Tropolism Is Moving

Tropolism is moving to a new host!  If you see us out of service, don't panic. We're simply moving to a new host.  In the coming months you'll also see T2 T2.0, as we evolve and expand.  

Tropolism has always been about the process of architecture.  You'll see us writing about that more explicitly.  

Pictured: 364 Crown Walk under construction, Fire Island Pines, New York, August 2009.

Charles Gwathmey, Dead at 71

29293642.jpgWe don't do obituaries at Tropolism, but this death is worth mentioning. Charles Gwathmey died August 3rd in Manhattan. Mr. Gwathmey was the target of derision in my very first published article, so I like to think of him as my entree into the world of writing. His work's promise is something I still think bears repeating. One key project I was unhappy with. Some other minor works seemed undercooked. But he created some triumphs (see the New York Times slideshow for this, they hit the major ones) and his hand at renovation/additions was an important first example in how to expand a famous building without either wimping out or trying to speak over the star performer. What remains, of course, is his influence.

Atlantic Yards: The First Post

missbrooklyn.jpgAtlantic Yards by Frank O. Gehry: we never liked it. It might be too big. It was a stadium for basketball, a sport we just don't care about and whose only reference point for us is "Madison" "Square" We Knocked Down Pennsylvania Station For This Pile Of Crap "Garden". It had open space on the roof that was accessible by only residents of a bunch of towers. But, it was Frank O., and it was glassy, and it was interesting. It would have densitized (densified?) a neighborhood, adding (more) life but also more traffic, congestion. It was going to amplify the city, this ever-pregnant corner of Brooklyn where it seems like something great should be built but is actually where nothing great has been built, and along with that building would be all the side effects that greatness brings: dirt, noise, change, conflict, and many messy conversations. In short, it was urban.

I took a wait and see attitude: the drawings and models looked somewhat great, but it was difficult to understand how it was going to interact with Brooklyn. Folks were up in arms about it, but these days you have to judge these things for yourself, because what with the internet and all, folks yell about everything in this town, as if every concerned citizen is a self-appointed Jane Jacobs, and every little brick repointing project a city-destroying commission by Robert Moses. Judging for yourself: it is the very purpose of Tropolism. It is what Tropolism means. Watch as the Atlantic Yards Project unfolds, better drawings come out, the project makes its way through court, and something happens, so that you can find your time to weigh in.

What happened you all know, or can easily find out: Gehry designed something awesome, the developer, Forest City Ratner, got all sorts of tax breaks and court victories, many riding on the fact that that particular design was going to be built. Then it turned out that design was too expensive, so Gehry redesigned it and it was less interesting. But OK so what, the central idea was still there, and it was still Frank O.

05gehry_600.jpgThe recent replacement of Frank Gehry as the architect of the project isn't the problem with the new Atlantic Yards design, although Nicolai Ourousoff's reaming article would imply otherwise. Ellerbe Becket doing a super simple and cheaper-design version of Gehry's design would have worked just fine, given that they followed his floor plan and massing outlines to the letter. Instead, the project has simply been redone, shorn of its residences and shops and now it's simply become one of those deadening black holes in the city, just like "Madison" "Square" "Garden". It's a classic, bald-faced bait-and-switch, which is a cute New York way of saying that Forest City Ratner are crooks. They have stolen the public's patience and benefit of the doubt in exchange for their own personal profit. The effect of which is that this part of Brooklyn will be dumb and cold and dead until 2050 when some even more stupid gyration will have to happen in order to renovate the dumb thing that might get built right now.

Atlanticeastbig.jpgThere is some crap glassy entrance so that yes 50,000 people or whatever can stream on through on their way to basketball a few nights a year, but nothing else except a huge box stadium. We get it. The roof looks like a basketball. This is the opposite of great architecture: this is cheeky architecture trying to get on our populist good side, while simultaneously sucking all the life out of our home city. There is no add here, only subtract: subtract money, subtract street life, subtract public conversation, subtract density.

And our great omission has been to not bring up, years ago, that this was a possibility all along. That the devil in Gehry's plan was that if Gehry didn't do his design, and someone did even and almost-version of his design, then the effect would be this drek. Our apologies for being quiet. It won't happen again.


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Baldessari Does Mies


"Brick Bldg, Lg Windows w/ Xlent Views, Partially Furnished, Renowned Architect" is John Baldessari's new installation at the Haus Lange from 1928, in Krefeld, Germany. The project furnishes the house with Baldessari's surreal nose- and ear-shaped furniture. In addition, the windows are lined with pictures of California seascapes on the inside, entirely blocking the views to the exterior, and reflecting Mies's indoor-outdoor connection back inward. From the exterior, the windows are lined with pictures of bricks, further killing the Mies effect.

The effect is deadening, and powerful. It causes the visitor to notice the power of Mies's original arrangement, the levels of zig-zag transparency, the scale of the glass, the pervasiveness of the brick both inside and out. In a way, the project celebrates Mies, even as it temporarily disrupts the way the house works.

Starchitectural Disasters


We're rather proud of this one:

"Much like Martha Stewart's attack on the Travertine House, this house also lost its roof to a hurricane."

Utopias Reloaded


Plataforma Arquitectura has a great survey on utopian architectural visions past and present. Mostly past, showing us old favorites like Archigram and Superstudio, but introducing us to some we hadn't seen before, like Yona Friedma (pictured, prefiguring today's shipping container fetish) and Archizoom's "Aerodynamic City" (prefiguring blobstuff and Zaha Hadid). The article ends with projects by OMA and Norman Foster in Dubai, aka today's utopia breeding ground.

OMA Beijing Hotel Destroyed In Blaze

Sad news: fire destroyed the bent-tower hotel in the CCTV complex designed by OMA. The New York Times has video, too. More at ArchDaily.

Brazilians Tell Niemeyer To Just Chill Already, You're 101 Yo


Oscar Niemeyer experienced the first setback of his career a couple of weeks ago. He is 101 years old. His Plaza of Sovereignty idea, rendered by his office in what looks like Autocad version 1.5, would have added a huge, clunky, view-ruining spire (today is dead spire day?) to Brasilia, which he designed when he was 6. Except now Brasilia is real city and Brazil a country and even though Brazilians think of Niemeyer as a hero, they want him to just stop, already. So they did. This is news because apparently he's allowed to build anything anywhere in Brasilia, by national law or something.

Oscar, baby, we still love you. Just put the tower somewhere else, okay?

Documenting Disappearing St. Louis Continues


So much of St. Louis's architectural heritage is being destroyed that blogging it is a full-time project. Tropolism favorites B.E.L.T. and Vanishing STL have enough content to post frequently, and with terrifying stories of destruction of great works by the likes of Samuel Marx. Add to this list the tireless Andrew Raimist's Architectural Ruminations, who has created an internet home to a little known (outside of St. Louis) architect from the early 20th Century, Harris Armstrong. Much to explore here, but much of it has already been torn down.

Photo from Andrew Raimist's great gallery.

Gas Station Follies

Mies%20gas%20station%20by%20zadcat.jpgGreg Allen wants to get his hands on the Mies gas station. I suppose there are few remaining options. Turn it into a community center, blah. Turn it into a Starbucks, maybe. Knock it down, not so interesting. Move it and do an OMA-IIT type renovation, very interesting.

In short, crazy but I say more power to him. Just call me for the reno, Greg!

Mies Gas Station: No Longer Pumping

miesstation.jpg.jpgThat Mies Van Der Rohe gas station in Montreal? No longer in business. It's currently covered in plywood (pictured), and the town is trying to figure out what to do with it. Apparently they don't have Starbucks up there because that would turn the place into a freaking shrine, and take care of renovation and operating costs at the same time.

Via many, starting with Archinect.

Stone Awesome House

brionehouse.jpgThe Brione House, by Markus Wespi Jérôme de Meuron Architects , is for stone lovers. In particular, it's for those who can't get enough of large blocks of orthogonal volumes that give a house just a touch of monasticism. From the exterior, there are hardly any openings, and the sloping ground is minimally touched, giving the blocks the feeling of ruins that one just happens to live in.

Carved out of Arch Daily.

Siza Gets The Gold


Álvaro Siza, one of the best architects in the world and Tropolism favorite, is the first Portuguese architect to receive the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. It's the award given by Britain's Royal Institute of British Architects. The Guardian interviews Siza for the occasion:

From the moment he began building, in the early 1950s, Portugal's most celebrated architect sought to frame views, to reveal landscapes, cityscapes, interiors and the ways through them. His aim was to delight the eye, and to make each creation a place of subtle revelation. Siza, now 75, has never been an architect of big statements and bigger pictures. He is, however, a designer and craftsman of some of the most considered of all modern buildings.

Palladio Ever More


In celebration of the new Palladio show at the Royal Academy, The Guardian has published a piece celebrating the man himself. While they use the Villa Capra as their title picture, we always thought that one a bit over-photographed. We've always been more partial to Villa Poiana (pictured), which when we visited it in 1995 was pretty much open to the elements. It's stark in its not-new state, and it's possible to see where all the modernists like Corb got some of their early ideas. If you visit the Royal Academy link, you will see, low and behold, someone else likes the Poiana too: its unique exterior is their thumbnail image for the show.

Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion


When we wrote our review of The Zaha's furniture show last fall we got a press kit that included renderings of the mind-blowing Zaragosa Bridge Pavilion. All 140 images are available on that link. It looked like a lot of her renderings: impossibly and blobby, but possibly the most amazing thing ever. Well Ms. Hadid's photographer, Fernando Guerra, has sent us a link to his photo spread. His photographs differ from some other pictures in that they can double as some of her painterly representations of space.

And, it's one of her best buildings yet. It's got the useless program of the Chanel Pavilion, but on the scale of a large bridge, which matches the ambition of Hadid's ideas.

Best Tom Kundig House Yet


Tropolism Favorite Tom Kundig is back again, this time with a profile of a really beautiful house in Idaho. This guy is clearly master of the snow picture. We like the house because it has that raw steel and plywood look, but doesn't devolve into Dwell Magazine uncomfortableness. Instead, the house stays warm and inviting, and all about the landscape. It also has incredibly well detailed windows. The way the exterior is sliced to make views happen, and the resultant levitating masonry wall, is something Allied Works could have used on their timid 2 Columbus Circle.

We also love that the architect edited out some of the heavy machinery indulgences of his previous projects: overdone hinges, concrete tables on wheels, that sort of thing. We think this is his best work yet.

Kengo Kuma Designs Houses For Muji


Muji: for those of us in the United States and Europe, it is a wonder for inside your home. In Japan, it is also possible for it to be the home itself. You wouldn't know it unless you are able to read Japanese: Muji keeps these pages untranslated, and furthermore their design simplicity does not extend to their website. Tropolism favorite Kengo Kuma has designed some prototype homes for them (our favorite it the Window House, as you can see in our article over there at Yanko Design). He wisely sticks to a super-configurable model and shies away from too much prefab repetition. They aren't quite as radical as his other houses, but they have their pleasures. Greg Allen gives us another take on these designs.

Greg goes one further and translates the awesome Muji Village concept. It appears to be little more than a far-away rendering and some floorplans (awesomely displayed as take-home art posters. Take that NYC real estate brokers!), but as a feel-good concept, they have rocked the party mic. We'll keep you posted when it takes shape.

One Jackson Square: Duly Undulating


One building that never made the Two Dozen list last year was One Jackson Square. It didn't qualify for two reasons. First, it's too big. I think. The fact checker didn't really track that part down, it just felt too big. Second, it's by a corporate firm, not a celebutante name designer-firm. KPF, they of the Baruch College catastrophe and 333 Wacker Drive (calling 1983, anyone?) do not routinely inspire. The renderings looked cool, but it's KPF. It will underwhelm in the end.

Yet the skeleton and initial touches look kind of sweet. Check out Tropolism's photo album. The curves work, and will certainly add to what was always a poorly defined, terribly dead corner of ChelseaVillage, a corner that could easily be the a powerfully alive hinge between two neighborhoods. We are in love with the scribble curves, and the fact that the bronze colored fascia will only accentuate them. And the floorplans (particularly for the 1-bedrooms, where the bedrooms are accessed by two doors, one a pocket door at the window wall) all look pretty wonderful. This one we'll keep our eyes on regardless of what lists they are on.

Less Stuff Is Better Design


I know I've been harping about this since I first got the idea for the Two Dozen list in 2004: the Roaring Two-Thousands created a lot of drek by designers because they were "designers", not because the designs were actually great. A lot of my writing has been focused on pushing designers to do better. What better opportunity for designers to really push design when all this money is sloshing around? Why not make things more efficient, more accessible, more inventively designed, and more beautiful, even if it costs a bit more? When the cycle downturns, we'll be happy to get scraps from the woodpile to make our stuff. Since September, most of us have been looking for that scrap pile.

Michael Cannell over at The Design Vote wrote a great article in the New York Times encapsulating these sentiments, looking quickly (as in long-blog-post quickly) at where product designers and architects are going to go from here. He champions sustainability in the production of goods and a good project by Lorcan O'Herlihy architects in Los Angeles that champions density over size of lawn. Welcome to the end of the decade, folks. We couldn't be more thrilled.

Tropolism Takes A Holiday


Tropolism will be quiet for a week while we observe a holiday. We leave with books, all our glorious books. And, pictured, a library to read them in: Steven Holl's crazy yet unnervingly beautiful design for the Franz Kafka Society Center in Prague.

A Tour Of Miralles's Market


One of Enric Miralles's last projects, one he never saw realized, is the spectacular Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona. It is one of our favorite projects, looks great from the air, looks great from the street, and Eikonographia's walkthrough gives us many visual and verbal details. Our favorite: what looks like the 'back' of the market includes a typical Mirallesian indulgence of sculptural bricks, concrete, and metal, where clearly none was required, on a face that I've never seen photographed in the published materials.

Gingerbread Farnsworth


Looking for a way to help out the flood-damaged Farnsworth house? And satisfy your weekly dose of Miesian Delusions? Buy a cake! The gingerbread Farnsworth is by April Reed Cake Design in New York City; 15% of its $4,320 USD cost will go to the restoration.

Via the ever tasty materialicious.

Farnsworth Flooding


Mies sad.

Way back in September, when we were a little quiet around these parts, the Farnsworth House got flooded. Yes, again. The house is built in a crappy spot. But it's Mies, and he did the mystic dance that caused him to select that site, so ne'er shall it be moved, or whatever. Anyway we've assembled some of the writing and images about it here, for your convenience.

First up is Preservation Nation, which documented the flooding on September 14, 2008, with a blog news alert, and, rock the party mic, a video of the building flooded. Crazily enough, the building is being restored after being flooded yet again. I visited the Farnsworth House when ye olde Lorde Palumbo owned it, in the spring of 1994. Shortly after my visit it flooded. Shortly after that it was restored. And we're guessing that there's been another flood or three since then? This is the abusive spouse of modern houses, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is apparently the enabling abusee: they are offering tours to those interested in the restoration process, in order to pay for said restoration. For those who like architectural train wrecks. Like us!

Or like Strangeharvest! There's an essay there musing about their last visit to the house (also during Palumbotime) and a discussion of its relationship to nature.

Pretty Pictures: Garden Towers #1

Miesian Delusions: Mystery Cabin From MoMA


Continuing our meme of Miesian Delusions (see Tropolism Newsletter 1.4 yo) we point you to Greg Allen's archeology of house by A. James Speyer, who was Mies van der Rohe's first graduate student. The house is a full on Mies country house from that era, except for a few powerful exceptions: the posts are made with tree logs. So clearly the architect has just dove off the deep end. To be fair, I proposed something like this a couple of years ago when friends bought an A-frame house that badly needed a big window wall in its giant A side. Let's just use trees!

Greg also points out that the house, mentioned in a MoMA catalogue from 1940, seems to have disappeared everywhere. It's nowhere online (no surprise there, I have a wall of books filled with projects from the 1980s that are invisible here) but it also seems to be a bit hidden from Greg's initial exploring on the subject. The guidebook includes detailed directions for visiting, so perhaps someone up in Warrensburg can help us out?

House of Relationship


Sou Fujimoto Architects, they of Next Generation House fame, long ago (2005) did a plan based on this diagram, called T-House. Yes, we love the diagrams! And the house is amazing. It gets full on profiling from Arch Daily, including a real floor plan of the house, and includes some interestingly-translated writing about something called "Garden of Relationship". Some day we'll show you the dream house we devised...it looks something like this one.

James Corner Spotlights


James Corner, he of Field Operations (warning: totally annoying website navigation ahead), gets a lot of attention over at Landscape+Architecture last week. First he got a perfectly good mash note on November 24th: "The savoir [sic]... of course is James Corner and his firm Field Operations." This was the extended illustrated commentary on an article in the New York Magazine about the Fresh Kills park. But then he shows up in Metropolis for the highline (with really awesome pictures), and gets what can only be described as a mash note that further illustrates why we should love him. Frankly, we think he deserves it. He is redefining the profession of landscape architecture: there is no hyperbole in that statement. Will his built work be a success? That remains to be seen. But his influence on my generation is unmistakable. His desire to make beautiful, workable, urban spaces keeps his solutions looking decidedly non-theoretical. Yet somehow they look new. James Corner has many imitators, but few peers, and the mark his ideas leave on New York will be unmistakable.

More Miesian Delusions


Again with the Newsletter: last week I referenced some Miesian Delusions I came across the last few weeks. Another one opens tomorrow in Barcelona: SAANA is taking their bendy-glass-reflection-space to Mies's Barcelona Pavilion with a temporary installation. They have installed a semi-transparent acrylic curtain spiral. The curtain lets the visitor continue to visually see Mies's original space, but adds a layer of reflection and circulation that did not exist before. It's of the appropriate subtlety for the already-perfect Pavilion. We can't wait to see actual installation pictures.

Alerted by Designboom, who have more renderings.

Ouroussoff: Please Get A Photographer


As those of you who signed up for the Newsletter already know, I wrote a little about Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of Frank Gehry's new building in Toronto.

A quick recap. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times included a review of Frank Gehry's addition/reorganization of the Art Gallery of Ontario, in his birthtown of Toronto. Nicolai Ouroussoff gives Gehry his usual loving treatment, including a few gilding words about the building's new integration into its urban setting, which are barely hinted at in the accompanying photographic essay. So we will have to take his word for it, apparently. Actually, I'm kind of tired of taking their word for it. Can we see some proof? Or at least have the pictures align with the words a little better? I think this is probably an editorial problem. They send the architecture critic and a photographer to the building at the same time. They visit, and it is only later that the critic constructs his argument. The photographer has already taken the pictures though. But couldn't Ouroussoff (whose work we like!) take some snapshots as backups and then use them to fill the gaps? And half of the photos in the slideshow are from Gehry Partners anyway, didn't they have a couple that could help Ouroussoff better? It's a little distressing. And it's symptomatic of why print media, even in its online editions, is going to fall to The Blog, particularly with regards to writing about the city. Print is never messy. The city and blogs are.

So it's not without a little bit of frustration to see Mr. Ouroussoff's latest post, today about some theoretical museum by Toyo Ito (who we love), which includes two 'eh' renderings (one pictured above) and a lot of words about how the design is great. Really? Tropolism means pretty pictures. It also means good-awesome and accurate renderings. We just want more.

Mr. Ito, you can send more/better renderings using our submission form at the right.

Harvard Dorms, The Sert Sequel

The new graduate student housing dorm has opened at Harvard. As a friend of ours put it: "I'd be stoked to live in that dorm". We would too! The dorm is by Kyu Sung Woo Architects. Woo studied and worked with Jose Luis Sert, whose iconic Peabody Terrace Housing is next to the new building. The new building does a lot to mitigate the sometimes harshness of Sert's buildings: Woo frames the courtyard entrances to the existing housing, and cantilevers the major masses to preserve sight lines for the community. More importantly, his buildings are rich in warm materials: wood ceilings and walls outdoors, well-detailed masonry above, in deep contrast to Sert's austere concrete and painted metal. Woo wisely continues Sert's tastes for highly patterned, textured building envelopes. What's best is that the old and new begin to work together as a city, probably as Sert originally intended, but in a way that is very livable. So stoked.

Click the slideshow to see larger pictures in our photo album.

007 Data Center


No this is not a movie set. It probably will be, though. Or perhaps it was designed after seeing You Only Live Twice? At any rate this data center 30m under Stockholm, designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects, is futuristic as seen from the classic Bond era. It's also an interesting problem for an architect: given an existing enclosure, one that really can only be changed by dynamite, what would you do? Well, design a kick-butt movie set, that's what.

Exploded by Arch Daily.

The Most Awesome Yoga Studio Ever


Yoga Deva is a yoga studio in a strip mall in Gilbert, Arizona. Yet is has the distinction of being the most awesome yoga studio ever. The project derives its power by being hyperminimal while at the same time sensual. Visitors enter through a long entry hall with rich walnut, plaster, and aluminum leaf wall finishes. However the main space turns into a quiet study of different lighting conditions; one only need to see the photographs to see how powerfully the light changes in the space. The main space's curved ceiling and innovative translucent scrim on the entire window wall perimeter are particularly stunning. It is a great place to practice your mind/body connection. It is the work of Blank Studio of Phoenix.

Check out the web album to see the rest of the gorgeous picture set by photographer Bill Timmerman. All pictures courtesy of Blank Studio.

Tom Kundig On CH


Parent (sister? godfather?) website Coolhunting profiled Tropolism book reviewee Tom Kundig last week, talking to him and finding a great youtube video of his projects in motion.

Sori Yanagi, Friend Of Your Home


Sori Yanagi, long considered the Charles and Ray Eames of Japan, has designed so much flatware, mixing bowls, dishes, cutlery, kitchen tools, pots, pans, plates, that you are able to stock several kitchens. If you can get the stuff. MoMa, bless its heart, does its usual thing of giving us a few bits (5 pieces of flatware). You can get more of the flatware at Unicahome, for the completists among us (like me!) who need that shellfish fork to complete their collection.

What's less readily available in the USA and Europe are the plates. I had the honor of being received by Mr. Yanagi in 2004 at his studio, and after showing me his prototypes for the latest pots and pans, and his to-kill-for book collection, he showed me the shop upstairs. There were half a dozen lines of plates, some of handmade/handpainted ceramic, others more modern. Our favorites were the rounded square black and white plates (pictured above in the lower left), if only because they were microwave safe and had matching tea cups, saucers, and every shape of plate one could imagine. At the time the only way to acquire these was to purchase them at the store and have our hotel ship them back to the USA; we're happy to say that these days you can get them from the Japanese online store designshop, who will arrange shipping overseas via major shippers. I am also partial to the Marumon series (and the companion Musubimon series), also pictured above at lower right. Designshop has this and several other pieces, including the iconic bird-shaped soy sauce pitcher (pictured above left).

Thermal Baths of San Pelligrino


Design renderings for the Thermal Baths of San Pelligrino by Dominique Perrault Architecture have been released, and they are trippy. The 'perforated like a tree canopy by a French Architect' meme is continued with the all-over skin of this building. From the exterior, it looks like glowing boulders that have tumbled down the mountains; from the interior, it's surprisingly warm and beautiful. In the big spaces the filtered light effect is like seeing a whole forest. It is soft and sublime at the same time.

Tipped off by Designboom.

The New Acropolis Museum: Almost Open


Reading Loot got me wondering how far along the new museums underway in Cairo and Athens were. The New Acropolis Museum, designed by Bernard Tschumi, is complete and they are moving the artifacts in. There was a great walkthrough of the building here. All that's left, of course, are the Elgin Marbles. We've always wanted them relocated simply because they are so terribly displayed in the British Museum. The book clued us into the fact that the other half of the marbles pretty much live in Athens, and that the new museum there has already prepared space for the returned Elgins. The new building looks perfect for the location, and the subtle ways it mimics the experience of visiting the nearby Acropolis is exactly what this building needed to do well. Tschumi does monumental and it's a hit.

House In Mallorca


From yesterday's news of Madrid architects (and Tropolism friends) Inaki Abalos and Juan Herreros splitting into two different offices I was put in touch with a great project on Juan's website, a country house in Mallorca (pictured). The house reminds me of something by Sert: a simple shape that keeps living married to the landscape.

Coop Himmelblau on Grand Avenue Is Built


The crazy rendering we published back in 2006 turned out to be a real, live building. Coop Himmelblau's High School #9 is completed; our favorite write up is the amusing visual essay by Hello Beautiful!

Under Construction: OMA's Wylie Theater In Dallas


OMA's Wylie Theater in Dallas in under construction. Click here for an awesome slideshow by Archinect contributor Orhan Ayyüce.

Via Archinect.

Furniture Friday: The Chrome Almost-Superleggera Chair


Continuing our theme of Gio Ponti inspired awesomeness comes this pair of chairs done up like Ponti's famous Superleggera chairs. Except these are from the 1970s and are shiny polished chrome. Of course it's possible to find other examples of this, but on this site the attribution to Ponti is incorrect: Superleggera has triangular profiles to the legs, the chrome versions are elliptical. It turns out the steel version is none other than Phillipe Starck's Objet Perdu chair from 2004(?). But they are cool nonetheless.

From the ever-scrumptious Remodelista.

Furniture Friday: Gehry's Swoopy Bench


Speaking of swoopy bench-like sculptures, Frank Gehry has done one for the World Company building in Tokyo, just in time for Tokyo Design Festival. It's worth comparing his to Zaha Hadid's. Formally they are similar: complex curves that you can sit on. They sit in a space, but aspire to some kind of kinetic reflection of their present surroundings. But the materials are very different. Gehry's piece could be made by basket weavers; Hadid's requires a lot of bondo and an apprenticeship in auto body repair. I like them both, but Gehry's piece is a reminder that the build manifestation of complex forms is not always seamless shiny material.

As seen at Core77.

Glacier Loft


Glacier Loft by Gus Wüstemann. Interior Design did a piece on this way back when, and every time that image of the stair pops up I fall in love with it again.

EM2N Does Mies Psychedelic


Public Record Office in Liestal, Switzerland, by EM2N. This project includes a stair that is clearly meant for Stair Porn. The exterior is not that interesting to us, it's like undercook Herzog & DeMeuron, but the interior is like a psychedelic IIT, complete with reflective smoked glass surrounding rooms that could just as well be outdoors.



ARX, hailing from Lisbon, is giving us some Portuguese love with their dozen Siza-esque white houses and paper conceptual models. There is a powerful consistency to the work that we admire. Yet we are particularly drawn to how the paper conceptual models directly inform the work, and take it beyond where our beloved Alvaro Siza will go. Not just with the literal translation to white plaster, but when the materials get layered like they do for the O'Porto Blood Bank building (pictured), or for the sensitive (yet modern) addition to the Ílhavo Library.

Next Generation House Update: Winner!


This just in: Sou Fujimoto Architects' Next Generation House, as seen here on Tropolism yesterday, won the Private Houses jury at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona. We concur with their report, this house is a winner.

Libeskind Does Shopping Malls


Daniel Libeskind designed a shopping mall over in Switzerland.:

“Architects for a long time thought malls were below their dignity,” Libeskind says. “But if you bring nature and culture into the building, you can make it a radically different place.”

He's absolutely correct. Architects did some amazing shopping malls in the 1960s and 1970s, and then they kind of let go of those projects. The only problem is that what Libeskind designed actually looks like any ole mall in New Jersey.

Via Archinect.

Switch Bays


One of our favorite articles over the summer, during our sleepy time, was Daily Dose's piece about buildings with Switch Building like facades. While we will always have a fondness for the original Switch, we admit we are swayed by SHoP's M127 facade for its more elegant assembly of a diversity of typical New York materials: brick, metal, glass, into something entirely new. But still lovely.

Boulders and Color


Speaking of Boulders and Things We Just Love, we are in love with this graphic design idea by Sagmeister Inc. for the boulderesque Casa da Musica in Porto. Stefan Sagmeister says it best: “We failed to avoid using the building shape” said Sagmeister in yesterday's lecture at the design forum Vienna, "so we looked for a different approach". Instead a color calculator uses colors from a poster's image, or portraits of people whose name are on the business card, to generate the coloration of the logo. It's ever-changing, and a brilliant interpretation of the chameleon like shape of the concert hall.

Herzog & DeMeuron's Tate Modern Mountain


While we were intrigued with Tate Modern 2.1, revealed way back in 2006, the stacked box pyramid we think has since found better expression and program and site in their proposal for the Parisian mega-pyramid of residences, mostly because the Paris project is much larger, and so the box thing turns into a pyramid from far away. It looked too jumbled to be Tate 2.1.

We are much more excited with Tate Modern 2.2, a smoother pyramid that works better with the existing power station and neighborhood, without losing its crazy awesome loudness. Check out their site geometry image at the bottom of this page for how it was generated. It also keeps with today's boulder theme.

Boulders Building


Filed under buildings we just love: Biblioteca Parque Espana by Giancarlo Mazzanti in Medellin, Columbia. The idea is brilliantly simple: create an artificial natural formation as a landmark for the city. The building is covered in a gorgeous dark stone that gives it the coloration of the surrounding mountains. There is also a wonderful public space surrounding the boulders, creating a true acropolis for this special site. The boulders frame the views, making the experience one akin to the view one gets after a long day mountain climbing.

Tipped off (long ago) by Eikonographia.

Zaha And Chanel Do Up Art


The Chanel Pavilion Of Contemporary Art, Seriously or whatever it's called gives you all of its formal secrets before you get it. It's swoopy. It's modular fiberglass. It's Chanel! It's hard to miss that on the outside, but the utopian aspirations are given a distinct flavor. There are creepy helpers scurrying around in their black coats and black ball caps: they only look like jackbooted fascists in a retro-sci-fi movie, even though they say they're just taking tickets. It's helpful to write about this project in three parts:

Architecture: Zaha designed a swoopy container. It's interesting, but the swoops get old fast, and the construction is still very Early-Swoop-Technology: some great fiberglass panel stuff but all the connections are held together by schmutz. And a few well placed screws where things didn't quite work out. All the ceilings are made with a terribly cheap looking stretched tent fabric material. Things that art containers need, like lighting, are relegated to black painted openings between stretch fabrics. Often the unpainted 2x4 wood blocking under the track lighting is visible. Gorgeous. But the ambition is incessant, which is why we love Zaha, and you have no choice but to accept it (otherwise just go find a rock in the park to sit on). Check out the excellent slideshow at Curbed.

Art: With few exceptions, highly derivative or too understated to stand against/work with The Container. For some reason they all have Chanel as their theme. It's meant to be a theme that ties them all together. It's not a very good idea. However there is a powerful slideshow by our favorite bondage photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and some very disturbing photographs by David Levinthal. And a piece by Leandro Erlich called Le Trottoir (The Sidewalk) that one needs to experience for something like 50 minutes, not the 5 minutes they give you before you're shuttled away.

Narration: The Container cocoons you in many ways, notably by covering your ears with headsets and an MP3 player that you cannot touch without screwing everything up. They let you know. And so you are torn from your companions and given a decent soundtrack and narration by Jeanne Moreau (who we love). At first I thought it was Zaha. Easy mistake to make: the narration script is hilariously pretentious. The problem is that the art isn't really sequenced the way the continuous soundtrack and narration suggest, it's just a bunch of separate pieces (that vaguely relate to the space and Chanel, yes) and someone has put cinematic schmutz in the gaps between them. We applaud the idea of seeing what is mostly New Media Art this way, but it's light years behind interactive media as accessible as Call Of Duty 4. It's a way of seeing art that is under explored. The Container poses the problem, but the results are mixed.

Gonzalo Mardones Viviani Arquitecto


Tropolism means looking for beauty wherever it exists. The office of Gonzalo Mardones Viviani Arquitecto in Santiago, Chile, seems to encapsulate this sensibility perfectly. While their work includes the usual stable of nice-Modern houses and small public works buildings, they also have some standout projects. The El Parque Neighborhood residential development turns what could have been a boring roofscape into a neighborhood-sized sculpture. The suburbs never looked so good.


Our favorite, however, is the powerful, understated Oratorio at Tierras Blancas, a sacred space defined by simple heavy timbers. The timbers are the barest mark of human intervention, allowing the existing hills that surround the space to act as a cathedral of nature.

Norwegian Embassy In Nepal


Speaking of angly awesomeness, we bring you a more recent example: the Norwegian Embassy in Nepal. In many ways this is the building that Albert Ledner's aspires to be. The material progression is the same: masonry base, zigzag glass, powerful roof profile. The architects for the embassy, Kristin Jarmund Architects, simply refined the palette: rip rap looking stone, mullionless glass, simplified roof profile (to eliminate waterproofing issues, no doubt). Still, the comparison is worth making, if only to see the common ideas at work.

Albert Ledner's Maritime Awesomeness


Regional Modernism, a great blog devoted to modernist buildings in the New Orleans Area, stopped by Albert Ledner's National Maritime Union while we were sleeping here at Tropolism. It sounds like some unwelcome modifications have been made to the exterior during its renovation.

Which then led us to more pictures of this freaky great building over at Alan Rosenberg's blog. Which of course led us back to good ole New York, where Ledner's other wacky building for the Union is in a preservation fight.

Two-Dozen List, Tropolism Editor's Edition 2008


Two Dozen List, Tropolism Editor's Edition, 2008. Subject to change. Click Continue Reading for Full Annotated Edition.

1. 40 Mercer: Jean Nouvel
2. 40 Bond Herzog & DeMeuron
3. 100 11th Avenue: Jean Nouvel
4. 524 West 19th Street, Metal Shutter Houses: Shigeru Ban
5. 515-517 West 23rd Street, HL23: Neil Denari
6. 366 West 15th Street, The Porter House at : SHoP (aka That Stripey-Light Building)
7. 165 Charles St: Richard Meier (aka Meier3)
8. Perry Street South and North Towers: Richard Meier (aka Meier1 and Meier 2)
9. 109 Norfolk Street, Switch Building: nArchitects
10. 385 West 12th Street: FLAnk
11. 290 Mulberry Street: SHoP
12. 184 Kent Avenue: Arquitectonica (aka The Illinois Institute of Technology)
13. One Kenmare Square: Richard Gluckman (aka Gluckman Wave)
14. 48 Bond: Deborah Burke
15. 15 Central Park West: Robert A.M. Stern
16. One York: Enrique Norton
17. 497 Greenwich Street: Winka Dubbeldam (aka Winka Wave)
18. 33 Vestry Street, V33: Winka Dubbeldam
19. 330 Spring Street, Urban Glass House: Phillip Johnson
20. West 11th Street, Julian Schnabel Palazzo Chupi
21. 166 Perry Street: Asymptote
22. Lower East Side, Blue: Bernard Tschumi (aka TschumiBlu)
23. Astor Place, Sculpture for Living: Charles Gwathmey
24. Highline 519: Lindy Roy

Notes On The Two Dozen List


In 2005 I fleshed out an idea I first proposed in 2004: that a slew of midsized residential buildings would be built, all designed by celebrity architects. And so the Two Dozen List was born.

The mid 2000's in New York City have seen a unique confluence of money, skyrocketing real estate prices, hyper-demand, and cheap credit. The competition between developers, combined with a rise in interest in architectural design by the general public, has led to the hiring of our beloved celebutantes as brand novelties to distinguish one development from another. The moment is now passing: credit is tight, leading to projects down the pipeline being shut off. While the competition for buyers will certainly continue, it is likely that high-priced talent, or at least the famous names, will not be invited to create design masterpieces quite as often.

The similar size, shape, and sites give us a unique opportunity to compare these talents, and ask some great questions. How powerful were these architects in the development process? How well did they redefine what is possible in this context? How many boundaries did they push? How did they approach, and solve, the great problems of the New York Skyscraper: the slab and the curtain wall?

I will post my personal version of this list this week. Tropolism will begin to review the projects on my list that have not been reviewed to date. In addition, guest writers will post their own lists, here and elsewhere. Finally, we invite you to submit your own entries for a reader's choice list, which will of course be published here. Enjoy!

Shelby Farms Park Winners Announced


Pruned points us to a sophisticated set of designs for Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee. We tend to see these as iterations in designs that started with Fresh Kills Park, made a big splash at Orange County Great Park, and have now continued to the Midwest/South. American landscape design is finally asking the big questions about the function of large parks in cities and suburbs, and we're happy to see the ideas keep flowing.

Koolhaas Has Officially Lost It


Koolhaas and OMA have officially lost their marbles. One of them found its way into the new design for Dubai, as a Death Star like 44-story sphere floating on the water. This kind of lunacy we can respect. Mr. Ourousoff gives us the details.

Tropolism Exhibitions: Julius Shulman: Palm Springs


Tropolism took a vacation to sunny Palm Springs, California. While there we were fortunate to come across Julius Shulman: Palm Springs at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

This was our first trip to Palm Springs, and we spent the first few days looking up our favorite buildings in the area, as well as coming across some surprises, such as Albert Frey's 1960 Schiff House, now being renovated.

Only after we had done this initial exploration did we discover the Shulman show at PSAM. The show is at once a focused retrospective of Shulman's work (concentrating on only the Palm Springs buildings he photographed) and a survey of great modern buildings in Palm Springs. On display is Shulman's famous image of the Kaufmann Desert House, a picture many architects probably see in their minds when they think of Neutra. Yet equal emphasis is paid to Neutra's Maslon House, stupidly demolished in 2002. The images are supplemented throughout with original architectural renderings, floor plans, and elevations, further emphasizing this as a survey not just of Shulman, but of Palm Springs Modernism. The show is helpfully organized by architect.

Our only complaint with the show is its arrangement. Because much of the show is on free-standing partitions, either permanent or specially built for the exhibition, it does not lend itself to wrapping around corners the way a traditional 4-walled room does. Yet the show wraps, and wraps, and it is sometimes impossible to understand where to proceed next to see the rest of that particular architect's oevre. The architects are given large numbers next to their names, yet some of the architects are displayed out of numerical order. These are minor issues, but from the standpoint of anyone who has designed exhibitions, it is bewildering to see such freshman flubs at all.

Even though the architectural celebutantes are well-represented (Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, and John Lautner), lesser known architects are given equal time (Paul R. Williams and A. Quincy Jones, Dan Palmer and William Krisel, Donald Wexler, William Cody, and E. Stewart Williams). There are fewer masterpieces among this group, but they arguably have had a more powerful voice in shaping the character and culture of modernism that exists in Palm Springs. They shaped it both through the sheer number of good-to-great buildings in the Coachella Valley, and the breadth of their talent, imagination, and interests. E. Stewart Williams is case in point: he designed the 1946 Frank Sinatra House, the beautiful 1954 Edris House, and the equisitely detailed 1957 Santa Fe Savings and Loan Building. (which we drove by a dozen times on our long weekend) and, of course, the building housing the exhibition. There are few places in suburban America that can lay claim to this much per-capita Modernism.

Special thank you to Stephen Monkarsh, proprietor of Palm Springs' best collection of architectural books, who directed us to the exhibition. Julius Shulman: Palm Springs is also a great book, available on Amazon.

Zaha Continues to Rock Innsbruck


After Zaha's much trumped-up by kind of 'eh' ski lift thingy, she continues to rock out in Innsbruck, Austria (as one does) by doing a whole system full of stations. Out of concrete and swoopy white glass. Pictured. Yeah, just scroll down that link alone for pictured swoopy white glass goodness. And if that doesn't do it for you, check out the crazy light show from the grand opening of the system.

For our full coverage click Continue Reading.

Mies Grave Stone Model


File under ephemera: a model of Mies Van Der Rohe's grave stone, by Strangeharvest, complete with pdf so you can make your own. The text is slightly different than the rubbing I took as a wee graduate student in 1994, but the proportions are just right.

Piano Gets Smacked, Deservedly


Today Nicholai Ourousoff puts the smack down on Renzo Piano's Broad Contemporary Art Museum, and addition to LACMA that has recently opened. From the photos in the article and the photos on LACMA's own website, we are left with a collective "HUH?". It's a little bit o'travertine, with a little bit o'Pompidou (via the 1980s). Or, perhaps bit o'Getty with bit o'Hugh Hardy (who did the awful 1986 Anderson Building at LACMA). And don't get us started on the flimsy entry pavilion, pictured. We like to think Mr. Ourousoff was channeling us when he said it:

And if to some the entrance pavilion’s flat, square canopy brings to mind a gas station, the reference falls flat. I’ve seen gas stations in Southern California with far more architectural ambition.

Furniture Friday: Compact Dinette Set by Hans Olsen


To kick off the inaugural Furniture Friday we give you this amazing Hans Olsen design from 1953: an dining table with chairs that tuck completely under the table itself. Mid-Century Modernist tells us they also have seen a version with four-legged chairs and an expanding tabletop. They also clue us into a lame version by Ikea. Whatever the variation, this is not only an architect's dream (all that messy furniture fits under the round circle in plan) but it's incredibly well-crafted. And beautiful.

Maki Makes Sculpture For Living


Fumihiko Maki has designed a building to replace the beige-brick Cooper Union Engineering building at 51 Astor Place. We want to see more renderings and details before commenting further. But from this picture alone we can say that this is what the Sculpture For Living should have been in the first place.

Via Curbed.

SHoP Brick Undulation


SHoP designed yet another building that may be eligible for the ever-outdated two-dozen list, once it's built: 290 Mulberry Street. Curbed gives us an overview today on the building's highlights. We would also like to point out a couple of great images from a lecture announcement last summer (given by their "Director of Design Technology and Research", I kid you not); the undulation looks like it's made out of prefabricated brick panels. We are looking forward to seeing this one in cover.

UN Studio's VilLA NM Destroyed By Fire


We start off the day with sadness; UN Studio's VilLA NM was destroyed by fire during the night of February 5th. The house was completed last year. Full story at Daily Dose.

Beautiful At Barnard


Recently the P/A Awards were announced, by whatever magazine is announcing them these days. Our enthusiasm for these awards faded not because of some nostalgia for the days of Progressive Architecture magazine. It's simply that the cutting edge of architecture has gone blog viral. By the time the print media gets to it, it's old news. The newest of the new gets chewed up and tested by the internets, and the increase in chaff is easily matched by the increase in voices talking about design.

The one highlight in this year's P/A award comes from old-fashioned great building design, from Weiss/Manfredi. It's their Barnard Nexus project, at Barnard College in Manhattan. It's not just a pretty rendering: the details of the glass curtain wall, mimicking the brick and terracotta of Barnard's and adjacent Columbia University's main building cladding, is sophisticated, beautiful, and yes, progressive.

Master Disaster Architects 4


[Editor's note: Our correspondent Saharat Surattatnont had so much fun at Tuesday's Fourth Annual Master Disaster Architects duel that his post on the evening showed up last night. Enjoy!]

Click Continue Reading for Sah's complete review.

Gwathmey's Promise


I know that we started our career as a writer publicly slamming Gwathmey Siegal Associates for the Sculpture for Living, and because of that, you might think that we have something against the firm. Particularly since we basically didn't let the issue to rest for two years. Three, if you include this paragrph, which borders on apophasis.


But the core point we wish to make is that the firm does great work in non-NYC cities, at times, and the promise of Gwathmey's early work, the stuff that made him one of the New York Five, is simply unfulfilled. Projects like Whig Hall addition/renovation of 1972 shows an out-of-the-gate appreciation of the surreal tension created when Corbusian modernism stitched into American urban and rural contexts. It's a project that presages not pomo kitsch, but what happened after pomo, when 1920s modernism became just another historical meme to be played with, creating something entirely new. Or, viewed differently, that all historial memes would lose their historical significance, and everything from caves to pediments to s-curves and ship's handrails all were simply legitimate tools for the expression of architectural ideas. Some bigger projects (the addition to the Fogg at Harvard included) are extensions on this theme.


Unfortunately, until the firm stops doing these segmented curved corners out of cheap aluminum curtainwall systems, with 80s-grid spandrel panels, with another blocky volume stuck on top of the building, as they are doing at 240 Park Avenue South, we are going to have to keep waiting for Gwathmey's promise to be fulfilled.

Olafur's Tokyo Tiles


Olafur Eliasson is apparently conquering the world. From Archidose comes the news of an installation of around 7,000 platinum-glazed ceramic tiles in a courtyard of a house by Tadao Ando, in Tokyo. You already know of our love for golden legos; this just brings us one step closer to our dream.

The original article at Architectural Digest focuses more on the building, and has a good slideshow of the project.

Buckminster Fuller Dome Destroyed


Greg Allen directs us to the destruction of the Union Tank Car Dome of 1958 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The dome was the first geodesic dome on an industrial scale, and was demolished without notice last November.

Or was it? Greg points out that the building had had the attention of some preservationists for about ten years, yet no one bought it, even when it was going for only $500,000. That's less than half of the median price of a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Greg's observations about what is missing from the process of saving important but not-yet-landmarked modernist structures are not to be missed.

Eiseman's Columbus Convention Center Flooding


At first glance of this photograph we thought that an interior designer convention was marveling that the crazy-grid carpet from 1992 had not yet been replaced. It turns out that these are structural engineers inspecting a portion of Eisenman's Columbus Convention Center for structural damage after a big flood last week.

But seriously, Columbus folks. New carpet already.

Observations On Unhelpful Architectural Writing


Architectural critics, like all art critics, are stuck between bald snap judgment and the extension of art history known as architectural history. It's a strange place to be, and the critics we admire tend to create new conversations about architecture in general, through their insightful opinions (IE Paul Goldberger) or their insightful riffing on architectural history (IE Robin Evans, RIP).

Click Continue Reading for the rest of the critique of the critics.

Mies Van Der Rohe's Service Station


Continuing our favorite topic of the month, another reader tips us off to another classic 20th century gas station by a famous architect: Mies Van Der Rohe's Esso gas station on Nun's Island from 1969.

We knew about this one, but were unable to find a photograph of it. Fortunately, zadcat from flickr has posted the photograph above. Extra bonus link provided by the zadcat: a survey of "ugly" gas stations in Montreal. You know where we stand on ugly (some of our favorite buildings are ugly!). And you know where we stand on Mies and drive-through culture (neon does wonders with all that glass!). So this is probably our favorite gas station ever. That is looks like the exterior is unmodified makes us love it even more, with that big awesome gas station sign out front.

Gas Station Design Wars Continue To Rage


In what has rapidly become our favorite new meme, yet another reader has directed our attention toward yet another beautiful gas station. This one appears to be actually functioning, and still gorgeous after 70 years, based on the photos in this great gallery. It's by Arne Jacobsen, in Copenhagen, and dates to 1937.

Bob Stern Gets Some Respect


We've made no secret about our admiration for Bob AM Stern's approach to education. The Times throws some respect his way today, too. Not enough to get mentioned in Ourousoff's article, but he probably prefers to be the sole subject of an article than to be grouped together with everyone else.

Nouvel Tower Renderings


We can't get enough of this design. And we stand by our statements after seeing the plethora of renderings at Dezeen.

Nouvel Redefines Towers In NYC


It's difficult to believe, but after Jean Nouvel's sensitive-yet-stunning 40 Mercer, his sparkly-yet-stunning 100 Eleventh Avenue, Jean Nouvel comes through with another groundbreaking design for Manhattan. This time it's for a mixed-use tower next to MoMA. The height will rival the Chrysler Building, and with its open lattice structural top, it may rival the old bird's iconic status as well.

Also of note is Ourousoff's article on the building, which calls attention to the most important issues the building addresses. How private developers are doing more daring architecture than MoMA itself commissioned only a few years back. How this will hopefully correct MoMA's craptacular gallery situation. How an architect can produce a design for a tower while playing with the essential elements of towers that up until now felt played out (the structural system, the curtainwall, the profile), yet all the while creating something new, of our time, and dazzlingly buildable.

Our favorite part is that the developer has chosen to build what others might consider unsellable floors: the penthouse apartment with a huge elevator/stair core. It is brilliantly described as "the pied-a-terre at the top of the Eiffel Tower from which Gustave Eiffel used to survey his handiwork below."

Preserving The Awesomeness That Is Richard Neutra


In today's New York Times, a happy preservation story about Richard Neutra's 1946 Kaufmann House. What is most intriguing is that this is a preservation project undertaken by a couple who just really like architecture. By "really like" we mean "obsessed to the point of doing an insane amount of research." And just so you know, this kind of obsession is something we respect. We hope they publish a book: We Preserved It, And So Can You!.

Herbert Muschamp, 1947-2007


Herbert Muschamp died yesterday in New York. While we were never a fan of his writings, we have to give the guy credit: he was consistent, loud, and all over the map. Just the way we like our New Yorkers.

Shigeru Ban In Chelsea


Adding to an already impressive couple of blocks in West Chelsea, Manhattan, is Shigeru Ban's new design for The Metal Shutter Houses. That's the name for a condo with nine duplex apartments with jaw-dropping exterior features. Renderings are unveiled today in the New York Times. Simply amazing, and surely to rate high on the two-dozen list, whenever we get around to updating it with Nouvel's second apartment building, Herzog & DeMeuron's 40 Bond Street, and the like.

Spaceport News: Foster And Partners Design Unveiled


Someone thankfully advised Virgin Galactic to come to their senses after releasing their underwhelming concept ideas for a spaceport design: they held a design competition and hired Foster and Partners. The recently announced design, while being far from the Star Wars style Rebel Base we have always imagined, promises to be a thoughtful building prototype for an equally unique flying experience. This might just be the Saarinen TWA terminal for the Space Age.

Maya Lin Systematic Landscapes


Forgive us for being so slow on the ball on this; a travelling exhibition of Maya Lin's gorgeous new installations, Systematic Landscapes, opens at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis this week. Pictured from the show is Water Line, as captured by Jen S on flickr.

15 CPW: Bob Stern In Fine Form


There's nothing we love more than a good argument over Bob Stern. When we were graduate students at Columbia University in the mid-1990s, everyone avoided having him for design studio, thinking that he would make everyone design in historical pastiche. One semester, I sat adjacent his studio; low and behold his criticism was insightful, pragmatic, and informed by experience. True, he was a shade conservative, and positively curmudgeonly, but he never failed to call bullshit when contemporary architectural theory failed to produce what it said it was supposed to produce. For that, I secretly admired him. He was asking the same questions I was asking, even though the forms I chose to ask them in weren't the ones his office was producing. The students who were unlucky and got stuck in his studio mistakenly argued with Bob over simple formal machinations, without creating a concrete idea of what they were trying to produce; it was clear that Bob The Critic was formally agnostic (or perhaps omnivorous), so long as what you said you were achieving were the results you actually produced. I longed to bring him over to my desk and say "hey, I think I'm doing what you are asking for, but it looks different. What do you think?" As a wee student, I never had the courage to ask him.

And so we think that we get Bob. 15 Central Park West is case in point, Mr. Stern at his finest form, New York old money luxe created anew. When the game is to make a good apartment building, make it really, really good. Use the best materials, use layouts that work, take a stand for proportions and rooms that make all New York apartment dwellers drool, and make the developer figure out who to market it to to pay for the increased cost of the building. Of course Mr. Stern's first impulse is to use tried and true forms and details from long ago. And people are vocal about liking the building, politely admiring its historical aspects but keeping their distance, or really hating it for being a photocopy of another age (this last one we never really get, because unless it's an exact replica of another building, it's always going to be new and different. This is a debate for another time.) Guess what: the historical forms and proportions still work. In that they produce something people will buy, and be passionate about living in.

Of course, after taking the gorgeous fantasy trip through 15 CPW's apartments, motor court, classic dining rooms, and grand lobby, we are left asking: why can't it be done without using the historical cues? Can I have a not-so-dowdy bathroom vanity cabinet, and a kitchen that doesn't look like the one we have at the country manor? Can we keep the good proportions, well-designed windows, and great detailing, all the while giving us a little (or a lot) of the 20th Century's uncanny? Miss Representation perfectly encapsulates the problem:

...the failure of new housing to evoke the grandeur of a 30-foot long sitting room isn't really about limestone sheathing or how big the windows are: it's about whether or not your sitting room is 30 fucking feet long. And it isn't.

Like the students I remember in his design studio, architects doing new housing in New York make the same mistake. Some exceptions, of course, can be found in #s 1-5 at the Two Dozen list. In the majority of celebutante housing designs the design concerns are about twitchy wrappers, space-age materials, sharks with lasers, or whatever else is being used to keep one branded as cutting edge. This focus of attention is an astonishingly sophomoric failure to look at what makes living spaces great, pleasurable, desirable. Because Mr. Stern creates great living spaces, elegant entries, and uses his estimable powers as a persuader to cause developers to pony up for great materials, it's easy for him to stand out in this context. And whether you like his forms or not, you cannot deny that he has won the game he set out to play, a game we think is worth playing in every housing development the world over. We'll let you know when we see someone else step up too.

How Many Stars?


The new London office is hopping. Today they alert us to an review by Hugh Pearman, the peerless architecture critic of the London Times. It's a review of the Global Cities show at Tate Modern. He clues us in to the surprise of the show, as well as it's predictability. A taste:

I’m fond of Gehry, but no, I don’t want to talk to him right now. No offence. Oh, blimey, there’s Zaha Hadid, too. Look, she’s great, but I really must dash. There are days when I just don’t much fancy the big business of world architecture.

Zaha's Shiny Shard


A London correspondent tipped us off to something that is old news over there: Zaha Hadid won a competition for the London Architecture Foundation's new building. And redesigned it. We like the redesign better than the original project, probably because it's like a giant silver version of her gold lego project.

Tropolism Books: House: Black Swan Theory and AT-INdex


Title: House: Black Swan Theory

Author: Steven Holl

Publication Date: May 2007

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 1-56898-587-9

Title: AT-INdex

Author: Winka Dubbeldam

Publication Date: June 2007

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 1-56898-535-5

Not only do the folks at Princeton Architectural Press send us lots of books to review, but they have a sense of humor.

Recently we received copies of the two books listed in this review. The two books are polar opposites, and all but begged us to do a comparative review.

Click Continue Reading for the goods...

Prouve's Maison Tropicale Is In Queens


Prouve's Maison Tropicale was designed for the African climate, but for a little while, it has a new home in Queens, New York. And, it's for sale. The New York Times gives us the details on the restored house, as well as details on the other two surviving specimens. The house is open today to the public, and is located in Long Island City, on a plot just south of the Queensboro Bridge.

Update: After running over there today, I can report that the dates the house is open are May 17-June 5, 2007. No hours were posted. It was locked at 11am today.

And yes, we've been away for a while, celebrating our second anniversary.

Guggenheim 5th Avenue: Cracking


Yesterday's New York Times served up some technicolor imaging of Frank Lloyd Wright's cracking Guggenheim facade. For anyone that has seen a set of historic preservation documents, this kind of documentation is routine. However, the image from the times takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness.

Rudolph Road Trip


Today's New York Times gives us a road trip to Paul Rudolph's work between here and Boston, and includes updates on the conditions of the buildings. It also divulges a lot of details about the people who inhabit them. It also includes, shockingly enough, actual addresses and directions to said buildings. Time to call the garage and have the car ready.

Ever since Modern Architecture In Europe went out of print, and the internet, er, happened, guidebooks to famous buildings have been few and far between. The AIA produces a few for major cities, but they are hardly comprehensive. Road tripping across the country means long expanses of no handheld device internet access, which means all that online information is useless, unless you print it out. Until someone finds a solution for this, we'll have to print out articles like this one.

Tropolism Buildings: Torre Cube


We've often expressed our admiration for Enric Miralles. Long overlooked in our praise has been his former partner, Carme Pinos. The early design brilliance of projects like the Igualada Cemetery are of equal credit to Enric Miralles and Carme Pinos. As a distant observer of their work, and as someone who knows people in their milieu, we surmise that Miralles had the surrealist imagination, and Pinos tended toward rhythmic ordering, modularity, and beautiful material connections. Miralles' work seemed to devolve into indulgent shapes (the Scottish Parliament's execution is a great example of this) without the regulating force of Pinos. Together, they were amazing.

Somehow we missed, until now, the Torre Cube in Guadalajara, Mexico (pictured). The project is an office building with natural ventilation. Offices are arranged in staggered prismatic volumes supported by three curved concrete cores. The atrium and openings between the volumes create a natural ventilation effect. In addition, there is a double skin to the building: the offices are enclosed by glass and are shaded by a sliding wood panel system. These panels can be manually moved to create optimum shading for different work environments and times of day/year.

And, it's beautiful as all get out. Carme, it's time to get a website already.

Tipped off by Via Arquitectura.

Abu Dhabi Update: Louvre Signs On


The Louvre is going franchise. For $520 million, Abu Dhabi has licensed the Louvre name for its previously-titled "classical museum". Read all about it in the New York Times today. While the article is full of details like art exchanges, price tags, and a cursory overview of the financial and political relationship between France and the United Arab Emirates, what really interests us is the new rendering of the underside of Nouvels' dome (pictured), previously reported on here. For us, the global branding of art, a result of the commoditization of art, is of little interest. We want that amazing building to be real.

Abu Dhabi Update Part 2: Zaha and Nouvel


This Abu Dhabi wonderland update we are showing off pictures of the models for the designs by Jean Nouvel (pictured) and Zaha Hadid.

Nouvel's scheme for a "classical museum" (possibly a branch of the Louvre) features a huge, flattened dome over an open-air arrangement of smaller buildings. It's like a village, shaded with a space dome. We think it's gorgeous.

Click Continue Reading to see a close-up of the Nouvel dome, and to experience the Zaha model goodness.

Abu Dhabi Update Part 1: Overview, Ando, and Gehry


A few weeks ago we mentioned a new design by Zaha Hadid for a planned arts supercomplex in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. A special UAE correspondant has provided us with photographs of the exhibition. We weren't prepared for the amount of detail and vigor that went into the models and design of each proposal, and for our correspondant's wonderful close-up photography.

Click Continue Reading for amazing pictures with the Tadao Ando and Frank Gehry proposals.

Tropolism Fact Correction

Tropolism stands corrected. The smashup panes of glass at IIT, subject of one of our very first posts, were replacement glass from a 1970s renovation. The source of this is a press release describing the origin of the panes. The same press release we linked to in our original post. Whether our fact checker simply neglected to read the last sentence of the press release, the one that would have made our little rant entirely moot, or the release was post-tropolism revised, is not important. Mies' glass was long gone by the time the demolition derby came to town.

Robert A.M. Stern Is Almost Alright


Robert A.M. Stern was the critic no one wanted to have when I was a student at Columbia. If you put his studio as anything but last in your preferences, you would get him. It was a widely held belief that if you took his studio, you'd be forced to do po-mo work all the time. This was far from reality, as I learned by sitting in a studio immediately adjacent to Bob Stern's studio, and overhearing his desk crits. Mr. Stern was a pragmatic critic, holding students' feet to the fire on making their projects work, and making their product match their premises. In short, he was an unwavering demand that your proposal live up to your words about it. I secretly loved him for that: Columbia in the mid 1990s was a lot of words and renderings of clouds, and light on the discussion of how buildings work in the world.

Yet a continued disappointment is that while Mr. Stern's office tends to produce architecture that contributes to the city, and is even civic in a traditional sense (in that it is guided by having generous and appropriately grand public spaces), the materials, forms, and sequences rarely thrill. There is no bite.

Of course, in this day and age, good architecture is a category that is hard to find. There is bad architecture, poor architecture, lame architecture, tired architecture, acceptable architcture, not bad architecture, and, occasionally, Great Architecture. But good is a category underrepresented.

We file Mr. Stern's design for the Museum of African Art in the good-to-very-good category. It's an acceptably civic front that abstracts a non-19th century western architectural form, and it has a innovative (but workable!) mix of residential development and institutional functions. And, it's got the best salesman in the business behind an institution without a permanent home.



The exhibition "Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines", on view now at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, is in our world the perfect exhibition: about rare architectural publications, and curated by Beatriz Colomina. The show is only up until February 24th, so rush down. There can never be enough architectural book love.

Until you get there, you may soak up the magazine goodness at the show's excellent (and simple, yo. Take note architects!) website. Mr. Ourousoff from the Times has also reviewed the show today.

More Zaha Craziness


Today's New York Times reports not once but twice about a planned arts supercomplex in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The articles cover all the art hot topics of the day: the pros and cons of the development, east meets west, the Bilbao effect, art as franchise is good or bad, and art as global or home-grown activity. But the real thrill of the article is the rendering of Zaha Hadid's contribution: a crazy, snakelike performing arts center. The audacity of the rendering reminds us of the immortal Gold Lego proposal for the Louvre. The image borders on completely-surreal without edging into acid-trip (while getting oh, so close).

The Shrinking Freedom Tower


We're a bit slow on the draw on this one, but we can't let the week end without pointing it out. Rafael Viñoly, one of the architects who worked under the THINK New York banner during the WTC competition, gave a lecture at 7WTC on January 18th describing how unnecessary the Freedom Tower is. The above diagram was copied from Gothamist, who also provides a complete description on the lecture.

On Argumentum Ad Hominem And Rem


We mentioned a little while ago about our allergy to argumentum ad hominem. It flared up in full force upon reading Philip Noble's latest column in Metropolis, so much so that we had to reach for our medication. Mr. Noble makes plain his love of the OMA-designed IIT Student Center in Chicago, but still can't bring himself to like Rem Koolhaas. The complaint gives us the so-whats. I can't say I care to care about any architect I'm not personal friends with. The list of Rem Infractions listed in the article make his argument ring of an inferiority complex that should stay in therapy sessions. However, the crux of his argument brings ad hominem to a whole new level, and something worthy of debate:

Can I not, one might also ask, separate the tics of a genius personality from the work of a genius? No, I would proudly respond, I cannot. And neither should you: when a building is itself leveraged on the personality of its builder—as it always is in the case of Rem and so many others who need not be mentioned here again (okay: Peter, Zaha, Richard, Danny)—then that personality, tics and all, becomes part of what one must assess to understand the finished work.

While we at Tropolism prefer to see buildings as most people do--apart from the journalism and gossip that surrounds their making--and entirely focus on how the body of the building interacts with the life of the city, we do agree that it's possible to gain insight into the artistic will of an architect by understanding their personal eccentricities. But what does that give us, except some more Understanding? Understanding is the booby prize. In a hundred years, IIT will still exist in some form, and the slights received by journalists from Rem in the late 20th and early 21st century will seem like trivialities. It is a rare occasion (I cannot think of a single occurence) when our squabbling is not outlived by the buildings we produce, and their effects on urban life. Besides, there are so many other conversations in the city, it's difficult to focus on a few rants, particularly from architects.

Via Greg.org.

Stop The Presses: People Cooperating On WTC Buildings


Today's New York Times reports about the development of WTC Towers 2, 3, and 4. Employees of Foster, Maki, and Rogers are sharing a single, huge office space on the 11th Floor of 7 WTC, opened three weeks ago. The super studio also combines engineers and the lone architect of record for the project. In short, Silverstein (A master planner for the 21st Century? Urban heir to Robert Moses?) has created what no agency, competition, public comments hearing, or collaborative not-for-profit study has been able to produce: a working, collaborative effort. It's the single brilliant thing to come of the WTC site.

Because of this turn of events, our first-glance gloomy estimation of the towers' design now appears to have been hasty. We've changed our assessment to "intriguing enough to wait for more information".

Shenzen Stock Exchange: More Pictures!


Update Bonus Add-On to yesterday's post about the Shenzen Stock Exchange: More pictures and a press release, all given to dezeen directly from OMA. The project is definitely brutal, fabulous, and over the top. We're still curious about how it's physically connected to the city. Click Continue Reading for a reader-submitted visual of the unbuilt Mies convention center.

Foster UES Tower: So Not Happening


The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted against the proposed development of 980 Madison Avenue, featuring the glass towers atop a low existing structure. After all the fireworks we were hoping for something a little more conciliatory. Is the LPC getting gunshy? Did the project never have a chance in hell from the get-go? Will the developer continue at this location?

Via Curbed, where they include entertaining quotes from the Commission.

OMA Goes Back To The Source For Shenzhen


Now that OMA is without AMO and Prince-Ramus, it appears that they have gone back to their earliest roots: cutting, pasting, and morphing disappeared Mies Van der Rohe projects to delirious ends (also, see S, M, L, XL for the 1986 Milan Triennale installation). Recently the Shenzhen Stock Exchange announced that OMA had designed their new exchange and offices, pictured above.

We're not sure what to think. Brilliant, or contrived? Cutting edge, or jumped the shark? Brutal, or excess hubris? We can't find more than this rendering, so we'll wait for more pretty pictures before forming our opinion.

VV Takes on Wolfe


One of our allergies is to argumentum ad hominem. That is, attacking the people making the argument as a way to discredit the argument. It avoids discussion of merits, thereby turning an issue of substance into an issue of morality. With regards to architecture, this is a particularly slippery slope: so much of an architect's creative abilities are personal, non-rational, idiosyncratic. It's difficult to discuss architecture without slipping into a little ad hominem from time to time. We despise it anyway.

Today's Village Voice seems to imply that author Tom Wolfe is making ad hominem arguments against the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and other supporters of 2 Columbus Circle and 980 Madison Avenue, (two projects we've taken preservation positions on). The article doesn't make the accusation directly (itself drifting into ad hominem by accusing Mr. Wolfe of launching his attack to save his career), but the implication is that his characterization of the LPC in the Times was simply an attack on the LPC's members. The Times piece in particular seems to spend a lot of time on Anthony Tung's career shifts. Our request: create an argument about what the LPC should be doing, and stick to that.

Tropolism Books: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces


A few months ago, my brother sent me a book from my long-forgotten Amazon.com Wishlist: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. The joy of receiving it was matched only by the pleasure in reading it.

Most of you know the story: William H. Whyte wrote the book in 1980, an outgrowth of his work as the director of the Street Life Project (which he founded in 1971). This group diligently recorded how people use public space. Moveable vs Fixed furniture. Placement of trees. Places to eat. Relationship of shops to open space. Sight Lines. They recorded. The book reads like a manual for making good public space, written by anthropologists of American Urban Natives.

The book isn't a scientific treatise, or an unbiased state-sponsored report, even though all of the techniques used to gather data have a long track record in the science community. Yet concealed in the trappings of scientific data, Mr. Whyte makes palpable the perceived cynicism on the part of corporate and urban architects toward the use of public space. The data is brilliantly and swiftly put to use. In addition, there is a bias against anything that would prevent people from sitting on a low ledge (spikes, bars), yet the section called "The Undesirables" seems to describe passive, friendly, capitalist ways of keeping drunks away from your nice public space. What is powerful about these biases, aside from what you may think of their merits, is that they enter the conversation about designing public space at its source. The book is about the details that make public spaces in the city thrive.

This book can be purchased at Amazon.

ICA Boston Opens

Nicolai Ourousoff reviews the recently opened Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in today's New York Times. The new building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, apparently makes maximum use of its cantilever. Another triumph for innovative design. Let's hope Lincoln Center fares as well.

Sculpture For Living: The Dumb Never Sets


The Sculpture For Living is a gift that keeps on giving. Not to be upstaged by the questionable architectural value of the building, the open space next to the building (between Carl Fischer and It) decided to one-up the building is crapassness. We didn't think it possible, but Manhattan Offender gives us the photographic evidence (pictured). We quote:

If you are going to restrict access from the public, then you need to have access in the first place. The 'garden in question is not accessible to the residents; there is no pathway through it. Therefore you are restricting access to the public to something that doesn't have access in the first place."
Via the fellow Sculpture For Living hatahs Curbed.

Whitney Going Downtown


Eleven years and three star architects later, the Whitney Museum has made their committment to expanding downtown official. The sucking sound you hear is the sound of contemporary cultural institutions moving quickly away from the Upper East Side. Who is next? Guggenheim? The Met?

Of note is that the Whitney will also refurbish the original, gorgeously brutal Breuer building, after they've expanded downtown.

OMA Fun Palace In Beijing


The New York Times is nothing if not consistent. Another article on OMA/Rem Koolhaas? Send in Robin Pogrebin for more softball pitches. The article on the MoMA show about OMA's new buildings in Beijing does give us a sense of what to expect with the show, but as usual provides little illumination on the building beyond what the architects practiced to say about it. Apparently, when an architect says they are building a fun palace, you just put it in quotes and hope someone else gets the reference. If it's a reference.

Saarinen's TWA: Looking For Life


Preservationists have been holding their breath about Saarinen's TWA Terminal at Kennedy Airport, dormant since 2001, ever since JetBlue announced they were building their own terminal really, really close to it. Without doing anything to it.

The New York Times reports that the Port Authority is soliciting development proposals for the building. The high notes: Saarinen's original design and details will be restored and preserved, and you can still walk through the space ship tubes to get to the Jet Blue terminal. The low notes: what, really, does one do at an empty terminal building in the middle of an airport forever clogged with traffic? And, as Frank Sanches of the Municipal Arts Society aptly points out, how will such a huge restoration project make this an attractive development? Questions abound.

Preservationists (and Saarinen lovers, like myself) can breath out, and breath in. And hold the breath a little longer.

Arquitectonica Tries To Get On The List, In A Good Way


You thought we'd gone away, didn't you? Well, to dispel that impression, we point you to what may be the best candidate for the Two-Dozen List since we knocked Blue to the very bottom: Arquitectonica's 184 Kent Avenue, which we think is not in Manhattan. The severe knocking Arqui took from their completely lame pomo Westin Hotel (which we mention at #24 in our List, as an example of how Blue was going to look) probably gave them the inspiration to shed the garish South Beachitecture and look at other forms of inspiration. In this case, they went straight to the heart of the lion: Mies' IIT, on top of a factory roof in, er, Brooklyn (we think). We think the results are lovely, and reminiscent of SHoP's Porter House. Arqui's project lands somewhere in the middle of our list, let's say #11 or so. We are going to update the list, and include a couple of more wicked smart projects we've been holding off posting about.

Tipped off by Curbed.

Highline Vacuum To Be Filled By Rush Of Upper East Side Cultural Institutions


Tropolism is making connections.

Today's relationships in news. First, the Dia Art Foundation--caretaker of rockin' artworks like the Earth Room and Broken Kilometer, in addition to an empty building on 22nd Street, and a huge factory-become-museum in Beacon, New York (it's north of the Bronx, which is north of Manhattan)--is not going to anchor the southern end of the Highline (as shown in the rendering above). One half second later, the New York Times reports that the Whitney is looking at expanding in this location. Interesting, you say, but so what?

Second news: Norman Foster's creative expansion of a building on the Upper East Side is argued over (and mostly opposed by) at a Landmark Preservation Hearing. The New York Sun captures some of the stupidest and nonsensical opposition preservation quotes ever, proving yet again that preservationists have no logical argument, only outrage, to support their positions. Speaking in support of his design, Lord Norman cited the Guggenheim and Whitney Museums, which are totally not masonry or rectangular, and which are totally in the Upper East Side.

Which leads us back to the first article. The case for the Whitney is an example of some pretty good speculation, in that the incentives for the institution to expand elsewhere are enormous. High cost of construction on the UES, lack of community support for anything you'd want to build next to a brutal Marcel Breuer masterpiece, and an aging and not hip population for neighbors would make any cutting-edge institution look for new digs. What institution will be next to consider an expansion downtown?

Preservation: winning the battle for the neigborhood, at the expense of a culturally interesting neighborhood. West Chelsea residents of the year 2046, mulling over expansion plans for the High Line, take heed.

Midwest Architecture Driving Tour


Having grown up in Lima, Ohio, I have a soft spot for any building in the Midwest by a famous architect. The Wexner Center was a gift from the heavens, in all its glorious inanity, when placed in the desert of architectural invention. Gehry's addition to the Toledo Art Museum about the same time was another gift, even though it's a blip on the radar in his oevre.

But the Midwest is at it again, building celebrity architect's buildings everywhere. Oliver Schwaner-Albright has written a piece for Travel+Leisure documenting a road trip one might take to see some of the more recent sights. Happy trails.

Meier Fire Island House: Original Picture and Plan


You may remember during our summer vacation we were a bit obsessed about Richard Meier's first house. We even got pictures from the owner. Well, the owner has graciously photocopied a few pages from Richard Meier Houses which documents the project. The exterior photograph is displayed above, and the floorplan is displayed after the jump. We are glad we got this far...the house was elegant and gorgeous. Unlike the expanded version created by the house's previous owners. Enjoy!

Pretty Pictures Monday: Paul Rudolph House


When we were writing for the Village Voice, we did a little piece about a house Paul Rudolph developed on East 58th Street. Today, we stumbled on a lovely slideshow showing the renovated house Paul Rudolph did for himself on Beekman Place (courtesy New York Magazine), renovated by Della Valle + Bernheimer.

Denari, Illuminated


The Flickering Field of Fluoroscape: Illuminated perspectives on Neil Denari.

On a culture-filled Sunday this past September 17th I tromped down to Downtown Los Angeles to take in several fantastic “Spectacles of Culture”. First, I visited the Banksy show, which was held in an out-moded industrial structure off of Santa Fe Blvd. in the heart of LA’s industrial district. Banksy, the merry prankster of the street-art world, jammed the warehouse with examples of his work, and an live elephant as well. I shall not comment on the show as it has already been done to death by the press and therefore can be summed up with the phrase “if you were there, you’d know what I’m talking about”.

The event was, however simply the primer for the next stop which was to take place at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Click Continue Reading for the rest of my review and another picture.

New New Museum Going Up


The New Museum's new building, designed by SANAA, is going up. See for yourself: The New Museum has a pretty-much-live webcam on the construction.

Via Curbed.

Rem Koolhaas: Back In The USA


For those of you, like us, who thought that the spinoff series T-REX was to replace The OMA's time slot, then you were wrong! Oops, wait, this is architecture, not television. For those of you who thought that REX was going to take all the USA projects, and OMA would settle for the rest of planet Earth, think again. Today, Mr. Koolhaas appears in two New York Times announcements for projects close to NYC.

First is Millstein Hall 3.0 (pictured), the project that Steven Holl (v1.0) and Barkow Leibinger Architects (v2.0) have both lost. Koolhaas returns back to his twisted-Mies beginnings for his design by creating what appears to be an even more surreal Farnsworth House. Which we think is a brilliant move. The Farnsworth House is an important work that plays a large part in architectural histories we teach students...Koolhaas' proposal is like a building architects would invent while in R.E.M. sleep.

Second he was hired for a residential mixed-used complex of 1.3m square feet (larger than the "Freedom" Tower, yo) in Jersey City. City officials are giving him the wink-nudge with this golden nugget: "How much of the building Mr. Koolhaas will preserve is unclear. The settlement drawn up by the city requires that the facade be preserved, but officials here said that they would be open to any changes Mr. Koolhaas might propose." In short, if you don't want to preserve the facade, it's totally fine, just let us know, 'kay? Whatever the preservation arguments, we're glad to see OMA doing a project close to NYC, particularly if it will improve the New Jersey skyline.

Architecture Returns To The Hamptons


It's been a while since original architectural ideas settled in the Hamptons. The days of Peter Blake and his gorgeous (and simple, and small, and brilliant, and uncompromisingly modern) Pin Wheel House (1954) seemed long gone, until we stumbled upon this press release. The Parrish Art Museum, in Water Mill, New York, out on Long Island's east end, has announced a design by the tirelessly inventive Herzog & deMeuron.

The building is organized around a few central permanent galleries modelled after artists' studios in the Hamptons. From there radiate more boxes are strewn around a field. The museum is organized around north-facing skylights. Also brilliant: the approach. Visitors park in a sunken parking lot, and emerge into a meadow planted with native plants, meandering along paths and gardens until they arrive at the musuem. Most striking is the understated view from Montauk Highway, pictured above.

Pictures of an illustrative model of the project are here.

Daily Dose Double, Part 1: 40 Bond Street Mockup


Daily Dose has posted a couple of wonderful posts lately. First of all, the completely-unreported-by-New-York-blogs news that the Herzog and DeMeuron designed 40 Bond Street, here in Manhattan, had put up some kind of construction mockup of the glass trim. The speculation from the photographs is well-documented by DD. We add that the original press on this was for a "cast glass" exterior, not a curved float glass element; the mockup looks like the prismatic effect of cast glass is lost by having curved glass. Perhaps this was just a test of an option under consideration.

Toledo Glass Pavilion Opens


Last week saw the opening of the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art. Sanaa, the Japanese architectural firm led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, designed the curved-glass-walled structure. It joins one of Frank Gehry's early lead-coated-copper-clad structures at the Museum. The New York Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff writes a great description of his tour of the building, which includes a moment of frisson from his visit to Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan.

Also of note are the slideshows posted by the Museum throughout the pavilion's construction. They are a wonderful document of the construction process for a Sanaa building.

Iowa University's New Art Building


Iowa University's New Art and Art History Building is "opening" on September 8. At least that's what the press release said. The building appears to be knitted into its site the way only a Steven Holl-design building can be: smartly entwined with a touch of fussiness. We aren't complaining, the two pictures in this post (above and after you click Continue Reading) indicate something special. The slideshow at UI's website is more complete, yet also shows some skylights and stair details that appear to be a tad overdesigned. Overall, a gorgeous building. I'd want to study there. Or walk by it every day.

Richard Meier's First House: Pictures!


The owner of Richard Meier's first house has kindly sent us pictures of the house in its current state, as well as notes on their pending restoration:

The original Meier house was largely a glass rectangle,the bottom half of the pictured house.There were four indented corners of the house, front and back. The porch indentation in the current photo is the only remaining original design. The center portion of the rectangle (oceanfront) was not windowed, but a walled internal utility area (showers/tubs washing machines ). Definitely a waste of prime real estate.

In a 1960's picture( Vanity Fair 2005), Mel Brooks is seen writing "The Producers" on one of these porches.

The expand their space, the Brooks eliminated three porches by popping the outer walls to the eaves. In this way they converted the design to a four bedroom house. The upstairs was their large balconied bedroom. They adding a pitched roof and shingle siding.It is apparent that Richard Meier did not participate in this decision. The current owners are restoring vertical siding to the structure while trying to maximize the extraordinary siting and unique vistas envisioned by Meier. The comment about Anne not having it both ways, "Meier and shingles" is relevant to the design issues.

Click Continue Reading for a second photograph.

Dear Owner: Tropolism thanks you. You have made our summer.

Melnikov House: Falling Apart


The World Monuments Fund released its 100 Most Endangered Sites annual list earlier this year, and Melnikov's House and Studio in Moscow was on the list. Metropolis published a short piece on it, and it regularly appears in architecture surveys of "what's happening in Moscow now". The New York Times continues the story with a lot of he-said-she-said, complete with dramatic grandchildren and heir infighting. All the while, the building is collapsing:

In the room where Viktor Melnikov slept, Mr. Sarkisyan pointed to a four-foot chunk of plaster that had fallen from the ceiling, revealing the building’s waffle-like construction. The frame of the main window, he said, has ruptured under the weight of the glass, and could easily collapse, “which would be disastrous,” he said.

Richard Meier's First House: The Owner Writes

Amongst a busy week here at Tropolism, a reader, who happens to own Richard Meier's first building, writes us some notes on the structure:

My husband and I own Richard Meier's first house that he built in Lonelyville,Fire Island. It was named the Lambert house after Saul Lambert, an illustrator. The house was owned for 40 years by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. We were friends with them and knew the house well as our sons grew up with their son on Fire Island. The original design (1962) was a prefabricated two bedroom house built in two weeks by six workmen. There are pictures of the house and floor plans in Richard Meier's newest biography. The Brooks added a second floor and shingled siding and turned the house into a four bedroom structure.

As a friend said to me upon reading this: "I hate to speak ill of the dead, but Anne Bancroft can't have it both ways, a Richard Meier AND a shingle style...". This is the world we live in, people.

Would anyone care to send us pictures from said book?

Glass House Opening To The Public


The New York Times' article on the guy overseeing the preservation of Philip Johnson's estate in New Canaan notes that April 2007 is when several buildings on the estate will be open to the public. We regarded the Glass House as an inferior version of Mies' Farnsworth House, until we studied it closer during my design of the interior of the Urban Glass House (a project we lost). We can't wait to visit.

Visit the Glass House website to register for updates on visiting.

New Football Stadium In Arizona


It's been a little while since we had a stadium to write about. The New York Times obliges us by publishing an article by Nicolai Ourousoff about the Peter Eiesenman/HOK Sport creation for the Arizona Cardinals' new stadium, Glendale, Arizona. Or, as we put it when we first saw the image above, "Frank Gehry's worst building ever".

The one lovely thing about the project is something the author of the article notes: the way it contrasts with its location.

Oscar Niemeyer: Still Up To Bizarre Cool Stuff


A friend came back from Brazil yesterday with a story about meeting Oscar Niemeyer. She didn't speak much Spanish or Portuguese, so their conversation kind of stopped at him saying "yes, the space between buildings and the city are important." What amazed her the most is that he's still up to big, bizarre shapes, and he is 98 (born December 15, 1907).

Case in point, the folks at Daily Dose point us to a theater in Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo, Brazil, which opened last October, in a park Niemeyer designed in the early 1950s. There is a longer description of the project at ARCOweb, in Portuguese. There's a refreshing freedom and exhuberance to this building, not laden with OMA's weighty analyses or preoccupation with history or Gehry's fussyness. Just pure shape, hard and forever.

Picture above by digdoi on Flickr.

Richard Meier's First House

Yesterday's call for information on Richard Meier's first house (somewhere on Fire Island) registered several quick replies,.

First was the ever-vigilant-to-RSS-updates Greg Allen, who dutifully quoted interviews with Anne Bancroft stating that the house was located in Lonelyville.

Next came from friends who vacation in Lonelyville, where their family has owned a house for decades. They are architects and have the following notes:

I know the house well....its just up the walk (Plank Walk, in Lonelyvillle) from our house. Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft sold it a few years ago. It has been added to a couple times by others, and though we can point out the original lines of the Meier house, not much really remains to be photographed. It might make an interesting story, and of course a walk to Lonelyville is always nice, but the house will not stand out on remaining architectural merit.

The other friend says:

Not worth the (very long) walk, I would say. - we have some old family pictures on the beach with the house in the background (from the early 70's) It is unrecognizable now. There is a small picture of the house in the white RM monograph from the 80's. The original client was Phyllis Lambert.

Pictures, anyone?

Tate Modern Expands


Herzog & de Meuron have been selected to expand the very popular Tate Modern with what we like to think of as Tate2.

The image used by other websites to announce this project (the first image on the link above) looks undercooked and like a Liebeskind leftover. But the image we are posting today put us in an entirely different mind about the project. That it will be a crystalline, brutalist structure, worthy heir of the Crystal Chain (or Mies's early skyscrapers), iconic to the south (which is admittedly Tate Modern's least interesting side) yet a quiet background mountain from the Millenium Bridge approach from the north, over the Thames.

Also of interest is the planning for the project: an entirely new approach and entry sequence from the south; restructuring of a powerstation; the use of the expansion as a way to link the museum with the neighborhoods to the south; the new pedestrian links in a 'hood with some not-pedestrian-friendly roadways.

Also of interest is the rendering of the Philharmonic Hall project in Hamburg, scheduled for completion in 2009, which appeared in Tropolism in October of last year.

Frank Gehry Adds To West Chelsea Skins


We seem to remember telling you how much we love lists. Another addition to the List Of Interesting Curtain Wall Experiments In West Chelsea, Manhattan, New York City is the InterActiveCorp building Frank Gehry designed for Barry Diller's company, between 18th and 19th Streets on the West Side Highway.

The building continues Gehry's technical innovations in panelized buildings where each panel has a unique shape. However the building carries the innovation to a level that surpasses even the American Center in Paris, where each block of limestone carried a unique curvature, or to an extent the curved brick at Case Western. The IAC building's panels are curved glass curtain wall units; has he done this before?

Click Continue Reading for more observations and a picture show...

BLUE: So Totally Ouch


Our coverage of The Case Study In Average continues: BLUE has been photoblogged by Test Of Will. One word: ouch. Or thud, take your pick. Tropolism means taking your pick.

Curbed rounds out the morning by linking to the rest of the current talk.

Rural Studio Develops $20,000 House


Rural Studio is at it again. Journalist Oliver Schwaner-Albright tips us off to an article he wrote for the FT weekend edition. The studio is designing a prototype for a house that will be built for $20,000, including labor and materials, so that they can take advantage of a federal loan for the rural poor. The idea is to build decent housing that a person living on public assistance could actually own -- a $20,000 mortgage is met with $64 monthly payments. Brilliant.

Minneapolis Update: Guthrie Theater Is Opening


The LA Times offers up a optimistic view of Jean Nouvel's new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. During the last year Minneapolis' cultural scene has been reborn with a series of new buildings. First The Walker Art Center by Herzog & de Meuron, next a new Public library by Ceasar Pelli, and most recently the Guthrie Theater. Among the new group of Buildings the Guthrie is the brooding teenager of the bunch.

On a recent trip to Minneapolis I took some time to see the building. From afar the building is a bit surreal, a dark blue silhouette with yellow LED smoke stacks, against the gray and brown aging flour mills. It is appears as a placeholder, or maybe a void; the place where a building will be. On closer inspection the building unfolds some depth. The panels reflect sharp lines of light, and troughs of shadow as the building steps back in blocky towers. As you move around the building another layer or images etched into the metal panels reveal itself. Appearing when the light is just right. It's neighbor's the surrounding flour mills are even more stoic aside this buzzing chameleon of a building that has taken on their shape, and given it a totally different character.

The Guthrie will open to the public this Sunday.

Contributed by Colin Peeples. More pictures after the jump.

BLUE: Not Really Last Anymore


It's been a frightfully long time since we here at Tropolismo! have looked at The Two Dozen List. The same List that put BLUE, Bernard Tschumi's, er, blue curtain wall building on the Lower East Side, dead last. Even below Sculpture for Living and whatever Lindy Roy was working on. That's really last.

However, we are always willing to change our minds, and be pleasantly suprised. In this case, Curbed's fascination with floorplan porn tipped us to some interior renderings of the pixellated space. And behold, what do we see? A generic apartment with so many windows there's no place to hang any art. And an annoying slanted wall. While it's not really exciting, it's not quite as crap-ass as place #24 would seem to suggest, given that the two previous mentions are on that list. So, we're moving BLUE up, to place #20. Gwathmey gets pushed to #23, Lindy #24.

Look for a full Two-Dozen list update next week. In the meantime, send suggestions for additions (I already have a place for Herzog & De Meuron's project), and any construction photos you think would be helpful.

All The Right Moves At Lincoln Center


Tropolism readers might remember our less than enthusiastic reception to the facelift of Julliard school by Diller Scofidio+Renfro. Interesting, but kind of whacked off the face of our third favorite building in New York.

The firm seems to have chilled out a bit, probably after having to face the realities of a stodgy donor pool, as today's New York Times article about the Lincoln Center Promenade Project seems to suggest. What's beautiful about their tenacity, of course, is that it seems to be directed at the crapass bombastic parts of Lincoln Center (such as the Jersey barriers at the top of the travertine stairs after 11 lanes of traffic), and not the bling-bling bombastic parts (the crazy fountain). They've set out preserving the character of Lincoln Center, without being afraid to alter it. Does this mean they won't whack off part of Julliard now?

Tropolism Exhibitions: Alvaro Siza At SMMOA


Alvaro Siza, “Drawings, Models, and Photographs”

Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, California

May 13th-August 19th, 2006

The big problem with Los Angeles for most of us “culture vultures” is the distance: We can’t seem to bridge it. Many of the critics I know are ensconced in their own individual locales and are unable to figure out exactly what’s going on at any one point in time in the City. Despite my reputation for being an “East-side snob” I do venture to the Westside when events warrant and was thus drawn to Bergamot Station (Imagine a two star version of Chelsea with a parking lot) last weekend to catch the visual delights of Alvaro Siza at the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Click Continue Reading for the full review

Zaha/Diva: Reprise


Our Zaha/Diva entry got several replies. Most of them were speculation, or unsupported hearsay, so we decline to publish those comments. However, we do point out an anecdote that we suppose someone else saw at the press conference prior to the press preview of the Guggenheim show.



Does Zaha Hadid ever get tired of being called a Diva? As in "just because I'm a famous female architect and I'm plus sized and I'm a little older than the rest doesn't automatically make me a diva"? Just curious.

Tokyo Meets Berlin


We all know that Toyo Ito designed an installation for Mies Van Der Rohe's Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, for their upcoming Berlin-Tokyo/Tokyo-Berlin show. Right? Keep up speedy: We Make Money Not Art has a Flickr pool showing the installation in progress. Tropolism will bring you more as it develops.

Tropolism Films: Sketches of Frank Gehry


Los Angeles Correspondant John Southern reports on the LA premiere of "Sketches of Frank Gehry".

There comes a time in an architect’s career when self-preservation (in an archival sense) begins to seep into the sub-conscious like water under a dam. Building great works of architecture can only provide one with the fleeting feelings of monumentality in as long as they are left standing. Film, however, is easily reproducible and thus may well exist for eternity. All you need to complete the equation is a friend with a movie camera and a penchant for probing questions and its “Lights! Camera! Action!”.

The last phrase invariably came to mind on Monday evening when I attended the LA Premiere of “Sketches of Frank Gehry” directed by his good friend, Sydney Pollack. The film was shown at an event entitled “Reel Talk” hosted by Vanity Fair and Tiffany’s at the Directors Guild Of America building- a piece of architecture so banal that it almost does injustice to the artists it seeks to unite.

Click Continue Reading for more screening shots and review...

The Unlivable Complaint


Tropolism means calling bullshit. Usually it's architects. They talk a lot. Present company included. But today we call client bullshit. Sunday, The New York Times published its magazine issue entirely devoted to architecture. If there was ever a time to cancel your subscription, it would be the unbearably gotcha! reporting in this article by Michael Kimmelman. My favorite complaining-person quote:

"We wanted prefab, and instead we got a creative architect's iteration of prefab. It's not Green. It's not solar. It was twice over budget and construction was a nightmare and it's still not finished."

First of all, what were you, the client, doing during the year or two you spent developing this project with Steven Holl? Did you ask him for a prefab house? Did you mention to him that his design wasn't a prefab house? Did you notice that none of his other houses, or anything he's ever done, has been prefab? Did you ask for solar? Why did you approve the construction contract if the project was over budget? Did you approve the design and construction details, or was it sneaked by you over the one to two year period that the house was under construction? The client's hedge about getting a work of art may be so, but it stretches the bounds of credulity to blame the designer for not delivering a built house that you don't like.

Joshua Prince-Ramus Leaving OMA


We are admitted fans of Joshua Prince-Ramus. So it is with interest that we read about his taking the entire New York City OMA office and turning it, shazaam!, into Ramus Ella Architects, or REX. (Architects' current naming philosophy: when in doubt, create a new acronym?)

The New York Times does an even more half-assed job in reporting than usual. The glow of being admitted into Rem Koolhaas' presence is all over the article, making it painfully obvious it is all orchestrated. Robin Pogrebin asks us the tough questions ("Can such partings be entirely amicable? Can a protégé ever really leave with his mentor's blessing? How do a senior and junior architect manage the division of clients?") but don't go looking to the article for answers from OMA/REX. The big unanswered question: why isn't OMA suing the living daylights out of REX for taking their clients?

See Greg.org for more on this.

Talking About Gehry's Brooklyn


While we were skeptical at first about the proposed Ratner Development in Brooklyn, designed by Frank Gehry (the initial models were just not helpful), the second round of images is much more interesting to us. The buildings are huge, but have interesting skins and massing. The streetscape is developed, and super-retail'd, but could work. The view down Flatbush Avenue is striking, but hardly out of character. If one must develop lots of blocks at the same time in an American city, this is a solution that holds promise. Of course, there are a hundred questions to be answered (is the brick going to be as dull as Battery Park City's over-bricked guidelines?), but at least it's a place to begin. Just to be clear, we see "Develop, Don't Destroy" as reactionary thinking, not a place to begin

Do You Want Some Coffee?, center of all architecture lectures everywhere, posts about tomorrow's discussion called "Garden, Don't Destroy Brooklyn" [editor's note: whatev], 9am—6pm, at 205 Berkeley Place (Between 7th and 8th Avenue, Park Slope). We also point you to Curbed's non-stop coverage of this development.

Los Angeles Downtown: Coop Himmelblau On Grand Avenue


More on Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. Coop himmel-blau had an article in the sunday LA Times about their school for the arts that is starting construction, across the 101 freeway, but still on Grand ave. The New school is directly across from the Moneo Cathedral, creating architectural bookends, or a gateway at the 101. The image is pretty great, a little surreal, completely Los Angeles. The article also goes on to say that the school may go under a bit of value engineering in an attempt to cut back some of the bulging budget. This might actually have a positive effect on the building which is pretty wild. Excerpts of the article can be found at DesignShare

Another fabulous rendering of the crash landing after the jump. So LA.

Contributed by Colin Peeples.

Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006


Jane Jacobs died this morning in Toronto.

Tropolism has mentioned her only once, but in one of our favorite entries. So much has been written about her, it seemed hardly necessary to mention her hovering over everything we do. Yet it goes without saying that a movement like Tropolismo would not have been possible without her brilliant contribution of intellectualism and urban activism. She not only changed the course of New York City's development, she inspired us to love urban life.

Movie Stars: The Last Environmentalists


While not really a Tropolism story per se, we are intrigued to pick up the new issue of Vanity Fair, featuring celebrities who are active on environment issues. We're hopeful that there will be some celebrities talking about good development.

OMA At Serpentine Gallery


Given my time at Columbia University's graduate school in the middle 1990s, when buildings rendered as clouds were de rigueur, I tend to skip over news that OMAKoolhaas designed a bubble for the 2006 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. I skipped over Diller+Scofidio's cloud building, too.

However, the folks over at We Make Money Not Art have provided some very interesting precedents for this project, and it makes me think that a floating bubble in a London park would be rather wonderful.

High Line Groundbreaking


We attended the High Line groundbreaking today. Unfortunately for our readers, our invitation was only for the proletariat groundbreaking on the ground. The real groundbreaking, with Senators and our Mayor, you'll have to read about at Curbed.

After the jump, check out the junior high band, the tent with food, the muddy hay everywhere (totally not getting that part) and the green hard hats of people who were, you know, actually on the High Line. Special add-on bonus picture of the new Gehry building.

Shakespeare Brings Out The Stars


Leave it to the ever-brilliant Choire Sicha to collapse Tropolism's categories in a single article. New York, Celebutantes, Public Effect, Theaters, and Writing Architecture. All we need is a location: Governor's Island. Mr. Sicha does a fascinating comparison of the roles celebrities (real celebrities, not architect celebrities) are playing in cutting-edge public space projects (High Line and Globe Theater on Governor's Island) in New York City. In an era when singularities like Robert Moses are long gone, and the Governor of the State or the Mayor of the City cannot get a single building built at Ground Zero, we appear to be left with one political/architectural force: movie stars!

Tropolism Buildings: The De Young Museum of Art


The new de Young Museum of Art in San Francisco by Herzog and De Meuron is an experience of unfolding, revealing a range of unexpected and captivating spaces. The building cannot be understood by a single vantage point, but rather reveals itself as one moves through it. From a distance the de Young appears uniform wrapped in a continuous copper skin. The skin is punctured in an inconsistent texture, giving a clue to the complexity which lies within.


Read more, and see more, by clicking Continue Reading...

Hills And Housing


Land+Living points us to the folks at MVRDV, who have created a massive housing complex for Liuzhou, China. It's gorgeous, in the way Le Corbusier's urban plan for Algiers was gorgeous: it is sublime. On the scale of an ocean, or a mountain. Like the ocean, or a mountain, there is no sign of real urban life, like commerce, or messy transportaiton. Just lots of houses. How it differs: it's scheduled for completion in 2007.



Our friends at LVHRD are hosting Architect Duel II. This time around it is Arquitectonica versus Grzywinski Pons Architects. While our experience shows us that sometimes inspired moments in architectural design come late in the design process, after months or years of thinking and sketching, we're delighted to see two architects design head-to-head in a public forum, opening up the process to the public and demystifying what it is that architects are actually trained to do. Let the games begin.

The A to Z of Critical Regionalism

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While we've always thought that "Critical Regionalism" was a construct of architectural historians (ever since I was in one of Ken Frampton's first classes on the topic in the mid-1990s), and not of much use to architects, we are thrilled to see the imagination at work on a series called The A to Z of Critical Regionalism over at architechnophilia. A is for Aalto, of course. But the real goods start flowing in with C (Correa), who we always need reminding of, and J (Jarmund / Vigsnaes Architects), pictured above, who we'd never heard of. But we're glad to know of them, even if it needed to be spelled out for us.

Madison Square Garden: Episode VI


Sorry, we skipped an episode of the Madison Square Garden Relocation series. We left you at Episode IV. For those of you that missed it, Episode V included a memorandum of understanding being signed by Cablevision (owner of MSG), and Vornado and Related, all but sealing the deal to move the Garden to be part of the former Post Office but soon-to-be 21st Century rail hub. The lights dimmed as everyone cackled.

This week's installment includes a heady dénoument: the memorandum was NONBINDING. And so there are now two to five celebrity architects involved, two real estate companies, one stadium-owning company, and probably about a dozen state and federal government agencys who will duke it out to see what gets built and who will design it.

Tipped off by the even more annoyed Curbed. One thing we aren't annoyed about: even though we still aren't convinced of the MSG as part of the rail station idea (does anyone else have a big HUH? around this), we would love to see them tear down the existing MSG. We've totally gotten thrilled about that part.

SANAA's Glass Pavilion For The Toledo Art Muesum


Way back in 1990, when I was an undergraduate at Washington University, trips home to Lima, Ohio were an architectural drag, from the point of view that there was little but amazing barns to look at. No modern architecture at all, and only a tiny bit of suburban detritus to study. I love barns, but there weren't that many of them.

However, two buildings within a couple hours' drive popped up. Contemporary buildings by famous architects whose work I was studying. First, The Wexner Center. Yes, the building isn't a great art space, or even a great critique of art space, and it certainly has enough pastiche and bad detailing and bad circulation for an entire oeuvre complete. But it rocked my college brain having such a wildly absurd failure in gray Christmas-break-time winter Ohio.

Second was Gehry's addition to the Toledo Art Museum, something between his later Bilbao-esque buildings with lead coated copper scales and his earlier 80s pomo-volumes-fracturing thing. Again, not so great building, but interesting having work by an architect I otherwise admire close by. It kind of fit Ohio to have average works by famous architects sitting semi-ignored in the middle of such a diffuse population.

SANAA is about to change that. The construction photos of their glass pavilion for the Toledo Art Museum, as well as the mockup (pictured above) of the curved glass walls show a building that is both quiet and revolutionary. In Ohio. I get it.

Kengo Kuma's Bamboo House


We love bamboo. We love Kengo Kuma's work. So loving Kengo Kuma's Great (Bamboo) Wall House is a no-brainer. We'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Via Inhabitat, which posts about the bamboo-house initiative, as well as some more luscious Kengo Kuma House pictures.

Tropolism To Zaha: Totally Not Feeling It, Sevilla Edition


This weekend Zaha Hadid was announced as the winner of a competition for the new library at Universidad de Sevilla. After losing the gold lego competition and yet another Opera House, I'm sure they are jumping with joy at her office. However, we see this project as the worst of the three. Like the Wolfsburg Science Center, yet with Leibeskindesque stripey things all over the facade. Please, bring back the legos!

We only mention this because we love the headline of this Spanish news account: El formalismo de Zaha Hadid gana el concurso del Prado.

Tipped off by Archinect.

Omotesando Hills: Opening Reports


Omotesando Hills, the Tadao Ando-designed shopping mall/old folks home complex, opened this week. Two reviews have popped up that are of interest. The first, from the New York Times', er, shopping critic, seems to think it's a quiet respite from the loud and flashy stuff that happens on Omotesando Avenue. We think that's a bit generous, but granted, we only saw it under construction.

The second is by our favorite not-Japanese-but-in-Japan blogger Jean Snow, contributing to Gridskipper as well as his own site. Jean doesn't have many good things to say about it, but he seems to be more unimpressed than anything else. His great Flickr set says a lot.

From both accounts it's clear that the building is a mall with a bunch of mall shops you will find anywhere. The part not being talked about is the rooftop garden (which is not accessable by the public), and the back side (pictured above), where the old folks live, bordering the quieter (and much cooler) hood behind Omotesando Avenue.

OMA OMG: Kentucky Edition


The Office for Metropolitan Architecture is coming full circle with its Museum Plaza skyscraper in Louisville, Kentucky. You can read the local news report, some fascinating OMA archive recycleing analysis, and a link to some great process models and a video.

As usual for OMA, the building is a brilliant organization of a complex program, which ends up as an unorthodox form. Yet there's what appears to be a huge plinth/plaza in the project, and it isn't clear what the edges are like. Has OMA a brilliant solution to the plinth, too? The one part of the video that gives us a little urban chill is the one that says "Connect To Context", and a couple of stair towers appear. Uh, we tried that in the 60s and it didn't work: elevated plazas not continuous with the street level get no foot traffic. Perhaps the reality of OMA's plinth just doesn't show up on the video. We'll be looking for more.

ICA Boston Coming Right Along, Thank You


One of Diller Scofidio + Renfro's renderings is taking shape in the northern burgh called Boston. The new ICA building is on the Boston Harbor waterfront and scheduled to open in September 2006. Bonus: the cantelever looks exactly the way it was rendered. Gorgeous.

Progress photographs of the structure's assembly are worth the trip to ICA's website.

Tropolism Trends: Fashion Designers Replace Interior Designers


Joining the ranks of the interior-designer-branded residences in New York--Phillipe Starck-designed apartments in Lower Manhattan, and the Peter Marino's "prêt-à-porter" residences uptown (that should totally be "prêt-à-habiter")--are fashion-designer-branded residences. While we agree with the comments warning that this is the same-old same-old dressed up after the fact, the two photographs accompanying the online article indicate some lovely touches that run a little deeper than picking paint colors. They suggest that the possibilities of this kind of collaboration remain uncharted.

Also, we couldn't agree more with broker Michael Schvo's assertion:

"There is no reason," Mr. Shvo said, "that in our industry today we not look as good as a Prada ad."

If by "we" we include "architects". Architecture could use a little more looking-good, a good branding and marketing campaign, something popular yet glamorous, to sell good architecture to a wider audience.

However, we also share the skepticism. What did the fashion designers really contribute to these projects? How can their expertise extend farther than patterns, fabrics, colors, and a general mood? Perhaps, as in the case of Armani Casa, it is more interesting to have the fashion-experienced architects involved than the fashion designer employing them.

Toyo Ito's Structural Awesomeness


The good folks at Architechnophilia have reported on yet another Zaha Hadid design that did not win a high profile international competition. Until she does another gold-brick-lego building, we're over reporting that stuff.

Of interest to us was the actual winner of the competition: Toyo Ito. Ever since his Mediatheque building in Sendai, with its airy structural tube framework, we've been thinking about how to hold up our own structures in more innovative ways. His office cranked out yet another design, this time for the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House. We're not sure what all the blobby forms do, because the house translator is still on vacation. However, it looks like another fantastic, yet buildable, structure.

Ken Smith: Master


Our friends at Archinect report that Ken Smith has been awarded the title (prize?) of Master Designer of the Orange County Great Park. His takeover of Manhattan, now complete, he has skipped to the other coast to begin a bi-coastal strategy of national takeover. Next stop: the Heartland!

Of interest is the two-part PDF of his team's entry. It is densely packed with great information, and represents how his quirky imagination is supported by a deep respect for great public space in America. It's worth a read.

SANAA Scores


Mr. Ourousoff's review of the design for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, by SANAA, appears today in the New York Times. Unlike his previous love letters (to Zaha, for example), he is back to his articulate and fact-supporting self, without giving up his enthusiasm for the possibility the building presents.

When I was directing the competition for Eyebeam for my former office, we discussed at length how a building can be a laboratory for art, something that creates, educates, and exhibits artwork, reflecting the volatile world of contemporary art (and in Eyebeam's case, 'new media art'). Buildings like PS1 were a great inspiration: build a structure that is not sacred. I share Mr. Ourousoff's enthusiasm for this building, and the future it can live up to.

The Word On Rem In Dallas


Tropolism means no gossip. Speculation and behind-the-scenes opinions, however, are very welcome. Which is why we enjoy reading Do You Want Some Coffee?: they stay full of wonder while balancing academic conversation, critical conversation, conversations about the personalities in the world of the celebutantes, and, best illuminated by this piece on Rem Koolhaas's presentation for a theater in Dallas, conversations about brilliant moments of architects speaking.

Rural Studio Driving Tour


The New York Times produces an exceptionally useful piece related to works of architecture by calling the Travel section. They tour the work of Rural Studio, Sam Mockbee's legacy in western Alabama, and its ongoing work. Of most interest, besides the helpful who-to-talk-to and where-to-stay, is the fact that Rural Studio has expanded into public work. Growing up in rural Ohio, I would have given my eyeteeth to work with something like Rural. Now, I can simply visit a different state.

The Holiday Pit


Tropolism will be posting here and there for the next few days. We are travelling. Some of the places have no WiFi, and some have something called "dial-up", which we've totally never heard of. First stop: Dulles airport, where, at 7.30am yesterday morning, I was greeted with this lovely vision: a pit full of structure, digging around Saarinen's useless main terminal. My favorite part: the scaffold-like columns holding up the little building in the foreground. Tableaus like this remind us that Tropolism means we can do anything, if we put our minds to it. And, that architecture can come first, and we can figure out how to use it later.

More Diagonal Living

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The only thing we dislike more than errors and ommisions (because we have E&O insurance, yo) is getting late information. And here we are. A diligent reader sends us news of another project in diagonal living that might possibly qualify as the inspiration for Foster's Hearst Tower: the IBM Building in Pittsburgh, PA, by Curtis and Davis. We'll save the voting for another time.

HdM Kicks for Goal: Update


Waaaay before we launched we were fascinated by this underpublished soccer stadium by Herzog & de Meuron. The good folks at Interactive Architecture and Information Aesthetics (those are two different websites) have posted pictures of the new stadium in action. All we can say is SCORE.

SANAA Interviewed


DesignBoom has published an interview with Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishiwaza, the principals of SANAA (who win the award for best architect's website). My favorite part of the interview:

what are you afraid regarding the future?

s: I am always afraid of the future but at the same time I’m looking forward to it. we want to be able to contribute to it.

Via Jean Snow.

Greg Brings It To Zaha For Ernesto


I've been waiting for someone to mention this. Greg Allen has some words for Zaha getting inspired by Ernesto Neto.

Push-Button Architecture


Speaking of "let's start a prefabricated housing company now!", Adam Kalkin is back. He's still got his pervy edge, this time with his how-the-hell-did-he-fund-this (i know the answer to this question, otherwise i wouldn't ask it) prefabricated house company. Okay, I've made fun of his company. The Push-Button House is beautiful. Useless and marketed only to the super-rich collector of architecture, but beautiful.

Inspiration 102: Not About Being Humble


This conversation, between Renzo Piano and Richard Meier, on the occasion of the opening of Mr. Piano's extension to the High Museum in Atlanta, seems to make our point nicely regarding the Inspiration Meme:

It's not about humble, it's not about modest. It's about being grounded - and maybe even stealing. You'd be surprised how many times we'd be looking at this building and stealing from it. The fact that art is robbery is well known - robbery without masks. In some ways that's good. It's robbery where you give back, like Robin Hood.

Norman Jaffe: Romantic Modernist


I generally don't announce book parties, but this one deserves mentioning. First, because it comes from R20th Century [warning: annoying browser resize approaching], which has had a string of exhibitions over the last five years looking at under-appreciated modern architects like Verner Panton (just as he was getting re-popular), Sérgio Rodrigues, and Charles Hollis Jones.

The second reason I mention it is because this one is about Norman Jaffe who is one of the singular modernist voices defining Hamptons luxury in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Forget about the Bunshaft House...it's gone. It's time to pay attention to this guy's work, and keep the good ones around. See you there.

(bonus picture after the jump)

The Two-Dozen, Updates and Addition!

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The Two Dozen List is always in motion. Condos rise, and condos fall. Seasons Change. Everything changes. Like the city. End of Metaphor. Readers have added, addled, and actively pursued some additions, revisions, and updates, and the List has sharpened. Read the updated list, with an addition, after the jump...

The Increasingly Complete Two-Dozen List


Somewhere at a previous writing job, I mentioned the possibility of compiling a list of about two dozen celebrity-architect-designed luxury condominium buildings in New York, all between 20 and 40something units. It's a moment, with many similarities to when Mies was hired by Herbert Greenwald to develop then-unknown modernist glass boxes for Chicago's booming housing market. Like that moment, there is money, and therefore appetite, for experimentation and star branding.

My invitation to you, dear reader, is to point me in the direction of something missing. FYI, there are a few that I know about it, but I cannot talk about it. Non disclosures, yo.

The incomplete list after the jump.

Meier 3: A Culture of Threes


Living near the third Richard Meier apartment building on the West Side Highway, at Charles Street, affords the unique opportunity to take in the previous day's construction work while eating breakfast. The building differs from its older twin siblings in significant ways, particularly its shape (an almost perfect extrusion of the lot it is on), and the fact that the back is as gorgeous as the front. Meier has pulled back on the clip-on accessories he put on the first two towers, and has instead focused attention on the triple-glazed curtain wall.

The mix of pure building volume with attention on the connection details defines, in my mind, classic modern elegance. It is satisfying to see another architect do this with the latest building technologies, and not treat this technique as something reserved for historical Modernism and Mies van der Rohe's oevre complete.

On that list of two dozen celebrity-designed development buildings built between 2000 and 2006 I keep proposing, I venture to guess that Meier tower #3 is going to be at the top.

Sculpture for Intimacy


I don't like the Sculpture for Living. But please, don't take my word for it. Our friend and reader Renee Turman, Interior Designer, comments on the latest advertisement for Sculpture for Living, showing a rendering of unit 16A, after the jump:

Who I Want To Really Be

Just for the record, I do not want to be Brad Pitt. But only good things can come when celebrities try on the profession of architecture (Tropolism means saying things like that with a straight face, so you can get to the pithy punch line) because there will be less whining about how difficult it is to get something done.

Brad Pitt Does Vegas, Sequel #3

Our friends over at The Gutter point us to the Post's Page Six: Brad Pitt has skipped the designer stint and gone straight to developer! Ocean's Thirteen is not an auspicious name for a casino, but who's counting?

Please note your reaction to the above statement about BP's skipping the designer stuff and becoming a developer. Look at it for a while. Breathe Deep. Great. Now, consider that I don't mean that as a perjorative. In fact, I am excited by the fact that someone who has an interest in architecture, and film, would do what most of us architects should do: become the people who cause buildings to appear because they paid for it.

After all, some of my best friends are developers.

Joshua Prince-Ramus


Yet another good-force reminder from someone who wants to change the world:

"Architecture is not created by individuals. The genius sketch . . . is a myth. Architecture is made by a team of committed people who work together, and in fact, success usually has more to do with dumb determination than with genius."

I prefer to think that dumb determination is genius, after our friend and ghost Thomas Edison.

(I found the link from our friends at Ye Olden Guttere)

Dead Architects Never Die


Like the good-force protagonists in Star Wars (you KNOW this is going to be a great post), good architects never die: their building designs just keep getting built. Their glowing ghosts hang out, literally, over everything we in the business do. Shakespeare taught us that patricide is never rewarded, because the ghost creeps around your studio until you fess up to everyone for what you did.

Philip Johnson's building going up (probably). Enric Miralles's market is nearing completion (of course, his wife is a designer too, so this one is perhaps a bit unfair). And, of course, Le Corb has a building nearing completion. At this rate, we in the world of design and publications can just relax and stick to the greats of the last fifty years. New talent will show up later, after it's dead.

Criticism of Criticism of OMA's Concert Hall in Porto

oportokoolhaas 087b.jpg

The LA Times' new critic, Christopher Hawthorne, reviews OMA's just-opened Concert Hall in Porto.

Mr. Hawthorne states

"Still, had Koolhaas managed to pull it off � had he created a box of space that looked flat and cool but sounded rich and detailed � we would simply have had to acknowledge and admire the feat."

in the second-to-last paragraph. Strange, because the paragraph before, he compares Koolhaas' approach to that of Gehry, who designed a hall that is "manages to be architecturally adventurous, acoustically impressive and humanely welcoming all at once." The logic of the argument is vague. So Koolhaas didn't do what Gehry did, and if he'd pulled off what he DID set out to do, it would have been great. Of course, he has no measures for success for Koolhaas' approach, in addition to not supporting the claim that the Porto hall did not meet these non-measures. It's unclear whether the critic even attended a performance in the space. For all we know, the sound is completely rich and seductive, and the tension between such a banal form and a rich sound is huge.

HdM Kicks for Goal


The Allianz Arena, a new football stadium in Munich, is almost complete.

The main site is here, and the gallery of construction is here. My favorite is picture #7, shown above.

The best part: it reminds me of the triangulated geometry in Gunther Behnisch & Frei Otto's 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium. There's nothing worse than a city that abandons a bizarre architectural trope for something really average and overdone. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron's new stadium has all the tensegrity without all the yucky cables, all the lightness without the heaviness-that's-trying-to-look-light. It has a scalelessness about it, like a pillow, or a big soccer ball, that heightens the surreal effect of the light-projections and patterns.

And all we get is the hyper-average corpora-tectural West Side Stadium, like it was straight out of an Ellerbe Beckett rendering from 1993.

Hearst Tower Revives Interest In Diagonal Living

The Hearst Tower, Norman Foster's only building in Manhattan, is getting its curtain wall. (I'm not counting the fabulous Asprey store, gorgeous but interior). What struck me on the afternoon I took this was how the glass origami crystal candy building appeared like a fantastically alien construction, contrasting brutally with the brown brickness all around it.

The surrounding buildings is a little architectural history microcosm of New York. Below, 19th century brick. It is nice. Therefore, goes 'contextual' architectural thinking, Brick equals Nice. Fast forward through the period of real modernism, of which only a few buildings made it into New York anyway. To the west, late 1960s brick, where one attempts to create a Seagram Building, only...Brick! They demolished the nearby CCC, another white-brick modernist compromise, so we know how that is going to end. To the north, 1980s Multi-Brick, also known as Po-Mo Brick, where one attempts to create a 19th Century Brick building, only using brick (or in this case, metal panels, same diff, yo) in a lot of non-brick like colors and patterns, thus creating a recognizable extension of context for the building, only...it's completely flat, like a billboard. It's like irony, without the irony.