Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opened in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2009 in a four-story building designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. It's no surprise then that the museum is celebrating the architect with the major exhibition Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory.

[Photo: Gary O’Brien, via Wikimedia Commons]

The career-spanning exhibition features "30 of his museums, theaters, libraries and religious spaces" documented through "sketches, original wood models and photographs exemplifying Botta’s use of geometric shapes that juxtapose lightness and weight," per the museum's website. The below video gives a peek at the exhibition in the museum's top floor, which extends over the plaza and is propped up by the bowed column.

Mario Botta: Architecture and Memory runs until July 25, 2014.

Today's archidose #748

Here are some photos of SEB Bank and Pension Headquarters (2011) in Copenhagen, Denmark, by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects, photographed by Ximo Michavila.

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #2

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #5

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #1

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #9

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #3

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #6

Lundgaard & Tranberg. SEB Headquarters #7

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Today's archidose #747

Here are two chapels this Sunday one week before Easter.

The Bishop Edward King Chapel (2013) at Ripon Theological College, Oxfordshire, UK, by Niall McLaughlin Architects, photographed by Iqbal Aalam:
Edward King Chapel, Ripon College, Oxfordshire by Niall McLughlin

Edward King Chapel, Ripon College, Oxfordshire by Niall McLughlin

Edward King Chapel, Ripon College, Oxfordshire by Niall McLughlin

Edward King Chapel, Ripon College, Oxfordshire by Niall McLughlin

The MIT Chapel (1955) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Eero Saarinen, photographed by Hassan Bagheri:
MIT Chapel

MIT Chapel

MIT Chapel

MIT Chapel

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Sci-Fi Drawings of Lebbeus Woods

On Thursday Lebbeus Woods, Architect is opening at the Drawing Center. I'll post about the show next week, but in anticipation of the exhibition I pulled out a book from 1983 that features illustrations by Woods:

The book collects a number of Arthur C. Clarke's short stories that are accompanied by Woods's illustrations. A number of the drawings, including the cover, are clearly the Woods most architects know and love:

Yet some of the drawings are more firmly rooted in the sci-fi narratives and therefore eschew the settings in favor of the characters:

The book was published well before Woods became a household name both for his illustrations and  the environments he imagined. To the same effect, this biography at the back of The Sentinel is much different than ones that might accompany The New City (1992), War and Architecture (1993), and later books:

While the last sentence indicates he might have done more illustrations for sci-fi books, I think this was the only one. If I'm wrong, please comment. I'd be curious about how Woods lent his hand to other stories.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Allan Wexler: Breaking Ground

If you haven't been to Ronald Feldman Fine Arts (31 Mercer Street) to see Allan Wexler: Breaking Ground, you have until May 3 to do so. I stopped by on the way to work this morning and can't recommend it enough.

[All photos by John Hill]

The works, which I'd posted about in March, are much larger than I anticipated.

Accompanied by a couple sculptures, the "hand-worked inkjet prints on panels" work really well in the two galleries.

Up close the assemblage of the images really comes across, with some faint grids apparent at first...

And then the make up of the rectangular panels from smaller rectangular prints on closer inspection...

And then the marked intersections seen up close reveal the images were in fact "hand-worked."

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2014 Boat Tours

Yesterday evening I hitched a ride on the AIANY/Classic Harbor Line cruise as they were celebrating their fifth year of offering architectural boat tours. In addition to the Around Manhattan Architecture Tour that I wrote about previously, the AIANY and Classic Harbor Line are holding other tours:
  • Lower Manhattan Tour
  • Around Manhattan Bridge and Infrastructure Tour
  • Featured Guide Series (Adam Yarinsky on June 15, Signe Nielsen on June 22, Eric Sanderson in the fall, with more TBA)
More information can be found via the Classic Harbor Line link above and on the AIANY website.

Below are some photos from the tour yesterday, which made its way from the boat's slip at Chelsea Piers, south down the Hudson River and around the tip of Manhattan, up the East River to Roosevelt Island, and then back again in a large U-shaped sweep of the island.


Many of the tours depart around 5pm in the evening, meaning that the city is seen in the daylight and as the sun goes down. Seeing the city bathed in the orange glow of the sunset made it easier to brave the strong and chilly winds yesterday. In past tours the boat heads out to the Statue of Liberty first, but yesterday that waited until near the end. Therefore the congestion of Lower Manhattan (above) was particularly palpable as the boat motored by relatively close to shore.


It must be said that being on a boat tour means sensing the sky (above) so much more than one typically does while navigating about the city.


It also means that juxtapositions of one building or structure against another happens frequently...and quickly. Witness the 1-2-3 of the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bride, and Statue of Liberty below; it was there one moment (thanks to a tip of the tour guide) but gone a few moments later.


The same can be said of the Brooklyn Bridge fitting (almost in my photo below) between 8 Spruce Street and 4WTC as the sun sets in the same spot.


Yesterday's cruise was different than the others I had been on before (one of which I served as a featured tour guide) due to being in the bay when the sun went down.


This made for some great picture postcard views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. Too bad I didn't bring a good camera instead of just my phone.


LEGO House in LEGO Form

In what might be best described as "LEGO imitating architecture imitating LEGO," BIG's design for the LEGO House in Billund, Denmark, is for sale as a special edition kit:

Lego 4000010 LEGO House
[Photo: Hamid/Flickr]

Lego 4000010 LEGO House
[Photo: Hamid/Flickr]

I'm not sure how much the limited-edition set goes for, or where it's even available, but somebody on ebay wants to get $109 for the "RARE" set with "exclusive minifigure."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Book Review: The Wrong House

The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Steven Jacobs
nai010 publishers, 2013 (second edition)
Paperback, 344 pages
"Rope contributed in no small way to freeing the filmmaker from his obsession with painting and making of him what he had been in the time of Griffith and the pioneers – an architect."
Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, Hitchcock (1957)
This quote is accompanied by seven others at the beginning of Steven Jacobs' book on Alfred Hitchcock, and it serves to reinforce the author's premise that Hitchcock is an architect and therefore deserves a traditional monograph. I doubt anybody would take this premise to mean that Hitchcock  literally worked as an architect, but the role of buildings and their interiors in his films is undeniable. Not only are the buildings he envisioned with his set designers memorable (think of the Bates house from Psycho), but often the rooms, particularly in houses, serve to heighten the suspense and drama of his films. It's as if architectural spaces are a member of the cast, and therefore Hitchcock's sets are worthy of their own "monograph," in this case focused on the domestic realm.

Like other traditional monographs, Jacobs' book includes a couple essays before it launches into the projects. The essays "Space Fright" and "The Tourist Who Knew Too Much" allow Jacobs to paint broad strokes in his analysis of Hitchcock's films (especially on their production), all the while extending his reach beyond the houses and other domestic spaces that populate the book. Hitchcock did not exclusively "design" residential sets, but these spaces allowed him to bring horror "into the home, where it belongs," as he said.

The examples of murder happening close to home are numerous, and Jacobs partitions the 22 films in the book into three chapters: Houses, Country Houses and Mansions, and Modern Hide-Outs and Look-Outs. The films reach back from the director's days in 1920s and 30s London to Marnie from 1964. Most of the residences are treated with floor plans that arise from the author watching the films repeatedly, rather than based on archival plans and other set designs. Therefore the focus is on what is on screen, what the viewer experiences; this means architectural logic and spatial logic aren't always present. Such is the nature of film that sets and spaces serve the narrative reality rather than architectural or an objective reality.

[Spread from chapter on Rear Window, courtesy of nai010]

The book's "projects" are best when the reader has seen the film. I've seen many of Hitchcock's films but only about half of the ones Jacobs analyzes; not having seen a film makes the analysis less desirable while also giving away much of the plot, hardly ideal with suspense films. The projects are also best when they are accompanied by plans; it's unfortunate that some houses are missing them, as they add a layer of information that makes the analyses more understandable and even enjoyable.

Not surprisingly, the chapter on L.B. Jeffries' Greenwich Village apartment in New York City is a highlight, even though the film has been architecturally dissected by many critics, in particular Juhani Pallasmaa and Jeffrey Kipnis. Really, the film can be considered Hitchcock's penultimate example of giving architecture a leading role in a film. It's impossible to think of any portion of the narrative happening outside of the self-contained world the director created. Thankfully the film comes near the end of the book, allowing the reader to digest some of Jacobs' words on earlier films and to see how "the wrong houses" built up to this masterpiece.

Purchase from Amazon: Buy from Amazon.com

Monday, April 07, 2014

Today's archidose #746

Here are some photos of the ICD/ITKE Research Pavilion 2013 (completed spring 2014) in Stuttgart, Germany, by students in the ICD Institute for Computational Design (Prof. Achim Menges) and ITKE Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (Prof. Jan Knippers) at the Unviersity of Stuttgart, photographed by Trevor Patt.





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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Review: Cool Spaces!

[All images are screenshots from episode 1 of Cool Spaces!]

This month the four-part documentary series Cool Spaces! is premiering on PBS stations, starting with an episode on "Performance Spaces" and moving on to "Libraries," "Healing Spaces," and "Art Spaces." Host and show creator Stephen Chung, an architect and teacher from Boston, presents three recent buildings that fit the typology in each episode. For "Performance Spaces," which I was able to watch and which I discuss below, the buildings are Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Dallas by HKSArchitects, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City by Safdie Architects, and Barclays Center in Brooklyn by SHoP Architects.

The segments get across information on the building (Barclays Center in this illustrated example) in a fivefold manner:

1. Original footage of the buildings, inside and out:

2. Chung speaking with the architects (in the office and on location) and clients:

3. Chung using a telestrator to highlight parts of a design:

4. Chung speaking with his resident experts, such as structural engineers and acousticians, to explain certain aspects of the building (in this case the Barclays Center's cantilevered oculus):

5. Footage of the spaces being used:

This last is particularly important, given that it is a fairly well accepted norm in determining the success of a building, and because the AIA ads that bookend the show stress use over all other contributions that architects can offer. In the case of the first episode of Cool Spaces! it is measured through visuals, like the packed house above and through Chung's interviews with the architects and clients. There aren't any interviews with the users themselves, and this starts to get at some of the shortcomings of the documentary. By being filtered through the client in particular, use is defined in their terms, rather than those of the people actually using the building. Further, in the case of the Barclays Center segment, the show does not mention the flexible nature of the arena; instead it focuses solely on the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. Frankly, I could do with less of the ESPN-style, slow-motion footage of the Nets' players making lay-ups (screenshot below) to see how the space is outfitted for a Jay-Z show or even a circus.

Also missing from the Barclays Center segment is any mention of the project's beginning, be it Frank Gehry's initial design or the controversy surrounding the mega-development that will platform over the rail yards in Brooklyn. There is about a minute near the end of the piece that discusses the larger development, by showing SHoP's design and fabrication of the modular towers that are rising behind the arena. But overall the show is fairly amnesiac, befitting the name Cool Spaces! (exclamation point and all) and a focus on the contemporary. Sure, Chung mentions Ebbets Field as a precedent for a sports stadium in Brooklyn, but it is in passing and only to highlight where the flagpole in front of Barclays Center came from. The particular histories of how projects came about, at least in the case of Barclays Center, is non-existent. Viewers learn the how and why of a building's form and appearance via the five means of presentation noted above, but the lack of further depth is glaring. Perhaps cutting down to two shows per hour instead of three would remedy this deficiency, but there is obviously some value in more variety in each episode.

These criticisms aside, Cool Spaces! is very good at explaining contemporary architecture to a general audience. The show does an excellent job in explaining why and how a building looks the way it does, which overcomes one impediment to people appreciating new buildings – as ties with the past are broken through architectural forms aiming for innovation and distinction, the understanding of them decreases. Cool Spaces! may not make everybody think that the Barclays Center is beautiful, but it should increase people's appreciation of what goes into designing and making such a building.

A preview of the first episode, "Performance Spaces":

Check the Cool Spaces! schedule to see when the show will be airing in your area.