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Archives: December 2011

Michael Graves Wins Notre Dame’s Driehaus Prize

“Get smart. Go to the library. Don’t read magazines.” Such was Michael Graves’ advice to young architects last month during a panel at “Reconsidering Postmodernism,” a real doozy of a conference organized by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art in New York. It was Graves’ way of encouraging a broad-based, historically informed approach at a time when “object buildings” and torqued shapes make headlines but not, in his view, an architecture of the city. “Can’t we call this Gaga architecture?” he asked. “Lady Gaga has a different dress everytime we see her.” (To which fellow panelist Paul Goldberger replied, “I did once refer to Zaha Hadid as the Lady Gaga of architecture.”) Graves has plenty of fans at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, which has announced that he is the winner of the 2012 Richard H. Driehaus Prize, established in 2003 to honor “lifetime contributions to traditional, classical, and sustainable architecture and urbanism in the modern world.” Members of the jury (which included Goldberger, Witold Rybczynski, and Adele Chatfield-Taylor, president of the American Academy in Rome) commended Graves’ “commitment to the traditional city—in its human scale, complexity, and vitality—as emblematic of a time-tested sustainability.” He’ll receive $200,000 and a bronze miniature of the Choregic Monument of Lysikrates during a March 24 ceremony in Chicago. The Driehaus Prize has previously been awarded to wizards of classicism such as Robert A.M. Stern, Allan Greenberg, and Demetri Porphyrios.

Trailer for Ai Weiwei Documentary Launches

There are some documentaries that seem to benefit from what suddenly happened to their already-interesting subject matter during the time the film was being shot. We’re thinking Wilco’s unexpected break-up while I’m Trying to Break Your Heart was being made, or Julius Shulman passing away at the same time as the releasee of Visual Acoustics. This time, it just happened to be director Alison Klayman being at the right place at the right time in making a documentary about artist Ai Weiwei, just as he was entering a very difficult 2011, which also turned him into a household name. The first trailer for Klayman’s documentary, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, has now just been released:

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index Jumps Back Up Into the Positive

While the ups and downs continue unabated, it’s always nice to end a particularly rocky year on a positive note. The American Institute of Architects have released their latest Architecture Billings Index. Following last month’s welcomed-yet-slight uptick to 49.4, this time things shot all the way up to 52.0 (anything above 50 indicates an increase in billings and gives a more general sense of where things are at in the architecture and construction businesses). Despite the good news, the AIA’s main man of math was his usual cautious self, though it’s fun to imagine that he said the following while wearing a Santa hat and a thick egg nog mustache:

“This is a heartening development for the design and construction industry that only a few years ago accounted for nearly ten percent of overall GDP but has fallen to slightly less than six percent,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “Hopefully, this uptick in billings is a sign that a recovery phase is in the works. However, given the volatility that we’ve seen nationally and internationally recently, we’ll need to see several more months of positive readings before we’ll have much confidence that the U.S. construction recession is ending.”

And with that, this writer’s week has come to an end. Hope there’s happy holidays to all our readers near and far.

This Week on the Job Board: Modea, Everlane, University of Maryland University College

This week, Modea is hiring an art director and an interactive art director in its Blacksburg, Va. office, while Everlane is on the hunt for a fashion graphic designer. University of Maryland University College is in need of a graphic designer, and Collinson Media and Events also has a graphic designer opening. Get the scoop on these gigs below, and find additional opportunities on

For more job listings, go to the Mediabistro job board, and to post a job, visit our employer page. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

Tradition, Modernity, Marionettes: Alber Elbaz’s Christmas Tree for Claridge’s

John Galliano is a tough act to follow, but Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz has proven himself up to the task of creating a showstopper of a Christmas tree for Claridge’s. His secret weapons? The “infusion of tradition and modernity” that he has made a signature of the fashion house, along with madcap marionettes (dressed in Lanvin-designed Claridge’s uniforms, bien sûr). The colorful tree, which will remain on view through January 2 in the London hotel’s art deco lobby, is topped by a figure of Elbaz, his trademark floppy bow tie and glasses accessorized for the season with fairy wings and a wand. For those can’t make it across the pond, there’s this whimsical—and mildly creepy—short film to get you in the Christmas spirit. You’ll come away craving both goatskin ballerina flats and scones. Pass the Marco Polo jelly and Cornish clotted cream.

Unfolded! Time Style & Design to Return in 2012

Remember Time Style & Design? Time launched the targeted quarterly in 2003 as an oversized glossy and pulled the plug on it in September 2009, blaming the dismal economy for what was described as a “suspension” rather than a shuttering. Now comes word that Time Style & Design will return in 2012, with sleek spring (March) and fall (September) issues that “will explore the most intriguing ideas and most influential players in the fields of fashion, art, architecture, music, travel, technology, and more” (a minimalist mock cover featuring actress Vera Farmiga is pictured at right). With a U.S. rate base of 500,000, the publication is being pitched to prospective advertisers as “impeccably crafted, with vibrant design, gorgeous photography, and smart, cogent writing.” And while the fall issue’s publication will be timed to coincide with New York Fashion Week, expect a more broad-based dose of design, style, and cultural coverage. “The previous iteration of it was probably more focused on fashion than this one will be,” Time managing editor Richard Stengel told Adweek. “In that sense, this represents the kinds of things I’m more interested in, the things I think the Time reader is more interested in.” Meanwhile, watch this space for new Style & Design online offerings.

News in Brief: Tate Takes BP’s Money, Smithsonian Preps Rebranding, and More

There are plenty of interesting bits and pieces going on outside of architecture as well so far this week, so let’s commence:

After four months of a lockout of unionized art handlers at Sotheby’s, things still don’t seem to be progressing toward stability. According to a report by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the lockout has now cost the auction house $2.4 million in fees ranging from temporary employees to extra security. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the company just gave its CEO, William Ruprecht, a $3 million raise. Union representatives for the art handlers are quick to point out that their entire contract dispute totals $3.3 million.

In Washington DC, the Smithsonian has reportedly hired Wolff Olins to help in a major rebranding. The main thrust of that effort is set to be the roll out of a new tagline next year: “Seriously Amazing.” The Washington Post reports that the organization has thus far paid $1 million “for research and creation of the slogan.”

Speaking of rebranding efforts, the always great Brand New blog has filed its own year end list, starting with their picks for the very worst identity changes in 2011. Unfortunately, it seems to have been written before State Farm unveiled their new logo.

And finally: so much for the potential of the Tate possible eschewing corporate sponsorship from British Petroleum following a full year of protests (and now likely more to come in 2012). The museum has renewed their contract with BP, telling the BBC, “The fact that they had one major incident in 2010 does not mean we should not be taking support from them.”

Gehry’s Memorial in More Jeopardy, A New Santiago Calatrava Fight, and More Architecture News

It’s the week before what, for many people, will mean either a full week off, or just a time when all their companies will require them to be is mildly-conscious and sitting at their desks (if that), but surprisingly, there’s still a bunch going on. Let’s dig in.

As is tradition this time of year, critics have begun filing their top lists of best and worsts. Here in Chicago, the Tribune Blair Kamin has filed his worst list, which we enjoyed maybe more than his best. WBEZ‘s Lee Bey, has filed his as well. Meanwhile, over at The Irish Times, the paper reminds us that the connection between architecture and Chicago didn’t end with developer Garrett Kelleher‘s Chicago Spire debacle. Instead, there’s a long tradition of the Irish in the city (also it would help to ignore that incident with Mrs. O’Leary burning down the first Chicago).

Speaking of the Chicago Spire: fresh off the architect of that failed project’s recent unpleasantness with the Denver Airport redesign project, Santiago Calatrava has found himself a part of a new fight. After a board member blasted the architect at a meeting for the State University System of Florida Board of Governors for both the architect’s tendencies to run over budget, as well as for being Spanish (“Why do we need someone from Spain, when we need jobs right here in America?”), concerning a new building project he is working on at USF Polytechnic, Calatrava and his wife and business partner shot back. Thus far, we are still at a stand-still between the opposing sides.

To the far west of Chicago, and even further from Florida, Christopher Hawthorne has also filed his best/worst list for Los Angeles.

And finally, it looks as though Frank Gehry might soon be having to wait on that groundbreaking ceremony next year for his Eisenhower Memorial in Washington DC. The Eisenhower family, who have raised their voices about Gehry’s designs somewhat quietly up to now, have now become more publicly vocal, speaking out directly against what the famous architect has planned for it, despite the two parties apparent personal get togethers and talks since the last concerns were raised.

Ooh-Lalanne! Sheep Sell for $7.5 Million at Christie’s

Shortly after watching a flock of ten epoxy stone and patinated bronze sheep designed by François-Xavier Lalanne rocket to a new auction record of $7.5 million (that’s $6.6 million, plus commissions) on Saturday afternoon at Christie’s in New York, we were sure it had all been a dream—an ill-timed seasonal mix of dodgy eggnog, the Rockefeller Center tourist mob, and pre-nap sheep counting ($1 million, $2 million, $3 million…). But the auction house and our trusty notebook have confirmed that it actually happened, with the ovine sculptures accounting for a good chunk of the $11.3 million total for Christie’s sale of 20th century decorative art and design.

A trio of Lalanne lots came late in the sale, immediately following a Ron Arad table and a Greg Lynn blobwall for which there were no takers. In the saleroom, private dealer Guy Bennett, bidding on behalf of someone on the other end of his cell phone who he referred to only as “Sir,” beat out phone bidders for a single Lalanne lamb, paying $122,500 (all prices include commissions) for the 1997 work, which was estimated to sell for between $20,000 and $30,000. A patinated bronze bird didn’t fly past it’s high estimate when a phone bidder snapped it up for $170,500. And then came the sheep. As representatives of the seller, Japan’s Tateshina Open Air Museum, looked on gleefully, Bennett (in constant communication with the aforementioned Sir) and a phone bidder gave the room—and auctioneer Philippe Garner—a tennis match, as their bidding war quickly sent the price beyond the $900,000 high estimate to $2 million (awed silence), $4 million (raised eyebrows), and $6 million (audible gasps), until Bennett won the flock for a hammer price of $6.6 million. He promptly tucked his paddle under his arm and left the room, having ensured a good night’s sleep for one deep-pocketed collector.

New Eames Documentary Premieres Tonight on PBS

Deck the halls with LCWs (a rare rosewood version of the iconic chair sold for $7,500, not including commissions, last week at Sotheby’s), because ’tis the season for the television debut of Eames: The Architect and the Painter. Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s new documentary about the husband-wife design powerhouse of Charles and Ray Eames airs tonight at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) as the 25th anniversary season finale of American Masters.

“Modern design was born from the marriage of art and industry,” notes narrator James Franco at the beginning of the feature (and in the trailer, below). “The Eames Office was born from the marriage of Ray Kaiser, a painter who rarely painted, and Charles Eames, an architecture school dropout who never got his license.” For this first documentary to be made about the couple since their deaths, Cohn and Jersey sought to look beyond the giddy publicity photos and molded-plywood marvels to explore the private world of the Eames Office and the designers themselves. They plunged into archival material ranging from films to love letters and interviewed family members—Charles Eames’ daughter Lucia, and grandson Eames Demetrios—as well as Eames Office alumni such as Jeannine Oppewall, Deborah Sussman, and Gordon Ashby. The Architect and the Painter mixes mesmerizing clips from the Eames’ films and exhibitions for clients like IBM, Polaroid, and the U.S. government with never-before-seen interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the designers at home and in their studio. Meanwhile, Herman Miller has launched a delightful companion website for those who want to immerse themselves in all things Eames before or after viewing the documentary.