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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Piu Kapoor

Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate has received nearly unanimous praise since it was unveiled for Millennium Park's opening this summer. For those curious about the artist and his other works, the Galleria Massimo Minini in Brescia, Italy is hosting a one-man show on Kapoor.

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The image above shows an installation made especially for the show, similar to Cloud Gate in its large size and the viewer being able to walk under the sculpture. Each piece also affects the viewer's perception of their surroundings as they move around and under it. Looking at the image of the large artwork in Italy, it is refreshing to think that Chicago has received a sculpture that is specific to its location - the skin reflecting and warping its context and the sky - something that might not be as effective elsewhere. Kapoor's ability to find an appropriate expression for each installation's context makes him a very important artist today.

For those able to make it to Italy, Kapoor's one-man show runs until December 23.

Events Galore

A few end-of-week events in Chicago of note:
Sustainable Communities: Learning from the Dutch Experience, highlighting "highlight innovations in green design; environmental safety; public policy; economic incentives in building sustainable communities; architecture and design." Speakers include Aaron Betsky (NAI) and Nathalie de Vries (MVRDV), though Ben Van Berkel (UN Studio) has cancelled. The symposium is taking place today and tomorrow at the HUB-Center of IIT at 3241 South Federal.

Designight 04, AIA Chicago's "festive evening celebrating architecture and the 49th Annual Design Excellence Awards" for AIA Chicago members. Festivities are in the Grand Ballroom of Navy Pier with special guest speaker Aaron Betsky making his rounds while in town. I will post news on the winners early next week after they are made public.

And if you're not affiliated with the AIA, check out:

Between Past and Future: New Photography and Video from China, opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art Friday for members and Saturday for the public. "This major traveling exhibition provides the first comprehensive, interpretive examination of contemporary photography from China produced since the mid-1990s."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

ArchiRaid

Browsing through the News section over at Archinect, I came across these links of interest:
Let It Be, Philip Nobel's critique of the four High Line finalists, from Metropolis Magazine. Nobel's stance that architects rely too much on buildings, even though they have created a situation where they have responsibility for everything from "the spoon to the skyscraper", is reinforced by three of the four finalists' entries, one being the winner. He argues that in this case the appropriate solution should have valued landscape over building, as in the TerraGRAM entry.

Built to thrill (classic) and Built to thrill (new), travel suggestions for the architourist. Capitalizing on a renewed interest in architecture, much like Time magazine's Great Buildings of the World, Budget Travel magazine picks twelve buildings in each category, all obvious to architects and students of architecture, but many new or unknown for the general public. Not surprisingly, all the names in the new section (outside perhaps Taniguchi) are big: Calatrava, Gehry, Libeskind, Hadid, Foster, Piano, Herzog & De Meuron; or at least they're getting big as their designs push public architecture in new and interesting directions. Of the 24 structures, I've yet to visit only eight of them (four in each section), though given the chance to catch up I would opt for visiting ones on the classic list over the new, particularly Park Guell, Fallingwater, and Mesa Verde.

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Open access vs. donors' influence, an article in the Christian Science Monitor about the private money in the public Millennium Park. As public space in the US is becoming more and more privatized, the actual definition of "park" is changing, as is the role of public bodies in the creation and upkeep of parks. Witness not only the design of Millennium Park and its various features named after donors (Pritzker Pavilion, BP Bridge, SBC Plaza) but more importantly the closing of the Park to the public a week after its opening for a donor party. While no similar closing is anticipated in the future, it's clear that it could happen. Makes me wonder if a truly "public space" should ever be closed to the public, or is a new hybrid public/private space created?

The Price of Viewing Art

The Museum of Modern Art recently announced that admission to its downtown location, to be reopened on November 20, will be a whopping $20 (an increase of eight dollars over its current admission price), making it the most expensive art museum in the country. Citing higher insurance and security costs, decreased tourism since September 11, higher employee salaries, and costs related to its expansion, most likely the cost increase will work, at least for a while, with Yoshio Taniguchi's addition the star of its reopening. Also, MOMA's yearly membership will become more enticing ($75 individual and $150 family) since admission would be free for members. And, as the New York Times points out, the expansion will allow more of MOMA's collection to be displayed, making a day at the museum more worthwhile.

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In comparison with other museums:
$20 - MOMA, New York (flat fee, free on Friday evenings)

$12 - Art Institute of Chicago (suggested admission, free on Tuesdays)

$12 - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (suggested admission)

$10 - MCA, Chicago (free on Tuesdays)

$0 - Tate Gallery, London (admission fee added for special exhibitions)

$0 - J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles ($5 fee per car for parking)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Genius Carpenter

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, today announced that James Carpenter is the recipient of one of the 23 MacArthur Fellowships this year. Carpenter, "an artist and sculptor with a strong background in developing new and emerging glass and material technologies," will receive $500,000 in five equal installments over the next five years, to do with whatever he pleases, no questions asked, one of the perks of winning the prestigious award.

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Monday, September 27, 2004

Sickening Sprawl

Today, the Chicago Sun-Times reports that, "Suburban sprawl [is] sickening". While this may not come as a surprise to many readers, a study by Rand Corp. found that, "people in high-sprawl regions have more health problems such as diabetes, breathing difficulties, migraine headaches and high blood pressure...[and] that living in a high-sprawl area has the equivalent effect on your health as aging four years."

While the study does not determine the causes of these results, researchers, "cited an earlier study that found people who live in high-sprawl areas walk less, weigh more and have a higher rate of high blood pressure."

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Additionally, the author of the Sun-Times piece puts his spin on the findings, indicating that Chicago has an above-average "sprawl index",* with areas like Atlanta, Detroit, West Palm Beach and San Bernardino suffering the worst sprawl.

Regardless, Chicago's outer suburbs are sprawling and alternative developments, growth regulations/restrictions, or some other mechanism may need to be enforced to help in what is now being told to the public is a health problem. Hopefully this study will be a slap in the face for developers, the local governments, and other parties who perpetuate sprawl and will be a step towards creating healthy and sustainable communities for those who choose to live outside cities.

*Update 09.28: Chicago's sprawl index, according to the article, is 121.2. A higher number indicates less sprawl than a lower number.

Book Review: Two Atelier Bow-Wow Guides

Made in Tokyo by Junzo Kuroda and Momoya Kaijima
Kajima Institute Publishing Co., 2001
Paperback, 192 pages

Pet Architecture Guide Book by Atelier Bow-Wow and others
World Photo Press, 2002
Paperback, 176 pages



These two books present alternative guides to the built form of Tokyo, different than the typical architecture guides that survey single buildings by known architects. Respectively Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture look at the non-designed yet functional hybrids of the city's current situation and the tiny structures that fill the gaps in the city's fabric. A good example of the former is the highway department store, two floors of retail stretching 500 meters below the expressway in the Ginza district; while a good example of the latter is Coffee Saloon Kimoto, a triangular structure with a capacity of four customers. Each book exhibits a fondness for Tokyo's seemingly chaotic urban fabric, though the authors resist the label of chaos for the city they love. Instead they see these types of buildings as unique to Tokyo, a product of its economics, village fabric and people, perhaps chaotic as a whole, but not when viewed in the framework of these two books. While not your typical guidebooks, they give the reader a new understanding of Tokyo that helps enrich the experience of the city.


Ceramics Park MINO

Ceramics Park MINO in Tajimi, Gifu, Japan by Arata Isozaki, 2002

Japan's ceramic tradition crosses over with many of its other traditions: tea, sake (rice), and food, to name a few. The region around Tajimi - in Gifu Prefecture - is one of the most important for clay and ceramics in the country, particularly in the tea ceremony. Ceramics Park MINO is a facility aiding in extending this traditional craft, as well as a place to view ceramic artwork, attend conventions, and experience nature. Comprising the Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, exhibition and convention spaces, a restaurant, a shop and gallery, an atelier, a tea ceremony house, and an observation tower with nature trails, the Ceramics Park is definitely a destination place, its design by Arata Isozaki befitting its programmatic aspirations and beautiful site.


Access to the Ceramics Park from the parking lot is via a footbridge, its concrete ceiling containing shards of broken pottery, a hint at what awaits but also a gesture full of religious and other symbolic connotations. At the end of the long walkway, one reaches the large roof plaza. The visitor is perched above the Museum and the other uses, two light boxes hinting at what lies beneath. Views to the water below and the articulated south facade of the galleries draws one to the main entry (left of the picture at left).


While the roof plaza is a generous space, it is the Cascade plaza that is the heart of the whole composition. Tying together the four levels of the Ceramics Park, the plaza uses stairs to connect the different levels as water trickles down sloping walls to pools lined with different color stone slabs that mimic the variety of clays found in the region. The vertical surfaces that define the plaza vary from light to dark, the former facing south to illuminate that space, while the latter has a variety of treatments, including the ubiquitous tile as well as a waffle-like grid of open cells.


If the Cascade plaza is the heart of the Ceramics Park, then the tea ceremony house is its stomach, the Japanese equivalent of the Western heart. Isozaki restrains himself and creates a traditionally-styled pavilion opposite the rest of the complex. Views towards the teahouse are important, with a dramatic backdrop of trees and other greenery climbing the hillside behind it. In the teahouse, the arts and crafts of the Ceramics Park are put to use, fusing with the tradition of the tea ceremony. Here, two Japanese traditions reverberate together in a beautiful setting that is a perfect synthesis of old and new.




Sunday, September 26, 2004

The First Insurrection

Invisible Insurrection, The Magazine of Speculative Nonfiction, recently launched its first issue, Architecture, Technology & Surveillance After 9-11. Various articles are available in .html format, with the whole issue available as a PDF.

For editors Karrie Higgins and Alan Murdock, "speculative art & writing is contemplative in nature. It speculates about possibilities and imagines the unimaginable...takes risks in content [and/]or form...pushes boundaries and raises questions...[and]steps outside the purely personal and ventures into science, news, history, and other fields."

Future issues include The Stilletto in Her Back: Women Oppressing Women and Bankrupt. Anybody is welcome to submit articles, photos, videos, etc.

Friday, September 24, 2004

70 Years Later

Yesterday saw the opening of the Chicago Architecture Foundation's exhibit, A Century of Progress: Architecture and Chicago's 1933-34 World's Fair, on view until November 21. "Architectural renderings, souvenirs, and never-before-seen photographs recall" the typically overlooked of the two Chicago Fairs, the 1893 Columbian Exposition taking precedence in people's minds and history books.

From the press release:
Even though the city’s economy suffered during the Great Depression, Chicago’s leaders decided to celebrate the city’s centennial year by building a colossal World’s Fair to be designed by some of the country’s most prominent architects. The exposition highlighted the scientific, industrial and technological advances that had occurred during the last hundred years, including many avant-garde ideas in architectural design. This exhibition, presented in partnership with the Chicago Park District, looks at the Century of Progress’s historical legacy and shows how the design innovations it presented played a major role in popularizing modern design in Chicago.

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

All About Parks

This month's Project for Public Spaces newsletter is dedicated to parks, the good, the bad and the in-between. Features include:
The World's Best and Worst Parks
It appears that one variable that makes a park great is time, as the worst parks and squares tend to be newer than the greats, needing time to evolve and hopefully grow as public spaces.

Five Parks that Need a Turnaround
Including Pershing Square in Los Angeles, designed by Ricardo Legoretta with his trademark splashes of color and water. Having stayed at a hotel next door, I was witness to the complete lack of use of the park, outside of the skating rink(!), that is.

Town Square
Jay Walljasper's review of Millennium Park in Chicago (with photos by yours truly), which rightly points out that the continued success of the park will be attributed to its public spaces rather than the architectural and artistic objects within the park.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Game of the Moment

Prestel has released The New York Architecture Game, billed as a winning combination of fun and learning.

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"Conceived by the world-renowned game designer Thomas Fackler, The Prestel New York Architecture Game challenges players as it explores the architectural feats that went into constructing twenty-four New York City landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim Museum, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Brooklyn Bridge...this game will give even the most jaded New Yorkers a new reason to fall in love with the world's most exciting city."

Motels on Lincoln

On WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight, Ed Keegan takes the listener on a tour of Lincoln Avenue Motels (Real Audio link), finding merit in their architecture, signage and urban design, and arguing the City of Chicago shouldn't target them for demolition.

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Built at a time when the main automobile access to the city from the north was Lincoln Avenue, these motels are very appealing to me, and many other people, relics from a different era (the 1950's), but also interesting pieces of design at the varying scales that Keegan talks about.

Back Home

Got back home from Japan last night, so posts should resume regularly starting today/tomorrow, perhaps including a story or two from overseas.

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Window seat view over Alaska

Sunday, September 19, 2004

More Japan Pics

More photos from Japan, this time from a road trip to Kyoto, Nara, Toyama and other areas west of Tokyo.

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Shinmei-gu Shrine near Matsumoto

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Horyuji Temple in Nara

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Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto

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Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto

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A portion of Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel, at the Meiji-Mura Village Museum

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Church of the Light by Tadao Ando

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Inami Woodcarving Museum by Peter Salter

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Mountain Pavilion near Kamiichi by Peter Salter

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Ceramics Park MINO by Arata Isozaki

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Glass Temple near Kyoto by Takashi Yamaguchi

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Japan Pics

A bunch of images from my visit to Japan so far.

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The Great Buddha in Kamakura

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Meiji Jingu Shrine

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The "Golden Gai" area of Shinjuku in Tokyo

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Shinjuku at night

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Tadao Ando's La Collezione

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Toyo Ito's Tower of Winds

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Yoshio Taniguchi's Gallery of Horyu-ji Treasures

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Jun Aoki's Louis Vuitton store

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Kazuyo Sejima's Christian Dior store

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FOA's International Ferry Terminal in Yokohama

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One Omotesando

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Klein Dytham's Undercover Lab

Monday, September 06, 2004

Overseas

During my trip to Tokyo, posts will be occasional to rare for the next two weeks, though I will try my best to post some images while in Japan. Regular posts will resume upon my return.

Ginza at night

Book Review: Japanese Architecture as a Collaborative Process

Japanese Architecture as a Collaborative Process: Opportunities in a flexible construction culture by Dana Buntrock
Taylor & Francis, 2002
Paperback, 208 pages



Dana Buntrock, assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, sets her book apart from others by approaching the subject of Japanese architecture from an American perspective that focuses on the process rather than the product. She gives a brief historical overview of Japanese building and construction, illustrating the changes and consistency since the country's evolving westernization since the late 19th century, while also comparing and contrasting education in Japan and the United States. The majority of the book looks at architectural practice today, the most fascinating parts devoted to case studies on buildings like Toyo Ito's Mediatheque in Sendai, where we see more immediately the effects of the process - the resolution of a crisis without blame or finger-pointing is a good example of the differences in collaboration between here and there. Ultimately the author sees the increasing westernization of Japanese construction as a crisis in its own right, but in a way where the high level of craft can be retained if countries like the United States learn from Japan and its methods. As more Japanese architects build overseas and foreign architects attempt to penetrate Japan's shell, mutations will form that will hopefully use the best that all parties have to offer.


Mawson Lakes School

Mawson Lakes School in Mawson Lakes, Australia by Russell & Yelland Architects, 2004

The following images and text are courtesy Russell & Yelland Architects for their award-winning Mawson Lakes School, in association with Guida Moseley Brown Architects. Photographs are by John Gollings and Steve Rendoulis.

In its close proximity to the University of South Australia, Technology Park and new accommodation for the elderly, lifelong learning was considered in new and flexible ways in the design of Mawson Lakes School. Stage 1 of the school caters for ages 3-13 and was part of a much wider exploration of learning in the 21st century. The architects consulted over 40 individuals and groups before design commenced.


The site area is less than half of most comparable schools. The school shares open space with community facilities and creates an urban edge facing the town center, while fingers of landscaping connect the school’s courtyards to its open space and the Dry Creek reserve to the west. A north-south spine connects four ‘Family Units’ for 110 students, each opening directly to its own courtyard to the north and having distinct windows and bays to the Garden Terrace footpath.

The linear arrangement of the "Family Units" along the Garden Terrace frontage offers a sculpted form to the school. Two other buildings are positioned in counterpoint, establishing an urban entry at the north and formalising a plaza area within the landscape.


The building forms are purposefully simple and related, reacting to the functions of the family groups and to the use of natural daylight (with solar control), and to the use of natural ventilation. The single storey spaces are given additional presence through the height of their pitched roof on a street which has three-storey buildings opposite. Their identity is further developed by the dramatic character of the solar and thermal chimneys.

The variations of the planning alignment along the street edge, together with the varying courtyard screen materials and "Family Unit" window configurations create a unique experience for the pedestrian. One courtyard wall is punctured by a large fibreglass box, the "school greenhouse", at the terminus of the University axis, linking the otherwise free assembly of buildings to the formality of the town plan.


The administration building faces the plaza and is easily visible and accessible to parents and the community, as well as allowing observation of arrivals to the school. The Canteen and Activity Room are centrally located and open visually and physically to the spine, the courtyards and the school’s open space.

All of the buildings are designed to Ecologically Sustainable Design principles by incorporating natural ventilation, assisted by "thermal chimneys" to ensure a managed supply of fresh air with supplementary heating and cooling using ducted conditioned air. The design detailing exposes the structure and materials, where appropriate, as elements of the learning program, and students can monitor and alter the environment conditions as part of the curriculum.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Book of the Moment

September 7 sees the release of Art Spiegelman's first book since his Pulitzer-prize winner Maus about 15 years ago. In the Shadow of No Towers finds Spiegelman graphically describing, "the unfathomable enormity of the event itself, the obvious and insidious effects it had on his life, and the extraordinary, often hidden changes that have been enacted in the name of post-9/11 national security and that have begun to undermine the very foundation of American democracy."

No Towers Cover

Portions of the new book can be found in McSweeney's Issue 13, and have appropriately been run in the Chicago Reader, since the book's format echoes early newspapers, according to the publisher. If No Towers follows the precedent of Maus, it should a moving illustration of how one man coped with tragedy while also resonating with the reader.