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architecture

Stereotank Drums Up a Winner for Times Square Valentine Heart Competition

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Architects Marcelo Ertorteguy and Sara Valente march to the beat of a different drummer. Their Brooklyn-based firm, Stereotank, specializes in designing and constructing “inhabitable sound instruments and installations” as part of a broader exploration of the relationships between space and sound. This cross-discplinary approach was music to the ears of the judges for the Architectural League of New York’s invited competition to design the 2015 Times Square Valentine Heart, besting six other design proposals.

Come February, Stereotank’s HeartBeat (rendered above) will be realized as a public art installation celebrating Valentine’s Day in Times Square. The massive heart glows to the rhythm of a strong, deep, and low frequency heartbeat sound that changes its rate as visitors approach, move around, and engage with it by playing various percussion instruments and joining the base rhythm of the heartbeat. “Love is about sharing and being ‘in tune’ with somebody, so it is the creation of music, a concert is a combined action where the performers are also ‘in tune’ creating harmony, say Ertorteguy and Valente. “HeartBeat orchestrates Times Square’s unique, active, flickering atmosphere.”

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Hot to Cold: Bjarke Ingels Group’s ‘Architectural Odyssey’ Bound for National Building Museum

Danish Expo Pavilion 2010_Image by Iwan Baan_01
Designed by BIG with ARUP and 2+1, the Danish Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 featured a pool filled with fresh water from Copenhagen’s harbor. (Photo: Iwan Baan)

Bjarke Ingels is becoming quite the Beltway insider. Over the summer, his Copenhagen- and New York-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) transformed the atrium of the National Building Museum into a giant (read: BIG), crowd-pleasing plywood maze and within a few weeks he was back in Washington, D.C. to unveil something even BIG-ger: a $2 billion master plan for the Smithsonian Institute’s historic southern campus alongside the National Mall. Washingtonians won’t have to wait long for their next fix: BIG returns to the National Building Museum next month with a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process behind its own globe-spanning projects.

Opening January 24, Hot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation will take visitors “from the hottest to the coldest parts of our planet and explores how BIG´s design solutions are shaped by their cultural and climatic contexts.” There will be oodles of three-dimensional models (more than 60 to be suspended at the second-floor balconies of the museum’s Great Hall) and collaborators galore. Among those interpreting the 20 BIG projects to be featured in the exhibition are photographer Iwan Baan, filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, and Stefan Sagmeister, who is designing the accompanying catalogue.

‘From a Spoon to a Monastery,’ John Pawson on Design, Stuff, and Photography as Therapy

John Pawson designs more than buildings. “We’ve done bridges and boats and books and ballet sets,” notes the simplicity-loving Brit. And that’s just the things that start with “b”! Pawson is down in Miami Beach to fete his clean-lined contribution (read: stunning condos) to the latest EDITION hotel, the Ian Schrager-meets-Marriott venture that timed its opening to coincide with the Art Basel craze, and stopped in to chat with Nick Knight‘s Showstudio about his views on design, minimalism (a “handy pigeonhole” of a term), the virtues of unadorned space, the therapeutic benefits of photography, and Schrager. “He’s so passionate about getting things right,” says Pawson of the famed hotelier. “Interestingly, considering what he’s done in the past…he does like what I do…and he will fight to make it happen.”

Quote of Note | Rem Koolhaas

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“I was born in Rotterdam, but when I was four months old my parents took me to Amsterdam, and I never went back until I was thirty-eight and needed to decide where our architecture office would be located. I had just returned from America and had to choose between Amsterdam and someplace else in the Randstad. My instincts told me that Rotterdam would offer the best breeding ground for the kind of architecture we wanted to create, and I was vaguely aware that, since [Second World] War, and partly because Rotterdam was destroyed then, the city had systematically fostered the whole idea of modernity in the Netherlands.”
Rem Koolhaas

Pictured: A recent addition to the Rotterdam skyline is the OMA-designed De Rotterdam, a mixed-use slab-tower conceived as a “vertical city” on the river Maas.

Michael Graves and Peter Eisenman Dazzle with Comedic Stylings, Incisive Critiques

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The dashing Peter Eisenman was the lone speaker at “Past as Prologue,” the Architectural League of New York symposium held Saturday in honor of Michael Graves’s fiftieth year in practice, to appear twice: first in the Paul Goldberger-moderated panel on architectural pedagogy and again for a day-capping conversation with Graves himself. Between the two appearances, Eisenman snuck away to watch the annual Harvard-Yale football game. As the Crimson was busy besting the Bulldogs 31-24, plenty of other longstanding rivalries simmered on stage, where even the conference venue (the recently constructed and steeply pitched Tishman Auditorium at the New School) was not immune to attack. The architectural symposium’s version of the Game’s last-minute 35-yard touchdown was what Eisenman, after initially professing that he felt like he had “gone to the wrong parade,” later described gamely as “The Michael Graves-Peter Eisenman Comedy Hour.” Here are some of the highlights.

On driving forces:
Michael Graves: Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas have their phones ringing all the time with “Would you do this for us?”
Peter Eisenman: For what reason?
MG: To keep ahead of Frank!

On form:
PE: What is it that makes your buildings look like they are?
MG: Architecture! I believe in architecture.
PE: So do I. How come they look different?
MG: It doesn’t matter that they look different. They don’t look like [the buildings of] those other people. That’s what’s important.
PE: That’s true.
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Quote of Note | Frank Gehry

frank g“I’ve always talked to artists about designing art museums. I’ve always heard the same thing, which is the opposite of what Glenn Lowry [of MoMA] and those people always push for: the white pristine box. I guess they don’t know any better. Most of the artists I know complain about that, and younger artists today are refusing to be in that white box—it’s imposing a ‘purity’ that is in fact intrusive. You can see that those galleries at MoMA have failed; they have to redo them now….I’ve been listening to artists for 40 years about what galleries they want. Every artist I know loved Bilbao. Every museum director I know hated Bilbao.”

Frank Gehry, in a recent interview with Jori Finkel for The Art Newspaper

Restoration of Alvar Aalto’s Viipuri Library Wins World Monuments Fund Modernism Prize

RUS-Viipuri-glass-facadeThe 21-year-long project to restore Alvar Aalto‘s Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia (né Viipuri, Finland, before Stalin and co. took a fancy to it) has clinched the 2014 World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize, awarded biennially to an innovative architectural or design solution that has preserved or enhanced a modern landmark. The award will be made to the Finnish Committee for the Restoration of Viipuri Library with Vyborg’s Central City Alvar Aalto Library. Previous winners of the prize—$10,000 and a limited-edition Barcelona chair created by Knoll especially for the occasion—include an architectural consortium that restored typhoon-ravaged Hizuchi Elementary School on Japan’s Shikoku Island and the team effort of Bierman Henket Architecten and Wessel de Jonge Architects to restore the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in the Dutch town of Hilversum.

The Aalto-designed library was completed in 1935. “An icon of twentieth-century architecture—with its distinctive sky-lighted roof, undulating wood-slatted lecture hall ceiling, and glass façade-enclosed staircase—the library at Viipuri is one of Aalto’s most important buildings from the years in which he was adventurously exploring a new modernist vocabulary; indeed, photographs of the building soon made him known around the world,” said jury chairman and MoMA veteran Barry Bergdoll, professor of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, in a statement issued today by the WMF. “The restoration organized and executed an impressive international campaign that has ensured the survival and revival of Aalto’s masterpiece by restoring it to its original function as a vibrant municipal library.” The prize will be presented at New York’s Museum of Modern Art on December 1 followed by a free public lecture.

Exhibition Showcases Five Decades of Michael Graves’ Designs at Home and Abroad

The upcoming Architectural League of New York symposium is but one (aqua-hued, curvy, multi-windowed) component of the Michael Graves 50th-anniversary extravaganza happening this fall. A show of the architect and product designer’s paintings are on view through the end of the year at NYC’s Studio Vendome gallery. And over in New Jersey, Grounds for Sculpture has mounted a Graves retrospective. Writer Nancy Lazarus visited the latter exhibition—and then followed Graves home.

graves GFSGolden banners hung from the rafters and bearing sketches of now-famous products greet visitors to Michael Graves: Past as Prologue at the Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. The retrospective, on view through April 5, is a festive tribute to Graves and his architecture and design firm as they mark their fiftieth anniversary.

Organizing an exhibit spanning Graves’ prolific and ongoing career was no easy feat. “This was planned as a series of vignettes” chronicling the practice’s interdisciplinary work along with Michael’s owm drawings and paintings, explained Karen Nichols, principal at Michael Graves & Associates, at a recent press preview. The firm’s core values: aesthetics, functionality, and humanistic design, connect seemingly disparate projects.

Few architects can claim commissions as varied as the Portland Building, Louisville’s Humana Building, the Denver Library, decorative scaffolding for the Washington Monument, various Disney Resorts, and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. The photographs and architectural models tell the stories of Graves’ broad geographic scope.
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Ready the Creamed Corn! Canstruction Returns to New York

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“Polarized Against Hunger,” the Canstruction NY 2013 entry by GACE Consulting Engineers

Ever dreamed of recreating a Richard Serra sculpture with tomatoes from the pantry? Erecting a monumental tribute to Alexander McQueen’s armadillo heel using only canned peas and elbow grease? What about constructing a truly giant giant panda that can feed hundreds? Teams from top architecture and engineering firms will prove that they can do it, and for a good cause. The international charity competition that is Canstruction returns to New York City next month and with it the opportunity for teams of architects, engineers, and students they mentor to design and build giant structures made entirely from unopened cans of food—all of which are ultimately donated to City Harvest. The competing teams’ carefully stacked creations will be judged in categories that include Best Use of Labels, Best Meal, Structural Ingenuity, and Most Cans. The works will be on view from November 6 through November 20 in the Winter Garden and lobby of Brookfield Place. Bring non-perishable foods when you visit, and they’ll be donated along with the cans used in the competition.

Guggenheim Reveals Submissions for Helsinki Museum Design Contest

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The world is one step closer to Guggenheim Helsinki. The open, international competition for the design of the the proposed art and design museum, to be located on city-owned land in the southwestern part of Helsinki’s South Harbor, is nowhere near its big Finnish finish, but today the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation cut the virtual, Marimekko-patterned ribbon on an online gallery of submissions. The featured entries, which were received from 77 countries and can be filtered using trait-based tags (dome, glass, opaque, concrete, twisted, shiny, and more), are for stage one of the competition. Now it’s up to an 11-member jury chaired by Mark Wigley, Dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, to convene in Helsinki to select six finalists on the basis of their architectural design, relationship to the site and the cityscape, practicality for users (including criteria for the use of materials), and feasibility. Stage two begins next month, and the big voittaja (winner) will be announced in June 2015.

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