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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 23:36

I'm in Chicago for about a week, so in that time posts will be slow. Here's a few of the buildings I saw in the last couple of days, via my Instagram feed.

WMS Boathouse at Clark Park by Studio Gang Architects:

Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston by Ross Barney Architects:

Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois in Skokie by Tigerman McCurry Architects:

Northeastern Illinois University El Centro Campus by JGMA:

Erie Elementary Charter School by John Ronan Architects:
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 21:55
The first time I saw this futuristic house in a commercial for New Jersey lottery's "Cash 4 Life," I thought it looked familiar:

Turns out it's the highly photogenic Museum of the Moving Image expansion in Astoria, Queens, designed by Thomas Leeser:

[Photo: Elizabeth Felicella | Image source]

Specifically it's the cafe at the back of the lobby, which doubles as an event space:

[Photo:Wendy Moger-Bross/Museum of the Moving Image | Image source]

And in the land of commercials it doubles as a house in the not-too-distant future:
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "arch-advertising"
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Date: Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 14:36
The following text and images are courtesy Mark Pearson, Associate Professor of Architecture at the College of DuPage, which had its first ever Design + Build Studio this summer resulting in a Gathering Pavilion for the community college campus outside Chicago.


During the 2014 summer semester, the College of DuPage Architecture Department offered its first ever Design +Build summer studio. This course became a hands-on, experiential learning opportunity for our students to explore space and the built environment through the design and construction of a creative, spatially innovative, temporary structure.


Designed and built by 16 students, this temporary gathering pavilion is located on the COD main campus adjacent to the west campus pond. This project allowed our students to have a firsthand experience designing, and then building a structure. The necessity of building a design forced students to consider both the poetic and the tectonic simultaneously, adding a richness to the design conversation.


Conceptually, the gathering pavilion is an exploration of "framing" – framing space, framing views, and framing experience. The design is a series of five sectional bays, or frames, which are positioned adjacent to one another. While all of these sections are based on a consistent module, each frame varies in height, alignment, and seating placement. These five frames collectively create a space that allows for students to gather and interact with each other.


This space is activated by light and shadow, modulated through a trellis-like canopy. The design frames views toward the adjacent water feature and provides a creative composition of seating elements that can be occupied in a variety of ways. This structure functions both as a sculptural object within the landscape as well as a memorable space to be occupied and enjoyed by the campus community.








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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 17:24
Here are some photos of the Afrykarium - Oceanarium, ZOO Wrocław (2014, under construction) in Wrocław, Poland, by ArC2 Fabryka Projektowa, photographed by Maciek Lulko.





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Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "today's archidose"
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Date: Sunday, 28 Sep 2014 15:09
Like my time-lapse walk of the High Line posted last week, here is a north-to-south tour of the third section of the High Line, which opened to the public on September 21. About 2/3 of this section is a solid-surface walkway that parallels plantings kept in their found, as-is state with wildflowers and other vegetation. After that, the park changes to its more familiar palette of precast concrete pavers, benches, reused rails, and so forth; as will be seen, these elements are used in a slightly different way than the first two sections.

Some steel pylons overlooking the Hudson River and West Street:
High Line Section 3

About halfway along the straightaway paralleling the Hudson River are these large pieces of timber stacked into seating overlooking the Hudson on the right and the Hudson Yards on the left:
High Line Section 3

Another view of the benches, this time looking north to Javits:
High Line Section 3

Separating the walkway from the wildflowers is chain link fencing that the wildflowers poke through:
High Line Section 3

A large seating area can be found at the bend where the High Line turns east (the vista will be full of Hudson Yard towers in five years):
High Line Section 3

Another look at the bench made from steel and wood:
High Line Section 3

A view of the wildflowers looking west:
High Line Section 3

Section 3 has the High Line's only playground, where kids can squirrel their way through the steel beams (this is where this section transitions from "wild" to "tame":
High Line Section 3

At the end of the playground is a tube where kids can pop their heads up in a planting bed:
High Line Section 3

A stair at 11th Avenue gives an elevated view of the park, here looking west:
High Line Section 3

Seating over 11th Avenue incorporates tall backs for safety:
High Line Section 3

Some of the peel-up benches in section 3 combine to make really long benches:
High Line Section 3

Another slightly different detail is the creation of tables similar to the benches:
High Line Section 3

Also new is being able to walk between the rails and atop the railroad ties:
High Line Section 3
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Date: Friday, 26 Sep 2014 13:12
Finally! Thom Andersen's brilliant, nearly three-hour documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 14, eleven years after it was completed.

At its most basic, the video essay (as it's been called) is an analysis of Los Angeles through movies. On a deeper level, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum calls it, in addition to "a masterpiece," "an essay that qualifies as social history, as film theory, as personal reverie, as architectural history and criticism, as a bittersweet meditation on automotive transport, as a critical history of mass transit in southern California, as a wisecracking compilation of local folklore, as “a city symphony in reverse,” and as a song of nostalgia for lost neighborhoods such as Bunker Hill and unchronicled lifestyles such as locals who walk or take buses." (my emphasis) Rosenbaum's description of the film as part architectural history and criticism is spot on, just one aspect that makes it a stimulating and enjoyable experience for every one of its 169 minutes.

So, you may be asking, why has it taken eleven years for a DVD release? The main reason is that the film was made without studio backing and distribution, and since it's completely made up of clips from other films (with Andersen's highly opinionated narration on top), the rights to use the hundreds of clips was too much for the filmmaker or any distributor wishing to take on the task.

Enter The Cinema Guild, which announced in July that it would be releasing Los Angeles Plays Itself and three more Andersen titles: Red Hollywood, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer, and Reconversão. As other documentaries have invoked "fair use" protections in recent years, such as This Film Is Not Yet Rated, so is Andersen. As he said last year last year on the film's 10th anniversary: "I was, am, and will be able to use [the clips] under fair use. No copyright owners were harmed in the making of this film."

For a taste of the joys of Andersen's film, here is a 6:40 clip on the use of modern houses in films:

Available at Buy from Amazon.com (but cheaper to buy direct from Cinema Guild on DVD and Blu-Ray.)
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-moment"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 17:55
File this thing under "money does not buy taste": Millionaire architect Vasily Klyukin's proposal for a 4-tower hospital and spa to be built in Tunisia Economic City.

(via The Verge)
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 16:19
Here are some photos of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (1977) in Tehran, Iran, by Kamran Diba, photographed by Hassan Bagheri.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 08:35
The Architect's Guide to Writing: For Design and Construction Professionals by Bill Schmalz, illustrations by Bob Gill
Images Publishing, 2014
Paperback, 160 pages

Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment by Carter Wiseman
Trinity University Press, 2014
Paperback, 230 pages

I am an architect first and a writer second. Educated as an architect and urban planner, I find myself devoting most of my time to writing, be it for this blog, online publications or printed matter. While my situation is different than most architects who run or practice in firms, I share an educational background where studio comes first and writing comes much later – certainly not second but maybe fourth or fifth. This condition makes sense, given the need to express ourselves through drawings and models, the need to understand structures and materials, and a general reliance of the visual over the written word in explaining ideas to others. This condition also means that the writing of architects who came out of the system could be much improved. I like to think my writing has improved over the years, considering I do a lot of it every day, but for practicing architects it's helpful to have aids when it comes to the task of writing. These two books, although they sound similar, are very different from each other; in concert they offer broad and detailed advice for the many architects in need of help in expressing themselves through writing.

The broad strokes come from Carter Wiseman in his book Writing Architecture. Wiseman, a former architecture critic for New York Magazine, teaches classes at Yale, one of them on architectural writing. Much of that class lays the foundation for this book, and occasionally the author uses examples culled from the class. If writing is directed at addressing certain questions (who, what, when, where, how, why), Wiseman's book deals with the what, the how, and the why. What is defined in the chapters that take different types of writing as their subject: criticism, scholarship, literature, presentation, professional communication. How comes in the form of positive examples that Wiseman quotes and discusses within the chapters; most often these are architects and writers, but sometimes they come from his students, and sometimes the examples are how not to write. Why is basically the whole book, which argues that clear communication is integral for successful architecture, since words have an important part in expressing ideas, and because any architect will admit they write much more than they ever would have anticipated.

With Wiseman broadly addressing who, how, and why, Bill Schmalz, a principal at Perkins + Will's L.A. office, hones in on the how, but not in the same way that Wiseman does. In The Architect's Guide Writing, Schmalz examines vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, style, spelling, and other highly detailed ways of writing the English language. Given the many pages devoted to clearing up errors that shouldn't happen with educated people (its versus it's, for example), it's clear that the author believes architects are poor writers, or perhaps good writers struggling through bad habits. Therefore the book functions like a crash course in getting reacquainted with written English in order to write more clearly, free of jargon, and primarily free of errors (it's hard to be completely free of them). More seasoned architect/writers, myself included, may find the advice to be basic, but I was amazed at how many questionable things appear in my own writing (such as "in order to" in the previous sentence, which could just as effectively be shortened to "to").

So even though two books on writing for architects were released within weeks of each other, their different approaches to the topic mean they do not step on each other's toes, and they actually work together quite well. Traits that both share include the goal of better writing for architects and conveying that goal through clear writing; their books are their best examples, in other words. Wiseman's book relies on other voices to a large degree, reminiscent of Alexandra Lange's Writing About Architecture, and this helps to infuse the book with variety and some references to actual architecture. Schmalz, on the other hand, uses humor (in his writing, but also in Bob Gill's illustrations) as a way to make what are at times remedial lessons go down easier and become memorable. Another commendable trait they share is that they are both quick reads, and for architects out there who would rather spend their time on anything but reading and writing, that should make their lessons go down that much easier.

The Architect's Guide to Writing: Buy from Amazon.com

Writing Architecture: Buy from Amazon.com
Author: "John Hill (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "book-review"
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 14:32
It's autumn, which means it's time to apply for a Rome Prize at the American Academy.

Deadline is November 1.
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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 15:50
The third and last phase of the High Line opened to the public yesterday, so today I walked the full length of it, from 34th Street on the north to Gansevoort Street on the south. On my visit I decided to try out a timelapse app on my smartphone, and while the results are very amateurish (particularly the 5-degree tilt from horizontal that predominates, not to mention the occasional blurry shots and a close-up of my fingers at one point) the 2:46 clip does give a good idea of the changing character of the park and its context.

Want a soundtrack for the walk? I'd recommend a 3-minute chunk of Yo La Tengo's Autumn Sweater, as remixed by Kevin Shields. The song is embedded below and set to play the recommended part. Just press play on the song right after you press play on the timelapse and enjoy.

Any other songs or pieces of music ideal for a walking the High Line? Please comment with suggestions.
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Date: Sunday, 21 Sep 2014 09:50
Here are some photos of the Juvet Landscape Hotel (2009, with 2013 addition) in Norddal, Norway, by Jensen & Skodvin, photographed by Flemming Ibsen.

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

juvet landscape hotel

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Date: Friday, 19 Sep 2014 22:06
Archtober – AIANY's moniker for Architecture and Design Month in October – is nearly upon us. To help in determining where to go and what to see, I've waded through 31 days of lectures/conferences, exhibitions, special events, and buildings of the day to offer my top three recommendations in each area. Even between the printed schedule, below, and the online schedule, there were considerable changes, so it's recommended the you check the Archtober calendar and/or the respective websites for confirmed day/times, and in some cases to register or buy tickets. Happy Archtober!

[Archtober calendar | Photo by John Hill]


Dwell on Design
Archtober 9-11
82 Mercer Street

One of the highlights of Dwell magazine's first East Coast show are the 20 installations created by local designers paired up with manufacturers.

OHNY Weekend
Archtober 11 and 12
Various locations throughout NYC

The full list of sites will be released on September 30, with reservations for certain sites and tours available at ohny.eventbrite.com starting at 11am on October 1.

Architecture and Design Film Festival
Archtober 15-19
Tribeca Cinemas

Highlights in ADFF's sixth season include Wim Wenders's Cathedral of Culture series (3d documentary films by Wenders and other directors) and the world premier of Gray Matters (pictured), a film about Eileen Gray.


Sagrada Família - Gaudí's Unfinished Masterpiece: Geometry, Construction and Site
Throughout Archtober
Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at The City College of New York

City College will also be hosting seven lectures throughout Archtober and November on Gaudí's masterpiece; see the school's website for dates and more information. 

New York New Design
Opening Archtober 9
West 4th Street Subway Station

What better place to see the recent work of AIANY architects than in a crowded subway concourse?

Weltstadt – Who Creates the City?
Archtober 1-19
Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building

"The Weltstadt exhibition explores urban participation and the future of cities in light of challenges such as climate change, migration, and social polarization and presents recent initiatives from Bangalore, Belgrade, Curitiba, Dakar, Johannesburg, Lisbon, Madrid, New York, Porto Alegre, Riga, Salvador, São Paulo, Seoul, Toulouse, Turin, and Ulan Bator."


Guggenheim Helsinki Competition: Designing a Museum of the Future
Wednesday, Archtober 15 at 6pm
(Location details and link with further information on the panel discussion are still to come.)

Michael Kimmelman and Annabelle Selldorf in Conversation
Thursday, Archtober 16 at 6:30 PM
Higgins Hall Auditorium, Pratt Institute

2014 MAS Summit for New York City
Archtober 23 and 24

(Visit the Archtober website for registration/tickets.)

Kickstarter, Ole Sondresen
Archtober 7
58 Kent Street, Brooklyn

Glen Oaks Branch Library, Marble Fairbanks
Archtober 11
256-04 Union Turnpike, Queens

Wieden+Kennedy, WORKac
Archtober 14
150 Varick Street


Critical Halloween: On I-Relevance
October 31
Organized by Storefront for Art and Architecture
Location TBD
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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.
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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]
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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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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.
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 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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