Randall's Island. The pedestrian and bike path will eventually connect to the South Bronx Greenway. Portlandia Greenway. A multi-use path planned since 2004 is finally getting underway in Portland, according to Bike Portland. The South Waterfront Greenway Trail might not feature those great archways from the Hell's Gate Bridge, but it does offer another innovation: separated pedestrian and bike paths. Biking JFK. Golden Gate Park could be much more bikable this spring. StreetsBlog says a bright green dedicated, bi-directional bike lane is planned along San Francisco's John F. Kennedy Drive and will eventually connect western neighborhoods with downtown and park attractions. Have you're say. The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative and the Regional Plan Association are hosting a visioning workshop for a planned greenway in Red Hook, Brooklyn. You can voice your suggestions for the Columbia Street Waterfront Park tomorrow, February 2 at 6:30PM.
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Journey to the Center of the Bay Bridge

Action-movie directors: Consider shooting your next film in the innards of one of the biggest projects going up in the Bay Area: the new, $6 billion eastern span of the Bay Bridge.  There's the evident glamour of a self-anchored suspension bridge--the Calatrava-esque part with the tower and cables holding everything up, which is still yet to be built. But already in place is the 1.2-mile  "skyway" portion, and inside the concrete monolith are whole rooms, including an electrical substation, and a tunnel that runs the length of the skyway.  Only maintenance crews are typically allowed in this secret warren, but a media tour led by a Caltrans representative provided a close-up of some of its more unusual features. A portion of the existing Bay Bridge collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In anticipation of the next major earthquake, the new bridge has five expansion joints with shock absorbers, cushioning the impact. Hinge beams, which are enormous steel dowels inserted into the joints, allow compression of the bridge sections but counter shear forces. Even before the formal EIR process, the design team was mindful of the wildlife that would be affected. The amount of force that is necessary to drive piles 300 feet deep into the Bay mud and create the footings for the bridge is also enough to kill fish, so the team developed a "bubble curtain" system to diffuse the impact.  Another feature is a nod to the local bird population. The smooth concrete of the new bridge doesn't provide the roosting platform of the current bridge's Erector-set trusses, so the new bridge offers special "cormorant condos." So while the hard-won, pricey suspension span will be a thing of elegance, the other part ain't no slouch either.

SFMOMA Architects: Meet the Public

On Wednesday, SFMOMA held a press preview of its new exhibit, "Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection," which takes up the top two floors and features whole entire rooms of Calders, Ellsworth Kellys, Chuck Closes, Agnes Martins—a smorgasboard of modern masters, each a few steps from the next. Downstairs in the main lobby, however, there was the opportunity to get to know a different group of artists—the four candidates that are up for the job of designing the SFMOMA's new extension. A 12-minute video, displayed on the wall (and, naturally these days, on YouTube), is a terrific way to let the public in on what is going on at the SFMOMA. It opens with SFMOMA director Neal Benezra, who explains how the museum is expanding, and then there's a few choice quotes from each architect, enough to get a sense of the personalities in the mix.  David Adjaye demonstrates why he was picked to host a TV show; Sir Norman Foster is slick, eloquent and looks a bit like a Rembrandt painting; Craig Dykers of Snohetta is engagingly soft-spoken; and Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro has a great line about how galleries are "antithetical to the model of efficiency....it's not about getting from the tour bus to the gift shop." We learned elsewhere that after the architects had their meetings with SFMOMA brass on the top floor of the Gap, they were brought down to the basement, where a film crew was on hand to capture their thoughts. Meanwhile, as part of the museum's due diligence, Benezra is touring the architects' buildings—without them on hand—to get a fresh perspective on their work. We'd like videos of that too, please!
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Catalyze This

Last fall, the Downtown Alliance unveiled a plan by ARO and a dozen or so other designers aimed at reviving an area the civic group dubbed Greenwich South. Among the proposals was an iconic, place-defining tower designed by one of our favorite firms, San Francisco's IwamotoScott. While the Downtown Alliance's plan was largely speculative, the tower has, uh, popped up once again, with bountiful new renderings on Inhabitat. It's not entirely clear why the tower has been so thoroughly expanded upon, but we're guessing all this new snazz has something to do with the firm's upcoming appearance at the Design Triennial opening Friday, of which it's a part. We've posted a few of our favorite renderings here, with more than a dozen available at Inhabitat.
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Salesmanship, Snohetta-Style

Just by looking at the mind-boggling New Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, an architectural cliff on the edge of a fjord, you might think there'd be a lot of dense archibabble floating around at the firm Snøhetta.  We have been paying closer attention to them out here in San Francisco, after hearing rumors that they are in the running for the SFMOMA extension in partnership with locals EHDD. So it was doubly refreshing to hear one of the two principals, Craig Dykers, give a presentation about the firm last Friday at the AIA SF offices that was not only highly intelligible but often humorous: many choice quotes have been posted elsewhere on the Dwell blog. I started thinking about what it was that made the presentation (and the firm) seem so accessible, and came up with a few points (which I will take to heart myself the next time I am called upon for some sort of exposition). Because we all have to work at making ourselves and our ideas compelling to people who don't know who we are; and as in any business, our success depends in part on our ability to connect with clients. 1. ) A portfolio is more interesting when it shows both the most impressive projects but also examples of  humbler work. Dykers showed pictures of the Opera House and the library in Alexandria, but also photos from a small act of activism where they installed birdhouses everywhere to see how many they could put up before being stopped by authorities (they got to 42). 2. ) There are professional accolades, and then there is the reaction of the public at large. Dykers searched Flickr and YouTube to find photos  and videos that people have taken of the firm's buildings, including one (very daring) video of a stunt cyclist climbing the opera house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWh9tO9KJ5U 3.) Show, don't tell--especially if you are saying something that everyone says. Dykers had a fun way to show the office in action: Koyaanisqatsi-style time-lapse video of  one long table where everyone comes together for lunch,  an "ampitheatre" where the whole office can gather, and an espresso machine in heavy use. He could have spent a lot of time going, "We're a very collaborative office and believe in sharing ideas," but the audience would have glazed over. 4.) Sincerity and commitment can be displayed on many levels. Talk about transparency: Dykers shared the company's salary range (entry level is $68K, while his own salary is $168K) and how they go to great lengths to keep the genders precisely balanced (the 110 staff members are 55 men, 55 women).  Whatever you may think of Snøhetta's designs,  you can't say that the firm doesn't have strong principles.
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The Oil Spill Next Door

When trying to wrap his brain around the quantities of oil oozing into the Gulf, Hulett Jones of the San Francisco firm Jones Haydu reacted like an architect: He went to SketchUp and did some modeling. Haydu then extracted his ideas to a nifty YouTube video that comes to the clever conclusion that  One Victorian = 2 days of leakage. Wouldn't it be great if news stories provided this sort of concrete analog for their data points? Edward Tufte would be proud. You can watch the video after the jump.
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Eavesdrop CA 04

WAY TO GO CLIVE The unofficial mayor of Silver Lake, Barbara Bestor, once again transformed local Mexican restaurant Casita del Campo into a sweaty mosh pit for architects and other designers at the end of March. Among those dancing like teenagers were Clive Wilkinson and his beautiful, young (mee-ow alert!) girlfriend Cheryl Lee Scott, a local real estate agent. Back when we reported on his fantastic new house in West Hollywood, we couldn’t help but notice that it seemed an empty place for a bachelor. SEPARATED AT BIRTH Of the two Johns involved with San Francisco’s Public Architecture—that’s John Cary, who was the executive director, and John Peterson, the founder—the former has announced his departure from the nonprofit organization, without any other immediate plans. Peterson, who has been the public face of the pro-bono, 1-percent work program, will continue as president. Said Cary: “I got the organization up and running, and we’ve been able to build a great staff and attract incredible firms to our cause.” With Peterson having come on board full-time in 2008 as president, however, Cary’s 100-percent commitment didn’t seem to cut it. He can at least go out on a high note, that being The Power of Pro Bono, his magnum opus due out from Metropolis Books/Distributed Art Publishers this fall. WHO KNEW? Looks like it takes a massive slowdown to discover that architects know how to do something other than solve design problems. Design collective De Lab (Design East of La Brea) took advantage of the moment and invited a gaggle of creative LA architects and designers to sell their artistic and non-architectural products at their pop-up store at a manic and crowded LA Artwalk on April 8. This included the irresistibly mischievous dolls of Debi Van Zyl, the live air plants of Kara Bartelt/toHOLD, the vintage and classy stationery of Cartoules Letterpress, the hip accessories of Poketo, the always-trendy Peri Lamps, and many more. Oh, and speaking of hidden talents, we just learned that LA architects David Martin and Glen Irani are both motorcycle racers. Really? When did these folks pick up these skills? Have architects in fact been living, and not just working all this time? Send custom Ducati superbikes to eavesdrop@archpaper.com
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Kill Beale

Turns out the vociferous opponents to a Beale Street station in San Francisco had it right. The California High Speed Rail Authority voted last week not to build an underground station at Beale Street to serve as the northern endpoint of the state's future high-speed rail line. Instead, the bullet train will make its final stop in the Transbay Terminal that is already slated to be built in downtown San Francisco. The Beale Street station plan had met with months of protest by San Franciscans, including a strongly worded petition from South Beach residents last year. Among their complaints: The Beale Street option would have required the demolition of several residential high-rises; its construction would have endangered the base of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; it would have cost over $1 billion to acquire the right-of-way; it was being pushed for political reasons by unidentified special interests; and it flouted the wishes of San Franciscans, who voted in 2008 for Proposition 1A, which specified the Transbay Terminal as the endpoint of the high-speed line. The California High Speed Rail Authority was convinced, voting 6-1 last Thursday in favor of Transbay over Beale. The $4 billion Transbay terminal is being designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, who published some dramatic renderings in 2007 showing a rooftop park, retail street, and attached skyscraper. A gamble in 2009 paid off when the team revised their plans and won a $170 million loan through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, speeding up California's high-speed dreams.
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SFMOMA Searches for a Wingman

The Examiner's George Calys reports that SFMOMA is narrowing down a list of international architects to design its new 100,000 square-foot wing. The shortlisted firms will be asked to submit proposals. Asked who was on the list, museum director Neal Benezra said diplomatically, "Right now, all of them." According to the story, the selection will happen this fall, and the building will be completed in 2016. The 1995 Mario Botta building is getting a new wing primarily to house the contemporary art collection of Don Fisher. While the competing architects will have to play nice with the Botta bricks, it would be an intriguing twist to the story if Japan's Toyo Ito got a crack at it, now that plans for the Berkeley Art Museum have fallen through. Another architecture insider is plumping for Rafael Moneo; can you see this cathedral next to the museum?