Highrise buildings are the most commonly built form of the last century. So says A Short History of the Highrise, an interactive documentary that is a co-production of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the New York Times Op-Docs which has its premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival and will launch on the website on October 5. It explores the 2,500-year global history of vertical living in four short films: Mud, Concrete, and Glass, which draws on the Times photo archives. The fourth, Home, is comprised of images submitted by the public. The films can be stopped at any time by swiping, pinching, pulling and tapping to dig deeper into the stories, see the backs of photos, and play games. Questions like who gets to live on the top floor and why (in Roman times, upper floors were the least desirable) are asked in rhyme: “Were these vertical experiments there for elites? Or to warehouse the poor away from the streets?” We climb the Tower of Babel, the Hakka round houses of Fujian province, and medieval Yemenese Manhattan-like mud towers before arriving at New York’s luxury-serviced Osborne, London Terrace, and Dakota built simultaneously to the multi-story tenements of the Lower East Side. All are shown in still images cleverly animated: buildings grow up, skaters glide, women wink, lights turn on, and the text is read by well-known Canadian musicians Feist and Cold Specks, as well as the series director, writer and editor Katerina Cizek. The result is a delightful, visually stunning exploration that is seemingly simple, but actually stretches both the conventional documentary form and how we depict space. Read More
It has been a bumpy road for Brooklyn’s controversial Atlantic Yards development. The ten-year project-in-the-making is in the news yet again. According to the New York Times, 50 to 80 percent of Atlantic Yards is now up for grabs. Developer Bruce C. Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner Companies is on the hunt for an investor to buy the lion’s share of the development for a hefty sum of up to $800 million. Forest City would still hold the reigns over the future development of the project.
At a panel discussion on architecture journalism held at the Center for Architecture last month, the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo griped that The New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman had yet to weigh in on the 9/11 Memorial. Indeed, even the Times‘s go-to architecture reporter Robin Pogrebin had to concur. She noted that she too had raised the question. Nevertheless, World Trade Center reporting—let alone criticism—can be a full time job. Although Pogrebin continues to report on the cultural venues slated for the site, the architectural aspects of the project have been the province of David Dunlap from the get-go.
With the topping of Four World Trade today at 977 feet, Dunlap once again provides a highly detailed report, as he did two weeks ago in his analysis of the grossly altered designs of One World Trade. Standing in the shadow of One World Trade, Dunlap notes that architects Fumihiko Maki and Osamu Sassa have no problem with his building being labeled “the biggest skyscraper New Yorkers have never heard of.” “Subtlety extends one’s appreciation,” Sassa told the Times. Kimmelman, meanwhile, has made a trip to the area, but to review a glass canopy, “in the shadow of One World Trade Center no less.”
An internal New York Times email, acquired by AN today, announced that Michael Kimmelman would start this fall as the New York Times’ new chief architecture critic. Citing Kimmelman as “one of the paper’s great writers”, Jonathan Landman, deputy managing editor, wrote how Kimmelman started at the paper of record as a music critic and “swiftly morphed into an art critic.” And now after four years as a foreign correspondent, he will fill out his all-purpose critic portfolio as architecture critic.
First there was Ezra Stoller, then Julius Shulman. Now comes Iwan Baan, who is furiously “remaking the genre” of architectural photography, as Charles Renfro put it to Fred Bernstein in Sunday’s Times. Baan, while only 34, has an exploding, explosive list of clients. As Bernstein explains, “Mr. Baan’s work, while still showing architecture in flattering lights and from carefully chosen angles, does away with the old feeling of chilly perfection. In its place he offers untidiness, of the kind that comes from real people moving though buildings and real cities massing around them.” It is for this reason, among many others, that Baan was selected as one of a dozen photographers in our annual Best Of issue, now online. Not surprisingly, his work turns up throughout, bringing to life everything from the High Line’s lighting to 41 Cooper Square’s facade. Do think of calling on him—as well as the hundreds of other contractors, fabricators, and suppliers in Best Of—next time you need a smart hand or steady eye on one of your projects.
THE PLOTS THICKEN
Did The New York Times learn nothing from its error-riddled obituary of Walter Cronkite this summer? The famous newsman was 90 years old and in failing health for some time. His obituary should have been in the can for years. And yet there were seven inexcusable errors, which prompted a lengthy correction, which prompted a lame mea culpa from the public editor, which prompted an avalanche of snarky comments from readers. Back to the question, did the newspaper learn from this embarrassment? It did not. The obituary for Charles Gwathmey, who died on August 3 (according to the Times), was revised with a correction regarding the architect’s education. Turns out, that correction was incorrect and therefore had to be corrected. A correction of a correction spun the needle right off Eavesdrop’s Cringe-O-Meter. Read More
We just came across a story (above) by David Dunlap in the New York Times whose headline reads: Recession Is Ravaging Architectural Firms. In it architects bemoan the state of the industry and make claims like “it will never be the same again,” and “I’ve had the chance to see a lot of ups and downs. This one, to me, is without a doubt the worst.” Dunlap suggests that ‘Now, having shrunk, firms may decide to stay smaller.’ And one architect thinks this is the next Great Depression: “We don’t see a way out, a real turning point, until the end of the decade. If you’re talking about no significant work until the latter half of the decade, you’re talking about a situation that is somewhat similar to the 1930′s.”
No, we’re not talking about the progress on Tower 1, though that is impressive. We’re talking about news of the building’s new, fastest-in-the-hemisphere elevators. Call it jealousy: We’ve been having horrible problems lately at A/N HQ with the elevator. First, it was grinding and creaking. Then it was getting stuck between floors. They say it’s fixed but we’re still taking the stairs. Can we be blamed for looking longingly to the south from 21 Murray Street after this ecstatic report from tomorrow’s Times: Read More
On Friday, the prolific New York Times metro reporter Jennifer 8. Lee, whose beat seems to include everything from fortune cookies to urban planning, covered a new mixed supportive and moderate-income housing development in Harlem, co-developed by the Fortune Society. Unfortunately for the architects involved, she misattributed the design of the project, and of another recent affordable housing development in Harlem, David and Joyce Dinkins Gardens, to the other co-developer, Jonathan Rose Companies. Read More