Victoria Sambunaris: Taxonomy of a Landscape
Museum of Contemporary Photography
600 South Michigan Avenue
Through March 31
Victoria Sambunaris has photographed the American landscape from coast to coast, investigating human interaction with and relationship to the natural environment. Over a decade’s worth of color photographs taken with a 5 by 7 field camera capture the multiple layers of America’s expansive landscapes that are interrupted by human development. Born to Greek immigrant parents driven by the American dream, Sambunaris has become fascinated and identifies with the unease of the Mexico/United States border. Her photographs of over 2,000 miles of these borderlands suggest an innate similarity between the two lands in spite of national boundaries. Taxonomy of a Landscape also includes a complete archive of Sambunaris’ travels with maps, journals, road logs, collected souvenirs, and sketches.
Over the past week, news of one allegedly-very-old tree cut down on the University of Louisville’s campus where a wHY Architecture-designed addition to the Speed Art Museum is being built has tree experts in Louisville counting rings on a stump. Students creating a map of all 2,500 trees on the University’s campus as part of Dr. Tommy Parker’s Urban Wildlife Research Lab had estimated the tree was over 300 years old, generating an impassioned oped in the student newspaper. The Speed and local news sources looked further into the mysterious tree, using the stump and historical photos of the museum (above) to determined that the tree was really only 60 years old. Steven Bowling, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Speed Art Museum, also wrote in with this statement about the tree’s removal:
As part of the Speed Art Museum’s long planned expansion, the Speed and its architect, wHY Architecture, carefully analyzed the site and its space constraints. The goals were threefold: to protect the Museum’s 1927 historic building to accommodate the Speed’s growing audience, to link the expanded green spaces of the Museum with the University of Louisville Campus and to seamlessly integrate art and nature on the 6-acre site. During the planning phase, the Speed, together with the architects, reviewed several possibilities in consultation with landscape architects and an arborist to expand the Museum’s footprint with minimal interruption to the historic building, the surrounding area, and trees within the Museum’s footprint. In the final plan, the tree needed to be removed. Removal of the tree, which the arborist determined was 60 years old, allows the site to be re-graded and expands accessibility for all visitors to the Museum and its grounds. While both the Museum and the architects regret the removal of that tree, the new Speed Art Museum which will re-open in 2016 will provide students and visitors with expanded green space that includes an art park and public piazza, as well as the planting of more than 40 new trees.
Community development in design was the topic at hand Wednesday at the 19th Richard H. Driehaus Foundation’s Community Neighborhood Development Awards. The award was established in 1995 by Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago (LISC).
UrbanWorks received first place for La Casa Student Housing. A dormitory for 100 students in Pilsen, La Casa responds to the neighborhood’s growing vibrancy, as well as its working-class roots — created at the behest of The Resurrection Project, La Casa is affordable housing for neighborhood students attending college, many of them the first in their families to do so.
The Detroit Works Project has received the economic boost it needed to put its Detroit Future City plan into action. Detroit Free Press reported that the Troy-based, Kresge Foundation will give $150 million over the next five years to help accomplish the objectives outlined in the 347-page plan, which focuses on creating economic growth and building infrastructure in Detroit. A technical team led by Toni Griffin, a New York-based urban planner, crafted an extensive list of recommendations such as blue and green infrastructures, job creation, and management of vacant land.
Udo Kultermann, who was born in Germany, died in New York City on February 9, 2013 at the age of 85. An internationally-known art historian, scholar, author, and lecturer, Kultermann spent nearly 30 years as a professor of art and architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to his work at Washington University, Kultermann, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Muenster, served as the director of the City Art Museum in Leverkusen, Germany. Kultermann wrote more than 35 books on a wide range of subjects, many of which have been translated into various languages. Read More
Fifty years ago, the St. Louis waterfront was one gigantic parking lot after 40 blocks of the city’s gritty industrial quarter were cleared in the late 1930s to create a site for a new Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. It took another two decades to get anything built, but on February 12, 1963, the missing slice of St. Louis began to change as ground was broken for Eero Saarinen’s famous Gateway Arch that still defines St. Louis in one dramatic gesture.
[Editor's Note: Following the publishing of this story, the Speed Art Museum and tree researchers studied the tree, determining that it was, in fact, not three centuries old, nor a Valley Oak. The tree in question is now believed to be a 60-year-old English Oak. Read the update here.]
The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, is currently closed to visitors until 2015 while a dramatic stacked-box addition is built to the north of the institution’s original 1927 neo-Classical building on the University of Louisville’s Olmsted-designed Belknap Campus. The $50 million expansion, designed by Culver City, CA-based wHY Architecture with Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, who were later dropped from the project, will triple the museum’s gallery space and add to the already robust arts scene in Louisville.
This week, one alert writer at the student newspaper, The Louisville Cardinal, noticed something missing at the construction site: the University’s oldest tree. The approximately 309-year-old Valley Oak had been cut down when the site was cleared late last year. Only a stump now remains behind the construction fence. The author, Wesley Kerrick, noted the tree pre-dates not just the University, but the city, state, and country in which it resides, as it sprouted sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century. Kerrick expressed frustration over the fact that the tree couldn’t have been saved.
Despite once again turning out a crowd of supporters who contributed hours of impassioned testimony, many preservationists were unsurprised by an outcome that they chalked up to political determinism.
Tadao Ando’s architecture strives for perfection, with glass-smooth concrete walls nearly as reflective as mirrors, ideal proportion and geometry creating a sacred sense of space, and design details that reveal no part of a building is too small for consideration. In fact, as one story goes, Ando requested that a foot-thick concrete wall at his Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis be rebuilt multiple times since it didn’t meet his strict standards.
The Pulitzer, one of only a handful of buildings the Japanese architect has completed in the United States and the first in the US intended for public use, opened in 2001, demurely set behind a concrete wall in the city’s Grand Center neighborhood. This Friday and Saturday (February 8 and 9), the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Washington University in St. Louis are hosting the free Building Pulitzer colloquium looking back at the four-year construction period of Ando’s Pulitzer Foundation.
Outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that Detroit’s M-1 Rail project, aka the Woodward Light Rail Line, will receive $25 million in federal TIGER funding. The plans for this 3-mile long light rail system along Woodward Avenue will include 11 stops running from the city’s downtown to New Center. According to the Detroit Free Press, $100 million has already been raised of the light rail line’s $140 million price tag. Officials said the first trains could be running by the end of 2015.
The Thompson Center is an easy target. Most Chicagoans only know it as that Po-Mo Behemoth where we transfer between L lines and occasionally visit the DMV in the basement food court, perhaps the only location in America where you can get a slice of Sbarro and a new driver’s license. It’s a beast of a building—so bad, it’s almost good—and has been plagued with problem after problem, most recently the removal of the granite panels along the plaza. Tackling its so obviously deferred maintenance and adapting it for future use would be no small task. That’s why, according to the Sun-Times, the president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and a major labor chief have proposed building a casino in the lower level and first floor of the building.
When we think of downtown casinos, we think of Detroit. Look, Eavesdrop loves Detroit and is rooting for its revival on a daily basis, but Chicago doesn’t want to be using Detroit as its urban development role model. If this nutty scheme comes to fruition, there would be a casino in a building located across from City Hall, which also houses hundreds of state government employees. They better get ready to beef up their Employee Assistance Program, as the state might have a few more gambling addicts on their payroll.