AD Classics: Citigroup Center / Hugh Stubbins + William Le Messurier

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© Flickr user paulkhor © Flickr user paulkhor This article was originally published on November 5, 2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

In a city of skyscrapers of nearly every shape and size, the Citigroup Center on Lexington Avenue is one of New York’s most unique. Resting on four stilts perfectly centered on each side, it cantilevers seventy-two feet over the sidewalk and features a trademark 45-degree sloping crown at its summit. The original structure responsible for these striking features also contained a grave oversight that nearly resulted in structural catastrophe, giving the tower the moniker of “the greatest disaster never told” when the story finally was told in 1995. The incredible tale—now legendary among structural engineers—adds a fascinating back-story to one of the most iconic fixtures of the Manhattan skyline. Before the Citigroup Center was started in 1970, the lot was occupied by
© Flickr user Jeff Stvan
© Flickr user Timothy Vogel
© Flickr user Reading Tom
© Flickr user Timothy Vogel
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© Flickr user Steven Severing-Haus
© Flickr user paulkhor
Typical Floor Plan. Image © viewthespace.com
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AD Classics: Kuwait National Assembly Building / Jørn Utzon

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Covered plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees Covered plaza. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees This article was originally published on November 20,2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

No single building typology reveals as much about a nation’s political culture as the seat of its government. Parliamentary or palatial structures can tell stories of bureaucratic sprawl, autocratic excess, democratic openness, and anything in between. Kuwait’s National Assembly Building, the home of its popularly elected legislature, is no exception. Much like the nominally-democratic, effectively-oligarchic government it hosts, the building projects conflicting messages of accessibility and regionalist modernity, referencing traditions that don’t necessarily exist in the country and sometimes ending up in direct contradiction with itself. As an emblem of political culture, the building is thus perhaps too accurate in its reading of the Kuwaiti story, yielding a revealing insight into the complex political fabric of the country through
© Jeffrey van der Wees
Section through the assembly hall
Late-stage plan
Concrete segments of the plaza roof. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
Concrete ceiling of the main corridor. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
Interior corridor. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
Ceiling of the debating chamber. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
Palmetto ornamentation of the debating chamber. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
Interior of the assembly hall. Image © Flickr user Kuwaitelections2012
The upside-down "dead" palmetto detailing that drew the criticism of MIT Professor Lawrence Vale. Image © Jeffrey van der Wees
© Flickr user Cajetan Barretto
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AD Classics: São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP) / Lina Bo Bardi

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© Pedro Kok © Pedro Kok This article was originally published on August 14, 2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

When Lina Bo Bardi received the commission to build a new museum of art on São Paulo’s Terraço do Trianon, she was given the job under one condition: under no circumstances could the building block the site’s panoramic vistas of the lower-lying parts of the city. This rule, instituted by the local legislature, sought to protect what had become an important urban gathering space along Avenida Paulista, the city’s main financial and cultural artery. Undeterred, Bo Bardi came up with a solution that was simple and powerful. She designed a building with a massive split through its midsection, burying half of it below the terrace and lifting the other half into the sky. As a result, the plaza remained open and unobstructed, and in
© Flickr user Rodrigo_Soldon
© Pedro Kok
© Pedro Kok
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© Flickr user Rodrigo_Soldon
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AD Classics: Austrian Cultural Forum / Raimund Abraham

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© Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York © Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York This article was originally published on May 25, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Before the impossibly “super-thin” tower became ubiquitous on the Midtown Manhattan skyline, Raimund Abraham’s Austrian Cultural Forum challenged the limits of what could be built on the slenderest of urban lots. Working with a footprint no bigger than a townhouse (indeed, one occupied the site before the present tower), Abraham erected a daring twenty-four story high-rise only twenty-five feet across. Instantly recognizable by its profile, a symmetrical, blade-like curtain wall cascading violently toward the sidewalk, ACFNY was heralded by Kenneth Frampton as “the most significant modern piece of architecture to be realized in Manhattan since the Seagram Building and the Guggenheim Museum of 1959.” [1] The building, completed in 2002, was
The massing of the building is dictated solely by zoning laws and the immediacy of its neighbors. Image © Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York
© Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York
The director's office that occupies the box-like protrusion on the southern facade. Image © Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York
View from the sixth floor looking out toward 52nd Street. Image © Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York
© Photo by David Plakke, davidplakke.com; Courtesy of Austrian Cultural Forum New York
East-facing section with the "scissor stairs" on the left-hand side
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AD Classics: Expo’98 Portuguese National Pavilion / Álvaro Siza Vieira

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© Dacian Groza © Dacian Groza This article was originally published on January 2, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

At the Expo ’98 Portuguese National Pavilion, structure and architectural form work in graceful harmony. Situated at the mouth of the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal, the heart of the design is an enormous and impossibly thin concrete canopy, draped effortlessly between two mighty porticoes and framing a commanding view of the water. The simple, gestural move is both weightless and mighty, a bold architectural solution to the common problem of the covered public plaza. Under the graceful touch of Álvaro Siza Vieira, physics and physical form theatrically engage one another, and simplicity and clarity elevate the pavilion to the height of modern sophistication. Built for the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, the building was designed to be the thematic centerpiece of the
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West elevation
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AD Classics: Yokohama International Passenger Terminal / Foreign Office Architects (FOA)

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© Satoru Mishima / FOA © Satoru Mishima / FOA This article was originally published on ArchDaily in 2014. The triumphant critical reception of the Yokohama International Passenger Terminal was the product of inventive architectural methodology and socially conscious thinking. Designed by Foreign Office Architects (FOA) in 1995, the futuristic terminal represented an emergent typology of transportation infrastructure. Its radical, hyper-technological design explored new frontiers of architectural form and simultaneously provoked a powerful discourse on the social responsibility of large-scale projects to enrich shared urban spaces. The architectural competition for the terminal was famously intense, and winning it required the then-wife-and-husband team of Farshid Moussavi and Alejandro Zaera-Polo to rethink the established template of terminal design. Located on an important waterfront site in Japan’s second most populous city, the high-profile commission attracted 660 entries from around the world, the country's largest international competition to date. [1] The enormous, 430 meter-long project took
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
© Flickr user twu
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
First Floor Plan
Observation Deck Plan
Circulation Diagram
© Satoru Mishima / FOA
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AD Classics: Montreal Biosphere / Buckminster Fuller

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© Flickr user abdallahh © Flickr user abdallahh This article was originally published on November 25, 2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Architects have never enjoyed a position of such supreme prominence as they did in the worldview of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller. To him, architects alone were capable of understanding and navigating the complex interrelationships of society, technology, and environment as viewed through the comprehensive paradigm of systems theory. Architecture, in this model, was intended to exist in close contact with both mankind and nature, playing civilization’s most critical role in elevating the state of humanity and promoting its responsible stewardship of the environment. Emerging from the ethical positivity of postwar modernism, this melioristic perspective marks perhaps the zenith of optimism’s ascent in mid-twentieth century thought, and gave Fuller a uniquely moral blueprint for his revolutionary designs. It was from this social and philosophical context
Time Magazine, January 10, 1964. Image © Time Inc.
© Flickr user Rodrigo Maia
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The 1976 fire. Image from Reddit.
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© Flickr user Dan Sorensen
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AD Classics: National Museum of Roman Art / Rafael Moneo

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© Flickr user James Gordon © Flickr user James Gordon This article was originally published on May 4, 2015. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Arches have long been used to mark the greatest achievements of Roman civilization. Constantine, Titus, and Septimus Severus built them to commemorate their military victories. Engineers at Segovia and Nîmes incorporated them into their revolutionary aqueducts. And fifteen hundred years after the Fall of Rome, Rafael Moneo gave a modern touch to the ancient structure in Mérida's breathtaking National Museum of Roman Art, located on the site of the former Iberian outpost of Emerita Augusta. Soaring arcades of simple, semi-circular arches merge historicity and contemporary design, creating a striking yet sensitive point of entry to the remains of one of the Roman Empire's greatest cities.
© Flickr user Manuel Ramirez Sanchez © Flickr user Manuel Ramirez Sanchez

Moneo's commission for the museum came in 1979 as part of

The Roman Theater, constructed at the end of the first century BCE. Image © Wikipedia user Xauxa
The central "nave". Image © Flickr user Alvaro Perez Vilarino
© Flickr user Fernando Carrasco
Segmented and relieving arches work in visual and structural harmony. Image © Flickr user : Guzman Lozano
© Flickr user Rafael del Pino
Arches of the Roman Theater that inspired Moneo's design. Image © Flickr user Rafa Perez
© Flickr user Daniel Sancho
Plan of the "crypt". Image Courtesy of The National Museum of Roman Art
Axonometric cutaway. Image Courtesy of the Architect
Crypt level. Image © Flickr user Sarmale / Olga
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Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City / Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez

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© Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez

Robert Moses, the planner-politician-architect who infamously built overpasses too low for buses to bring New York’s urban poor to his beaches, is the subject of a new graphic novel by Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez titled Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City. Admirable for its candid rawness, their profile of perhaps the most polarizing and important figure in American planning history is no lionizing eulogy. The impressive triumphs of Moses’ tenure are juxtaposed with unsparing accounts of his regrettable social policies and the often-shortsighted consequences of his public infrastructure. For each groundbreaking feat of structural engineering and political mobilization, there is another story told of his callous social engineering, the consequences of which reshaped the lives of New Yorkers as much as his architecture.

The chronicles of ‘Big Bob the Builder’ are told through an entertaining and well-illustrated sequence

© Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez
© Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez
© Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez
© Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez
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AD Classics: Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou / Renzo Piano

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© Flickr user Fourrure
Sydney. Bilbao. Nouméa? They are cities recognized, popularized, and revitalized by a single foreign intervention of modern architecture. The phenomenon by which this occurs, often dubbed the “Bilbao Effect” in reference to Frank Gehry’s iconic museum, is one of the most fascinating and sought-after contributions of modern architecture to economic development. The latter of these locations—the capital of the Pacific island cluster of New Caledonia—may seem a misfit on this list to those who have still not heard of it, now sixteen years after the completion of Renzo Piano’s Tjibaou Cultural Center, but it most certainly is not: the transformative economic effect of this project on the city of Nouméa has been no less dramatic than that of any opera house or museum of greater renown. Since the Center's completion, New Caledonia has found itself in the international architectural spotlight, as the graceful,
© Flickr user xyotiogyo
© Flickr user Eustaquio
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Plan
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Interior of a Kanak Chief's Hut. Image © Flickr user Eustaquio
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Plan
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Preliminary Plan/Elevation Composite Drawing
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AD Classics: Strawberry Vale Elementary School / Patkau Architects

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© Patkau Architects / James Dow
In the struggle against the homogenizing forces of an increasingly globalized architectural culture, the particularized interventions of Patkau Architects in the Canadian southwest proffer a means of resistance, grounded in the immediacy of context and the sacrosanctity of nature. Combining local material palettes with a rich tectonic vocabulary that borrows from the diverging currents of modernity and vernacular practice, the firm’s projects are dynamic and eminently sui generis, the results of an inspired pursuit at the nexus of regionalism, technology, and critical theory.
A brise soleil overhangs the front entrance and administrative offices. Image © Patkau Architects / James Dow
A brise soleil overhangs the front entrance and administrative offices. Image © Patkau Architects / James Dow

Standing on the outskirts of Victoria, British Columbia, the timber-clad Strawberry Vale Elementary School is emblematic of Patkau Architects’ philosophy. Completed in 1995, the school's situation next to a prominent geological rift, coupled with its loving attention to surrounding indigenous flora, allows

© Patkau Architects / James Dow
© Patkau Architects / James Dow
© Patkau Architects / James Dow
Cross-section through classroom, corridor, and library. Image © Patkau Architects
Model of the circulation and mechanical corridor. Image © Patkau Architects / James Dow
Ramp and stairs in the corridor leading up to the library. Image © Patkau Architects / James Dow
© Patkau Architects / James Dow
The classrooms prioritize a direct visual connection with site's spectacular geology. Image © Patkau Architects / James Dow
© Patkau Architects / James Dow
© Patkau Architects / James Dow
Outdoor spaces inserted between classroom "pods" spreads natural light throughout the interior . Image © Patkau Architects / James Dow
© Patkau Architects / James Dow
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Harrison & Abramovitz’s U.S. Embassy Reopens in Havana

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Completed in 1953, the U.S. Embassy in Havana was a defining project of midcentury American modernism
For the first time in over a half-century, the United States reopened its official diplomatic embassy in Havana earlier today, shining an international spotlight on Harrison and Abramovitz's modernist shoreline classic. Historically maligned by many Cubans as an embodiment of American arrogance and imperialism, the building has played a pronounced symbolic role in the escalation - and now the easement - of political animosities between the two countries. The symbolic importance of this move - and of diplomatic architecture generally - was not lost on the pun-loving New York Times:

"...[T]he reopening of the embassy on the Malecón waterfront in Havana, previously used as an interests section, a limited diplomatic outpost, stands as the most concrete symbol yet of the thaw set in motion last year when President Obama ordered

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The Berlage Archive: Kazuyo Sejima (2002)

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Easy to overlook behind Kazuyo Sejima’s celebrated control of spatial and material effect is her emphasis on program and its role in the ratiocinated process of form-finding. In this 2002 lecture on her “Recent Work,” Sejima delves into the methodology that informs her work, beginning with two ongoing (and since-heralded) projects: the Theatre and Art Centre at Almere and the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art at Kanazawa. In both of these projects, Sejima ruminates on the intrigue of the microunit, the autonomously coherent spatial cogs that accumulate to participate in the purposeful machine. First within the irregularly-intervaled grid of the Theatre (as studios and staging areas), and second within the cytoplasmic circumscription of the Kanazawa Museum (as exhibitions), individual programmatic components with discreet performative roles seem to float, untethered to each other, in voluminous seas of circulatory space. By segregating elemental blocks within these projects, Sejima exaggerates their apparent
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The Berlage Archive: Jean-Louis Cohen (2006)

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“No single major piece of architecture in the twentieth century can be taken out of its political context and its relationship with power.” So argues theorist and historian Jean-Louis Cohen in this lecture delivered at the Berlage Institute in October, 2006, titled “The politics of memory: Monuments to legitimacy.” Focusing specifically on landscapes of war and reconstruction in twentieth century and their intimate relationship with structures of power, Cohen approaches the tenet that “all design is political” by examining the place of buildings in the deeply politicized landscapes of collective memory. The relationship between architecture and power is complex and reciprocal. Regimes and revolutionaries alike employ architecture as a mechanism for expressing and executing their respective desires of stability and subversion. Accordingly, public architecture and public space bear the imprint of the political ideations that yield them and assume an operative function in the service of ideology. Architecture, in its role as a repository of collective memory and through its ability to shape public space and mold public discourse, is likewise capable of affecting the operation and exertion of power. Relics of history—residual architecture—play into our cultural fetishizations of nostalgia and encourage the translocation of ideologies between past and present. Continue reading "The Berlage Archive: Jean-Louis Cohen (2006)"

AD Classics: Austrian Cultural Forum / Raimund Abraham

Before the impossibly “super-thin” tower became ubiquitous on the Midtown Manhattan skyline, Raimund Abraham’s Austrian Cultural Forum challenged the limits of what could be built on the slenderest of urban lots. Working with a footprint no bigger than a townhouse (indeed, one occupied the site before the present tower), Abraham erected a daring twenty-four story high-rise only twenty-five feet across. Instantly recognizable by its profile, a symmetrical, blade-like curtain wall cascading violently toward the sidewalk, ACFNY was heralded by Kenneth Frampton as “the most significant modern piece of architecture to be realized in Manhattan since the Seagram Building and the Guggenheim Museum of 1959.” [1]

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AD Classics: Viipuri Library / Alvar Aalto

Despite being one of the seminal works of modern Scandinavian architecture, Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library languished in relative obscurity for three-quarters of a century until its media breakthrough in late 2014. Its receipt of the World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize for a recent renovation was covered by news outlets around the world, bringing the 1935 building previously unseen levels of attention and scrutiny. This renaissance is nothing less than extraordinary. Abandoned for over a decade and allowed to fall into complete disrepair, the building was once so forgotten that many believed it had actually been demolished. [1] For decades, architects studied Aalto’s project only in drawings and prewar black-and-white photographs, not knowing whether the original was still standing, and if it was, how it was being used. Its transformation from modern icon to deserted relic to architectural classic is a tale of political intrigue, warfare, and the perseverance of a dedicated few who saved the building from ruin.

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AD Classics: Limoges Concert Hall / Bernard Tschumi Architects

For those familiar with the more canonical work of Bernard Tschumi, the Concert Hall may seem a puzzlingly conventional departure from the radical, intensively theoretical projects that introduced the world to the Swiss architect. In one sense, the visual clarity of the design doesn’t provoke the same complex discourses on architectural violence and eroticism that guided his early-career pursuits, and it is certainly a more functional evolution of his polemic on non-programmatic space that was famously exhibited at Parc de la Villete. In another sense, the concept and form of Limoges aren’t anything novel, either, emerging almost in its entirety from a concert hall prototype Tschumi developed in the late 1990s for a similar venue at Rouen. But Limoges is important for other reasons: in addition to its thoughtful material and spatial choices, it is one of the more articulate illustrations of Tschumi’s explorations of movement and enclosure—“vectors and envelopes”—that inform much of his recent work.

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Book Excerpt: Safdie / Moshe Safdie

The prolific body of work produced over the last half century by Moshe Safdie and his firm is somewhat anomalous in the pantheon of high-profile living architects. It is unique in both formal and philosophical terms, nostalgically guided by the ethical precepts of bygone modernist theory while working in architectural languages significantly evolved from midcentury standards. In the course of a comprehensive review of his projects, it is perhaps the very lack of an isomorphic personal signature that makes his celebrity so unique. The Safdie “look” is chameleonic, deliberately adapting to culture and context without suffering from the burden of personal branding, unified by theory and a geometric playfulness that transcends architectural language and affect.

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AD Classics: National Museum of Roman Art / Rafael Moneo

Arches have long been used to mark the greatest achievements of Roman civilization. Constantine, Titus, and Septimus Severus built them to commemorate their military victories. Engineers at Segovia and Nîmes incorporated them into their revolutionary aqueducts. And fifteen hundred years after the Fall of Rome, Rafael Moneo gave a modern touch to the ancient structure in Mérida’s breathtaking National Museum of Roman Art, located on the site of the former Iberian outpost of Emerita Augusta. Soaring arcades of simple, semi-circular arches merge historicity and contemporary design, creating a striking yet sensitive point of entry to the remains of one of the Roman Empire’s greatest cities.

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