My recent posts at World-Architects


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Wright at Columbia

This year, the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth, has yielded plenty of publications, exhibitions, and other events about the world's most famous modern architect. A few of them -- a book, an exhibition and a related symposium -- are centered at Columbia University, whose Avery Library co-owns the Wright archive with MoMA, which is exhibiting (until October 1) the must-see Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive.


Wright's Writings: Reflections on Culture and Politics 1894-1959 by Kenneth Frampton
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 2017
Paperback, 144 pages

When MoMA curator and Columbia professor Barry Bergdoll gave comments during the opening of Frank Lloyd Wright at 150 when it opened back in June, one statement that stuck in my memory is that Wright is one of the few architects as well known outside academia as within. One side effect of this fact is that Wright has not been as large an influence in architectural education as Mies, Corbusier, Kahn, and other "modern masters." One scholar, though, who has not shied away from incorporating Wright into architectural history alongside these and other figures is Columbia professor Kenneth Frampton. Although to my knowledge he hasn't written a book exclusively about Wright, Frampton has included Wright in his own books and has contributed to books about the architect. One of the latter is the five-volume Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings put out by Rizzoli in the early 1990s.

Columbia's Wright's Writings collects Frampton's five introductions to those books into a slim but very handsome book alongside illustrations culled from the extensive Avery/MoMA archive of Wright's drawings, manuscripts and other artifacts. Frampton's insights into the five periods of Wright's career and output in the form of writings work remarkably well together here even though they have been separated from the writings they initially introduced. Frampton's texts are one reason to buy the book, the other being the archival illustrations that accompany and are referenced in the text. These images -- marked-up manuscripts, handwritten pages, drawings for covers, etc. -- hint at the voluminous archive as well as the possibilities for scholarship in the years ahead.


Living in America: Frank Lloyd Wright, Harlem & Modern Housing
September 9 - December 17
Wallach Art Gallery, Lenfest Center for the Arts, 615 West 129th Street

In addition to being the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth, 2017 is also the year when Columbia University opened the first two buildings in its large, ongoing Manhattanville Campus: the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts, both designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. This timing makes the Living in America exhibition particularly fitting, even though it's not just about Wright. Since it's curated by Columbia GSAPP's Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, rather than Barry Bergoll, for instance, the exhibition is about housing too. Under Reinhold Martin, the Buell Center's recent output has included House Housing, a multi-year research and exhibition program on architecture and housing, and the petit but loaded book, The Art of Inequality: Architecture, Housing, and Real Estate. Therefore Living in America is wrapped into the Buell Center's multi-pronged focus on housing and real estate.

The exhibition presents a selection of Wright's post-Broadacre City residential designs from the Avery/MoMA archive alongside contemporaneous designs by other architects for large public and subsidized housing projects in urban areas. With so much Wright being exhibited and written about this year, I found myself drawn more to the other housing projects -- enough that I need to go back to take in more than an opening-night visit allowed. In the exhibition design by Project Projects and Leong Leong, the two "interwoven plotlines" are mounted on perimeter walls and two intersecting walls in the form of an "X" that split the rectangular Wallach Art Gallery into four triangular spaces, two obtuse and two acute. In the middle -- and clearly the focus of our attention from each gallery -- is Wright's huge and hugely famous Broadacre City model, what can be seen as another means of unpacking Wright's archive. In my visit to the exhibition during its opening, people gravitated toward the model; like me, they'd probably never seen the whole model in the flesh or in such an inviting manner (luckily I arrived early enough to get a couple cellphone photographs of the model not swamped by visitors).


Living in America Symposium
September 29, 10am-5:30pm
The Lantern, Lenfest Center for the Arts, 615 West 129th Street

Description per the symposium website:
The question of how to live in America preoccupied many architects and planners — from Frank Lloyd Wright to the consortium behind Harlem’s first public housing proposals — in the mid-twentieth century. This symposium gathers scholars of housing for a conversation that bridges what might otherwise seem like disparate realms of inquiry in order to reassess received histories and to provoke new questions about how we live in America, together, today.

Symposium speakers are Shiben Banerji, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Jana Cephas, University of Michigan; Brian Goldstein, Swarthmore College; Jennifer Gray, The Museum of Modern Art; Jennifer Hock, Maryland Institute College of Art; Catherine Maumi, the Grenoble School of Architecture; Kevin McGruder, Antioch College; and Joseph Watson, University of British Columbia.
Register for this free event via the Wallach Art Gallery.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Storefront Books

Earlier today I went to Cooper Union for the Storefront for Art and Architecture's five-hour-long event, Architecture Books / Yet to be Written / 1982-2017-2052. Participants were asked to "present an architecture book published in the last thirty five years that they consider to be fundamental to the understanding of contemporary architecture culture, as well as a 'book yet to be written'." Below is a selection of some of those choices, in order of the short presentations.

[Storefront's Eva Franch i Gilabert kicking off the event and launching the forthcoming New York Architecture Book Fair.]

Anthony Vidler
Past: Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille by Denis Hollier (1990)
Future: Mannerism Is (Not) a Joke: Architectural Wit in the Age of Anxiety

Sanford Kwinter
Past: Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research by Stanislav Grof (1979)
Future: Something along the lines of Bruce Wexler’s Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change (2008) but oriented toward design and space

Beatriz Colomina
Past: 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep by Jonathan Crary (2013)
Future: The City of Social Media

Henry Cobb
Past: Atlas of Novel Tectonics by Reiser + Umemoto (2006)
Future: Combined Works: Architecture in Conversation

Eyal Weizman
Past: The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial by Robert Jan van Pelt (2002)
Future: The Split-Second, on the repercussions of split-second decisions and the like

Stan Allen
Past: The Projective Cast: Architecture and Its Three Geometries by Robin Evans (1995)
Future: Whatever Robin Evans’s next book would have been if he had not died in 1993 at the age of only 48

James Wines
Past: A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes by Richard Kostelanetz (1991-1st edition, 2000-2nd edition)
Future: A 3rd version of Kostelanetz's dictionary, done as a shortlist aimed at saving the earth

Joan Ockman
Past: The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant-Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s by Manfredo Tafuri (1987)
Future: The Rise of a Global-Digital Architecture: From postmodern polemics to postcolonial practices to the search for new forms of architectural production

Reinier de Graaf
Past: The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama (1992)
Future: Four Walls and a Roof on the reuse of social modernist housing estates

Peggy Deamer
Past: From Craft to Profession: The Practice of Architecture in Nineteenth-Century America by Mary N. Woods (1999)
Future: From Profession to Precarity: The Practice of Architecture in 21st-Century America

Amale Andraos
Past: Architecture from the Arab World, 1914-2014 by Bernard Khoury (2014)
Future: Intersection of S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhaas & Bruce Mau and New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Daniel Libeskind
Past: Mask of Medusa by John Hejduk (1989)
Future: Future Flowers, a graphic book on architecture

Ana Miljacki
Past: Utopia's Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again by Reinhold Martin (2010)
Future: Dirty Modernity: Previously excised and often radically disconcerting chapters on architecture and modernity

Marion Weiss
Past: Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (1983)
Future: Drifting Symmetries, a fiction, a travel guide to a city we don't recognize

Mark Wigley
Past: Cedric Price: Works II aka "The Square Book" (1984)
Future: Short Architects

Elizabeth Diller
Past: Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made (2009)
Future: Unfinished Business, on ghosts

Friday, September 22, 2017

Today's archidose #979

Here are some photos of the Central Mosque Cologne (2017) in Cologne, Germany, by Architekturbüro Paul Böhm. (Photos: Chris Schroeer-Heiermann, who has a Flickr set with construction photos of the building.)


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: Fables for the Drone Age

Fables for the Drone Age by Richard Goodwin
N Editions, 2017
Paperback, 50 pages

Even though I cover architecture for a living, every now and then I come across architects who have been practicing for a while but for some reason I'm unaware. One such architect/artist whom I should have known about much sooner is Richard Goodwin; according to his website he has been practicing for 42 years. Quick glances at the Australian's work, both on his website and in this new book coinciding with an exhibition at London's Betts Project earlier this year, brings to mind the work of Lebbeus Woods, Kaplan and Krueger, Wes Jones, and other architects whose practices veered into art and confronted technology head-on.

Fables for the Drone Age, produced by N Editions, was inspired by Grodon Matta-Clark's artist book, Splitting, from 1974. Although I wasn't familiar with that book, a quick Google search yields immediate similarities: a landscape format, simple text and images floating on white pages, and a gatefold. In Goodwin's book, that gatefold comes on the inside of the back cover, a treat after the comparatively small images throughout the rest of the book. Fables collects fourteen of Goodwin's monochrome sculptures interspersed with prose that opens up the meaning of his works to even more interpretation.

Two somewhat contradictory ideas came to mind when immersing myself in Fables: the violence of machinery/technology and the enthusiasm of youth. The first comes across fairly directly, as in the destructive Syria, one of the most recent works in the book, and Twin Parasite (below), in which a model car is maligned onto a tower-like slab. It turns out this model is a maquette for a full-sized piece with a real car that was installed in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2015. This maquette brings to mind the second aspect, youthful enthusiasm, since Goodwin uses model kits in his pieces, the type that kids (boys, mainly) build – or at least they used to build. I got car and plane kits as a child and patiently tried to make them resemble the photo on the box. But I never "hacked" them the way Goodwin does, using their parts in unexpected ways (like turning a helicopter into Paddle Tower) or using them as subjects for tableaus that splinter any boyhood optimism.

With often violent interactions between machines and buildings, and with war an occasional subject, it's hard not to equate Goodwin's output as seen in Fables most strongly with the late and highly influential architect/educator Lebbeus Woods. I'm not sure if the two knew each other or were just kindreds, one in Australia and one in New York, but obviously technology and violence are universal concerns. But they are concerns that are all to often set aside by architects in favor of ones that are more mundane and less political. Thankfully there are voices like Goodwin who tackle difficult subjects like these in provocative and sometimes elegant ways.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Running Behind

Last week I was in Chicago for a preview of the Chicago Architecture Biennial and for part of this week I'm attending a conference. So posts will resume later this week or early next week once things have gotten back to normal.

Monday, September 11, 2017

LG Goes Architecture

Before heading to work this morning I caught a glimpse of a commercial on TV for LG Signature. What stood out was the way the LG products – refrigerator, television, washing machine, air purifier – were positioned in front of some fairly notable, if not all widely known, works of architecture.

There's Johan Otto Von Spreckelsen's La Grande Arche in Paris:

Fumihiko Maki's Four World Trade Center in New York:

James Stirling's State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart:

And Norman Foster's 30 St. Mary Axe in London:

The commercial ends with the lines, "All great things are alike. They are built on essence." More than other spot covered in my architectural advertising posts, this commercial explicitly equates the products being sold with the architecture on display; the latter are not merely backdrops. Unfortunately, the comparisons are strictly formal, geometric; such as with the round openings of Stirling's building and the round front of the washing machine. More superficial than essential.

See for yourself in the 30-second short version:

And the one-minute long version:

Friday, September 08, 2017

CAF on the Move

Yesterday the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) announced it will be moving about seven blocks from its longtime digs at 224 South Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute, to 111 East Wacker, facing the Chicago River. The move, which will take place next year, is a logical one, given that CAF is known best for its architecture river tours. The Chicago Architecture Center, as it will be called, is being designed by AS+GG. Containing a shop, gallery, lecture hall, and design studio, the Chicago Architecture Center will sit right across the street from the dock for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady Cruises (its official name) and across the river from the new Apple Store designed by Norman Foster.

[Rendering courtesy of CAF]

The move, though logical for CAF's operations and visibility, is evident of a shift in Chicago's downtown toward the river. 111 East Wacker sits near the earliest stretch of the Chicago Riverwalk, whose third phase opened last year. Mayor Daley had Millennium Park, but for his successor, Rahm Emanuel, it's all about the Chicago River.

More than any shifting tides in the city, though, I'm most intrigued by the design, which is much more than renovating a storefront. The design encloses an open plaza beneath the building and reworks the base where it meets Wacker Drive. Here is the existing condition, by comparison with the rendering above:

[111 East Wacker existing | Google Street View]

I don't see any objections to AS+GG's design, especially since the walk up Wacker from Michigan Avenue toward Lakeshore East has never been very nice (no wonder the outdoor seating at Houlihan's is empty in the view above), and the nicest parts of the elevated Illinois Center plaza is found on the other side of 111 East Wacker.

The Chicago Architecture Center is expected to open in summer 2018.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Today's archidose #978

Here are some photos of Feltrinelli Porta Volta (2016) in Milan, Italy, by Herzog & de Meuron. (Photos: Frank Dinger, who has a Flickr set with many more photos of this building.)

Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Listening to Leslie

Structural engineer Leslie Earl Robertson will be talking at the Skyscraper Museum on Thursday about his book recently published by Monacelli Press, The Structure of Design An Engineer's Extraordinary Life in Architecture. Details from the Skyscraper Museum are below.

Leslie Robertson Book Talk
The Structure of Design: An Engineer's Extraordinary Life in Architecture
The Monacelli Press, 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017 6:30-8:00 pm

In The Structure of Design, Leslie Earl Robertson offers a personal and accessible chronicle of the partnerships and problem-solving that forged so many classics of modern architecture. He recounts his famous collaborations with architects, including Minoru Yamasaki, Philip Johnson, and I. M. Pei, among many others, and his delight in working with leading sculptors such as Richard Serra and Beverly Pepper. Join us for an illustrated talk that combines personal refections and professional insights on "An Engineer's Extraordinary Life in Architecture."

Leslie Robertson moved to New York City to work on the structural design of the World Trade Center for the Seattle firm Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, and soon added his name to the partnership. He established the firm Leslie E. Robertson Associates in 1986. The firm’s many innovative skyscrapers around the world include the U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and Lotte World Tower in Seoul. He retired as a partner at the end of 1994 and continued to work on LERA projects through 2012. He now practices as Leslie Earl Robertson, Structural Engineer, LLC.

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 to assure admittance to the event.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: Detail Kultur

Detail Kultur: If Buildings Had DNA: Case Studies of Mutations by Christoph a. Kumpusch
Aadcu, 2016
Hardcover, 1030 pages

[All images courtesy of]

Even without the overused quote attributed to Mies van der Rohe, "God is in the details," architects would understand the importance of details, the way in which a building's success hinges on how its materials and assemblies are treated. In terms of books on the subject, they range from practical, technical guides to conceptual explorations, as in the exhaustive work of Edward R. Ford. Architect and Columbia GSAPP professor Christoph a. Kumpusch attempts to blend these two approaches, resulting in a massive, layered volume born from his PhD dissertation at the Universität für Angewandte Kunst - Wien.

Even before cracking open the thick chip board cover of Detail Kultur, it's clear this is a special book, a product of much time, energy, and passion. Additionally, the cover and its notched end pages spell out the structure of the book, specifically the ten themes (what Kumpusch call "lenses") explored by the baker's dozen projects listed on the front. The 13 projects are actually noted as "12+1 projects," since one of them – the Light Pavilion that Kumpusch worked on with Lebbeus Woods – inhabits Steven Holl's Sliced Porosity Block, one of the projects.

[Spread with Steven Holl's Sliced Porosity Block]

Even before the reader gets to the introduction, the author has provided a key to the book's layered structure and its many parts: the lenses and their icons, the projects, the various text boxes (Kumpusch's own text, dictionary definitions, quotations, captions, and citations), and finally the drawings, their thumbnail silhouettes, and their scales. All the relevant information is found on the page; there is no back matter outside of an index, bibliography, material key, and architects' bios. With so much information – practical and conceptual – packed on each page, a key is necessary to navigate the book's own detailed presentation.

[Spread with Neil Denari's HL23]

At just over a thousand pages, this is not a cover-to-cover read; it is something to dive into in a few ways. First is in terms of the lenses, which are notched on top of the pages and focus on such areas as "corners," "openings and closings," and "chassis geometry." Second is by project; every project does not fall into every lens, but the projects can be found easily via notches on the right side of the pages. (I found myself gravitating to projects I have some familiarity with, such as Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals, HL23, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's The Broad.) Third would be a reading of the text that prefaces each lens's collection of relevant details; here Kumpusch explains his conceptual basis for each lens and references even more projects than the book addresses in its case studies.

[Spread with Eric Owen Moss's Samitaur Tower]

In terms of the details provided, kudos should go to Kumpusch for assembling them into a consistent graphic format with scales (most are 1:10) that allow for easy comparison. It's great to have access to details on 12+1 stellar projects. That said, some details are throwaways (are roof vent details, for instance, so important in this ambitious study?) and some of the photos that accompany the details suffer from low quality. But when Kumpusch pairs details with relevant, high-quality photos, as in the spreads here, the book excels as a means of providing technical information to conceptual thinkers – and vice versa, laying a conceptual foundation for architects otherwise focused on construction details.