AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White

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© wikimedia commons © wikimedia commons This article was originally published on February 11, 2014. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

New York City’s original Pennsylvania Station was a monument to movement and an expression of American economic power. In 1902, the noted firm McKim, Mead and White was selected by the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad to design its Manhattan terminal. Completed in 1910, the gigantic steel and stone building covered four city blocks until its demolition in 1963, when it ceded to economic strains hardly fifty years after opening.
Concourse from South, 1962. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey Concourse from South, 1962. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey

Prior to the station’s completion, the final leg of rail travel to New York City consisted of a ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan. Alexander Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the brother of painter Mary Cassatt, resolved

© Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection
Facade from Northeast. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey
Elevation
Track level and concourses. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection
Plan
32nd Street entrance. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection
The main concourse, 1958. Image © Nick DeWolf Photo Archive
© wikimedia commons
Entrance to loggia and main waiting room. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection
Entrance to tracks, 1958. Image © Nick DeWolf Photo Archive
The United States Post Office, 1915. Image via Library of Congress
Grand Central Terminal. Image © wikimedia commons
Main Concourse. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection
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AD Classics: Villa dall’Ava / OMA

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© Peter Aaron (OTTO) © Peter Aaron (OTTO)

This article was originally published on November 13, 2013. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.

Much of the spatial composition of the Villa dall'Ava was influenced by its site, in a garden on a hill. It was completed in 1991 in the residential area of Saint-Cloud, overlooking Paris. The clients selected OMA to design a house with two distinct apartments—one for themselves and another for their daughter—and requested a swimming pool on the roof with a view of the Eiffel Tower.

© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA

The site is delineated by three segments along the east-west axis: the garage, set at street level and paved in asphalt, the main volume of the house, and the garden, which extends the length of the site. The garage is accessed at street level and embedded into the sloping site. The

© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA
© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA
© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA
Garden Level Plan © OMA
© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA
© Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA
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Alcohol and Urbanism, a Case Study: Breaking New York City’s Open Container Law

If there is one thing to be learned from the unsuccessful prohibition period of the 1920s, it is that we, the people, will go to great lengths to exercise our right to drink alcohol in the company of others. Our determined forefathers could have simply enjoyed a small-batch bathtub brew in the comfort of their own homes, but instead they established a system of secret places to congregate and consume collectively, even under threat of federal prosecution. Though it is no longer a felony to consume alcohol, New Yorkers are still pushing the legal limits of drinking with others, challenging the open container laws that prohibit public drinking. Drinking is a recreational activity. It is a means of stepping beyond the realm of normal perception and seeing things differently, in the metaphorical sense (though sometimes a literal one). It is an act of recreation and repose, the parallel of peering at passerby from a park bench. In New York City, as in most of the United States, it is illegal for any person to possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage in any public place, “except at a block party, feast or similar function for which a permit has been obtained.” Rarely do individuals have the resources for a block party or occasion for a full-scale public feast. More likely, they simply seek to crack open a can with neighbors on their front steps or with friends in Central Park, thereby enjoying a beverage in one of the country’s most vibrant and diverse public spheres for a mere penance. Unfortunately, that is not a legal option. Even the outdoor space we own is not completely open to our discretionary use: a resident cannot drink on his own stoop because it is “a place to which the public or a substantial group of persons has access.”
Open container laws relegate social drinking to private spaces that must be accessed for a fee, restricting our interaction with the city. Still, citizens subvert this mandate, disguising their open containers or drinking unabashedly on their stoops. In 2009, Brooklyn resident Kimber VanRy challenged a public drinking citation he received for indulging in a beer on his own front steps. The charge was eventually dismissed following multiple court proceedings. “These laws want to chase us all into private spaces that most people can’t afford or have access to,” protested VanRy. “If you want to enjoy a summer night with a drink, you have to pay.” As Jane Jacobs noted in The Death and Life of Great American , a city’s diversity is what gives it life. The potential for individuals with various interests and agencies to meet is what activates a city and gives voice to the disparate interests of its residents. Public space is the most egalitarian of realms; free to be used by all. Since it does not restrict entry, it welcomes a chance encounter between a woman living in a shelter and a Wall Street suit, or a senator and a professional dog walker. Private spaces, conversely, exclude at the owner’s discretion. “The public realm is what we own and control,” noted New York architect Alexander Garvin. “The streets, squares, parks, and public buildings make up the fundamental element in any community — the framework around which everything else grows.” While Garvin points out that access to public space is essential to the building of community, we must question the element of control. If certain activities are restricted in our collective spaces and this restriction is commonly subverted in protest, who is in control? Are we in control of the space as a populous or is the space controlled by an authority that is at odds with public opinion?
Michael Sorkin likens the prohibition of open containers in public spaces to the containment of the city, which places boundaries on its potential use. “If the container is a hedge against accidental or uncontrolled contamination, a medium of manipulation and control, the redress against such a degrading notion of space is in the fight for intimate, plural and malleable spaces, spaces in which differences are invented and celebrated.” In the creation of boundaries is the implicit desire to separate two entities, thereby eliminating the potential for unplanned encounters.  When we restrict social drinking to private spaces with defined edges like doors, walls, and gates, who is in and who is left out? Often, the right to drink in public must be purchased. Only so many people can physically pack into a bar, never mind legally. These revelers rent their allotted four square feet in small increments by paying significantly more for a drink than they would at the corner store. What costs $1.50 when pulled from a bodega refrigerator costs $6.00 pulled from a tap and garnished with a slice of collective conversation. The price of drinking in a privately-owned establishment is as effective in sifting out people of various classes as are the physical barriers that separate a sidewalk cafe from the street.
Spaces designated for drinking within sight of the street capitalize on shared visual experience across the same barriers that prevent people from encroaching on the private space. They offer the charm of the flaneur referred to by Walter Benjamin, allowing brunchers to see and be seen over the rim of a bottomless mimosa. In some cases, the walls enclosing bars and cafes all but dissolve, folding and opening to bring the exterior activity in. Much like the solution of the protagonist duo in “A Night at the Roxbury,” it is an attempt to remove the boundaries that prevent some eager participants from entering.  Though all contributors to city life are permitted to participate in this visual exchange, only he who pays is allowed to loiter. The designation of a separate physical space impedes the transfer of understanding through the shared experience that social drinking might otherwise facilitate. There are those who must remain resolutely outside the boundaries where social drinking is legal because they cannot purchase the legality. People who wish to consume alcohol in company but do not have access to housing or expendable income- the homeless and the poor- must do so in public. These people are therefore more likely to be discovered and branded as deviant, brown bag or not.
The law states that a person discovered defying the decree can incur a $25 citation or five days in jail. Those with no criminal record and an extra $25 on hand may consider it a mere nuisance, and warn guests of a $25 cover fee for Sunday’s Prospect Park picnic. Others may be unfairly targeted for the same activity, or, as suggested recently by a Brooklyn judge, simply because they belong to a racial minority. In 2012, Judge Noach Dear decided to contend with the city’s propensity to level public drinking citations against its residents, claiming that the enforcement tended to target minorities. After reviewing a month’s worth of documented public-drinking summonses issued in Brooklyn, his staff found that 85 percent of the summonses were issued to people categorized as blacks and Latinos, while only 4 percent were issued to whites. For many of us, the city’s parks are our surrogate back yards. They are the space of leisure, a shared retreat from the continuous stream of movement that dominates the city. On those glorious, grassy greens, one may legally barbecue or sunbathe topless, but may not open a bottle of chardonnay. Olmsted’s pastoral vision for Central and Prospect Parks did not likely include twenty-somethings tipping back wine from plastic cups, but we can hardly argue for the sacredness of his vision. People have long since defiled his undulating landscapes with their street carts and organized games of kickball and softball. This, too, is an assertion of the right to use our public space as we please, even if a higher authority (that bearded father of landscape architecture) would restrict its use.
The ability to stroll about the city with an open beer in hand benefits the likes of Seoul, Paris, and New Orleans. Instead of dissolving as a result of debauchery, these cities boast an active public life. People collect at the river front, on foot bridges, and in parks to share conversation, space, and a bottle of wine. When the sun goes down in New York City, we drift away from the rivers, congregating indoors when the coveted backyards brim over, and spilling our pockets for a few drinks. This prevents us from experiencing all that the city has to offer, particularly when the air is fine and free of that polar vortex chill. If it is warm enough to lay outside without a shirt under full protection of the law, it is warm enough to drink in the park. There, we should be permitted to enjoy the city and the presence of its residents, regardless of race or income, for the lowest fee.

Twenty Years Later, What Rural Studio Continues to Teach Us About Good Design

Hale County, Alabama is a place full of architects, and often high profile ones. The likes of Todd Williams and Billie Tsien have ventured there, as have Peter Gluck and Xavier Vendrell, all to converge upon Auburn University’s Rural Studio. Despite the influx of designers, it is a place where an ensemble of all black will mark you as an outsider. I learned this during my year as an Outreach student there, and was reminded recently when I ventured south for the Studio’s 20th Anniversary celebration. While the most recent graduates took the stage, I watched the ceremony from the bed of a pick-up truck, indulging in corn-coated, deep-fried catfish, and reflected on what the organization represents to the architecture world. Since its founding in 1993 by D.K. Ruth and , the Studio has built more than 150 projects and educated over 600 students. Those first years evoke images of stacked tires coated with concrete and car windshields pinned up like shingles over a modest chapel. In the past two decades, leadership has passed from Mockbee and Ruth to the current director, Andrew Freear, and the palette has evolved to feature more conventional materials, but the Studio remains faithful to its founding principal: all people deserve good design. Now that it is officially a twenty-something, what can Rural Studio teach us about good design?
Contemporary architecture tends to halt where the imagined becomes the tactile. Ideas are handed off on a tidy sheet set, to be constructed by the next runner in the relay race. As a design-build, Rural Studio represents an alternative to this approach; the same hands that draw the plans are those that build the formwork and pour the concrete. What truly distinguishes the Studio, however, allowing it to be heard over the increasing roar of fast-paced, globalized design, is its commitment to an architecture of place. In contrast to the heavily-branded architecture that is often exported from one continent to another, each project is geographically contextual. It is not formulated for mass production or assembled from globally homogenous materials. It can’t be packed up and transplanted to another region. This localization of effort may seem archaic, but as Mimi Zeiger recently noted, “engagement with real, local conditions is crucial for architecture’s global relevancy.”  Hale County is located in Alabama’s Black Belt, a region named for its dark soil. Local conditions are largely characterized by the last wave of the cotton industry, which devastated the once-fertile soil and left a wash of poverty and clay-bottomed catfish farms in its wake. The Studio designs architectural details specifically for the climate: foundations are structured to endure the shifting, clay-rich soil, and cedar rain screens provide a solution for naturally mitigating the humidity. Rather than trying to teach the vernacular how to behave, students learn from it, implementing cross ventilation and deep eaves to provide shaded relief from the stifling heat.  The design media tends to glorify Mockbee’s decision to plant the seeds of the organization in rural dirt and continually tend to them, but it is important to note that it was created on an exchange system from the outset. It donates a building, and the recipients agree to be part of an experiment, playing host to inexperienced students while they roll around the yard on a backhoe.
Mockbee chose Hale County because it provided the right conditions for creating a symbiotic relationship between architecture students who needed education and people who needed buildings. He recognized the importance of understanding and investing in a place, realizing that the input and invitation of the impoverished population would be crucial to the Studio’s success. There is a lot of focus on ‘design for good’ in the architecture world, but ‘design for good’ does not necessarily qualify as good design. The latter approaches the people it designs for as clients rather than charity cases, focusing on their desires and taking responsibility for the end result. As mentioned in this article by Michael Kimmelman, cooking up creative solutions for the poor is most successful when their ideas are part of the recipe. While Mockbee initially worked to find willing recipients for the projects, the community now approaches the Studio, lending credence to the theory that it often takes commitment to a place to earn the acceptance of its people. Initially, the 150 miles separating Rural Studio from Auburn University’s main campus provided a buffer from code constraints and the tight timelines of more established and expensive cities. There was little threat of an inspector trekking down a dirt road to check whether the structural details of stacked carpet tile walls were up to code. As its roots grew and gained traction, the Studio received more attention from all sides. Traditional building materials became available through donations and the experiments began to solidify. The radius of project sites expanded as far as 25 miles from the Studio’s main campus. Under Freear’s direction, the focus shifted to community centers and parks intended to serve larger groups of people. The 20K House project was developed to create affordable housing that fits the local vernacular, maximizing modest resources to shelter more people living on a very restricted income. 
Despite growing larger, the Studio has not abandoned its investment in place. Instead, it has grounded itself more firmly, working with municipal politicians and school boards to discuss project ambitions, scheduling, and financing. While working with clients like the local Boy Scouts and the Boys & Girls Club, Rural Studio teams attended Scout meetings and tutored local students after school. At other institutions, typical studio assignments might omit pesky political forces and skim over the complex issues of class and race, but these are a historic and present part of life in Hale County, as in the world. Theories about politics and space are not based on the resources available in the university library (which is, of course, hundreds of miles from the Studio). Instead, the projects function as a collective case study, with research continuing even after construction is finished.  The approach is admittedly slow- it is a considered, iterative, and exacting process. Sheets of trace paper are pinned to the walls, drawn over, torn down, and replaced. This is repeated, sometimes to the point of tedium, even when the detail in question is the juncture of a column composed of 2x6s and a layer of pine decking. Some students stay on for a year or two after officially graduating, often to complete the larger community projects. 
Naturally, Rural Studio’s efforts are not without fault. Freear and Auburn faculty continually evaluate what should be built rather than pressing ahead with what can. As a result, some teams never see their projects realized, and these are folded into the research of the ongoing experiment. Of those that transition from two dimensions to three, some end up underutilized or hindered by an imperfect detail. Twice each year, every student takes a week to spruce up existing projects, fixing a leaky roof at the Newbern Fire Station or pulling weeds in Lions Park. At times, Hale County residents see the built work as more alien to the area than the students anticipate. By remaining present and involved in the place it builds, the Studio is able to reflect on past work so each project benefits from those before it. “Some of our work has been successful, some less so. Since we live here, if we screw up, we hear about it,” says Freear in the Studio’s most recent book. The architectural world at large tends to consider a building’s final photo shoot its highest moment, before the purity of the architecture is disrupted by years of use. No one at Rural Studio would claim to disregard the power of images- it has benefited from the photographic prowess of Timothy Hursley for several years- but the emphasis is on how projects perform over time, not for their photo shoots. 
Rural Studio might be just a small-town twenty-something, but it offers an atypical approach that all architects can learn from. Its ability to refocus and redirect, to adapt to new directors and constraints, shows us that curricula can change, pedagogy should be self-aware and deliberate, and education need not be limited to late nights in the studio and early mornings in the lecture hall. It reminds us that work by the privileged meant to aid the underprivileged should be a reciprocal exchange of ideas and input, and that the architecture of place is still a worthy pursuit in an increasingly globalized world.  To help keep Rural Studio up and running, donate here or find out more Rennie Jones is an architect by day and a writer by morning — this article was originally published on her blog. She hopes to finish her first novel this summer, provided the vast offerings of New York City don’t get in the way. 

Ban vs. Schumacher: Should Architects Assume Social Responsibility?

Last week, Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid’s right-hand man, attempted to mandate the boundaries of Architecture in a social media post worthy of a Millennial. The tone was prescriptive and characterized by a liberal application of caps lock. In an ideal world, it might have been collectively ignored, but the discussion sprawled across multiple Facebook threads and inspired a broad media response (not to mention this one). I offer you a very reductive abstract: Architecture’s contribution to society is form, not political correctness and not art, which lacks a function beyond itself. A fair bit of the ensuing banter on Schumacher’s Facebook wall draws, then erases, then rehashes the distinction between art and architecture. With more than a hint of indignation, he specifically denounces the winners of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. He was not on the roster. Injured dignities aside, the commentary allowed a pervasive and omnipresent question within our discipline to resurface in the digital forum: What do architects offer that no one else can? While I don’t agree with Schumacher’s dismissal of ‘politically correct’ architecture (we’ll get to that), I did find several nuggets of shining gold in my pan after sifting through his Facebook rant. And there was quite a bit of sifting. As is typical with architectural writing, one must crack a few layers of lofty, intellectual jargon to reach the juicy center. Schumacher’s original statement, at first glance, might be understood as a reduction of architecture to form alone; an object, a shell. However, in ensuing comments he goes on to distinguish the field as form making with a “performative function.” That function, he says, is a social one: “to order, frame, and facilitate social cooperation.” Architecture’s goal is to shift social forces beyond itself, and the manipulation of form is the means to that end. He equates the mechanics of form to those of language, where the meaning is left to the receiver’s interpretation. The elements of form are the structure and syntax, our communication toolkit, and our arrangement of these elements allows us to stir up symbolic meaning and associations. Place a column just so and signify an entry. Fold a stadium roof just so and signify labia.
Schumacher points to grand stylistic shifts as the largest moments in our discipline. They signify (and arguably induce) cultural change. They are the notches on the yardstick against which architecture’s growth is measured. Some suggest that architecture has been languishing since Modernism. Schumacher offers as the nascent Messiah. “[It] is saving the discipline’s reason to exist,” he declares. Now, I am no devotee of parametricism- I readily admit to being under-educated on the subject- yet I am seduced by this possibility. Its gentle curves suggest an alluring potential to harness and streamline cultural and political forces, digest them, and offer a novel interpretation. Mass customization and digital dependence are burgeoning in our society. There is no doubt a crowd of people would clamor to have their own desires made concrete in the form of a unique, numbered cladding panel at their favorite museum. Just think of the selfie possibilities. This is not necessarily what Schumacher is proposing, of course. It is simply one possible result of harnessing global culture to “order, frame, and facilitate social cooperation.” I am a firm believer that the built environment and culture are in a relationship of reciprocal influence. Sometimes it’s aggressive and volatile. Other times they don’t call each other back. Parametricism, as a style and tool, could be read as the formal analog of our tendency to digitally reach out and link. It could be seen as the future of the discipline, but it’s not the only way.
The architect’s tool belt contains more than the ability to construct complex formal relationships. Sure, we can alter the paradigms of society using this system, sculpting culture in an arc as smooth and indifferent as one of Schumacher’s gleaming roofs. We can also use a hammer. As architects, we can utilize our extensive training in problem solving to create solutions from limited resources. We can devise built systems to affect the lives of individuals directly, rather than whispering to the masses through our manipulation of form. Schumacher denounces this method as ‘politically correct.’ I’ll call it ‘humanitarian.’ The winners of the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, the thorn in the parametricist’s side, include Toyo Ito’s Japanese pavilion, which featured alternative housing proposals for tsunami victims. It received formal validation from the architectural canon in the shape of a glitzy Golden Lion. Schumacher sees this validation as a dead-end for the discipline, calling it “moralizing political correctness that is trying to paralyze us with bad conscience and arrest our explorations if we cannot instantly demonstrate a manifest tangible benefit for the poor…” I am immediately struck by two presumptions in this declaration that are masquerading as fact. Firstly, I wonder how much of has proven an ‘instant benefit for the poor.’ There is undoubtedly a large portion that is the result of misguided, entitled ideas about what poor people need and want. These projects serve the desires of the architect rather than the intended users. Where the purpose is self-serving, I entirely agree that we must be aware and critical of this type of architecture. For instance, Brad Pitt’s “Make it Right” housing for Hurricane Katrina victims has received generous donations of criticism in this regard. This is not to say that all of is soiled by its own good intentions, however. I point to Shigeru Ban Architects,  ELEMENTALMASS Design GroupNLÉ, and the Rural Studio as examples of organizations actively engaging the intended users and producing visible results.
My second issue with Schumacher’s declaration is that it desires to ‘paralyze us.’ This has a slight ring of victimization to it. It implies that there can be only one meaningful trajectory in the discipline, pitting projects that differ in intended use or design method against each other. Let us consider for a moment that the goal of the humanitarian model is not ‘political correctness’ (What an imposition!), but a genuine desire to disseminate the architect’s toolkit to the billions (billions, I say) of people who would not otherwise have access. Generally, this is the same sector of culture that does not have the ability to purchase a customized cladding panel, to say nothing of interest. It is a large piece of the population pie chart. I would argue that humanist architecture is not a Pac-Man style attempt to quell formal innovation and swallow parametricism’s potential, but simply a parallel branch of the discipline devised for a different type of user. The architect may choose to take up either trajectory and find he has access to the necessary tools. Like parametricism, humanitarian architecture is concerned with the creation of deployable systems and even mass customization. It also aims to advance society. The glaring distinction between the two is that they operate with very different resources. One is powered by rocket fuel, the other by hand crank. The method is similar: identify relevant cultural and geographical factors, establish parameters, allow for divergence. In parametricism, the form is fixed by the architect and the divergence occurs in user interpretation. In the humanitarian model, a given set of parameters is established by the architect, allowing a second set of input to be manipulated by the user. These may be as simple as the length of pegs and the width of wall panels to allow for custom configurations, or exist in the form of ideas and participation. Architects may choose to shift culture by instilling meaning in the language of the built environment; by contributing idealized form. We might also seek to alter it more directly, through the dissemination of idealized systems that are often enacted for and by the other portion of the pie chart. The architecture we choose to validate as a society represents a set of values within our global culture, as measured by stylistic shifts. I ask whether we might not limit ourselves to a single trajectory. Just this week, Shigeru Ban was recognized as the 2014 Pritzker Laureate, suggesting his humanitarian work is considered valid within the discipline. His face will now sit off-center in a small rectangle beside the likes of Toyo Ito and Zaha Hadid, proving that even the architectural canon refuses to reduce architecture to a single pursuit. Parametric and humanitarian architecture are devised for separate users, but they share the same basic goal of advancing society and they are constructed with the same set of tools.
Rennie Jones is an architect by day and a writer by morning — this article was originally published on her blog. She hopes to finish her first novel this summer, provided the vast offerings of New York City don’t get in the way. 

AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White

’s original Pennsylvania Station was a monument to movement and an expression of American economic power. In 1902, the noted firm McKim, Mead and White was selected by the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad to design its Manhattan terminal. Completed in 1910, the gigantic steel and stone building covered four city blocks until its demolition in 1963, when it ceded to economic strains hardly fifty years after opening. 

Prior to the station’s completion, the final leg of rail travel to New York City consisted of a ferry from New Jersey to Manhattan. Alexander Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the brother of painter Mary Cassatt, resolved to bring trains directly into Manhattan. With substantial backing from J. P. Morgan, he purchased many of the region’s railroads and transformed the PRR into a dominating force.

Cassatt commissioned McKim, Mead and White to design the terminus for a system of tunnels leading to the island from the east and west. The tunnels proved a substantial engineering feat and required several years to construct. Massive columns supporting the train tracks were embedded 15 feet into bedrock, and each tunnel was lined with two feet of concrete. Train technology posed another challenge, as steam locomotives, the preferred technology at the time, were likely to asphyxiate passengers in the tunnels. Cassatt invested in a relatively new alternative, employing electric trains instead.

Several hundred buildings were leveled to make way for the new station, which stretched 780 feet between 7th and 8th Avenues and 430 feet from 31st Street to 33rd Street. Excavation began in 1906 and tore through eight acres of Manhattan’s existing urban fabric. Both architects and owner envisioned the station as the preeminent gateway to the city, surpassing even the grandeur of the 42nd Street Grand Central Terminus. Cassatt intended to construct a hotel above the station, but McKim argued this detracted from the station’s central purpose. Following much debate, the hotel was eliminated from the scheme and the station met the street at a height of just three stories. This was notably lower than the surrounding buildings, even at the time.

As horizontal area was limited, McKim developed an innovative vertical layout in which inbound and outbound trains were stacked to prevent congestion. Hundreds of steel columns extended from the tracks, which were located 45’ below street level, to support the main concourse overhead. Slendor steel stairways rose upward from the platforms, seemingly frail appendages in the expansive atrium. The ceiling was comprised of three barrel vaults, which were devoid of any ornament except the intricate steel patterns that allowed the arches to intersect. In a move that greatly influenced future practive, the platforms, which were originally designed to be the traditional 9” above the tracks, were raised to the level of the car doors to facilitate the movement of passengers.

According to McKim’s successor, William Symmes Richardson, the architects aimed to create an efficient system of movement into and out of the station. Pedestrians entered through each facade, directly accessing the tracks via 31st and 33rd Streets. 32nd Street was preserved in the form of an arcade of shops extending from 7th Avenue to the main waiting room. To streamline traffic, carriages entered from the south end of the east facade and exited at the north end. McKim also considered future connections to a then-nonexistent subway system. He instructed the engineers to build the tracks at such a distance beneath the street to allow a subway tunnel to pass above.

The four exterior elevations were clad in pink Milford granite, which was transported to the site in the PRR’s own cars. The facades were austere and featured little embellishment, and critics found the colonnades dull and repetitive. The monumental form of the exterior did little to express the presence of the rail cars constantly passing below, though the architects sought to create a building of ‘monumental character’ and ‘an outward appearance expressive of its use’.

Pennsylvania Station was formally composed of two principal areas: the modern steel concourse and tracks and the neoclassical waiting room and service areas. The contrast was deliberate and intended to express the function of each space. While the tracks were a utilitarian means of entering the city, the main waiting room and adjacent areas provided a grand and symbolic reception. The waiting room was modeled after the Baths of Caracella in Rome and featured coffered groin vaults and lunette clerestory windows. The room was a direct replica of the baths in proportion, except that it was enlarged by twenty percent to rise to a height of 148 feet. Richardson described the reference to Rome as functional, citing the ancient buildings as “the greatest examples in architectural history of large roofed-in areas adapted to assemblages of people.”

Clad in travertine marble with all exposed steel painted black, the station’s interior was almost entirely monochrome. According to Richardson, the architects selected “permanent and durable materials of simple character…capable of easiest maintenance.” Travertine’s warm color takes on a luster when rubbed, arguably enhancing its finish over time.

In spite of the vertical separation of program and the meticulously planned systems of movement, critic Ada Louise Huxtable found the functionality “considerably less than noble. The complexity and ambiguity of its train levels and entrances and exits were a constant frustration…it was a better expression of ancient Rome than 20th-century America.”

In addition to the monumental character of the spaces, the station offered an incredible range of amenities. Through the loggia at the end of the arcade, passengers could enter the main waiting room, a formal dining room accommodating 500 people, or a lunch room and coffee shop. From the main waiting room, passengers could proceed to the ticket office, parcel rooms, lavatories, baggage check, and separate gentlemen’s and ladies’ waiting rooms. An emergency hospital was located on site, as well as facilites for funeral parties and a system for transporting the departed. The fourth floor was reserved predominately for railroad employees. It housed the PRR’s own YMCA, assembly hall, lecture rooms, library, billiards room, bowling alley, and gymnasium.

After receiving the commission to design Penn Station, McKim entered a competition to rebuild Grand Central Terminal (1913) at 42nd Street the following year, which he lost to Reed and Stem. However, McKim, Mead and White were commissioned to design the New York City Post Office (1912). The massive structure was built over the west approaches to Penn Station, directly across 8th Avenue. A complex system of gravity chutes and conveyor belts facilitated the transfer of mail between the station and post office without the use of trucks. Instant messages were sent within Pennsylvania Station itself through a network of pneumatic tubes.

In 1955, the PRR secretly agreed to sell the station’s air rights and later revealed the station was operating at a $1.5 million annual loss. The sale required confining the station entirely below ground and demolishing McKim, Mead and White’s colossal gateway to New York City. A legal means of preventing the destruction of historic buildings did not exist at the time and, despite ardent protest from leading architects, demolition was complete by 1966. The granite and marble were dumped, Doric columns and all, into the marshes of Secaucus, New Jersey. The protest efforts were not in vain, however. The event led to the formation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which prevented the destruction of Grand Central Terminal just three years after Penn Station’s demise.

The fourth incarnation of Madison Square Garden and its adjacent office blocks were constructed over the subterranean station in 1968. As a result, the PRR fell further into debt and declared bankruptcy in 1970. Penn Station has since become one of the most highly-trafficked transportation hubs in the , serving more than 430,000 riders daily. Aesthetic concerns aside, the station is operating above capacity and does not meet all safety regulations. With the expansion of the Highline nearby and the development of the Hudson Yards, the station’s strain is likely to increase. The solution seems to demand upward expansion. For the first time in decades, this seems a feasible option. In 2013, Madison Square Garden was limited to a ten year lease and four leading architectural firms presented visions of a future Penn Station.

Sources:

Diehl, Lorraine B. The Late, Great Pennylvania Station. Four Walls Eight Windows, 1996.

Huxtable, Ada Louise. “A Vision of Rome Dies.” The New York Times 14 July 1966. Print.

Huxtable, Ada Louise. “On the Right Track.” The New York Times 28 Nov. 1994. Print.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Flexibility and Moxie Can Save West Side.” The New York Times, 14 March 2013.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Restore a Gateway to Dignity.” The New York Times, 8 Feb. 2012.

Parissien, Steven. Pennsylvania Station: McKim, Mead and White. Phaidon Press, 1996. Print.

AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Wikimedia Commons AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Wikimedia Commons AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Track level and concourses. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Concourse from South, 1962. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Facade from Northeast. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Library of Congress AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White 32nd Street entrance. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Bus terminal in 1936, with Penn Station beyond. Image © Berenice Abbott - New York Public Library Digital Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Main Waiting Room. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White View of the main waiting room from passage to concourse. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Main Waiting Room. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Main waiting room from Northwest. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Entrance to loggia and main waiting room. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Exit to 33rd Street. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Stairway from waiting room to arcade. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White View over entrance stairways. Image © Berenice Abbott - New York Public Library Digital Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Main Concourse. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White The United States Post Office, 1915. Image © Library of Congress AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Track level. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White © Fay S. Lincoln Photograph Collection, 1920-1968, HCLA 1628, Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Main Concourse showing stairways to track level. Image © Berenice Abbott - New York Public Library Digital Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Concourse from Southeast. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Concourse from Southwest. Image © Cervin Robinson - Historic American Buildings Survey AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White View toward parcel room. Image © Berenice Abbott - New York Public Library Digital Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Main Concourse. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White View of track level, 1958. Image © Nick DeWolf Photo Archive AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Entrance to tracks, 1958. Image © Nick DeWolf Photo Archive AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Concourse ceiling, 1958. Image © Nick DeWolf Photo Archive AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White The main concourse, 1958. Image © Nick DeWolf Photo Archive AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Grand Central Terminal. Image © Wikimedia Commons AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Track level and concourses. Image © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Drawing of the main waiting room, published in the New York Times in 1906 AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Drawing of the concourse and tracks, published in the New York Times in 1906 AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Section AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Elevation AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Plan AD Classics: Pennsylvania Station / McKim, Mead & White Drawing of the arcade, published in the New York Times in 1906

Architects: McKim, Mead & White
Location: West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001, USA
Architects: Charles McKim, William Rutherford Mead, Stanford White
Project Architect: William Symmes Richardson
Area: 335400.0 ft2
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, Cervin Robinson – Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, George Grantham Bain Collection, Berenice Abbott – New York Public Library Digital Collection, Fay S. Lincoln Photograph Collection, 1920-1968, HCLA 1628, Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University, Nick DeWolf Photo Archive

AD Classics: Mill Owners’ Association Building / Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier was commissioned by the president of the Mill Owners’ Association to design the organization’s headquarters in Ahmedabad, a city historically active in India’s textile trade. The building is a physical manifesto representing ’s proposal for a modern Indian architecture. Constructed in 1954, the Mill Owners’ Association Building is considered the first of four completed commissions in Ahmedabad. 

As Le Corbusier began working predominately in warmer environments, he developed a set of architectural devices in response to climatic and cultural contexts. He took cues from India’s vernacular architecture, emulating the deep reveals, overhanging ledges, shade screens, and grand, pillared halls. [1] He introduced brises-soleil, designed to prevent sun from penetrating the facade, and employed these in combination with thickened facades and unfinished concrete in many of his later projects. Surrounded by ample open space, the Mill Owners’ Association Building was not forced to contend with an existing urban fabric, allowing the architect to propose a distinctly modern aesthetic.

The building sits between Ashram Road to the west and the Sabarmati River to the east. The side walls, to the north and south, are nearly blank and faced in rough stone with a brick exterior. The brises-soleil on the west facade are oriented diagonally to obstruct views from the street while permitting air and indirect sunlight to enter the space. Plants spill from the porous facade, activating the exposed concrete and supplementing the roof garden. At the rear of the building, the brises-soleil are perpendicular to the facade, allowing the breeze from the river to pass uninhibited through the shaded perimeter. Here, Le Corbusier designed the openings to frame views of the river below.

“The situation of the building in a garden dominating the river furnishes a picturesque spectacle of cloth dyers washing and drying their cotton materials on the sand bed in the company of herons, cows, buffalo, and donkeys half immersed in the water to keep cool. Such a panorama was an invitation…to frame views from each floor of the building.” – Le Corbusier [2]

Completed just after Unité de Habitation, the Mill Owners’ Association Building signifies a shift in Le Corbusier’s architectural style, combining the repetitive rigidity of Villa Savoye with the curvilinear forms of Ronchamp. The facade stands free of the structural pilotis as described in Le Corbusier’s Five Points, but departs from his earlier work in that it extends fully to the ground, screening the cylindrical columns from view. The rectilinear plan and grid expressed on the building’s exterior stand in contrast to the interior spaces, which are characterized by convex and concave volumes. As one moves through the interstitial space, the intersection of curvilinear and orthogonal planes creates an experience of compression and release. A conference room enclosed by a curved, brick wall paneled in wood veneer extends from the second story to roof level. Its curved ceiling reflects light entering through the clerestory window and holds a reflecting pool above, which Le Corbusier had hoped to utilize as a roof reservoir.

The circulation is designed as a promenade, beginning with a ramp extending from the parking lot to a three-story void at the volumetric center of the building. As one ascends the ramp, the view penetrates the brises-soleil, visually opening the facade. The stair core projects beyond the central atrium and main facade, into the elements.

Surottam Hutheesing, who commissioned Le Corbusier to build the headquarters, also asked him to design a private residence. It was eventually realized in the Villa Shodhan after Hutheesing’s original commission fell through. The design is consistent with the architect’s proposed architectural grammar for the region, employing deep, perforated walls, brises-soleil, and exposed concrete. For his sole commission in the United States, Le Corbusier constructed an iteration of  the Mill Owners’ Association Building in the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

[1] Curtis, William J.R. Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms. Phaidon Press, 1994. Print.

[2] Le Corbusier, Oeuvre Complète

AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © motaleb architekten AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © Nicholas Iyadurai AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © motaleb architekten AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © Nicholas Iyadurai AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © motaleb architekten AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © motaleb architekten AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © Thomas Winwood Mckenzie AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © Nicholas Iyadurai AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © Nicholas Iyadurai AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © motaleb architekten AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © panovscott AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier © motaleb architekten AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier AD Classics: Mill Owners' Association Building / Le Corbusier

Architects: Le Corbusier
Location: Navrangpura, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Architect In Charge: Le Corbusier
Year: 1954
Photographs: motaleb architekten, Nicholas Iyadurai, panovscott, Thomas Winwood Mckenzie

AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe

Situated at the eastern edge of Downtown Detroit, Lafayette Park constitutes the world’s largest collection of buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. The 78-acre complex was completed in 1959, just after Crown Hall and the Seagram Building. It is not as well known as many Mies projects of that decade, however, many critics argue the project deserves greater recognition. One of the first examples of urban renewal, it is a testament to the development’s design that it remains a vibrant neighborhood more than fifty years after its construction.

Lafayette Park was the collaborative effort of Mies van der Rohe, landscape designer Alfred Caldwell, and planner Ludwig Hilberseimer. Herb Greenwald, the developer, worked with Mies previously on the apartments at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive. The architecture is decidedly Miesian, with pronounced structural elements and panels of plate glass, but the characteristic austerity is tempered by the configuration of buildings and surrounding landscape.

In many ways, Lafayette Park exemplifies the modernist ideal of ‘towers in the park.’ The 22-story towers are complimented by smaller-scale housing forms and surrounded by a 13-acre green space known as The Plaisance. Though the neighborhood is relatively close to downtown, it exists as a community apart. The area exudes a sense of security and calm in a city currently considered the most dangerous in the U.S. Property values and occupancy rates remain comparatively high. This may be the result of Lafayette Park’s collaborative design- the landscape, urban planning, and architecture were simultaneously considered from the project’s inception.

Lafayette Park contains a variety of housing types, including three high-rise apartment buildings, 162 townhouse, and 24 courthouses. At the development’s northwest corner sits the Pavilion, which offers rental apartments of one, two, and three bedrooms. To the southeast, the East and West Lafayette Towers rise either side of a low garage set partially below grade.

The individual buildings are tied together by features typical of Mies’s architectural aesthetic. Steel columns or mullions are visible on the exterior and run the full height of the facade. Plate glass windows extend floor-to-ceiling in the Pavilion, townhouses, and courthouses, and begin just above the floor in the East and West Towers.

The townhouses are identical, two-story bars arranged perpendicular and parallel to each other. Viewed from above, the configuration reads as rigid and regularized. From within the cluster of townhouses and courthouses, however, the rectilinear geometry is softened by greenery and obstructed views. Play areas, communal lawns, and parking lots fill the interstitial spaces between the bars, whose relatively small scale creates an intimate residential setting. The vastness of the complex is nearly imperceptible from the townhouse lawns, with the towers just visible through a screen of trees.

Mies placed the kitchen and living areas on the first level of each townhouse, with the bedrooms located above. In some instances, the upper level of a unit is offset from the level below, allowing for a variety of bedroom configurations. The expansive glazing at the front and rear facades allows ample natural light during the day. Constructed during an era of highway building in a city devoted to the automobile, Lafayette Park was certainly designed with the car in mind. Rather than prominently exhibiting the parking lots between townhouses, the design team placed the parking several feet below grade. As a result, the cars cede to the landscape and the architecture.

Though Lafayette Park is widely regarded as a successful example of urban renewal, the development exposes the duality of the approach. The effort began with the demolition of Black Bottom, a working-class district considered a slum by the municipality. As Lafayette Park was designed to house middle-income residents, many former occupants of Black Bottom relocated to the nearby Brewster-Douglass and Jeffries Housing Projects. While Lafayette Park continues to offer desirable housing, the projects intended to house former Black Bottom residents no longer exist.

For more information on Lafayette Park, see Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies. or visit MiesDetroit.org.

AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jamie Schafer AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jamie Schafer AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jörn Schiemann AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jörn Schiemann AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Michael Zuhorski AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © David Schalliol AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jörn Schiemann AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © James Griffioen AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © James Griffioen AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jörn Schiemann AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Michael Zuhorski AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jamie Schafer AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Karin Jobst AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Karin Jobst AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © James Griffioen AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jamie Schafer AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © MiesDetroit.org AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © Jörn Schiemann AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe © MiesDetroit.org AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe AD Classics: Lafayette Park / Mies van der Rohe

Architects: Mies van der Rohe
Location: Lafayette Park, , MI, USA
Architect In Charge: Mies van der Rohe
Landscape Design: Alfred Caldwell
Urban Design: Ludwig Hilberseimer
Developer: Herb Greenwald
Year: 1959
Photographs: Jamie Schafer, Jörn Schiemann, Michael Zuhorski, David Schalliol, James Griffioen, Karin Jobst, MiesDetroit.org

SHoP Architects Selected for Design of Iconic Site in Downtown Detroit

One of Detroit’s most prominent vacant sites is slated to become one of its most iconic buildings. SHoP Architects will partner with -based Hamilton Anderson Associates to transform the site formerly occupied by Hudson’s Department Store. Located at Grand River and Gratiot in the city’s Central Business District, the two-acre site has remained a scar in the urban landscape since the implosion of the Hudson’s building in 1998.

Hudson’s Department Store was constructed in 1891 and witnessed Detroit’s financial growth and economic downturn over the course of a century. At its apex, the building reached 25 stories and contained 2.2 million square feet. The developer, Rock Ventures, hosted an ideas competition earlier this year to generate interest in the site. The competition drew over 200 entries and welcomed submissions from the general public.

Dan Gilbert, the chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, Inc., has gained notoriety in recent years as a leading investor in Detroit’s urban and economic sectors. In 2010, he relocated the Quicken Loans headquarters to Detroit and has since purchased a number of the city’s historic buildings. The headquarters is located directly adjacent to the former Hudson’s site. Gilbert envisions the project as ”a symbol of Detroit’s past and present” and a feature of the “creative future of opportunities for Detroiters and visitors from around the world.”

Kent Anderson, Principal at Hamilton Anderson, described the site as ”the emotional and physical heart of downtown.” “This project has the capacity to link disparate parts of downtown and become a catalyst for change and development beyond its immediate surroundings,” he stated. Hamilton Anderson Associates designed the award-winning North Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and the Wayne State University Welcome Center.

SHoP Architects is behind several significant urban projects, including the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Google Headquarters in Silicon Valley. The firm is currently working with Field Operations to develop the Williamsburg waterfront and historic Dominos Sugar Factory on City’s East River.

SHoP and HAA will meet with local stakeholders over the next few weeks to develop initial programming and design concepts. The star-studded duo will hold a lecture series in early 2014 to engage Detroiters in the development process.

For more information, see the project’s press release.

AD Classics: Villa dall’Ava / OMA

Much of the spatial composition of the Villa dall’Ava was influenced by its site, in a garden on a hill. It was completed in 1991 in the residential area of , overlooking . The clients selected OMA to design a house with two distinct apartments—one for themselves and another for their daughter—and requested a swimming pool on the roof with a view of the Eiffel Tower.

The site is delineated by three segments along the east-west axis: the garage, set at street level and paved in asphalt, the main volume of the house, and the garden, which extends the length of the site. The garage is accessed at street level and embedded into the sloping site. The villa itself rises from the level of entry to a roof deck perched three stories above. Its visually distinct volumes are stacked and oriented to optimize views of the garden and distant city. A poured concrete wall extends the height of the villa and establishes a main axis along the length of the site. 

The communal spaces for the family are located within the main volume, a glass box ensconced in the garden. The architects conceived of the site as a room bounded by vegetation and terrain; the living room set within a larger room. Broad glass windows puncture the concrete wall at garden level so that the living spaces appear fully wrapped in glass. The walls create a permeable barrier between interior and exterior and slide to open fully onto the garden. 

Though the villa’s perimeter is almost entirely glass at garden level, it is not completely transparent, as one might expect. The south facade is composed of transparent and sandblasted glass, screening a portion of the living room from view while permitting the passage of light. The minimalist kitchen is hidden from the exterior, tucked behind a curved, translucent wall within the living space. Along the north facade, a thickened partition of plywood obscures the living spaces from view. Only the elements of circulation, which occupy the space between the plywood wall and glass facade, are visible from the exterior. A narrow ramp leads from the entry to the garden level, and cantilevered steps provide access from the living room to the apartment above. 

The swimming pool occupies the roof level of the central volume. From below, there is no clear indication of its existence. The surface of the water reaches just below roof level. The lack of guardrail or parapet accentuates the horizontality of the roof, juxtaposed by the apartments jutting in perpendicular directions at each end. 

The apartments cantilever beyond the central volume, hovering over the garden. Both are clad in corrugated aluminum of contrasting tones, one with an aluminum finish and the other colored red by a copper lacquer. The corrugations are oriented horizontally, reinforcing the orientation of the apartments in contrast to the central volume. The material covers the underside of each apartment box, extending even across the interior, emphasizing the reading of volume over surface. The stair, which ascends from living space to apartment overhead, appears to slip through an aperture in the volume of continuous aluminum. 

The continuity of each apartment’s cladding is interrupted only by bands of strip windows. The bathrooms are housed in opaque, rectangular volumes set back from the exterior walls. Slender steel columns painted shades of black and gray support the larger of the two apartments, which dominates the street facade. 

The strip windows and thin, repeated columns recall Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye. The transparent glass box with inset, opaque service volumes appears inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and the Glass House by Philip Johnson. OMA received wide recognition for another innovative residence completed after Villa dall’Ava, Maison à Bordeaux. OMA Partner Rem Koolhaas was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2000, for an extensive body of work including Villa dall’Ava. 

AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Peter Aaron/OTTO AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA © Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Garden Level Plan © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA First Floor Plan © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Roof Plan © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA East and West Elevations © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Section © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Section © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Section © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Section © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Section © OMA AD Classics: Villa dall'Ava / OMA Street Level Plan © OMA

Architects: OMA
Location: Villa Dall’Ava, Avenue Clodoald, 92210 Saint-Cloud, France
Design Team: Rem Koolhaas, Xaveer de Geyter, Jeroen Thomas
Site Supervision: Loïc Richalet
Garden: Yves Brunier
Interior Consultant: Petra Blaisse
Engineer: Marc Mimram
General Contractor: Entreprise Mare, Paris
Area: 1350.0 sqm
Year: 1991
Photographs: Peter Aaron/OTTO, Hans Werlemann, courtesy OMA

AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral / Philip Johnson

The Crystal Cathedral was designed as a religious theater of sorts, acting as both television studio and stage to a congregation of 3,000. It was commissioned by renowned televangelist Robert Schuller and completed in 1980 near Los Angeles, California. Philip Johnson and John Burgee devised the glass enclosure in response to Schuller’s request that the church be open to the “sky and the surrounding world.” 

The facade is composed of more than 10,000 glass panels affixed to a framework of steel trusses. The panes are single-glazed and held in place by structural silicone, reducing the visual prominence of the joints. Johnson and Burgee developed the angular, star-shaped plan to enliven the monolithic, monochromatic volume. The steel tower was also designed by Johnson and completed in 1990. It is visible across the 34-acre campus and serves as a vertical counterpart to the Cathedral.

The single, gigantic space measures 400 feet by 200 feet in length and width. The design is a modification of the typical Latin cross plan, with a shortened nave and widened transept, to bring each seat closer to the chancel. In a nod to Los Angeles car culture, the parking lot was designed for a drive-in congregation to listen to the sermon via car stereo. 90-foot-high doors beside the chancel open onto the parking lot, providing ventilation and a visual connection between attendees.

Johnson described the project as “an independent building without setting.”1 The entrances—simple, rectangular breaks in the glass skin—are derived from function rather than context. Visitors pass beneath the opaque, concrete balconies to enter the translucent central space. The entire interior is visible beneath the soaring, 130-foot-high ceiling. The lattice of white steel forms a continuous membrane of walls and ceiling, enclosed by the transparent glass beyond. At first glance, the triangular balconies appear to rest within the steel frame, but are supported by massive columns at each vertex.

The building’s environmental mediation is arguably its greatest architectural feat. The mirrored glass transmits only eight percent light and ten percent total solar energy into the space. This allows for an entirely passive ventilation system, aside from the mechanical controls used to operate the windows. While closed, the operable windows are indistinguishable from fixed panes, preserving the continuity of the glass facade. Opened, they project like glass gills from the otherwise smooth surface.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, formerly led by Reverend Schuller, filed for bankruptcy in 2010, claiming $50 million in debt. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange acquired the property the following year and rechristened the building “Christ Cathedral.”  Johnson Fain is overseeing the interior alterations, an effort to adapt the church for a Catholic congregation. The campus is to be remastered by Rios Clementi Hale Studios and also includes the International Center for Possibility Thinking and the Garden Grove Community Church building. The former was completed in 2002 by Richard Meier & Partners. The latter was designed by Richard Neutra and opened in 1961 as the first formal home to Schuller’s congregation. Work is underway to restore the building to Neutra’s original vision.

[1] Fujii, Wayne. “GA Interview: Philip Johnson on Philip Johnson.” GA Document 1990: 12-18.

AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user Amir Nejad AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user Paul N. AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user C. Strife AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user siphorous AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Wikimedia Commons user Russavia AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user Paul N. AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user siphorous AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user OZinOH AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user OZinOH AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user siphorous AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © American Seating AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user siphorous AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user Paul N. AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson © Flickr user Ben Kraal AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson Window Construction Details AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson Cross Section AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson Ground Level Plan AD Classics: The Crystal Cathedral  / Philip Johnson Upper Level Plan

Architects:
Location: Crystal Cathedral Reformed Church, 13280 Chapman Avenue, Garden Grove, CA 92840, USA
Architect In Charge: Philip Johnson, John Burgee
Seating: American Seating Co.
Area: 32000.0 ft2
Year: 1980
Photographs: Flickr user Amir Nejad, Flickr user Paul N., Flickr user C. Strife, Flickr user siphorous, Wikimedia Commons user Russavia, Flickr user OZinOH, American Seating, Flickr user Ben Kraal

AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry

Completed October 23, 2003, The Walt Disney Concert Hall celebrates its tenth anniversary today. Home to the LA Philharmonic, it has received wide acclaim for its excellent acoustics and distinctive architecture. In the decade since its opening, the hall’s sweeping, metallic surfaces have become associated with Frank Gehry’s signature style.

In 1987, Lilian Disney donated $50 million to establish a concert hall in honor of her late husband, Walt. Frank Gehry was selected from among several candidates during a design competition the following year. His proposal was largely oriented toward the public, with much of the site allocated to open gardens. Several years into the project, a combination of political and managerial impediments threatened its realization. It was shut down in 1994, but revived by a press and fund-raising campaign two years later.

The concert hall was designed as a single volume, with orchestra and audience occupying the same space. Seats are located on each side of the stage, providing some audience members with distant views of the performers’ sheet music. The former director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic felt boxes and balconies implied social hierarchies within the audience, and spatial segregation was minimized in the design. Curvilinear planes of Douglas fir provide the only partitions, delineating portions of the 2,265 member audience without creating visual obstructions. The steel roof structure spans the entire space, eliminating the need for interior columns. The organ stands at the front of the hall, a bouquet of 6,134 curved pipes extending nearly to the ceiling. It is the unique result of a collaboration between Gehry and Manuel J. Rosales, a Los Angeles-based organ designer. 

Gehry worked with Yasuhisa Toyota, the acoustical consultant, to hone the hall’s sound through spatial and material means. To test the acoustics, they used a 1:10 scale model of the auditorium, complete with a model occupant in each seat. This required all elements to be scaled accordingly, including increasing the frequency of sound in the space to reduce the wavelength by a factor of ten. The concert hall’s partitions and curved, billowing ceiling act as part of the acoustical system while subtly referencing the sculptural language of the exterior.

The exterior is a composition of undulating and angled forms, symbolizing musical movement and the motion of Los Angles. The design developed through paper models and sketches, characteristic of Gehry’s process. The custom curvature demanded a highly specific steel structure, including box columns tilted forward at 17º on the building’s north side. Visitors can glimpse the steel frame through a skylight in the pre-concert room and view the supporting structure from a stairway leading to the garden.  

The reflective, stainless steel surface engages light as an architectural medium. The facade’s individual panels and curves are articulated in daylight and colored by city lights after dark. The building was initially set to be clad in stone, but a more malleable material was chosen following the completion of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the concert hall’s titanium-clad cousin. Thin metal panels allowed for more adventurous curvature and could be structurally disassociated from the ground. The metallic forms appear to hover above an asymmetrical band of glazing at the building’s base. Glass fissures in the facade bring light into the lobby and pre-concert room, reading as a grand entryway through the otherwise opaque facade.

The hall’s planning committee conceived of the project as a civic amenity, hoping it would serve as a catalyst in the activation of LA’s downtown. Some critics debate the effectiveness of this siting strategy, acknowledging an increase in surrounding property values but little shift in the city’s cultural epicenter. Perhaps that will change as development continues on the site. The Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed Broad Museum is under construction across the street, and Gehry himself recently announced he will rejoin the effort to develop the adjacent stretch of . There may be a cost to creating a cultural center beside the concert hall, however. A new subway is scheduled to run 125 feet beneath the lowest level of the concert hall, and may disrupt the acoustics of the internationally recognized performance space.  

Architects: Frank Gehry
Location: 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA ‎
Design Partner: Frank Gehry
Project Partner: ​James Glymph
Project Manager: Terry Bell
Project Architects: David Pakshong, William Childers, David Hardie, Kristin Woehl
Senior Detailer: Vartan Chalikian
Project Designer: Craig Webb
Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates, Inc.
Mechanical Engineers: Cosentini Associates, Levine/Seegel Associates
Electrical Engineer: Frederick Russell Brown & Associates
Civil Engineer: Psomas & Associates
Acoustical Consultants: Yasuhisa Toyota and Nagata Acoustics, Inc., Charles M. Salter Associates, Inc.
Exterior Wall Consultant: Gordon H. Smith Corporation
Garden Designer: Melinda Taylor Garden Design
Landscape Architect: Lawrence Reed Moline Ltd.
Organ Builders: Rosales Organ Builders, Inc., Glatter-Gotz
Client: Los Angeles Philharmonic
Area: 200000.0 ft2
Year: 2003
Photographs: Gehry Partners, LLP, Carlos Eduardo Seo, Matt Blanchard, Michael Smith, Philipp Rümmele, Kwong Yee Cheng, Jayson Oertel, Dave Toussaint, Andrew Barber, 2013 Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, G. Hanami, Stephen Bird, Filippo Vancini

AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Gehry Partners, LLP AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © 2012 Carlos Eduardo Seo - www.carlosseo.com. Used with permission. AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Matt Blanchard AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Gehry Partners, LLP AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © 2012 Carlos Eduardo Seo - www.carlosseo.com. Used with permission. AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Michael Smith AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Philipp Rümmele AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Kwong Yee Cheng AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Jayson Oertel AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Dave Toussaint AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Andrew Barber AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Jayson Oertel AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Gehry Partners, LLP AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © 2013 Los Angeles Philharmonic Association AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © 2013 Los Angeles Philharmonic Association AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © G. Hanami AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © 2013 Los Angeles Philharmonic Association AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Stephen Bird AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Stephen Bird AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Filippo Vancini AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Gehry Partners, LLP AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry © Gehry Partners, LLP AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry Gallery level plan AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry Site Plan AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry Orchestra level plan AD Classics: Walt Disney Concert Hall / Frank Gehry Garden level plan

AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi

Construction of the Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família began in 1882, more than a century ago. The temple is still under construction, with completion expected in 2026. It is perhaps the best known structure of Catalan Modernisme, drawing over three million visitors annually. Architect Antoni Gaudi worked on the project until his death in 1926, in full anticipation he would not live to see it finished. 

Gaudi was appointed architect in 1883 at 31 years of age, following disagreements between the temple’s promoters and the original architect, Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano. He maintained del Villar’s Latin cross plan, typical of Gothic cathedrals, but departed from the Gothic in several significant ways. Most notably, Gaudi developed a system of angled columns and hyperboloidal vaults to eliminate the need for flying buttresses. Rather than relying on exterior elements, horizontal loads are transferred through columns on the interior.

La Sagrada Familia utilizes three-dimensional forms comprised of ruled surfaces, including hyperboloids, parabolas, helicoids, and conoids. These complex shapes allow for a thinner, finer structure, and are intended to enhance the temple’s acoustics and quality of light. Gaudi used plaster models to develop the design, including a 1:10 scale model of the main nave measuring five meters in height and width by two meters in depth. He also devised a system of strings and weights suspended from a plan of the temple on the ceiling. From this inverted model he derived the necessary angles of the columns, vaults, and arches. This is evident in the slanted columns of the Passion facade, which recall tensile structures but act in compression.

Gaudi embedded religious symbolism in each aspect of La Sagrada Familia, creating a visual representation of Christian beliefs. He designed three iconic facades for the basilica, the Glory, Nativity, and Passion facades, facing south, east, and west, respectively. The sculpting of the Nativity facade recalls smooth, intricate corbelling and was overseen by Gaudi. The Passion Facade is characterized by the work of Josep Maria Subirachs, whose angular sculptures extend the modernist character of the temple. The sculptor Etsuro Sotoo is responsible for the window ornaments and finials, which symbolize the Eucharist.

The central nave soars to a height of 45 meters, and is designed to resemble a forest of multi-hued piers in Montjuïc and granite. The piers change in cross section from base to terminus, increasing in number of vertices from polygonal to circular. The slender, bifurcating columns draw the eye upward, where light filters through circular apertures in the vaults. These are finished in Venetian glass tiles of green and gold, articulating the lines of the hyperboloids.

Once completed, La Sagrada Familia will feature eighteen towers composed to present a unique view of the temple from any single vantage point. Four bell towers representing the Apostles crown each facade, reaching approximately 100 meters in height. At the north end, a tower representing the Virgin Mary will stand over the apse. The central tower will reach 72 meters in height and symbolize Christ, surrounded by four towers representing the Evangelists.

Even as construction continues, older portions are undergoing cleaning and restoration. The temple has relied entirely on private donations since its inception, and has seen many delays due to lack of funding. A particularly significant setback occurred during the Spanish Civil War, when Gaudi’s workshop was destroyed, including much of the documentation he left behind.

Subsequent generations of craftsman and architects have relied on the remaining drawings and plaster models to advance the project, adhering to Gaudi’s vision as closely as possible. As a result, the design of the temple is a collaboration spanning centuries. Gaudi himself viewed the project as the collective work of generations. “I will grow old but others will come after me. What must always be conserved is the spirit of the work, but its life has to depend on the generations it is handed down to and with whom it lives and is incarnated.” [1]

In recent decades, La Sagrada Familia has adopted contemporary digital design and construction technologies. Architects and craftsmen use Rhinoceros, Cadds5, Catia, and CAM to understand the complex geometries and visualize the building as a whole. Plaster models are still used as a design tool, now generated by a 3-D printer to accelerate the process. A digitally rendered video was recently released showing La Sagrada Familia’s expected appearance upon completion.

[1] Basílica de la Sagrada Família. La Fundació de la Junta Constructora del Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Website. 7 October 2013.

AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi The Passion Facade © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © John Kennan AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © John Kennan AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada  Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Jose Gonzalvo AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi The Nativity Facade © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi The Passion Facade © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada  Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © amazinao AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Detail of the Nativity Facade © Famke Veenstra AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Detail of the Passion Facade © Renate Dodell AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Passion Facade sculpture © Eugene Zhukovsky AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Detail of the Passion Facade doors © Todd Heiden AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Eucharistic symbol © Eugene Zhukovsky AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi The Choir © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada  Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Renate Dodell AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Renate Dodell AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi © Renate Dodell AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Tiled vault © Renate Dodell AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi The Crypt © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Bell tower interior © Renate Dodell AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Construction of the apse walls completed 1893 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 1925 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 1953 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 1974 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 1992 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 1995 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Construction of the aisle vaults, 1997 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Construction of the aisle vaults, 1997 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 2002 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 2003 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 2005 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Construction of the central towers, 2007 © Todd Heiden AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 2009 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi 2013 © Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Longitudinal Section AD Classics: La Sagrada Familia / Antoni Gaudi Ground Level Plan

Architects: Antoni Gaudi
Location: Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 , Spain
Architect: Antoni Gaudi
Present Chief Architect: Jordi Fauli
Former Chief Architects: Jordi Bonet, Francesc de Paula Quintana i Vidal, Isidre Puig i Boada, Lluís Bonet i Garí, , Francesc de Paula del Villar y Lozano
Deputy Chief Architects: Carles Buxadé, Joan Margarit, Josep Gómez Serrano
Technical Consultants: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Project Department: Jordi Coll, Andrés de Mesa
Sculptors: Etsuro Sotoo, Josep Maria Subirachs
Stained Glass: Joan Vila-Grau
Photographs: © photographs of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família: Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família Board of Works. All rights reserved. Any reproduction and/or modification of photographs of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família without the prior written consent of the Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família Board of Works is completely forbidden.
Area: 4500.0 sqm
Photographs: Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Família, John Kennan, Jose Gonzalvo, amazinao, Famke Veenstra, Renate Dodell, Eugene Zhukovsky, Todd Heiden

AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates

In response to a growing company’s request for office space, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates developed a master plan that would allow the incremental addition of floor space over time. The initial design included nine identical buildings arranged in a parallelogram, totaling 1.2 million square feet. Only three of the buildings were constructed in the initial phase, and the expansion plan was never fulfilled. The trio is known as “The Pyramids” for their simple geometry and slanting glass facades.

At first glance, the buildings do not appear to relate directly to their context, but the architects developed the iconic form according to site-specific parameters. Two concrete core walls greet the interstate highways bounding the site to the north and west. To the south, sloped walls of glass open onto the landscape. From a distance, the buildings stand out as a series of reductive forms on the flat terrain. The colossal, poured concrete walls reach eleven stories, dwarfing the human scale. Their reductive exteriors belie the smaller, warmer quality of the offices within. 

The poured concrete structure is comprised of floor slabs supported by cylindrical columns on a 30 foot grid. Crossing the vast parking lot, employees enter the buildings through voids in the blank faces of the core walls. The 14 feet wide walls house the bathrooms, elevators, and service functions, resulting in an uninterrupted floor plan at each level. Double height bridges of cast concrete span the gaps between individual buildings, allowing occupants to circulate the complex at the second and third floors.

Roche and Dinkeloo devised the sloped form in response to programmatic requirements. The floor plates vary in size to house a range of departments within the company. To reduce elevator usage, the greater portion of the population occupies the lowest and largest floors, including the cafeteria, while the executives share the topmost. The slanted glass walls stretch from the floor to the ceiling at each level, offering greater glazed surface area than vertically oriented windows. A fissure between the concrete core walls admits northern light into the open offices.

52 foot high partitions divide the space into individual areas without compromising views or light. They are clad in reflective steel to diminish the visual presence of the partitions. Fluorescent lighting installed at regular intervals is diffused by stippled plastic ceiling panels, supplementing the natural light.

The Museum of the City of recently featured an exhibition of Roche’s work. Roche and Dinkeloo began their partnership while heading the firm of Eero Saarinen following his death in 1961. They are known for several innovative structures of glass and concrete, including the Knights of Columbus Building and the Ford Foundation Headquarters.

Architects: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates
Location: 3500 Depauw Boulevard, , IN 46268, USA
Architect In Charge: Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo
Structural Engineer: Severud Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Hubbard, Lawless and Osborne
Area: 421000.0 ft2
Year: 1970
Photographs: KRJDA, Jimmy Baikovicius, Aries Lang

AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © Jimmy Baikovicius AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © Aries Lang AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Model © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Model © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Interior Model © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Interior Model © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Section © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Plan © KRJDA AD Classics: College Life Insurance Company Headquarters / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Site Plan © KRJDA

AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates

Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo established their own practice in 1966, after heading the firm of Eero Saarinen for several years. The Ford Foundation is regarded as the pair’s first major success, a combination of Roche’s unique ideals and Dinkeloo’s innovative structural solutions. They introduced an office typology in which employee interaction extended beyond departments and levels, reaching even to the public. 

The Ford Foundation is unusual for Manhattan in that it occupies fewer square feet than the site allows. Rather than designing a shorter building to cover the entire site but break the existing skyline, the architects took advantage of the excess space. The offices occupy only a portion of the site, with the remainder devoted to an interior garden within a greenhouse-like atrium. The flourishing vegetation and generous space provide a focal point for the workers and an interface between the Foundation and the city. 

The company originally occupied eleven stories of a traditional office building, with relative isolation between floors. Wishing to create a sense of community, Roche and Dinkeloo arranged the new offices in a C formation. All occupants are able to see each other across the garden and benefit from the natural light offered by the glass walls and skylight overhead. The lower floors are stepped back to create terraces overlooking the garden, accessed from each office through sliding glass doors. While coworkers are aware of each other on the interior facades, the individual office is lost in the composition of repeated units, offering privacy and anonymity to its occupants.

Inspired by bridge and highway construction, the straightforward structure is composed of load-bearing concrete and weathered steel. The steel beams span 84 feet, freeing the south and east facades. Ten-story glazed walls are set back from the columns, dissolving the distinction between interior and exterior. The garden is visible to the public through the towering, transparent walls, creating a visually open space on 42nd Street. The main entrance is located on 43rd Street, characterized by a smaller, residential scale. The steel roof trusses are inlaid with glass, forming an intricate, prismatic skylight.

The structural concrete is clad in South Dakota granite, relating the Ford Foundation to its context. The stone’s gray and purple hues and the reddish brown of the weathered steel form a color palette that blends with the surrounding buildings. On the interior, the industrial materials contrast with the bright green of the subtropical garden. 

The Ford Foundation received wide acclaim from the architectural community, including critic Ada Louise Huxtable, and contributed to Roche winning the Pritzker Prize in 1982. Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates completed several iconic projects in New York City, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the United Nations Plaza. Both projects were featured in a recent exhibition of Roche’s work at the Museum of the City of New York.

Architects: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates
Location: 320 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017,
Architect In Charge: Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo
Landscape Architect: Dan Kiley
Interior Designs And Furniture: Warren Platner
Area: 287500.0 ft2
Year: 1968
Photographs: Ezra Stoller/Esto, KRJDA, Richard Anderson, Rian Castillo

AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © Ezra Stoller/Esto AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © Richard Anderson AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates View of the 43rd Street facade from the UNICEF Headquarters © Rian Castillo AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © Richard Anderson AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Kevin Roche with Scale Model © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Rendering © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Model © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Garden Level Plan © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates Section © KRJDA AD Classics: The Ford Foundation / Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates East Elevation © KRJDA

AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art

The entrance to the Museum of Modern Art is tucked beneath a demure facade of granite and glass in Midtown Manhattan. Its clean, regular planes mark Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 addition to the MoMA’s sequence of facades, which he preserved as a record of its form. Taniguchi’s contribution sits beside the 1984 residential tower by Cesar Pelli and Associates, followed by and Edward Durell Stone’s original 1939 building, then Philip Johnson’s 1964 addition. Taniguchi was hired in 1997 to expand the Museum’s space and synthesize its disparate elements. His elegant, minimal solution presents a contemporary face for the MoMA while adhering to its Modernist roots.

In unifying the Museum’s built form, Taniguchi refined select edges of the building’s history while dissolving others. The original 1939 International Style building was restored, including its white marble facade and piano canopy. Philip Johnson’s 1953 Sculpture Garden was also renovated and enlarged. Taniguchi envisioned the garden as the museum’s core, providing views from each of the surrounding buildings. Two volumes of equal height frame the east and west ends of the garden, housing the Education and Research Building and main gallery complex, respectively. To the south, a similar palette of thin columns and opaque white glass replaced the first seven stories of Pelli’s residential tower. From within the Sculpture Garden, this consistent language allows visitors to understand the complex as a whole. Along 54th Street, the symmetrical volumes are clad in black granite, dark gray glass, and aluminum, linking the site across its full length. 

Taniguchi achieved the refined, minimal aesthetic by exacting precision in each detail. The panels on the exterior facades were installed with the least possible tolerance, diminishing the seams to create an apparently continuous surface. Vast panes of glass hang beneath the deep porticoes bounding the Sculpture Garden. To ensure the glass would not deflect as the museum filled with visitors, the curtain walls were freed from the floor structure. Steel mullions were chosen over the standard aluminum to allow a thinner profile of sufficient strength.

Taniguchi’s solution mediates between the chaos of the city and an environment for viewing art. The Museum represents a microcosm of Manhattan, with buildings of various character surrounding a central garden. The main lobby extends from the 53rd Street entrance to the Sculpture Garden along 54th, creating a porous transition between the interior and its urban context. While moving through the galleries, visitors encounter unexpected views of New York’s streets and skyline. Though the classic, white box galleries are typical of many contemporary museums, Taniguchi incorporated this system of vistas to reveal the MoMA’s unique context.

The original museum prescribed a linear reading of the history of modern art, with each gallery limited to a single entrance. The MoMA’s administrators and architects agreed the expansion should encourage simultaneous and interrelated discoveries, rejecting the idea of a single viewing itinerary. The new galleries can be accessed at any level via a spine of escalators and ancillary stairs, with contemporary art nearest ground level and progressively older works on higher stories. Large, sky-lit space for temporary exhibitions is provided on the top floor. The galleries lack distinct borders, each offering multiple entrance points to neighboring galleries. The 21 ft. high contemporary galleries span 200 ft. to accommodate contemporary art of unanticipated format. The space is free of columns, accomplished by constructing an armature above the eighth story which supports the lower levels. 

As visitors move through the lobby toward the Sculpture Garden, they pass beneath the 110 ft. high atrium. Perforations in the galleries and stairways allow visitors to peer into its soaring space, where they appear framed in the white, rectangular apertures. These strategically placed windows lend the atrium a subtle gravity as occupants move through the galleries around it. The space is crossed at each level by bridges leading to the escalator spine and orients visitors within the gallery complex.

The MoMA recently announced plans for another expansion to the west of the current building, directly adjacent to the American Folk Art Museum. It is set to include a 1050 ft. tower designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, which will house additional gallery space for the Museum. The MoMA received strong opposition from the architecture and design world after stating it would replace the American Folk Art Museum with a connecting wing to the planned expansion site. The MoMA has since hired Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the connector and granted the architects time to consider the possibility of integrating the existing American Folk Art Museum. For more on the Museum, check out our interview with Pedro Gadanho, the Curator for Contemporary Architecture at the MoMA.

Architects: Yoshio Taniguchi, Cesar Pelli and Associates, Philip Johnson, Philip Goodwin, Edward Durell Stone
Location: 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, USA
Architect In Charge: Yoshio Taniguchi
Executive Architects: Kohn Pedersen Fox
Architects, 1984 Expansion: Cesar Pelli and Associates
Architect, 1964 Addition: Philip Johnson
Architect, 1953 Sculpture Garden: Philip Johnson
Architects, 1939 Building: Philip Goodwin, Edward Durell Stone
Area: 630000.0 ft2
Year: 2004
Photographs: Timothy Hursley, Joseph Holmes, MoMA, Jock Pottle, Yoshio Taniguchi

AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the gallery complex from the Sculpture Garden. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art 53rd Street entrance. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Atrium. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the gallery complex from 54th Street. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Sequence of facades on 53rd Street. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Joseph Holmes AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Restored piano canopy over the entrance to the 1939 Goodwin and Stone building. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the 54th Street facade looking west. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the lobby overlooking the Sculpture Garden. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Joseph Holmes AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Temporary exhibition gallery. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Staircase to 2nd floor with Andy Warhol’s Cow wallpaper in the Education and Research Building. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Sculpture Garden, 1953. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition model by Yoshio Taniguchi. Image © Jock Pottle AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketches. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketch. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketch. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art, 1939. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art 53rd Street facades, 1960s. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Cesar Pelli's west wing expansion, 1984. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The first exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art, November 7, 1929. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition model by Yoshio Taniguchi. Image © Jock Pottle AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Subcellar and entry level plans © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Second and third level plans © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Longitudinal section through lobby © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Longitudinal section through atrium © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Section through atrium © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Axonometric © Taniguchi & Associates

AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art

The entrance to the Museum of Modern Art is tucked beneath a demure facade of granite and glass in Midtown Manhattan. Its clean, regular planes mark Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 addition to the MoMA’s sequence of facades, which he preserved as a record of its form. Taniguchi’s contribution sits beside the 1984 residential tower by Cesar Pelli and Associates, followed by and Edward Durell Stone’s original 1939 building, then Philip Johnson’s 1964 addition. Taniguchi was hired in 1997 to expand the Museum’s space and synthesize its disparate elements. His elegant, minimal solution presents a contemporary face for the MoMA while adhering to its Modernist roots.

In unifying the Museum’s built form, Taniguchi refined select edges of the building’s history while dissolving others. The original 1939 International Style building was restored, including its white marble facade and piano canopy. Philip Johnson’s 1953 Sculpture Garden was also renovated and enlarged. Taniguchi envisioned the garden as the museum’s core, providing views from each of the surrounding buildings. Two volumes of equal height frame the east and west ends of the garden, housing the Education and Research Building and main gallery complex, respectively. To the south, a similar palette of thin columns and opaque white glass replaced the first seven stories of Pelli’s residential tower. From within the Sculpture Garden, this consistent language allows visitors to understand the complex as a whole. Along 54th Street, the symmetrical volumes are clad in black granite, dark gray glass, and aluminum, linking the site across its full length. 

Taniguchi achieved the refined, minimal aesthetic by exacting precision in each detail. The panels on the exterior facades were installed with the least possible tolerance, diminishing the seams to create an apparently continuous surface. Vast panes of glass hang beneath the deep porticoes bounding the Sculpture Garden. To ensure the glass would not deflect as the museum filled with visitors, the curtain walls were freed from the floor structure. Steel mullions were chosen over the standard aluminum to allow a thinner profile of sufficient strength.

Taniguchi’s solution mediates between the chaos of the city and an environment for viewing art. The Museum represents a microcosm of Manhattan, with buildings of various character surrounding a central garden. The main lobby extends from the 53rd Street entrance to the Sculpture Garden along 54th, creating a porous transition between the interior and its urban context. While moving through the galleries, visitors encounter unexpected views of New York’s streets and skyline. Though the classic, white box galleries are typical of many contemporary museums, Taniguchi incorporated this system of vistas to reveal the MoMA’s unique context.

The original museum prescribed a linear reading of the history of modern art, with each gallery limited to a single entrance. The MoMA’s administrators and architects agreed the expansion should encourage simultaneous and interrelated discoveries, rejecting the idea of a single viewing itinerary. The new galleries can be accessed at any level via a spine of escalators and ancillary stairs, with contemporary art nearest ground level and progressively older works on higher stories. Large, sky-lit space for temporary exhibitions is provided on the top floor. The galleries lack distinct borders, each offering multiple entrance points to neighboring galleries. The 21 ft. high contemporary galleries span 200 ft. to accommodate contemporary art of unanticipated format. The space is free of columns, accomplished by constructing an armature above the eighth story which supports the lower levels. 

As visitors move through the lobby toward the Sculpture Garden, they pass beneath the 110 ft. high atrium. Perforations in the galleries and stairways allow visitors to peer into its soaring space, where they appear framed in the white, rectangular apertures. These strategically placed windows lend the atrium a subtle gravity as occupants move through the galleries around it. The space is crossed at each level by bridges leading to the escalator spine and orients visitors within the gallery complex.

The MoMA recently announced plans for another expansion to the west of the current building, directly adjacent to the American Folk Art Museum. It is set to include a 1050 ft. tower designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, which will house additional gallery space for the Museum. The MoMA received strong opposition from the architecture and design world after stating it would replace the American Folk Art Museum with a connecting wing to the planned expansion site. The MoMA has since hired Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the connector and granted the architects time to consider the possibility of integrating the existing American Folk Art Museum. For more on the Museum, check out our interview with Pedro Gadanho, the Curator for Contemporary Architecture at the MoMA.

Architects: Yoshio Taniguchi, Cesar Pelli and Associates, Philip Johnson, Philip Goodwin, Edward Durell Stone
Location: 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, USA
Architect In Charge: Yoshio Taniguchi
Executive Architects: Kohn Pedersen Fox
Architects, 1984 Expansion: Cesar Pelli and Associates
Architect, 1964 Addition: Philip Johnson
Architect, 1953 Sculpture Garden: Philip Johnson
Architects, 1939 Building: Philip Goodwin, Edward Durell Stone
Area: 630000.0 ft2
Year: 2004
Photographs: Timothy Hursley, Joseph Holmes, MoMA, Jock Pottle, Yoshio Taniguchi

AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the gallery complex from the Sculpture Garden. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art 53rd Street entrance. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Atrium. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the gallery complex from 54th Street. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Sequence of facades on 53rd Street. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Joseph Holmes AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Restored piano canopy over the entrance to the 1939 Goodwin and Stone building. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the 54th Street facade looking west. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the lobby overlooking the Sculpture Garden. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Joseph Holmes AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Temporary exhibition gallery. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Staircase to 2nd floor with Andy Warhol’s Cow wallpaper in the Education and Research Building. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Sculpture Garden, 1953. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition model by Yoshio Taniguchi. Image © Jock Pottle AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketches. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketch. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketch. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art, 1939. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art 53rd Street facades, 1960s. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Cesar Pelli's west wing expansion, 1984. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The first exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art, November 7, 1929. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition model by Yoshio Taniguchi. Image © Jock Pottle AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Subcellar and entry level plans © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Second and third level plans © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Longitudinal section through lobby © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Longitudinal section through atrium © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Section through atrium © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Axonometric © Taniguchi & Associates

AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art

The entrance to the Museum of Modern Art is tucked beneath a demure facade of granite and glass in Midtown . Its clean, regular planes mark Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 addition to the MoMA’s sequence of facades, which he preserved as a record of its form. Taniguchi’s contribution sits beside the 1984 residential tower by Cesar Pelli and Associates, followed by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durell Stone’s original 1939 building, then Philip Johnson’s 1964 addition. Taniguchi was hired in 1997 to expand the Museum’s space and synthesize its disparate elements. His elegant, minimal solution presents a contemporary face for the MoMA while adhering to its Modernist roots.

In unifying the Museum’s built form, Taniguchi refined select edges of the building’s history while dissolving others. The original 1939 International Style building was restored, including its white marble facade and piano canopy. ’s 1953 Sculpture Garden was also renovated and enlarged. Taniguchi envisioned the garden as the museum’s core, providing views from each of the surrounding buildings. Two volumes of equal height frame the east and west ends of the garden, housing the Education and Research Building and main gallery complex, respectively. To the south, a similar palette of thin columns and opaque white glass replaced the first seven stories of Pelli’s residential tower. From within the Sculpture Garden, this consistent language allows visitors to understand the complex as a whole. Along 54th Street, the symmetrical volumes are clad in black granite, dark gray glass, and aluminum, linking the site across its full length. 

Taniguchi achieved the refined, minimal aesthetic by exacting precision in each detail. The panels on the exterior facades were installed with the least possible tolerance, diminishing the seams to create an apparently continuous surface. Vast panes of glass hang beneath the deep porticoes bounding the Sculpture Garden. To ensure the glass would not deflect as the museum filled with visitors, the curtain walls were freed from the floor structure. Steel mullions were chosen over the standard aluminum to allow a thinner profile of sufficient strength.

Taniguchi’s solution mediates between the chaos of the city and an environment for viewing art. The Museum represents a microcosm of Manhattan, with buildings of various character surrounding a central garden. The main lobby extends from the 53rd Street entrance to the Sculpture Garden along 54th, creating a porous transition between the interior and its urban context. While moving through the galleries, visitors encounter unexpected views of New York’s streets and skyline. Though the classic, white box galleries are typical of many contemporary museums, Taniguchi incorporated this system of vistas to reveal the MoMA’s unique context.

The original museum prescribed a linear reading of the history of modern art, with each gallery limited to a single entrance. The MoMA’s administrators and architects agreed the expansion should encourage simultaneous and interrelated discoveries, rejecting the idea of a single viewing itinerary. The new galleries can be accessed at any level via a spine of escalators and ancillary stairs, with contemporary art nearest ground level and progressively older works on higher stories. Large, sky-lit space for temporary exhibitions is provided on the top floor. The galleries lack distinct borders, each offering multiple entrance points to neighboring galleries. The 21 ft. high contemporary galleries span 200 ft. to accommodate contemporary art of unanticipated format. The space is free of columns, accomplished by constructing an armature above the eighth story which supports the lower levels. 

As visitors move through the lobby toward the Sculpture Garden, they pass beneath the 110 ft. high atrium. Perforations in the galleries and stairways allow visitors to peer into its soaring space, where they appear framed in the white, rectangular apertures. These strategically placed windows lend the atrium a subtle gravity as occupants move through the galleries around it. The space is crossed at each level by bridges leading to the escalator spine and orients visitors within the gallery complex.

The MoMA recently announced plans for another expansion to the west of the current building, directly adjacent to the American Folk Art Museum. It is set to include a 1050 ft. tower designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, which will house additional gallery space for the Museum. The MoMA received strong opposition from the architecture and design world after stating it would replace the American Folk Art Museum with a connecting wing to the planned expansion site. The MoMA has since hired Diller Scofidio + Renfro to design the connector and granted the architects time to consider the possibility of integrating the existing American Folk Art Museum. For more on the Museum, check out our interview with Pedro Gadanho, the Curator for Contemporary Architecture at the MoMA.

Architects: Yoshio Taniguchi, Cesar Pelli and Associates, Philip Johnson, Philip Goodwin, Edward Durell Stone
Location: 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY 10019, USA
Architect In Charge: Yoshio Taniguchi
Executive Architects: Kohn Pedersen Fox
Architects, 1984 Expansion: Cesar Pelli and Associates
Architect, 1964 Addition: Philip Johnson
Architect, 1953 Sculpture Garden: Philip Johnson
Architects, 1939 Building: Philip Goodwin, Edward Durell Stone
Area: 630000.0 ft2
Year: 2004
Photographs: Timothy Hursley, Joseph Holmes, MoMA, Jock Pottle, Yoshio Taniguchi

AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the gallery complex from the Sculpture Garden. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art 53rd Street entrance. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Atrium. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the gallery complex from 54th Street. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Sequence of facades on 53rd Street. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Joseph Holmes AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Restored piano canopy over the entrance to the 1939 Goodwin and Stone building. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the 54th Street facade looking west. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art View of the lobby overlooking the Sculpture Garden. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art © Joseph Holmes AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Temporary exhibition gallery. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Staircase to 2nd floor with Andy Warhol’s Cow wallpaper in the Education and Research Building. Image © Timothy Hursley AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Sculpture Garden, 1953. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition model by Yoshio Taniguchi. Image © Jock Pottle AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketches. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketch. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition sketch. Image © Yoshio Taniguchi AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The Museum of Modern Art, 1939. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art 53rd Street facades, 1960s. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Cesar Pelli's west wing expansion, 1984. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art The first exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art, November 7, 1929. Image © MoMA AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Competition model by Yoshio Taniguchi. Image © Jock Pottle AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Subcellar and entry level plans © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Second and third level plans © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Longitudinal section through lobby © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Longitudinal section through atrium © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Section through atrium © Taniguchi & Associates AD Classics: The Museum of Modern Art Axonometric © Taniguchi & Associates

AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron

’s Bankside Power Station stood disused from 1981 until 2000, when it opened to the public as The Tate Modern. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron approached the conversion with a relatively light hand, creating a contemporary public space without diminishing the building’s historical presence. The impressive cultural icon has since become the most visited museum of modern art in the world, revitalizing its formerly sequestered, industrial neighborhood.

The architects were selected from among several well-known contenders in an international competition in 1995. The Tate Gallery recognized the potential of the power station and felt the duo’s minimal exterior alterations aligned with their own vision for the museum. The original building was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott in the late 1940s and was decommissioned after just three decades of use. Situated across the Thames from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the station’s chimney stands as a counterpoint to the cathedral’s dome. 

Herzog & de Meuron chose to enhance the urban character of the building without detracting significantly from its form, allowing it to remain an experiential and visual piece in itself. The most apparent exterior alteration is the light beam set atop its roof, a horizontal contrast to the towering chimney. The light beam’s minimal geometry and translucent glass clearly differentiate it from the dark masonry and detailed brickwork of the original facade. The transition between old and new is not always obvious, however. Herzog & de Meuron referenced the industrial character of Scott’s design in each detail, avoiding jarring interventions which might distract from the works of art. The heavy stair rails, cast iron grills, and unfinished wood floors harmonize with the original aesthetic.

By opening the around the former power station, the architects sought to make a natural approach to a seemingly monolithic building. The gardens mediate between the museum and surrounding urban fabric, providing access from all four directions. The facade is punctured in bands at ground level, indicating the entrances and inviting the public inside. Herzog & de Meuron envisioned the grand space of the turbine hall as a public plaza, allowing passage through or a place to congregate. 

Much of the experience of the turbine hall is one of movement. A platform crosses at ground level, registering the descent of the ramp beneath it and providing views of the galleries overhead. This energy is balanced by the hall’s monumental scale, which imparts a stillness despite the flow of visitors. Originally designed to house massive generators, it extends the entire length and height of the building, providing a quality of space unique to The Tate Modern. The artist Olafur Eliasson took advantage of this in his 2003 installation The Weather Project.

In order to accommodate a broad range of art, Herzog & de Meuron replaced much of the power station’s interior with galleries of differing sizes. They share an understated aesthetic, but range in height from five to twelve meters, illuminated by a variety of natural and artificial lighting. The power station’s original cathedral windows span floor to ceiling in some galleries, echoed in rhythm and proportion by skylights overhead. The light beam’s layers of translucent glass were specifically designed to filter daylight and artificially replicate its qualities at night.

The former plant’s three massive oil tanks opened in 2012 as another type of gallery unique to the museum. An extension designed by Herzog & de Meuron is underway, expected to open in 2016. It will offer additional display space as well as public areas for learning and making.

Architects: Herzog & de Meuron
Location: Bankside, London, Greater London SE1, UK
Partners: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Harry Gugger, Christine Binswanger
Project Architect: Michael Casey
Project Team: Thomas Baldauf, Ed Burton, Victoria Castro, Peter Cookson, Irina Davidovici, Liam Dewar, Catherine Fierens, Hernan Fierro, Adam Firth, Matthias Gnehm, Nik Graber, Konstantin Karagiannis, Angelika Krestas, Patrik Linggi, José Ojeda Martos, Mario Meier, Filipa Mourao, Yvonne Rudolf, Juan Salgado, Vicky Thornton, Kristen Whittle, Camillo Zanardini
Associate Architect: Sheppard Robson + Partners
Interior Design: Herzog & de Meuron, Office for design, Lumsden Design Partnership
Structural Engineer: Ove Arup Partner
Construction Management: Schal International Management Ltd.
Landscape Design: Herzog & de Meuron, Kienast Vogt+Partner
Facade Consulting: Emmer Pfenniger
Lighting And Acoustics: Ove Arup Partner
Area: 34000.0 sqm
Year: 2000
Photographs: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Javier Gutierrez Marcos, Simone Graziano Panetto, Darrell Godliman, Richard Holt, Tom Godber, Iwan Baan, Herzog & de Meuron

AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Javier Gutierrez Marcos AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Simone Graziano Panetto AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Simone Graziano Panetto AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Darrell Godliman AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Darrell Godliman AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Javier Gutierrez Marcos AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Javier Gutierrez Marcos AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Richard Holt AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Darrell Godliman AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Javier Gutierrez Marcos AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Tom Godber AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron © Iwan Baan AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron Cross section looking East. Image © Herzog & de Meuron AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron Section through tower concourse. Image © Herzog & de Meuron AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron Ground level plan. Image © Herzog & de Meuron AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron Section through double-height gallery. Image © Herzog & de Meuron AD Classics: The Tate Modern / Herzog & de Meuron Section through boiler house, turbine hall, and oil tanks. Image © Herzog & de Meuron