Public Effect

Nouvel Redefines Towers In NYC

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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."

Herbert Muschamp, 1947-2007

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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.

Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

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From Future Feeder:

0lll’s exhaustive photo diary of the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion 2007 by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorsen

Brilliant as ever.

Hudson Yards Draft Strategic Framework Plan

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Dear Diary,

Next time I do a master plan for anything, please be sure to run it by Lockhart Steele first. Just the other day, I was looking at Curbed, and I saw his brilliant, whithering criticism of the beyond-stupid Hudson Yards Draft Strategic Framework Plan. Of particular note: he noticed the glaring stupidity of the Plan's attempt to compare a development site with the size of the open spaces in New York, as if the entire site would be open space. What can we say, Lockhart is good.

He didn't mention one important point, but he's probably just leaving something for me to write about. That the Plan is obviously constructed so that one conclusion can be reached: building around the High Line is too expensive, and therefore it should be just knocked down. What architect can't see that this is the most interesting part of the High Line? FxFowle, we had so much faith in you up to now.

Abu Dhabi Update: Louvre Signs On

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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

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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

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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.

Graffiti Research Lab

dripsessions.jpgOne of the reasons we love Gordon Matta-Clark is that his presence in the art world is so unique. He did things to buildings that were disruptive, in a direct, physical way. He played with the very stability of structures, as well as the psychological stability of the interiors.

Graffiti Research Lab may seem more up Coolhunting's alley, but we were turned on when a fellow architect sent along the link to The Drip Sessions, which incorporates a lot of DIY technology, from paint bottles to high-power projectors, all in service of creating light graffiti on New York City buildings (pictured). This project is our favorite, because it is one of the most beautiful. It can be interpreted as an act of defacement, or enhancement, depending on your perspective. Perhaps the best part is that the video is like an instruction video. I want a drippy paint bottle too.

Some of the other projects are more guerilla, like the brilliant and politically charged Threat Advisory Tower. Although the guy leaning over the parapet freaked us out. Life/safety, yo, we have a license for a reason. We received a more unadultered thrill watching the Light Criticism project in action, when hoodie'd artists walk up to and tape up black masks over those stupid moving billboards that endlessly repeat the same ad for television shows, and in the process create a moving work of art.

Robert A.M. Stern Is Almost Alright

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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.

Clip/Stamp/Fold

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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.

Moynihan Station: Not Dead Yet

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Back when we last checked in on Moynihan Station, Madison Square Garden was all set to cross 8th Avenue and devour a second McKim, Mead, and White building. Then...silence. The proposal seemed dead as the previous governor wrapped up his administration.

An article in The New York Observer gives us an update on what's been happening since election day, when we got a new governor. The new governor is a bit more enthusiastic about these projects, and has appointed a head of the Empire State Development Corporation that is interested in not only developper good, but hey, the public good as well. At least his reaching-out has temporarily addressed concerns by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, one of the groups opposed to the developer plan B for Penn Station. The devil is always in the details, or in this case, the large, open, sunlight filled public rooms, and so we await developments with baited breath.

Cardboard Monday Part 2: Melbourne

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It's cardboard from the other side of the globe: the Australian design firm DireTribe constructed a full-size replica of a classic Parisian apartment in cardboard. Then, they let kids with crayons take over, imagining what it would be like to live on the other side of the globe. You can read more about the project on their website. Click on the cardboard chair, marked "Pen Plan Paris" when you mouse over it.

What we want to know is does anyone have crayons in São Paolo?

Stop The Presses: People Cooperating On WTC Buildings

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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".

Fulton Street Station: MTA Stops Making It Suck

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We'll admit: we've never mentioned the Fulton Street transit hub, connecting all of the subway lines that cross Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan because the project has been in MTA cost-cutting limbo ever since the day it was designed. We believed that the interesting building by Grimshaw would get cut and we'd end up with a grand concourse of dark underground tunnels.

Today's New York Times lets us know that the MTA board will go through with the project in its new revised form, even though they have to make up $41M from their own budget to build the project. The go ahead was given grudgingly, apparently. The Times has a preciously crusty quote from a board member against the overrun:

“We are not building cathedrals here,” said one board member, Nancy Shevell Blakeman.

Obviously, MTA isn't building cathedrals. Otherwise, all the transit infrastructure and stations built between 1920 and 1990 would be, you know, gorgeous. And, they wouldn't have let the original Pennsylvania Station be demolished. Shall we go on? Cost overruns are an issue, we agree. But don't sacrifice good public space to save a few bucks.

Bonus: the Times also posts the coolest walk-through diagram section we have ever seen. We suggest to the Times to try saving money on the architecture critics and giving David Dunlap and the renderers an expanded beat.

Tropolism Books: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

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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.

Skin + Bones: Fashion and Architecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

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Happy opening night crowds hovering around Greg Lynn’s bubble wall for the Slavin House.

When a colleague mentioned the title of the “Skin + Bones” exhibition to me a few months ago, I had to repress the impulse to vomit. It’s rare that I have such episodes without a heavy night of drinking, but the thought of pinning such an obvious title to such a tired topic evokes turmoil in even the most solid of stomachs.

Had I known that the exhibition would be so well produced, so perfectly in sync with the thesis of mixing fashion with architecture, I might have saved myself the gastronomic discontent. In fact, I think that even the most cynical of mind will find this show a delight to the eye, and a moderate mental work out to the mind. It’s certainly “theory-lite”, but it fulfills the need to simultaneously educate the public about something they tend to take for granted: Fashion + Architecture.

Click Continue Reading for the rest of the review.