Category:architecture

February 9, 2004

I Heart The Time Warner Mall

If you need me, I'll be at the Time Warner Mall, getting in line for the escalator to Whole Foods, where I'll be bellying up to New York's only Jamba Juice.

"Whata Juice?" you say? Soon enough, you will be surrounded by seemingly rational people discussing the merits of Power-sized Bounce Back Blasts with Vita Boost. You can join in, or you can take your mall-snobbery and chain store disdain, grind it into a powder, dump it into your (Stick-in-the) Mud Truck coffee, plant your crabby ass on the IND, and slink home to watch Channel J.

Related:
"This is like a piece of Stamford in Midtown...It's really nice that they brought the suburbs into the city." [NYT]
Lockhart Steele, too, drinks the Kool-aid Jamba Juice
Felix Salmon worries rightly that this mall foretells the coming of a WTC Mall

Related to that:
"when they came for my greek-lookin' coffee cups, I said nothing" [greg.org 7/02]

November 7, 2003

Herbert Muschamp, Leg Man

Continuing in my apparent "interesting, but what does it mean for The Matrix?" vein, here's a quote from Herbert Muschamp's TMI review of the Men in Skirts exhibit at the Met's Costume Institute:

I knew the Wachowski Brothers had lost it when Keanu Reeves showed up in their film The Matrix Reloaded dressed in that floor-length black soutane. If you're fortunate enough to have a leading man of Mr. Reeves's slim, agile physique, you do not ó not! ó cover up his legs.

September 19, 2003

Looking at The Sun

You know how, on a cloudless afternoon, when you're working in your orange grove, or driving your airboat in search of alligators, or maybe settling into lounge chair with a just-before-five cocktail on your unusually prominent, screened-in veranda--which the gal over in the developer's office calls an "outdoor room," but which, to the unindoctrinated northern eye, really looks like the marmoset habitat at the zoo, just minus the trees--and, for a fleeting instant, the glint of the sun reflecting off the belly of a jet flying north at 41,000 feet catches your eye and causes you to look up?

To a man on that plane, for a few minutes, anyway--at least three, but not more than five, it's really hard to say when it began, since staring out the window is a somewhat novice, absentminded activity to which the man, a very frequent flier, rarely resorts, unless it's a flight going into LaGuardia around magic hour, in which case he hopes the approach is across Brooklyn if he's in A/C and up the Hudson if he's in D/F (and yes, in addition to the Delta Shuttle, which offers but one class of service, there are planes where the first class seats are lettered A/C and D/F, so you can't jump to the conclusion that the guy's always flying coach, poor bastard, even if this particular plane is operated by an airline called Song, which is Deltan for "Southwest," and which eschews a first class section for all leather seats in colors--plums, pumpkins, chartreuses and AOL blues--that signal "edgy" and "hip" and "out of the box" in the suburban Atlanta corridors of brand management power, corridors where the same self-defeating imperative to prove one's corporate coolness explains locals' fervor for "Hotlanta, which is a lot like New York. Really." and the commissioning of flight crew uniforms from their daughters' must-have bag designer Kate Spade, which are, with an enthusiastic lack of awareness, bespangled with Office Space-style "flair"), not that either side will offer a view this trip, what with his plane flying either over, around, through, or into a hurricane, a phenomenon which looks stunning from the international space station but which is turns the plane's rows of windows into more than enough lightboxes to preview simultaneously every slide of every grandchild of every tanned, facelifted, tennis-braceleted busybody on this plane--that glint is revealed to be a perfectly round, white reflection of the sun itself, which pans across the dark green Evergladian landscape 41,000 feet below, like a helicopter searchlight on Cops, only much faster and wider and in daylight (by definition, duh), or like the moon, hanging low enough on the horizon when you drive along the unlit freeway at night that it ducks behind trees, warehouses, and billboards.


gehry_cwru_atrium.jpg

It took police more than seven hours to shoot and capture the gunman who opened fire in the newly opened Peter B. Lewis Building for Case Western's business school. It was "almost a cat and mouse game," said Cleveland Police Chief Edward Lohn. Why so long? "As the SWAT team entered the building, they were constantly under fire," Lohn said. "They couldn't return fire because of the design of the building. They didn't have a clear shot."

The design, of course, is by Frank Gehry, an architect whose work has never been described as "SWAT-team-friendly." [Since when is "designed to give a clear shot" considered a desirable building feature?! -ed.] Gehry was brought in by Lewis, Cleveland's biggest philanthropist (except when he's cutting off all the cultural organizations in the city and calling for the replacement of CWRU's entire board. Another story.), to work a little of that Bilbao magic, to create an instantly recognizable architectural signature, an icon, his (Gehry's? or Lewis's?) own Fallingwater. [Insert Falling Ice joke here.]

In a moment of Any Publicity is Good Publicity, perhaps, Cleveland's mayor gloated of the city's newest signature architecture: "This building now becomes a homicide site," a backhanded reference to Bilbao, Spain, where Basque terrorists failed to blow up Gehry's Guggenheim building (with grenades in flower pots in Jeff Koons' Puppy actually. Bilbao still wins on style. Another digression.)

weatherhead_floorplan.jpg

Quake programmers take note: Floor plans are available. Unfortunately, the video walkthrough (boldly titled, "Risk, Learn, Grow") is currently offline back up! controversy's over.

It's architectural reality TV, with so many last-minute campaigns, twists and turns, you'd think Fox was running it, not the Port Authority. The final two bachelors, er architect groups in the design "competition" for the WTC site have been workin' it hard, according to design reporter Julie Iovine's NYTimes article, even turning up on Oprah. Herbert Muschamp weighs in, too, slightly chastened. Meanwhile, Edward Wyatt's report of a LMDC committee's surprise recommendation of THINK over (the Pataki/Bloomberg-favored) Libeskind sounds like a promo for the finale of Joe Millionaire. And just as "surprising," or "real," for that matter. Whether angling to arrive at a lecture with a victim family member or throwing shade on each other's designs, these architects ingenuously perform for the camera.

February 11, 2003

What're THINK Thinking?

Team_Think_WTC_vinoly_WCC_SB.jpg
Team THINK's winning WTC design: lattice towers with a, um,
museum? embedded in it image: vinoly.com

Goin' to hear THINK architect/model Rafael Vinoly at Urban Center tonight (as suggested by Gawker)? Ask him if the reason he was a no-show yesterday on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show was that listener's early comment, which surprised Lehrer, about how THINK's towers appear to have an airplane embedded in it? Listen to the exchange is in the "3rd audio clip. [2016 updated link to WNYC archive page currently has no audio.]

[Note: If you watch THINK's video on The NYT's slideshow, the shape of the "airplane" is quite different; it looks more like a giant aluminum cheese straw. For THINK's sake, I hope that's closer to their intentions. One team of architects trying to sneak a shudder-inducing memorial past us is more than enough, thanks.]
[2016 update: lmao of course most of these links are dead, I cannot BELIEVE that the realaudio of WNYC's show from 13 yrs earlier is not there anymore! But I un-hotlinked and updated the image and the Vinoly link. Swimming against the tide of time, also Gawker RIP]

February 5, 2003

On WTC Site Designs

What I hope doesn't carry through from the plans the LMDC selected from Daniel Libeskind and THINK Team:

  • Needlessly symbolic height (1,776 feet) Why not two 911' high towers? Duh, because.
  • Single high-profile elements that completely draw attention away from the plan and architecture of the rest of the site.

    What I hope does carry through:

  • "The Bathtub" as part of the memorial (Read Edith Iglauer's 1972 New Yorker article about its construction, as discussed here.)
  • Paul Goldberger's called-for "Eiffel Tower for the 21st Century" (as discussed here.)
  • Memorials related/sited to the points of impact, an element of THINK's World Cultural Center which (New Republic architecture critic) Martin Filler attributes to Shigeru Ban.

    What Filler calls such a concept, which I personally favor: "unquestionably the most provocative." [I think he's talking about the latticework as Ban's, not the memorial. I like both.]

    Despite a lot of overwrought reaction, Filler wins the greg.org "smartest critic" award for agreeing with me on so many points: this memorial idea, the 1,776' tower, and (finally!) the Eisenman-as-ruin-as-memorial-instigator analysis.

  • Herbert Muschamp, the Professor Emile Flostre of architectural empathicalism, gives his blessing to the THINK team's proposal to build a World Cultural Center at the former WTC site.

    Think, Stan Reis Photography, via NYTimes.com

    There are several things to like about the proposal, not the least of which is to turn the emphasis from the overwhelming commercial interests on the site, which the market can take care of just fine, thanks. Think's proposal most closely ressembles Paul Goldberger's call for an "Eiffel Tower for the 21st century," which would place greater importance on technological and symbolic marvel than on purely functional architecture (go ahead, tell me how many rentable square feet is the Eiffel Tower?). And I thought the WTC-WCC connection struck a powerful chord.

    Enough with the turn-ons, now the hang-ups: the awkward relation to the oh-so-holy footprints; the lattices' form, too-close-to-the-originals evocation of the towers which, I think, will age poorly; skepticism of such a project's survival in the pathetic, poisonous political environment of the rebuilding process.

    For my part, such open towers would make my own idea for a memorial possible: large, quiet halls in space (x,y,z space) near the points of impact on the original towers.

    koolhaas-prada-book.jpg

    Rem Koolhaas's Projects for Prada, Part 1, underneath a table-like sculpture by Wade Guyton

    From the NY Post:

    Firefighters had to rescue shoppers from a stuck elevator in the super-trendy Prada store in SoHo the other day. A mother and her two young daughters were celebrating one of the girls' birthdays at the Rem Koolhas [sic]-designed boutique at around 4 p.m. when they entered the high-tech, round glass elevator. The thick double doors jammed, trapping them inside for an hour and a half with a mannequin dressed in a see-through plastic raincoat. Since Koolhas neglected to include an escape hatch, the FDNY used a power saw to cut a hole in the steel roof big enough for a ladder. The store was closed for 45 minutes while sparks flew and onlookers gawked from the sidewalk. The apologetic manager presented the liberated shoppers with free cosmetics.

    Prada representatives have not responded to requests for confirmation/information, and store employees have been asked not to comment.

    For more of Koolhaas's views on current trends in retail, check his two most recent publications: The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping and Projects for Prada Part 1. stay tuned. [I particularly recommend the Prada book.]

    my-street-in-nyc.jpg

    Thinking about Koolhaas' Delirious New York again. This 1978 book, billed as a "retroactive manifesto," tells the story of Simeon deWitt, Governeur Morris and John Rutherford, who boldly mapped out the Manhattan Grid in 1811. "...Each block is now alone like an island, fundamentally on its own. Manhattan turns into a dry archipelago of blocks." The grid set the terms for Manhattan's future and foreordained--according to Koolhaas--NYC's vertical development (ie., the skyscraper). Apex Art had an interesting exhibit in 2000, "Block," which featured Austrian architecture students' responses to what Koolhaas called "Manhattanism."

    My street was barely a twinkle in deWitt & Co's eyes then. In fact, the two buildings above both date from the 1920's, when Park Avenue got its first real upgrade (from putting the NY Central railroad below grade. It's the train to New Haven, you know). But like the rest of Manhattan, it's character is inexorably derived to the grid. But not in the way Koolhaas thought. It's the street, not the block, that's really wonderful. On approach my street's most interesting feature is the forest-dense trees that fill the space between the blocks.

    John Cage was interested in the spaces between, whether between sounds or between notes or text on a page. It's one of the reasons I wanted to use Cage's music in Souvenir (November 2001). And Gustavo Bonevardi, a creator of Towers of Light (a project which played a role in my writing Souvenir and which has an indirect reference in the movie) said of it: "...in effect, we're not rebuilding the towers themselves, but the void between them."

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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.

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