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urbanity

Eight Years B.C.: Bill Cunningham Exhibit Opens at NY Historical Society

Intrepid blue-smocked street photographer Bill Cunningham turned 85 yesterday, and the New York Historical Society marked the occasion with a press preview of an exhibit of his photographs. We dispatched writer Nancy Lazarus—via bicycle, of course—to take in the architectural riches and fashion history of New York through Cunningham’s lens. The show opens to the public today.

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(All photos courtesy New York Historical Society)

billWhile his images don’t depict biblical times, Bill Cunningham did delve back to the Civil War, Victorian era, and Gilded Age for his eight-year-long project, Facades. From 1968-1976, the New York Times photographer who documented social, architecture, and fashion trends collected over 500 outfits and shot more than 1,800 locations around New York City. Editta Sherman, his friend, neighbor and fellow photographer, served as project collaborator and frequent subject.

Cunningham donated 88 black-and-white images from his photo essay to the New York Historical Society in 1976, and 80 gelatin silver prints and enlarged images are on display through June 15. Valerie Paley, NYHS historian and vice president for scholarly programs, curated the exhibit, and she said assistant curator Lilly Tuttle, found the photos in the museum’s archives. “We have so many undiscovered treasures, and we’re delighted to rediscover them,” said Paley.

Although Cunningham wasn’t on hand for yesterday’s preview, Paley said he was enthusiastic about the exhibit and had pitched in to locate details of specific photos. Many of his quotes accompany the exhibit highlights. The display is arranged by historic era, and additional photos in the collection are projected onto the walls of the museum’s side entrance rotunda.
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78 Firms, 1 City: ‘Image of the Studio’ Exhibition Offers Portrait of NYC Graphic Design

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Among the graphic design firms participating in the “Image of the Studio” exhibition are (from left) Pentagram, Craig & Karl, and RoAndCo Studio.

“Giving visual form to the city is a special kind of design problem,” wrote urban planner Kevin Lynch in his 1960 book The Image of the City. But how does the urban environment, in all of its forms, affect those who spend their days solving design problems? A new exhibition looks for answers in a cross-section of New York City graphic design firms, from Alfafa Studio to Zut Alors.

Image of the Studio,” which opens tomorrow at Cooper Union’s Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography, features original work from 78 firms that are then tied together—through data visualizations and information graphics—in a shared portrait of what it means to be a New York design studio. Co-organized by Athletics, which is also among the participating firms, the show aims to “map the contours and trace the edges of a dynamic discipline in a city that is itself always in flux.” But not everything is in flux: all materials from the exhibition will be archived at the Herb Lubalin Study Center and online here.

NYC Planning Commission Sets Plans for ‘NY Wheel’ into Motion


Wheel’s Up. A rendering of the New York Wheel, to be built on Staten Island.

The wheels of Uniform Land Use Review Procedure are a-turnin’ for the New York Wheel, the London Eye-style “observation wheel” bound for the isle of Staten. At 625 feet—roughly 60 stories—high, it will be the world’s tallest and function as the all-seeing, crowd-concentrating anchor for a new outlet mall: a 340,000-square-foot retail complex designed by SHoP Architects. New York’s City Planning Commission recently announced its support for both the wheel and the development known as “Empire Outlets,” marking the final stage of land use review that will end in a City Council vote scheduled for October 30—and sure to be followed by the sight of savvy young New Yorkers costumed as giant wheels for Halloween. Both projects are slated to begin construction next year, with a grand opening planned for 2016.

Hello, Fada: Le Corbusier’s Radiant Rooftop Revealed

Nearly 50 years after his death, Le Corbusier is the man of the moment. The Swiss-born French multitasker is the subject of an exhibition (on view through September 23) at the Museum of Modern Art and the creator of a lamp that inspired Kanye West‘s latest album, while across the pond, Corbu’s modernist housing complex has been reborn at the hands of a self-described “icon­o­­clas­tic artist,” aged 36. We sent our man in Marseille Marc Kristal up on the roof.


(Photo: Olivier Amsellem)

It’s been a big year for architecture in Marseille. As part of the city’s designation as 2013’s European Capital of Culture, fifteen major projects, including new construction and renovations, have been created in the city and Provence region—everything from Rudy Ricciotti’s magisterial Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean on Marseille’s J4 waterfront esplanade to the resurrection of the Eden Cinéma, the world’s first movie house, in La Ciotat (opening in October) to groundbreaking on Fondation Vasarély, set to open in 2014-15 in Aix-en-Provence.

But while benefiting from le hubbub surrounding the culture capital festivities, one of the year’s most exciting projects is an unaffiliated private undertaking with a major public component: the restoration and reopening of the rooftop gymnasium/solarium of Le Corbusier’s enormously influential 1952 housing complex, Cité Radieuse.

Despite its international reputation, Corbu’s original “Unité d’Habitation” is known locally as “La Maison du Fada”—Provençal for “The Crazy Person’s House”—as the people of Marseille responded less than enthusiastically when the Brutalist “vertical village,” with its 337 cleverly configured apartments, hotel, restaurant, shops, and school, was completed. The roof, which had been altered in ways that contravened Corbu’s intentions and fell into disrepair, was put up for sale in 2010 and quickly snapped up by the polymath French architect/designer Ito Morabito—known commonly by his nom de design Ora-Ïto—who has impeccably restored the interior and exterior spaces and transformed them into an art center he calls Marseille Modulor (in honor of Corbu’s human-scaled system of measurement) or MAMO (a playful tweaking of New York’s MoMA) for short.
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NYC Pilot Program Aims to Boost Local Design Businesses


New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a press conference held yesterday at The Future Perfect in Manhattan. (Photo: William Alatriste / New York City Council)

New York City is for designers. (Quick, someone screen that on a tri-blend tee!) Hot on the 3D-printed heels of NYCxDESIGN, the 12-day designfest that debuted in May between Frieze and ICFF, comes a pilot program that aims to stimulate the local design economy. Built/NYC, unveiled yesterday by New York City Council speaker Christine Quinn and Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David Burney, will commission site-specific furnishings for City construction projects—think parks and municipal offices—from local product designers.

“Instead of automatically purchasing a desk, a lighting fixture, or other furnishings made in another country, we can allow the City to purchase products that have been designed and manufactured right here in the five boroughs,” said Quinn at a press conference held yesterday at The Future Perfect in Mahattan. “Built/NYC is a way for the City to support our growing design community by investing in the businesses that drive New York City’s creative economy while simultaneously enhancing the interiors of public buildings and spaces.”
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New McNally Jackson Store Offers ‘Goods for the Study’

It’s hard out there for a bookstore. We’re still mourning the recent loss of New York’s Archivia Books, whose windows (and shelves) never failed to feature the latest and greatest design books alongside vintage tomes. Meanwhile, downtown indie McNally Jackson (home to a print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine and literature organized by nation) is not only going strong but in expansion mode. The beloved establishment has opened the McNally Jackson Store around the corner from its flagship operation. The cozy Mulberry Street space is stocked with an array of “goods to furnish your study and enrich your desk life,” from desks and lamps to stationery and writing utensils. “We believe that the life of the mind deserves a space of its own,” says owner Sarah McNally. Not in New York? Fear not–a web store is in the works.

Raymond Pettibon’s Baseball Billboard Debuts on the High Line


Raymond Pettibon, “No Title (Safe he called…),” 2010. (Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner)

Take me out to the High Line, where Raymond Pettibon has thrown out the summer’s first public art pitch–a baseball-themed billboard. The jumbo-sized version of “No Title (Safe he called…),” a 2010 work from the artist’s famous series of baseball drawings, debuts today in the sky above West 18th Street and 10th Avenue in New York as the tenth installment of the High Line Billboard series. We suggest visiting with a group to discuss the array of cultural references, from the depiction of a game between the the Boston Red Sox and the Brooklyn Dodgers (before their 1957 defection to Los Angeles) and references to Moses (brokers of Biblical and civil power, who knew from exoduses) to shout-outs to Jackie Robinson and Biggie (“Where Brooklyn At?”). As the latter would say, “Anytime you’re ready, check it,” but make sure anytime is within the next month, or you’re out! Of luck, that is, because the billboard is on view through July 1.

Finish Your Holiday Weekend in Detroit


A still from Detropia.

God save Detroit. In 1930, it was the fastest growing city in the world. Today a governor-appointed emergency manager is eyeing the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts as a way to pay off some $15 billion in debt (the prospect of selling off the DIA’s masterpieces has, of course, been met with outrage from within the community and beyond). Get a closer look at the long-stalled Motor City in Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady‘s Detropia, which makes its television debut tonight on Independent Lens (click here to check your local PBS listings). No postindustrial gloomfest, the documentary follows several Detroiters–including an owner of a blues bar, an auto union rep, a group of young artists, and a gang of illegal “scrappers”–in an attempt to illuminate both a city and a country grasping for a new identity. Say Ewing and Grady, “We hope that the rest of America can see that they may have more in common with Detroit than they thought.”

JR on HBO: Inside Out Documentary Debuts

Watch French street artist JR get his TED Prize wish for a global art project in Inside Out, a fresh-from-the-Tribeca-Film-Festival documentary that debuts tonight at 9 p.m. on HBO. Director Alastair Siddons (Turn it Loose) crisscrosses the globe–from Tunisia to Haiti, North Dakota to Pakistan–as people around the world come together to follow JR’s simple directions to “take a portrait photograph of yourself or someone you know and then paste it in the street, using it to stand up for something you care about.” More than 100,000 people responded to his call by uploading their portraits to the project’s website for JR to print and display around the world. Explains Siddons, “This is a film about an artist giving away his method and the inspiring stories that follow that.” Sample a few in the film’s trailer (below):
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Diller Scofidio + Renfro on Turning Lincoln Center Inside Out

“After so many years of averting the border patrol between the disciplines of art and architecture, while inhabiting both yet claiming to be outsiders, this is the ultimate validation,” said Elizabeth Diller last Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel, as she joined partners Ricardo Scofidio and Charles Renfro in accepting the American Academy of Rome’s Centennial Medal for their exceptional contributions to the worlds of architecture and the visual arts. The trio spent the previous evening at the New York Public Library, where they discussed their interdisciplinary design studio’s renewal of Lincoln Center. We asked writer Nancy Lazarus to attend the event and harvest some memorable quotes. Learn more on May 10, when Diller and Scofidio will be joined by DS+R monograph author Edward Dimendberg for a book talk at the Center for Architecture.

Redesigning Lincoln Center was an epic undertaking that involved a prominent public landmark and a painstaking process that evolved over nearly ten years. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the design studio behind most of the project, has chronicled their experiences in Lincoln Center Inside Out: An Architectural Account (Damiani). The three principals shared their views on the project and the book at a recent event hosted by New York Public Library and moderated by Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA. The DS+R trio is just as articulate as they are creative, so here are excerpts from that discussion.

On Lincoln Center’s design:
Diller: The old Lincoln Center was too elitist, solid, and turned its back on the neighborhood and community. We were drawn to the promenade levels where everyone pours out in the middle of events. We wanted to extend that social feeling to the rest of the project. We broke down the edges to enable events in the public spaces. There’s more symmetry now across the public and private spaces.

Scofidio: There were no photos of the old Lincoln Center except the main plaza with the fountain. Someone said that in the 1960s, plazas were designed to be desolate.

On how they approached the project:
Diller: To win the project we showed many ideas, since we tend to think in multiples, with different approaches and solutions. We demonstrated our affection for the place and showed how to take it to the next step. We felt we could do it justice and interpret it for contemporary culture. We wanted to transform Lincoln Center for the logic of our time.

Scofidio: We didn’t go in and say here are the problems we have to correct. We just said we can finish Lincoln Center.
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