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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Book Review: Exhibiting the Postmodern

Exhibiting the Postmodern: The 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale by Léa-Catherine Szacka
Marsilio, 2017
Paperback, 264 pages



One week from today the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale opens to the public. To get myself in the mindset for a trip to Venice to cover the event for World-Architects, I just read this book that takes an in-depth look at the 1980 Biennale, what is considered the first true architecture Biennale in Venice (the art Biennales date back to the late 19th century). I've known about the The Presence of the Past exhibition, curated by Paolo Portoghesi, for a while, mainly through images of the "Strada Novissima" in the Arsenale. But reading Léa-Catherine Szacka's case study of the exhibition, I realized just how narrow my understanding was – limited in large part to a superficial appreciation of the twenty Postmodern facades lining the "Strada." But the exhibition was a bit more than those false fronts, and the lasting contribution of the exhibition is much more than the coming together of numerous Postmodern architects to create a temporary street. The book does an excellent job of presenting the exhibition's background, its reality during the Biennale (with many images I've never seen before, some unfortunately too small given the page layout), and its influence since. Here are some of the more interesting things I learned in the book – things either I never knew or have forgotten over the years:

  • It was the first Biennale to be held in the Arsenale. Having been to four Biennales, I take their presence in the Arsenale for granted. But when Portoghesi encountered the long, impressive space, the military machines inside were covered in 20-30cm of dust.
  • The 1980 Biennale was highly political, both in terms of Italian politics, which greatly impacted the Biennales of art from 1968 to 1980, and the internal politics of the organizers.
  • Case in point, Kenneth Frampton was originally one of the exhibition's organizers, but he resigned three months before the show opened, due to the "collage-pastiche" direction of the show. He wrote a text critical of the event; it would have gone into the exhibition catalog but instead became the basis for his essay "Towards a Critical Regionalism" in The Anti-Aesthetic.
  • The "Strada Novissima" facades were built by set builders who worked in the film industry in Rome but were basically unemployed at the time.
  • The architects had exhibition spaces behind the "Strada Novissima" facades. So in addition to the relatively flat, full-size images created along the "street," the architects displayed projects through more conventional means: photographs and models.
  • The exhibition in the Arsenale also had a mezzanine. Paolo Portoghesi was one of the 20 architects responsible for a facade in the Arsenale, but the space behind it was given over to a stair that took visitors upstairs to an exhibition of younger architects.
  • The Presence of the Past had a display devoted to critics.Without Frampton, the critics were three: Charles Jencks, Christian Norberg-Schultz, and Vincent Scully. Meant to create intellectual debate among the positions of the various contributors via texts throughout the exhibition, the small display space that was ultimately built isolated them and made their contributions less memorable.
  • The "Strada Novissima" traveled to Paris and San Francisco in 1981 and 1982, respectively. In each city, the message and means of display were modified to suit their new contexts: in an octagonal space in Paris and a linear space with the addition of a forced perspective in San Francisco.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Film Review: The Proposal

Late last month, in a post about dancers at Casa Luis Barragán, I mentioned seeing and reviewing Jill Magid's The Proposal. I saw the documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival the same day as the post, and yesterday I (finally) posted my review on World-Architects. Read it by clicking here or the image below.


[Image: Jill Magid]

See also a couple related book reviews on this blog and my Unpacking My Library blog:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Today's archidose #1004

Here are a couple photos of Tencent Seafront Towers (2018) in Shenzhen, China, by NBBJ. (Photographs: Fernando Herrera)

Tencent Seafront Towers
Tencent Seafront Towers

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:
:: Tag your photos #archidose

Monday, May 14, 2018

RIP Will Alsop

Over the weekend architect Will Alsop died at the age of 70 after a short illness. I'd written about a couple of his notable buildings on this blog: the Peckham Library in London, which won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2000, and the Sharpe Centre for Design at OCAD University in Toronto. I'd actually seen the latter in person, so I wrote about it from my experience and with my photos; here are a few of those, showing the building propped above its predecessors and the view down to the shadows cast by the angled stilts. It was a jarring building when completed in 2004 and is a strong element in Toronto's architectural renaissance this century.

Today's archidose #1003

Here are some photos of Manna House (2014) in Los Angeles by Jeremy Levine Design. (Photographs: Tom Bonner)

Manna House at Dusk
The stripped facade connects the two structures and the decks
A Bold Color Scheme for a Bold Client
Manna House
Manna House
Passive Daylighting
Recycled Plywood Floors and Ceiling
Manna House
A Roof Deck that Angles to the Different Views

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:
:: Tag your photos #archidose

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Book Review: Revisiting Postmodernism

Revisiting Postmodernism by Sir Terry Farrell and Adam Nathaniel Furman
RIBA Publishing, 2017
Paperback, 200 pages



An architect would need to have been asleep for the past five or ten years to not realize that Postmodern architecture has made some sort of comeback. A younger generation of architects is embracing the Platonic forms, pastel colors, and historical glances of the movement that took hold of the architectural profession in the 1970s and 80s. What exactly today's neo-Postmodernism is, and how prevalent of an effect it will have on the profession, is hard to say, since the design of neo-Modern buildings — glass boxes — is alive and kicking. Nevertheless, it's hard to deny the evident appreciation of Postmodern sensibilities that is being filtered through today's technology (e.g. Photoshop) and the critical distance that comes from the younger generation not experiencing Postmodernism firsthand. Just look at last year's Chicago Architecture Biennial, which gathered more than 100 architects and artists under the theme Make New History; many of the participants produce thoroughly PoMo designs.

Though not part of Make New History, artist/designer Adam Nathaniel Furman is one of the most outspoken embracers of Postmodern architecture, making him a kin with many of the designers in the Biennial. Born the same year that Michael Graves's PoMo masterpiece, the Portland Building, was completed, Furman designs colorful products, furniture, and installations; he writes a lot about historical architecture and design; he documents his research and travels on Instagram; and he advocates for the preservation of Postmodern architecture. So he is an obvious choice for a book titled Revisiting Postmodernism. In it, he and Sir Terry Farrell, a practitioner from Postmodernism's heyday, trace the architectural movement's history and argue for its relevance today.


[MI6 in London by Terry Farrell, 1994 | Photo: Laurie Nevay/Wikimedia Commons]

With two authors and separate contributions, the book is structured accordingly: the first half has three chapters by Farrell, while the second half has three chapters by Furman. In between is a nearly 50-page "collection of seminal Postmodern images" with full-color, full-bleed photos of buildings from Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates' Guild House in 1963 to Furman's own "Gateways" installation in London last year. One would expect that the two halves of the book would lead to a chronological presentation of Postmodernism, with the older Farrell tackling the movement last century and the younger Furman focusing on its resurgence this century. That is not the case.

Instead, each uses their trio of chapters in similar ways: their first chapters lay out the reasons for Postmodernism's existence; the seconds track PoMo's ascension; and the thirds bring us closer to today. With this approach there is a good deal of overlap, but each author has a unique enough voice and perspective that reading one does not preclude reading the other. Broadly, Farrell writes in a more autobiographical manner, inserting his own firsthand accounts (and buildings) into a "revisiting" focused on the UK, while Furman exhibits more enthusiasm and runs the gamut in uncovering the good (and bad) of Postmodernism all around the world. Ironically, these two strong proponents of Postmodernism as the ideal means of architectural expression in today's complex, mediated world conclude with as many questions as answers. Ultimately it's up to the reader to decide if the two parallel arguments convince them of Postmodernism's merits today.


["Gateway" installation at Granary Square, London, by Adam Nathaniel Furman, 2017 | Photo: Gareth Gardner, via Adam Nathaniel Furman]

As an addendum of sorts to this review, the two photos here illustrate works by the authors, works that are illustrated in the book. Farrell discusses much of his own work, not just the MI6 building made famous in James Bond films; doing so situates him amidst such famed Postmodern architects as Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Aldo Rossi, and Michael Graves and makes him the Postmodernist representative from the UK. Furman, on the other hand, doesn't mention his work, but photos of "Gateway" are prominently positioned at the end of the "seminal" spread and on the last page of his last chapter. Will he take the Postmodern baton from Farrell full speed ahead into the future? I'm not sure, but this book certainly positions him as someone to keep an eye on, especially as his designs move from the home to the public realm.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Drawing Matters

Today Morpholio launched "Smart Fill" for its popular TracePro app for iOS. With it came the short video below, with architects talking about why drawing matters and using the app's new feature, "a fill tool that not only calculates the area of the fill, it actually changes as the sketch evolves," in the words of Morpholio co-founder Anna Kenoff. Thankfully, the video is more about how architects draw in the digital age than being sold on the app; combined with some ambient music, it's an enjoyable way to spend 5-1/2 minutes.



Coincidentally, one of the images provided by Morpholio for illustrating how "Smart Fill" works depicts WORKac's Kew Gardens Hills Library, which I posted about over the weekend. In it the tool is being used to do material take offs for the facades. I haven't used TracePro (back in 2012 I briefly played around with Trace), but it looks like a decent app, ideally suited for the early stages of a design project, and serving architects while they're while out and about rather than in the office.



Monday, May 07, 2018

Today's archidose #1002: '100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs'

Although it's been more than a few months since my last book, 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, came out last fall, I'd yet to put together a "Today's archidose" on the book as I did with 100 Years, 100 Buildings in a more timely manner the year before. Like its predecessor, the book highlights 100 projects, in this case parks, gardens, and other landscape designs built over the last 100 years, with the gimmick that there is only one building per year based on completion or some other important milestone (a trickier thing to nail down with landscapes than buildings). Here are photos of 25 landscapes culled from the archidose Flickr pool (and some of my own that I just uploaded to Flickr) to give a taste of what's in the book. For more information on 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, which is published by Prestel, check out the page I set up for the book. Mouseover or click the photos below to see who photographed each landscape design.

1921 Östra Kyrkogården | Sigurd Lewerentz | Malmö, Sweden:
IMG_2657

1926 Naumkeag | Fletcher Steele | Stockbridge, Massachusetts, United States:
Naumkeag

1928 Sunnyside Gardens | Clarence S. Stein and Henry Wright, Marjorie Sewell Cautley | New York City, United States:
Sunnyside Gardens

1931 Innisfree Garden | Walter Beck, Lester Collins | Millbrook, New York, United States:
Innisfree

1942 Gustav-Ammann-Park | Gustav Ammann | Zürich, Switzerland:
Gustav-Ammann-Park

1947 Lunuganga | Geoffrey Bawa | Bentota, Sri Lanka:
Lunuganga 37

1949 Sitio Roberto Burle Marx | Roberto Burle Marx | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil:
Untitled

1951 Brooklyn Heights Promenade | Clarke & Rapuano | New York City, United States:
Brooklyn Heights Promenade

1953 Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden | Philip Johnson | New York City, United States:
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden

1960 Storm King Art Center | William Rutherford | New Windsor, New York, United States:
Storm King Art Center

1965 The Sea Ranch | Lawrence Halprin | Sonoma County, California, United States:
The Sea Ranch

1966 Piscina das Marés | Álvaro Siza | Leça da Palmeira, Portugal:
Untitled

1968 Jefferson National Expansion Memorial | Eero Saarinen, Dan Kiley | St. Louis, Missouri, United States:
St. Louis Arch

1972 Olympiapark München | Behnisch & Partner, Günther Grzimek | Munich, Germany:
Olympic Park Munich

1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial | Maya Lin | Washington, DC, United States:
Memorial Horizon

1987 Parc de la Villette | Bernard Tschumi | Paris, France:
IMG_0644

1994 Igualada Cemetery | Enric Miralles & Carme Pinós | Igualada, Spain:
14 - IGUALADA - Cementerio [arqs. MIRALLES - PINÓS]

1999 Jardí Botànic de Barcelona | Carlos Ferrater, Josep Lluís Canosa, Bet Figueras | Barcelona, Spain:
Jardim Botânico de Barcelona, Espanha

2000 La Granja Escalators | José Antonio Martínez Lapeña, Elias Torres Tur | Toledo, Spain:
José Antonio Martínez Lapeña & Elías Torres Tur. Escalators of la Granja. Toledo #20

2002 MFO-Park | Burckhardt+Partner, Raderschall Partner | Zürich, Switzerland:
MFO Park

2010 Moses Bridge | RO&AD Architecten | Halsteren, Netherlands:
Moses Bridge, Fort de Roovere, Halsteren, The Netherlands

2011 Madrid Río | MRIO Arquitectos, West 8 | Madrid, Spain:
West 8, MRIO Arquitectos. Bridges Cascara Madrid RIO #1

2012 Bay South, Gardens by the Bay | Grant Associates | Singapore:
Gardens by the Bay

2014 High Line | James Corner Field Operations, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Piet Oudolf | New York City, United States:
High Line Section 2

2015 Grande Cretto | Alberto Burri | Gibellina, Sicily, Italy:
grande cretto di Burri

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Book Review: WORKac

WORKac: We'll Get There When We Cross That Bridge by Amale Andraos, Dan Wood
The Monacelli Press, 2017
Hardcover, 360 pages



Amale Andraos and Dan Wood started WORKac in 2003 after both worked at OMA. They are celebrating fifteen years with this monograph, its title a play on the familiar phrase, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." The title flip-flop, combined with the way the text snakes itself across the edge of the cover around "WORKac," hints at the firm's sense of humor, the playful nature of their work, and the way the duo upends conventions. The neon orange, green and pink lettering also alludes to the structure of the book: five-year chunks that hinge upon global events circa 2008 ("post-housing bubble") and 2013 ("post-oil-price crash") but also correspond with happenings in the office and in the life of the married partners (notably children and a deanship). These five year chunks also give Andraos and Wood the opportunity to revisit a project that took up two-thirds of WORKac's existence to date: the Kew Gardens Hills Library in Queens, which they were commissioned for in 2007 but didn't open until 2017; in fact the photos at the end of the book document the completed building before books were moved in and people started using the library.


[Kew Gardens Hills Library, Queens | Photos: John Hill]

Even though Kew Gardens Hills Library is in the borough I call home and has therefore been a project I have posted about every now and then, the building is also indicative of WORKac in a few ways. First, it is an expansion rather than a freestanding building. Other notable projects in this vein include the Stealth Building in Tribeca, the DVF Headquarters in the Meatpacking District, and the Blaffer Art Museum in Texas. Second, it is inventive. The plan simply adds an L-shaped zone, enlarging the open interior of the corner library toward the intersection, but the new concrete walls are lifted to create expanses of windows and give the branch library its strong presence. (The librarian was a bit perturbed when I visited and tried to take some photos inside, making me think they're getting a fair number of archi-tourists trekking to this distant neck of Queens.) Third, even though the project is small, is remote from more high-profile parts of the city, and took a long time to realize, it has brought the firm (more) loads of attention.


[Kew Gardens Hills Library, Queens | Photos: John Hill]

This last point is important. Even though WORKac has not realized any buildings of a substantial size in their first 15 years, they are very well respected and influential within the profession (they topped the most recent Architect 50 list for design). I chalk this up to a few things, all evident in the monograph. One, even the smallest projects are deeply considered and highly creative. Villa Pup, one of their first projects, is a case in point, as are their numerous interiors projects, such as Wieden+Kennedy NY and the Children's Museum of the Arts. Second, their work ranges in scale from small interiors to urbanism, the latter in the form of masterplans, proposals, exhibitions, and books. In essence, Andraos and Wood are not content to limit their unique approach to single typologies or scales. Third, their designs manage to strike a balance between the serious, particularly in regard to environmental issues, and the playful, expressed through Pop sensibilities that are more endearing than ironic. Fourth is the whole shebang in the form of this book. It documents many of their projects through revealing conversations between Andraos and Wood, snapshots of their office and private lives, lots of full-color images of notable projects, and a clever graphic design by Neil Donnelly that is a suitable match to the architecture on display. As much a diary as a monograph, We'll Get There When We Cross That Bridge injects new life into an often tired format.



For those in NYC, McNally Jackson is hosting a discussion on May 29 with Amale Andraos and Dan Wood of WORKac and book designer Neil Donnelly, moderated by Monacelli Press editor Alan Rapp.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Architects and Birdies

"Pole vaulting in the chapel, bicycling in the laundromat, sky diving in the elevator shaft?" Might Bernard Tschumi have also asked, "Badminton in Rudolph Hall?" I leapt to Tschumi's words when seeing this photo on my Facebook wall, from an article at Yale Alumni Magazine:


[Photo: Bob Handelman, via Yale Alumni Magazine]

Apparently, turning "the Pit" on the fourth floor of the Yale School of Architecture into a badminton court is an annual tradition, with about 50 teams playing nearly 100 games, per the magazine. While the tournament takes over the central crit space a few night per week, students still work around the perimeter and on the mezzanine overlooking it. A view of the pit set up for a crit:


[Photo: Seth Tisue, via Wikimedia Commons]

But the Yale architecture students don't just take over the pit, turning Paul Rudolph's space of education into a space of recreation; they also design t-shirts and posters. And according to at least one former student, "Rudolph clearly had Badminton in mind when he designed the 4th floor pit to the perfect dimensions of a Badminton court."


[Photo: Unknown, via Yale School of Architecture]

(Thanks to John J. for the inadvertent heads up!)