Archive for June, 2008

Do-it-yourself Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings. It’s easy!

06/25/2008

You too can present a retrospective of the great Wall Drawings of Sol LeWitt!

You’ll need a crew. Art students will do. Also recent art graduates, and artists- if they can follow instructions.



You gotta buy ’em some paint. Get the good stuff.

Maybe they’ll throw in some hats.

Find a large space. Very large. We’re not talking precious little miniatures. Usually, an abandoned industrial warehouse, factory, or a mill complex works well.


From the days when America actually made stuff you could use.

But inside you’ll have to build white walls. Lots of them. And make sure they’re to LeWitt’s specifications.

Follow the plan for what goes where, or you’ll be at your wits end.

(Even the plan is beautiful.)

Now pin up the working drawings by LeWitt so you know what to follow. They’re done by hand, not computer. So, as “perfect” as they look, they’re not. That’s refreshing.

If you’re lucky, Sol LeWitt’s daughter Eva, a colorful artist in her own right, might lend you transparencies and one of those good, old-fashioned overhead projectors.


Now get out your tape and mock up the walls!


Remember, Sol LeWitt had helpers too.


If you’ve done it all right, interesting patterns will start to appear.

This

becomes

Line up your charts of the colors LeWitt specified to make sure you get ’em right


and let ‘er rip! (click the arrow)

Music to my ears.

Handwork, as at Lascaux.

Yes, if you follow LeWitt’s instructions you too can produce absolutely stunning Wall Drawings

The world around you is transformed.

Before

After

The later, bolder ones

show how artists use of color often changes as they age.

So for your retrospective, try to include some of LeWitt’s more subtle works

Those are revelatory. And it’s moving to follow the artist’s path.

For these subtle ones, have the crew keep the pencils very sharp


To get

Can you say compulsive?

And keep the lines fine and straight, or this poor guy will go blind to correct it! (click on arrow)

When you’re all done, you’ll have wonderful, jarringly powerful spaces:

just like at the Sol LeWitt retrospective opening at MASS MoCA November 16, 2008.

Congratulations to the crew! And to MASS MoCA’s Director Joseph Thompson, and to all involved, including Yale University Art Gallery, and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and Bruner/Cott and Associates architects, who restored the building.

Done in collaboration with Sol LeWitt, before his death in April 2007. The retrospective will include one hundred works—covering nearly an acre of wall surface—that LeWitt created from 1968 to 2007.

Here’s how it came to be, according to MASS MoCA: Jock Reynolds, the Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, who in 1993 worked closely with LeWitt to produce an earlier retrospective of his wall drawings brought Sol LeWitt to see MASS MoCA and its Director Joseph Thompson.

“LeWitt toured the MASS MoCA’s campus of industrial buildings, where the artist was immediately intrigued by Building #7. The structure, situated at the center of MASS MoCA’s multi-building complex, and featuring large banks of windows that open onto two flanking courtyards, appealed to LeWitt as an ideal site for a multifloor installation of his work. His specifications for the space included new circulation paths, including a series of “flying bridges” and newly created courtyard spaces, that will connect the LeWitt building to MASS MoCA’s changing exhibition galleries and entry lobby.

Thompson comments, “As we’ve built the interior partitions to Sol’s specifications, it has become clear that his understanding of architectural space was as masterful as his wall drawings themselves. He consciously sited his wall drawings to engage both the interior of Building #7 and its outside environment. It is stunning to see how well his monumental aesthetic intervention within the heart of the MASS MoCA campus of buildings is going to enliven the entire museum. Sol left almost every window in Building #7 generously open to invite in a play of continuous natural light—which is somehow typical of his creative spirit.”

“Detailed,” “painstaking,” and “strangely liberating” are terms that have been used to describe the experience of creating Sol LeWitt’s monumental wall drawings. The drawings at MASS MoCA will be executed over a six-month period by twenty-four of the senior and seasoned assistants who worked with the artist over many years. They will be joined by thirty students from Yale University, Williams College, and North Adams’s Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, as well as by undergraduate students from other colleges and universities around the country.”

Along with Tadao Ando’s buildings for the Clark Art Institute in the same area, by November this is worth a trip.

Rest easy, in your pretty little town in the Berkshires, knowing you’ve added interest to the world. Rest easy too – your work lives on – Sol LeWitt.

.

—–

.

Advertisements

Ando’s wood building in the Berkshires will open this weekend

06/20/2008

Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s first wooden building in the US will open this Sunday, June 22.

He comes from a land that I suppose knows something about wood.


Ando’s previous buildings in the US have been mostly in the smooth concrete he specifies,



such as his miraculous Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis.

(Through October 4, 2008 The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis is showing Dan Flavin: Constructed Light. Wouldn’t that be fabulous to see in Ando’s spaces? And to go along with that, to demonstrate the “shapes of light,” the Pulitzer will present on June 18, 2008, a concert of music by John Cage, Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Smart programming. With David Robertson conducting!)

But the Clark Art Institute is in the Berkshires and Ando’s wood – along with steel and glass – fits in well. Here it is, seen last winter. I posted on it then, here and here, when it was under construction, and before the landscaping was done.


The Clark says,

“The selection of Mr. Ando was influenced by his other work in pristine rural settings, where he has created modernist buildings that complement the natural beauty of their surroundings.”

In the Berkshires, he’s building among the fir (?) trees:

Ando’s favorite material is concrete, but he has used wood before, such as at the Japan Pavilion for Expo ’92 in Spain and at around the same time, for the Museum of Wood deep in Hyogo, Japan’s Mikata-gun Forest.

“The Museum of Wood was built to celebrate the National Tree Festival, which has been held every year for forty-five years since the Emperor established it following destruction of the country’s forests in the second world war.

The museum is a declared homage to the huge task of reconstruction of the forest resources of which Japan is now justifiably proud, and the fact that it is constructed almost entirely out of wood demonstrates the Japanese veneration for this product of nature that underlies the country’s traditional concept of what architecture is.”

Earlier this month I was in Japan and saw Ando’s shopping mall (shopping mall!) – upscale to be sure – on Tokyo’s famed shopping street Omotesando. (Omote-sandō (表参道))

It’s one of the rare avenues in the Japanese capital to feature trees for a great stretch. There he built along that street’s famous zelkova trees:


These are the trees that inspired his fellow Japanese architect Toyo Ito’s building for Tod’s, across the street.


Ito’s Tod’s also takes the form of the famous zelkova trees, and reflects them.


The Vuitton store, a masterpiece by Jun Aoki, also shows off the zelkovas.


And doesn’t it, in its way, look like the Katsura Villa in the very top photograph?

Anyway, back to Ando. He designed a shopping mall (with high-end residences) for this street. On the outside:


And on the inside, shadows of trees are brought in:


The shadows move, with fancy machinery such as this (how very Japanese!)


And you hear new age music and the recorded sounds of birds:
(click on the arrow)

And even though a mall, it’s lovely inside:


And isn’t this like a river, cascading through the forest.

Who would have thought that Ando’s concrete would work so well, be elegant enough for a high-end mall? But it’s done well, poured well, finished well and proportioned well.


In a way this is a wooden building, although you don’t see it. What makes Ando’s concrete “smooth-as-silk” is not the mix of concrete he specifies, but the high quality wooden form work into which it is poured.


Back outside, in the rain that makes that the trees grow, Ando’s translucent glass shines beautifully modernist on the avenue.

Saturday, June 21 2008, Tadao Ando will be at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. for the opening of Phase I of his work there. He’ll speak about his Clark projects and other recent work in a members-only lecture. Join the Clark, it’ll be worth it. Ando packs a punch. He’s a former boxer (true!)

Saturday night the Stone Hill Center, as this new building is called will open with a gala.

I can’t wait to see this landscaped, and in summer. Although, good Japanese architecture understands winter too.


Ando has given us a nice modernist interplay between the straight line and nature’s curves. Between the industrial and the organic. And a very provocative, yet satisfying Japanese interplay between solid and void.


32,000-square-feet for new galleries, that’s them behind the glass above, so they’ll have natural light when appropriate.


To open these rooms this weekend, the Clark has chosen twelve paintings from its collection that should heighten the connection with nature already embodied in the architecture.

From Clark PR: “Stone Hill Center brings us into the surrounding landscape as never before and allows for spectacular views from the terrace of Tadao Ando’s splendid new building,” said director Michael Conforti. “We have carefully selected these works by Homer and Sargent to highlight the art in nature experience….
Paintings owned by the Clark show Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent capturing sensations ranging from North Atlantic cold to North African heat.

On view June 22 through October 19.

Should be nice, a dozen paintings in contemplative rooms in the woods.

The Stone Hill Center will also house a meeting and studio art classroom, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, the largest regional conservation center in the U.S. Here’s one of its rooms with a view:


A terrace café will offer calming views of the Taconic Range and Green Mountains (also seen last winter.)


A new network of trails and paths helps integrate the building into the landscape. Landscape architecture by Reed Hilderbrand Associates.

The Clark is rightfully- and now more than ever- proud of being one of the few major art museums in the world in a rural setting. And theirs is the beautiful Berkshires.

Remember, this week only Phase I of their expansion will open. Phase II will be even more exciting. It will include a second new building by Ando: the Exhibition, Visitor, and Conference Center. Plus a one-and-a-half-acre reflecting pool to visually connect all the buildings on the main campus and reorient them toward Stone Hill.

I think most public buildings could use a reflecting pool. But that’s enough reflections from me.

One more shot from last winter from inside one of his new galleries.


Reminds me of the Farnsworth House porch, and the cross at the end reminds me of Ando’s famous Church of the Light in his home town of Osaka.


The solids and voids are reversed. Is that because the church is sacred and the gallery profane?

I’ll be at the Clark this Friday and Saturday. (I’ll also tour the Sol LeWitt installations going up at the nearby MASS MoCA.)

I’ll talk to Ando, and bring you all the news and new photos. Maybe even more video!

I think I’ll ask him about this: When Ando was a boy in Osaka, a carpenter lived across the street. Ando spent a lot of time there. The carpenter taught him a love for wood and working with it.
.

Update 6/22: We’ll have lots more to say about the new Clark building, having spent three days there, including interesting talks with Tadao Ando. Check back soon.

The most beautiful new building in the world ?

06/20/2008


Celestial.

Beijing Airport’s new Terminal Three by the UK’s Norman Foster and Partners is not only perhaps the most beautiful airport in the world, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings of any kind in the world.

Curbside you’re greeted with curves.


That’s quite a cantilevered roof. The longest in the world. Good for a dramatic entrance.
But once inside, the building really takes off.

Inside, the roof floats, light as a bamboo raft, though made of metal.


Sensuously curved. Always in more than one direction (computers used well.) Like flight, like the curve of the sky, like the curves of Chinese roofs, which go up at the end, abstracted. Put it all together it symbolizes China as the center of the world.

From the land that gave us the seemingly endless Forbidden City.

Architect Norman Foster’s office says this airport is the biggest building on the planet. Twice the size of the Pentagon. Interesting we’d compare it to that.

Inside, it’s flooded with natural light.

Always changing.

At times looking Chinese red and gold, as at China’s temples.

Elsewhere, sparingly used, accents of yellow and red.


Again curved. Gently. Which lightens it all. It feels springy, feather light, like flight. Not heavy; or tiresome. And again natural light.

Quiet and calm was the mood when I was there.

The reflective floor also lightens your mental load – a wonderful thing when you’re carrying luggage.


The reflections remind one of the pools in Chinese gardens that reflect pavilions and nature and create the demarcation of heaven and earth. The same occurs in this fabulous gateway of a terminal. An entrance to and an exit from a great civilization.



And as in any good Chinese garden, as you proceed through it and turn your view you’re rewarded with new, different, arrestingly beautiful views.





(click arrow)

The soft curves of the airport roof tell you what path to take.


Follow this


to the escalators down to the trains to the gates.


Once down below, the design continues to flow, out through the walls and outdoors, where we’ll be soon.


At the gate, none of those dark, metallic container-like passages to walk through to board the aircraft. Instead, another light-filled hall.


From the plane’s window- a view of the roof with the windows that let all that modulated serene light in to the main hall.


Dragon-like? Perhaps. It feels local. And the horizontal and vertical in these skylights ensure that the light is always changing.

Another exterior shot. It’s a graceful and curved world.


Then it’s goodbye to China,


and though smoggy, it’s on to sailing. As one was inside the terminal.


Until soon, I hope.

——

Paul Goldberger’s New Yorker piece on new airport terminals.

Foster has done for airports what the architects Reed & Stem did for train stations with their design for Grand Central…

And the New York Times:

$3.8 billion and can handle more than 50 million passengers a year. The developers call it the “most advanced airport building in the world,” and say it was completed in less than four years, a timetable some believed impossible..

And high-speed rail connects it to the city.

(Other posts on China from me here).

The most beautiful new building in the world ?

06/20/2008


Celestial.

Beijing Airport’s new Terminal Three by the UK’s Norman Foster and Partners is not only perhaps the most beautiful airport in the world, it’s one of the most beautiful buildings of any kind in the world.

Curbside you’re greeted with curves.


That’s quite a cantilevered roof. The longest in the world. Good for a dramatic entrance.
But once inside, the building really takes off.

Inside, the roof floats, light as a bamboo raft, though made of metal.


Sensuously curved. Always in more than one direction (computers used well.) Like flight, like the curve of the sky, like the curves of Chinese roofs, which go up at the end, abstracted. Put it all together it symbolizes China as the center of the world.

From the land that gave us the seemingly endless Forbidden City.

Architect Norman Foster’s office says this airport is the biggest building on the planet. Twice the size of the Pentagon. Interesting we’d compare it to that.

Inside, it’s flooded with natural light.

Always changing.

At times looking Chinese red and gold, as at China’s temples.

Elsewhere, sparingly used, accents of yellow and red.


Again curved. Gently. Which lightens it all. It feels springy, feather light, like flight. Not heavy; or tiresome. And again natural light.

Quiet and calm was the mood when I was there.

The reflective floor also lightens your mental load – a wonderful thing when you’re carrying luggage.


The reflections remind one of the pools in Chinese gardens that reflect pavilions and nature and create the demarcation of heaven and earth. The same occurs in this fabulous gateway of a terminal. An entrance to and an exit from a great civilization.



And as in any good Chinese garden, as you proceed through it and turn your view you’re rewarded with new, different, arrestingly beautiful views.





(click arrow)

The soft curves of the airport roof tell you what path to take.


Follow this


to the escalators down to the trains to the gates.


Once down below, the design continues to flow, out through the walls and outdoors, where we’ll be soon.


At the gate, none of those dark, metallic container-like passages to walk through to board the aircraft. Instead, another light-filled hall.


From the plane’s window- a view of the roof with the windows that let all that modulated serene light in to the main hall.


Dragon-like? Perhaps. It feels local. And the horizontal and vertical in these skylights ensure that the light is always changing.

Another exterior shot. It’s a graceful and curved world.


Then it’s goodbye to China,


and though smoggy, it’s on to sailing. As one was inside the terminal.


Until soon, I hope.

——

Paul Goldberger’s New Yorker piece on new airport terminals.

Foster has done for airports what the architects Reed & Stem did for train stations with their design for Grand Central…

And the New York Times:

$3.8 billion and can handle more than 50 million passengers a year. The developers call it the “most advanced airport building in the world,” and say it was completed in less than four years, a timetable some believed impossible..

And high-speed rail connects it to the city.

(Other posts on China from me here).

Mies’ Lake Shore Drive Apartments not looking good these days

06/19/2008


Remember I told you we were going to restore the darn things, and the plaza?


It’s happening! Can you tell?


Inside and out.


That had been original travertine on the inside. Something will be lost, but much will be gained. Water had been seeping through and corroding the steel.

And this “plasticized glass,” not original but from an earlier intervention, will be replaced with an acid-washed glass which is far more elegant.


Architects Krueck and Sexton, who restored Crown Hall recently and magnificently, are doing this work. Rico Cedro is their man on the job. Gunny Harboe, known for quality and important restorations is also working on this. It’ll go on for months. I can’t wait to see it when it’s complete.


AIA Architect wrote about the project, noting,

“So when Krueck & Sexton Architects of Chicago were given the opportunity to renovate the two buildings, their goals were to protect Mies’ timeless vision and to transform its cultural vitality into a bulwark against the creeping comodification of architecture.”

Huh? I’d like to hear more on that.
.

Jeanne Gang’s Aqua tower in Chicago looking good

06/19/2008

Romantic, retro.


Seen from the river, from which Aqua takes it name. It’s by the Chicago river, and Lake Michigan. When finished, it’ll be 82 stories, topped by a green roof.


And Aqua looks to meet the earth in an urbane manner.



While it’s hard to find precedent in boxy Chicago for the Aqua tower, how about this: Bertrand Goldberg’s River City, which also flows and undulates next to the water


If you, like me, admire Jeanne Gang‘s work, read about her in the latest Metropolis. And don’t miss the slide show of what she’s done, and what’s to come. She and partner Mark Schendel are shining stars in Chicago. And Aqua is the most expensive project ever awarded to an American firm headed by a woman.

Other projects undulate, such as this early model of Frank Gehry’s Beekman Tower in New York.


But Studio Gang’s is different, the way it moves side to side, and moves organically, it’s more like Chicago’s famous “Little Egypt,” who danced the danse du ventre at the 1893 World’s Fair.



It dances, doesn’t it?

At times, Aqua looks like someone left a Mies out in the rain.


Which then reminds me of Rem Koolhaas. He once photoshopped breasts onto a Miesian flat facade.


Jeanne Gang and Mark Schendel worked for Koolhaas in the Netherlands.

Licking Eames, liking Eames

06/17/2008

If anything would get me to send a letter it’d be these

Now on sale.

I still want to commemorate their film “Powers of Ten” on 10-10-10, in Chicago, on the spot where it was filmed. Let’s prepare now, to erect a marker on that spot on that day.

Mies’ IBM Building – through glass, from afar

06/15/2008


From that same hotel window, through the glass. See how light it looks, it appears to float. Not many buildings can do that. Especially high-rises.


And see it touch the ground lightly.

With the proper lighting, it’d be perfectly ethereal, like his Seagram in New York.

Marina City always looks good

06/15/2008

..
.

Reflected in the pool of one of the new downtown hotels on Dearborn.
.

Renzo’s looking good in Chicago

06/14/2008


Approaching Renzo Piano’s Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, from Michigan Avenue.

That’s it on the right. The “flying carpet” stands out. Reminds one of a cross between a cantilevered Frank Lloyd Wright roof, and a Miesian modernist flat roof.

And flying across Monroe Street is the Nichols Bridgeway, designed by Piano.


A straight pedestrian bridge, contrasting with Frank Gehry’s curvy, winding bridge, which also originates in Millennium Park.


But I say close Monroe Street, the street between the Art Institute and Millennium Park. Make the park a sculpture garden of the museum, and make it easier to get families from the park into the Art Institute.

When they close the street for repairs or any reason, the cars simply go around and take another route. It’s not difficult. Maybe with gas prices going up we’ll realize that cities are not for driving through anyway.

If Monroe isn’t going to be closed, please update the (new) streetlights. Have Renzo Piano design something contemporary. Those aggregate and concrete shafts with their plastic retro globes are not good enough for the site, between two modernist masterworks, Millennium Park and the Art Institute Modern Wing. This small area of the city should scream “Design!” as LaSalle Street boldly says “Money,” North Michigan Avenue says “Shopping” and Dearborn says “Business.”

Back to the Art Institute. A friend says the Nichols Bridgeway currently looks like an arm in a sling. That’ll change when the stainless steel mesh is installed on the sides.


Here’s how it meets the Art Institute. Looks a little clunky for now, like an add-on, which it was. But we’ll wait to see. Those I know who’ve been up there say the views are spectacular, of the buildings on the Michigan Avenue streetwall and of Millennium Park, especially of Gehry’s bandshell and trellis. The experience of rising up above the city, through the trees, seeing the lake and crossing the street should also be thrilling. A little like rising up vertically and forward in Renzo Piano’s escalators at his (with Richard Rogers) Pompidou Center in Paris.


That having been said, the building, while a winner, is too large and tall for its park setting. Particularly when seen from the east.


From the lakefront, or from Columbus Drive, built Chicago used to stop on the west side of Michigan Avenue. Now, with this behemoth, the built environment encroaches a couple of blocks closer to the lake. Into the park. Into the much needed open space parkland of a big noisy city. And is that east wall of the Modern Wing nearly windowless?

Add this structure to the list of what’s been going up in Chicago’s lakefront parks and you have a disturbing trend. The enlarged Soldier Field. Millennium Park. The Notebaert Nature Museum. Even the kiosks around Buckingham Fountain. All are worthy. Some are great places, amenities to the city in their ways. But we can not abandon or trample on our “Forever Open, Clear and Free” lakefront. The latest battle of course is the Children’s Museum which also wants to build at the end of Gehry’s bridge in Daley Bicentennial Park. Reminds me of Washington D.C. where the National Mall is being overbuilt with war monuments and other construction.

Of course the views from the inside the Modern Wing of the Art Institute will be good, given its once-protected park setting.

The facade seen from just inside Millennium Park. You see aluminum, steel, glass and- Indiana limestone, that last blends with the Art Institute’s 1893 Beaux-Arts building to the right.
If you closed Monroe Street you could continue this “creek” up to (and into!) the new Modern Wing.


Piano’s roof looks neoclassical, as at an Italian villa.

The facade is so clear to read, in a modernist way, like the Chicago street grid, or the surveyor’s plots.

Remember, Chicago’s official motto is “Urbs in Horto” – City in a Garden.
I say more horto, less urbs on the lakefront from now on.

But this building, in its quiet elegant way is a beautiful sculpture itself. Here it is at the “magic hour” of dusk.



The thin columns look like pencils or paint brushes. Piano’s “flying carpet” roof is to provide interesting, changing light in which to view the art in the galleries beneath it. It’ll be filtered through this steel mesh, and through translucent vellum. The light should appear alive and make the rooms, and the art, breathe.


And from well inside Millennium Park.


From underneath Frank Gehry’s trellis at the bandshell in Millennium Park.

Later,


I hope the throngs descend on the Art Institute Modern Wing as they did at last week’s Chicago Blues Festival:


Update: Blair Kamin gets an inside look at the as-yet-unfinished galleries.

“Here’s a prediction about the Art Institute of Chicago’s modern and contemporary art wing that opens next May: The third-floor galleries, which overlook Millennium Park, will be hailed by critics and the public as some of the most beautiful rooms in Chicago.”

*On the exterior, this is something of a contemporary, light version of Mies’ columns and glass box at his New National Gallery in Berlin,


a building I once walked through with Renzo Piano, as he expressed his admiration of it to me.


Photograph of Frank Gehry’s bridge by “i_am_hydrogen”