Monday, October 15, 2018

Grimshaw Obscura

A highlight of Queens International 2018: Volumes (QI 2018), now on display at Queens Museum, is Volumes Cyanotype, a 100-foot-long tablecloth that documents a communal meal with the exhibition’s participating artists and which turned the building into a large camera – a camera obscura. I wrote about it for World-Architects.

Also check out the website for QI 2018 (screenshot below). Created by artist Ryan Kuo with Taekeun Kim, the website is structured about the Queens Museum building – built for the 1964 World's Fair, used briefly for the United Nations, and expanded by Grimshaw in 2013.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Today's archidose #1019

Here are some photos of the Castelar Building (1986) in Madrid, Spain, by Rafael de la Hoz & Gerardo Olivares James. (Photographs by Ximo Michavila.)

Rafael de la Hoz & Gerardo Olivares James. Perez - Llorca abogados #1
Rafael de la Hoz & Gerardo Olivares James. Perez - Llorca abogados #2
Rafael de la Hoz & Gerardo Olivares James. Perez - Llorca abogados #3

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Architecture @ Kanopy

Ever since learning about Kanopy back in June, I've been using the free, limited access made available through two libraries – NYPL and Queens Library – to watch primarily documentaries on architecture. If you live in the United States and have a card at a participating library, then you might know already that Kanopy is excellent for watching documentaries of all sorts but also independent films, foreign films, and classic movies. This isn't binge-watching on Netflix; it's expanding one's mind by watching educational, intelligent films on a variety of subjects. Below are 40 architecture films worth watching, organized by film production company.

Checkerboard Film Foundation:

Film First Corp:
  • Helvetica. The first of Gary Hustwit's three-part series on design at different scales. Focused on typography, it's the most removed from architecture but, to me, the most interesting of the trio.
  • Objectified. The second installment looks at industrial design and features just about every important designer from the last 50 years.
  • Urbanized. Hustwit jumps from handheld objects to cities, jetting around the world to see how architects, urban designers, and planners consider this centuries many seemingly insurmountable problems.

First Run Features:
  • Art House: Exploring the Homes of Artists. Although I didn't get to watch this one yet, based on the other First Run Features I'm confident it's well made and worth watching. The houses include Frederick Church's Olana, Paolo Soleri's Cosanti, and George Nakashima's house and studio in Pennsylvania.
  • Concrete Love: The Böhm Architects. As the title hints at, Concrete Love is about a family of architects, not just Pritzker Prize winner Gottfried Böhm. It's an intimate story of a tight-knit family beautifully told. (Image above is a screenshot from the film.)
  • The Oyler House: Richard Neutra's Desert Retreat. Although modest, Richard Neutra's Oyler House in Lone Pine, California, is blessed with a stunning site. Neutra's sons, client Richard Oyler, and new owner Kelly Lynch enrich the story of the house as one about design, family, and preservation.
  • The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. A great film on a project – Pruitt-Igoe public housing in St. Louis, built in 1956 and demolished starting in 1972 – that is the center of a number of myths: of Postmodern architecture and of the failures of public housing.
  • Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island. A relaxing story about the work of architect Todd Saunders on Fogo Island, focusing on the Fogo Island Inn. The client's repetitive if good-natured words on building responsibly on the island got old at times, but they don't detract too much from the charms of the story and the place.
  • Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art. As described in my review of the 2016 documentary, Troublemakers is more an origin story than a comprehensive story of land art. There's plenty about artists Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, and Nancy Holt, as well as Virginia Dwan, the gallerist that gave them their big breaks, but little beyond them. Lots is missing, though there's still lots to learn. 

Michael Blackwood Productions:
  • Beyond Utopia: Changing Attitudes in American Architecture. Most of Michael Blackwood's architecture documentaries were made in the 1980s and 1990s and therefore focus on Postmodern and Deconstructivist architecture. This one dates to 1982 and visits four important architects: Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, and Peter Eisenman
  • Deconstructivist Architects. Thirty years ago, MoMA mounted the Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition, and Blackwood was there to interview Eisenman, Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Bernard Tschumi, and others about the designs shaking up architecture at the time.
  • Frank Gehry: The Formative Years. Seeming to anticipate that Frank Gehry would become the most important architect at the end of the century, Blackwood devoted a one-hour documentary to him in 1988, almost a decade before the Guggenheim Bilbao.
  • Frank Gehry An Architecture of Joy. This documentary on Gehry picks up with the "starchitect" two decades later, following him in Bilbao and Berlin as he talks about Guggenheim Bilbao and builds the DZ Bank Building.
  • Louis Kahn: Silence and Light. Nathaniel Kahn's Oscar-nominated My Architect isn't on Kanopy, but this documentary on the great Louis I. Kahn is – and is worth watching.
  • Peter Eisenman: Making Architecture Move. Blackwood captures Eisenman's personality – arrogant, intellectual, friendly with the right people – as he follows the architect in the US and Germany. Suited best for fans of Eisenman's buildings and words.

Oy Bad Taste LTD:
  • The Koshino House. Of the four documentaries in Finland's Oy Bad Taste's Master Houses series, this is the only one I've watched – so far. The laid-back telling, great cinematography, and thoroughness of this one-hour documentary make me want to watch the rest. Which I'll do once my limited views (a downside of watching Kanopy via libraries) are recharged next month. Accordingly, the descriptions of the other three "master houses" come from Kanopy.
  • Le Cabanon par Le Corbusier. The film "dive[s] into the amazing story of Le Cabanon tracing from the architect's arrival at Cote d'Azur to his final building connected with the Etoile de Mer restaurant, and the fate of the architect in his paradise home."
  • The Melnikov House. This film "tells the incredible story of how this utopian design from the late 1920's in Moscow imprisoned the fate of the architect when Joseph Stalin prohibited modern architecture from the Soviet Union."
  • Villa Mairea. This film "explore[s] how the Villa Mairea is a unique artistic microcosm influenced by international modern architecture and art, Finnish cultural heritage, and Japanese aesthetic tradition."

  • 10 Buildings That Changed America. The first of Geoffrey Baer's ongoing series that also highlights 10 Parks That Changed America and 10 Towns That Changed America. Not the most thorough takes on fairly well-known places, but I'm a sucker for lists.
  • Cool Spaces: Unique Architecture in the United States. A series of four videos with Stephen Chung highlighting some contemporary buildings following four typologies: art spaces, healing spaces, libraries, and performing spaces. My review of episode 1, on performing spaces.
  • John Portman: A Life of Building. Back in 2012 when I first watched the documentary, I was surprised that there was even a documentary devoted to Portman. Given his influential and ever-appealing atrium hotels, I'm not that surprised anymore. A standout from the documentary is Portman visiting the progenitor to those atriums: a public housing project that was eventually demolished.
  • Ken Burns' American Lives: Frank Lloyd Wright. Ken Burns usually sets his sights big, creating multi-part documentaries on such sweeping subjects as the Vietnam War, jazz, and baseball. His two-parter on Wright, done with Lynn Novick, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
  • Ken Burns: The Brooklyn Bridge. Well before he made the Wright documentary, Ken Burns made this relatively diminutive (only 58 minutes) documentary on the greatest bridge in New York, the Brooklyn Bridge. It came out in 1981, two years ahead of the bridge's centennial.
  • The Rise and Fall of Penn Station. I can't think of any other building that continues to enthrall people so long after it was removed from the face of the earth. This documentary of Penn Station though, as mentioned in my review of it, deals more with the tunnels, which still exist, rather than the building.

Misc filmmakers – architecture titles:
  • The Edge of the Possible, From my 2009 review: "Interviews with Utzon at his home in Denmark and archival footage of the construction make this documentary valuable... It was especially nice to see the various models made for the design, be it the roof structure, the house ceilings or the proposed plywood structure."
  • Glenn Murcutt: Spirit of Place. As much a story of Murcutt's life as about his design and realization of the Australian Islamic Centre in Melbourne. A humble film on a humble and enormously talented architect.
  • Precise Poetry: Lina Bo Bardi's Architecture. One of these days I'll make it to Brazil and make a beeline for SESC Pompeia. In the meantime, this documentary (in Portuguese with subtitles) intelligently discusses it and other designs by Bo Bardi.
  • Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman. Released in 2009, the year of Shulman's death, the film celebrates the life and career of "the world's greatest architectural photographer, whose images brought modern architecture to the American mainstream."

Misc filmmakers – landscape/urbanism titles:
  • The Human Scale: Planning Livable and Humanistic Cities. Danish urban designer Jan Gehl is the star of The Human Scale, a documentary that "questions our assumptions about modernity, exploring what happens when we put people into the center of our equations." I saw it five years ago, when Gehl's urban design recommendations in NYC were long embraced by residents and tourists alike.
  • J.B. Jackson and the American Landscape. Two one-hour films on an American treasure: John Brinckerhoff Jackson, who created the field of landscape studies after serving in Europe during WWII and applying his take on European landscapes to American ways of life. Both films are worth watching, with only a little bit of overlap between them.
  • Manufactured Landscapes: The Art of Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky's powerful and impressively large photographs document the destruction of the earth by humans, be it through excavation, pollution, or other modern processes. An equally powerful film even eleven years after I saw a matinee of the film.
  • Radiant City, From my 2009 review: "The film is a mix of documentary and reality TV, with some of the usual experts and critics of suburbia (James Howard Kunstler, Andrés Duany) comprising the first and some families living in a subdivision in the suburbs of Calgary making up the second...the actions of the parents and children of sprawl ... [was] a more scathing critique than the retread lines of Kunstler."

One more for an even 40:
  • Playtime. How could I not include Jacques Tati's classic comedy that critiques modern society in general and modern architecture in particular? I can watch this or any Tati film over and over – all of which are available on Kanopy through the Criterion Collection.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Today's archidose #1018

Here are a couple photos of The Culture Yard (2010) in Elsinore, Denmark, by AART Architects. (Photographs by Martin Krause.)

kulturzentrum 18-07-05 4424
kulturzentrum 18-07-05 4427 Kopie

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Friday, October 05, 2018

October in NYC

October in New York City means two things, at least to architects: Open House New York (OHNY) and AIANY's Archtober. I've been too busy to post about these events far in advance, so below are highlights for open-access OHNY sites and some events drawn from Archtober and other sites that I'm pretty sure aren't sold out. Everything is free, unless noted otherwise.

Bronx Community College

All October, Center for Architecture
Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture
Hip-Hop Architecture produces spaces, buildings, and environments that embody the creative energy evident in hip-hop’s first four elements: deejaying, emceeing, b-boying, and graffiti. Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture exhibits the work of students, academics and practitioners at the center of this emerging architectural revolution.

Various days throughout October, Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Celebrates Archtober This Fall
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is excited to offer special tours, workshops, and public programs that highlight Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic building design.

Opened October 4 (Thursdays through Sundays until November 18), The Modulightor Building
Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory
An exhibition, on the occasion of Paul Rudolph’s Centennial, of models, drawings, photographs & artifacts exploring his residences—designed by himself, for himself—that served as his laboratories for the psychologically & aesthetically compelling spaces which Rudolph developed throughout his career.

Opened October 4 (Mondays through Fridays until February 8, 2019), CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture
The Unfinished exhibition, presented in the Spanish pavilion at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and winner of the Golden Lion, seeks to direct attention to processes more than results in an attempt to discover design strategies generated by an optimistic view of the constructed environment.

October 9, 5:15pm, Chelsea Piers
NYC Waterfront Zoning 25th Anniversary Boat Tour: Accessing the Edge
This tour, an adaptation of AIANY’s Lower Manhattan Architecture Boat Tour, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Waterfront Zoning and feature special guest speakers Claudia Herasme and Michael Marrella from the Department of City Planning, who will highlight several sites that were developed pursuant to Waterfront Zoning.
General Public: $48 / Students: $32

Both October 13 & 14:

  • Brooklyn Army Terminal, Sunset Park, Brooklyn: A 100-year-old industrial building by Cass Gilbert I visited back in OHNY 2012.
  • Flushing Quaker Meeting House, Flushing, Queens: A 17th-century religious building still in use.
  • Greater Astoria Historical Society, Astoria, Queens: My neighborhood.
  • Mmuseumm, Civic Center, Manhattan: Mmuseumm tells contemporary stories about humanity through vernacular objects from around the world -- housed in former freight elevator and loading dock.
  • Noguchi Museum, Astoria, Queens: Go for the courtyard, stay for the Jorge Palacios exhibition.
  • Rockefeller University, Upper East Side, Manhattan: Tours of the "world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biosciences."
  • Stickbulb Showroom at RUX Studios, Long Island City, Queens: The newly opened gallery, studio, and production facility for Stickbulb in the old Empire City Iron Works.
  • Westbeth Artists Housing, West Village, Manhattan: Guided tours by residents will include highlights of The Bell Lab era of the building, the conversion to artists housing, and information on the artists of Westbeth.

October 13 only:

October 14 only:

October 16-21, SVA Theatre & Cinepolis
Architecture & Design Film Festival
A half-dozen standouts from the 10th anniversary of the annual ADFF:

  • Do More With Less, a film from Ecuador presenting student-built projects in Latin America that "are changing the paradigm by offering a new understanding of the way architecture interacts with society."
  • The Experimental City, on the Minnesota Experimental City, a domed metropolis for 250,000 residents that "didn't quite go as planned."
  • Frank Gehry: Building Justice, which "tells the story of architect Frank Gehry’s investigation into prison design as a subject for the best architecture students in the United States."
  • Mies On Scene. Barcelona in two acts, on the famous pavilion "surrounded by myths and stories, statements and questions."
  • Parallel Sprawl, which looks at the urban sprawl of "two diametrically opposite case studies on the European continent - Switzerland and Kosovo, the former extremely rich and old, the latter extremely poor and young."
  • The Power of the Archive, which "delves into the archive of the Renzo Piano Foundation and their workshop...drafts, sketches, models, renderings, drawings are all housed in a ... converted factory in Genoa."

Opening October 23, The Cooper Union
Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical
This exhibition celebrates The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture’s experimental and influential pedagogy by presenting undergraduate thesis projects completed at the school over the past 50 years, and includes the beta launch of an online database of its Student Work Collection.

October 24, 8pm, 92Y
Makers of Modern Architecture: Maya Lin in Conversation with Martin Filler
Architecture critic Martin Filler chose Lin's portrait for the cover of his latest book, Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III, which examines the crucial role that personality, character, and temperament play in professional practice. Lin, who faced sexism and racism while she pursued her singular career path as an artist-architect, will speak with Filler about the challenges and opportunities she encountered during her rise to international fame.
Tickets: $35

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Today's archidose #1017

Here are some photos of the Desert City (2017) in San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid, Spain, by Garciagerman Arquitectos. (Photographs by Ximo Michavila.)

Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City #3
Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City #5
Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City #6
Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City #4
Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City #1
Garciagerman Arquitectos. Desert City #2

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Monday, October 01, 2018

My Visit to Glenstone

As promised when I posted a slideshow of my photos last week (but a bit later than I expected), here is a link to my review of Thomas Phifer & Partners' Pavilions at Glenstone Museum. Short take: it's a masterpiece, if a highly controlled one.

Glenstone Museum

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Forum Is Open

Columbia University opened the third building on its Manhattanville Campus yesterday. The Forum was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, who is also responsible for the first two buildings on campus: the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts. Below is a slideshow of photos I took at yesterday's opening of The Forum, which I had a hard-hat tour of in July.

The Forum, Completed

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Glenstone Museum

Here is an interactive slideshow with 74 of the photos I took last week at a press preview of the Pavilions at Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland, designed by Thomas Phifer and Partners. The slideshow moves from the Arrival Hall, along the Main Path, to the Pavilions and its various Galleries that are organized with Passages around a central Water Garden. It's an amazing building that is well worth seeing in person.

Glenstone Museum

The Pavilions at Glenstone open to the public on October 4; visit the Glenstone website for information on tickets, which are free but must be reserved in advance. My review of the building will be on World-Architects later this week, linked from this blog for convenience.

Monday, September 24, 2018

So You Want to Learn About: 'Learning from Las Vegas'

The "So You Want to Learn About" series highlights books focused on a particular theme: think "socially responsible architecture" and "phenomenology," rather than broad themes like "housing" or "theory." Therefore the series aims to be a resource for finding decent reading materials on certain topics, born of a desire to further define noticeable areas of interest in the books I review. And while I haven't reviewed every title, I am familiar with each one; these are not blind recommendations.

Well before the death of Robert Venturi last week at the age of 93, I'd planned a "So You Want to Learn About" post on Learning from Las Vegas, the classic text by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour from 1972. It's only now that I finally got around to finalizing it. Last year I noticed that MIT Press had released a facsimile version of the hard-to-find and extremely expensive first edition; a couple years before that I came across and bought a cheap copy of the first edition; and over the years I'd amassed a few titles that analyze and critique the influential book. I can't think of any other book that has given rise to so many book-length investigations. Therefore Learning from Las Vegas -- and Robert Venturi -- deserves, at the very least, the "So You Want to Learn About" treatment.


Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour
The MIT Press, First Edition, 1972 (Amazon)
The MIT Press, Revised Edition, 1977 (Amazon)
Learning from Las Vegas is one of the five most important books of architecture in the 20th century, up there with Le Corbusier's Towards a New Architecture, Rem Koolhaas's Delirious New York, Aldo Rossi's The Architecture of the City, and Venturi's own Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Born from a 1968 Yale architecture studio, the book analyzed the way casinos, hotels and other buildings along the Las Vegas Strip used signage to attract attention and apprise drivers of the contents of the buildings set back behind parking lots. Through this, they argued for the Decorated Shed over the Duck, the former using signage to communicate the contents of a simple building and the latter using form to convey its function. Put simply, the Duck represented Modernism while the Decorated Shed represented something else, what would become Postmodernism in ensuing years. Like Venturi's earlier Complexity and Contradiction, which argued that "Main Street is almost all right," Learning from Las Vegas looked at an extreme example of one (the Strip) rather than at capital-A architecture to determine what architecture should be and what architects should learn from.

Like most architects, I first encountered Learning from Las Vegas in architecture school. Given that this was the early 1990s, I read the revised edition from 1977 in a seminar class on architectural theory, not the original 1972 edition. (My copy is from 1993, the book's twelfth printing.) Not many books can boast of such different editions: the first edition is a hardcover book whose size and expense (it was expensive originally, over the years as a hard-to-find artifact, and in MIT Press's facsimile edition) signal something special, while the revised edition is a much smaller paperback designed to be affordable to students like myself. The revised edition cut a third of the original book by eliminating part 3, a presentation of Venturi and Rauch's buildings and projects, and many of the images that would not work on a smaller page size. Regardless of these cuts and a substantially different page design, the arguments of the text have held up, while the lower price has guaranteed a wider circulation and lasting influence.


I AM A MONUMENT: On Learning from Las Vegas by Aron Vinegar
The MIT Press, 2008 (Amazon | Review)
When I reviewed Aron Vinegar's book for Architect Magazine back in 2009, my familiarity with the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas was very small; I knew it was a hardcover larger than my revised edition from college, but I'd never seen one in person nor glanced at its pages. Vinegar's book gave me the greatest understanding of the differences between the two editions, both in terms of their physical characteristics and the relationship between layout and content. The latter is particularly important, since Venturi and Scott Brown saw the design of the first edition by Muriel Cooper as oppositional to everything they were railing against in their book; put simply, it was a Duck rather than a Decorated Shed. Vinegar doesn't just analyze the layout of the two editions. He strives to reorient how the text is read, but to me his philosophically derived interpretations don't displace the long-held meanings of the classic text by Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour.

Relearning from Las Vegas edited by Aron Vinegar, Michael J. Golec
University of Minnesota Press, 2009 (Amazon | Book Brief)
Aron Vinegar is also present in this collection of essays released the same year as I AM A MONUMENT. His co-editor, Michael J. Golec, contributes an essay on the format and layout of Learning from Las Vegas, so Vinegar hones in on how expression and its inverse, inexpression, are tackled in the book. Other contributors to the academic collection include Karsten Harries, Dell Upton, Ritu Bhatt, Jean-Claude Lebensztejn, John McMorrough, Katherine Smith, and Nigel Whiteley, analyzing everything from photorealism and kitsch to Reyner Banham in Los Angeles. The complex, nuanced takes on Learning from Las Vegas and its influences add some depth to any reading of the original.

Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown edited by Hilar Stadler, Martino Stierli
Scheidegger and Spiess, 2008, reprinted in 2015 (Amazon)
Learning from Las Vegas is an image-heavy book, full of sketches, drawings, diagrams, and photographs. All are memorable in their own right (think of the sketch of the Duck and Decorated Shed), but the photographs capture the color of Vegas, a city of night and light. (Las Vegas was, to Reyner Banham, "truly itself" at night.) Just look at the cover of the originals or the cover of Las Vegas Studio, which presents dozens of photographs from the Yale studio's visit to Las Vegas in 1968. These photos are bookended by an introductory essay by Martino Stierli that is based on the original German edition of his book Las Vegas in the Rearview Mirror (below) and a conversation between Peter Fischli, Rem Koolhaas, and Hans Ulrich Obrist (in it, Koolhaas calls the photo of Venturi and Scott Brown at bottom "almost hot."). The latter is followed by an essay by Stanislaus von Moos, who has written two monographs on the practice of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. These intellectual voices add their takes and some depth to the images, though the photographs can hold their own as aesthetic images and ethnographic evidence of a particular time and place.

Las Vegas in the Rearview Mirror: The City in Theory, Photography, and Film by Martino Stierli
Getty Publications, 2013 (Amazon)
Martino Stierli, now the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, wrote his PhD dissertation on Learning from Las Vegas. Published in German by gta Verlag in 2010, Las Vegas im Rückspiegel was translated into English three years later and published by the Getty. As the subtitle of Las Vegas in the Rearview Mirror makes clear, Stierli focuses on how the 1972 book theorizes the city through photography and film. While the photography of the Yale studio in Las Vegas is well known (see Las Vegas Studio), the use of film is less familiar to people. (There are dozens, if not hundreds of photos in Learning from Las Vegas, but there is only one spread with a film strip.) But film was an integral part of both documenting and analyzing the Las Vegas Strip back in 1968. After all, what better way to capture the ever-changing views from a car's windshield as it traverses the Strip than a movie camera? Film is surely not the sole media that Stierli discusses, but it is further evidence of the groundbreaking nature of the original book. In the hands of Venturi, Scott Brown, Izenour, and their students, photography and film were the media ideally suited to the reality of the Strip as a very American space that needed to be understood and interpreted.

[Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in Las Vegas, 1968 | Image: Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.]