In the Library: Setting the Scene with Theater Architecture and Set Design
National Gallery of Art
6th and Constitution Avenue, NW
Through October 2
Performance venues have constantly morphed with the times, from the amphitheaters of ancient times to the digitally enabled entertainment centers of today.
Bureau V’s experimental music venue with a high-tech vibe set to open in a former Williamsburg sawmill
Brooklyn designers Bureau V have completed National Sawdust, an experimental performance venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that will be home to the Original Music Workshop (OMW). The name of the venue comes from the existing building’s history as a sawmill. OMW is a nonprofit led by composer Paola Prestini, whose advisory board includes heavy-hitters such as James Murphy, Laurie Anderson, Suzanne Vega, and Philip Glass.
AN has been covering Hodgetts + Fung‘s efforts to update Los Angeles’ Norms Diner for the 21st century, but another of the firm’s projects will rigorously update a less known—and perhaps more impressive—modernist structure nearby: Culver City High School’s Frost Memorial Auditorium in Culver City.
In May, San Francisco will open its intensive renovation of the Strand Theater, one of so many additions to the city’s quickly-changing Mid-Market area. Designed by SOM and Page & Turnbull, the new facility is located inside a 1917 building originally used for Vaudeville and then for second-run movies. Read More
Archtober Building of the Day #1
The Public Theater at Astor Place
425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY
Many “Building of the Day” tours demonstrate the vibrancy of New York City, as it manifests itself in public spaces, public buildings, and, today, in the Public Theater. Theater shows us who we are, and the Public Theater has presented a balanced mix of Shakespeare, classics, musicals, contemporary works, and experimental. The lobby is filled with words, and immediately my head is filled with quotes from the Bard: “What do you read, my lord,” and Hamlet replies: ”Words, words, words.” So we kick off with some good words about the public, the theater, and the splendid blend of history and aspiration that brings them all together.
Detroit’s Michigan Theatre remains iconic, but not for the reasons that made it so during its early 20th century heyday. Now the opulent 1926 concert hall holds parked cars instead of theater-goers. Will it remain a symbol of Detroit’s struggle to recover from long-term disinvestment, or could it become emblematic of the city’s resilience?
Work wrapped up this summer on Bittertang Farms’ installation at Ragdale, the nonprofit artists’ community in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs, and true to its plans the straw amphitheater springs forth from a lush hillside in Lake Forest, Illinois.
“It’s a fun time in Vegas right now, with the economy up,” said Beth Campbell, principal and managing director of Gensler’s Las Vegas office. Downtown is being reborn, thanks in no small part to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s multi-million dollar investment. The Strip, too, is booming—see the High Roller observation wheel, which opened on March 31. At the same time, the spendthrift breeziness of the pre-recession years is gone. “Everyone is coming back to life, but with a refined focus and purpose,” said Campbell. “I would say the clients and developers are cautiously aggressive…they still want to grow, still want to reach for the sky…But they’re really focused on how they’re applying [their money] to make these projects happen.”
Studio Gang’s treehouse revamp of Writers Theatre isn’t the only North Shore performance space to dance with organic forms. Designers Michael Loverich and Antonio Torres of The Bittertang Farm won $15,000 to install a temporary stage for performances in Lake Forest, where renderings show sculpted piles of hay and wavy architectural forms that “melt into the existing landscape.”
Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal at REX, has a bone to pick with modernism and its legacy. “For the last 100 years, architecture’s been involved in a silly tension between form and function,” he said. While high modernism privileged function over form, some of today’s top designers argue that architecture is about aesthetics and not much else. REX has a different take: architecture, the firm claims, is both function and form. “We really believe that architecture can do things. It’s not just a representational art form,” said Prince-Ramus. “We talk about performance. Aesthetics are part of performance [as is function.]”
In November, the Los Angeles City Council named Armet & Davis’ Johnie’s Coffee Shop, the restaurant at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, a historic cultural landmark. That’s a win for preservationists concerned with the legacy of the Googie style, the auto-oriented, steel-and-neon aesthetic that spawned diners and coffee shops across Southern California from the 1940s through the 1960s.