What Do We Want? Docent Rights! Farnsworth House Opts For Paid Labor

Eavesdroplet, Midwest
Monday, April 29, 2013
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The Farnsworth House. (Courtesy Farnsworth House)

The Farnsworth House. (Courtesy Farnsworth House)

For seven years, Eavesdrop has lived in Chicago without a car and that means we’ve never made the trek out to Mies van der Rohe‘s Farnsworth House. But with all the flooding in the Midwest this year, we could have just used a boat. Now, a little bird has whispered in our ear that at least one docent is bent out of shape by recent changes. It would appear that the National Trust for Historic Preservation is replacing volunteer docents with paid part-time tour guides. Can you imaging, the desire to pay your help? Quelle horreur! We say: way to go Trust!

Let The Archi-Sparks Fly: Thom Mayne Fights Back Against Bad Reviews

Eavesdroplet, Newsletter, West
Monday, April 29, 2013
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Thom Mayne's Perot Museum in Dallas. (Iwan Baan)

Thom Mayne’s Perot Museum in Dallas. (Iwan Baan)

Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a blood feud in Los Angeles. It seems that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne doesn’t care for Thom Mayne’s work. At all. Reviewing his new Perot Museum in Dallas, he called the building, “One of the pricey, preening old breed.” Adding, “it is a thoroughly cynical piece of work, a building that uses a frenzy of architectural forms to endorse the idea that architecture, in the end, is mere decoration.”

Hawthorne has used this vitriol on other Mayne buildings, like the Caltrans building and the Cahill Center at Caltech, which, he said, employs a “skin-and-stair strategy that allows the client to make the rest of the building—every interior office or gallery—conventional at best and banal at worst.”

Mayne, not surprisingly, doesn’t appear happy. In a recent public tour of his new offices in Culver City, led by our friend and design journalist Alissa Walker, Mayne said he would not be allowing a local architecture critic to write about his new building for his firm’s offices—he was asking a science writer to do the story instead. “All local writers are horrible,” he said. “There are no good writers in Los Angeles.” We beg to differ!

Bridge Over Troubled Freeway: Secretive Bridge In Los Angeles Moving Forward?

Eavesdroplet, West
Thursday, April 11, 2013
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(Courtesy Google Maps)

(Courtesy Google Maps)

Los Angeles’ impressive new bridges have gotten a lot of press lately, including HNTB’s epic 6th Street Viaduct and Andrew Leicester’s unusual so-called basket bridge for the Metro Pasadena Gold Line extension. But one crossing is being worked on in total secrecy: a span over the 101 Freeway at Los Angeles Street, connecting the Civic Center and the Pueblo de Los Angeles.

Artists Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess, who run the city’s Materials and Applications gallery in Silver Lake, are designing the bridge. No renderings have been unveiled, and it’s all very top secret within the city, which is why eavesdrop is on the case. And while Thom Mayne (101 pedestrian bridge) and Asymptote (Steel Cloud) have both failed to make similar ideas happen, this looks like it’s actually moving. Stay tuned.

Tech Tidal Wave at Los Angeles’ Silicon Beach

Eavesdroplet, West
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
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GENSLER'S IMPROVEMENTS TO THE PLAYA JEFFERSON OFFICES IN MAR VISTA. (COURTESY GENSLER)

GENSLER’S IMPROVEMENTS TO THE PLAYA JEFFERSON OFFICES IN MAR VISTA. (COURTESY GENSLER)

Well it looks like the tech craziness on LA’s west side—a.k.a. Silicon Beach—is just getting going. Of course, Google has basically taken over Venice, and a number of tech companies, including YouTube, are taking over Howard Hughes’ old facility in Playa Vista. Now we hear that Amazon is looking for a huge space in Santa Monica. The new LA outpost could measure as much as 80,000 square feet, putting this development in the upper echelons of the city’s tech world. It will certainly compete with the new campus they’re building up in Seattle, designed by NBBJ. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, the architectural one-upmanship continues. That same firm (NBBJ) just unveiled designs for its new HQ for Google, which it hopes will stand out among the other ambitious schemes for Apple, Samsung, Nvidia, and so many more.

Filed Under: ,

Waxing Poetic About Chicago’s Wells Street Bridge

Eavesdroplet, Midwest
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
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Construction on Chicago's Wells Street Bridge in March. (Courtesy CTA)

Construction on Chicago’s Wells Street Bridge in March. (Courtesy CTA)

Work took place in March to replace a portion of Chicago’s Wells Street bridge—“the engineering equivalent of a heart transplant,” in the words of the Tribune’s Cynthia Dizikes. Work crews replaced a portion of the 91-year old double-decker bascule bridge during just two nine-day periods (a similar replacement in 1996 took almost a year). Inconvenience or not, seeing a 500,000-pound hunk of metal floating into downtown Chicago atop a barge makes one feel like a witness to latter-day Carl Sandburg paeans: “Here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities.”

Watch a video of the bridge floating down the river.

Another Chicago Hospital On Life Support: Cuneo Hospital Threatened

Eavesdroplet, Midwest
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
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Cuneo Memorial Hospital in Chicago. (Zol87 / Flickr)

Cuneo Memorial Hospital in Chicago. (Zol87 / Flickr)

The slow and tortured demise of Chicago’s Prentice Women’s Hospital now has an official stamp: according to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern University was issued a demolition permit for the Bertrand Goldberg cloverleaf last Friday. Wrecking crews will be on site in a few weeks after asbestos abatement wraps up, and there are sure to be protesters around the construction fence.

Of course, as seems all too common, the city is also busy readying soldiers for the next preservation battle. The 1957 Edo Belli-designed Cuneo Memorial Hospital is targeted for demolition, but Uptown residents have reached out to Preservation Chicago for support seeking landmark status. The group listed the building on its 2012 list of seven most-threatened structures in the city. Add this to what happened to Prentice and it isn’t a good year to be a midcentury modernist hospital in Chicago.

More photos after the jump.

Tower of Babble: Winning Venice Biennale Exhibition on Torre David Stirs Controversy

East, Eavesdroplet, International
Monday, March 18, 2013
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Just a few weeks before the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, the New Yorker published a profile by Jon Lee Anderson (“Letter from Caracas: Slumlord”). The subject of the profile was less Chavez and more a Chavez-era phenomenon, the so-called Tower of David in downtown Caracas. “It embodies the urban policy of this regime, which can be defined by confiscation, expropriation, governmental incapacity, and the use of violence,” Guillermo Barrios, dean of architecture at the Universidad Central in Caracas, told Anderson.

Continue reading after the jump.

Is “Marketing” A Dirty Word?

Eavesdroplet, Midwest
Monday, March 11, 2013
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Studio Gang's Nature Boardwalk at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. (Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing)

Studio Gang’s Nature Boardwalk at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. (Steve Hall / Hedrich Blessing)

We were glad to be included on the Studio Gang’s Archi-Salon panel on “outside research” at the Art Institute of Chicago on February 2. UIC’s Clare Lyster moderated a lively discussion that, true to its roots in academic theory, kicked off by questioning the premise in the first place. Are practice and research separated by anything more than semantics? Based on the turnout it seems the discussion series achieved its goal of public engagement—what can we say? We’re thrilled and a bit surprised that you all find architectural theory as stimulating as we do.

During the discussion, Paul Preissner detected a whiff of marketing in architects’ clambering to engage “outside” disciplines. You might have thought he accused them of artistic treason, based on the defensive tone that the discussion took whenever the topic popped back up.

Will Alsop: Chipperfield, You’re Bringing Me Down

Eavesdroplet, International
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
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Will Alsop in front of his design for Reem Island in Dubai. (Courtesy ALL Design / Montage by AN)

Will Alsop in front of his design for Reem Island in Dubai. (Courtesy ALL Design / Montage by AN)

On the other side of the pond, Building Design reports that Will Alsop didn’t hold back in a recent public conversation at the V&A with perennial pot-stirrer Stephen Bayley. “Society has decided in this age of austerity that what we need is more David Chipperfield. We don’t need that. It’s depressing,” bemoaned Alsop, known for his irreverent approach to the mother of the arts. “We need more fun, wit, and humor. It’s part of the human condition, and if you don’t have it, you are left with David Chipperfield and a number of others. He is a very good architect, and there’s plenty of room for him, but not everywhere, and not poor imitations.” Sounds like Alsop could use a long weekend in Vegas.

 

What’s My Type? Zaha Hadid Speaks Up For Women Architects

Eavesdroplet, International
Thursday, February 28, 2013
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Zaha Hadid. (Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects)

Zaha Hadid. (Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects)

In a recent interview with the London newspaper The Observer, architect Zaha Hadid made the point that female architects are typecast. “It is thought they [women] understand interior shapes, and I am sure they do understand them better than men actually, but the idea is that they will prefer to deal with a single client, rather than with corporations and developers,” said Hadid, noting that women practitioners often ended up with residential or leisure-related projects rather than large-scale commercial work. Hadid spoke out following publication of a research report by the Architects’ Journal on gender issues in British architecture. The report, deploying a rather Shakespearian tone, claims to have uncovered a “sinister and rotten kernel of inequality.” Women “need to be encouraged and to have their confidence built up,” said Hadid, a notoriously tough boss herself. We’d like to see Hadid team up with Facebook COO turned working-woman activist Sheryl Sandberg for a road show.

Gossip: Los Angeles’ Grand Avenue Edition

Eavesdroplet, West
Monday, February 25, 2013
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Arquitectonica's new Grand Avenue tower just broke ground. (Courtesy Related Companies)

Arquitectonica’s new Grand Avenue tower just broke ground. (Courtesy Related Companies)

The Grand, the multi-million-dollar, mixed use project on top of LA’s Bunker Hill, is finally… slowly… moving forward with an Arquitectonica-designed residential tower, which just broke ground. But it appears that Frank Gehry’s days on the project may be numbered. After a recent call with Related, we got no assurances that the starchitect was still part of the project. A report in the Downtown News got similarly uncommitted answers.

Just across the street from the Grand we hear that The Broad (what’s with all the THEs?)—Eli Broad’s multi-million-dollar art museum—is getting ready to add an upscale market to its rear, just above the parking lot. If it’s even close to as successful as Chelsea Market in New York, Downtown LA could have yet another hit on its hands. Meanwhile, decking is being laid for a new park to The Broad’s south, but still no renderings of the park have been unveiled. Let’s make this public, Mr. Broad. We can’t wait to see your plans, which could single-handedly make or break Grand Avenue.

Kentucky Architecture Back on the Map with a…Barn.  Kentucky Architecture Back on the Map with a…Barn All barn jokes aside, this is great news for the Louisville firm of De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. They received one of the AIA’s Institute Honor Awards for Architecture, allegedly the first Kentucky project to do so since Michael Grave’s cash register, the Humana Building. The barn is an operations facility for Mason Lane Farm and it’s really kind of amazing. Let’s hope that this becomes a rags to riches design story and that we see bigger, more amazing projects coming from De Leon & Primmer. Now that Museum Plaza was knocked off the drawing board, there’s room for a new iconic tower in Louisville. (Photo: Courtesy De Leon & Primmer)

 

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