Friday, March 30, 2018

Eternal Gradient

Last night I attended a preview of the new exhibition at Columbia GSAPP's Arthur Ross Gallery, Arakawa and Gins: Eternal Gradient. The exhibition opens this evening, after an afternoon symposium I'm going to attend. I'll have more on the symposium and exhibition next week. In the meantime, below is a slideshow of my photos from last night's sneak peek.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

AIA Guide to New York City, 50 Years Later

Last week I happened upon and bought a first printing of the AIA Guide to New York City. Edited by Norval White and Elliot Willensky, the guide was first published in 1967/68 and has been updated four times since then. I include both 1967 and 1968, since the book's copyright indicates both years and various sources point to either 1967 or 1968. A "from the stacks" blog post at the New York Historical Society Museum & Library from October last year clears things up, revealing that the guide was created as a paperback for the AIA's annual meeting in NYC in 1967 and then printed the following year as a $6.95 hardback.

Whichever year is adopted, the book's 50th anniversary hasn't elicited much in the way of celebration. I'm not aware of anything outside of the Historical Society blog post. The most recent update to the guide was done in 2010, and even though the AIA Conference on Architecture is being held in NYC this year, I'm not aware of any plans for a sixth edition to coincide with it.

So this look at the first edition is a celebration of sorts of the AIA Guide's 50th birthday. It's based on a quick glance through the book, rather than a deep dive into how well it works, which wouldn't make sense all these decades later. That said, below are the things that stood out for me; things outside of the main entries, whose brevity and tone have remained stable over subsequent editions; things that didn't continue, that I'm aware of, with later editions.

Hardcover yet lightweight:

The combination of hardcover, lightweight pages, and only 464 pages make the book a nice object and one that is easier to hold than the 1,088 page fifth edition. I'm guessing the first printing had a dust jacket, but the copy I found is missing one. Nevertheless, the bold title on the cover and binding make it a handsome book even without a wrapper.

Style key:

I'm not a fan of books that require readers to memorize around a bunch of icons, particularly when the key to their meaning is difficult to access. But put the key on the endpapers — and make some pleasing wallpaper in the process — and it works pretty well.


Later editions have walking tours within the chapters, but the maps aren't much help in navigating the routes. The maps in the first edition are very clear, with empty circles at the start, closed circles at the end, and arrows in between.


The first AIA Guide to New York City has sixteen sponsors with ads interspersed throughout the book. While they helped pay for the book's realization, I don't think they did anything to reduce the cover price — $6.95 is nearly $50 in today's dollars, or $10 more than the fifth edition's cover price. Nevertheless, the ads provide another snapshot of how things were in 1968.


An odd touch, since the restaurants are not described in terms of design, but some of the descriptions are great. In Chinatown, head to Joy Luck Coffee Shop: "No telephone. No booze. No reservation. The food is excellent, and cheap."

Back matter:

After 5 boroughs, 27 "sectors" and countless "precincts" (neighborhoods), the guide broadens to the scale of the city, with stats, descriptions, timelines, and illustrations (above) on its past and present. This part is a helpful addendum to the rest of the book, as is the index, which lists buildings by name and architect, but also has a style index and includes the walking tours.

It's easy to see why the above elements were dropped from later editions of the AIA Guide to New York City, but it's also great to see where it all started: the foundation for indispensable guides to the ever-changing city.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Today's archidose #1000

Here are some photos of San Cataldo Cemetery (1971) in Modena, Italy, by Aldo Rossi with Gianni Braghieri. (Photographs: Trevor Patt, who has many more in his Flickr set.)


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Friday, March 23, 2018

Stephen Shore's "Uncommon Places" Today

Over at World-Architects I did a write-up of Image Building, an exhibition that opened last weekend at the Parrish Art Museum. Some of my favorite images in the exhibition, which "explores the many connections found among viewer, photographer, and architect, from the 1930s to the present," are by Steven Shore. I didn't include him in my write-up, so I'm focusing on him here, specifically his Uncommon Places series from the 1970s. Sparsely populated, and with rich colors and tones, his photographs exude Hopper-esque qualities.

When thinking about what to say about his photos, I decided to jump into Google Street View and find the locations, so see how much they've changed. It was not a hard feat, given that Shore labeled his photographs as the intersections where he took them. Even if via an app instead of in person, it was fun to come across the same spots that he depicted back then. Below are nine of his photographs and nine embedded Street Views. In some cases, the differences between then and now are not very great, as in the first photo, but in many there's only one building or other element that spans the last 40-plus years.

Church Street and Second Street, Easton, Pennsylvania, June 20, 1974

Second Street, East and South Main Street, Kalispell, Montana, Aug 22, 1974

Thirty-First Avenue and Crescent Street, Queens, New York, October 28, 1974

Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974

West Fifteenth Street and Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 15, 1974

Broad Street, Regina, Saskatchewan, August 17, 1974

Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975

West Market Street and North Eugene Street, Greensboro, North Carolina, January 23, 1976

U.S. 93, Wikieup, Arizona, December 14, 1976

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Map Review: Concrete Chicago Map

Concrete Map Chicago edited by Iker Gil
Blue Crow Media, 2018
Double-sided, 16.54 x 23.39 inches

Think "Chicago architecture" and most likely concrete doesn't spring to mind. Brick, as in the Prairie houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, for sure. And steel, of course, in the towers of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his followers. But think deeper: Frank Lloyd Wright designed the masterful Unity Temple in Oak Park, which left its concrete frame exposed. And before his influential 860-880 Lake Shore Drive apartment towers, Mies built the Promontory Apartments in Hyde Park, which likewise exposed its concrete structure. Although these two concrete buildings are not included in Concrete Chicago Map, they signal that the material was not completely alien to the Windy City. It would take architects working in the 1960s and later — those looking to move beyond the restrictions of these two, ever-present giants — to fully explore concrete's potential across Chicago and its suburbs.

The indefatigable Iker Gil — architect at MAS Studio, editor-in-chief at MAS Context, and associate curator of this year's US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale — edited the Concrete Chicago Map, which consists of a map on one side and an alphabetical list of its 52 buildings with photos of 20 of them on the other side. The latter is accompanied by Gil's short introduction, which calls out two other architects (not Wright and Mies) whose work stands out in the second half of the 20th century: Bertrand Goldberg and Walter Netsch.

Netsch, one of SOM's more idiosyncratic designers, was responsible for the masterplan and many of the buildings at University of Illinois at Chicago. A quick scan of the map reveals clusters of buildings at UIC Circle campus but also at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. Apparently concrete was embraced most enthusiastically at academia more than elsewhere in Chicago.

Goldberg designed Wilbur Wright College, but he is best known for Marina City, whose concrete "corn cobs" were recently landmarked. His Prentice Women's Hospital, unfortunately, was less appreciated and met the wrecking ball in 2014. This fact is pointed out by Gil, in effect turning the map into an argument for preserving buildings that might meet a similar fate if they're not appreciated for their architectural merits.

[St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital by Perkins+Will. Photo © Jason Woods for Blue Crow Media]

As somebody very familiar with Chicago architecture, Concrete Chicago Map, though handsome, provides few surprises, making it ideal for travelers less versed in its architectural wonders. But surprises there are: Errol Jay Kirsch's expressionistic mass of concrete in Oak Park, the bastion of Wright, and Salvatore Balsamo's Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Northbrook, to name just two. The latter is not nearly as striking as any buildings by Goldberg or Netsch or even Jeanne Gang, a contemporary architect who fully embraces the material. I point it out since it's located in the suburb I called home for the first 20-odd years of my life (it's actually just a few blocks from the architect's office I worked at in high school), but somehow I never noticed it. This building reveals how Concrete Chicago Map extends well beyond the academic bastions of concrete and those notable examples in around the Loop, and it shows how some great architecture is right around the corner from where we live or work — we just have to know where to look. Too bad this map wasn't around for me back then.

[Science and Engineering South by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Photo © Jason Woods for Blue Crow Media]

Concrete Map Chicago and other maps can be purchased at Blue Crow Media.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Nice Adaptive Reuse

Yesterday, a nice pool struck my fancy. Today it's this adaptive reuse project: a creamery in Buenos Aires.

According to Hitzig Militello Arquitectos, who were inspired by precious stones and the below-zero, granite-slab preparation of the ice cream, "The new diamond-like structure dialogues morphologically with the pitched roofs of a 20th century chalet." Covered in metal tiles and glass panels, the expansion is clearly contemporary but cleverly wed to the original. I like, for instance, the way two of three dormers on the side of the original are brought inside the expansion.

These photos reveal how the spaces flow between new and old...

... and how even the second-floor seating area overlooks the shop area through the dormers, their glass replaced with glass guards.

Lastly, the elevation and section drawings show how new infiltrates the whole old building, in those faceted windows on the left, and the spaces that carve deep into the original house.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Nice Pool

Earlier today I was posting a project to World-Architects – L'Accostée House by Bourgeois / Lechasseur architectes – and was particularly taken with one aspect of it: the lap pool. Located on the first floor of the three-story split-level, the pool is tucked into the hillside, away from exterior windows. But it's far from a dark space.

[Photo: Adrien Williams, courtesy of v2com]

The narrow windows on the left, in the photo above, borrow light from an adjacent living space, but it's the white space beyond the wood ceiling that is most intriguing. There, as the photo below reveals, is a tall space, where the compressed feeling of the pool opens up dramatically.

[Photo: Adrien Williams, courtesy of v2com]

To understand how this triple-height space works, look at the plans below, where I added blue. The pool is a simple rectangular volume, but where it extends up three floors it grabs light from outside through narrow windows at the end, while also providing a view into/from the hallway on the second floor.

[Floor plans | Drawing: Bourgeois / Lechasseur architectes; blue added by me]

Sure, this pool cost more than if it were kept low across its whole length, but the added expense appears to be well worth it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Today's archidose #999

Here are some photos of Art Museum & Library, Ota (2017) in Gunma, Japan by akihisa hirata architecture office. (Photographs: Ken Lee)

太田市美術館・図書館, Art Museum & Library, Ota, Gunma, Japan
太田市美術館・図書館, Art Museum & Library, Ota, Gunma, Japan
太田市美術館・図書館, Art Museum & Library, Ota, Gunma, Japan
太田市美術館・図書館, Art Museum & Library, Ota, Gunma, Japan

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Archidose[dot]org Update

Just some URL news: Yesterday was the last day for my URL. I'd had some issues with my webhost in recent years, and it got to the point where most of my blog stuff had moved to Blogger. So without much need for my own server and URL, I decided to ditch Everything here remains the same, though some of the images may be broken (many of them already were, due to my webhost problems). I'll be moving those images to Blogger in the coming months, but feel free to email me if you see a post with broken images.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book of the Moment: Castelvecchio

One of the highlights of a semester spent in Italy nearly 25 years ago was a visit to Carlo Scarpa's Castelvecchio in Verona, Italy. With that, I'm super-excited to learn about Richard Murphy's new book, Carlo Scarpa and Castelvecchio Revisited, put out by his own (I'm guessing) Breakfast Mission Publishing.

[Cover and spreads courtesy of Breakfast Mission Publishing]

Some description from the publisher:
Carlo Scarpa worked on the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona intermittently between 1957 and 1975. It is perhaps his most important project. His work there draws on all his remarkable skills. It demonstrates how to work creatively within a building which already possesses a complex history. It is a magnificent example of his highly personal language of architecture, not least his incredible eye for detail and mastery of the crafting of materials. And it contains a museum exhibition which is as radical and timeless today as the day it opened in 1964 and has served as an inspiration to museum designers ever since. His most extraordinary achievement is where all these themes coincide in the astonishing display of the equestrian statue of Cangrande, perhaps the most remarkable setting for a single work of art ever made.

This book analyses not just Scarpa’s work as we find it today, and in great detail, but also introduces the reader to the complex history of the building as well as sequences of Scarpa’s own highly revealing drawings; witnesses to a brilliant curiosity and holistic approach to design where the art and architecture are completely complimentary.
Visit Breakfast Mission Publishing to read more about the book, look at even more spreads than the handful below, and buy it: £70.00, which includes postage and packaging to anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: Michael Graves: Design for Life

Michael Graves: Design for Life by Ian Volner
Princeton Architectural Press, 2017
Hardcover, 240 pages

Ian Volner's biography on Graves did not start out as such. As he explains at the beginning of Design for Life, and recounted at a book talk at Rizzoli Bookstore in New York late last year, it was first "imagined as either an oral history or a memoir," eventually taking the latter form. But Graves died at the age of 80 in March 2015, not long after Princeton Architectural Press accepted Volner's book proposal. So the journalist had to switch gears, penning a slightly critical biography that is aimed at a general audience and benefits from his 40-odd hours of interviews with the late architect and conversations with many colleagues, contemporaries, and critics. I'll admit to not being very excited to read a bio on Graves; after all, I was trained to basically abhor Postmodernism. But Volner's writing – critical but also compassionate of his subject – swayed me, turning my disinterest into captivation.

In telling the story of an individual's life and work, biographies tend to be chronological affairs, a necessary fact that can push them toward becoming dry accounts on the order of "this happened, then that happened..." Yet Volner, who has a knack for writing great sentences (e.g., "[Graves's] soft-hued vision of the world – the cerulean blue that filled his paintings and graced the handle of his iconic Alessi teakettle – grew from a deeply ingrained feeling that to be humane was a fundamental artistic duty"), structured his book in a way that departs slightly from the norm. Most of it is chronological, if thematic, but the first chapter takes place in 2003, when Graves went from being able bodied to wheelchair-bound. This does not give anything away, since most people – at least those interested enough in the architect to read a biography on him – knew he got around for the last decade of his life in a wheelchair. But by diving head first into Graves's disability, one of many important instances in his life, Volner plants a seed that pulls the reader toward those later years detailed at the end of the book – through his education, travels, and early modern phase; through his transitional collage-like phase "when he wasn't sure what he was doing," in the words of Eric Owen Moss; and on to the fruitful decades of PoMo and product design he is best known for.

In one of my notes from Volner's talk at Rizzoli back in November, I (or he or somebody in the audience, I can't recall) wondered if Design for Life is the first biography of a postmodern architect. Is it? Probably. This is partly because Volner managed to actually get it done (he admits in the prologue that "from the moment he or she sits down to write, the biographer's goose is pretty well cooked"), but also because biographies on architects are a rarity (searching for "architects biographies" on Amazon yields such titles as Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty rather than actual biographies on architects). Sure, there are bios on Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright (including a short one by Volner), and Philip Johnson, but outside of those personalities only Paul Goldberger's 2015 bio on Frank Gehry comes to mind as another recent example. So instead of asking if this is the first biography on a PoMo architect, maybe the more important question to ask is, "Will this be the last?"

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Today's archidose #998

Here are some photos of Città de Sole (2016) in Rome, Italy, by Labics. (Photographs: Trevor Patt)


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