Another month, another wounded architect. This time, it isn’t due to the recession resentments of Spanish leftists, it’s conservative Washingtonians who want a monument to Dwight Eisenhower that’s lot more conventional than the one proposed by Frank Gehry. They don’t seem to like any of the “isms” of the past century or so. We find out who wins this coming Friday.
The site is a difficult one on Washington’s Independence Avenue. It is one lost between buildings and bisecting roads. The brief is difficult too, and becoming more so. The architect is an old pro from Santa Monica who in 1979 wrapped his house in hurricane mesh, keeping with neighbourhood character. Washingtonians don’t seem to like this history of cheekiness, or ‘irony’, and suspected the worst when he wrapped the entire site in a transparent decorative mesh.
This time it isn’t hurricane mesh, it is more considered. The screen defines the ‘park’ and was a tableau of images lifted from events in Ike’s life. After development this was switched to display trees around Ike’s childhood home in Abilene, Kansas. It solves all the problems with the site in one fell swoop. But the screens continued to present problems – why focus on his childhood and neglect his future feats as general and president? Why use a screen that to the family looked like a concentration camp (Gehry, being Jewish, didn’t take this at all well), and to others it reeked of Gehry’s ‘nihilistic’ architectural attitude.
Memorial in 2010
Bas-reliefs in 2010
83 year old Frank (O.) Gehry’s career has been a fascinating one to watch. Starting out in Canada, then working on humdrum housing in L.A., then a major shift into the screened fortresses of the early ’80s, then another into colourful sculpted forms under the influence of contemporary Claes Oldenburg. In the late Nineties he finally reached the big time with the titanium-shelled Guggenheim in Bilbao, credited with changing that town’s fortunes and, for better or worse, triggering the ‘Bilbao Effect’, felt as far away as Geelong.
The reputation he’s built up for sculpted singular forms, reinforced by Sidney Lumet’s recent movie, masks his skills in shaping external space. To see that, it is necessary to wander about his Loyola Law School on Olympic Boulevard, or his best work in my book, a modest shopping complex near Venice Beach.
But that west coast heritage doesn’t count for much in Washington. A site dedicated to killing off the scheme tries every angle available. From questioning the chosen sculptor’s previous nude work, to detecting a change in national mood, to conveniently supporting the call for an open competition (the original was limited). But the stick is pointed mainly at the architect. The site includes a lengthy page of sound-bites from Gehry, dating back to the 1970s, that are meant to explain to us why he is not of the right moral character to work on this project. But it isn’t just Gehry, it’s his ilk. The National Civic Art Society, which published the website, sees itself as fighting on behalf of traditional counter-culturalists against… “a postmodern, elitist culture that has reduced its works of “art” to a dependence on rarified discourse incomprehensible to ordinary people.” The Washington Post thinks they go even further, mounting a “philosophical attack on the legacy of modernism, post-modernism and anything that smacks of avant-garde art, going all the way back to architects such as Louis Sullivan and Le Corbusier.”
Memorial with sculpture replacing bas-relief photographs
The Eisenhower memorial is being redesigned by a publicly patient Gehry, politely responding to a queue of concerns and protests voiced by committees and descendants. Most recently he has introduced more sculptures of Eisenhower at different stages in his career, and changed the ‘barefoot boy’ sculpture to a young cadet, but has retained the steel backdrop screens. These, the core of his idea along with the barefoot boy, are again under attack. I think he is entitled at some point soon, to blow his own stack. Then the NCAS may get its way, which appears from their recent competition to be something classical and traditional, dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, and sidelined by busy traffic…
Maybe if Gehry had looked at the similar sagas of just about all of Washington’s presidential monuments, he would have kept well away. The Washington monument took 53 years to build, thanks to the pesky interventions of the “Know-Nothings”. The final result, absent the original colonnade, was against architect Robert Mills’ wishes, he thought it would look like a “stalk of asparagus”. Not far off..
[ Much of this information is drawn from an in-depth article by Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post, which can be viewed here, though you’ll need to register (for free) to read it all. ]
Memorial images from Gehry Partners
03.06.12 in architects
Architect / protaganist: Gehry Partners
yes washington seems to have a coterie of believers in classicism – remember the sculpture added to the fantastic Vietnam memorial ? and have you seen the WWII memorial ? Looks like Lutyens designed it, but dates from 2004. Noice.
The only thing I dont like about Gehry’s design is that having a square at all cuts off another chunk of one of L’Enfent’s diagonal roads. Though there’s not much of Maryland Avenue, it does point straight at the done of the Capitol, providing a view-line that would also be gone. So that’s me being a traditionalist !
by rohan on 21 July 12 ·#
DCM’s long-awaited visitors’ centre at Stonehenge is about to be built, according to Robert Bevan at the Australian. There have been occasional posts about this centre, in its varying forms, on this website since May 2001. The last one, in late 2009, reported than it was about to be built as well. So we’d better wait and see – the clock ticks slowly around those stones.
The current design “touches the ground lightly”. Not a DCM trait, but one that addressed the reduced budget. DCM London director Steve Quinlan said in 2009 that, “if a visitor can remember their visit to the stones but can’t remember the visitor centre they passed through, we will be happy.” This gives some indication of the difficulties associated with building anything within cooee of Stonehenge.
Architect / protaganist: Denton Corker Marshall [DCM]
As part of last week’s Plan radio show, South Australian architect Max Pritchard gave a long interview about his career and recent attempts to address the project home, which met with mild success. Worth lending a spare ear to.
Architect / protaganist: Max Pritchard
Some very sad news. On Sunday Lena Yali (Troppo Darwin) and Kevin Taylor (Taylor Cullity Lethlean) died in a car accident near Darwin. Last night Greg McNamara (Troppo Darwin) also died. Here is an ABC interview from this morning, an interview with Richard Layton from AIA NT, and a written tribute from Phil Harris, who was able to walk away from the crash.
According to this interview, the Troppo office in Darwin will continue for now under the guidance of Jo Best.
11.08.11 in architects
Phyllis Murphy, a Melbourne architect who practiced with her husband John from the 1949 till the early ’80s, talks us in this Culture Victoria video through the world of Victorian wallpaper, a passion of hers.
John and Phyllis Murphy’s major project was complete just seven years after their graduation from the University of Melbourne: The Olympic Pool (1956), with Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre and Bill Erwin. Wikipedia entry
The pool, now unfortunately called the Westpac Centre, is one of the ten buildings featured in the new iPhone/iPad app, The Sound of Buildings, which provides a nice sequence of construction photos.
A house designed by the Murphys is for sale in Strathalan, Camperdown.
Chinese architect Ai Weiwei was detained at an airport in China in early April and is still locked up without charge. BD Online surveys the attitudes of architects working in China on the arrest.
“I think [the arrest] is very unfortunate and I am sure that sense will prevail. He is obviously a special person and needs to be contributing to the general debate and giving us things to enjoy. I don’t want to go further than that for the same reason as the rest of the architects… I am going to China next week. They might think ‘we’ll have him’ or they might not let me in.”
27.5.11 A related op-ed at archinect, asking what, if anything, the profession can do. For how long can it continue to be business as normal?
31.5.11 Guardian article#
24.05.11 in architects
Architect / protaganist: fake
will alsop is a scab
by info on 26 May 11 ·#
Fenella Kernebone of Arts Nation speaking with Fumihiko Maki in April 2011, shortly after his appearance at the AIA national conference in Melbourne. Most of the discussion is about the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.
Here’s another interview from April, this time it’s all about Tokyo. To encourage a few more along to the UIA congress in September. The interview is filmed at Hillside West.
Architect / protaganist: Maki and Associates
University of Melbourne lecturer Dr Marcus White has been named the inaugural National Emerging Architect of the Year at the Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards ceremony, run by the AIA.
“I am extremely grateful to receive this award, particularly at such an important event for the industry. It is also a tremendous honour to receive the award alongside such illustrious company as Dr Graeme Gunn,” he said. Dr Gunn won the 2011 Gold Medal for Architecture.
“It is a pretty tough climate for young architects today. If we think back to 1950s to projects like the Melbourne Olympic Swimming – a major public building – it was designed by McIntyre and Borland when they were about 25 years old. These kinds of opportunities don’t really exist much today.”
The jury identified Marcus’ demonstration of equal excellence in practice, research and education as a “point of difference”.
Dr White said working in education strongly informed his efforts in practice, and vice versa. “You learn quite a bit by teaching as well, and what you learn there feeds back into the work I do in practice and vice versa; what I do in practice informs how I teach. The same also goes for research.”
[edited from a University of Melbourne press release]
Architect / protaganist: HAW Harrison & White
Dr White, you are spot on the fact that the opportunity does not exit any more. Thanks to the inaction of RAIA years back that the whole industry was de-regulated and any tom dick mary can design a building in Australia without being a qualified architect. We are the one to be blame. Even as simple as a few hundreds plumbing job required a plumbing certificate.
Sydney architect Bruce Rickard died last week, at the age of 80, after a long career turning out very good residential work. Here are a few links.
[Photo: Anthony Browell from Bruce Rickard’s website.]
30.09.10 in architects
Architect / protaganist: Bruce Rickard + Associates
Stumbled upon this 1979 proposal by Steven Holl to span over the Melbourne rail yards with a series of Ponte Vecchio inspired buildings-as-bridges. Kind of nice, post Federation Square, to remember the nature of the rail yards then, though half his bridges span from nowhere to nowhere in particular. The proposal is shown here together with another similar one for New York’s Highline – since made schmick by Diller, Scofio and Renfro.
Shigeru Ban has been in Port-au-Prince building prototype cardboard shelters and has plans to build many for a small community who’ve slipped through the cracks.
Ban has been active in disaster relief for many years, and has worked in Rwanda, Kobe, Sri Lanka, Gujarat, Sichuan, and l’Aquila. “I thought it was really important for us to do something for society, not just to build monuments or help developers make money.” How does he do it? “From experience, I know I just have to go there, even without any connections, to find out who needs what. Then one thing leads to another.”
He’s taking donations for Haiti now: LINK
15.05.10 in architects
Architect / protaganist: Shigeru Ban Architects
Christopher Hawthorne’s article in the LA Times about embassies, the prescence of one place in another, includes a few words about the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York. When I visited it a few years ago, I thought it had that alien presence of a Shin Takamatsu or John Hejduk building – that there was a story to this contraption that would be worth knowing. There is a small split level gallery in the basement, rather pokey (the site is only 25 feet wide), exhibiting Austrian art. I took in the dusty art, huffed that I couldn’t get upstairs, where the building was really interesting, and wandered off to my train. It must have had some effect on me though, as I got on the wrong train and went to Queens.
I’ve just discovered that the architect of this slender and precise wonder was Raimund Abraham, who died earlier this month in a car crash, having earlier that night given a lecture (“The Profanation of Solitude”) at Sci-Arc in Los Angeles. Like so many good architects, you don’t hear about them till they’re gone. You can view the 54 minute lecture here.
According to Sci-Arc’s website , Abraham was, “an accomplished architect and educator in Europe and the United States, was born in 1933 in Lienz, Tyrol. He emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1964, and taught at the Cooper Union for more than 30 years.”
He competed with “every born Austrian architect who could walk” in 1992 for the Cultural Forum commission. He described his winning entry: “The lateral compression of the site defines the latency of its vertical thrust. Three elementary towers: The Vertebra / Stair Tower, The Core / Structural Tower, The Mask / Glass Tower. Signifying the counterforces of gravity: The Vertebra – Ascension, The Core – Support, The Mask – Suspension. The entire tower rests on the cavity of its public spaces.”
(My first sighting, 2006)
Hawthorne writes that just before his building’s tardy completion in 2001, Abraham renounced his citizenship, as Austria’s right wing swelled hideously under the prime ministership of Joerg Haider.
I’ve found a 2001 interview with Abraham at Bomb magazine , which while fairly unfathomable in places, is worth the read. He was not short of a thought. Here’s a snip:
“I think what’s been really detrimental to the understanding of the city in our time is a master plan mentality – which is still evident in the so-called urban typology. The mapping of the city is essentially like trying to extract some kind of artificial intelligence out of a highly complex organism. Which is a total misunderstanding of the city. In New York, for example, if you walk from all the way uptown to all the way downtown all of a sudden you realize that there are invisible thresholds – you cross over by one street and you are in a different world. So how can you ever speculate what will come into being? I believe if you build one thing, and this one thing is defined by clarity, compassion, and belief in the true survival of the city, then this singular building will become a singular force within the unpredictable metamorphosis of the city: “The house is the city – The city is the house.” (Alberti)
( Dmadeo )
26.03.10 in architects
venice visionaries would disagree with Abraham
by sod on 28 March 10 ·#
venice visionaries cannot agree with each other.
except 4 one thing – 2 be in the same room together.
this abraham building is a corker. abraham was a corker.
not so obscure a figure – at least in the USA.
by hairdresser on 30 March 10 ·#
“I try to never get away from the fact that I am first an architect and everything else is to support that”, 86 year old John Portman tells The Architect’s Newspaper in a “Recession Tales” interview that could do with a proofread.
“Everything else” is the development side of the Portman empire. He has been developing since 1956, getting his start with a small market place in Atlanta:
“My first development was the Merchandise Mart in Atlanta, which I started in an old garage that we remodeled. It opened in 1961, and has grown into the AmericasMart with eight million square feet today.”
AN: Do you own it?
“Yep, and that helps me get through the rough times.”
Times don’t appear too rough for Portman and Co. Though they build little in the U.S. these days, they are at work all over Asia.
I’ll always remember Portman for the Bonaventure Hotel, which has great fun with cylinders. Though it does connect badly to the city around it, and its foundations blocked L.A.‘s Pacific Electric Railway tunnel… There have been various proposals to make use of the rest of the tunnel for transport, but they came to a dead end with the construction in 2008 of an apartment building at its mouth. Very clever planning. Wander through the “dog park” at the back and you’ll find they’ve capped the end of the tunnel and painted a red trolley car on it. Not quite Magritte, but it does glow in the dark.
Architect / protaganist: John Portman & Associates
Greg Lynn does some cyrstal curtains for a crystal-making sponsor. 2,000,000 crystals welded into sails. Just what we need. The net effect is surprisingly unsurprising (on video at least). Lynn sounds remarkably polite when asked by the interviewer whether he had to work with an… architect to do the project.
I am reminded of another Krystle.
wow…he’s still around…?
by cabbie on 29 January 10 ·#
one G L is like anutha G L.
bozos that r big, boring, banal + bearded.
by hairdresser on 29 January 10 ·#
b b b…..b……..butttttt
by cabbie on 30 January 10 ·#
Crystal net – isn’t that illegal?
Besides, he pitched to the wrong scale – shold have kept it human and clad 6 well endowed strippers with crystals. This would have focused people’s attention.
by luke on 30 January 10 ·#
He didn’t leave his own firm to become a painter, because the planners were horrible to him. He was secretly going corporate. Comments at AJ are not on his side. This one is very British:
“What a trumped up little fart.”
02.10.09 in architects
alsop is back in good book with hairdresser.
thats the r k gig. the dutch fcuk sold out to an engineering firm last century.
will painter story was pissweak. this ones got some balls.
bet he does better than some pissweak mexican dudes who cashed in their shine chips for corporate partnerships with baby boomer blood suckers.
by hairdresser on 2 October 09 ·#
didn’t tism do a number where they changed fart, for wanker.
he’d fit right in down in mexico.
by cabbie on 3 October 09 ·#
a trumped up little bludger, thats the tism chorus line….
by cabbie on 5 October 09 ·#
As Bjarke Ingels demonstrates in this recent video , he can speak English faster than most native speakers. Here he motors through his new behind-the-scenes comic book, the Shanghai pavilion, that Mountain, and some new mountains in Azerbaijan.
A still from the video, looking very Elvis ’68.
Following on from several other newspapers’ reviews of local architecture, Adelaide Now profiles a few ‘strange’ and ‘bizarre’ built in South Australia. The freak show includes this number from levitating architect and builder Shane Hendricks.
ROLLING CUBE HOUSE
19.09.09 in architects
by hairdresser on 26 September 09 ·#
No. Architect of the Jumping Universe.
by peter on 28 September 09 ·#
only just got C Jenks in their mag racks over there?
by hairdresser on 28 September 09 ·#
“We’ve tried to be inventive all of the time, not to go back and take something forward and deploy it again. When you do a lot of competition work, there’s a temptation to do that, but we’ve always tried to start again. Now, I think tactically that may sometimes have been naïve, that in a way there is a need to conserve energy, and I think at certain points, when we’ve had a number of things running, we’ve dissipated our energy through trying to continue being inventive.”
Some insights on the Federation Square construction process that are worth a read too. Did you know that they ran out of stone and had to make what they had left stretch?
Architect / protaganist: Lab architecture studio
Architects embroiled in planning or heritage merry-go-rounds might find this article in the NYT warms the cockles. Read how architect Wilfred Armster landed a ‘monstrous’ spaceship condo in a historic streetscape in Connecticut by giving a ‘Jimmy Stewart’ speech to a crowded town hall.
There was quite a story in its construction too, which sent Armster broke. Maybe don’t read that part.
14.08.09 in architects