Under the banner Let’s Talk About Houses, the second Lisbon Architecture Triennale opened last night in three different venues around the Portuguese capital. A beautifully renovated electric generating plant featured the results of two competitions: one for the low-income immigrant Portuguese community Cova da Moura, and a second for a house in Luanda, Angola. Meanwhile, a second exhibit on artists working in the realm of architecture is being staged at the contemporary Museo do Chiado (I’ll have more on these two shows in a subsequent post). The most ambitious of the three exhibitions, however, is on view at the Museu Coleção Berardo along the city’s architecturally fascinating waterfront in a district called Belem. Between North and South, as the title of that show suggests, is an exhibition that wants to highlight “housing conditions and new solutions found in various regions of the world.” But it is heavily weighted toward architectural movements and designs in the northern hemisphere, with only a general analysis of urban planning and living conditions in Portugal’s former colonial cities of Recife (Brazil), Luanda (Angola), and Maputo (Mozambique). The northern hemisphere, as conceived by triennale curator Delfim Sardo, begins with a display—or really recreated installation—of housing proposals by Alison and Peter Smithson regarding the House of the Future, their Valley Section Diagram, and best of all, a document of their Patio and Pavilion project created for the This Is Tomorrow exhibition with photographer Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi. I enjoyed these installations, but they seem a slightly arbitrary place to begin a show on northern and southern housing in 2010. Many Portuguese architects, however, claim the Smithsons are little known in the country, and the focus on their “patio and pavilion” concept certainly has a resonance in this Mediterranean-like climate. In any event, rather than focusing on architectural ideas, Sardo smartly preferred to highlight their “inhabitation” by residents. Thus, even in the section on Portuguese housing solutions by Alvaro Siza and Soute de Moura, we are given images of views out of the houses, non-architect designed furniture (the type rarely seen in architectural renderings), and taped conversations by residents of the apartments. But the show really comes alive when one walks into the section titled The Nordic Connection. Curated by Peter Cook, who predictably goes against the grain of the show, the section features no houses but the most colorful and odd (not a glass box anywhere) collection of wonderfully quirky buildings that capture a new young Scandinavian attitude. Cook’s selection includes a playful, flat-packed, and redeployable adventure playground and a magical children’s camp built into rocks and trees, both by Norway’s Helen & Hard Architects. Snøhetta’s Peter Dass Museum and a bright orange exhibition space in Malmo by Tham & Videgard add to the fun of this exhibition. Unfortunately, the show continues with a deadly boring one-room display of Vittorio Lampugnani’s glass-box Novartis campus in Basel. The one revelation for a non-Portuguese viewer was the section on SAAL (Servico de Apoio Ambulatorio Local), a government-supported movement of radical architects in Portugal between 1974 and 1976 that brandished the slogan “Houses Yes? Shacks No!” and fought to create better housing for the impoverished population at the time of the Portuguese revolution. The only problem is that this “utopian” movement really produced very little (none of which was on view in this exhibition) in the way of architecture. Though Alvaro Siza was a participant in SAAL and produced several Porto housing projects credited to the movement, the problem for those who want to deemphasize form in favor of political and cultural analysis and critique is that they often forget architecture. The small part of the exhibition that focused on the southern hemisphere was in fact this type of architectural thinking applied to urban analysis, but while it’s interesting to read on a page and important analytical information, as an exhibition it was barely worth focusing on as a viewer. Had the show started with SAAL as a point of departure to ask all the questions that both formalists and policy analysts in the profession want to focus on today, it would have made a great triennial and Lisbon an important center of architectural thought.
Posts tagged with "Snøhetta":
We got an email earlier today from Leni Schwendinger, principal of Light Projects, informing us that she was also part of the team redesigning Times Square, a terrible omission from the original announcement given that this probably the most well-lit place on the planet. "As a location singularly (and controversially) known for lighting and light, the Times Square win is very important," Schwendinger wrote. "It is Light Projects’ opportunity to redefine the role of light in the public space of Times Square for pedestrians." (Graphic designers Pure and Applied and engineers Buro Happold are also on the Snohetta-led team.) This revelation led to a nice little discussion on the nature of Times Squares' gigawhattage and some brainstorming on what might make a good design.
The main thing, as you have said, is that light has played a critical role in the “Great White Way” since it was a theatre district primarily, through the sordid 70s with the huge cinema marquees and signs through the 90’s when bright lighting became MANDATED—the only district we know of to have a minimum footcandle level (rather than a maximum) which has made the visual illumination characteristics what they are today. One of the vital questions about Times Square lighting will be the determination of whether the street lighting will remain or be removed. There have been discussions about the need for public, street lighting in Times Square amongst urbanists and lighting designers—and the conundrum in this case is, although the private sector lighting is legislated to be bright, the city can’t legally depend on private lighting to light the streets. So here we have theoretical agreement that the street lighting is redundant. Times Square, the globally recognized after-dark crossroads of the world will be completely transformed by our team. My ideas for the lighting of Times Square will take into account the walls of Times Square, the buildings that make the walls, their lighting, catalyzing the uses and activities of the new plaza, and integrating into our team’s approach to the architecture and landscape of tomorrow’s Times Square.Schwendinger stressed that these are of course her own initial thoughts and not that of the teams—duh!—but here's your disclaimer anyway. As for the project itself, we've already got our tickets and can't wait for the show to begin.
While it was nearly hot enough to fry in egg in Times Square Tuesday, things have since cooled off a bit, and not simply because the temperature dropped back into double digits. Today the city's Department of Transportation began installing in the public plazas Molly Dilworth's 18-month installation, "Cool Water, Hot Island," which will not only prettify the eight newish plazas with an abstracted heat map of the city but also reflect some sunlight, making for a more comfortable experience. Meanwhile, DOT along with the Department of Design and Construction announced that it had selected Nordic knockouts Snøhetta as the lead designer for the long-term transformation of the square. The selection of Snøhetta is not exactly a surprise, as it is one of the eight firms in the city's Design + Construction Excellence program, from which DOT had already said it would make its choice because it streamlines the design process as the firms are prequalified. Yet it was Snøhetta's experience outside the city that helped win it the commission. “It is a classic New York story that reconstruction of the ‘Crossroads of the World’ will be led by a firm with an international reputation for creative vision and excellence,” DDC commissioner David Burney said in a statement. Snøhetta's preference for public art, landscape design, and sustainability may have played a role in its winning the commission. Still, the nature of the project is rather new to the firm, most of its successes having come through buildings such as the Library of Alexandria and Oslo Opera House, though both are incredibly public in their nature, so Snøhetta should prove a good, and certainly interesting fit, as its work at Ground Zero has shown. Joining the Oslo- and New York-based firm on the design team are WXY Architecture and Design, Weidlinger Associates (engineers), Mathews Nielsen (landscape), Billings Jackson Design (industrial), and Bexel (audio-visual), all of whom are Excellence program participants. The design work is just beginning, with no time line or budget yet set for its unveiling, according to a DOT spokesperson, though the plan remains to begin construction in 2012. The firms will be responsible for improving the pedestrian experience in the plazas as well as the infrastructure for the various events held in Times Square throughout the year. "Our goal is to improve the quality and atmosphere of this historic site for pedestrians and bicyclists while also allowing for efficient transportation flow for the betterment of the city,” said Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and its co-founder. And in more Molly Dilworth news, online art gallery Art We Love is selling a series of seven prints for 15 bucks a pop.
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.
Update (4/21/10): Three more firms have been confirmed: Snohetta, Rafael Viñoly, and L.A.'s Frederick Fisher. This is shaping up to be a pretty diverse crew. The SF Chronicle reports that the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive has sent out letters to ten architecture firms, asking them to submit qualifications to design their new home. Adding to the three that have already been sussed out (Bernard Tschumi, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, and Will Bruder), we have confirmed a fourth: Ann Beha, whose Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire has been well-received. If that partial list is any indication, the museum is looking at a more diverse group than SFMOMA is considering for its addition, though (as in SFMOMA's case) no local names have surfaced yet. It is going to be an interesting adaptive reuse project: the old printing plant on the site will be renovated, and a 50,000 square-foot addition incorporated into the whole.
During an unrelated call earlier today, Craig Dykers, head of Snohetta's New York office and the man behind the 9/11 memorial pavilion, divulged that he was rather disappointed with the renderings that the city released last week to widespread fanfare. It's bad enough that the design has been scaled back--like everything else on the site--but Dykers said that officials also went behind the firm's back to have the renderings done. He was then kind enough to send along some model shots he greatly prefers. Check 'em out after the jump.