A recent trip to Barcelona for the World Architecture Festival (WAF) made clear to me just how well the nations of the European Union do at updating their historic centers. American tourists, of course, go to places like Spain to see medieval or Renaissance urbanism not contemporary cities. And that’s a shame because we could learn a great deal about how to build today and add intelligently to our own 19th and 20th century cities.
This is the last Venice Architecture Biennale post for 2010–I promise! The organization that oversees all the Venetian biennales (art, film, music etc.), la Biennale di Venezia, sent us a press release with the numbers from the just concluded architecture exhibition. It claims that 170,000 people visited the event, a 31% increase over the last architecture exhibit in 2008 (which had 129,323 attendees). It should be pointed out however that the older and more established art biennale had 375,702 attendees in 2009. The exhibition included the participation of 53 Countries and 20 Collateral events sponsored by international institutions and organizations and located in various venues in and around Venice. Read More
Peter Cook–the real one from England, not the Hampton socialite architect impersonator–was in town last week and showed us some of the work from his firm Crab. Sir Peter was here to appear on a panel at Pratt Institute for the new book by Yael Reisner with Fleur Watson, Architecture and Beauty: Conversations with Architects About a Troubled Relationship. Cook and fellow beauticians including Will Alsop, Gaetano Pesce, Lebbeus Woods, KOL/MAC, and Hernan Diaz Alonso all took the subject head-on, and proved they think about aesthetics and form up front in the design process, though they seldom will admit to it. They did nothing to dispel Reisner’s thesis that even though, since the advent of modernism, only principles of rationalism are allowed to be used in explaining the building arts, architecture is still primarily a formal practice in the spirit of Einstein, who said that for him “visual imagery occurred first and words followed.” Read More
The World Architecture Festival is in its third year of existence, and, despite the worldwide recession, seems to have more attendees, trade show participants, and strong projects in its awards program. In what is surely a sign of the times, however, there seem to be many more strong projects in the “future” category than completed buildings. As it has been for the past three years, AN was the event’s American media sponsor, and this year I juried projects in the category of “Future Health and Education Buildings.” Read More
Dan Rockhill is best-known in New York as the design father of Studio 804 at the University of Kansas, where he teaches. The studio is among the most successful in the country at actually creating high-quality, sustainable, and LEED-certified buildings produced and built by students. Not only has the studio won many “green” awards for their design-build structures, but they are notable for their high design standards—unusual in sustainability studios. New Yorkers will get a glimpse of the studio’s pathbreaking work on Wednesday, November 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., when Rockhill delivers a lecture at the Dom showroom at 66 Crosby Street. Read More
The Lisbon Architecture Triennale may have aspirations to international importance, but is really more interesting for what it says about the city’s potential as a regional center rather than a world city like London or New York (more on that in my next post). While most of the Triennale’s three major exhibitions take place in large public event spaces, there is one “official” ancillary event in a small commercial art gallery that has something to contribute to the world architecture scene. Read More
Under the banner Let’s Talk About Houses, the second Lisbon Architecture Triennale opened last night in three different venues around the Portuguese capital. A beautifully renovated electric generating plant featured the results of two competitions: one for the low-income immigrant Portuguese community Cova da Moura, and a second for a house in Luanda, Angola. Meanwhile, a second exhibit on artists working in the realm of architecture is being staged at the contemporary Museo do Chiado (I’ll have more on these two shows in a subsequent post). The most ambitious of the three exhibitions, however, is on view at the Museu Coleção Berardo along the city’s architecturally fascinating waterfront in a district called Belem. Read More
There are so many architecture exhibitions today that call themselves “biennales” and “triennales” that the words have little meaning anymore. In most cases, rather than use the vernacular local word for an every two- or three-year exhibition (say, biannual) they use the Italian word, hoping I guess that the special magic of Venice will rub off on their event. Thus I am in Lisbon, Portugal today for the Architecture Triennale that the organizers are calling “Let’s Talk About Houses.” Read More
Open House New York’s annual weekend of free tours is this weekend, on October 9 & 10. You may have waited too long to book many of these tours, but there are still some with space available on Saturday and Sunday. Open House New York was started in 2001 by architect Scott Lauer, and has quickly become America’s largest architecture and design event. It has opened spaces like the magnificent Jefferson Market Library tower to public tours (a full listing may be viewed on the OHNY website). And if you want to help this fantastic organization, come to their annual Weekend Launch Party! This year it will be on the top floor penthouse of the I.M. Pei-designed Centurion apartment tower in midtown Manhattan. The tickets are only $50, and can be purchased online or at the door. See you there!
The Brooklyn-based Center for Urban Pedagogy is a unique organization that brings real meaning to the often overused word “design.” Founded in 1997 by Damon Rich, the organization has evolved to engage art and design professionals—artists, graphic designers, architects, and urban planners—with community-based advocates, researchers, and policymakers. Tomorrow night, CUP is once again hosting an annual benefit party that is always one of the best celebrations around. It only costs $35, and, as CUP says, offers “good people, food, music, fun, and a great cause.” You’ll also get acquainted with CUP’s recent projects like the Sewer in a Suitcase, the Affordable Housing Toolkit, and more. This year, the party will be held at the Old American Can Company at 232 Third Street near the Gowanus Canal.
The 2010 Venice architecture biennale closed on Saturday—at least for media representatives, as journalists were required for the first time to turn in their press passes and enter as public citizens (tickets, $25). I hated giving up that pass as it allowed me access to the exhibitions both at the Arsenale and in the giardini, home of the national pavilions. Though Venice is hardly a major military installation there are canals in the area that are off-limits to civilians; a water taxi driver informed my group that only a special permit would get us into the canal so I produced my press pass and he said “va bene” and he drove us up the canal. The power of the press! Read More