Category:architecture

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Suarez House, Richard Meier, 2012-13, photo Trevor Tondro/NYT

It's the funniest thing, just last night I was thinking about Richard Meier's first house, which he built on Fire Island in 1962. And lo and behold, Meier's second Fire Island house just turned up on the front page of the Home section of the Times.

The Times says "it was like coming full circle," but honestly, if the projects show anything, it's how far Meier has traveled in the intervening 50 years. The 1962 house, built for Saul Lambert, was a prefab box, assembled in a couple of weeks from a pile of lumber cut to order by a log cabin manufacturer in Michigan. The 2012 house, built for Phil & Lucy Suarez, is a 2,000-sf steel and triple-glazed cube which the contractor called "a little skyscraper," and which the Times dubs "Meier's high and mighty beach house." It's basically a penthouse from Meier's West Village towers, plopped down amidst the scrub oak and stick shacks of Fair Harbor.

Which is not to say it doesn't look great. 2,000 square feet turns out to be plenty to get the full Meier Effect.

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Lambert House, Richard Meier, 1961-2, image via architect/NYMag

But call me old-fashioned, I really like his first house best.

The Lambert House is special for me because it was one of the first obscure things I dug up. An architect friend, Chad Smith, had noticed an interview with the actress Anne Bancroft, where she mentioned living in a shingle-clad Meier beach house with her husband Mel Brooks. Which set off some cognitive dissonance. So I started Googlediving and turned up more info on the oceanfront house, which was in Lonelyville.

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Over the course of a couple of days of back and forth, Chad wrote about the Lambert/Brooks/Bancroft House on his architecture blog; and he heard from neighbors, and eventually, from the house's current owners, who shared stories and pictures. It was a somewhat euphoric process, connecting these blog worlds to the real world, and pushing information, then knowledge, out there.

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Chad was stoked, too, and kept up conversations with the owners for a while, maybe floating the idea of a renovation, but I don't think anything ever happened. For my part, it was too soon so speak ill of the dead in 2006, and though Mel Brooks is still a genius, let's face facts: between the shingles, the second story, the rooflines, the doors and cut-out windows, the add-ons, and on and on, they completely ruined Meier's design.

The only proper thing to do is to strip the house back to the original box.

I mean, just look at it; there's nothing there, and it's perfect. How many times has this exact open-plan, 2BR house been designed by prefab-loving modernists on a budget in the last 50 years? It's the Glass House made out of 2-by, on stilts. Anyway, I resolved [again] last night to earmark my 15th, but certainly no later than my 20th million toward buying Richard Meier's first house and restoring it to its stripped down glory. And if someone beats me to it, that's probably fine with me.

Richard Meier's High and Mighty Beach House [nyt]

June 27, 2014

Uncle Sam's Club

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The Department of Homeland Security released this photograph of Secretary Jeh Johnson and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and their respective entourages visiting the Males 16-17 aisle in the Nogales Placement Center, where several hundred ? thousand? unaccompanied minors are being detained, after being arrested while crossing into the US.

I'm going to be Gurskying up images of these juvenile prison warehouse stores as I find them. I just cannot even right now.

Readout of Secretary Johnson's Visit to Arizona [dhs.gov/news]

June 17, 2014

On Roman Balls

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I was looking up something else entirely when I came across this post at the travel blog, Rome the Second Time, an architecture professor explaining how giant balls are a "very fascist" architectural element, which were popular starting in the 1920s.

The photo above is of a fascist-era housing complex in Garbatella, for example, and there are several more great examples.

http://greg.org/archive/struth_pantheon.jpg

Which, on the one hand, good to know, because seven years ago, when I first mapped out the world for places that could accommodate showing a 100-foot-diameter satelloon as an art object, the Pantheon in Rome was one of only a handful of possibilities. In concept, in fact, it seems like it'd be the perfect choice. [Eventually the Grand Palais in Paris joined the list, too.] But if spheres read to Romans as fascistic artifacts, you'd need to take that into account.

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The perfection the fascists loved also made Gerhard Richter very skeptical of spheres. He complained that with spheres it's "impossible to get any closer to perfection," and so you stop. Except when you don't; 16 years after he said this Richter created his own shiny steel sphere editions.

The Balls of Rome [romethesecondtime]

previously:
If I Were A Sculptor, But Then Again...
Les Sateloons du Grand Palais
Shiny Balls by Gerhard Richter

njtpk_signs_far.jpg

Can I just say how much I like the new aesthetic of the New Jersey Turnpike expansion project? I honestly cannot imagine that many people going to or from the Pennsylvania Turnpike; at least in my 10 years of DC-NYC shuttling, I've never seen that kind of volume, but aesthetically, I'm generally for it.

It's not the only place that has it, and maybe it's just the standard now in overpass and on- and off-ramp construction, but instead of bulky concrete pillars, the ramps are held up by huge, road-spanning I-beams. They all have a beautiful, oxidizing protective finish, too, like the best Richard Serras.

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Even cooler, though, are the new electronic signs, which are constructed of square, Cor-Ten pipe, and they have meshed-in spaces for maintenance. Not just catwalks, or ledges, but actual spaces. What we perceive as a flat thing--a sign--turns out to be a space. Like the window halllways at Grand Central or Philadelphia 30th Street Stations. The Turnpike signs are New Jersey's newest architectural icons, suspended across that state's iconic landscape: a 12-lane highway.

And someone designs this stuff. Probably someone at PKF Mark III, the firm which the Turnpike Authority awarded three contracts in 2011, totaling over $44 million, for the "Installation of Variable Message Signs at New and Existing Locations on the Turnpike."

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Oh wait, nope. Here it is, from the NJ Turnpike Interchange 6 to 9 Widening Program website: "Advanced Fabrication of Overhead Span Sign Structures for Variable Message Signs and Variable Speed Limit Signs," awarded to RCC Fabricators, Inc., on August 13, 2009.

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The project was one of the highlights in the 2011 newsletter for the Railroad Construction Company, Inc. family of companies [pdf, img above]. RCC Fabrication made 61 VSM sign structures, 41 for the Turnpike and 20 for the Garden State Parkway. The structures span up to 95 feet, and were built entirely off-site. I can't tell from the acknowledgements who is actually responsible for this form, but it works.

The architect/sculptor Tony Smith famously described the revelatory experience of driving down the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike in 1951 [pdf]. Me, I would like to move in before it opens. And before it gets too hot.

Previously: Michael Ashkin, "For Months He Lived Between The Billboards", 1993
Related infrastructure as domestic architecture: That Minnesota Skyway for sale again/still
Mies Gas Station

Has anyone ever bought artist wallpaper from Maharam Digital Products? Or have you ever seen it installed? 1 I'm kind of fascinated to know when, where, and who. Because is it seems to exist in this unusual space between pattern, image and object, between art and decoration. It has that visual punch, but compared to an artwork artwork, it's pretty cheap. [I think it starts at around $5-10,000 per installation.] Also, it's consumable, a one-time deal. You can't take it with you, and perhaps more importantly, you can't really resell it.

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So it really is for love. But it's also a little weird, like a counterfeit somehow. It feels strange that it's so customizable, a servicey product. Some artists' wallpaper feels close to their "actual" work. Some really tried to get into the essence of wallpaper as a tradition and a medium. I'm undecided which is the better approach.

Guyton/Walker's Orange_Lemon_Chex looks like it came straight out of an installation. But then if you just had wallpaper, wouldn't you wonder where the rest of the stuff is?

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Allan McCollum's The Shapes Project uses each of his 31 billion or whatever shapes only once, so each wallpaper installation will be technically unique.

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Goldkicker is one of two Marilyn Minter wallpapers, and I think it'd really, really hold a room. Part of me wonders how hard it'd be to have art in a room with artist wallpaper, though.

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Which is ironic. The degree with which an artist's artwork can be replaced by a wallpaper version of it has some critical implications. Also, it might cut into his market. Or maybe the price points are just so different, it's not an issue. Fred Tomaselli probably hopes so.

welling_maharam.jpg

James Welling's Glass House May, 2008, meanwhile, is similar enough to one of my favorite photomurals, the rare, surviving photomural that started it all [or at least my interest in photomurals]: a 1966 triptych of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion.

Maybe artist wallpaper is closer to architecture than to art.

Maharam Digital Products [maharam.com]

1 [I realize I have seen at least one installation before: L&M Arts had Paul Noble's wallpaper in its offices a while back. But maybe it wasn't this one; it seemed more city than ruin.]

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image: AA

Turkey is trying to control the flow of refugees from Syria and the unregulated trade and traffic across the open border by constructing a "portable" wall near Kusakli, a border village under the jurisdiction of the nearby town of Reyhanlı, in the Hatay province. No biggie, though, this wall's just 1200m. Really more of an installation.

The AA photo above shows workers installing the prefab concrete segments with a crane. They look like jacked up Jersey Barriers.

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As this DHA photo shows, they are jacked up Jersey Barriers, 30cm thick, and 3m square. Each weighs 9 tons. From their popular use in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the US military's technical term for a jacked up Jersey Barrier may be a Texas Barrier [3.7m] or an Alaska Barrier [6m], or a Bremer Wall, after Paul Bremer, who did so much to create the demand for them during the early days of the occupation.

All these US-style barriers, though, are thinner, rectangular, more 2001 monolith-shaped. Their design heritage traces back to the model for an instant wall along the US-Mexico border that congressman/earthworks artist Steve King (R-IA) exhibited in 2006. And to the decidedly non-temporary, non-portable wall Israel built in the occupied West Bank.

Turkey apparently does not want to use Israeli-style oblong walls, so they go with the square. A little heavier, but fewer lifts. They're apparently installing the wall at around 75 segments/day.

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I looked Kusakli up on Google Maps, and the awesome, gridded Benday dots of the olive orchards in the surrounding landscape are suddenly the second most interesting feature. Because there is this unusual Pentagon overlay around the town. What even is that? There's no way it's the wall. Or the demarcation for a wall, since the wall's only 1/8th built. Right? That'd turn Kusakli into West Berlin without limiting the flow of Syrians anywhere except in this tiny village. So it's something else.

Turkey builds portable wall on border with Syria [hurrietdailynews, image: AA via @aljavieera]
Turkey builds portable wall on Syrian border [todayszaman, image: DHA]

Previously: Study For A Fence And A Wall (2006)
Related: Afghanprogettazione: HESCO X DIY Troop Furniture

The Getty Museum is now included in the Google Art Project. Which is now a part of the Google Cultural Institute. I hadn't noticed how this context has changed, and how the Art Project has been subsumed and presented. The navigation options are, "Collections | Artists | Artworks | User Galleries." And institutions are collections.

getty_google_art_mirror_03.jpg

Anyway, Museum View. I know that Google Street View-based art fascination is old and busted, but Museum View for me is still the new hotness. Maps are for navigating, going somewhere, doing something. But Museums are for displaying and depicting and interpreting; they hold and show objects and generate discussions and critical context. And Google Museum View is doing that on a trans-institutional scale, and so it feels important to have some awareness of this process. Trans-Institutional Critique.

Fortunately, Google still sometimes documents itself documenting.

So many projects, so many browser tabs, open for so many months, I've gotta clear some of these things out:

warhol_worlds_fair_overpainted.jpg

I've wanted to remake the lost/overpainted panels from Andy Warhol's Thirteen Most-Wanted Men mural for the NY World's Fair since the Destroyed Richter Paintings days, but now with the comprehensive-sounding show at the Queens Museum opening, I've probably got a week to do it. And process it. And put it behind me. Ah well. The show does sound good, though.

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Not sure why it didn't occur to me sooner, but the news this week that MoMA's started the dismantling of the Folk Art Museum gave me a flash of inspiration: The Williams+Tsien Folk Table Collection. Turn each bronze alloy panel into a unique memento/tabletop. Maybe there's enough material inside to use for legs, &c., too. I see a couple dozen dining tables, as many coffee/side tables, and a handful of console/sofa tables. They'd be a stunning addition to the finest home, and quite the conversation piece.

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Actually, the inspiration came from Chester Higgins Jr's photo of Billie & Tod holding architectural fragments. The domestication of architecture.

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Also from the Times: Fred Conrad's great photo showing the use of photomurals to evoke/approximate historical spatial experience at the Jewish Museum's "Other Primary Structures" show. It's interesting that they're angled and mounted on wall-sized panels, not stuck to the moulding-encumbered wall. Makes them a bit more exhibition design and a bit less exhibition, I suppose.

Richter tweeted this the other day, and it's been nagging at me ever since:

the exhibition of reproductions of paintings, that is, not just paintings based on photographs. Also, of course, the show is at the world's most intensely named museum, the Topography of Terror.
I've reached out to the Topographers, hoping to find out more about how paintings function in an exhibit like this, and how the decision was made to include them as reproductions. But so far I have received absolutely no response. But I did get some screencaps from a YouTube video of the opening, which I can't find right now:

richter_topography_terror_1.jpg

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Hmm, actually the panels look like reproductions of pages of books, not of paintings. Simultaneously more and less interesting.

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While rummaging around the Met's collection database, looking for Arthur Vincent Tack info, I Google Imaged up this hard edge painting. Which apparently hadn't been documented in the color photo era, but I couldn't find it on the Met's site.

As I was posting this I realized the filename is the accession number, 1978.565, Larry Zox. 1978's obviously too old for Hard Edge; the painting's from 1966, an at once unusual and logical size of 50x100 inches. Untitled (from the Double Gemini Series).

Turns out the Guggenheim has a very similar painting, Alto Velto, from 1969. Color really matters in these jpgs.

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Martin Bromirski posted images from a 2008 Larry Zox show at Stephen Haller.

March 10, 2014

Rem Casafresca

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The Venice Architecture Biennale, which opens in June, held a press conference today with curator Rem Koolhaas and Paolo Baratta. The event was streamed live online. As @kieranlong pointed out on Twitter:

Intrigued, I quickly tuned in to the event, already in progress. The average age of the large crowd of press/reporters looked to be well over 60yo, and their questions were often longer than Koolhaas's answers, which were simultaneously translated by a rotating cast of female voices. It really was a mess.

The first words I heard set the tone:

So I decided to livetweet it.

With a couple of brief exceptions the text comes only from Koolhaas. I don't type very fast, and I can't figure out the keyboard shortcuts for accents, but otherwise I think this transcript captures the experience of watching quite well:

Yesterday at MoMA, I took extra time this time in David Platzker's 4'33" exhibit so I could dig into the Fluxus material a bit more. George Maciunas' extraordinary chart of the entire history of art as seen through the other end of the Fluxus telescope was especially awesome. [The site for last year's Fluxus exhibit has a huge image of Maciunas' chart for close-up study.]

maciunas_house_bklnmodelworks.jpg
Fluxhouse™ model via Brooklyn Model Works

Trying to find a copy for myself, I headed to the Stendhal Gallery, the post-Fluxus home of the Maciunas/Fluxus legacy, as managed by Henry Stendhal. And that's where I found out you can now buy a license for a Fluxhouse™.

The Fluxhouse™ [always with the ™] was George Maciunas' concept for affordable, adaptable, lightweight, prefabricated housing to change the world The 1,900sf single-family house is raised on concrete piers, with structural flooring and cabinetry around the perimeter, a central kitchen/bath core, and with adaptable, non-loadbearing panels defining the spaces around a glassed-in courtyard garden. Originally, it was supposed to be made out of a cheap, environmentally friendly material like plastic.

When Stendhal's George Maciunas Foundation showed a model of the Fluxhouse™ last year [above, built by Brooklyn Model Works], the story was a bit more complex. From The Architects' Newspaper [via Fluxus Fndn]:

The Prefab Building System first appeared in plans that Maciunas and a sometime colleague, the pugnacious philosopher/musician/all-purpose gadfly Henry Flynt, devised in 1965 for a housing system in the Soviet Union, hoping to improve on the heavy concrete residences that Soviet builders had favored since 1960. Maciunas designed, and may have helped draft, Flynt's pamphlet, which urged a return to the revolutionary aesthetics of the 1920s and an adoption of certain technologies that could democratize cultural power, including electric guitars, Buckminster Fuller domes, and Citroen 2CV cars. The Prefab System was part of this document. The Stendhal Gallery's public presentation nearly erases this origin (thought a press-kit essay by Julia Robinson does mention it), perhaps to jettison what today appears as off-putting ideological baggage. It's easy to accuse Flynt and Maciunas of naivete in attaching egalitarian hopes to the post Stallinist Soviet regime, but abstracting the design idea from any utopian context seems naïve in a different way.
Henry Flynt's involvement, whatever it may have been, doesn't come up in the Fluxhouse™ pitch.

But when the Foundation still writes that "George Maciunas is best known as the 'Father of Soho' for colonizing and gentrifying this neighborhood from a post-industrial dystopia into a mecca for the arts," it's safe to say that building a Fluxhouse™ still involves a certain utopian naivete.

Which may or may not be described in the FluxCty™ Assessment Report, the product of a five-year effort to finally take the Fluxhouse™ beyond the concept sketch stage, and to turn it into a commercially viable prefab building system. And now, the next logical step in a universal housing solution: selling up to five licenses to build your own Fluxhouse™ Limited Edition [pdf]. With a 2012 estimate of construction costs at $7.50/sf,, or $14,250, the limited edition license may end being the most expensive part.

there are a lot of Fluxhouse-related links in the sidebar here [georgemaciunas.com]
Previously, and definitely related: Modernism's embrace of systems, including George Nelson's strikingly similar modular house system from 1958
Jan Kaplicky was a fan of Fritz Haller's steel framing system
Kocher & Frey's Aluminaire House, which, obv
From sketch to Vuitton marketing scheme: realizing Perriand's beach house
Muji Houses

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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