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.

Tribeca: Contextual Architecture Hell


As regular readers of Tropolism know, we have a low regard for contextualistical architecture regulations, public design review boards, and unnecessarily stringent historic preservation guidelines. We're champions of good architecture; sometimes it "fits in", sometimes it doesn't. Mostly it doesn't. And that's what makes New York so wonderful. Can anyone imagine the High Line design if it had to be "contextual"? Ouch.

So it with a happy heart that we read a letter by Carole Ashle to the Tribeca Trib expressing similar views. On the subject of the North Moore Hotel, contextual-styled par excellance:

"Most of these creations stand out as clumsy interlopers because their concept is a fakery, and has nothing to do with architecture as an art. Nothing to do with function, either. The North Moore hotel evokes anything but Tribeca, parts of an Edward Luytens’ country house perhaps, minus the quality. A contemporary building on Hudson Street near Franklin fits better with the surrounding buildings. The “contextual” has been discredited in other countries such as Britain where it’s now rightly seen as a disaster for architecture.

We can vouch for the building she refers to on Hudson Street: it's all glass, yet somehow manages to turn the entire block of staid brick warehouses into a setting for its elegant, delicately patterened facade. Sometimes it fits in by doing not-fitting-in at the appropriate scale.

Via Curbed. Photo by Will Femia.

On Smithson's Hotel Palenque


Greg Allen posts a gorgeous piece about Robert Smithson's lecture/slideshow/fictional narrative Hotel Palenque. He includes a link to a filmed recording of the 1972 event at the University of Utah, and impressions of what it is to see this piece through the lens of a filmmaker.

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.

Scion Competition: Beware


Somewhere along the way, we mentioned this: Tropolism means calling bullshit.

For a grand prize of $5,000, and the opportunity to have your design built, the Scion car company will gladly accept your pro-bono design ideas for their next generation of showroom. It's one thing to hold a competition for something that will improve public urban life, like the High Line: some find even this give-away of architectural design services to be repulsive, some see it as a great way to contribute to the common good. On this point we are agnostic. However, we find it completely outrageous to hold an open design competition and to have three prizes totalling $6,500 for an international car company's private showroom. In fact, we think it's so brazenly unprofessional that we're requesting y'alls spread the word and stay away. And spread the word to stay away.

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.

Panoramic Map of Manhattan


You may have noticed that we at Tropolism love maps. And lists. And maps.

Curbedhart points us to a unique addition to our maps of Manhattan, a circa 1940 panoramic, posted by eightface.

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.

High Waters In New York (And Elsewhere)


There are recent articles in several places about global warming (like last week's survey in The Economist) and all of them vaguely refer to the fact that a rise is ocean levels would be devastating to urban areas near water, like New York or London. Future Feeder points us to a great Google Maps mashup that describes, exactly, what your neck of the woods would look like with a little rise in ocean levels. Great for disaster fanatics and long-term real estate investors.

Governor's Island: Back To Planning


Polis has the news on the development of Governor's Island: all the development plans have been trashed. They were awful anyway, but since no one ever goes to Governor's Island anyway, it didn't seem important to mention it (except tangentially). I bring it up now because Lisa has some particularly good insight into the process:

"...it’s actually a good thing that the bids were scrapped because they were all terrible and too expensive. The problem, much like the even more disastrous WTC site, is that a master plan was never completed before the bids were solicited, allowing developers, like the WTC site, to throw designs and ideas at the wall like spaghetti to see what sticks. Fortunately, in the case of Gov’s Island, nothing stuck, and now a master plan is actually going to be completed."