In last issue’s Eavesdrop we noted that world famous LA architectural writer Reyner Banham (Architecture of Four Ecologies), who died back in 1988, now has a Facebook page with over 600 friends, most of whom think he’s still around. We’ve discovered who’s behind the fake page. Architect Parsa Khalili tells us he started it for an assignment in a seminar course at Yale School of Architecture in 2008. Khalili says he forgot about the account until one day he signed in and saw 30 people waiting to be his friend. Since then Banham has accrued friends from around the world, sending him birthday wishes and thanking him for the great honor of friending them. “Honestly I have no idea why I even bother but it has become such an absurdity it’s hard to totally let go,” explained Khalili.
It’s hard to imagine that the cool and suave young architect who launched Minimalism on Park Avenue with the Jil Sander Store in 1983 is the same man who brought us the modern apotheosis of Art Deco at Top of the Rock. Is it a space? Is it a ride? It certainly has a chandelier!
Tiny Homes. The average size of an American home has been decreasing since 2009 (to at 2,392 SF), the Wall Street Journal reported. With financial and environmental concerns, many homeowners are down-sizing. The book Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings examines dwellings under 800 feet, such as the above 215-square-foot house in Belgium.
Artificial Leaf. Researchers at MIT have created an artificial leaf that uses sunlight to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen. The device is made of silicon, that is coated with a cobalt catalyst on one side, and a nickel catalyst on the other. When dropped in water, the cobalt separates oxygen and the nickel side hydrogen. The next step: scientists are working on a way to capture the gasses. More at Inhabitat.
Sky Sculptures. Brookline, Massachusetts artist Janet Echelman uses Indian fisherman weaving techniques to create ethereal neon nets that float in urban sky-scapes. Check out images of her work, that resembles the translucent fish of the coral reef at Artist a Day.
Shrouded Silos. In Omaha, Nebraska, the educational nonprofit Emerging Terrain has wrapped grain silo elevators in giant 80 by 20 feet banners that focus on food and agricultural issues. More at Planetizen.
A passerby might mistake the Art Museum at DePaul University as an enduring Lincoln Park fixture, even though the brand new building just opened. Bucking the trend for cutting-edge art museum architecture in favor of a contextual approach was a deliberate decision by the university and its longtime architect, Antunovich Associates.
The view from LaGuardia Place includes the symphony of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s 7 World Trade Center at 250 Greenwich Street and its ever-rising companion, One World Trade Center, beyond. I see the buildings every day from the Center for Architecture, and have become a fan of 7 WTC’c magical properties, both geometric and optical. It is a building made out of reflections, refractions, inflections, and colors, expressed in glass and stainless steel.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about LA’s architects than the results of their projects in steel and stone, check out Success By Design by writer and photographer Jenn Kennedy. The book profiles 25 of them, including Steven Ehrlich, Barton Myers, Ray Kappe, the late Stephen Kanner, and Hodgetts + Fung. Architects divulge all sorts of secrets like Myers’ insecurities about getting upstaged by students; Art Gensler’s original desire to start a “small” firm (his firm, Gensler, has over 2,000 employees); Randy Peterson of HMC’s amazing lack of free time; Kanner’s struggles with fees; and Kappe’s surprising facility with the business end of architecture. The book recently launched its digital version and a web site. See some interesting quotes below.
New York isn’t the only city celebrating Archtober. In Los Angeles, October has officially been “Architecture Month” since Mayor Villaraigosa declared it so back in 2007. The AIA/LA hopes the month-long festivities will help to “educate the public about architecture and architects, celebrate the profession and encourage the dialogue between those interested in the built environment.”
Renovations by Vornado Realty to the Manufacturers Hanover Trust building were brought back into the spotlight Wednesday after a New York Times article quoted an email exchange between a former Landmarks commissioner Meredith Kane and Landmarks staff. Kane is now legal counsel for Vornado. The article was mentioned during court proceedings before State Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings. Last Friday in court, Maria T. Vullo, Vornado’s rep, suggested that a request for more correspondence between Vornado and Landmarks was akin to a “fishing expedition.” She added that all correspondence pertinent to the case had already been provided to Michael Gruen. the lawyer representing the petitioners in the case, the Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation (CECPP).
A South London state-funded school is a far cry from an international exhibition center, but in the last two years the annual Stirling Prize, organized by the RIBA, has recognized Zaha Hadid’s designs for both as exceptional examples of British architecture. This year’s winner, the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton was the London-based practice’s second consecutive win after last year’s prize for the enigmatic Maxxi Museum in Rome. Hadid’s design was up against a swathe of accomplished competitors including Hopkins’ London Olympics Velodrome, the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres in Stratford by Bennetts Associates and Chipperfield’s Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany.
Superlatives swirled in every account of the 2006 opening of the expansion of the Morgan Library and Museum, designed by Renzo Piano with Beyer Blinder Belle. Nicolai Ouroussoff teed up: “dazzling,” “sublime,” “triumph,” and “mesmerizing” (New York Times, April 10, 2006). The AIANY jury feted it with its Architecture Honor Award in 2006, calling it “a masterpiece” (Oculus, Fall 2006).
At the intersection of trade and art, practice and expression, between Bleecker and West Third Streets, in the middle of a unique three-block stretch, aptly named a “Place,” fronting grand superblocks of New York University, with its descending jutting voids the opposite of Breuer’s overhead solids at the Whitney, lies the Center for Architecture. The Center is home to the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIANY) and the Center for Architecture Foundation. The 12,000 square feet of galleries-as-meeting-spaces (and meeting-spaces-as-galleries) burrow two stories underground from the sidewalk level. A cut-away section lets the speakers at the podium the lowest-level Tafel Hall, the centerpiece of the ensemble, look up from their notes and see passers-by looking back. The life of the city, connected, to the discourse on architecture.
Each “Building of the Day” has received a Design Award from the AIA New York Chapter. For the next 30 days—Archtober—we will write here about the architectural ideas, the urban contexts, programs, clients, technical innovations, and architects that make these buildings noteworthy. This is a personal account. Daily posts will track highlights of New York’s new architecture.
Read more at www.archtober.org/blog.