Implant Matrix Installation

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Architects oftentimes have other outlets for their creativity. Some teach. Some do watercolor. Some write weblogs. Some make sculptures. This last category seems to have the most participants, to mixed results.

One of the more interesting of this lot is the installations of Philip Beesley and Will Elsworthy. While they have a full portfolio of completed and projected buildings, they also have a full portfolio of completed installation sculpture. Their latest is called Implant Matrix, an interactive sculptural installation currently on exhibition in Toronto until June 29. The piece is composed of "purpose programmed micro-controlled sensors and actuators that provide a mechanical response to user stimuli". It is organized as a large organic array shape memory alloy (aka muscle wire) driven pores open and close as people touch sensors that are suspended from the matrix. It looks like it's going to come alive and creep around the room. Which is why we're intrigued by it: it would make a lovely topiary for any environment.

Chelsea Arts Tower Gets Black Metal-like Skin

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Continuing Tropolism's theme of Towers in West Chelsea With Interesting Skin Systems, the Chelsea Arts Tower is finally getting its non-glass cladding: a gorgeous black panel system, with what appears to be a variation of gloss finishes, creating a subtle texture to the side of the building. While we were holding out for a brutalist all-concrete finish, we're happy to see something just as severe: Black Monolith. More pictures to come as work progresses.

Closeup pictures after the jump.

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the skin is plastic, is "metallic looking", and made by Trespa. Which product? Anyone who knows, just email us. West Chelsea: land of new cladding systems.

Minneapolis Update: Guthrie Theater Is Opening

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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.

MOMA NAMES BARRY BERGDOLL ARCHITECTURE CURATOR

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MoMA has named Barry Bergdoll the next Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design. Mr. Bergdoll will take his post January 1, 2007; until then, Paola Antonelli will continue as interim curator.

The speculation about who would succeed Terrence Riley had us preemptively dejected about this position. However, this choice puts us squarely in the "interested" column, because it brings some weight and academic rigor back into the crazy dialogue of New York's architecture world. We had Mr. Bergdoll as an instructor in Architectural History I about ten years ago. He was the only professor who wasn't from Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation: he was from the Art History department. As such, his historical constructions were based on things that actually happened, not current theoretical speculation. Yet his views were always refreshing, particularly when applied to subjects I was just being introduced to. We're happy to see him elevated to a prestigious position. We hope MoMA can handle it.

Alerted by The Architect's Newspaper.

WTC Memorial Design Revision: Cheapskates

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Construction Engineer Frank Sciame announced the value engineered World Trade Center Memorial today. It all sounds so reasonable: it's only $510 million! The sound of the waterfalls will totally make up for victim's names being next to the West Side Highway! The mayor and governor agree on it!

In its typical copy-paste-the-press-release fashion, the New York Times then casually mentions that $510 million doesn't include the $178 million in Port Authority site infrastructure that was taking the project over $1 billion in the first place. The project actually costs $700 million. And the waterfalls, from below, without their parapets, look like a visit to Sea World, minus aquatic life. All to save $300 million dollars (half of which was Port Authority infrastructure anyway). So the memorial was pared down by $162 million dollars. I know that's a lot of money, but it seems like peanuts given the project went from thrilling to tame.

Lame new renderings, side-by-side with interesting earlier renderings, are available at the LMDC website.

Moving Madison Square Garden

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While we still have concerns about how, exactly, a stadium is going to sit upon and be accessed through a former post office and future rail station, we were shocked to discover in today's Times that the current plan for Moynihan Station will only take care of 20% of the current riders flowing through Penn Station. The idea of accessing Moynihan Station through the center of the block current occupied by Madison Square Garden is also intriguing. But we're still left with the question: MSG killed one McKim, Mead, and White building; is it going to squish a second one?

New Orleans Masterplan: Erased, But Funded

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New Orleans must have 'New York disaster area political trainwreck' envy. In January, we noted, with enthusiasm, how progressive they were in New Orleans in generating a preliminary master plan for the entire city only four months after the hurricaine took out most of the city. Of course, there were some fluffy parts (like a light rail) but it was a beginning. It was sunk by a spineless mayor and locals who insist on reviving neighborhoods built on floodplains.

Since then, that mayor has been re-elected, and no one seems to know what is next. The federal government is set to begin sending rebuilding money to the City, except there is no Plan. In fact, if you read the New York Times' article on the subject, there is nothing but confusion. Mayor speaking off the cuff about planning issues, perhaps with an intention to let communities take the first step before painful choices are made. Who knows? What's certain is that if New Orleans had a plan, and the political support behind it, it could be making rebuilding progress right now.

BLUE: Not Really Last Anymore

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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.

Tropolism Exhibitions: New Blood In the Water

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Left to right: Throw a rock, hit an architect. Does anyone smell fire? The A+D's new home.

I’ve had the pleasure of surviving several parties associated with the recent AIA Convention here in Los Angeles last week, but none were so fascinating as the one held on Friday, June 9th in honor of the New Blood: Next Gen exhibition at the A+D (or Architecture + Design for those not in the know) Museum. I’d had a similar, far more intoxicated viewing of the show a week prior when it unveiled itself to L.A. The redux could not have been better.

For one thing the drinks at the bar were weak to the point of water (to keep those visiting architects from points afar under control no doubt), and to top that off, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was opening its David Hockney: Portraits show across the street. Perhaps it would have been fitting to have visited LACMA first and absorbed those famous works of celebs and lovers gone by. However, this was impossible. Due to lack of operating budget, or fear of being overrun by all of those rabid visiting architects, the museum closed early, ejecting everyone across Wilshire Blvd. and into the brightly illuminated A+D Museum.

Where they probably wished the drinks were stronger.

To read the rest of the review, click Continue Reading...

Pretty Pictures: Party Walls

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Pruned points us to the gorgeous party-wall photography of José Antonio Millán (pictured above, in Alicante).

Sciame: Engineer?

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As licensed professionals ourselves, we feel compelled to point out that despite what the Downtown Express may say, our fact-checker, who is in from his long coffee break this afternoon, looked up Frank Sciame on New York State's Online Verification of licensed professional, and there is no one with the last name "Sciame" licensed as an engineer in New York State. But perhaps the profession "construction engineer", as quoted from the above-referenced article, does not require a license for someone to legally practice it?

But then again, with no license, how does one get professional liability insurance?

Thanks to Curbed for pointing us to the error-ridden article.

All The Right Moves At Lincoln Center

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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?