Barry Bergdoll is stepping down as Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, a position he has held since 2007. He will return to teaching at Columbia University and will take up an endowed chair in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. He will stay on part-time at MoMA to continue working on a major exhibition on Latin American architecture currently scheduled for 2015. He will also advise on the use and development of the Frank Lloyd Wright archive, which is jointly owned by Columbia and MoMA.
While at the Modern, Bergdoll has curated a wide variety of shows, addressing topics ranging from prefabricated housing to the Bauhaus to rising sea levels. His recent exhibitions have included a widely praised show on the french architect Henri LaBrouste, and Le Courbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes (co-curated with Jean-Louis Cohen), which is currently on view.
Bergdoll’s tenure as chair has been marked both by a deepening of the historical and scholarly quality of the exhibitions and programming as well as greater engagement with social issues, such as affordable housing and climate change. In an email to AN, Bergdoll wrote, “I look forward to…continuing to be associated not only with the world’s oldest curatorial department of architecture and design, but I think its most vibrant and finest.”
MoMA will begin a search for his successor at the end of August.
Robert Venturi won the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1991. His wife and professional collaborator Denise Scott Brown was not recognized, sparking a controversy that has raged ever since. Following a recent round of petitions and editorials calling for a retroactive prize–or some form of recognition—the current Pritzker jury chair, Lord Peter Palumbo, sent a letter on the matter to two current students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James, organizers of the most prominent of the recent petitions.
Palumbo made it clear that no retroactive prize was possible: “Insofar as you have in mind a retroactive award of the prize to Ms. Scott Brown, the present jury cannot do so. Pritzker juries, over time, are made up of different individuals, each of whom does his or her best to find the most highly qualified candidate.” Palumbo left open the possibility of recognition for Scott Brown. “Let us assure you, however, that Ms. Scott Brown remains eligible for the Pritzker Award. That award is given on the basis of an architect’s total body of built work.” Palumbo further acknowledged the context of the controversy: “We should like to thank you for calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that assuring women and fair and equal place in the profession.”
Underscoring the fragility of the economic recovery, the April AIA’s Architecture Billings Index dipped into negative territory for the first time in nine months. The slump to 48.6 was significant, down from 51.9 in March (any score above 50 indicates positive growth).
“Project approval delays are having an adverse effect on the design and construction industry, but again and again we are hearing that it is extremely difficult to obtain financing to move forward on real estate projects,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement. “There are other challenges that have prevented a broader recovery that we will examine in the coming months if this negative trajectory continues. However, given that inquiries for new projects continue to be strong, we’re hopeful that this is just a short-term dip.”
Mergers and consolidations continue in the A/E/C industry. The four legacy firms that make up the US division of engineering firm WSP—WSP Flack + Kurtz, WSP Cantor Seinuk, WSP Environmental & Energy, and WSP SELLS—are consolidating under the WSP name.
Herman Miller is acquiring the renowned textile firm, Maharam, bringing together two of America’s most design-centric companies. Founded in 1902 in New York, Maharam has gained a reputation in recent decades for commissioning textile designs by leading contemporary designers like Hella Jongerius, Tord Boontje, and Paul Smith, and reissuing classic designs by Verner Panton, Gio Ponti, Alexander Girard, and many others. Led by Michael and Stephen Maraham, the company has cultivated a strong connection to the design community and developed products guided by the taste and vision of the brothers. According to a release by Herman Miller, both Maharam brothers will stay involved in the company for at least the next two years. Senior executives with the company will also stay in place.
As the chorus of criticism swells against MoMA’s plan to demolish the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a pair of petitions have been posted urging the Modern to reconsider its demolition plans. Also, a crowd-sourced tumblr, #FolkMoMA, is soliciting ideas for reuse of Williams and Tsien’s building. With all the action online, will anyone be taking to the streets for some old fashioned picketing? Will anyone chain themselves to the bronze facade? Has all this worry actually left the bubble of the architecture community?
Michael Speaks, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, has just been appointed Dean of Architecture at Syracuse University. Mark Robbins left that post to direct the International Center of Photography in New York. Speaks, who has been at UK since 2008, cited a number of initiatives as his legacy in Kentucky, including many that engaged directly with urban and rural issues in the Commonwealth. “I arrived here at an inauspicious time, a very economically challenging one, ” he told AN. “One of our goals was to make sure that as many studios engaged with real world problems as possible.”
Last night, at the Frank Gehry-designed AIC building in far west Chelsea, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Arts Society honored an esteemed group of urban activists, designers, and community developers with Jane Jacobs Medals, a prestigious prize named for the ground breaking urban writer and activist. Ron Shiffman, founder of the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development, was awarded the medal for lifetime leadership. Roseanne Haggerty of Common Ground and Community Solutions, received the award to new ideas and activism. A new award for technology and innovation was given to Carl Skelton, the founder of Betaville, and Cassie Flynn, Erin Barnes, and Brandon Whitney, the creators of ioby (In Our Backyards), a crowdsourced sustainability platform (the trio also donned Jacobs-like glasses after accepting their award).
The event was originally scheduled for last November, but had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy, which damaged the IAC building as well as many of the galleries, businesses, and residences in the surrounding neighborhood. Social and environmental resilience were strong themes of the night, and Ron Shiffman closed the ceremony with a rallying cry for greater civic activism–a fitting message for an evening dedicated to Jacobs.
Today, New York City broke ground on the new paving/plaza/seating design for Times Square, created by Snøhetta. Dark pavers inset with reflective stainless steel discs will provide a muted backdrop for the area’s frenzy of light and crowds. Monumental benches, with concealed electrical infrastructure for events, will provide a variety of seating, lounging, and viewing options. Moreover, the project signals the Bloomberg administration‘s desire to make its pedestrian plazas permanent.
While President Obama may have called out the economic potential of 3D printing in his State of the Union, one prominent Republican is trumpeting the new technology. In an article posted on the conservative website Human Events, former Speak of the House and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich claims, “the greatest difference in our generation may not be between liberals and conservatives, but between the pioneers of the future and prisoners of the past.” Among the technologies he praises, 3D printing is nothing less than “revolutionary.”
Gingrich has long been a fan of futurist thinking and advanced technology. He campaigned for a colony on the Moon, another place where 3D printing would come in handy:
3D printing may revolutionize logistics and save an amazing amount of money in the Defense Department. It may also revolutionize our capacity to go into space by allowing manufacturing on asteroids and the Moon with minimum weight requirements. 3D printing may also return manufacturing to the United States by eliminating the advantages of low cost mass produced production runs.