For 2 weeks, two exhibitions in NY about Corbusier overlapped. In addition to the MoMA retrospective that closed on September 23, Amie Siegel’s Provenance at the Simon Preston Gallery on the LES (through October 6) examines a rather different slice: from the point of view of the furniture created for Chandigarh, the Indian planned city of the 1950s.
The film that forms the core of this installation travels in reverse, de- and re-contexualizing the objects. It starts with Chandigarh chairs, settees, and tables in their new homes in the West from apartments to lofts to townhouses and even yachts seen in slow tracking shots and lockoffs by cinematographer Christine A. Maier. These are perfectly crafted interiors that are pristine, light, airy, signaling the curated good life as seen in Architectural Digest. Peeking out are the inventory numbers, like a Holocaust tattoo or cattle branding. Does it give the furniture a limited-edition cache? The pieces are like adopted children who have been lucky enough to be given a new life, but they are out of their native culture and are isolated from their tribe. Even in their new surroundings with other treasures, one can always pick out the Corbusier piece, with the sharply angled forms—triangles are a distinct feature—and geometric planes, even in their new clothes of reupholstered checks, squares and luxury leather. Questions about preservation, neglect, restoration, reinterpretation, and fetishism arise.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Completed in 1963, it is Le Corbusier’s only major building in the United States, and one of his final commissions before his death in 1965. The renowned modernist architect envisaged a “synthesis of the arts,” the union of architecture with sculpture, painting, and other arts. In the spirit of Corbusier’s unique style, the building stands out among the more traditional architectural prototypes of the Harvard campus. This is evident right from his initial concept sketch of the building, where Corbusier utilized bold colors to denote the new building, while shading the surrounding Harvard campus in dark brown—a color not typically part of his visual palette.
OMA has been selected to design the Bogotá Centro Administrativo Nacional (CAN) new civic center, situated at the heart of the city’s main axis, Calle 26. Steered by partner-in-charge Shohei Shigematsu, the 680-acre mixed-use design occupies a footprint as large as Washington, D.C.’s National Mall and will operate as the city’s government headquarters with intermixed residential, educational, retail, and cultural developments, all which encourage continuous activity within separate districts. The design intends to integrate civic and public life while connecting to local destinations.
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It is hard to believe that The MIT Press published Jill Stoner’s Towards a Minor Architecture based on the kind of prose indicated in Jeffrey Hogrefe’s review of the book (Literary Unbuilding AN 03_03.06.2013). Stoner writes, “Architecture can no longer limit itself to the aesthetic pursuit of making buildings; it must now commit to a politics of selectively taking them apart.” Really? We think we know what she “means,” but this really is bad writing. There is no architecture, only works of architecture. People are involved in aesthetic or other pursuits, not architecture.
Though books typically fall outside the scope of what we consider to be architectural products, we’re making an exception for Thames & Hudson’s new publication, Le Corbusier and the Power of Photography. Those familiar with Corbu’s much photographed architectural work may not know that he was something of a shutterbug himself. According to the publisher, he not only “harnessed the power of the photographic image to define and disseminate his persona, his ideas and buildings,” but his influence on the medium led to the rise of photography in general. From another perspective the book provides a more intimate way to access Le Corbusier’s creative process and some of the surprising inspirations behind his work, including images of him in his preferred office attire—his birthday suit.
Rem Koolhaas has been thinking about the United Nations since his early Delirious New York days. Earlier this century, he even made a bid to design a new Secretariat. While that project didn’t pan out, the Dutch architect is joining a team of countrymen and women to “reconceive” the North Delegates Lounge in the Conference Building. In addition to OMA, the team will include designer Hella Jongerius, graphic designer Irma Boom, artist Gabriel Lester, and “theorist Louise Schouwenberg.”
On March 31, the Wright auction house gingerly dipped into controversy with its sale of 23 lots of office furniture from Chandigarh even as the Indian government launched a belated international campaign to recover the pieces designed by Pierre Jeanneret for the masterwork by cousin Corbusier.
Dilapidated modernism. Chandigarh, the northern Indian city planned and designed by Le Corbusier over 60 years ago, has become the focus of preservation efforts following years of neglect and piecemeal plundering, reports the UK’s Guardian.
Cycle support. Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, spoke to attendees of the National Bike Summit in DC this week, encouraging them to lobby their congressional reps to take steps to make communities cycle-friendly. Streetsblog notes LaHood’s appearance coincides with the release of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
Pier on the half shell. The Battery Park City Authority has leased the languishing Pier A at the western edge of Battery Park to father-and-son restaurateurs Harry and Peter Poulakakos, who are promising to turn the pier and its landmark 1886 building into an oyster bar-beer garden with one heck of a view. More details in Crain’s NY.
Tonight: Drafted! In New York? Don’t miss AN executive editor Julie Iovine in conversation with Michael Graves, Granger Moorehead, Gisue Hariri and Jeffrey Bernett at 7pm tonight, Thursday, March 10 at the Museum of Arts and Design for Drafted: The Evolving Role of Architects in Furniture Design, part of MAD’s “The Home Front: American Furniture Now” series. Click here for tix.