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.
Posts tagged with "SFMOMA":
DRAMA At SFMOMA In mid-March, Curbed SF revealed, via an unnamed source, six of the eight architects that it claimed had been shortlisted for SFMOMA’s planned expansion, which would house the late Donald Fisher’s art collection. The list included international big-hitters like David Adjaye, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Steven Holl, OMA, Snøhetta, and Renzo Piano. And so began rumor-mill heaven. Since that post, the veracity of which has been questioned (although first taken at face value by the likes of the LA Times’ Christopher Hawthorne), we’ve heard from various sources that Peter Zumthor and TEN Arquitectos are being considered, that Gensler is also on the shortlist (not a coincidence perhaps, since Art Gensler is the vice chairman of the SFMOMA board), and that Norman Foster, who was basically booed out of town after winning a stimulus-aided renovation of the city’s 50 UN Plaza building, turned down the competition altogether. A call to Diller Scofidio + Renfro revealed that the firm had heard nothing from the museum. And one architect told us the list was no list at all, hinting that it came straight from the lips of CCA director (and loyal AN source) David Meckel. Meanwhile the museum said, not surprisingly, that it can “neither confirm nor deny” the leaks. But oh what fun it is to pontificate. SCARLET LETTER IS BLUE New social networking/architecture site Architizer hosted its LA launch party at the new A+D Museum space on March 18. The usual suspects all showed up in their best duds, but far and away the best-dressed was KCRW radio host Frances Anderton’s daughter Summer. Looking stunning in an eclectic and colorful boho-chic ensemble, Summer, 5, wore sparkling “Twinkle Toes” shoes, embedded not with the usual lame single blinking red LED light, but a whole kaleidoscope of dazzling bright white wonders. Oh, and Architizer founders Marc Kushner and Benjamin Prosky weren’t too shabby either, working the monochrome dark suit, Mad Men thin-tie look that added a touch of class to the event where the site’s omnipresent “A” logo was emblazoned on everything from t-shirts and lapels to a stack of chairs arranged in a rickety A formation. FIRMING UP It seems every month we hear of another struggling firm being swallowed up by a biggie. First Ellerbe Becket was taken over by AECOM. Then WWCOT merged into DLR. Now we hear from our rumor-mongering friends that Bay Area firm Fisher Friedman is on the block, and its primary suitor is NBBJ, who already took over Cambridge firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz this month. Send hostile bids and golden handshakes to Eavesdrop@archpaper.com
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?
PACKING UP CAMP Now that Donald Fisher’s CAMP project in San Francisco is officially dead, talk is swirling about where the Gap founder’s art collection will go. The whispers have focused on one obvious suspect: SFMOMA, which has already begun planning a 100,000-square-foot expansion that could get even bigger. One rumor has it that the museum is talking to the city about acquiring an adjoining fire station and building a new one elsewhere in return, in order to offer the Fishers their own digs. SFMOMA director Neal Benezra coyly parried questions with the comment: “We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Fishers to find a home for their collection as part of an expanded SFMOMA campus.” PEARLS BEFORE SCI-ARC Few talking heads can dent an architectural ego like critic, curator, and professor Jeff Kipnis, who moderated a chat at SCI-Arc on July 29 with Eric Owen Moss and Thom Mayne about Moss’ new installation at the school. Among Kipnis’ gems, he praised Moss’ garrulousness with the bon mot that he got paid by the hour for such events, and marveled at Moss and Mayne’s ability to argue with themselves—not among themselves, mind you, but each with his own self! Days later SCI-Arc hosted another panel, this time with Moss, Mayne, Hitoshi Abe, Peter Cook, Wolf Prix, and Peter Noever, among others. The event had the makings of a navel-gazing nightmare, but Eavesdrop promptly fell asleep and can’t recall a thing. Honest. RAISE HIGH THE WINDOW WALLS Everyone adores the Center for Architecture in New York, the storefront space run by the AIA New York chapter that draws more activity than any other such facility. Word has it that AIA Los Angeles is among those green with envy, which could mean a departure from its eighth-floor digs in Mid-Wilshire. The group is said to have hired a real estate consultant to scout locations nearer to Museum Mile. Will Wright, head of legislative affairs at AIA/LA, was semi-mum on the matter: “We have long-range plans to evaluate the opportunity to evolve into an Architecture Center.” Roger that, Will. Easy does it, we always say.
From our roving correspondent Alex Gorlin, who was party-hopping the other night:
Among the guests at Aaron Betsky's 50th birthday celebration on Thursday were Henry Urbach, curator of Architecture at SFMOMA, Laurie Beckelman, UCLA's Sylvia Lavin (who was complaining to Jeff Kipnis about the mosquitoes), Susan Grant Lewin the PR Queen—she barely made the "haj" to the party—the Modern's Barry Bergdoll with Bill Ryall, his partner, Reed Kroloff and Casey Jones. Last and certainly not least was Katherine Gustafson, the Zaha of landscape design, who appeared in a regally flowing white toga-like gown. The setting was her "Garden of Paradise" at the Arsenale, a coyly-renamed installation in the Garden of Virgins, with vegetables and flowers culminating in a swirling ridge of grassy mounds above which floated giant white ballons and what looked like the remains of a parachute. All in all, an elegant evening, although with no lights on, it was pitch black and so far away that one can only imagine half the guests, a little tipsy perhaps, falling into canals on the trek home.
Robert and Holly Ivy hosted their annual Architectural Record party at the same time as Aaron's fete, causing high anxiety and handwringing among the smart set who wanted to attend both. Many cleverly thought they could go to the Garden of the Virgins and then sprint over to the Accademia Bridge where Bob's soiree was held, not knowing of the tremendous distance between the two. Bergdoll, Kroloff and Jones, and David Rockwell showed up late in the evening exhausted by the trek. Hans Hollein was already there, looking somewhat fearsome, as were Joseph and Mrs. Rykwert, Charles Jencks, and AN's own Bill Menking and Diana Darling."—Alex Gorlin