Archive for the ‘Mies’ Category

The stock market made manifest in Architecture

02/05/2009
Irrational Exuberance

Flat is the new “up”


Top: Disney Hall, Frank Gehry
Bottom: Farnsworth House, Mies van der Rohe

Threatened Mies gas station finds new use: expected to please old and young

02/04/2009

Word comes from Quebec:

Mies van der Rohe peut reposer en paix: tout indique que l’ancienne station-service Esso de L’Île-des-Soeurs va rester debout.

Mies van der Rohe can rest in peace: everything indicates that the old Esso Gas Station on Nuns’ Island will remain standing.

(Wow, those high school French lessons paid off! Or was it those wonderful years I spent living in Paris? )

To translate the article:

The local council in Verdun, where the station is located recently unveiled a project called the «Maison des générations», “House of Generations” which will give a new use to this important piece of modern architecture in Montreal. It’s been closed and boarded-up since December.

(It’s unknown if Mies himself had anything to do with this particular design. But it did come out of his office a year before he died.)

A poll last year revealed that 73% of the residents of L’Île-des-Soeurs, Nuns’ Island, agree with this idea, said the Mayor of the area.

The plan is to integrate a Youth Center with a Center of Activities for the Elderly.

And to preserve the décor unique of the station-service.

The Director of the Restoration, Dany Tremblay,assures that the project will respect the historic character of the building, which will once again display its glass wall as Mies imagined in the original plans. Right now, zoning laws only permit uses for the building tied to automobiles. The new project will demand a change in the zoning, this will be put to the people with a referendum.

The City of Montreal is also studying the possibility of listing the gas station as a monument historique. It is expected to pass. The listing would not only make it esier to protect the building, but would also guarantee funds for future restoration projects.

Imperial Oil, which used the gas station and the land for 40 years, will decontaminate the place before it becomes the “House of the Generations.”

O Canada! You make everything so easy.

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A ’57 Chevy visits the Farnsworth House – video!

01/29/2009

Click the arrow to put the video into gear.
The architecture begins after 4:00.


Bye-bye Mies American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
and fortunately the Farnsworth was dry…

Lord Peter Palumbo, who used to own the Farnsworth House (that is not him in the video), also loved and collected vintage cars. Funny to me how the ’57 car looks so dated and the ’51 house so timeless.

Or, as the man says in the video,

“The house is a basic ’50’s house, and they kind of look good with each other.”

Yeah. A basic ’50’s house. Almost everybody had one, didn’t they?

And who are the unidentified strangers going about their business in the house? The Palumbos? Or the plumbers?

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The most beautiful gas station in the world

01/28/2009

See this story in the Toronto Globe and Mail about the shuttering of the gas station on Nuns’ Island in Quebec, Canada designed by the office of Mies van der Rohe ?

The Mies gas station is no more. In December, Esso quietly removed the pumps and put plywood over the glass and the company sign out front. Now, Montreal’s Verdun borough is left to sort out what to do with a rare piece of architecture not easily adaptable.

“The thing really is beautiful; it’s so unassuming, like a lot of great artworks,” said Phyllis Lambert, whose family, the Bronfmans, commissioned the Seagram Building.

“It’s not pretentious, not glitzy. The major problem is, what to do with it now.”

The gas station was part of a neighbourhood that Mies’s Chicago firm designed in the 1960s, after a bridge connected Île-des-Soeurs (Nuns’ Island) to the rest of Montreal and the island was developed. …

“It’s of a great simplicity, and it’s a building that was really thought out. It’s not overstated, it’s very modest, very functional, and very well designed,” said Dinu Bumbaru, the director of Heritage Montreal, who has described it as the “Ritz” of gas stations.

Ms. Lambert and Mr. Bumbaru are monitoring proposals for the site, owned by island developer Proment Corp.

But it was this line:

The filling station was a departure from the garish corporate colours, neon signs and blinding flood lighting of most modern service stations.

that reminded me that so many gas stations today, if you squint a little bit,


do look like gaudy versions of Mies’ New National Gallery


or the Farnsworth House. A resemblance Martin Pawley noticed long ago

(click image to enlarge.)

Baudrillard says advertising is signs and codes which appear to represent social reality, but actually constitute their own realm– of hyper-reality– which has little to do with what is real.

When we’re exposed to it enough, hyper-reality and media-reality can seem more real than the real. And so, after these brightly-lit modernist gas stations popped up all over, artist Jenny Holzer added LED words, signage, like advertising, on the ceiling of Mies’ New National Gallery in Berlin.


I love her piece. It says a lot. But I’m glad it’s off most of the time.

photos of Nun’s Island Esso via

See Seagram, Susan Sontag and sun. (Plus Philip Johnson.)

01/27/2009

“The Seagram Building gleamed like a switchblade in the autumn sun.”

“The elevator swished up like a gigolo’s hand on a silk stocking….”

Susan Sontag, (herself as lovely, dignified and interesting as the Seagram.)


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Rest in Peace Jørn Utzon

12/01/2008
Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect, died on November 29, aged 90.
He designed the Sydney Opera House
but left the project and never saw it completed.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

With a friend, Tobias Faber, Utzon wrote a controversial article espousing two central architectural principles; learning from vernacular architecture and intelligent response to function.

If these were the seeds of the Sydney Opera House design, travel was the nutrient. In the late 1940s, the Utzons went to America, where Joern had warm meetings with the renowned Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in Michigan, Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin and Charles Eames in California, as well as a bizarre encounter in Chicago with the cigar-sucking Mies van der Rohe, where communication, in English, was through a secretary. Mies allowed the Utzons to visit his newly finished Farnsworth House at Plano, Illinois.

Utzon was struck by the way Miesian spaces were at once disciplined and voluptuous, by Wright’s richly textural use of material and by the sheer panache with which Eames combined off-the-shelf componentry; lessons which he combined to good effect in his own house in Hammermill Wood, Hellebaek, 1952. Next stop Mexico, where Utzon had his first experience of the Mayan temples that, in creating massive stone platforms at the height of the jungle canopy, enabled the Mayans to break through into the sunlight and re-create lost horizons; much as Utzon would later do in Sydney.

(From the New York Times) – As a young architect Mr. Utzon worked for Gunnar Asplund in Sweden and Alvar Aalto in Finland before establishing his own practice in Copenhagen in 1950. In 1956 he read about the Sydney Opera House competition in a Swedish architecture magazine. He spent six months designing a building with sail-like roofs, their geometry, he said, derived from the sections of an orange.

(Back to the Sydney Morning Herald) … by the time he won the Sydney Opera House competition, Utzon was a 39-year-old architect brimming with ideas and design skill but with relatively little experience in the tribulations of getting things built….

The apocryphal story is that (Opera House competition judge) Saarinen arrived two days late and, plucking Utzon’s scheme from the bin, declared it the winner. “So many opera houses look like boots,” he told the press at the time. “Utzon has solved the problem.” … the winner was agreed…. Ten-year-old Lin Utzon, Joern’s eldest child (who herself would later create a number of artworks for Sydney buildings) carried the news to her father, pedalling furiously through the frozen landscape on her bike. “Now,” she said, “can I have my horse?”


Even as Utzon basked in his win, the furor began. His winning scheme was displayed at New York’s Museum of Modern Art beside Saarinen’s TWA Terminal. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe hated Utzon’s design; Saarinen and Richard Neutra loved it.

Read the whole story here.

A professor of mine, Rafael Moneo, worked on the building, under Utzon. He helped develop some of the geometries of the curved shells. Moneo spoke in superlatives of his former employer. And he said that working on that project influenced his design for the


Kursaal Auditorium and Congress Center in San Sebastián, Spain (1999). Particularly in the use of two volumes to separate functions.

Warning to those who like straight lines – I don’t think his Kursaal – by all accounts wonderful – identifies San Sebastián as famously as Utzon’s design identifies Sydney.

But the Kursaal halls are said to have marvelous acoustics, whereas the acoustics in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House are said to be poor and artists complain about the lack of performance and backstage space.

Lynn Becker has a smart post on Jørn Utzon.

Utzon portrait AFP/Getty
Sunset shot Greg Wood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thanksgiving quiz – You’ve never been inside this building, but you will be. – What is it?

11/27/2008


Its indoor “street,” with shops or galleries to each side reminds me of an Italian Galleria, such as

Vittorio Emanuele in Milano.

So yes, it is by an Italian.

Its main staircase says “elegance”

and it is the “son of”

staircase at the Arts Club, Chicago, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

So yes, this new building will grace, help transform, add greatly to, the Windy City. To help situate it for you, here’s a view of Millennium Park, from the third floor window of the new building,


in lovely autumnal colors.

Do you know where I was today, to take these photos?
In which major new cultural building, due to open
(with a splash) in May?

Details and more thoughts on this, more photos, exterior shots, plus- is the bridge to this any good? It’s got a tough act to follow! Answers after we pause for Thanksgiving. I’ll also write about the restoration work at Mies van der Rohe’s 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments.

I have much for which to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. And write me, if you can name the building above.
-Edward
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LIFE imitates Mies

11/20/2008
Images of Mies and his work
from Life Magazine.
(via Coudal and Jason Fried)


New York, New York. 1956


1957. “Room reflecting in glass wall of apartment in Lake Shore Drive apartments. Outside view of companion building and traffic also visible.”

Nice that the popular magazine LIFE appreciated so early what Mies was trying to do.

One of the more casual shots of him that you will see

December 1956
Mies van der Rohe relaxing on couch while smoking cigar and reading at home.
(LIFE’s caption says it was taken in New York, but I say Chicago.)

Most shots of Mies have him concentrating, like this

November 1956
Mies in Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology

They look to be working on a model of the New National Gallery in Berlin. Or is that a student’s variation of it?

Again thinking, with the thinking man’s developer, Herbert Greenwald


November 1956

And with Philip Johnson. The woman looks like Phyllis Lambert.
LIFE’s caption says they’re “studying technical problems concerned with model of a fountain. Chicago, October, 1956”

Must be for the Seagram Building plaza

Here are “Bronze I-beams ready to ship from Chicago Extruded Metals Company to New York City, where it will be part of the new Seagram’s Building. November 1956.”

Nice to know they were made in Chicago.

And finally, a photo of the still unfinished Mies’ 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments.

Bottom Photo: Ralph Crane
All other photos: Frank Schersel.
A few more, here.
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Mies’ Lake Shore Drive Apartments being restored

10/30/2008

I’ve written a lot about the restoration going on at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive by Mies van der Rohe. It’s time to start showing some pictures of the buildings that look better than they have in years. Here’s one of the new plaza being laid down.


I’ll try to post more photos over the next few days, culminating in a spectacular shot of the two buildings, taken from Olive Park, across the water, showing just how crisp and jet black the new paint job looks. The two buildings really pop out now, as they should. After these two zen-like high-rises, the rest is background.

Big thanks to Marc Boxerman for the photos.
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Mies’ Lake Shore Drive Apartments being restored

10/30/2008

I’ve written a lot about the restoration going on at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive by Mies van der Rohe. It’s time to start showing some pictures of the buildings that look better than they have in years. Here’s one of the new plaza being laid down.


I’ll try to post more photos over the next few days, culminating in a spectacular shot of the two buildings, taken from Olive Park, across the water, showing just how crisp and jet black the new paint job looks. The two buildings really pop out now, as they should. After these two zen-like high-rises, the rest is background.

Big thanks to Marc Boxerman for the photos.
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