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.

Harajuku Update: Completely Freaky


Forget Apple's tired glass cube (leading to...basement!), we're interested in the completely freaky (and completely awful, but still) iceberg building in Harajuku. Glass shards abound. It's like the 1980s are here again. Jean Snow delivers.

"Throwing Good Money After Arad"


Greg Allen is on a roll this week. Commentary on the article about Michael Arad and the WTC Memorial fiasco, as appearing in something called "New York Magazine".

Our favorite line: "that Organ Grinder's Monkey For Freedom himself, Daniel Libeskind"

Harajuku Update


Nothing brightens our day more than knowing that Jean Snow, our favorite Tokyo blogger, has taken a jaunt around our favorite neighborhoods in one of our favorite cities, and taken a bunch of pictures of new buildings. That's a job we can respect. Stay tuned to his Flickr pool for more photos of his tour.

Pictured is the new "iceberg" building, of which we know zilch. Readers, do tell.

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 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.

Umschreibung At KPMG


In keeping with our theme of staircases this week, we thought we'd bring you one of the more beautiful stairs we've seen, ever. It's a sculpture/experience by Olafur Eliasson. We saw gorgeous digital prints of it in Tanya Bonakdar's private viewing room a couple of weeks ago. However, we weren't familiar with the actual object until today. It's a continuous loop of a are always moving on it, although sometimes up, sometimes down.

The stair is called Umschreibung (Rewriting), and was completed in 2004. It's in the courtyard of the global accounting firm KPMG in Munich. There are articles on it (all in German) at Arcguide and Artinfo24, with more pictures on Olafur's website.

WTC Survivor Stairway: Endangered?


Okay. Tropolism will not be all-WTC, all-the-time. But some interesting stuff has been happening lately. Today, we learn that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has put the "Survivors Stairway" on its list of most endangered historical places.

As Ground Zero gets caught up in the Mayor/Governors/Port Authority/Silverstein/Families cagefight, stuff is happening down there. Crews are working anyway. An artifact like this could easily be swept away; it would take a couple of guys, a Bobcat, a six pack, and one Sicilian pie to get the job done in an afternoon. And, if the stair is a historical place, it would be all too easy to have it taken away without some kind of consideration. We're happy to see the Trust step into this; we're not sure there is anyone else looking out for the artifacts.

Suspended Staircase


Tropolism means build beautiful details. In that vein, we were pleased to see this suspended wood staircase across a gorge in Traversinertobel, Switzerland. Engineer Jürg Conzett and his associate Rolf Bachofner solved the problem of connecting two different elevations over the gorge by creating a staircase. The staircase replaces a rope bridge for hikers that was wiped out by a rock slide.

Via We Make Money Not Art, where you'll also find links to construction photographs.

WTC Memorial Estimate: Fishy Business


The New York Times reports that the new estimate for the WTC Memorial is now nearly one billion dollars. What a big surprise! I'm sure some of the complaining architecture sites out there already are calling it an exposé and Phillip Noble has his next Metropolis complaint complete.

Aside from some obvious political bumbling by the Foundation's leaders (they got an estimate for $494 million at one point, and have only raised $130 million toward its construction), it appears that the governor and mayor are simply using the revised estimate as a way to get the project out of the Foundation's hands and into their own. In short, fishy business. The clue, buried on page 3:

The ensuing debate over costs and potential design changes may also raise once again the possibility that the Port Authority would take over construction of the memorial from the foundation. Last fall, both Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg seemed to endorse the idea. State officials in the last week have expressed a lack of confidence in the foundation’s ability to build the memorial complex.

Also of interest is the items included in this new estimate. $300 million for site preparation, $71 million for a chiller plant, and $25 million for insurance (why is an operating expense in here?). Essentially, Bovis Lend Lease added everything and the kitchen sink in an effort to create a headline of "OMG WTC MEM AT $1B" for the Post, probably at the wink-nod of the governor. But the items enumerated are arguably things the state should provide to the foundation: a buildable site, heating and cooling infrastructure, etc. It isn't a commercial tenant trying to develop valuable real estate in Lower Manhattan. It's a memorial, something that should be the focal point for our healing. Apparently it's also another field for playing power-ball.

Olafur Eliasson at Tanya Bonakdar

Your negotiable panorama 1.jpg

In case you missed last Friday's opening, Olafur Eliasson is the inaugural installation at Tanya Bonakdar's expanded gallery on 21st Street, Chelsea, Manhattan, New York. The show is stunning, even by OE standards. My favorite piece is the compass piece. To describe any more would kill it.

For some interesting observations on Olafur's work, and Olafur as an author, read Greg Allen's What He Really Wants To Do Is Not Direct.

Matthew Moore: Suburban Crop Developments


Stuff like this gets us up in the morning: Matthew Moore is a "visual artist" whose works include planting large fields of crops and then mutilating them to appear as if they are subdivisions. Just this side of "didn't the land artists do this already?" and so worth a look. My favorite is pictured: Rotations: Moore Estates Planned Area Development.