Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer Break

Things have been slow on this blog as of late, so now I'm making it official by going on summer break.

Storm King Art Center

Posts will resume the second week of August.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Today's archidose #914

Here are some photos of James Corner Field Operations' ICEBERGS installation now on display at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. (Photos: Mark Andre)

Glowing Icebergs

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Functional Folly


At lunch today I rode my bike over to Socrates Sculpture Park to check out Sticks, the 2016 Architectural League Folly. Designed by Hou de Sousa in a competition earlier this year, the folly departs from previous ones, such as 2014's SuralArk, in that it is functional: it is the venue for Socrates Sculpture Park’s Education Studio, which reportedly hosts over 10,000 students annually.


According to the League, "Sticks utilizes preexisting park resources, including scrap materials stored on site, which will be incorporated into the structural grid of the walls and roof. The architects re-use existing resources to build Sticks is central to the sustainable mission of Socrates Sculpture Park."


If you go visit Sticks, be sure to also check out Meg Webster's Concave Room for Bees, on display as part of Socrates Sculpture Park's 30th anniversary LANDMARK exhibition.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Briefs #26

"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.

Design/Build with Jersey Devil: A Handbook for Education and Practice by Charlie Hailey | Princeton Architectural Press | 2016 | Amazon
On this blog I've reviewed books from Princeton Architectural Press's "Architecture Briefs" series numerous times, including a Book Brief devoted to four of the titles back in 2012. It's good to see the series still going, especially when other series (PAPress or otherwise) appear but then fade away just as quickly. Their Architecture Briefs are targeted primarily to students and young architects, so it makes sense to have one devoted to design/build. Instead of Rural Studio, which has published three books with PAPress, the lesser-known but no-less-important Jersey Devil is the subject of this book. The trailblazing group, which started doing funky design/build projects in the 1970s, is still going strong; as the cover attests, though, the funkiness is a bit more subdued. The small book is crammed with practical information throughout (building a water tube level is just one standout), while also including a few in-depth case studies.

Inventive Minimalism: The Architecture of Roger Ferris + Partners by William S. Saunders, Roger Ferris | The Monacelli Press | 2016 | Amazon
The foreword to this monograph on Connecticut- and New York-based architect Roger Ferris is penned by Robert M. Rubin. Although a Wall Street man, his name should be familiar to preservationists: he owns and has restored Pierre Chareau's Maison de Verre in Paris. With a strong interest in architecture (he's working toward a doctorate in Columbia's history/theory program), he has commissioned Ferris for a number of projects, most notably the clubhouse and master plan for The Bridge Golf Club in Bridghampton on Long Island (yes, that club). It's one of Ferris's most well known projects, and at eight years old one of the oldest in the monograph, which highlights built works but also includes a number of projects on the boards. Excelling in residential architecture and the ability to capture the domestic scale in a modernist palette, it's fitting that Rubin commends Ferris's design of the clubhouse for, among other things, taking up "less total square footage than your average McMansion."

The Complete Zaha Hadid, Expanded and Updated | Thames & Hudson | 2016 | Amazon
The first Complete Zaha Hadid came out in 1998, when it was published by Rizzoli and featured primarily drawings, paintings and models, since Hadid's only building at the time was the Vitra Fire Station. Aaron Betsky penned the introduction then, as well as in the 2009 update and the latest in 2013, when the title switched to publisher Thames & Hudson. The 2016 title expands and updates the 2013 version, but thankfully Hadid's beautiful paintings from The Peak and other early projects are still an important part of the monograph. The buildings and projects here are presented in chronological order by start date, so some projects appear in unlikely places. In one instance, Spittelau Viaducts, which started in 1994 and was completed in 2005, is inserted between the unbuilt Cardiff Bay Opera House and a pavilion built in Birmingham in 1995. This is not a drawback as much as it is a result of updating a book that strives for completeness. Even with her sudden death in March, there are still plenty of updates to come, as the projects she had worked on in recent years get built and the firm carries on the spirit of her work without her.

Expanded Field: Installation Architecture Beyond Art by Ila Berman and Douglas Burnham | Applied Research and Design | 2015 | Amazon
Astute readers of art theory will recognize the title of this book, which refers to Rosalind Krauss's seminal essay, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field." In this image-drenched book, Berman and Burnham explore art/architecture installation practices through various disciplines: architecture, interiors, sculpture, and landscape. Culled from their 2012 exhibition, Architecture in the Expanded Field, the book presents 65 projects organized into 12 chapters: constructed landscapes, tectonic structures, spatial distortions, earthworks/land art, etc. The selection of projects is solid and the presentation is aided greatly by drawings that imbue even the most artistic projects with architectural qualities.

Jigsaw City: AECOM's Redefinition of the Asian New Town by Clare Jacobson, Daniel Elsea | ORO Editions | 2016 | Amazon
This book presents various plans by AECOM for India, China, the Philippines, and other Asian countries through two parts, one by each author. Elsea's "Learning from Hong Kong" is a study of seven new towns that provide new, modern housing for millions. In some cases the projects include clusters of anonymous high-rises without any noticeable relationship to landscape and ecology, but on the plus side the importance of density and transportation comes across strongly. In the second part, Jacobson presents 18 new town plans by AECOM, either single or groups of new towns set into thematic headlines: vision, client, masterplan, protection, reuse, landscape, energy, regions, etc. Both parts are required reading for urban planners and urban designers who want to understand how projects on this scale are accomplished.

Relentless Pursuit of an Architecture by MKPL Architects | ORO Editions | 2016 | Amazon
This monograph on twenty years of Singapore's MKPL Architects presents a mix of big and small projects. The firm's capabilities in dealing with material, form and space come across better in small projects, while many of the larger projects are in progress, meaning they are documented solely through renderings. All tolled, their designs are sensitive – if not overtly striking – responses to tropical climate.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review: MONU #24

MONU #24: Domestic Urbanism
Spring 2016
Reviewed by Colin Billings

[Cover of issue 24 | All images courtesy of MONU]

This, the 24th issue of MONU, is dedicated to "Domestic Urbanism," arguably the root urbanism of the city as a coherent human settlement. It prominently features interviews by MONU editor Bernd Upmeyer with Andres Jaque and Herman Hertzberger – one of the most important and vocal humanizing figures in architecture – along with 17 other contributions from brilliant emerging practitioners and critics.

Shot from the perspective of urbanism, MONU #24 exquisitely illustrates the tensions between architecture and its building. The cover artwork by STAR strategies + architecture illustrates the sacred, intricate meshworks of our inner dramas brutally cemented together by the thinnest, most minimal of buildings. Many of the contributions delve into the poetics, profound political aesthetics, or advanced experimentation with the domicile-as-an-interior and it’s influence on the urban realm.

[Spread with Andres Jaque interview]

Let’s play a game! As an exercise, I challenge you to read through this and the past issues of MONU (particularly Interior Urbanism and Participatory Urbanism) and note the recurring presence of play as an achievement of a great urbanism; an achievement that supplies us with a vibrant, enchanted ambiance that seems to be infinitely brimming with energy and constantly on the verge of erupting into some form or another of social play.

Any conversation about real, raw urbanism, would be incomplete without exhaustively embracing these grounds necessary for the critical plays that we enact in and around our domiciles in a desperate effort to realize our full domestic theatre. This third space of architecture – the place where architecture and human settlement meet – is constantly being reorganized by our plays so that we may realize life in a concentrated, more ordered form: a form that is a performance of our own individual volition, laden with opportunities for synchronicity, serendipity, and coincidence.

[Spread with Herman Hertzberger interview]

This third space is the radical playground that the city so thirstily craves and holds up as an emblem of its locale and identity whenever it is achieved. CENTRALA (Simone De Iacobis and Malgorzata Kuciewicz) touches on this in their contribution, "How to Domesticate A City: Adaptive Tools to an Urban Environment." What if we propose an imaginary extension of this flawlessly constructed concept as something more along the lines of “How Do You Dedomesticate A City?" since so much urban design, planning, and architecture is devoted to protecting us from our worst fears, to the point of erasing any and all distinctness or diversity in our human terrain. "How Do You Drive The City Absolutely Crazy?" might be an effective architectural platform for a Domestic Urbanism fearlessly delineated by urban jambs of tense, vulnerable, palpable passage building and pocket interventions attuned to articulating our human plasticity.

Without room for play there is no full domestic realm of urbanism; play re-territorializes the bland. Domestic Urbanism demands an Architecture from the Outside – from the third space. It demands for us to make rooms where our radical plays take place and are practiced as a cure for the malaise of disenchantment found so readily in the smooth modern daily routine – to be practiced with a fever!

[Spread with illustrations by STAR strategies + architecture]

Colin Billings is an American architectural critic and co-founder of Dominique Price Architects in San Francisco, California, an architecture and critical urbanism practice that probes the form-giving semiotic that emerges from architecture’s coincidence with the language of human settlement. He has contributed to essays published in Rethinking the Informal City: Critical Perspectives From Latin America and Modular Structures in Design and Architecture and is preparing to release a monograph exploring the building technique and architectural contribution of Will Bruder, co-edited with Dominique Price.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Nouvel's Wavy Locks

Monsieur Nouvel, what you have you done with your hair?

[Screenshot from Getty Images when searching for a photo of Alvaro Siza's Leca Swimming Pool]

Click here to see what Jean Nouvel normally looks like.

Coming Soon

More news on my new book to follow soon...

Monday, July 11, 2016

Today's archidose #913

Here are some photos of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy & International Affairs (2014) in Beirut, Lebanon, by Zaha Hadid Architects. (Photos: Trevor Patt)


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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Make Architecture Books Again

Make Architecture Books Again is a three-weeks-old, anonymous Instagram feed that is billed as "a daily excuse to vent the stacks." Photos are posted in threes to take advantage of the Instagram grid by showing the cover, an inside spread, and a detail from one book. Here are some examples from what definitely would have made my list of 18 favorite Instagrammers if I would have known about it at the time.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Today's archidose #912

Here are some photos of a lesser known Scarpa building: Casa Borgo (1974) in Vicenza, Italy. (Photos: August Fischer)

Casa Borgo - Carlo Scarpa
Casa Borgo - Carlo Scarpa
Casa Borgo - Carlo Scarpa
Casa Borgo - Carlo Scarpa
Casa Borgo - Carlo Scarpa
Casa Borgo - Carlo Scarpa

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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Some Thoughts on Tod and Billie and the OPC

Last week Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects was selected, with local architecture firm IDEA, to design the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) on Chicago's South Side. The project will be located in either Jackson Park or Washington Park on either side of the University of Chicago, near where Barack and Michelle Obama lived before departing for the White House. Once built, the OPC will house Obama's Presidential Library as well as other programmatic elements that will entail taking fairly large chunks of existing parkland. While the choice of Tod and Billie has been positively embraced by many people in regards to their quiet and thoughtful designs, the biggest question is still site selection and how the architects will handle it. From what I've seen of their work, I'm confident they can pull off something many people will appreciate for years to come.

[Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago | All photos by John Hill, unless noted otherwise]

The most geographically immediate precedent for the OPC is the Logan Center for the Arts, which overlooks the Midway Plaisance (the green space that connects Washington and Jackson Parks) on the University of Chicago campus. I visited the building a couple years ago and found it to be full of surprises. Made up of a tower alongside a base, I spent most of the time going up and down the tower, which has the nicest exit stairs I've ever experienced: they have glass and benches that invite sitting and looking at the surroundings. While the tower and base reference a silo in a field, according to the architects, they can be seen also in relationship to the tall buildings of the Loop (which can be seen from the top) and the Prairie Style architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. In terms of the site, the plan creates a courtyard finished by a row of old buildings on the east. This outdoor space (partially seen in my photo above) is one of many gems in the project.

Three strips
[Cranbrook Natatorium, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan]

The first building by Tod and Billie that I saw in person was the Cranbrook Natatorium on the campus of the Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. As can be seen in an aerial view, the pool building occupies a prominent piece of land near the terminus of an east-west axis formed by the gardens of the Cranbrook House and Eliel Saarinen's Cranbrook Art Museum. Tod and Billie set the building off the axis and extended a low arm clad in blue brick at the end of the axis, an arm that houses a ramp and links the pool to an older school building. This building is known best for the beautiful blue pool ceiling with large circular openings, but it should also be appreciated for the way it subtly integrates itself into the site and relates to the campus's broader features.

Lakeside Center
[LeFrak Center at Lakeside, Brooklyn]

Another building that exhibits Tod and Billie's abilities to integrate a building with its natural site is the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, which sits at the southeast corner of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Although this building consists primarily of outdoor components – covered and open-air ice rinks – it is a great precedent for the OPC, since it occupies a piece of parkland designed by Olmsted and Vaux, who designed both Jackson and Washington Parks in Chicago as well. Instead of imposing something upon the landscape, Tod and Billie built Lakeside into it, so people can walk across the top of the building as readily as they can walk through it. Of course, the building doesn't disappear, but it saves the most memorable feature for people using it: a bright blue roof carved with curling lines and points of light. Further, their design, which replaces the previous rink, restores the waterline of a pond to near its original Olmsted and Vaux state.

[Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong | Photo: Michael Moran]

From the Tod and Billie projects that I haven't visited, one that springs to mind as particularly relevant in the context of the OPC is the Asia Society Hong Kong Center in Hong Kong. The project consists of a new building and the transformation of four buildings from as far back as the mid-1800s. A nullah (channel often filled with rushing water, per the architects) divides old and new, so the architects snaked covered passageways between the trees to connect the buildings. The photos make the project look like it strikes a perfect balance between the built and the natural.

To me, these projects express an extreme sensitivity to a site's natural features, though in Chicago Tod and Billie will have their hands full with the city's scarred economic, social and political contexts as well. Nevertheless I'm confident they will be able to navigate these areas in a way that will lead to something that works well in its place, while also being surprising and uplifting.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Today's archidose #911

Here are some photos of the new building of the Kunstmuseum Basel (2016) in Basel, Switzerland, by Christ & Gantenbein. (Photos: Frank Dinger)

These photos are primarily interior, so visit World-Architects for more information on the animated Light Frieze that wraps the building's brick exterior.

Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein
Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein
Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein
Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein
Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein
Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein
Kunstmuseum Basel by Christ & Gantenbein

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