Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Highlights

This last post of 2017 looks back at some highlights from this year: books I read and reviewed, exhibitions I saw, buildings I visited, and news I covered. I've tried to limit the list to a few in each category, and in some cases I've included one item from this year that I've yet to blog about but am looking forward to next year. It was a busy year for me – among other things, two books I wrote (100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs and How to Build a Skyscraper) came out – and therefore one with fewer posts than usual. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of good things to look back upon.

Books //

Easily the most unexpected and engrossing book I reviewed in 2017 is Keith Krumwiede's Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction, published by Park Books. He combines architectural theory, old paintings, and, of all things, builder plans by the likes of the Toll Brothers into a poetic critique of the American way of living on the land. // One book I return to again and again (in part due to walking tours that encompass Columbia's new campus) is Columbia in Manhattanville, edited by Caitlin Blanchfield and published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City. Its combination of history, criticism, photography, and voices of the architects and planners involved capture the myriad aspects of the contested project at the onset of its long realization. // Jesse LeCavalier's The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment took a fairly unappealing topic – logistics – and made it interesting by focusing on the largest retailer in the United States; my visit to Bentonville, Arkansas, to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was colored in part by his analysis. // Martin and Werner Feiersigner's two-part ITALOMODERN: Architecture in Northern Italy 1946–1976 (Park Books) is a beautiful guide that made me realize how much great postwar Italian architecture I didn't know about – and now want to visit. // One book I'm looking forward to: Interboro's Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion (Actar), "an encyclopedia of 202 tools—or ...'weapons'—used by architects, planners, policy-makers, developers, real estate brokers, activists, and other urban actors in the United States use to restrict or increase access to urban space."

Exhibitions //

Four exhibitions stand out this year, ordered here from largest to smallest: By far the biggest – though not necessarily best, but impossible to ignore – exhibition I visited in 2017 was the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which wraps up January 8, 2018. I wrote about Sharon Johnstone and Mark Lee's Making New History for World-Architects, where I focused on the displays at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Biennial's main venue. // The Museum of Modern Art celebrated Frank Lloyd Wright's 150th birthday with a major exhibition curated by Barry Bergdoll. Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive took deep looks at some lesser known creations by Wright, courtesy of a group of scholars and a museum conservator digging through MoMA's and Columbia University's joint Wright archive. (Like others, apparently I couldn't get enough of Wright in 2017: So You Want to Learn About Frank Lloyd Wright, Wright at Columbia, Book Briefs #31: A Trio of Wright.) // Scaffolding, curated by Greg Barton and designed by OMA's Shohei Shigematsu, took over the Center for Architecture in October. // For Souvenirs: New New York Icons, MOS Architects cut into the Storefront for Art and Architecture's iconic facade to create windows that gave peeks into the storefront space and acted as canvases for selfies. // I've yet to make it to the Queens Museum of Art for Never Built New York, but given all the good things I've read about it, and the fact it's open until February 18, 2018, that will be the first exhibition I'll see in the new year.

Buildings //

Ever since I folded A Weekly Dose of Architecture and moved its archive to this blog, I've left the posting of projects to other sites, such as ArchDaily and World-Architects. That doesn't mean I never blog about buildings; rather I focus on ones that I've actually visited. In 2017 I took a few trips: to Berlin, Northwest Arkansas, St. Louis, Zurich, and some places near New York City. Here are a handful of highlights. // Although Fay Jones's Cooper Chapel and Thorncrown Chapel were worth the trip, I knew so much about them that I had a good idea of what to expect. Another church closer to home surprised me a great deal, mainly because I did not know anything about it until about an hour before I got in the car to drive there: Victor Lundy's First Unitarian Church (1965) in Westport, Connecticut. Like the two chapels in Arkansas, Lundy's church beautifully situates parishioners in its forest context, but it also draws their attention heavenward through a central skylight and curved wood beams. // Another building (or more accurately, series of buildings) that integrates itself remarkably well into its setting is Kantonsschule Freudenberg in the Zurich's Enge district. Designed by Jacques Schader and completed in 1960, the educational complex was a joy to walk around – and inside, something I'm not used to doing given US security in schools. // Although I was disappointed by Dominique Perrault's Velodrome and Swimming Pool in Berlin, the city's Nordic Embassies, designed by Berger+Parkkinen and five other architects, held up to my high expectations. // Two St. Louis highlights: The lovingly restored Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park (1950s) in Kirkwood and Gyo Obata's Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis (1960) in Creve Coeur.

News //

Although the three most clicked posts on this blog were my visit to Bronx Community College during OHNY and two Frank Lloyd Wright posts (linked above), the following three stories were up there pretty high, and for good reason: they embody the right amount of surprise and controversy that gets people like me to write about them in the first place. // Way back in March, oiio unveiled The Big Bend, a super-skinny supertall that makes the other super-skinny supertalls along 57th Street look stubby. I took it to be simply a critique, a provocation. But somebody I met at my book talk in the fall told me it is moving forward: surprising, but still hard to believe, given that two supertalls already occupy that block (is there any FAR left?) and word of its progress has not leaked to the press. I'm not holding my breath. // Two things happened in November: First, Snøhetta unveiled its designs for modifying the base of 550 Madison Avenue (aka Philip Johnson's AT&T Building from 1984), which immediately pissed of lots of architects. I took the opportunity to focus on the POPS (privately owned public spaces) and how they changed over the years, creating the need for Snøhetta's redesign. As of now, the PoMo icon is calendared for a Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing, meaning Snøhetta's plans might not happen as originally envisioned. // Outside of New York City, MVRDV completed the Tianjin Binhai Library, a cultural center featuring a "floor-to-ceiling bookcases cascade." Although I was surprised that nobody else seemed to be writing about the way most of the books are images of books rather than the real things, I still liked the idea ... until I learned that the library placed the books there temporarily since the space was not approved for book storage. So eventually the atrium will serve as a billboard for the items that are stored elsewhere in the building – assuming those books will remain.

With this post of 2017 highlights, I go on holiday break. Posts will resume in the New Year.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Year in Review

It's December so posts here are pretty slim. Soon I'll be adding a post with some of my favorite things -- books, buildings, exhibitions -- from 2017, but in the meantime, here's a link to the Year in Review I did at World-Architects.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Getty Center Turns 20

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

Today's archidose #988

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

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

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Friday, December 08, 2017

Book Briefs #32

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

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

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

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

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

The Icon Project: Architecture, Cities, and Capitalist Globalization by Leslie Sklair | Oxford University Press | 2017 | Amazon

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

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Glass Tops in Union Square

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

[Rendering: BKSK]

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

[Drawing: BKSK]

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

[Rendering: DXA Studio]

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Sound in Space

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

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

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

Here is some more information on the exhibition taking place on Sunday, December 10 (4pm-7:30pm), from the Forte New York Chamber Music Series website:
Architecture, Art Works and Photography Exhibition by architects Adrian Subagyo and Joey Giampietro

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

Monday, December 04, 2017

Today's archidose #987

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

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

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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Old+New Book Review: Complete Zaha Hadid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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