My recent posts at World-Architects


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Today's archidose #999

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

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

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Archidose[dot]org Update

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book of the Moment: Castelvecchio

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

[Cover and spreads courtesy of Breakfast Mission Publishing]

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

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: Michael Graves: Design for Life

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Today's archidose #998

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


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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Book Review: Empire, State & Building

Empire, State & Building by Kiel Moe
Actar, 2017
Hardcover, 264 pages

Exactly four weeks ago, news broke that JPMorgan Chase would be tearing down its 52-story headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in order to accommodate its 15,000 employees in a new 70-story tower on the same site providing an additional 1 million square feet of floor area. If all goes to plan for the bank, the act would enter the history books as the largest purposeful building demolition. Given that the building was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Union Carbide and completed in 1961, the demolition would also mean the building's useful life lasted less than 60 years – a long time for buildings in general but hardly long enough for one totaling 1.5 million square feet. Arguments against the tower's demolition have focused on the role of SOM senior designer Natalie de Blois, the quality of its design and the mystery as to what would replace it, and the wastefulness of tearing down a building with so much embodied energy. This last point is relevant to the book here, which examines the life a nearby Midtown site now home to the Empire State Building.

[Spread via Issuu]

The spread above illustrates the roughly 220 years of building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street, from a farmhouse in the early 1800s, to mansions and townhouses later that century, to the famous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at the turn of the century, and to finally the Empire State Building. The ups and downs of the red line coincide with building and demolition, and the sharp drop in 1930 illustrates how the pair of hotels was torn down to make way for the Empire State Building, which was erected in just over one year. While that speed is amazing, given the building's height and size, so is the fact the hotels only lasted four decades. The architectural life of the Waldorf-Astoria would have been much longer, but it was located on a portion of the island that changed from farm to residential to commercial as the city advanced north. In other words, the site's eventual future as an office tower arose from trends beyond yet encompassing the site's footprint. The same cannot be said of the area around 270 Park Avenue, which has been commercial since at least the 1950s; JPMorgan's actions are rooted in the area's recent rezoning, not just their needs. These circumstances, combined with the embodied energy of 270 Park, make that building's proposed demolition so unsettling.

[Spread via Issuu]

Would things be different if Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, read Kiel Moe's Empire, State & Building? Maybe not, if he limited himself to the text, which is unnecessarily obtuse for such a broadly appealing topic. This book is clearly written by and for academics, though the illustrations – archival photos and original drawings, such as the map above – are aligned with a book accessible to a wider audience. But Moe wants to expand the scope of architects' influence to encompass territory, communication, and speed, the "three great variables" that architects are no longer agents of, at least according to Michel Foucault. An analysis of the materials and energies taking part in the numerous buildings situated at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street should convince architects of the importance of these variables, if not wholly, then maybe that they should be responsible for them. If not, architects reading the book will come away with a couple new words: emergy, which may seem like a mashup of "empire" and "energy" but was coined by ecologist Howard Odum as the amount of available energy required for a product or service; and exergy, referring to available energy. Moe describes emergy as "a form of scale analysis," and while he admits that the permanence of buildings is an illusion, it behooves architects to better understand energy inputs in a building's construction, operation and demolition, and perhaps also emergy/exergy ratios.

Matt Shaw, in an editorial at The Architect's Newspaper, makes one of the few arguments for 270 Park's demolition and that it should be done "correctly," so materials are salvaged and reused in newer buildings and they set a precedent as more mid-century towers are demolished to make way for newer, taller, "greener" buildings. A commendable argument, and one that is geared to how (some) architects already think about embodied energy. Expanding this thinking to encompass emergy, exergy, and their ratios – which, Moe writes, "accounts for complete historical inputs, current use, and potential for future feedback" – wouldn't necessarily dissuade 270 Park's destruction, but it might ensure that its replacement will last as long as the Empire State Building.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Today's archidose #997

Yesterday, Balkrishna Doshi was named the 2018 laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. So today I'm posting photos of a few of his projects, all located in Ahmedabad, India, and all photographed by Nicholas Iyadurai.

Amdavad Ni Gufa:
Husain Doshi Gufa-001
Husain Doshi Gufa
Husain Doshi Gufa-007
Husain Doshi Gufa-006

Institute of Indology:
Indology Institute-006
Indology Institute-007

Sangath - The Architect's Office:
Sangath - open air theater - BV Doshi
Sangath - Exterior water fall - BV Doshi
Sangath - water fall - BV Doshi
Studio Sangath-Ahmedabad-Doshi-014

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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

'Other' Wins 2018 Pritkzer

"Other" being Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi and a reference to my recent poll on guessing the winner of the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Doshi was not one of the 25 architects/firms I listed in the poll, making him a surprising choice, at least to this blogger.

[Balkrisha Doshi | Photo courtesy of The Pritzker Architecture Prize/VSF]

The 90-year-old architect (who I share an August 26 birthday with – another surprise!) is the first Pritzker Prize winner from India. Learn more about Doshi on the Pritzker Architecture Prize website and in my quick write-up at World-Architects.

Friday, February 23, 2018

2018 Pritzker Prize Poll

[Note: Due to a deadline, this blog is taking a break until the Pritzker announcement on March 7.]

The Pritzker Architecture Prize website is indicating that the announcement of the 2018 laureate will happen on Wednesday, March 7 — 10am EST to be precise.

So with just twelve days until the announcement, who do you think should win the Pritzker? As in previous years — well, every other year, about — I've set up a poll in the right column (mirrored at the bottom of this post) to see how well this blog's readers know their stuff. I've selected 25 candidates, but if you disagree with my choices vote "other" and please comment on this post with your pick. Check back here on March 7 to see who won – both the real Pritzker and this poll.

For reference, the nine-member Pritzker Prize jury (now with four former Pritzker laureates*):
- Glenn Murcutt* (Chair)
- Stephen Breyer
- André Corrêa do Lago
- Lord Peter Palumbo
- Richard Rogers*
- Kazuyo Sejima*
- Wang Shu*
- Benedetta Tagliabue
- Ratan N. Tata
- Martha Thorne (Executive Director, not a jury member)
And here is the list of past winners:
1979 - Philip Johnson of the United States
1980 - Luis Barragán of Mexico
1981 - James Stirling of Great Britain
1982 - Kevin Roche of the United States
1983 - Ieoh Ming Pei of the United States
1984 - Richard Meier of the United States
1985 - Hans Hollein of Austria
1986 - Gottfried Boehm of Germany
1987 - Kenzo Tange of Japan
1988 - Gordon Bunshaft of the United States / Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil
1989 - Frank O. Gehry of the United States
1990 - Aldo Rossi of Italy
1991 - Robert Venturi of the United States
1992 - Alvaro Siza of Portugal
1993 - Fumihiko Maki of Japan
1994 - Christian de Portzamparc of France
1995 - Tadao Ando of Japan
1996 - Rafael Moneo of Spain
1997 - Sverre Fehn of Norway
1998 - Renzo Piano of Italy
1999 - Sir Norman Foster of the United Kingdom
2000 - Rem Koolhaas of The Netherlands
2001 - Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron of Switzerland
2002 - Glenn Murcutt of Australia
2003 - Jørn Utzon of Denmark
2004 - Zaha Hadid of the United Kingdom
2005 - Thom Mayne of the United States
2006 - Paulo Mendes da Rocha of Brazil
2007 - Richard Rogers of the United Kingdom
2008 - Jean Nouvel of France
2009 - Peter Zumthor of Switzerland
2010 - Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of Japan
2011 - Eduardo Souto de Moura of Portugal
2012 - Wang Shu of China
2013 - Toyo Ito of Japan
2014 - Shigeru Ban of Japan
2015 - Frei Otto of Germany
2016 - Alejandro Aravena of Chile
2017 - Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem & Ramon Vilalta (RCR Arquitectes) of Spain
So, who will win the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Renovating NYPL

[Rendering of new 40th Street entrance | Image: Mecanoo/Beyer Blinder Belle]

Curious about Mecanoo and Beyer Blinder Belle's design for the renovation of the New York Public Library's grand building (officially the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) next to Bryant Park? The $317 million plan was released to the public in November 2017, but the renderings that accompanied the release fail to impress on what exactly is going on. Thankfully the NYPL has a 9-minute film with some snazzy animated illustrations, like the one below, and some words from Mecanoo's Francine Houben. (Note that you'll have to sit through a few minutes of NYPL fluff to get to the architecture parts.)

[Section perspective through new 40th Street entrance | Image: screenshot]

Watch the video here: