Monday, September 22, 2014

Walking the High Line

The third and last phase of the High Line opened to the public yesterday, so today I walked the full length of it, from 34th Street on the north to Gansevoort Street on the south. On my visit I decided to try out a timelapse app on my smartphone, and while the results are very amateurish (particularly the 5-degree tilt from horizontal that predominates, not to mention the occasional blurry shots and a close-up of my fingers at one point) the 2:46 clip does give a good idea of the changing character of the park and its context.

Want a soundtrack for the walk? I'd recommend a 3-minute chunk of Yo La Tengo's Autumn Sweater, as remixed by Kevin Shields. The song is embedded below and set to play the recommended part. Just press play on the song right after you press play on the timelapse and enjoy.

Any other songs or pieces of music ideal for a walking the High Line? Please comment with suggestions.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Today's archidose #783

Here are some photos of the Juvet Landscape Hotel (2009, with 2013 addition) in Norddal, Norway, by Jensen & Skodvin, photographed by Flemming Ibsen.

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Archtober (ärk’tōbər)

Archtober – AIANY's moniker for Architecture and Design Month in October – is nearly upon us. To help in determining where to go and what to see, I've waded through 31 days of lectures/conferences, exhibitions, special events, and buildings of the day to offer my top three recommendations in each area. Even between the printed schedule, below, and the online schedule, there were considerable changes, so it's recommended the you check the Archtober calendar and/or the respective websites for confirmed day/times, and in some cases to register or buy tickets. Happy Archtober!

[Archtober calendar | Photo by John Hill]


Dwell on Design
Archtober 9-11
82 Mercer Street

One of the highlights of Dwell magazine's first East Coast show are the 20 installations created by local designers paired up with manufacturers.

OHNY Weekend
Archtober 11 and 12
Various locations throughout NYC

The full list of sites will be released on September 30, with reservations for certain sites and tours available at starting at 11am on October 1.

Architecture and Design Film Festival
Archtober 15-19
Tribeca Cinemas

Highlights in ADFF's sixth season include Wim Wenders's Cathedral of Culture series (3d documentary films by Wenders and other directors) and the world premier of Gray Matters (pictured), a film about Eileen Gray.


Sagrada Família - Gaudí's Unfinished Masterpiece: Geometry, Construction and Site
Throughout Archtober
Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York

City College will also be hosting seven lectures throughout Archtober and November on Gaudí's masterpiece; see the school's website for dates and more information. 

New York New Design
Opening Archtober 9
West 4th Street Subway Station

What better place to see the recent work of AIANY architects than in a crowded subway concourse?

Weltstadt – Who Creates the City?
Archtober 1-19
Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building

"The Weltstadt exhibition explores urban participation and the future of cities in light of challenges such as climate change, migration, and social polarization and presents recent initiatives from Bangalore, Belgrade, Curitiba, Dakar, Johannesburg, Lisbon, Madrid, New York, Porto Alegre, Riga, Salvador, São Paulo, Seoul, Toulouse, Turin, and Ulan Bator."


Guggenheim Helsinki Competition: Designing a Museum of the Future
Wednesday, Archtober 15 at 6pm
(Location details and link with further information on the panel discussion are still to come.)

Michael Kimmelman and Annabelle Selldorf in Conversation
Thursday, Archtober 16 at 6:30 PM
Higgins Hall Auditorium, Pratt Institute

2014 MAS Summit for New York City
Archtober 23 and 24

(Visit the Archtober website for registration/tickets.)

Kickstarter, Ole Sondresen
Archtober 7
58 Kent Street, Brooklyn

Glen Oaks Branch Library, Marble Fairbanks
Archtober 11
256-04 Union Turnpike, Queens

Wieden+Kennedy, WORKac
Archtober 14
150 Varick Street


Critical Halloween: On I-Relevance
October 31
Organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture
Location TBD

Thursday, September 18, 2014

MTA's Contempo-Paley

50th Street Commons
[50th Street Commons | Photograph by John Hill]

On the way home yesterday I walked along East 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues to check out Manhattan's newest pocket park, the 50th Street Commons. Opened by the MTA yesterday, the park is a public space that is part of a larger project, a ventilation facility serving the East Side Access project, which will bring LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal when it's completed in 2022. Yes, 2022.

The small park includes planting beds on the sides, striped paving and some loose tables and chairs in the middle, and a water wall illuminated by changing colored lights at the back of the shallow space. Doors to the ventilation facility can be found in two places: cut into the curved planter bed on the right, as seen in the above photo, and in the back left corner. My first thought upon seeing the park yesterday was that the designers at MTA are giving Midtown a contemporary update of the famous Paley Park.

Paley Park
[Paley Park | Photograph by John Hill]

The similarities between the spaces are many: Each is a small pocket park; each has a water feature at its back wall; each has loose tables and chairs; each has some trees; and each has gates that lock the space at night. But the details are what make the 50th Street Commons pale in comparison. Respective to the above list, they are: Paley is a deeper space; Paley's water wall is more substantial and not capped by ventilation grilles; the chairs at 50th Street are crowded into the pinched space and the tables are too high compared to Paley; Paley's trees occupy the middle of the space, not just the edges, layering the space and creating some intimacy; and Paley's gate does not have a large overhead frame (unlike the one at 50th Street just visible in the top photo). The details of Paley result in a comfortable space that is a respite from the street, while the details of 50th Street Commons result in an uncomfortable space where people are on display.

50th Street Commons
[50th Street Commons | Photograph by John Hill]

Is comparing the MTA's "gift" to Midtown with one of the area's – if not the city's – best outdoor spaces unfiar? Perhaps, but given the similarities it appears that Paley Park was a large, and suitable, influence on the designers. Too bad they didn't learn better from what Paley offers. At the very least, I'm hoping in five years time the trees will soften 50th Street's rough edges and make the space more inviting. That won't turn it into another Paley, but it will help.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

MAS Context X Luftwerk X Marina City

[Photograph by David Schalliol]

Shortly after posting my latest "Book Brief" with a recent issue of MAS Context, editor Iker Gil notified me about a site-specific video and light installation that took place last month on the rooftop of the west tower of Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City. I had heard about Luftwerk's installation beforehand, but I had not seen any thorough documentation of the one-night event until these photos and video grabbed from a post at MAS Context.

[Best watched with sound on]

For those who like this kind of engagement of art, light, and architecture, be sure to check out the rest of Luftwerk's projects, many of which have taken place on other well known buildings, such as Robie House and Fallingwater.

[Photograph by David Schalliol]

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Briefs #20

"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 my daily or weekly pages.

1: Homecoming: Contextualizing, Materializing, and Practicing the Rural in China edited by Joshua Bolchover, Christiane Lange, John Lin | Gestalten | 2013 | Amazon
Based on a symposium of the same name at the University of Hong Kong in April 2012, Homecoming is a refreshing counterpoint to all of the attention given to China's urban building boom, which takes the form of large yet innovative housing projects by the likes of Steven Holl, but more often is symbolized by bland and monotonous, tightly packed towers. The movement of large numbers of Chinese from the country to the city makes the former ripe for some investigation, which the 15 contributors do here in the three sections noted in the book's subtitle; my favorite are the many great projects in the "materializing the rural" section. A debate between the editors and some of the contributors at the end of the book tackles the notions of urban/rural and what can or should be done with the latter.

2: MAS Context 21: Repetition edited by Iker Gil | MAS Context | Spring 2014
Chicago's quarterly journal MAS Context produces yet another XL issue with #21 on the theme "repetition"; their earlier Narrative issue, guest edited by Klaus, also clocks in at about twice as many pages as the norm. The Xerox stamp on the cover points to one interpretation of the theme, but with 18 contributions there is plenty of different approaches. The issue includes an excerpt from Bianca Bosker's book Original Copies, on "architectural mimicry" in China; Patrick Sykes's exploration of digital printing in a grotto-like creation; Livia Corona Benjamin's photographic essay on Mexico's cookie-cutter two-million home program; Camilo José Vergara's "Harlem Time Tracker," on the changes to this section of Manhattan since the 1970s; and Iker Gil speaks with astronaut Claude Nicollier about the simulation and repetition necessary in spaceflight. In addition to the eclectic and visually rich contributions, the most outstanding aspect of the issue is that each contributor was paired with a Chicago-based designer who determined the page layout, font, colors, and other design features. These pairings turn each piece into a bespoke creation belying the monotony normally considered with repetition.

3: L.A. [Ten]: Interviews on Los Angeles Architecture 1970s-1990s with Stephen Phillips | Lars Müller Publishers | 2014 | Amazon
Curators, historians and the media like to group architects together as a means of expressing a trend, or perhaps to argue for a particular approach. Most famous is definitely the New York Five (Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk and Richard Meier), but as even a rudimentary analysis of these architects reveals that Graves jumped to Postmodern historicism and John Hejduk was an architect that couldn't fit easily alongside others. In other words, architectural groups like this often don't work. The so-called L.A. Ten, "a loosely affiliated cadre of architects" in Southern California in the 1980s, is a case in point. Any formal similarities between Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, Frank Israel, Neil Denari, and the rest were thin. But the network of architects, educators, and schools was important, as the lengthy interviews in this book make clear. Held by Stephen Phillips and students from Cal Poly, the interviews take a roughly chronological approach in recapping each architect's education, production, and relationships in the decades indicated by the book's subtitle. Fascinating at times, the book suffers from minimal editing; even though the full interviews are necessary for an oral history, shorter versions would have sufficed for a book available to the public.

4: Natural Architecture Now: New Projects from Outside the Boundaries of Design by Francesca Tatarella | Princeton Architectural Press | 2014 | Amazon
The cover of the first Natural Architecture book, published in 2007, features the amazing "stick work" of Patrick Dougherty, who received his own book treatment from the folks at PAPress a few years later. In this second title from Milan's 22 Publishing, the cover is given over to one of the Starn brothers' impressive Big Bambu installations. In both cases the cover indicates that the contents are as much art as architecture, a fact that does not reduce the potential influence of the projects that explore how materials like wood and bamboo are manipulated to create constructions that at the very least appear natural. The architects and artists here are less concerned with creating structures that are integrated into nature in terms of process (a house that is grown from the soil or trees, for example) than they are with form. This means that the selection ends up being fairly consistent regardless of who designed and built the pieces, where they're located, and what they're used for.

5: Team 10 East: Revisionist Architecture in Real Existing Modernism edited by Łukasz Stanek | Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw | 2014 | AmazonTeam 10, which supplanted CIAM in 1959, was made up of a core of architects from Great Britan, The Netherlands, France, Italy, and Greece, but nobody from Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, participating architects (outside the core) did come from Czechoslavakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Yogoslavia, thereby influencing the Team 10 discourse to a certain degree. Key among these participants was Polish architect Oscar Hansen, who was Stanek's inspiration for a conference and workshop held at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2013. "Team 10 East," as in the title of the workshop and companion book, refers to the original Team 10, but it is a fictitious entity; or as Stanek puts it in his introduction with Dirk van den Heuvel: "Rather than being a retroactive manifesto, Team 10 East is a generative conceptual tool that grasps at an understanding of what was shared by these fellow travelers of Team 10." This understanding comes from five long essays interspersed with seven shorter ones in the handsome book whose size reminds me of a Readers Digest – with nicer paper, design and illustrations.

6: Shadow and Light: Tadao Ando and the Clark by Clark Art Institute | Yale University Press | 2014 | Amazon
The year 2014 marks the end of a major masterplan for the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute (aka The Clark) consisting of two new buildings by Tadao Ando, interior renovations by Annabelle Selldorf, and reconfigured landscapes by Reed Hilderbrand. This slim book celebrates the contributions of Japanese architect Ando, who started with the 2008 Stone Hill Center (which has its own book) and saw the completion of a visitor center this year. The latter was completed in July, and given that the book was ready for opening day, the photos by Richard Pare that document the building tend to be at the level of the detail rather than general views; rendering serve the latter, as do they for to express what is going on with the landscapes around the buildings. Given that The Clark is all about looking at art surrounded by nature, the relationship between the architecture and the landscape is of the utmost importance for Ando. While it may not come across so strongly in the photos, Michael Webb's essay does a good job of conveying this idea.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Book Review: Furniture by Architects

Furniture by Architects edited by Driss Faith
Images Publishing Group, 2013
Hardcover, 208 pages

The appeal of furniture for architects – both as something to use to improve a space and something to tackle as a design problem – is undeniable. But it's also been said (by Mies van der Rohe, most famously) that designing a chair is much more difficult than designing a building. Perhaps that is why architects have created so few masterpieces of furniture, especially when compared to their raison d'etre of buildings. Sure, in the former camp, the Barcelona chair by Mies comes to mind, as does Marcel Breuer's Wassily chair and Eero Saarinen's Womb chair, but the hits are few. Still, this does not stop architects from trying, especially if they have an enlightened client who is willing to pay for an architect's experimentation with furnishings, experiments that can move from the custom realm to mass production. This book collects over 80 pieces of furniture by contemporary architects, a collection that runs the gamut in terms of who, what, why and where.

[UNStudio's MYchair Lounge]

Before delving into more words about the book, I'll admit that I'm a sucker for the idea of architects designing furniture; I wrote a piece for World-Architects that surveys the designs produced by W-A member firms, such as UNStudio's MYchair Lounge (also included in the book reviewed here), and I even own a catalog on a 1980s Whitney exhibition of furniture by American architects. Like the Whitney's Shape and Environment book, I was hoping for an overview that also put today's architect-designed furniture in context. Instead, this book from Images Publishing Group is basically a catalog of products, more marketing than insightful commentary, pulling text from architects alongside photos of the pieces. Thankfully, most of the photos show the furniture in context, and only occasionally floating on a white background.

[SLHO and Associates' Modular Outdoor Furniture]

If you are looking for a source with numerous furniture designs, unlike me, then this book will do the trick. As I mentioned, it includes a wide variety of furnishing – different authors (who), different types (what), different approaches to design (why), and different contexts (where) – with names that range from the famous (Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, UNStudio) to the less-so (FINNE Architects, Griffin Enright, and Saaj Design have some of the most pieces in the book).

Aside from highlighting a wide variety of primarily good furniture designs, the book could have been improved in terms of organization and cross-referencing. Even though "architects" is in the title of the book, the furnishings are arranged alphabetically by name, an odd tactic considering how arbitrary these names can be and how this disperses an architect's pieces throughout the book. An index of architects is given at the back with simply the page numbers where their furnishings appear, but it's too little, especially when their creations could have been cross referenced, as could have similar types of furnishings (chairs, benches, dining room tables, light fixtures, etc.). Instead each piece floats in a vacuum, making the book a catalog without prices when it could have been so much more.

Purchase at Amazon: Buy from

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall Architectural Walking Tours

The weather is beautiful in New York City in the fall, a great time to see the city on some architectural walking tours. Below are descriptions and dates of the tours I'm giving through the 92Y. Click on the links to purchase tickets.

Saturday, September 20 at 11am
Saturday, October 25 at 11am
Columbus Circle and Lincoln Square
Look at and go inside some recent buildings in the West 50s and 60s, from the Hearst Tower and the transformation of Lincoln Center to the Apple Store.
New Sod

Saturday, September 27 at 11am
The High Line and Its Environs
Trek the High Line – Phase 3 opening on September 21! – taking in the park and the surrounding buildings and step off to get a closer look at select buildings.
High Line Section 2

Saturday, October 18 at 11am
Architectural Walking Tour of Brooklyn via the G Train
Hop on and off the G train from Carroll Gardens to Clinton Hill and Williamsburg, taking in townhouses, campus facilities and other buildings along the way.

Today's archidose #782

Here are some photos of Metropolis (2006) in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Future Systems with Danielsen Architecture, photographed by Ximo Michavila.

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #1

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #7

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #8

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #9

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #4

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #3

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #6

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #2

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Today's archidose #781

Here are some of my photos of 35XV, a building designed by FXFOWLE Architects now under construction on West 15th Street in New York City.







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