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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Book Briefs #30

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence 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.



Architecture Is All Over edited by Esther Choi, Marrikka Trotter | Columbia Books on Architecture and the City | 2017 | Amazon
Depending on how one reads this book's title, it's either full of pessimism ("architecture is all over") or promise ("architecture is all over"). The apparent coexistence of "architecture’s simultaneous diminishment and ubiquity" extends to the book's graphic design, which imprints photos from one page in reverse and in orange on the preceding or following page. It makes for an apparently dense and layered book that is thankfully reflected in its scholarly contributions. One highlight: Patty Heyda's "Erasure Urbanism" on the demolition of two neighborhoods astride Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

Intelligent Infrastructure: Zip Cars, Invisible Networks, and Urban Transformation edited by T. F. Tierney | University of Virginia Press | 2017 | Amazon
"Intelligent infrastructure" refers to a the ubiquitous but often invisible systems reshaping cities today: cell networks, cloud computing, smartphones, networked traffic signals, and responsive electric grids, to name just a few. T. F. Tierney, the founding director of URL: Urban Research Lab at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, tackles this topic with essays by some familiar names (Bjarke Ingels, Mitchell Joachim, Carlo Ratti, Urban-Think Tank, etc.) in three sections: soft systems, hard systems, and mashed systems. The influence of the late William J. Mitchell is evident throughout, particularly in a technological optimism that pervades the contributions.

Morphogenesis: The Indian Perspective. The Global Context. by Manit Rastogi, Sonali Rastogi | Images Publishing | 2017 | Amazon
The delicate orange dust jacket to this monograph on India's Morphogenesis functions like a veil, shielding the photograph beneath it. With a pattern lifted from the British School, the cover hints at how the firm of Manit and Sonali Rastogi approaches context and sustainability: with a contemporary eye and an emphasis on passive design. The 27 projects across three sections (passive design, resource optimization, and contextual identity) reiterate this approach. About half of the projects are built and half are in-progress; the former – carefully documented with photos, diagrams and drawings – are much stronger than the latter, perhaps revealing that Morphogenesis's built reality exceeds what is depicted beforehand in renderings.



Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State by Gareth Doherty | University of California Press | 2017 | Amazon
The most obvious paradox about "green landscapes" and Bahrain would be that most of the country is tan, the color of sand. But for Gareth Doherty, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD, the paradox is about the resources required to create green spaces in arid environments. Paradoxes of Green's focus on Bahrain, the greenest of the Arab gulf states, taught Doherty a great deal about landscape – not the other way around. The tiny country with a mix of constructed green and indigenously arid environments is portrayed in eight chapters ("vignettes") that explore the relationship between the color green and the infrastructure needed (half of the city's water usage!) to sustain it.

Robot House: Instrumentation, Representation, Fabrication by Peter Testa | Thames & Hudson | 2017 | Amazon
Although much of the most high-profile robotic architecture is coming out of ETH Zurich's Gramazio Kohler Research and the University of Stuttgart's Institute for Computational Design, this book is focused squarely on SCI-Arc and its Robot House, an interactive robotics platform headed by Peter Testa and Devyn Weiser. Split into two parts (imagination, representation and fabrication in the first, projects in the second), the book is an image-drenched presentation of the platform's process and output – bordering on robot-porn, if there is such a thing – that shouldn't have a hard time finding its niche audience.

Trace Elements by Benjamin Aranda, Chris Lasch | Columbia Books on Architecture and the City | 2017 | Amazon
It's been ten years since Aranda/Lasch's Tooling, aka Pamphlet Architecture 27, meaning it's about time for a proper monograph on the New York- and Tucson-based design studio. Trace Elements doesn't resemble a proper monograph – it's small and reads more like a manifesto than a collection of projects – but it does a great job in expressing their work and the ideas behind their projects. The inclusion of precedents (e.g. Piranesi and Labrouste) in some parts of the book is a welcome element in our time of cultural amnesia.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse Architecture?

The United State's eclipse fever culminates in tomorrow's total solar eclipse cutting a path across the country from West Coast to East Coast. Although New York City will only see a 71% eclipse, the fever is just as strong here as in the path of the total eclipse. Since I'll be taking the afternoon off to stare at the sun through some special glasses, I thought I'd do a post the day before with some buildings – real or not – that look like partial or total eclipses.

Most of them, like these, are in the realm of the imagination:

[Images from various sources via a Google Image Search]

But one built structure comes pretty close to capturing the look of an eclipse, the Ring of Life in China:

[Photo via Skyscraper City]

Built or not, they're not really a substitute for the real thing:

[Photo: NASA]

Friday, August 18, 2017

MTA's 'Wave' Crossings

The Dream:

[A design, by Grimshaw, for the approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge with a chain-metal "wave" covering the toll gantry. | Image from "Reimagining New York's Crossings"]

The Reality:

[My photo of the toll gantry on approach to the RFK Triborough Bridge – is the "wave" still to come?]

In October 2016 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his vision for booth-free tolls at all of the tunnels and bridges heading in and out of New York City. The vision would become a reality via sensors and cameras mounted on gantries spanning the roadways. These structures are utilitarian – read: very ugly. But have no fear, since Cuomo's plan states: "Each gantry on our bridges and tunnels will be covered with a decorative artwork presenting a 'wave' effect."

My photo above shows one such toll structure, in Astoria, spanning nine lanes of traffic at the entrance to the Triborough Bridge – but obviously no wave. If DNAinfo is correct and all of the work will be finished by the end of 2017, that leaves only four full months for workers to come back and install the "wave" over the gantry. This seems like not enough time, so I'm anticipating the public-art feature is being nixed, most likely as a value engineering measure. Hopefully I'm wrong and later this year the Triborough Bridge will have an artistic shield over its technological infrastructure.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Today's archidose #976

Here are some of my photos of The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park (FLWHEP). The Usonian house in Kirkwood, Missouri, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for Russell and Ruth Kraus in the 1950s. Since 2001 the non-profit FLWHEP has owned the house, has restored it, and runs tours of it.

The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park
The Frank Lloyd House in Ebsworth Park

Photos are not allowed inside during tours, so here is a shot of the interior from the Ebsworth Park website:


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What I Did on My Summer Vacation #2: St. Louis

Last week I wrote about one project I visited during my work-vacation in Zurich, so here I'm posting about one building from my family vacation in Missouri. On that trip we also went to see a couple chapels by E. Fay Jones, as well as Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and a Frank Lloyd Wright house in suburban St. Louis. But it's the Saint Louis Abbey Church (1962) by HOK's Gyo Obata that stands out from that trip. Located in Creve Coeur, the church is one of a number of buildings on the campus of the Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis. Even in an aerial view – and no label on the building – it's easy to see why the church gets all the attention.

[Aerial view from Google Maps | All other photographs by John Hill]

The circular church is made up of twenty parabolic arches of thin-shell concrete. According to a few sources Obata worked with Weidlinger Associates on the structure, but most talk about how the architect brought in Pier Luigi Nervi as a consultant. Whatever the case, the final product, which ascends in three tiers of arches to a bell tower capped by a cross, is a really strong architect/engineer – more than most buildings in terms of expression. I'm not sure if Obata or his engineers were influenced by Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch, which would open three years later, but I'll admit the parabolic form seems to resonate as a very St. Louis geometry.
Sain Louis Abbey Church

Beneath the amazingly thin arches are insulated fiberglass polyester panels that appear dark from the exterior during the daytime and in turn accentuate the curves of the arches.
Sain Louis Abbey Church

Stepping inside, the circular space is filled with a soft light from the translucent windows, while the oculus draws one toward the center of the space.
Sain Louis Abbey Church

The oculus is positioned directly above the altar – a block of Georgia granite weighing nine tons!
Sain Louis Abbey Church

The arches created a layered space, with a perimeter walkway wrapping the whole between the lower windows and the upper windows. The Abbey's monks enter the sanctuary and the choir through an opening in the curved glass screen that was designed by Emil Frei and made by Robert Frei, Lester Syberg, and Charles Statts. This screen gives the monks a bit of privacy once they're seated in the choir.
Sain Louis Abbey Church

The twenty perimeter arches form a series of chapels, each one featuring an altar dedicated to a saint or group of saints and an artist-designed cross.
Sain Louis Abbey Church

With the soft, almost paper-like glow of the translucent panels, these chapels are the church's most extraordinary design feature. More accurately, Obata and his engineers did an amazing job in using only two geometrical shapes – the circle and the parabolic arch – to create a sacred space that capably balances communal and private settings; the former in the column-free space rising toward the oculus and the latter in the chapels that gain privacy on their sides through the same upward thrust of the concrete structure.
Sain Louis Abbey Church

Monday, August 14, 2017

Today's archidose #975

Here are some photos of the Medicus Medical Center (2017) in Wrocklaw, Poland, by JSK Architekci. (Photographs: Maciek Lulko)

Medicus
Medicus
Medicus
Medicus

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Friday, August 11, 2017

What I Did on My Summer Vacation #1: Zurich

When in Zurich in June I was able to get around the city a fair amount even though I was there for work. Some of the places are highlighted in a post at World-Architects, but here I wanted to delve into one of the most impressive places I visited: Kantonsschule Freudenberg in the city's Enge district. Here is an aerial from Google Maps, which does a good job of illustrating how the school, designed by Jacques Schader and completed in 1960, is a fairly large rectilinear concrete plinth with some smaller components projecting above and adjacent to it.


Key:
1-Kantonsschule Freudenberg
2-Kantonsschule Enge
3-Gymnasium
4-Auditorium
5-Natural Sciences
6-Plaza
7-Tram Stop

My approach to the school was from the tram stop to the southeast (7), via some paths and stairs up the hill. At the southeast corner of the school, the building is simultaneously built into and propped above the landscape.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

One of the most dramatic aspects of the design – the one that made me want to visit the school after seeing a photo of it – is the ramp that crosses the perimeter walkway and the rough landscape.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

Rather than traversing the ramp, I walked up some stairs along the eastern edge of the school. The steps culminate in a raised plinth on top of the Gymnasium (3). From here, one sees the two main school buildings – Freudenberg (1) in the foreground and Enge (2) in the distance – that pop above the plinth.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

The slots visible in the aerial at the Gymnasium (3) are wells that bring light to the spaces within the substantial two-story plinth.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

Taking a few steps westward, toward Enge (2), reveals one of the few views where a "building" can be seen in its entirety. From this northeast angle, Freudenberg (1) is a capable but none-too-exciting building. That's fine, since the appeal of the overall project is in how the rectilinear pieces create an artificial landscape that manages to insert itself so well into the site's terrain and landscaping.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

On axis between Enge (2) and the Auditorium (4) is a monumental stair that provides access to the plinth from the north. Here is the stair looking toward Freudenberg (1).
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

The view up the stair, with the walkway traversing it, is much like the ramp at the project's southeast corner.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

Just north of the plinth is the Auditorium (4), which has its own stepped forecourt.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

I walked past the Auditorium (4) to check out the Gymnasium (3), which overlooks the playing field with a wall of glass blocks. I visited on a Friday afternoon, figuring the school would be closed over the weekend. Although very few students or teachers were around, I was able to basically walk around and go inside some of the buildings as I pleased.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

The corridor inside the Gymnasium seems low, but that is because it is beneath the well from the plinth above. The short windows in the well bring natural light to the taller spaces to the right of the corridor (behind the frosted glass walls)...
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

...and the double-height gymnasium to the left of the corridor.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

Heading back outside from where I entered, I walked toward the monumental stairs but opted to head back up to the plinth via a set of perpendicular steps visible here to the right.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

From these steps is a striking vista through Enge (2) toward Freudenberg (1).
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

Back up at the plinth I stepped inside Enge (2) and came upon an unexpected triple-height atrium (not a great photo, but the best I could do with my smartphone).
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

To the south of Enge (2) in the plinth is Natural Sciences (5), which has the same light wells as the Gymnasium.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

The west edge of Enge (2) has the last means of accessing the plinth, a large stair that descends to the southwest corner of the site.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

Seen from the base, the stair is an imposing one, given the slope of the site and the need to ascend even more steps to reach the plinth.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

This photo shows the south facade of Natural Sciences (5), which has its own light wells for a lower level beneath the plinth's two stories.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

This counterclockwise tour around Kantonsschule Freudenberg brings us back to the southeast corner, here seen from the other side of the ramp and bridge. Needless to say, I was impressed with the building and recommend that people visiting Zurich go see it in person.
Kantonsschule Freudenberg

The next installment of "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" will present one of the buildings I visited in Missouri earlier this month.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Today's archidose #974

Here are some photos of the Jan Michalski Foundation in Montricher, Switzerland. The canopy and offices were designed by Mangeat Wahlen Architectes AssociĆ©s and completed in 2013, with various "treehouses" – residences for writers – added later beneath the canopy by other architects. See also photos of the Foundation's library by Mangeat Wahlen. (Photographs: Trevor Patt)

IMG_1791
IMG_1915
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IMG_1899
IMG_1808
IMG_1812
IMG_1804

Treehouse by Rintala Eggertsson Architects:
IMG_20170721_151636

Treehouse by Elemental with +2 Architectes:
IMG_1796

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