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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Talk at the Skyscraper Museum

Next week I'll be giving a talk at the Skyscraper Museum on one of my new books, How to Build a Skyscraper. It will take place on Tuesday, October 24 at 6:30pm. More details below the book cover.



From the Skyscraper Museum:
In How to Build a Skyscraper, John Hill examines 45 noteworthy skyscrapers from across the decades and around the world – from our hometown Flatiron Building to the world's current tallest, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE – and highlights unique characteristics of their history, design, construction, and function. Each iconic building is described in concise text, beautiful photography, and bespoke drawings that reveal the tower's internal structure. Join us as Hill discusses selections from a book that promises to be a best-seller in The Skyscraper Museum's book store!

John Hill is an architect, editor-in-chief of the Daily News section of World-Architects.com, and founder/editor-in-chief of the popular blog A Daily Dose of Architecture, where he publishes daily articles about architecture news and book reviews. He is the author of Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture and 100 Years, 100 Buildings.

The Skyscraper Museum offers 1.5 LUs for AIA Members for this program.

Reservations are required, and priority is given to Members and Corporate Member firms and their employees. All guests MUST RSVP to programs@skyscraper.org to assure admittance to the event.

Monday, October 16, 2017

My OHNY Weekend

The 15th anniversary Open House New York (OHNY) weekend took place Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15. I was giving a walking tour for the 92Y on Saturday, so Sunday was the only day for me to get out and see some OHNY sites. I decided on one — well actually a few, all in one location: the buildings of McKim, Mead and White, Robert A.M. Stern, and Marcel Breuer on the campus of CUNY's Bronx Community College. (It was originally New York University, who sold the campus to CUNY in 1973.)

Here's a scan of the site plan provided by OHNY, showing the MMW and Stern buildings symmetrically facing a large quadrangle, and the Breuer buildings informally peppering an area to the south. (Only Meister Hall is labeled, but Breuer designed all of the dark buildings in that area, including, east to west, Carl Polowczyk Hall, Begrisch Hall, and Colston Hall.)


Here is a view of McKim, Mead and White's Gould Library on the left and Stern's North Hall, which serves as BCC's current library, on the right.
Bronx Community College

And the rest of North Hall, which was completed five years ago and "completes" the quadrangle first planned by Stanford White of MMW:
Bronx Community College

The interior of North Hall is clearly modeled on Henri Labrouste's Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1851) in Paris, with a central row of columns marching down the large space and vaults spanning across to the exterior walls.
Bronx Community College

But Labrouste's delicate ironwork is eschewed in favor of aluminum column covers and Ionic scrolls.
Bronx Community College

Although not nearly as successful as its predecessor, North Hall's south-facing windows were inviting and fairly well used — for a Sunday, at least.
Bronx Community College

Exiting the west end of North Hall brought us to the Hall of Fame, a colonnaded walk that wraps the west side of the three Stanford White buildings of the original NYU campus: Gould Memorial Library, Hall of Languages, and Hall of Philosophy.
Bronx Community College

The walk was created to commemorate great Americans, with busts of noted scientists, writers, educators, and so forth alternating with the square columns. More than these busts, I was drawn to the views and the Guastavino tile vaults above the walk.
Bronx Community College

As impressive as the Hall of Fame is, it served merely as a prelude to Gould Memorial Library.
Bronx Community College

The copper dome hints at the impressive rotunda, reached via a central vaulted stair.
Bronx Community College

White designed NYU's Gould Memorial Library around the time he was designing the Low Library for Columbia University. Each building is similar from the outside, though I find the Gould's central space more appealing than Low's larger domed space.
Bronx Community College

Perhaps this appeal stems from Gould's rotunda being smaller than Low's rotunda, and therefore more intimate. I would have loved to experience the space as a library, when the walls were lined with books and the stacks behind were reached by small doors set into the shelves.
Bronx Community College

The Stern and MMW buildings were open to the public for OHNY, but the assemblage of Breuer buildings were accessible only via tours. Our fairly large group started with Meister Hall, which has a small auditorium enlivened by trapezoidal concrete walls on the side.
Bronx Community College

The facade of Meister Hall faces the campus's main quadrangle (there's a good photo near the end of Alexandra Lange's Curbed piece about the Breuer buildings at BCC), though the more photogenic side is the rear, which features a textured concrete elevation facing a sizable plaza.
Bronx Community College

Some relief from the sun (but not from the concrete) comes in the form of concrete canopies and benches.
Bronx Community College

From the plaza we cut through Breuer's Carl Polowczyk Hall to see the architect's most famous piece at BCC: Begrisch Hall.
Bronx Community College

This is clearly an example of "form follows function": the petit building contains just two lecture halls with raked seating that face each other and are accessed via a bridge or the stair seen here.
Bronx Community College

The westernmost portion of Breuer's 1960s additions to the NYU campus is Colston Hall, which is accessed via footbridges, a couple near the ground floor and a couple at the fifth floor.
Bronx Community College

When NYU buildings, Colston Hall served as a dormitory. Now as part of a dorm-free community college, it serves as office-space and for other functions.
Bronx Community College

This last photo from my visit to BCC afforded by OHNY shows an interior view toward those two bridges.
Bronx Community College

It also shows that the Breuer buildings could really use some TLC. Although the concrete finishes of the Brutalist ensemble have held up pretty well, the other elements (windows, doors, ceilings, etc.) could use an upgrade. CUNY needs to bring these modern spaces up to par with White's neoclassical landmarks and Stern's neotraditional addition to the campus.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Briefs #31: A Trio of Wright

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on this blog.

This year's 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth (1867-1959) has generated much in the way of content: exhibitions, publications, and articles galore. I've done my share on this blog – So You Want to Learn About Frank Lloyd Wright, a book review of An Organic Architecture, and Wright at Columbia – and here I wrap up my coverage with some takes on three publications devoted to an architect we're sure to be celebrating again in another fifty years.



Frank Lloyd Wright in New York: The Plaza Years 1954-1959 by Jane King Hession and Debra Pickrel | Gibbs Smith | 2017, 10th anniversary paperback edition | Amazon
In the ten years since this book was first published, Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy in New York City has seen both the good and the bad. In the former camp, his iconic Guggenheim Museum underwent a major structural restoration that wrapped up in 2008; and with the latter, his relatively unknown Hoffman Automobile Showroom on Park Avenue was demolished in 2013 before the interior could be landmarked. In that time the city also gained, through Columbia University and the Museum of Modern Art, the Frank Lloyd Wright archive, a treasure trove of drawings, models, and other documents that have been tapped already for two exhibitions this year: Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive at MoMA and Living in America: Frank Lloyd Wright, Harlem & Modern Housing at Columbia's Wallach Art Gallery.

Although the postscript in Frank Lloyd Wright in New York mentions these and other impacts to Wright's legacy in the last ten years, the book is otherwise the same as its 2007 incarnation. With so many books about Wright, this one hones in on an interesting time and aspect of his life: his last half-decade in a city he vocally abhorred but nevertheless treated like a "Taliesin East," to use the title of the first chapter. Not every part of the book limits itself to the years 1954-1959, but the projects, exhibitions, and relationships taking place in these years fittingly get the most attention. Wright anchored himself in a corner Plaza suite (223-225) overlooking Fifth Avenue and Central Park in the years before the Guggenheim wrapped up construction in 1959  (he did not live for opening day). The suite was gutted and renovated most recently about five years ago, nary carrying over the hand of its namesake occupant. Last year the Frank Lloyd Wright suite was asking $26 million – evidence that, in many cases, the famous architect's name has more longevity than the spaces he shaped.

Metropolis 150 FLW: Wright for Our Times edited by Samuel Medina | Metropolis Magazine | 2017
When visiting family in Missouri this summer I finally visited the house Wright designed for Russell and Ruth Kraus, now known as the The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park (my photos). The house, built in the 1950s, is located on 10.5 acres in Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis. Like other Usonian houses by Wright, it features a carport rather than a garage. Next to it is a detached tool shed that is now used as an orientation spot for house tours and a gift shop (the foundation that runs the house is planning on a new visitor center to be built by the parking lot). There I found this special supplement to Metropolis. At only 70 pages it is slim, but the heavyweight paper makes it thicker than a monthly issue of the magazine. Although I don't see a section on Metropolis's website where copies of the special issue can be bought, most of the ten articles, which touch upon the myriad aspects of Wright's work and its continued influence today, can be found online via the link above.

Travels with Frank Lloyd Wright: The First Global Architect by Gwyn Lloyd Jones | Lund Humphries | 2017 | Amazon
With so many books on Frank Lloyd Wright (Amazon lists 439 in a category devoted to him), any new book needs to find a niche, such as Frank Lloyd Wright in New York, that has not been explored too much already. Gwyn Lloyd Jones, an architect and educator based in London and Wales, found one, by building upon both his architectural diploma dissertation, which followed Wright's yearly migration between Taliesin and Taliesin West, and his doctoral dissertation, "Frank Lloyd Wright beyond America." His new book takes readers to six places outside of the United States, places where Wright traveled and/or had a strong influence: Japan, Germany, Russia, the UK, Italy, and the Middle East. The author's treatment of the journeys is rooted in his belief that "underlying Wright's concept of ... 'organic' architecture was an early and long-lasting engagement with globalization." The most famous instance of this was Wright's travels to Japan and his incorporation of the country's art and architecture into his own creations. But Lloyd Jones's own retracing of Wright's travels extends that knowledge to places we don't normally associate the architect with.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

'Scaffolding' at the Center

Scaffolding opened at the Center for Architecture on October 2, 2017, and runs until January 18, 2018. The exhibition is curated by Greg Barton, who "examines the extraordinary applications of scaffolding as a kit-of-parts technology to provide novel forms of inhabitation and access." The projects, ranging from Aldo Rossi's Teatro del Mondo to a recent project by Assemble (both are visible from the sidewalk in front of the Center for Architecture), are mounted on armatures that clearly recall the exhibition's subject.

Scaffolding

The exhibition design is meant to "disrupt the architectural space of the Center for Architecture, instilling a new appreciation of scaffolding and its transformative potential." The design by OMA's Shohei Shigematsu fills the top-floor gallery...

Scaffolding
Scaffolding

...and extends into the lower floors as well.

Scaffolding

Note from here, one level below grade, how the scaffolding continues down another level through a narrow gap against the wall on the left:
Scaffolding

My visit to Scaffolding, with my daughter in tow, was too quick to take in many of the projects on display. But it was long enough to appreciate the exhibition design, which is highlighted by angled (copper?) reflective panels that entice visitors to explore the maze of scaffolding and the projects within.

Scaffolding
Scaffolding

Monday, October 09, 2017

Today's archidose #982

Here are some photos of The Silo (2017) in Copenhagen, Denmark, by COBE. (Photos: Ken Lee)

The Silo apartments, Nordhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Silo apartments, Nordhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Silo apartments, Nordhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

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

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Storefront 'Souvenirs'

Yesterday I stopped by the Storefront for Art and Architecture to check out Souvenirs: New New York Icons, which is on display until November 18. The most noticeable aspect of the exhibition design is the transformation of Steven Holl and Vito Acconci's iconic facade by MOS Architects. They cut into the hinged panels and inserted small windows whose surfaces are fairly clear at an angle but are mirror-like head-on. In other words, they created canvases for selfies (no, I didn't take one).

Souvenirs
Souvenirs
Souvenirs

Those worried about the integrity of the Holl/Acconci facade need not fear. The thin fiber-cement panels were removed before cutting and are set upon the back wall for the duration of the exhibition. They are a backdrop of sorts to the "59+ objects that redefine New York’s iconic imagery." Other touches by MOS are the brick-like texture around the new "windows" and the blue flooring also in a running bond pattern. Combined with the gray model stands, the various parts give the feeling of a work in progress – like a transformation of the Storefront that halted in the early stages of construction.

Souvenirs
Souvenirs
Souvenirs

Friday, October 06, 2017

Book Review: Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide

Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide: Built Projects edited by Maria Melo, Michel Toussaint
A+A Books, 2017
Paperback, 240 pages



On a recent trip to Zurich I came across a couple books on the architecture of Álvaro Siza, both published by A+A Books out of Lisbon. One was a case study devoted to his Piscina das Marés in Leça da Palmeira and the other was a guide to 82 of the architect's built projects in Portugal. Unfortunately their expense made buying both impossible. Even though the former project is in my forthcoming 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, I opted for the latter for a few reasons. First, perhaps some day I'll make it to Portugal and can use the book to scope out as many of Siza's projects as possible. Second, the book is a great resource with familiar buildings but many that I've never heard of before. Not all of the projects (selected by Siza) are publicly accessible, but they paint a solid picture of Siza's output in his home country over six decades.



The third reason I bought the Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide is the book's design. It is a compact book with lightweight pages that make it easy to carry around. There's plenty of drawings, and the text is provided in English and Portuguese. Yet the most unique aspect are Nuno Cera's color photos, which are trimmed glossy pages inserted into most spreads, at the rate of one photo per project. My blurry shots here show one such example, the São Bento Metro Station in Porto, the city with the highest density of Siza buildings. Although the location of the photos – an even mix of horizontal and vertical formats – at the top of the page gives the book an asymmetrical weight and bulk, the technique turns the photos into something special, forcing readers to pay more attention to them. Furthermore, they can be considered like postcards or photos that people insert into guidebooks after visiting a place; here they are inserted beforehand, enticing people to see the master's projects in person.



Thursday, October 05, 2017

OHNY Landscapes

Open House New York (OHNY), which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, is taking place on Saturday, October 14 and Sunday, October 15. Listings are online and advance reservations for ticketed events start today at 11am. Here are a half dozen recommendations that require reservations, all of them landscapes, one in each borough and one on Randall's Island (technically part of Manhattan but here treated differently).



Top-left to bottom-right in images above:

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
Saturday, October 14: 11:00 am
Architect: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, 2008-Present (Ongoing)

Concrete Plant Park
Hunts Point, Bronx
Saturday, October 14: 11:00 am, 1:00 pm
Architect: James Mituzas, 2009

West 215th Step Street
Inwood, Manhattan
Sunday, October 15: 10:00 am, 10:30 am, 11:00 am, 11:30 am
Architect: WXY Architecture + Urban Design, 2016

Ridgewood Reservoir
Glendale, Queens
Saturday, October 14: 10:00 am, 12:00 pm, 2:00 pm
Sunday, October 15: 10:00 am, 12:00 pm
Architect: City of Brooklyn, 1859

Freshkills Park
Travis, Staten Island
Sunday, October 15: 1:00 pm
Architect: NYC Parks and James Corner Field Operations, 2036

Bike Tour: 101 Randall's Island Connector: Community, Industry, and Design
Randall's Island, Manhattan
Sunday, October 15: 10:00 am
Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and Bike New York

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Why Is Elon Musk So Conservative?

At the beginning of a TED Talks interview that took place earlier this year, TED curator Chris Anderson asks Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, "Why are you boring?" It's a joke that plays upon Musk's latest undertaking, The Boring Company, which is working toward a 3-D network of tunnels aimed at alleviating congestion in cities. But I'm more intrigued by the remarks that start just after 22 minutes, ones that sparked me to ask the question of this post's title, posed in the context of architecture and urbanism. (This embed is cued up to those remarks.)


According to Musk, "This illustrates the picture of the future, how I think things will evolve":


This suburban, single-family, "real fake" house has an electric car in the driveway, three Powerwalls sitting next to the house, and a solar-glass roof. I'm sure Musk's investors are happy that his efforts are moving toward affordable, sustainable solutions directed at consumers, but I can't help wonder how a guy who wants to dig tunnels under cities, lay tubes between cities, and build rockets in order to make life interplanetary does not have any apparent vision for dwelling on earth. His vision, if you want to call it that, is really just the status quo with some nearly invisible layers of technology added to it.

But why? Is this conservative view of our built future just a matter of making the solar/battery technology appealing to middle- and upper-class American consumers? Is he focusing so much on life on Mars that he doesn't care how people build on earth? Actually, I think it's because this suburban image – or some version of it – is Musk's reality, as well as that of many people in the United States. And because of that, he's not so willing to change it. He's more than happy to explore something different on Mars, admittedly, a much different place than earth in terms of atmosphere and other aspects of life...

[Rendering of SpaceX's terraforming of Mars]

...But that's due in part to the planet being a clean slate and because he's a stranger to Mars – as we are all. Residents, be they American or elsewhere, have a hard time envisioning things that break drastically from their way of life. Strangers, on the other hand, don't have the same problem since they don't have the same baggage. I'll admit these rudimentary thoughts came from the prologue of Richard Sennett's The Craftsman, which I picked up recently and have just started reading (he in turn grabbed the idea from Georg Simmel). Even though my knowledge of "the stranger" needs more depth, it seems like a good means of understanding how Musk, a technological visionary, could be so conservative, so lacking in vision when it comes to architecture and urbanism.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Facsimile of the Moment

Last night I was trying to show my daughter how one book I own – the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas – is worth so much more than many of the other books in my library combined. But instead of finding a price around $800 or maybe even over $1000  I was confronted with $74.15, "26% off a list price of $100." Wait...what?


[Covers of the larger hardcover 1972 edition and smaller paperback 1977 edition of Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour]

Turns out that MIT Press just put out a facsimile edition of the 1972 book by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. The first edition of Learning from Las Vegas was a large-format hardcover designed by Muriel Cooper, "but the book's design struck the authors as too monumental for a text that praised the ugly and ordinary over the heroic and monumental," per the publisher. So five years later, MIT Press put out a smaller revised edition in paperback, and that is the one that tens of thousands of architects and architecture students own. Now they can own a version of the original, "complete with translucent glassine wrap," the one piece of the original I'm missing.

For those interested in learning more about the differences between the first and revised editions of Learning from Las Vegas, Aron Vinegar's I AM A MONUMENT, also from MIT Press and which I reviewed for Architect magazine back in 2009, examines those differences in depth. Or you can read the facsimile edition, which "features a spirited preface by Denise Scott Brown, looking back on the creation of the book and explaining her and Robert Venturi's reservations about the original design."