Archive for the ‘AIA’ Category

Steven Holl – Simmons Hall at MIT

04/28/2008

See it if you visit Boston next month for the AIA convention.

The Icy ICA — A view of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston

02/16/2008


Below is my view of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art-Boston, as it appeared in the 2007 year-in-review issue of “ab” (Architecture Boston.) The building just turned one year old, and so the national award-winning magazine of the Boston Society of Architects (the largest branch of the American Institute of Architects,) asked me and three others what we think of the ICA. The feature is called,

Been There.

Yes, I’ve been there. But only twice. Once last winter as a tourist,and once now that I’ve moved to Boston. Since I didn’t live here when it opened, I missed most of the brouhaha. Perhaps I come to it with less baggage.

The first time I visited, I put less pressure on the building. I probably thought a little less about how it might function as a museum that I would visit regularly. I wanted an exciting architectural experience — a tourist’s entertainment — something that would communicate to me in broad strokes about museums and cities and art.

That first time, I was somewhat disappointed. Anybody who works at a museum knows it’s hard to get people in; the building can help seduce them.

But as you approach the ICA through the parking lots — at least until the neighborhood is developed — you’re met with a façade that belongs on an alley.

The large glass elevator, which could be a signature for the place, is hard to find and presents little drama. The “mediatheque” is a room of quiet contemplation, a sort of seaman’s chapel. But its view down to the water — no earth or sky, no beginning or end, just “nothingness” — is so forced it makes you miss your freedom to explore. The concept is better than the experience. It’s a straitjacket of a room.

I barely remember the galleries from that first visit. They are plain, serviceable enough, but the spaces seem small, particularly for viewing contemporary art.

I was gratified that the gift shop seemed almost hidden and that the café was not overdone. I loved the theater, with two glass walls featuring views of the sea and sky that connect performances to the life of the city. And I loved the outside seating, under the cantilever, making nature and Boston the spectacle, open around the clock.

So now I am living here. I intend to visit the ICA often. I now need this same building to do more work for me — to work well as a museum. On my first visit as a resident, I was at once more pleased, and more disappointed.

Even with its curving contemporary form, the building still feels subdued. The wood that wraps around the building is purposely faded, like pre-washed denim. Nearly all surfaces are muted. Little inside the building sharpens my vision or my senses. Bland artificial light is cast too evenly in the galleries.

Outside, the milky glass around the gallery level looks more like Target than like Cartier.

But I like the solidity of the place and its lack of arrogant geometries; the calmness of its few materials is handled well. This allows you to see art in a peaceful setting, even if it’s not an exhilarating one. You can visit often and enjoy the ICA without being irritated. It offers polite views of an already polite city.

And maybe that’s what makes it a Boston building.

A former NPR correspondent and host of a Chicago Public Radio program on architecture and design, Edward Lifson is a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He blogs on architecture at www.edwardlifson.com. ###

To read the views of artist Ross Miller, writer Deborah Wiesgall and architect Gretchen Schneider, click here. Then tell us with whom you agree!

05/06/2007

Al Gore and the Architects

Want to know what Al Gore told the architects this weekend at a closed-to-the-media event at the San Antonio national convention of the American Institute of Architects?

Click here.

Gore sees a ‘spiritual crisis’ in global warming.

The theme of the convention was “Growing Beyond Green.”

03/01/2007


Kudos Coudal!

Welcome, if you’re joining us via the great Coudal Partners
a fine site if you’re interested in… well, just about anything at all.
This month I’m their “Fresh Signals Guest Editor” – a fresh, signal honor.

I already put up my first post there. Asking whether homeless people, when they dream of a house, do they dream of exposed concrete, corrugated steel and floor to ceiling glass?. That’s what they’ve been given. It’s beautiful, and I’m sure its starchitect status helped get it built in a gentrifying area, but is Helmut Jahn’s Modernism the best solution for the mentally ill, disabled and homeless? We’ll let you judge. Visit Coudal and follow my links to the story.

– E.

03/01/2007


Kudos Coudal!

Welcome, if you’re joining us via the great Coudal Partners
a fine site if you’re interested in… well, just about anything at all.
This month I’m their “Fresh Signals Guest Editor” – a fresh, signal honor.

I already put up my first post there. Asking whether homeless people, when they dream of a house, do they dream of exposed concrete, corrugated steel and floor to ceiling glass?. That’s what they’ve been given. It’s beautiful, and I’m sure its starchitect status helped get it built in a gentrifying area, but is Helmut Jahn’s Modernism the best solution for the mentally ill, disabled and homeless? We’ll let you judge. Visit Coudal and follow my links to the story.

– E.

02/16/2007

Tyler makes me think. He asks, “What are our five favorite buildings in America, that are publicly accessible? “ The list was not easy to make. We are blessed with great buildings in this land. From California, to the New York Island. But we’ll give it a try.

All this was prompted by this crazy AIA list of “the people’s” favorite buildings in America.

So here’s ours, in reverse order of favorites.

If Tyler wants to name the St. Louis arch, then I’ll choose as

#5. “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park, Chicago, by Anish Kapoor.

Tyler says the arch is the best piece of public art in America. He might be right, it is sublime and thoughtful and delightfully modernist. But is it superior to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., the Statue of Liberty, or “the bean?” “The bean,” Cloud Gate, is also a gate, not seen in the pic above, and as I’ve written, it expresses Einsteinian space, the relationship of the individual to the collective, of the individual to the self, the relationship of heaven to earth and light to solid, and it gorgeously displays the celestial passage of time. Not bad for a single object. I’ll vote for it as a “favorite building” also to show how architecture and sculpture are wedded these days.

4. Fallingwater and Robie House, by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I could have listed Wright’s Guggenheim, Unity Temple, or Johnson Wax, but I’ll choose these two domestic symphonies. They’re exhilirating to walk through, to experience the blend of nature and flowing space and important for their attempt to fashion domestic harmony (would that it were!). I could have listed only the obvious masterpiece Fallingwater, but I know
Robie House better and for its urban location and size it would be an easier model for more people to follow. Would that urban and suburban dwellings were built with such sensitivity and artistry today.

3. The Auditorium Building, by Louis Sullivan.

A powerful, beautiful statement of the importance of bringing culture at the highest levels to all the people. A gesamtkunstwerk by “unser Lieber Meister,” if ever there was one. In there more than anywhere else in the world, one feels, “Ars Longis, Vita Brevis.” And it’s thrilling. When the performance is moving, say, the Joffrey dancing Balanchine’s “Apollo”, one looks up at the space under the golden, electrically lit arches above, and has a taste of what heaven will be like.

2. 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Mies’ work was left off the AIA/people’s list of favorite buildings, but his solutions to find dignity and poetry in modern, industrial life are unrivalled. I always live in large cities, and can only afford to live in a high-rise. If I could live in any high-rise anywhere, I’d like to live in 860 – 880 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Oh, wait a minute, I do live there. I’ve been there 5 years. Each day is magic. The ways the two halves of the whole play off of each other, in unfolding overlapping ever-sliding planes. The way the I-beams rise up the sides, create depth and when you walk around the buildings, cause the facades to seem to open and close. The crystalline cleansing of walking through the lobby. The serenity of looking out through my magic windows, through which the city takes on a perfection. After 5 years, I still hear music from these works of art.

And, as of today, my number one pick for my favorite building in America is:


1. The Farnsworth House, by Mies.

Plato would be jealous. The Farnsworth incarnates, in space, light and a few fine materials, mostly in pure white, the perfect idea of the modern house. Whether it works well or not is another issue. I love to sit inside and contemplate the ever-changing nature outside, and the nature of life, lived in a modern way – is that possible? – inside. Space and time flow through one, inside this lantern, this beacon, this jewel in the woods. It is more beautiful, more shocking, more perfect than you, or even Plato, could imagine. A true Temple of Love to love. Adding to it’s allure is that it’s unattainable now that it’s owned by the National Trust and Landmarks Illinois. When it was for sale recently was the only time I’ve ever played the lottery.

What’s your list?

I thought of mine off the top of my head, I’m sure I’ll argue with myself as soon as I post this. What didn’t make my list, but could have?
For a religious building – Eero Saarinen’s chapel at MIT.
For a library – Louis Kahn at Phillips Exeter Academy.

There you go.
Now let’s build more good ones!
-E

02/16/2007

Tyler makes me think. He asks, “What are our five favorite buildings in America, that are publicly accessible? “ The list was not easy to make. We are blessed with great buildings in this land. From California, to the New York Island. But we’ll give it a try.

All this was prompted by this crazy AIA list of “the people’s” favorite buildings in America.

So here’s ours, in reverse order of favorites.

If Tyler wants to name the St. Louis arch, then I’ll choose as

#5. “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park, Chicago, by Anish Kapoor.

Tyler says the arch is the best piece of public art in America. He might be right, it is sublime and thoughtful and delightfully modernist. But is it superior to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., the Statue of Liberty, or “the bean?” “The bean,” Cloud Gate, is also a gate, not seen in the pic above, and as I’ve written, it expresses Einsteinian space, the relationship of the individual to the collective, of the individual to the self, the relationship of heaven to earth and light to solid, and it gorgeously displays the celestial passage of time. Not bad for a single object. I’ll vote for it as a “favorite building” also to show how architecture and sculpture are wedded these days.

4. Fallingwater and Robie House, by Frank Lloyd Wright.

I could have listed Wright’s Guggenheim, Unity Temple, or Johnson Wax, but I’ll choose these two domestic symphonies. They’re exhilirating to walk through, to experience the blend of nature and flowing space and important for their attempt to fashion domestic harmony (would that it were!). I could have listed only the obvious masterpiece Fallingwater, but I know
Robie House better and for its urban location and size it would be an easier model for more people to follow. Would that urban and suburban dwellings were built with such sensitivity and artistry today.

3. The Auditorium Building, by Louis Sullivan.

A powerful, beautiful statement of the importance of bringing culture at the highest levels to all the people. A gesamtkunstwerk by “unser Lieber Meister,” if ever there was one. In there more than anywhere else in the world, one feels, “Ars Longis, Vita Brevis.” And it’s thrilling. When the performance is moving, say, the Joffrey dancing Balanchine’s “Apollo”, one looks up at the space under the golden, electrically lit arches above, and has a taste of what heaven will be like.

2. 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

Mies’ work was left off the AIA/people’s list of favorite buildings, but his solutions to find dignity and poetry in modern, industrial life are unrivalled. I always live in large cities, and can only afford to live in a high-rise. If I could live in any high-rise anywhere, I’d like to live in 860 – 880 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Oh, wait a minute, I do live there. I’ve been there 5 years. Each day is magic. The ways the two halves of the whole play off of each other, in unfolding overlapping ever-sliding planes. The way the I-beams rise up the sides, create depth and when you walk around the buildings, cause the facades to seem to open and close. The crystalline cleansing of walking through the lobby. The serenity of looking out through my magic windows, through which the city takes on a perfection. After 5 years, I still hear music from these works of art.

And, as of today, my number one pick for my favorite building in America is:


1. The Farnsworth House, by Mies.

Plato would be jealous. The Farnsworth incarnates, in space, light and a few fine materials, mostly in pure white, the perfect idea of the modern house. Whether it works well or not is another issue. I love to sit inside and contemplate the ever-changing nature outside, and the nature of life, lived in a modern way – is that possible? – inside. Space and time flow through one, inside this lantern, this beacon, this jewel in the woods. It is more beautiful, more shocking, more perfect than you, or even Plato, could imagine. A true Temple of Love to love. Adding to it’s allure is that it’s unattainable now that it’s owned by the National Trust and Landmarks Illinois. When it was for sale recently was the only time I’ve ever played the lottery.

What’s your list?

I thought of mine off the top of my head, I’m sure I’ll argue with myself as soon as I post this. What didn’t make my list, but could have?
For a religious building – Eero Saarinen’s chapel at MIT.
For a library – Louis Kahn at Phillips Exeter Academy.

There you go.
Now let’s build more good ones!
-E

02/08/2007

America’s Favorite Architecture
according to the people, according to a poll by the American Institute of Architects.

It shocks like a barrel of cold water on the head.



The people’s favorite #22 Bellagio Hotel and Casino (1998)
Las Vegas, NV; Deruyter Butler; Atlandia Design

Surprising perhaps post 9-11, many tall buildings are people’s favorites, mainly those with a high “wow” factor,

42. Sears Tower (1974)
Chicago, IL; Bruce Graham, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill


And of course, many “feel good” places were named, such as

# 31. Wrigley Field Baseball Stadium (1914)
Chicago, IL; Zachary Taylor Davis


And “feel safe” and united


# 4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (1943) – Washington, D.C., John Russell Pope

An airport made it!

# 57. Denver International Airport (1995)
Denver, CO; Fentress Bradburn Architects


That’s kind of amazing, airports can be such horrible places these days.

And many old and new
religious buildings.

# 65. Crystal Cathedral (1980) – Garden Grove, Calif., Philip Johnson, Johnson/Burgee


And a lot of great stuff, by Louis Kahn, H.H. Richardson, eight buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, including Fallingwater, make the grade, and, no – surprise, nothing, (not “almost nothing” as he wished to design, but nothing) by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

So even though architecture in some ways has become so hip in recent years, at least as far as sexy forms are concerned, we still have a way to go to reach America the Beautiful.

You can see and comment on the entire AIA “People’s list” here.


America’s Favorite Architecture is the result of an AIA and Harris Interactive poll of 1,800 Americans naming their 150 favorite structures across the nation based on nominations from AIA member architects. … In the months ahead, we will continue to engage the public in a discussion of the built environment as part of a year-long celebration of The American Institute of Architects 150th anniversary, including 156 Blueprint for America community-service projects at the local level.

02/08/2007

America’s Favorite Architecture
according to the people, according to a poll by the American Institute of Architects.

It shocks like a barrel of cold water on the head.



The people’s favorite #22 Bellagio Hotel and Casino (1998)
Las Vegas, NV; Deruyter Butler; Atlandia Design

Surprising perhaps post 9-11, many tall buildings are people’s favorites, mainly those with a high “wow” factor,

42. Sears Tower (1974)
Chicago, IL; Bruce Graham, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill


And of course, many “feel good” places were named, such as

# 31. Wrigley Field Baseball Stadium (1914)
Chicago, IL; Zachary Taylor Davis


And “feel safe” and united


# 4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial (1943) – Washington, D.C., John Russell Pope

An airport made it!

# 57. Denver International Airport (1995)
Denver, CO; Fentress Bradburn Architects


That’s kind of amazing, airports can be such horrible places these days.

And many old and new
religious buildings.

# 65. Crystal Cathedral (1980) – Garden Grove, Calif., Philip Johnson, Johnson/Burgee


And a lot of great stuff, by Louis Kahn, H.H. Richardson, eight buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, including Fallingwater, make the grade, and, no – surprise, nothing, (not “almost nothing” as he wished to design, but nothing) by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

So even though architecture in some ways has become so hip in recent years, at least as far as sexy forms are concerned, we still have a way to go to reach America the Beautiful.

You can see and comment on the entire AIA “People’s list” here.


America’s Favorite Architecture is the result of an AIA and Harris Interactive poll of 1,800 Americans naming their 150 favorite structures across the nation based on nominations from AIA member architects. … In the months ahead, we will continue to engage the public in a discussion of the built environment as part of a year-long celebration of The American Institute of Architects 150th anniversary, including 156 Blueprint for America community-service projects at the local level.

Another Ground Zero

01/10/2005

The following first appeared in eOCULUS – the magazine of the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter. Kristen Richards, who also compiles the indispensable ArchNewsNow, edits eOCULUS and occasionally asks writers on architecture who live outside of New York City – “what’s going on in your town?”
I wrote,

Another Ground Zero

I remember the buildings – they seemed so tall at the time. Their site is now a void in the urban fabric. But unlike Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, I think the “empty” Block 37 in the middle of downtown Chicago ought to remain building-free.

Block 37 is Chicago’s “Ground Zero.” Before being leveled by the Chicago Fire in 1871, this block bounded by State Street, Dearborn, Washington, and Randolph boasted some of the tallest buildings in the city. In 1989, Mayor Richard M. Daley approved the demolition of the block for a mixed-use skyscraper. But then the economic bust of the 1990s hit and the skyscraper was never built. Today, the land is something between a lunar and a prairie landscape.

Plans for New York’s Ground Zero and Chicago’s are, in some ways, similar. So are the problems. Chicago would like to build an underground train station there, with express trains to O’Hare and Midway Airports (might we – American architectural Mecca – borrow Santiago Calatrava?).

The city is still searching for financing for what has become a spurned downtown area. Over the years, various efforts have been made to revitalize the block. Helmut Jahn drew up a hotel/retail complex. Kohn Pedersen Fox took a turn, and so did Solomon Caldwell Buenz. Lord & Taylor was to be an anchor tenant; even Harrods of London considered moving there.

All of these efforts failed to move beyond the drawing board. The Mills Corp is the latest developer, working with one of Chicago’s most talented architects, Ralph Johnson of Perkins & Will. Tenants are nowhere to be found.

But that’s fine with me. Like many Chicagoans, I think Block 37 ought to be turned into a gorgeous contemporary public square. This block marks where the north side meets the south side. Blacks and whites mingle here more than in most parts of the city. On the east side of the block, you have the great symbol of retail, Marshall Field’s (D.H. Burnham & Company, 1892) with its fine narrow-wide-narrow Chicago windows. (Please, please put the cornice back on!) To the west, “government,” with City Hall and County Building (Holabird & Roche, 1905-1911). “Justice” is present with the courtrooms of the Daley Center (Jacques Brownson, C.F. Murphy Associates, 1965), and through its glass lobby you see Helmut Jahn’s po-mo State of Illinois Building (1979-83). And on the north side, “entertainment,” with the Goodman and Oriental Theaters, and the Old Heidelberg Inn from the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair. On the south side, “leisure” is represented by the Hotel Burnham in the Reliance building (Burnham and Root 1890-95).

Poking their heads into the square from beyond are the towers of the Art Deco Carbide and Carbon building (Burnham Brothers, 1929), and the dome of the classical Jeweler’s building (1925-27). Look up Washington Street for that great framed view of Gehry’s band shell, or if you prefer older metalwork, down State Street is Louis Sullivan’s Schlesinger and Meyer Department Store (1899-1904), where the cornice is being replaced!

All this around one block! What a great city. New York must rebuild Ground Zero. But Chicago ought to consider the minimalist approach at Block 37. Our “Ground Zero” is not empty; it’s full of what people need in a city: light, air, sky, and terrific views of great buildings.

—-Edward Lifson hosts “Hello Beautiful!” on Chicago Public Radio. He is also Editor of Arts, Architecture and Culture at the radio station, a position supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Block 37 photograph by Thomas Yanul. Thank you Thomas.