My recent posts at World-Architects


Sunday, April 23, 2017

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day, or what is officially known as World Book and Copyright Day, started in 1995 by UNESCO. Although there doesn't appear too much in the way of celebrating this day – unlike, understandably so, yesterday's Earth Day – I figured I'd share a photo of the books I've been reading this weekend, all related to New York City; specifically, they are focused on the areas of my architectural walking tours this season: the High Line, Columbia University, and 57th Street.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Auditing POPS

I've been infatuated with POPS (privately owned public spaces) since at least early 2008, when I read and reviewed Kristine F. Miller's Designs on the Public. One chapter in her book is all about three adjacent, contemporaneous POPS from around 1983: the AT&T Building (Sony Tower), the IBM Building (590 Madison Avenue), and Trump Tower, the last of which has four such spaces (a covered pedestrian space, a passageway to 590 Madison, and two landscaped terraces. Other POPS posts on this blog looked at 100 William Street and 33 Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan and The Galleria on 57th Street.

A POPS is, per the great APOPS website, "a plaza, arcade, or other outdoor or indoor space provided for public use by a private office or residential building owner in return for a zoning concession." Or as the office of NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer puts it in their audit that was released a couple days ago, "Currently property owners are benefiting financially from approximately 23 million square feet of additional (bonus) floor area in their buildings in exchange for providing POPS at 333 locations in New York City." But is the public benefiting? Not really, according to the audit, which states that "more than half (182 of the 333) failed to provide required public amenities."

One of these failures is an all-out removal of a POPS, at 410 East 58th Street. The hotel/residential project from 1974 included a narrow finger of space connecting the tower to 57th Street, but even in 2000, when Jerold Kayden published Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience, the required POPS was "occupied by a single-story, permanent, private entrance structure called a greenhouse." This space – or is it a non-space now? – is near the start of my upcoming "57th Street, River to River" architectural walking tour, and I'll admit that my research has revealed that so much about the tall buildings built along what has become known as Billionaire's Row concerns POPS and, more recently, air rights swaps or purchases.

Even though the audit reveals POPS are far from perfect, at least they provide something for the public, unlike the purchasing of air rights, which is done in private and leads to supertall towers built as-of-right, without the need to give the public any usable space. The city is powerless to do anything about these recent transactions, but at least it's finally doing something about POPS. Though it remains to be seen if developers and building owners will undo the neglect of the privately owned public spaces that enabled them to build higher and make more money.

Click the cover to read the "Audit Report on the City’s Oversight over Privately Owned Public Spaces" (PDF):

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kenneth Frampton on Global Architectural History

[Editions of Kenneth Frampton’s Modern Architecture: A Critical History in multiple languages | Image via CCA]

The Canadian Centre for Architecture has just posted a video of a conversation held at the CCA on April 6: "A Conversation with Kenneth Frampton: Can There Be a Global History Today?" The event consisted of a roughly half-hour talk by Frampton, followed by talks by Cornell's Esra Akcan and MIT's Mark Jarzombek, and then a roundtable discussion with the trio moderated by the CCA's Kim Förster. Frampton's talk is from the beginning to the 36:45 mark, while the discussion starts at 1:22:22.

As the top image from the CCA's page for the event shows, Frampton is still best known for his Modern Architecture: A Critical History, which was first published in 1980, has been updated three times since and, according to his comments, will be updated one more time. But when it came time for me to write my own (lite) version of a global architecture history – 100 Years, 100 Buildings – another Frampton publication was even more helpful.

I'm referring to the ten-volume World Architecture 1900-2000 – A Critical Mosaic, which was put out by the China Architecture & Building Press with Springer Verlag in 2002, and for which Frampton served as general editor. Each regional volume (Latin America, United States and Canada, Mediterranean Basin, etc.) presents 100 canonical built works selected and written about by well known historians and critics. It's an amazing collection of 1,000 buildings but one I didn't know about until researching for my book a couple years ago. Why is that?

Frampton answers this in his talk, during some comments (starting at the 5-minute mark) about the ten-volume "magnum opus." At the 7-minute mark he says:
One of the strangest things about this ten-volume encyclopedic survey is that it has been so badly distributed you can almost not find it anywhere. I don't quite know why the China Architecture & Building Press, after all this effort, should fail in this particular sector.
I can concur. I was able to cobble together six of the books (below), most on Amazon and most for not too much money. But others are hard to find even online and therefore cost an unreasonable amount. No wonder Frampton's other books continue to be more influential, even though they are not nearly as exhaustive as World Architecture 1900-2000.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Apple's Almost Done

According to the drone footage embedded at the bottom of this post,

Apple Park is the official name for the company's 175-acre headquarters in Cupertino, California, what was previously referred to as Apple Campus 2.0 and "The Spaceship." The last time I posted about Norman Foster's design was about a year ago, in regards to the 10-1/2-foot-tall by 46-foot-long panels of curved glass, a huge engineering feat. At that time there were also reports about "two glass doors that span four stories high," but no images. The latest drone footage reveals what appears to be those doors, found at the 2:30 mark in the below video:

The April 2017 drone footage of Apple Park:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Today's archidose #957

Here are some photos of Chi She (2016) in Shanghai, China, by Archi-Union Architects, featuring a robotic-built brick wall by Fab-Union Intelligent Engineering. (Photographs: Trevor Patt)


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Friday, April 14, 2017

Book Review: The Rule of Logistics

The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment by Jesse LeCavalier
University of Minnesota Press, 2016
Paperback, 282 pages

Think about Walmart and most likely architecture does not spring to mind. The company Sam Walton started in Arkansas in the 1960s became the world's largest retailer by erecting inexpensive and efficient boxes to store and display good sold cheaper than anybody else, not by championing attention-getting architecture. Nevertheless, their Walmart stores, Supercenters, and Sam's Clubs are instantly recognizable, and their interiors incorporate research on the benefits of natural light and other environmental factors toward getting customers to open up their pocketbooks. In other words, Walmart is well aware of the importance of architecture; it's just executed in a manner quite distinct from capital-A architecture.

One aspect of Walmart's physical reality is logistics, which appears to have been a passion of designer and educator Jesse LeCavalier for some time now. I first became aware of his research in 2010 when I posted "Walhattan" and a link to his essay, "All Those Numbers," at Places Journal. A couple years later I came across his ongoing research in Cabinet Issue 47: Logistics, where his piece, "The Restlessness of Objects," appeared. He got a fair amount of attention back then in part from a graphic showing the square footage of the various Walmart iterations next to the island of Manhattan. It drove home the scale and influence of the corporation, while also revealing some apparently insurmountable conditions for the retailer – to this day it does not have a store in Manhattan.

Yet as LeCavalier reveals in last year's book on the role of logistics in how Walmart functions, impediments are design problems to navigate, not road blocks. Specifically I'm referring to the way the retailer lined stores along – but not inside – the Vermont border in response to the state's ban on the company's stores. Walmart used its logistical expertise to best position these stores to nearly saturate the market within Vermont; the same expertise was used to locate the stores that eventually got built inside Vermont once the state relented. The way Walmart handled it, Vermont had no choice but to relent, since all those dollars were being spent in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New York – not Vermont. Although this example will make opponents of Walmart (like me) even bigger opponents, it serves to express just how widely logistics infiltrates the corporation's practices.

That said, there is one example of capital-A architecture in The Rule of Logistics: the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Designed by Moshe Safdie for Sam Walton's daughter, Alice, the building dramatically spans a waterway not far from the Walton house designed by Fay Jones. Yet in LeCavalier's hands, the museum is not important in terms of form; rather he focuses on its role in creating a cultural draw, alongside the Walmart Museum, in a region that would normally be considered "flyover country." Even with the inclusion of Safdie's building, it's the stores, data centers, distribution centers and other aspects of Walmart's physical infrastructure that will stick with readers, prompting them to consider just what they mean for architecture in a broader sense.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

'100 Years, 100 Buildings' Book Talk

On Tuesday, May 23 I'll be giving a book talk at the Skyscraper Museum in Lower Manhattan. The event takes places from 6:30pm to 8pm and is free. Head to the Skyscraper Museum website to reserve a ticket.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Today's archidose #956

Here are some photos of the Building 27E Marine Base in Amsterdam by bureau SLA. (Photographs: Ken Lee)

Building 27E, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Building 27E, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Building 27E, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Building 27E, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Building 27E, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Break

With a major deadline approaching, I'm taking a break from this and my other blogs. Posts will resume the week of April 10th.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Today's archidose #955

Here is a photo of MVRDV's Roosevelta 22 (aka BAŁTYK) nearing completion in Poznań, Poland. Photographer Przemysław Turlej has many more photos of the project in his Poznan - R22 Flickr set.

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