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Date: Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 16:07
50th Street Commons
[50th Street Commons | Photograph by John Hill]

On the way home yesterday I walked along East 50th Street between Madison and Park Avenues to check out Manhattan's newest pocket park, the 50th Street Commons. Opened by the MTA yesterday, the park is a public space that is part of a larger project, a ventilation facility serving the East Side Access project, which will bring LIRR trains to Grand Central Terminal when it's completed in 2022. Yes, 2022.

The small park includes planting beds on the sides, striped paving and some loose tables and chairs in the middle, and a water wall illuminated by changing colored lights at the back of the shallow space. Doors to the ventilation facility can be found in two places: cut into the curved planter bed on the right, as seen in the above photo, and in the back left corner. My first thought upon seeing the park yesterday was that the designers at MTA are giving Midtown a contemporary update of the famous Paley Park.

Paley Park
[Paley Park | Photograph by John Hill]

The similarities between the spaces are many: Each is a small pocket park; each has a water feature at its back wall; each has loose tables and chairs; each has some trees; and each has gates that lock the space at night. But the details are what make the 50th Street Commons pale in comparison. Respective to the above list, they are: Paley is a deeper space; Paley's water wall is more substantial and not capped by ventilation grilles; the chairs at 50th Street are crowded into the pinched space and the tables are too high compared to Paley; Paley's trees occupy the middle of the space, not just the edges, layering the space and creating some intimacy; and Paley's gate does not have a large overhead frame (unlike the one at 50th Street just visible in the top photo). The details of Paley result in a comfortable space that is a respite from the street, while the details of 50th Street Commons result in an uncomfortable space where people are on display.

50th Street Commons
[50th Street Commons | Photograph by John Hill]

Is comparing the MTA's "gift" to Midtown with one of the area's – if not the city's – best outdoor spaces unfiar? Perhaps, but given the similarities it appears that Paley Park was a large, and suitable, influence on the designers. Too bad they didn't learn better from what Paley offers. At the very least, I'm hoping in five years time the trees will soften 50th Street's rough edges and make the space more inviting. That won't turn it into another Paley, but it will help.
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 16:05

[Photograph by David Schalliol]

Shortly after posting my latest "Book Brief" with a recent issue of MAS Context, editor Iker Gil notified me about a site-specific video and light installation that took place last month on the rooftop of the west tower of Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City. I had heard about Luftwerk's installation beforehand, but I had not seen any thorough documentation of the one-night event until these photos and video grabbed from a post at MAS Context.


[Best watched with sound on]

For those who like this kind of engagement of art, light, and architecture, be sure to check out the rest of Luftwerk's projects, many of which have taken place on other well known buildings, such as Robie House and Fallingwater.


[Photograph by David Schalliol]
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 21:30
"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.



1: Homecoming: Contextualizing, Materializing, and Practicing the Rural in China edited by Joshua Bolchover, Christiane Lange, John Lin | Gestalten | 2013 | Amazon
Based on a symposium of the same name at the University of Hong Kong in April 2012, Homecoming is a refreshing counterpoint to all of the attention given to China's urban building boom, which takes the form of large yet innovative housing projects by the likes of Steven Holl, but more often is symbolized by bland and monotonous, tightly packed towers. The movement of large numbers of Chinese from the country to the city makes the former ripe for some investigation, which the 15 contributors do here in the three sections noted in the book's subtitle; my favorite are the many great projects in the "materializing the rural" section. A debate between the editors and some of the contributors at the end of the book tackles the notions of urban/rural and what can or should be done with the latter.

2: MAS Context 21: Repetition edited by Iker Gil | MAS Context | Spring 2014
Chicago's quarterly journal MAS Context produces yet another XL issue with #21 on the theme "repetition"; their earlier Narrative issue, guest edited by Klaus, also clocks in at about twice as many pages as the norm. The Xerox stamp on the cover points to one interpretation of the theme, but with 18 contributions there is plenty of different approaches. The issue includes an excerpt from Bianca Bosker's book Original Copies, on "architectural mimicry" in China; Patrick Sykes's exploration of digital printing in a grotto-like creation; Livia Corona Benjamin's photographic essay on Mexico's cookie-cutter two-million home program; Camilo José Vergara's "Harlem Time Tracker," on the changes to this section of Manhattan since the 1970s; and Iker Gil speaks with astronaut Claude Nicollier about the simulation and repetition necessary in spaceflight. In addition to the eclectic and visually rich contributions, the most outstanding aspect of the issue is that each contributor was paired with a Chicago-based designer who determined the page layout, font, colors, and other design features. These pairings turn each piece into a bespoke creation belying the monotony normally considered with repetition.

3: L.A. [Ten]: Interviews on Los Angeles Architecture 1970s-1990s with Stephen Phillips | Lars Müller Publishers | 2014 | Amazon
Curators, historians and the media like to group architects together as a means of expressing a trend, or perhaps to argue for a particular approach. Most famous is definitely the New York Five (Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk and Richard Meier), but as even a rudimentary analysis of these architects reveals that Graves jumped to Postmodern historicism and John Hejduk was an architect that couldn't fit easily alongside others. In other words, architectural groups like this often don't work. The so-called L.A. Ten, "a loosely affiliated cadre of architects" in Southern California in the 1980s, is a case in point. Any formal similarities between Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, Frank Israel, Neil Denari, and the rest were thin. But the network of architects, educators, and schools was important, as the lengthy interviews in this book make clear. Held by Stephen Phillips and students from Cal Poly, the interviews take a roughly chronological approach in recapping each architect's education, production, and relationships in the decades indicated by the book's subtitle. Fascinating at times, the book suffers from minimal editing; even though the full interviews are necessary for an oral history, shorter versions would have sufficed for a book available to the public.



4: Natural Architecture Now: New Projects from Outside the Boundaries of Design by Francesca Tatarella | Princeton Architectural Press | 2014 | Amazon
The cover of the first Natural Architecture book, published in 2007, features the amazing "stick work" of Patrick Dougherty, who received his own book treatment from the folks at PAPress a few years later. In this second title from Milan's 22 Publishing, the cover is given over to one of the Starn brothers' impressive Big Bambu installations. In both cases the cover indicates that the contents are as much art as architecture, a fact that does not reduce the potential influence of the projects that explore how materials like wood and bamboo are manipulated to create constructions that at the very least appear natural. The architects and artists here are less concerned with creating structures that are integrated into nature in terms of process (a house that is grown from the soil or trees, for example) than they are with form. This means that the selection ends up being fairly consistent regardless of who designed and built the pieces, where they're located, and what they're used for.

5: Team 10 East: Revisionist Architecture in Real Existing Modernism edited by Łukasz Stanek | Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw | 2014 | AmazonTeam 10, which supplanted CIAM in 1959, was made up of a core of architects from Great Britan, The Netherlands, France, Italy, and Greece, but nobody from Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, participating architects (outside the core) did come from Czechoslavakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Yogoslavia, thereby influencing the Team 10 discourse to a certain degree. Key among these participants was Polish architect Oscar Hansen, who was Stanek's inspiration for a conference and workshop held at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2013. "Team 10 East," as in the title of the workshop and companion book, refers to the original Team 10, but it is a fictitious entity; or as Stanek puts it in his introduction with Dirk van den Heuvel: "Rather than being a retroactive manifesto, Team 10 East is a generative conceptual tool that grasps at an understanding of what was shared by these fellow travelers of Team 10." This understanding comes from five long essays interspersed with seven shorter ones in the handsome book whose size reminds me of a Readers Digest – with nicer paper, design and illustrations.

6: Shadow and Light: Tadao Ando and the Clark by Clark Art Institute | Yale University Press | 2014 | Amazon
The year 2014 marks the end of a major masterplan for the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute (aka The Clark) consisting of two new buildings by Tadao Ando, interior renovations by Annabelle Selldorf, and reconfigured landscapes by Reed Hilderbrand. This slim book celebrates the contributions of Japanese architect Ando, who started with the 2008 Stone Hill Center (which has its own book) and saw the completion of a visitor center this year. The latter was completed in July, and given that the book was ready for opening day, the photos by Richard Pare that document the building tend to be at the level of the detail rather than general views; rendering serve the latter, as do they for to express what is going on with the landscapes around the buildings. Given that The Clark is all about looking at art surrounded by nature, the relationship between the architecture and the landscape is of the utmost importance for Ando. While it may not come across so strongly in the photos, Michael Webb's essay does a good job of conveying this idea.
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-briefs"
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 08:12
Here are some photos of Metropolis (2006) in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Future Systems with Danielsen Architecture, photographed by Ximo Michavila.

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #1

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #7

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #8

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #9

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #4

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #3

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #6

Danielsen Architects. Metropolis #2

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Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "today's archidose"
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Date: Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 22:55
Furniture by Architects edited by Driss Faith
Images Publishing Group, 2013
Hardcover, 208 pages



The appeal of furniture for architects – both as something to use to improve a space and something to tackle as a design problem – is undeniable. But it's also been said (by Mies van der Rohe, most famously) that designing a chair is much more difficult than designing a building. Perhaps that is why architects have created so few masterpieces of furniture, especially when compared to their raison d'etre of buildings. Sure, in the former camp, the Barcelona chair by Mies comes to mind, as does Marcel Breuer's Wassily chair and Eero Saarinen's Womb chair, but the hits are few. Still, this does not stop architects from trying, especially if they have an enlightened client who is willing to pay for an architect's experimentation with furnishings, experiments that can move from the custom realm to mass production. This book collects over 80 pieces of furniture by contemporary architects, a collection that runs the gamut in terms of who, what, why and where.


[UNStudio's MYchair Lounge]

Before delving into more words about the book, I'll admit that I'm a sucker for the idea of architects designing furniture; I wrote a piece for World-Architects that surveys the designs produced by W-A member firms, such as UNStudio's MYchair Lounge (also included in the book reviewed here), and I even own a catalog on a 1980s Whitney exhibition of furniture by American architects. Like the Whitney's Shape and Environment book, I was hoping for an overview that also put today's architect-designed furniture in context. Instead, this book from Images Publishing Group is basically a catalog of products, more marketing than insightful commentary, pulling text from architects alongside photos of the pieces. Thankfully, most of the photos show the furniture in context, and only occasionally floating on a white background.


[SLHO and Associates' Modular Outdoor Furniture]

If you are looking for a source with numerous furniture designs, unlike me, then this book will do the trick. As I mentioned, it includes a wide variety of furnishing – different authors (who), different types (what), different approaches to design (why), and different contexts (where) – with names that range from the famous (Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, UNStudio) to the less-so (FINNE Architects, Griffin Enright, and Saaj Design have some of the most pieces in the book).

Aside from highlighting a wide variety of primarily good furniture designs, the book could have been improved in terms of organization and cross-referencing. Even though "architects" is in the title of the book, the furnishings are arranged alphabetically by name, an odd tactic considering how arbitrary these names can be and how this disperses an architect's pieces throughout the book. An index of architects is given at the back with simply the page numbers where their furnishings appear, but it's too little, especially when their creations could have been cross referenced, as could have similar types of furnishings (chairs, benches, dining room tables, light fixtures, etc.). Instead each piece floats in a vacuum, making the book a catalog without prices when it could have been so much more.

Purchase at Amazon: Buy from Amazon.com
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-review"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 19:12
The weather is beautiful in New York City in the fall, a great time to see the city on some architectural walking tours. Below are descriptions and dates of the tours I'm giving through the 92Y. Click on the links to purchase tickets.

Saturday, September 20 at 11am
Saturday, October 25 at 11am
Columbus Circle and Lincoln Square
Look at and go inside some recent buildings in the West 50s and 60s, from the Hearst Tower and the transformation of Lincoln Center to the Apple Store.
New Sod


Saturday, September 27 at 11am
The High Line and Its Environs
Trek the High Line – Phase 3 opening on September 21! – taking in the park and the surrounding buildings and step off to get a closer look at select buildings.
High Line Section 2


Saturday, October 18 at 11am
Architectural Walking Tour of Brooklyn via the G Train
Hop on and off the G train from Carroll Gardens to Clinton Hill and Williamsburg, taking in townhouses, campus facilities and other buildings along the way.
Junction
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 15:51
AIA Guide to Chicago edited by Alice Sinkevitch and Laurie McGovern Petersen
University of Illinois Press, 2014, Third Edition
Paperback, 568 pages

Building Ideas: An Architectural Guide to the University of Chicago by Jay Pridmore
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Paperback, 160 pages

Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation edited by Alexander Eisenschmidt with Jonathan Mekinda
Park Books, 2013
Hardcover, 184 pages



Recently I received review copies of three books on Chicago, so it seems appropriate to put them together into one review, discussed in alphabetical order.

Having produced my own guide to architecture in New York City, and therefore having researched many guidebooks, one of my pet peeves with guidebooks (architectural or otherwise) is when they are not designed with their use in mind. By this I mean being carried around, having easy-to-find entries and easy-to-navigate maps, and giving the reader something of interest while seeing the site in person. Although the AIA Guide to Chicago excels in many respects (to be discussed soon), the third edition actually takes a step back from the 2004 edition in one important area: maps. The new edition forgets one thing the previous edition was aware of: books have folds where information gets lost, so don't put anything within about 1/4" or 1/2" of the fold. Unfortunately the maps don't heed this advice, so many streets and buildings in the two-page maps are lost, only to be found by those that break the binding or cut the book apart. This is unfortunate, more a mistake for a first edition than a third, especially when the second edition got it right.

With that out of the way, the positive aspects of the guidebook are many, building upon the previous edition (also edited by Sinkevitch) with better navigation (page-end tabs make the chapters easy to find), thorough histories of the city and neighborhoods, commendable fact-checking (unlike the AIA Guide to New York, as I wrote in my review), and good additions with the many contemporary buildings that are once again making Chicago an exciting place to be an architect and archi-tourist. Things were not so optimistic when the previous edition came out in 2004, timed, like the third edition, to the AIA Convention descending on the city.

I'll admit that in the decade I worked as an architect in Chicago (1997-2006), there was a general malaise with architects in the city, brought on by important projects going to outsiders and bland buildings being erected by locals (Millennium Park was just completed in 2004, so its impact was not yet felt). There were bright spots with Jeanne Gang, John Ronan, Wheeler Kearns, and Brininstool + Lynch, among others, but mediocrity was the norm over the design excellence Chicago is known for, rose-colored glasses or not. But positive momentum has been in swing as Gang, Ronan (below photo) and others have received more commissions and created some of the best architecture in the city, with buildings that are drawing attention to far-flung parts of the globe – Gang's Aqua Tower, the most obvious expression of this, graces the cover for good reason. Of course, there is much more to see than Aqua, and this book (warts and all) is a good companion to exploring the city from what's left of its 19th-century origins to the present.

Poetry Foundation
[Poetry Foundation, John Ronan Architects, 2011 | Photo by John Hill]

When a review copy of Building Ideas: An Architectural Guide to the University of Chicago landed on my doorstep, the first thing my wife asked was, "what do they say about the Smart Museum?" where we got married in 2006. Turns out the answer was "nothing." I could find the museum labeled #2 on a map near the front of the book, but when I flipped through the book to find the same, thinking it might be arranged in order of the 31 buildings on the map, I couldn't find it. The chapters are chronological/thematic, moving from "The Gothic Campus" to "Building Ideas with Modern Architecture," so projects are out of sync with the numbering on the map. OK. But looking in the index, the only mention of the Smart Museum of Art is for the two-page spread of the map. I checked the 30 other buildings and discovered only one other building (International House) in the same predicament; every other building is discussed at some length in the book.

So what does the inclusion of the Smart Museum in the map but its omission from any description say about the book? First, combined with the somewhat large size of the book (10"x9"), it's not an "architectural guide" in the sense of the AIA Guide to Chicago or any other portable, keyed-and-mapped guidebook. A more accurate subtitle would have been "an architectural history of the University of Chicago," given the way the chapters are arranged, the narrative flow of Pridmore's writing, and the way the reader learns about the planning and evolution of the physical campus. Most people will not notice the omission of the Smart Museum from the text, but if they used it as a guide to the campus, as the subtitle indicates, they most certainly would have noticed. (That said, Pridmore did produce an architectural tour of the campus in 2006 as part of PAPress's campus guide series, a more traditional guide that predates the university's latest building boom.)

Aside from the quibble of "guide" versus "history," how is the book? While it does a great job in describing the evolution of the campus from its origins, selection of architect/planner, and even selection of style (less obvious and more important in the late 1800s than today) to its modern plans by Eero Saarinen and Edward Larrabee Barnes (he was architect of the Smart Museum, but in the book's one mention of the museum – not by name – it and other Barnes-era buildings "did not meet expectations") and the latest boom with buildings by Helmut Jahn, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and Valerio Dewalt Train. But when it comes to the overall tone of the book and descriptions of the individual buildings, the book is more "booster" than either history or guide, as if the book is a promotion for the school rather than a scholarly or independent voice on it. Regardless of the Smart Museum's omission, people like me, with a fondness for the school in their hearts (this goes for alumni, professors and others who have spent time there for whatever reason), will find the book rewarding, but those looking for a proper guide should go with the AIA Guide, which devotes nearly 20 pages to more than 80 buildings on its Hyde Park campus.

Chicagoisms
[Chicagoisms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago | Photo by John Hill]

Chicago is a city whose mythologies are more prevalent to foreigners than other cities. In my travels in Europe in the mid-1990s, just about everybody I met and told I came from Chicago replied with something about Al Capone and the mob ("stick 'em up, bang, bang!), or personalities like Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan, or its great architecture being limited to Frank Lloyd Wright and the "birth of the skyscraper." Even today, people tell me that it makes sense I'm an architect/architectural writer, considering I came from the city. People's impressions of Chicago are colored by personalities whose contributions were great but which overshadow the complexities and realities of the city. Many histories repeat these myths and simplifications, but this great book thankfully goes the opposite route, dismantling some of those myths and putting Chicago in an international context that shines a light on its influences.

The dismantling of myths starts right away with the first essay (of eight), Penelope Dean's comparison of two contemporaneous exhibitions in 1976: 100 Years of Architecture in Chicago: Continuity of Structure and Form and Chicago Architects. The first, organized by SOM's Peter Pran and Mies biographer Franz Schulze, was representative of the myth (still strong) that painted Chicago architecture as starting with the Chicago School, moving through Mies, and then culminating (at the time) with corporate modern firms like SOM. The second, on the other hand, argued that such a simple view was misleading, ignorant of the variety in Chicago architecture that was portrayed in the show; Stanley Tigerman and Stuart Cohen, among others, were responsible for the oppositional exhibition. Dean's analysis examines the two exhibitions but also how people in places like New York reacted to the shows and how they viewed architecture in Chicago.

The following essays take further in-depth, scholarly looks at Alvin Boyarsky, the Museum of Modern Art's 1933 exhibition on Chicago, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Burnham's Plan of Chicago, and of course Mies van der Rohe, among other subjects. Each one ties Chicago to another Place (London, New York, Berlin, etc.) as a means of lending alternative viewpoints to the city as, among other things, a testbed for innovations in architecture and urban design. Aiding the essays are 20 short-form pieces (each one a two-page spread on a pink background) that focus on a particular project from an atypical perspective (buildings by Mies, Bertrand Goldberg, and SOM, as well as projects by the likes of Greg Lynn, Sean Lally, and others). All tolled, the book is one of the freshest recent books on architecture in Chicago, one that inspired the Art Institute exhibition of the same name, in which some voices from the book use the essays as frameworks for speculating on Chicago's future evolution. Perhaps a future edition will combined the book and the exhibition to make an even better document of Chicago's realities and potential realities.

AIA Guide to Chicago: Buy from Amazon.com

Building Ideas: Buy from Amazon.com

Chicagoisms: Buy from Amazon.com
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-review"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 17:03
Here are some of my photos of 35XV, a building designed by FXFOWLE Architects now under construction on West 15th Street in New York City.

35XV

35XV

35XV

35XV

35XV

35XV

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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 16:42
This week's Building of the Week – a feature I curate at American-Architects, where each week a recent building from a different state is highlighted – is the Patience S. Latting Northwest Library in Oklahoma City designed by LWPB Architecture. While researching the firm and their projects for the "50x50" feature, I couldn't help noticing the way the firm faces are represented:

[Screenshot from LWPB Architecture website]

Moving the mouse across the screen (sorry, doesn't work on mobile devices) results in the people moving back and forth, retracting of the screen like two-dimensional cutouts on a virtual Rolodex:

[Screenshot from LWPB Architecture website]

The technique is reminiscent of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's flip-up project grid on their website, which was designed by Pentagram:

[Screenshot from DS+R website]

When the mouse cursor overlaps with a person on LWBP's website, a speech bubble of sorts pops up with their name (who new Norman Foster worked in Oklahoma?) and clicking on each person brings up a postcard-like view with some of stats on them:

[Screenshot from LWPB Architecture website]

While LWPB's means of illustrating the firm's principals and employees is clever and memorable, its reliance on Flash points to the question: Can this sort of thing be programmed into the HTML environment, so as to be visible and usable across devices and platforms? I'd assume not in its current form, but perhaps in other ways that retain the fun way of showing the firm's faces and therefore the firm's personality.
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "firm faces"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 13:26

[Photo via 860-880 Lake Shore Drive]

Mies van der Rohe's 860-880 Lake Shore Drive apartments, shown above around the time of their completion in 1951, are two of the most influential towers in 20th-century architecture. Predating by seven years his Seagram Building in New York City, 860 and 880 consist of uniform facades with small, vertical I-beams in front of steel plates and clear glass.


[Facade detail | Photo via 860-880 Lake Shore Drive]

A basic expression of floor-to-ceiling glass and decorative steel meant to evoke the structural frame behind it subsequently became the go-to design for Mies and other architects in the 1960s and later, especially for office buildings. Today's urban environments of glass skins (now taut, with silicon joints rather than decorative projections) would be unthinkable without this trailblazing pair.

Monika Sosnowska Tower
[All photographs of Tower by John Hill]

860-880 are the source, and modern architecture is the subject, of Polish artist Monika Sosnowska's Tower, on display until October 25 at Hauser & Wirth on West 18th Street. The artist has taken the facade – everything in front of the structural steel, fireproofing and floors – built it at full scale and then distorted it beyond recognition. Well, almost beyond recognition.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

Walking into the large gallery space, the first view of Tower is the one above; the 110-foot-long piece is so big that I could not capture it in a single photo. My first thought was "beached whale," and while I can't say if the artist intended such a resemblance, the form and the inversion of the subject (from vertical to horizontal) does give the impression that modern architecture is dead or dying, much like a whale washed ashore is dead or dying.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

Tower's modules are those of the original facade, the rectangular window bays between the decorative I-beams, with a large pane of glass above a smaller, operable pane. Of course, glass is missing from the piece, but if we straighten out the bent construction in our minds, the regular, rectangular grid is there, vertical on one side (photos above and below) and horizontal on the other (top installation photo).

Monika Sosnowska Tower

Comparing the top view of the installation to the one above – photos from alternate ends of the piece – shows the most distinctive experiences of the piece. Where the steel is coiled tightly, as in the above photo, Tower is like a tube, a restricted view where the end is barely visible.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

But at the other end (photo below), the steel unfurls, as if the tension of the coil at the other end could not be contained. Here, the piece exposes itself in all its gruesome complexity.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

About halfway down the 110-foot length of the piece, the steel transitions from what I described as vertical to horizontal. This transition can be seen in the below photo, with the vertical windows on the right and the horizontal windows on the left (look for the intermediate mullion between large pane and operable pane to get a sense of the orientation).


Monika Sosnowska Tower

Looking at the facade detail of 860-880 near the top of the post, one question that may arise is: Why is Tower all black when Mies's original is black steel and gray aluminum? This is a good question, not only because Mies is quoted as saying "God is in the details" but because the pair of towers were replicated at 900-910 Lake Shore Drive with some minor changes, one of them being an all-black metal exterior. So with Tower's all-black appearance, Sosnowska is referencing not only the original but also its copies, be it right across the street or elsewhere around the world.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

It's easy to go on analyzing Tower in terms of the architecture of modernism (or the destruction of architecture, à la 9/11, that the mangled form also brings to mind), but intellectual perspectives on the piece are not needed to appreciate it. The thing is so big and so gnarly that it just impresses out of its size and form: the way the pieces bend as well as the way they overlap each other; the way it occupies one half of the gallery, cutting a diagonal across the room and inviting visitors to walk around it; and the way it's hardly concerned with beauty or order.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

Tower invites speculation about how it was made. While a book specifically on the piece will be released in November, one needn't see that to know it was a complicated and intensive undertaking, akin to constructing a building, both in terms of mechanical muscle and the coordination of labor needed to move the project from scale models to full size.

Monika Sosnowska Tower

So if you're in New York City between now and October 25, be sure to head to Hauser & Wirth to take in Monika Sosnowska's Tower to experience it for yourself.

Monika Sosnowska Tower
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 07 Sep 2014 17:55
Christopher Janney's Sonic Forest: Civic Celebrations opened across the street from the Center for Architecture on Friday evening. The grid of interactive pylons will be up only until September 11, but for those who can't visit by then, one of Janney's permanent pieces, Reach NYC, can be experienced on the N/Q/R platforms of the 34th Street/Herald Square station. Below are some of my photos and video clips of Sonic Forest.

Sonic Forest
[All photos/videos by John Hill]

Sonic Forest

Sonic Forest

Sonic Forest

Sonic Forest

Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Sunday, 07 Sep 2014 08:54
Update 09-07: Per a comment on Twitter, I was mistaken in my original post at what intersection I was looking at (double D'OH!!), but nevertheless R+L's Loreley is still gone, per the corrected text below.

I'm not sure when the Brooklyn outpost of Loreley Biergarten closed, but when I happened to think I was walking by its location in the shadow of the BQE a couple days ago, it was gone. This is what it looked like when Loreley existed, in a spread from my Guide to Contmporary New York City Architecture:

[That should say 64 *Frost* Street – D'OH! | Photos by Amy Barkow]

Not only is restaurant designed by Rickenbacker + Leung gone, per this Google Street View from April 2012:


But sometime between then and September 2013, the date of this Google Street View, the restaurant changed from Loreley's innovate brick fencing to something with a wood fence, and the city put in a preliminary plaza at the triangular tip where Frost and Meeker meet:


The new restaurant, since mid-2013, is Battery Harris, a "Carribbean-inspired restaurant and bar."

Since the above view, (see my photo at top) taller buildings have taken over the low-rise buildings behind and the city has made the parklet more permanent through the extension of the curbs, but at the omission of the planters and stone benches. Although I didn't take a close look at the construction sign while passing by the other day (the BIS indicates a Place of Assembly permit filed by C. Wall Architecture, which has done plenty of restaurants, so I'd wager on another one here), whatever occupies the one-story building at the tip of the site former Loreley space will hopefully nurture the new but empty public space in front of it...and maybe they can show movies on that big blank wall facing the plaza, rather than putting up a billboard aimed at BQE drivers.
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 13:23
The title of this blog post is the title of a panel discussion that was held in SOM's New York office in a couple months ago. While the inclusion of the term "trending" points to the a desire to have architecture function like cats, celebrities, and other viral topics, the proceedings, which can be watched below or here, strike a balance between skepticism and all-out-embrace of digital trends.


[Photo via SOM's Facebook page]

From SOM:
The internet has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. What impact has it had on architecture — and has that impact been negative or positive? In this panel discussion, hosted at SOM’s New York office on July 31st, 2014, three leaders from influential design publications* discuss the myriad ways architecture is presented online; whether the web has diminished genuine, critical dialogue about architecture; and how much thought and energy a firm should invest in its digital presence.
*With Cathleen McGuigan, editor in chief of Architectural Record; Marc Kushner, founder and CEO of Architizer; Alan Brake, executive editor at The Architect’s Newspaper; moderated by Jenna McKnight, digital editor at SOM.

Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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KRob 2014   New window
Date: Wednesday, 03 Sep 2014 13:33
October 27, 2014 – 5pm CST, to be precise – is the deadline for this year's Ken Roberts Memorial Delineation Competition, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Students and professionals can enter in various categories, with eligibility requirements here and more details on the competition below.



From KRob:
Celebrating 40 years, the annual Ken Roberts Memorial Delineation Competition is the longest running architectural drawing competition in the world. Organized by the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects since 1974, the Ken Roberts Competition awards prizes to original works that best represent the artistic qualities of architecturally inspired drawings, produced by hand, digital CG or a combination of both.

Hosted by the AIA Dallas Chapter at their offices in Dallas and sponsored by Doghouse Computer Systems, the competition culminates in an award ceremony and event night with refreshments and conversation with the jury panel. This year the jury consists of Frank Ching, considered one of the greatest architectural illustrators of our time and author of multiple books that have become essential to young architects-in-training. Thomas Series owner of Laptop – Rendering, an incredible visualization firm who work with leading architects worldwide, and Cliff Welch, architect and owner of Welch Architects, a renowned contemporary architect in Dallas, Texas.

Having received 385 entries from over 25 countries in the last year, KRob’s visibility continues to grow, with its website receiving over 33,000 visitors each year.

Professionals and students from all over the world are encouraged to enter this exciting competition for an opportunity to win great prizes, gain recognition across the industry and open up new opportunities with the publication of their ‘Award Winning’ work!

More information can be found at www.krobarch.com

The above poster features Chris Cornelius's winner last year in the professional digital/mixed category. Below are some of my favorites from previous years.


[J. Arthur Liu, 2007 juror citation professional hand category]


[Matthew Sander, 2008 best in student hand category]


[Nathan Freise, 2009 best in show, best in professional/mixed category]


[Brad Silva, 2010 best in physical submission category]


[Dustin Wheat, 2011 best in physical submission category]


[Chris Cornelius, 2012 best in physical submission category]
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Monday, 01 Sep 2014 19:21
Here are some photos of the Druzhba Sanatorium (1985) in Kurpaty, Crimea, Ukraine, by Igor Vasilevsky with Nodar Kancheli, photographed by William Veerbeek.

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

Druzhba Sanatorium (Igor Vasilevsky/  Nodar Kancheli), Kurpaty, Crimea / RU, 2014

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Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "today's archidose"
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Date: Sunday, 31 Aug 2014 12:10
2012 Competitions Annual edited by G. Stanley Collyer with Daniel Madryga
The Competition Project, 2013
Paperback, 240 pages



At the start of the 1990s, Competitions magazine began publishing quarterly issues with notices and results on architectural competitions. In 2011 the publication went the way of many magazines and is now online-only, though its print output has segued to an annual book that collects the results of some prominent competitions. The second edition, covering competitions in parts of 2011 and 2012, features the winners and runners up for 16 competitions.

Competitions is based in Kentucky, so it's no surprise that the (now e)magazine tends to focus on the United States, but as the back cover attests: "the majority of competitions for real projects in this volume reflect not only the institutional commitment of foreign nations to this process, but the dire economic straits our governing bodies find themselves in." This quote points to an emphasis on "real" competitions versus "ideas" competitions, while indicating that U.S. competitions in the annual are few; in fact only 5 of the 16 projects are located in the United States, 7 if we broaden the criteria to North America by adding Canada. But of course competitions in any locale are geared to entice as many architects from different countries (often pairing up with local architects) to enter, hopefully leading to more ideas and potentially bigger names. Therefore U.S. participation, as the Annual attests elsewhere in its pages, goes far beyond the locations of competitions.


[OMA: Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. Image: © OMA, rendering by Luxigon]

That said, the U.S. competitions tend to be less flashy and with fewer (or no) big names. This doesn't mean these competitions don't have value, but the mix of international/local and famous/not-so-famous in the book broadens its appeal to a wider spectrum of architects and fans of architecture. An example of the international/famous side of things is the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec competition, won by OMA, with Allied Works, David Chipperfield and others as runners up. On the local/not-so-famous side can be found the Atlanta History Center competition, won by Pfeiffer Partners, with Stanley Beaman & Sears, MSTSD and others as runners up. Given Competitions' focus on results in its annual, we do not learn what really happened to these and other "real" projects. In these cases, OMA's design, officially called the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion, started construction in 2013 and is slated for a 2015 opening, while Pfeiffer Partners' winning design was shelved in favor of an arguably inferior design by Atlanta's MSTSD, but not their runner-up entry they did with Kallman McKinnel & Wood.


[Pfeiffer Partners: Atlanta History Center. Image via waltercrimm.com]

But the big question, the elephant in the room if you will, is the obvious one: What is the value of the Annual in the age of Arch Daily, Bustler, and other websites featuring competitions results with plenty of images and text from the architects? The answer is threefold: The first has already been alluded to, as the book includes competitions that these websites do not feel the need to feature (Arch Daily's coverage of the Atlanta competition is solely a 2011 call for architects announcement, for example). The second is that Competitions includes editorial commentary and jury comments, which these websites don't include and sometimes include, respectively. Third is having the winner and the runners up in one place, which makes it easy for comparison and to have a mental picture of reactions to the competition brief, easier to achieve in a book than on separate web pages online; often websites highlight only the winner and/or only it and a couple runners up. Even if every notable competition isn't covered (an appendix with other competitions, some of them ideas competitions, and their winners is included) the thoroughness of the 2012 Annual should be commended.

Purchase at Amazon: Buy from Amazon.com
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-review"
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Date: Friday, 29 Aug 2014 15:58
Here are some photos of Brion Cemetery (1972) in San Vito d'Altivole, Italy, by Carlo Scarpa, photographed by Francesco Maria Gabriele Vozza.

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion

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Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "today's archidose"
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Date: Thursday, 28 Aug 2014 13:00
So, this is what Castle Hill in the Bronx gets for an EMS Station:

[Zerega Avenue EMS Station by Smith-Miller Hawkinson | Photo by Michael Moran/OTTO]

But this is what my neighborhood of Astoria, Queens gets:

[Hoyt Avenue EMS station made from construction trailers | Photo by John Hill]

What's up with that, DDC?
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 15:24
Here are some photos of Råå Day Care Center (2013) in Helsingborg, Sweden, by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, photographed by Matthew Gribben.









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Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "today's archidose"
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 15:00
"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with short 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. In this post are six titles published by the University of Minnesota Press.



1: Architecture since 1400 by Kathleen James-Chakraborty | 2013 | Amazon
Instead of the traditional discussion of style and analysis of space, the author aims "to reconstruct the story of how environments are created that shape experience and communicate identity through the ways in which spaces are formed and surfaces are decorated." The examples in the book, which moves chronologically and geographically from front to back (starting in China in the early 1400s and ending in the same country in present day), are diverse in terms of place (Asia and South America are afforded as much importance as Europe and North America, though Africa is the focus of only one of the thirty chapters) and architect/builder (encompassing more buildings than those designed by well known architects), making it an atypical history of architecture when compared to Sir Banister Fletcher, Trachtenberg and Hyman, and other standard textbook histories. The bite-sized chapters – thirty of them across 488 pages, or an average of 16 illustrated pages per chapter – make the book a handy reference when students and architects want to get a different perspective on buildings in a particular place and time. Further, references at the end of each chapter give the reader good places to go for more depth than what James-Chakraborty's book allows.

2: City Choreographer: Lawrence Halprin in Urban Renewal America by Alison Bick Hirsch | 2014 | Amazon
I've never been a fan of the phrase, "You can't judge a book by it's cover." Sure, you can't pass judgment on a book entirely based on its cover, but there are certain telling things that covers convey, particularly some architecture books. This book's cover has two illustrations: a photo of activity in Cascade Fountain in Seattle's Freeway Park designed by Lawrence Halprin, and a score by Halprin for a performance, most likely for his wife Anna. These two images, as the title of the book hints, have a strong relationship, as the design of Halprin's public spaces, like Freeway Park, were informed by a creative process called the RSVP Cyles (Resources, Score, Valuation, Performance) that Halprin developed in the 1960s. Hirsch, in a book based on her doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania, analyzes Halprin's methods for designing public spaces with people's actions in mind, an approach that designers should pay attention to today.

3: The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City by Eric Avila | 2014 | Amazon
"When the interstate highway program connected America's cities, it also divided them, cutting through and destroying countless communities." So says the back-cover description of this book, which brings to mind the way the Dan Ryan Expressway on Chicago's South Side separated the former Robert Taylor Homes from the neighborhood of Bridgeport, the home of Richard J. Daley, the Mayor of Chicago when both the expressway and public housing were constructed in the 1960s. In this case the expressway didn't destroy Bridgeport (as planned it would have, but it was rerouted eight blocks to the east) but it severed the white and black neighborhoods from each other. This particular example is not part of Avila's book, since the associate professor of history, Chicano studies, and urban planning at UCLA focuses on Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, and other cities where people have protested the damage wrought by highways.



4: Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History by Sigfried Giedeon | 2013 | Amazon
Sigfried Giedion wrote one of the most influential books on architecture last century, Space, Time and Architecture, released in 1941 and now in its fifth edition. If one masterpiece in his lifetime was not enough, Giedion also wrote this masterful volume seven years later on the "anonymous history" of mechanization taking hold of just about every aspect of our lives. Having covered architecture in the earlier book, here he tracks the changes in the food we eat, the chairs we sit on, the rooms we bathe in, and even the locks that secure our homes. As much a product of its time as Space, Time and Architecture, Mechanization Takes Command is, as Stanislaus von Moos states in the postscript to the 2013 printing of the 1948 book, equal parts "factographic" historical account and manifesto. I prefer to read it in the former sense, since the balance of textual and visual evidence paints a clear picture of technology's advance, even as the unbiased nature of Giedion's writing comes through from time to time. It does make me wonder if a similar "anonymous history" could be done on the computer age, on the influence of the digital in similar areas of our life. Perhaps somebody's done that and I'm not aware; if not, Giedion's reprinted book is a wake-up call for somebody to dive in.

5: The Modern Architectural Landscape by Caroline Constant | 2012 | Amazon
In the sphere of modernity, there's an inclination to partition work and expression into disciplines. Buildings are the purview of architects, for example, and the land around a building is taken care of by the landscape architect. Such a distinction is prevalent today, but this book's analysis of nine landscapes designed by architects puts a wrinkle in this partitioning by focusing on the totalizing nature of modernism to create cohesive environments, buildings and landscapes combined. Inside are the Barcelona Pavilion and Lafayette Park, both the product of Mies van der Rohe, the Woodland Cemetery of Asplund and Lewerentz, Jože Plečnik's Prague Castle, Le Corbusier's Chandigarh, and OMA's unbuilt Parc de la Villette submission, among others.

6: Pedestrian Modern: Shopping and American Architecture, 1925–1956 by David Smiley | 2013 | Amazon
Southdale Center, designed by Victor Gruen and known as the first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall in the United States, opened in Edina, Minnesota, in 1956. Gruen and his influence on the shopping mall and the suburbs after World War II is well documented, but what about the architecture of shopping centers pre-Southdale? Such is the subject of Columbia University professor David Smiley's thorough and thoroughly illustrated book, which tackles the years 1925 to 1956. The history is told in six chapters that are thematic rather than chronological, with "Park and Shop" in chapter three and "The Language of Modern Shopping" in chapter six, for example. The previous ignorance of early 20th-century shopping centers from architectural study is hinted in the title, as "pedestrian" refers not only to shoppers on foot (and the environments architects created for them) but also to the relegation of shopping centers to "secondary, pedestrian status" as the back cover attests. This book shows that the latter is far from the truth, and shopping centers are as much about modern architecture as housing, office buildings, and other traditional building types of interest.
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-briefs"
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