There is some good news coming out of Oklahoma City where the effort to save the late John Johansen‘s iconic 1970 Mummers Theater has taken a positive—if tentative step—towards preservation. AN last wrote about the theater on May, 11, 2012 when a recent flood in the building seemed to doom an effort by a local group to purchase the facility and turn it into a downtown children’s museum. We’ve kept up with the preservation effort periodically over the past year and always heard that its was a hopeless cause and would soon be destroyed and replaced by a new building. But the building which Johansen himself said “might be taken visually as utter chaos” has a compelling joy in its elevation and plan that makes it unique and certainly the most important structure in Oklahama City.
The architecture scene in Italy operates around groups and individuals tied to various cities and regions. In the late 1960s Florence was the liveliest and most compelling venue for architecture with groups like Superstudio, Archizoom, UFO all coalescing around the city’s university. But Venice, with its IAUV academy and stellar faculty that included Manfredo Tafuri and Aldo Rossi, was also a center until a few year ago. Milan too with its dynamic post war economy and lively design tradition was and is still a place for creation of new architectural ideas. Rome on the on the other hand, though it was the home of Bruno Zevi and Paolo Portoghesi and their lively publication programs, was never a place one thought of as central to the debate on the future of architecture.
The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design has announced that Australian Richard Weller has been appointed Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture. Penn Dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor believes that Weller is just the person to build on the department’s well known legacy of research and teaching since it was founded over 50 years ago by the legendary Ian McHarg. The department has been directed by Field Operation’s James Corner since 2000 who asserts that Weller is a “leading edge figure in our field.” Weller has been teaching at the University of Western Australia and was director of both the Australian Urban Design Research Centre and the design firm Room 4.1.3. His current research concerns ways of “conceptualizing, representing and designing cities a mega-regional scale.” In March of this year Weller will release his latest book, Made in Australia, that focuses on the long term future of cities.
Alex Moulton, 92, died on December 9th at his home in Bath, England. His New York Times obituary on December 20th didn’t mention that he designed an object loved by the entire architecture profession. Moulton an automotive engineer and entrepreneur designed, built, and manufactured the Moulton foldable, collapsable mini bicycle. The bicycle was made famous-at least to architect’s by Reyner Banham who commuted daily on his Moulton F-frame and famously used a photographed on his mini for his books dust jacket.
The outpouring of positive and thoughtful reflections by architects around the world to the passing of Lebbeus Woods on social networking sites has been gratifying to those who long recognized his importance to contemporary culture. We will have an obituary by Peter Cook in the next print edition of the paper but a Woods fan Carlos Brillembourg brought a fascinating talk between Raimund Abraham and Woods to our attention. In fact Woods’ Blog was one of the most compelling architecture sites on the web and if you have never read it do yourself a favor and spend a few hours reading his posts.
John Johansen, a creative force in New York City architecture for nearly 50 years years, died at his home in Wellflett, Mass on October 26. A member of Walter Gropius’ first class at Harvard starting in 1935 Johansen was a confirmed modernist but committed to a highly personal, idioysynctatic, and artistic version of the style.
He was also a member of the New Canaan Five (Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Landis Gores, and Elliot Noyes) and a celebrated designer during this period, but in recent years many of his best known designs like the Mechanics Theater in Baltimore and the Mummers Theater in Oaklahoma City have come under attack and are threatened with demolition.
This Syracuse mural project, S.Alt City, was sent to AN over the summer just as we were preparing our live coverage of the Venice Biennale and went unreported in the paper. But the mural by Cheng and Snyder Architects is a smart project that deserves more attention than it has received. The mural depicts a local waterside salt barge that alludes back to Syracuse’s industrial heritage but it also imbedded QR codes throughout the work. These QR codes are becoming more ubiquitous in the world of art making and were in fact used in the Russian pavilion at the recent Venice Biennale in a grandiose and very expensive installation in their pavilion.
This year is Open House New York‘s 10th anniversary year for tours of spaces that are private or off limits to the public. Every year some of the most popular tours are those of New York architects offices. This year is no exception and OHNY has opened up some very special work spaces: Linda Pollack and Sandro Marpillero’s spectacular live/work loft in Tribeca, Caples Jefferson architects, ARO’s downtown space and Paul Rudolph’s Modulightor office in Midtown. Visit the OHNY website for more information.
Space-starved New Yorkers—especially architects and designers—love to see how Gotham residents with a space surplus (which usually equates money) live in their brownstones, townhouses, and elegant apartments. This weekend, October 6 and 7, Open House New York will celebrate its 10th OHNY weekend and open some of the most interesting private residences in the city for limited public tours.
For example, OHNY will open up beautiful Midtown residences by Jayne Michaels and Ali Tayer and an elegant Brooklyn Heights home by Lea Ciavarra. Even two hip homes in Williamsburg by Aizaki Allie and Christopher Coleman will be on display. These tours are always very popular, but it’s necessary to reserve your spot before you arrive on their stoops and lobbies.
This weekend, October 6 and 7, Open House New York (OHNY) is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its popular weekend of tours, lectures, and open houses of many of the New York City’s most important buildings and spaces. In its ten years OHNY has hosted over two million guests and remains New York’s most important architectural outreach to the public. It will launch the weekend with a party at the Times Square Museum and Visitors Center and the city’s architecture community should be there to support the organization and its mission to serve as a bridge between great design and the public. The Architect’s Newspaper will be there with David Rockwell and we look forward to seeing you!
The 77-year-old Montreal architect and artist Mel Charney died on September 17th in his home. Trained at McGill University and Yale as an architect, he was better known as a sculptor, architectural thinker, and academic. Charney represented Canada at the Venice Biennale twice—once for art in 1986 and once for architecture in 2000, created large-scale installations in Montreal including A Chicago Construction (1982) and Skyscraper, Waterfall, Brooks—A Construction at Place Émilie-Gamelin. Finally, he famously designed a block-long montage of photographs of buildings along Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street that had been destroyed to make way for development, which in turn was also destroyed by the city. The next print edition of AN will feature a full obituary and appreciation of Charney by David Grahame Shane.