Getty Center Turns 20

The Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier, opened to the public on December 12, 1997. I was fortunate to visit the complex in 2003, writing about Robert Irwin’s garden on this blog.

To celebrate the Getty Center’s 20th anniversary, the J. Paul Getty Museum is hosting an exhibition of photographs by Robert Polidori that document the museum 20 years ago. I did a quick write-up of Meier’s building and Irwin’s garden at World-Architects; head over there to read it.

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Today’s archidose #988

Here are some photos of the Centro Botín (2017) in Santander, Spain, by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. (Photos: Ximo Michavila.)

Renzo Piano. Centro Botin #1
Renzo Piano. Centro Botin #5
Renzo Piano. Centro Botin #4
Renzo Piano. Centro Botin #3
Renzo Piano. Centro Botin #2
Renzo Piano. Centro Botin #6

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Book Briefs #32

“Book Briefs” are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on this blog.

American Libraries 1730-1950 by Kenneth Breisch | W. W. Norton | 2017 | Amazon
Fittingly, the cover of this history of libraries in the United States from the mid-1700s to just after World War II is graced by the George Peabody Library in Baltimore, designed by Edmund G. Lind and completed in 1878. Oddly, a photo of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, designed by Thomas Beeby and completed in 1991, is found on the back cover. Turns out the latter is included in the Afterword, coming after six chapters (one devoted to Carnegie libraries) loaded with photos and drawings from the Library of Congress, and illustrating how public libraries are more important – and patronized – than ever.

Crown Hall Dean’s Dialogues 2012-2017 edited by Wiel Arets, Agata Siemionow | IITAC Press/Actar | 2017 | Amazon
Earlier this year Wiel Arets stepped down as dean of the Illinois Institute of Architecture after his five-year tenure. The official announcement boasts that “Dean Arets’ leadership has pointed the way forward for schools of architecture and built a strong framework for the College of Architecture’s future academic years,” but one report says, “the faculty was unhappy with Arets’s leadership.” Whatever the case, this book (one among many put out by IIT during his tenure, which also saw the creation of MCHAP) signals it was a very busy five years. The book features interviews that were part of the College of Architecture’s “Dean’s Dialogues,” with, to be expected, some impressive names: David Adjaye, Peter Eisenman, Phyllis Lambert, and Kazuyo Sejima, among many others.

New Architecture New York photographs by Pavel Bendov | Prestel | 2017 | Amazon
Although Pavel Bendov may not be a household name, the photographer is known to many people through his popular “archexplorer” Instagram that is full of, but not restricted to, buildings in his hometown of New York City. No surprise that his first book documents the building boom taking place in the city this century. New Architecture New York has around 50 projects, most in Manhattan but many gems, such as Tod and Billie’s Lefrak Center at Lakeside, found in the outer boroughs. The texts – project descriptions by the editors at Prestel and an introduction by critic Alexandra Lange – are short, keeping the focus squarely on Pavel’s skillful photos of the best NYC has to offer this century.

Toronto Architecture: A City Guide by Patricia McHugh, Alex Bozikovic | McClelland & Stewart | 2017 | Amazon
Although I wasn’t familiar with the earlier editions of Patricia McHugh’s guide to architecture in Toronto (the Goodfellows’ contemporary guide is the only one I knew for the Canadian city), from what I can gather from this update they were kindreds with Norval White and Elliot Willensky’s AIA Guide to New York City: short but sharply critical texts on architecture spanning centuries. The Globe and Mail’s Alex Bozikovic is the most obvious, and best, person to update McHugh’s guide – its first update time since 1989. There’s lots to cover and Bozikovic does it logically and with a critical eye that rivals McHugh. With unfortunately small b/w photos for most, but not all, projects and 26 “essential” walking tours, this is clearly a book to carry around as one tracks the changes Toronto has seen in the last 25 years; its compact, lightweight format makes that easy to do.

The Icon Project: Architecture, Cities, and Capitalist Globalization by Leslie Sklair | Oxford University Press | 2017 | Amazon
Starchitecture: Scenes, Actors, and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities by Davide Ponzini, Michele Nastasi | The Monacelli Press | 2016 | Amazon
Earlier this year I conducted some email interviews with the authors of these two books for a piece at World-Architects. Released within months of each other, the timing just seemed right, though I would soon learn that Starchitecture was released initially, in Italian, in 2011. Nevertheless, these books follow the Newtonian logic of “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In this case, they are responding to the globalization of architecture, the starchitecture phenomenon, the Bilbao effect – whatever one wants to call the proliferation of expensive, iconic buildings meant to attract media attention, tourists, and money. It was only a matter of time before books critic of the trend appeared.

Those looking for an academic, sociological perspective on the subject should opt for Sklair’s book, which breaks down icons into a couple categories (unique and typical, or architects like Gehry and copycat architects) and examines them relative to the politics and economics behind their creation. Those interested in an urban planning perspective, as told through a handful of case studies (Bilbao, Abu Dhabi, Paris, New York City, Vitra Campus), will find more to like in Starchitecture, which combines Ponzini’s words with Nastasi’s photographs – not the typical photos in architecture journals, mind you, as the cover attests. Each book makes it clear that there is plenty of fodder for critiquing contemporary today, and plenty of ways of going about it.

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Glass Tops in Union Square

Over the weekend I was running errands around Union Square and came across the construction site for the renovation of the old Tammany Hall building at the northeast corner of the park. Designed by BKSK Architects, the new project, 44 Union Square East, features a glass dome atop the old building.


[Rendering: BKSK]

Recently the building was used for a theater, but the new project converts it to retail and office space, with the first at the base and the second beneath the dome. Compare the above rendering with a period photo of the 1929 building and before/after sections of the project.


[Drawing: BKSK]

One glass-topped renovation near Union Square is an anomaly, but two of them is the start of a trend (though not a full-blown trend). The second project is DXA Studio’s proposed expansion, spotted at New York YIMBY, of two landmarked buildings on Broadway between 12th and 13th Streets, across from the Strand Book Store.


[Rendering: DXA Studio]

While BKSK’s plans for renovating Tammany Hall were approved by Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2015, DXA is in the process of obtaining LPC approval. Even though the two designs are very different, the BKSK project sets a precedent for a contemporary rooftop addition in an area with many historic buildings.

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Sound in Space

Grabbing my morning pastry today, I noticed an enticing sign on the door of the coffee shop:

What struck me just as much as the image and the subject of the exhibition – architecture and photography – is the venue: New York Presbyterian Church. If that name and its Long Island City address don’t ring a bell, maybe this photo will:

Korean Presbyterian Church, as it’s also known, is the transformation of an old laundry factory into a church by Greg Lynn, Douglas Garofalo and Michael McInturf. Although it was completed in 1999 and I’ve lived in the neighborhood for eleven years, I’ve yet to go inside. Now I have a perfect excuse.

Here is some more information on the exhibition taking place on Sunday, December 10 (4pm-7:30pm), from the Forte New York Chamber Music Series website:

Architecture, Art Works and Photography Exhibition by architects Adrian Subagyo and Joey Giampietro

Space in Sound is an exhibition that critically engages with the relationship between objects and the space in which they inhabit while questioning many of our preconceived notions concerning sound and space. Humans primarily perceive sound empirically, as sonic waves vibrate through particles in the open air and reach our ears, we are given an abundance of information both qualitative and quantitative about our surrounding context. Sound also propagates equally through material via physical vibrations. Our perceptive systems are not trained to detect sound materially and as a result our engagement with sound is severely biased. Objects engage with their sonic environment through feeling. It is in this feeling of sound that vibrations are physically transferred from material to material or object to object, all of which are spaces. Access into this world, and that of a flat ontology, can be achieved through the use of contact microphones and amplification. In the exhibition on display there are several devices that gives the human (user) the capability to feel sound or hear sound as objects do, listen to intrinsic spatial qualities of an object, or listen to an active dialog happening internally between a set or family of objects and their immediate spatial context.

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Today’s archidose #987

Here are some photos of La Muralla Roja (1973) in Calpe, Spain, by Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura . (Photos: Lukas Schlatter, who has more shots of the park in this Flickr set.)

La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja
La Muralla Roja

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Old+New Book Review: Complete Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid: The Complete Buildings and Projects
Rizzoli, 1998
Paperback, 176 pages

The Complete Zaha Hadid, Expanded and Updated
Thames & Hudson, 2017
Hardcover, 320 pages

Back in 1998, six years before she would win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Rizzoli published The Complete Buildings and Projects of Zaha Hadid, featuring an introductory essay by Aaron Betsky, over sixty buildings and projects, and one spread of furniture and objects. At only 176 pages, it is a slim volume, about half as big as the latest expanded and updated Complete Zaha Hadid, published recently by Thames & Hudson. Between the first edition and latest update there were a few more: in 2009, 2013, and 2016, when I wrote about it briefly.

The number and frequency of the updates testify to the increasing output of Hadid’s eponymous firm after her Pritzker Prize win, but the latest comes so soon after the previous due in part to Hadid’s unexpected death last year. One need only read the first sentence of Betsky’s introduction to realize this: “Zaha Hadid was a great cinematographer”; this sentence is the same in all previous editions with the obvious difference of “is” versus “was.” Nevertheless, this will not be the last update, considering how many buildings of hers are being completed posthumously.

In last year’s Book Brief I wrote that “thankfully Hadid’s beautiful paintings from The Peak and other early projects are still an important part of the monograph.” That remains true with the 2017 edition, but here I want to more closely compare it with the 1998 edition, in part to see if I keep that edition in my library, and to see if I recommend others search it out. Short answer: fans of Hadid’s early work and her paintings should get it, while fans of her later work will be fine with the latest update.

One comparison reveals the differences. On page 32 of the newest update (spread above) is Kurfürstendamm 70, an unbuilt project from 1986 for Berlin. It is documented with four paintings, some section drawings, and a couple paragraphs of text. Opposite is IBA-Blick 2, another Berlin project, but one that was completed in 1993. Both projects are documented in the first edition with four pages each. The unbuilt project (spreads below) includes the same five images (all larger) and text as well as more of Hadid’s distinctive drawings and floor plans. This is just one example of why the first edition excels with these and other early projects.


But why not maintain these and other projects in their first-edition form? Space is obviously a factor. If certain projects were not truncated (more projects are truncated than the few completed buildings from the first edition), the latest update would be closer to 640 pages than 320 pages, making it heavier and more expensive, kind of like Frank Gehry’s sizable Complete Works. But I’d also argue that the editing is a form of forgetting, of not dwelling on the unbuilt, of shifting the focus to more recent buildings and projects.

In terms of recent projects, the last project in the first edition — the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati — is a good marker in Hadid’s shift from an angular, aggressive architecture to soft, fluid designs, enabled by computers and the contributions of Patrik Schumacher in her office. Much of what follows that building in the new book exhibits this formal shift, while also revealing how the buildings have increased in size and complexity and branched out to places like China and the UAE. Additionally, the number of objects and furniture has greatly increased, now with nearly fifty pages instead of just one spread — another example of how in demand Hadid was from late last century until her shocking death last year.

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Book Review: 100 Buildings

100 Buildings by Thom Mayne and Eui-Sung Yi, produced by The Now Institute
Rizzoli, 2017
Flexicover, 262 pages

When visiting the page for 100 Buildings on Amazon today, the “What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?” section lists one book: mine. This isn’t surprising, given that both have “100 Buildings” in their title and have been published in the last couple years. But like many architecture books that share some similarities, the differences are also interesting. 100 Years, 100 Buildings features one building per year for the last 100 years (1916-2015), while 100 Buildings limits itself to the 20th century. My book is a fairly subjective sampling of visitable buildings spanning a whole century, given the year-by-year format, while the “must know” buildings in the book by Thom Mayne and Eui-Sung Yi are free from such constraints, as long as they were designed and/or completed somewhere between 1900 and 2000.

In fact, dates are played down in the book relative to the who, what and where of the 100 buildings, so it’s hard to get a comparative sense of when the buildings were completed. Nevertheless, I’d wager there are more buildings from the 1930s than 1940s, for instance and very few from the 1980s. This stems from the fact Mayne solicited more than 50 “internationally renowned architects” to create a list of important 20th-century buildings — selective crowdsourcing, if you will. The book then takes the top 100 selections and orders them from most to least mentions. A matrix at the back of the book (also on the cover) lists the 50 contributors (vertical axis) and the 100 buildings from the book (horizontal axis). As can be seen, everybody but Craig Hodgetts, MVRDV, Dominique Perrault and Richard Meier (really?!) selected Villa Savoye, number 1 on the list of 100.

Each building is given one spread with a fairly consistent format, as the Villa Savoye spread below illustrates. There’s one black-and-white (typically exterior) photograph, an axonometric, a floor plan, an elevation or section, a paragraph of text, and project data: name, architect, location, dates, and coordinates (N/S at the top edge, E/W at the right or left edge). In terms of the last item, coordinates, these come in handy for those knowledgable in entering them into Google Maps, but their location on the page is a missed opportunity. If they were switched (N/S on the right, E/W on the top) and located on the spread relative to a map, they would give a direct sense of where each building is located on the earth. Otherwise, a global map is found between the table of contents and first entry, but it only lists projects by country.

Of course, with only a spread per building, 100 Buildings cannot address everything such as this. It is a starting point, the book version of Wikipedia entries, compete with a list of references in the back of the book for further exploration. These references, though only 12 pages versus 200 pages for the main entries, are extremely important, considering that the book is aimed at students, at overcoming “a declining awareness of historical precedent,” according to Mayne in his foreword. Some of this declining awareness will be overcome by the photos, drawings and paragraph of text about Villa Savoye, for instance, but Tim Benton’s The Villas of Le Corbusier, the architect’s own Towards a New Architecture, and Kenneth Frampton’s Modern Architecture 1920-1945 will be more valuable in the long run. With this in mind, it’s imperative that students using this book have ready access to a library well stocked with architecture books.

Returning to a comparison between Mayne’s book and my own (something I never imagined I’d be doing, to be honest), there is plenty of overlap in the selections, even though my year-by-year, open-to-the-public format eliminated many buildings from appearing. Of the top ten 100 Buildings (in order: Villa Savoye, Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut, Barcelona Pavilion, Centre Pompidou, S.C. Johnson & Son Headquarters, Farnsworth House, Salk Institute, La Maison de Verre, Couvent Sainte-Marie de la Tourette, and TWA Flight Center), seven of them are in my book – the top seven actually, with the others missing because they are not open to the public, are too similar to another design, and were in a state of limbo when I wrote my book, respectively.

So for somebody like me, there is little revealing in this book. But of course, this book was not made for somebody like me. It was written for who I was 25 years ago, when I was in architecture school but did not know what or who a Corbu or Mies was, much less how a plan and elevation corresponded to a building or photograph. So I would have loved a book like this to be around back then, a drafting table companion that would spark discussions with my professors and give me jumping-off points for learning about all the buildings that are worth learning about.

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Book Review: 100 Buildings

100 Buildings by Thom Mayne and Eui-Sung Yi, produced by The Now Institute
Rizzoli, 2017
Flexicover, 262 pages

When visiting the page for 100 Buildings on Amazon today, the “What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?” section lists one book: mine. This isn’t surprising, given that both have “100 Buildings” in their title and have been published in the last couple years. But like many architecture books that share some similarities, the differences are also interesting. 100 Years, 100 Buildings features one building per year for the last 100 years (1916-2015), while 100 Buildings limits itself to the 20th century. My book is a fairly subjective sampling of visitable buildings spanning a whole century, given the year-by-year format, while the “must know” buildings in the book by Thom Mayne and Eui-Sung Yi are free from such constraints, as long as they were designed and/or completed somewhere between 1900 and 2000.

In fact, dates are played down in the book relative to the who, what and where of the 100 buildings, so it’s hard to get a comparative sense of when the buildings were completed. Nevertheless, I’d wager there are more buildings from the 1930s than 1940s, for instance and very few from the 1980s. This stems from the fact Mayne solicited more than 50 “internationally renowned architects” to create a list of important 20th-century buildings — selective crowdsourcing, if you will. The book then takes the top 100 selections and orders them from most to least mentions. A matrix at the back of the book (also on the cover) lists the 50 contributors (vertical axis) and the 100 buildings from the book (horizontal axis). As can be seen, everybody but Craig Hodgetts, MVRDV, Dominique Perrault and Richard Meier (really?!) selected Villa Savoye, number 1 on the list of 100.

Each building is given one spread with a fairly consistent format, as the Villa Savoye spread below illustrates. There’s one black-and-white (typically exterior) photograph, an axonometric, a floor plan, an elevation or section, a paragraph of text, and project data: name, architect, location, dates, and coordinates (N/S at the top edge, E/W at the right or left edge). In terms of the last item, coordinates, these come in handy for those knowledgable in entering them into Google Maps, but their location on the page is a missed opportunity. If they were switched (N/S on the right, E/W on the top) and located on the spread relative to a map, they would give a direct sense of where each building is located on the earth. Otherwise, a global map is found between the table of contents and first entry, but it only lists projects by country.

Of course, with only a spread per building, 100 Buildings cannot address everything such as this. It is a starting point, the book version of Wikipedia entries, compete with a list of references in the back of the book for further exploration. These references, though only 12 pages versus 200 pages for the main entries, are extremely important, considering that the book is aimed at students, at overcoming “a declining awareness of historical precedent,” according to Mayne in his foreword. Some of this declining awareness will be overcome by the photos, drawings and paragraph of text about Villa Savoye, for instance, but Tim Benton’s The Villas of Le Corbusier, the architect’s own Towards a New Architecture, and Kenneth Frampton’s Modern Architecture 1920-1945 will be more valuable in the long run. With this in mind, it’s imperative that students using this book have ready access to a library well stocked with architecture books.

Returning to a comparison between Mayne’s book and my own (something I never imagined I’d be doing, to be honest), there is plenty of overlap in the selections, even though my year-by-year, open-to-the-public format eliminated many buildings from appearing. Of the top ten 100 Buildings (in order: Villa Savoye, Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut, Barcelona Pavilion, Centre Pompidou, S.C. Johnson & Son Headquarters, Farnsworth House, Salk Institute, La Maison de Verre, Couvent Sainte-Marie de la Tourette, and TWA Flight Center), seven of them are in my book – the top seven actually, with the others missing because they are not open to the public, are too similar to another design, and were in a state of limbo when I wrote my book, respectively.

So for somebody like me, there is little revealing in this book. But of course, this book was not made for somebody like me. It was written for who I was 25 years ago, when I was in architecture school but did not know what or who a Corbu or Mies was, much less how a plan and elevation corresponded to a building or photograph. So I would have loved a book like this to be around back then, a drafting table companion that would spark discussions with my professors and give me jumping-off points for learning about all those buildings that are worth learning about.

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Today’s archidose #986

Here are some photos of Bishan–Ang Mo Kio Park (2012) in Singapore by Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl. (Photos: Trevor Patt, who has more shots of the park in this Flickr set.)

IMG_6645-46
IMG_6635
IMG_6638-40
IMG_6708-09
IMG_6724
IMG_6732
IMG_6689
IMG_6643
IMG_6652

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Disappointment in Berlin

One of the buildings I went out of my way to visit on a recent trip to Berlin was Dominique Perrault’s Velodrome and Swimming Pool, a project I wrote about way back in 2000, one year after the project was completed and seventeen years before I’d see it in person. Each of the main elements is given a regular shape – pool is a rectangle and velodrome is a circle – that is set into the landscape.


[Aerial view nabbed from Perrault’s website]

In the text on Perrault’s website, written by Sebastian Redecke, “[the] sports buildings are unique in the city if for no other reason than that they are largely underground.” This impression held true as I approached the buildings from the east, from the bottom corner in the aerial above – what turned out, unknowlingly, to be a backdoor. Basically I was approaching via the automobile access, which is logically located alongside the railroad tracks.

Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

From there I went left and walked up some stairs to the eastern edge of the project, the bottom-left edge in the aerial above.
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

Finally I was confronted with the view I was expecting: low, mesh-covered buildings tucked into the landscape. A rectangular one:
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

And a circular one:
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

My disappointment with Perrault’s project firsthand stemmed from a few things: the landscape, access to the buildings, and the project’s edges. All are related, but I’ll discuss them one by one. First, in terms of the landscape, one does not need to visit to see how people have created their own paths across the lawns to connect the buildings and perimeter spots or just make their way across the raised landscape. Compare the aerial at top with the one below, where those new paths are visible (amazingly, both aerials are from Perrault’s website, one from the project page linked above and one from the urban design page).


[Another aerial view nabbed from Perrault’s website]

Normally I don’t have a problem with people creating their own paths – while they serve to illustrate design defects they also show how a landscape has been made more democratic, less delegated – but here those paths are combined with other flaws: a notable lack of maintenance across much of the landscape and a thinning out of the 450 apple trees planted as part of “the orchard.” The only other people I saw there (about ten of them on a chilly, gray weekday) were cutting across the elevated landscape, most via the new paths.

Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

The second bit of disappointment had to do with access to the pool and velodrome. I walked down the steps (above) to get inside the pool, where I could see an event was taking place, but the doors were locked. This was the case on both sides of the pool building and at the velodrome. Instead of accessing the buildings via the elevated landscape, as seems to be the intention, entrances to the facilities are found in bulkhead structures along the northern railroad edge. (Sorry, I didn’t take pictures of them.) So visitors either drive to gain access, or they walk across the elevated park to these access points; they do not descend directly to the individual buildings. This plan illustrates one such access point:

Not only did I not take photos of the bulkheads aligned along the project’s northern edge, I didn’t take photos of the other edges, which are basically huge expanses of steps connecting the raised landscape to the neighborhood. Here are a few views taken from Google Street View, showing the southeast corner:

The southern edge, which echoes the northern edge in terms of supplying bulkheads to the facilities, but in this case they are closed, most likely emergency exits:

And the wheelchair access in the middle of the long southern expanse:

These Street Views make it pretty clear that the project, though “largely underground,” is for most people a – literally, not figuratively – elevated experience. While it’s obvious that the raised landscape turns the two main components into nearly invisible volumes surrounded by lawn, it does this with unrelenting steps across most of the perimeter. And this makes me wonder if a flush edge and landscape, instead of raised ones, would have made the outdoor spaces between the main volumes more inviting and usable instead of, based on my brief visit, little used or merely conduits for getting from point A to point B.

This site section reveals that dropping the level of the landscape between the buildings could happen (at least in some places – not necessarily along the railroad edge, based on the plan above), but without allowing direct access to the velodrome and pool it would be for nought. Views into these buildings from the landscape are appealing, but without access the plan doesn’t make sense – the only reason to ascend to the landscape is to circumvent it. Without the planning, use, and maintenance of the project’s buildings and landscape in sync, what should have been full of potential only exhibits disappointment.

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2017 Holiday Gift Books

This year I’m highlighting 33 books by the same number of publishers, arranged alphabetically by publisher – from A+A to Zone. Titles and covers link to Amazon for easy gift-buying.

A+A Books
Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide: Built Projects
Edited by Maria Melo, Michel Toussaint

Actar
By Interboro Partners

a+t
Caruso St. John Architects, Javier Mozas, Aurora Fernández Per

Birkhäuser
By Edgar Stach

Black Dog & Leventhal
Bridges: A History of the World’s Most Spectacular Spans
By Judith Dupré

CCA/Sternberg
Edited by Andrew Goodhouse

Frame Publishers
By Julien De Smedt, Julien Lanoo

Harvard University Press
By Reinier de Graaf

Hatje Cantz
Álvaro Siza: Neighbourhood: Where Alvaro Meets Aldo
Edited by Roberto Cremascoli, Nuno Grande

Images Publishing
By Krueck + Sexton Architects

Island Press
By John Cary

Jovis
Edited by Eduard Kögel

Lars Müller
OfficeUS Manual
Edited by Eva Franch,‎ Ana Miljački,‎ Carlos Minguez Carrasco, Jacob Reidel,‎ Ashley Schafer

Laurence King
By Colin Davies

Lund Humphries
By Mark Swenarton

McClelland & Stewart
By Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic

The MIT Press
Learning from Las Vegas (facsimile edition)
By Robert Venturi,‎ Denise Scott Brown,‎ Steven Izenour

The Monacelli Press
By Amale Andraos, Dan Wood

The Museum of Modern Art
Edited by Barry Bergdoll, Jennifer Gray

ORO Editions
By Ken Yeang

Park Books
SOS Brutalism: A Global Survey
Edited by Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz, Peter Cachola Schmal

Phaidon
By Phaidon Editors

Prestel
By John Hill (yes, me)

Princeton Architectural Press
By Ian Volner

Quart
Zurich Housing Development 1995–2015
Edited by Heinz Wirz, Christoph Wieser

RIBA Publishing
By Terry Farrell,‎ Adam Nathaniel Furman

Rizzoli
By Thom Mayne and the Now Institute

RotoVision
By John Hill (yes, me again)

Spector Books
Frei Otto: Thinking by Modeling
Edited by Georg Vrachliotis, Joachim Kleinmanns, Martin Kunz, Philip Kunz

University of Minnesota Press
By Victor Gruen, edited and translated by Anette Baldauf

W. W. Norton
By Kenneth Breisch

Yale University Press
By Dale Allen Gyure

Zone Books
Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability
By Eyal Weizman

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Back from Berlin

Last week I was in Berlin covering the World Architecture Festival (WAF) for World-Architects. I had a little bit of free time to venture about the city, snapping photos of the below buildings.

The biggest highlight was the Nordic Embassies, a complex I wanted to visit last year but only found a book on the design by Berger+Parkkinen instead (more of my photos here):
Nordic Embassies

On the way to the S-Bahn from the Nordic Embassies, I came across the Bauhaus-Archiv, designed by Walter Gropius in 1964 but not completed until 1979 by Gropius’s former employee Alex Cvijanovic:
Bauhaus-Archiv

Another highlight was the Tchoban Foundation’s Museum for Architectural Drawing, designed by Sergei Tchoban and Sergey Kuznetsov (more of my photos here):
Tchoban Foundation

A major disappointment was Dominique Perrault’s Velodrome and Swimming Pool, which I wrote about back in 2000 and will write about again very soon (more of my photos here):
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

Lastly, walking back to the hotel from the Velodrome and Pool I came across the Pablo Neruda Bibliothek, a seven-year-old building designed by Peter W. Schmidt (more of my photos here):
Central Library Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

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In Berlin

Posts on this blog will resume next week. In the meantime, head to World-Architects to see my posts on the World Architecture Festival taking place this week at Arena Berlin.

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Book and Exhibition Review: Harry Seidler

Harry Seidler: The Exhibition: Organizing, Curating, Designing, and Producing a World Tour by Vladimir Belogolovsky
Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, 2017
Hardcover w/slipcase, 272 pages

Harry Seidler: Painting Toward Architecture curated by Vladimir Belogolovsky
Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, CCNY
September 26 – November 22, 2017

Just as Vladimir Belogolovsky recounts a few times in Harry Seidler: The Exhibition that he learned about architect Harry Seidler (1923-2006) in 2010 from Emilio Ambasz, I first became aware of Seidler at a precise time. Although I don’t recall the exact year, I was working on a proposal for a residential tower while employed at an architecture firm in Chicago. Faced with the need to do something creative with balconies, I stumbled upon the high rises Seidler had designed in Sydney. His work was a powerful precedent, since it was simultaneously logical and sensual, repetitive and flowing. This is evident in such projects as Horizon Tower, a 43-story tower completed in Sydney in 1998.

The same combination of logic and sensuality can be applied to Belogolovsky’s take on Seidler. It’s evident that the curator was immediately smitten with the architect’s work, but his appreciation and documentation of Seidler’s oeuvre – in the exhibition and the book documenting the same, as well as in the earlier monograph, Harry Seidler: LifeWork – is treated logically. For instance, he traces certain qualities of Seidler’s architecture to a number of influences: “confidence, social purpose, and a methodological and collaborative approach to design from Walter Gropius; residential types, the power of concrete, and the warmth of wood from Marcel Breuer; standardized building systems and expressive structural language from Pier Luigi Nervi; sculptural fluidity and lyrical forms from Oscar Niemeyer; and a profound understanding of how our eyes react to visual phenomena from Josef Albers.” This last influence is a particularly important one since it gets at Belogolovsky’s overarching theme: that Seidler’s architecture was most heavily influenced and indebted to art rather than architecture.


[Vladimir Belogolovsky, at right, with Harry Seidler’s widow Penelope Seidler, at center, at Harry Seidler: Painting Toward Architecture]

The phrase “painting toward architecture” is not Belogolovsky’s; he admits that it came from Henry-Russell Hitchcock’s 1948 book of that name. In that book Hitchcock describes Theo van Doesburg’s 1923 painting Space-time construction #3 as one of the most direct influences on modern architects, since the artist was “working consciously and directly toward architecture.” Belogolovsky sees the painting’s influence in the house Seidler designed for his parents in the late 1940s, when they managed to lure the Austrian-born architect from the United States, where he had gone to architecture school, to Australia, where his parents had just moved. (It’s interesting to speculate what would have happened if his parents were not successful in bringing Harry to Australia, where he became, in Belogolovsky’s words, “the first architect in Australia to fully express the principles of the Bauhaus in that country” and whose “architecture has become an integral part of the Australian identity.”) The house resembles the work of Gropius, who he studied under at Harvard, but the incorporation of a colorful mural signals something in Seidler wanting to break free from the rectilinear confines of Bauhaus architecture.

In Belogolovsky’s hands, the influence of colorful, abstract art is most overt in the design of the traveling exhibition and the book documenting it. The slipcase of the latter, for instance, is simply yellow with red lettering, while the binding is blue, and the end papers echo these three colors. The palette of yellow, red and blue permeates the design of the exhibition, here visible at City College, where it on display until the day before Thanksgiving. The colors cover the bases for the models and the hanging canvases for the black-and-white photographs, and they make up the lines on the floor and walls that break the exhibition down into smaller zones. Stepping into the CCNY exhibition space, although a bit too large and spread out compared to earlier venues, is to step into the realm of Seidler and his artistic influences.

Belogolovsky met Seidler’s wife, Penelope Seidler, not long after Emilio Ambasz informed him about the architect. He proposed to her a modest exhibition in the lobby of one of Seidler’s Sydney buildings, but she countered with the proposal for a world tour, a daunting prospect that only the most punishing curator would immediately agree to, I’m guessing. Whatever the case, that meeting launched what would become an exhibition traveling to more than 20 cities on 5 continents. One would think Painting Toward Architecture would have started in Sydney, home to many of Seidler’s buildings, but instead it opened in Estonia in October 2012 and would not reach Sydney until stop #12 in November 2014. While this may seem counterintuitive, it gets at the heart of what makes a traveling exhibition so special: it introduces a subject (Seidler) to an audience not very familiar with it (most people outside of Australia).

With the LifeWork monograph published in 2014, Belogolovsky’s next book on Seidler – a logical undertaking given the amount of time and effort the curator has expended on the subject – needed a different format. Harry Seidler: The Exhibition presents Painting Toward Architecture as an important subject in its own right. Although he contends that the book is “not about its subject, Australian Modernist architect Harry Seidler,” Belogolovsky’s book does inform readers about the architect’s life and work very well. He does this through a transcript of one of the many lectures he’s given on Seidler, timelines of his life and buildings, selected quotes, and essays on various aspects of Seidler’s life. These materials are in the minority relative to the documentation of the exhibition, but they work together in a way that learning about the architect is a byproduct of learning about the exhibition. Of course, the book only goes so far in conveying what’s inside the exhibition; so those in and around New York City are urged to head to City College before this leg of the traveling exhibition closes on November 22nd. Where it goes from there, I just don’t know.

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Art in the Open

On Friday Art in the Open: Fifty Years of Public Art in New York opens at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY). On display until May 13, 2018, the small but visually dense exhibition covers notable displays of public art in New York’s public spaces from 1967 to the present. Though described by curator Lilly Tuttle in today’s press preview as “not comprehensive,” the exhibition’s four parts touch upon just about all of the major pieces of public art executed in those years.

Art in the Open

Art in the Open does so first in the corridor, where a timeline covering one side of the corridor leads visitors to the exhibition proper and briefly presents important pieces of public art. Those included in the other three sections of the exhibition – Art in Public, Art in Place, and Art in Action – are highlighted by bands of tape with the name of the respective section. Based on the bit of corridor captured below, Richard Serra’s controversial Tilted Arc is not included, while Richard Haas’s Arcade at Peck Slip, for instance, which started in 1979, is included in Art in Place.

Art in the Open

Although there is an order to the main three sections of the exhibition, the overall presentation is thematic rather than chronological. First up, Art in Public presents works that capture how art moved from galleries to public spaces in the late 1960s, a practice that continues to this day. With works like Hank Willis Thomas’s The Truth Is I See You installed in MetroTech Commons in 2015, the art in this section does a better in provoking thought than engaging with its context.

Art in the Open
Art in the Open

That engagement comes to the fore in Art in Place, which focuses on such site-specific projects as Haas’s painted buildings in South Street Seaport, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates, Agnes Denes’s Wheatfield in Battery Park City, and the MTA Arts & Design program.

Art in the Open
Art in the Open
Art in the Open

Although many of the artworks throughout the exhibition are temporary, Art in Action, the last section, focuses on pieces that are “participatory or performative in nature” and therefore fleeting by nature. My knowledge of public art is pretty good, but I’ll admit most of these are new to me. Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s Touch Sanitation Performance, which involved the artist shaking the hand of each of the city’s 8,500 sanitation workers in 1979 and 1980, stands out among these.

Art in the Open

Given my architectural interests, I found myself most drawn to the second section, Art in Place. Not surprisingly, I already knew about all of the nine artworks in this section. Five of them are part of the MTA Arts & Design, formerly known as the Arts for Transit program, which involves artists in beautifying old stations (e.g. Roy Lichtenstein at Times Square-42nd St) and new stations (Xenobia Bailey’s Funktional Vibrations at 34th St-Hudson Yards). These are permanent artworks that I’ve seen in person; in turn I was drawn to two temporary pieces on display.

Art in the Open

In the lean years between the creation of landfill next to the World Trade Center for Battery Park City and the actual construction of Battery Park City, the site was a setting for public art. Most famous is Agnes Denes’s Wheatfield, thanks in part to the photographs juxtaposing stalks of wheat in the foreground and the Twin Towers in the background. Alongside these photos, Art in the Open reveals some documents that led to the 1982 installation, including invitations made from paper and wheat.

Art in the Open

Easily one of the famous public artworks in New York or any city in the last fifty years is Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates, which took over the paths of Central Park in February 2005. Like Wheatfield, I did not see the saffron-colored torii in person, but like that earlier artwork The Gates was documented thoroughly – enough that no less than three books were published on the project.

This last fact made me take a closer look at the artworks displayed in the corridor’s timeline, only to realize that many of them are subjects of books: Rachel Whiteread’s Water Tower, Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, and the MTA Arts for Transit program, among others. Especially when it’s temporary, public art must make a great subject for a book – a memento of a sculpture, event or some other display of art in the public realm. If only MCNY would have made a book documenting the artworks they put on display – a venue for adding some depth to the otherwise brief presentations – Art in the Open would be even better.

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A Library Lined with Books

Recently MVRDV, with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, completed the Tianjin Binhai Library, a “cultural center featuring a luminous spherical auditorium around which floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade.”


[All photographs by Ossip van Duivenbode]

As should be clear in just a quick glance, the sphere and cascade are bringing the library a fair amount of attention on the internet. As described by MVRDV, “The undulating bookshelf is the building’s main spatial device, and is used both to frame the space and to create stairs, seating, the layered ceiling and even louvers on the façade.”

MVRDV’s Winy Maas calls this space “cave-like, a continuous bookshelf” and “a new urban living room.” Furthermore, “The bookshelves are great spaces to sit and at the same time allow for access to the upper floors. The angles and curves are meant to stimulate different uses of the space, such as reading, walking, meeting and discussing.”

Here, I’m zooming into the above photo to point out a couple things:

First, as might be obvious even from a distance, most of the books on the “continuous bookshelf” are images of books, not actual books. The difference between the two is clear in this close-up: the real books have library stickers at the base of each spine, while the book-images don’t have that detail. Also, the latter looks flat in comparison. Ironically, if all of the real books went away, the cascade of books would still look full, since the book-images serve as a backdrop in the shelves with real books.

Second, and the main point of this post, is a question: is it a good idea to store books on the same surface that people walk upon? Although the person above is standing in an area where the books are only an image (due, I’m guessing, to the grilles at that level), the shelf below is clearly accessible; as are others above and below. With the photos portraying the building in its brand-new state, this doesn’t appear to be an issue. But over time, as more and more people go to the Tianjin Binhai Library “to see and be seen,” in Maas’s words, the books will accumulate dirt from people walking by them. I hope the maintenance crew is up to the task.

That said, I love the idea of a central public space surrounded by books and knowledge – even if most of that knowledge is superficial image rather than text.

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Book Review: Obra Architects Logic

Obra Architects Logic: Selected Projects, 2003 – 2016 by Jennifer Lee, Pablo Castro
B Architecture Publisher, 2016
Distributed by Idea Books
Hardcover, 416 pages

Like many others, I’m guessing, I first heard about Obra Architects, the duo of Jennifer Lee and Pablo Castro, in 2006, when they won MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program (YAP) and realized BEATFUSE! in the museum’s Long Island City courtyard. Writing about it that summer (without having seen it in person, unfortunately), I described the wood and mesh construction as “more substantial coverage” than previous YAP installations and “a happy medium” between more open structures and blobby forms, the two evident poles at the time. More than other YAP winners before and since, Obra took the shade consideration of the competition to heart and produced something that actually looks like a respite from the summer heat.


[BEATFUSE!, Long Island City, Queens, NY | Spread from Obra Architects Logic]

Close to ten years later I got reacquainted with the work of Castro and Lee when they contributed Casa Osa in Costa Rica as a Building of the Week (BotW) at World-Architects. After two years of doing state-by-state BotWs, I opened up the feature outside of the US for 2015, highlighting American firms producing buildings overseas. Casa Osa was the first in that series and a promising start. The New York-based architects exploited the benign climate of Costa Rica by designing the vacation home with outdoor living spaces covered with generous roofs and connected by exterior walkways. Only the bedrooms, bathrooms, and a few other spaces are enclosed.


[Casa Osa, Cerro Osa, Costa Rica | Spread from Obra Architects Logic]

Obra was one of the many firms included in OfficeUS, the exhibition in the US Pavilion during the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale (yes, the one curated by Rem Koolhaas), which prompted me to expand the scope of the 2015 BotW. Although US firms working overseas seems like a recipe for corporate offices like SOM and KPF, Obra fits right in for a couple reasons: young firms today are adept at working across physical boundaries, and the duo has roots that stretch well beyond the United States. Casa Osa is one example of Obra working overseas, but almost all of the selected projects in Obra Architects Logic are located outside of the US: Argentina, China, Costa Rica, Italy, and South Africa.


[SanHe Kindergarten, Beijing, China | Spread from Obra Architects Logic]

Nine projects – a handful of them built or under construction – are featured in Obra Architects Logic. Just like their design for the SanHe Kindergarten is arranged in triads, the nine projects are separated into three groups of three, accompanied by three essays (by Peter Lynch, Nader Tehrani, and Jean Louis Cohen) plus an interview with Zhou Yi and an essay by Castro. With a linen cover, heavyweight off-white paper, and a simple design of words and images, the book is a handsome object that elevates the importance of the images, be they photographs, drawings, watercolors, or scans from Obra’s sketchbooks. Thankfully the words that accompany them are intelligent, insightful, and a necessary part of a lovely monograph.


[Acoli nuovissimo, Ascoli Piceno, Italy | Spread from Obra Architects Logic]

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Me, Talking Skyscrapers

Last month I spoke at the Skyscraper Museum about one of my recently published books, How to Build a Skyscraper. For those who couldn’t make it, below is a video of the talk.

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Today’s archidose #986: PJ Edition

Today is the #saveatt protest over Snøhetta’s plans to disfigure Philip Johnson’s iconic AT&T Building. Before heading there to observe and maybe partake, I raided my Flickr pool (as well as photos of people I follow and my own photos) to collect images of other Philip Johnson buildings. So here’s a smattering of 18 buildings presented in chronological order. Mouseover or click photos for information on the photographers.

Johnson House, Cambridge, MA, 1943:
DSCN1090

Glass House and Brick House, New Canaan, CT, 1949:
Dots Obsession

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 1953:
MoMA

Roofless Church, New Harmony, IN, 1960:
Roofless Church

Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, 1963:
Philip Johnson-WASHINGTON-The Pre-Columbian Collection Pavilion-Dumbarton Oaks-1963

New York State Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair in Queens, NY, 1964:
nyc - world's fair grounds 1

Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC, 1967:
Kreeger Museum

Albert and Vera List Art Building at Brown University, Providence, RI, 1971:
List Art Building

Hagop Kervorkian Center at NYU, New York, NY, 1972:
nyc - summer 2013 misc buildings 9

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at NYU, New York, NY, 1973:
nyc - bobst library 2

Thanks-Giving Square, Dallas, TX, 1976:
Philip Johnson, Thanks-Giving Square, Dallas, 1976

Fort Worth Water Gardens, Fort Worth, TX, 1974:
Forth Worth

Study (Glass House), New Canaan, CT, 1980:
Philip Johnson's Studio

Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, CA, 1980:
"Crystal Cathdral - los Angeles, CA - Architect Philip Johnson"

Republic Bank Center (now Bank of America Center), Houston, TX, 1983:
American Gothic

PPG Place, Pittsburgh, 1984:
glass castle.

Da Monsta (Glass House), New Canaan, CT, 1994:
Philip Johnson's Da Monsta

Gate of Europe, Madrid, 1996:
torres KIO, Madrid

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:

:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool

To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:

:: Tag your photos #archidose

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