Why is this Calatrava Moment different from all other Calatrava Moments?

calatrava_south_st.jpgAccording to the Curbed Theory of NY Media Darling Architects, full-force Calatrava-hatin’ should’ve kicked in in January. But here it is April, and there’s a snuggly celebration in the Times by Robin Pogrebin, and it’s got subtexts packed so tight, I can’t figure out what the real story is:
It’s what New York’s all about, baby: reinvention “he considered himself more an artist than an architect.” Really? Because he used to be “the bridge guy, the engineer who also did architecture.”*
Can you believe it, he’s in a museum show! In NYC!: True, Sandy does have a show coming up at the Met six months from now. Odd that there’s no mention of his MoMA shows, either last year’s “Tall Buildings” or that little ol’ one-man show in 1993. Or the Municipal Art Society’s St John the Divine exhibit that debuted his first NYC project.
$45 million condos at the Seaport don’t sell themselves, pal: I think we’re getting warmer. Says connoisseur/condo developer Frank Sciame, “Standing there in front of his sculpture, that’s how this started.” Or as he puts it in Absolute magazine, “In addition to being a work of art… it will also be a place to live.”
He’s the only thing right about the WTC site: Ah-ha. “It helps us immensely to have someone give us a solution that is workable from an engineering point of view, as opposed to just an architecturally beautiful feature.” Translation: Thanks for playing, Danny. There are some lovely parting gifts for you on the way out.
See, if only we’d let the Port Authority make every redevelopment decision for the WTC site unilaterally, we’d be much better off. Ahh, I’m inspired already.

An Architect Embraces New York
Calatrava’s Tower: Even More Egregiously Expensive! [curbed]
* like the suit who calls himself a filmmaker but ends up writing all the time has room to talk.

Walker Art Center Production Blog

wac_hdem_sidewalk.jpg, totally cribbed from walkerart.orgSo the Walker Art Center reopened last week in Minneapolis, and the reviews I’ve seen are great.
Did you know they had what amounts to a production blog for the completion of the new Herzog & deMeuron addition? Titled “New Media Initiatives,” there are entries about architectural minutiae like sandblasting H&deM patterns on the new sidewalk, testing semi-reflective films for the projected signage, and kiosks. Lots of kiosks. Solid, geeky museum stuff. There’s also an education-related blog.
New media initiatives [blogs.walkerart.org, via man]

This is your brain on Gehry. Any Questions?

Since it was opened, the polished stainless steel roof on Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in LA has been throwing off so much glare, people are getting baked alive in the neighboring condominiums. And on the street, fuggedaboutit. They’re frying eggs and dog’s brains on the sidewalk.
The result: the County Board of Supervisors has ordered a bunch of workers with hand sanders to climb up there and dull the thing down a bit. Meanwhile, some tourist from New Jersey, 3,000 miles away, thinks they should leave it alone.
Disney Concert Hall to lose some luster [LAT, via BoingBoing]
Related: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis-Brown house was “red-tagged,” meaning no one can enter it, after a inspectors noticed a rainsoaking-related shift in a retaining wall. [LAT, via archinect]

Saint Burns Philip Johnson at Stake

Philip Johnson called himself a whore, partly to diffuse critics who didn’t like his constantly changing style or his intense curiousity in pursuit of new architectural ideas.
Apparently, though, it didn’t save him from an eviscerating obituary in the Guardian at the hands of Andrew Saint. Unlike Homer Simpson–who likes his beer cold and his homosexuals flaming–this venal Cambridge architecture professor prefers his beer warm and his homosexuals safely confined to those four years of British public school, thank you very much. At least that’s what the whole obituary is about.
Saint’s acid conflation of the evils of gayness, inherited wealth, corporations, aesthetics, modernism and Nazism was enough to drive archinect’s Javier Arbona to the typewriter to call Saint to repentance.
Philip Johnson: Flamboyant postmodern architect whose career was marred by a flirtation with nazism [Guardian]
A response to Andrew Saint, by Javier Arbona [archinect]
[update: In a NYT op-ed, Mark Stevens says basically the same thing as Saint, but with more quotes and less gay.]

Robert Polidori: ‘Habitats, Not Architecture’

Check out Michael Bierut’s appreciation of the bracing architecture environment photographs of Robert Polidori. Polidori’s are not photos for architects, who want their buildings to look their renderings–pristine and perfect, unsullied by unpredictable humanity and the less-pedigreed landscape surrounding them. No, Polidori makes photos that seem real; when you go to Bilbao, it’d actually look–and feel–like his picture, not the postcard. His work appears often in The New Yorker, Architecture Week, and in his books (actually, it appears all the time in his books).

Robert Polidori’s Peripheral Vision
Book Review: Polidori’s Metropolis [metropolismag.com]
Buy Robert Polidori’s Metropolis for 65 undiscounted bucks at Amazon.

Archinect T-Shirts Rock


Archinect’s empire just keeps expanding. They just launched their Winter/Monsoon 2005 Collection of limited edition T-shirts. This one’s designed by Christian Unverzagt of the Detroit-based M1/DTW. Also available: M/F robots made from old cathedral floor plans and a trippy something or other involving packing tape.
Why, they’re like getting beat with ten pounds of El Croquis.
Archinect T-Shirts
related: “beat me with ten pounds of Vogue” [Gawker T-Shirts]

Remember, There’s No ‘P’ In Architecture

koolhaas_library_sign.jpg, from matt howie

KINKS: The way-finding isn’t working. By the second or third day, we had to put up signs to help people. The bathrooms needed signs coming out, instead of being flat on the wall. The library’s organization makes complete sense to us. But for the public, it’s not obvious. One portion of the seventh floor is six feet higher because it spirals around. So if it says something is on seven, what does that mean?

-Deborah Jacobs, Seattle City Librarian, in the NYTimes, on actually using Rem Koolhaas’s ecstatically reviewed building

“A lot of employees are pretty upset that a lot of money was spent on the award-winning design but little was spent on things like water and restrooms,” said Stephen Beck, a consultant with the Professional Engineers of California Government union.
The 13-story, 716,200-square-foot structure has four drinking fountains, all on the ground floor. And at each end of each floor there are two bathrooms, one for women and one for men. The problem: only four urinals on each level.

-From the LAT article on complaints about Thom Maynes’ ecstatically reviewed Caltrans building.

Inside the year’s best-reviewed buildings
Matt Howie’s photos of temporary signs at the Seattle Public Library [flickr, via waxy]
Building puts form over bodily function [LAT, via archinect]

Ada Louise Huxtable on MoMA, Plus Contemporary Art

But we yearn for more than a cloakroom and gift shop in the cavernous entrance; the atrium cries for the really big gesture — even Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk” becomes a decorous gesture that ceases to alarm. This requires a powerful, perception-altering work, a site-specific creation that deals fearlessly with the scale — something new, provocative and outrageous — a naughty newcomer that must wait to be judged worthy enough to be invited in. MoMA has never looked so uptight as in this stupendous new space. Something needs to turn that void into a connection between past and future, something that takes a chance on the transformational experience only art can provide. MegaMoMA is fail-safe and risk-free.

– Ada Louise Huxtable.
It’s odd, considering there are works by Eve Sussman, Chris Ofili, Elizabeth Peyton, Josiah McIlheny, Peter Doig and Jeff Wall literally within spitting distance of each other, not to mention a dozen other living artists a generation or two older, but I feel an absence of contemporary energy, of connection to the immediate practice of art, at the new Modern. I think Huxtable’s phrase, risk-free, is all too apt. Is it still too early to start taking some risks?
… In MoMA’s Big, New, Elegantly Understated Home [WSJ, via archinect]

So, What Else You Working On, Yoshio?

taniguchi_hiroshima.jpgHere we are, the week before Thanksgiving, stuffed and groggy from consuming so much MoMA-related press, which we probably have to regurgitate on Thursday for our out-of-town relatives.
Then comes this new angle for the MoMA-weary: Turns out Yoshio Taniguchi’s other silvery, $400 million-plus, urban planning tour de force, tourist mega-destination has recently opened in Hiroshima. It’s the Naka Incineration Plant, a 490,000 sf waterfront waste processing center that’s open for public tours, in order to encourage Hiroshimans to consume wisely. [and while they’re there; Taniguchi threw in a bar.]
Like its sister building in Manhattan, the NIP [hmm. let me confirm that acronym, -g.] features Taniguchi’s clean lines and meticulous attention to detail. No word on the ticket price.
Hilton Kramer, you cranky old deluded bastard, consider this an early Christmas gift. And for the rest of you MoMA critics, don’t say I never gave you anything (besides a drubbing over some of your flimsy and/or hysterical arguments, that is). As for me, I think it kind of looks like the Tate.
Beauty in Garbage: Naka Incineration Plant by Yoshio Taniguchi [Fred Bernstein in ArchNewsNow, via life without buildings]

Team France Harvard Opera Police

phuyghe_puppet.jpgAfter the stunning success of Team America World Police [Hey, turns out they got the US political climate right after all…], puppet projects are breaking out all over.
At Harvard’s Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, the artist Pierre Huyghe is staging a puppet meta-opera that tells the stories of Le Corbusier’s design for building and Huyghe’s production of the opera. [That’s the “meta-” part. And yes, the puppets have puppets.]
The performance is November 18th at 6pm; a filmed version will screen in a blobular theater attachment until April 17.
Huyghe & Corbusier: Harvard Project [VES, Harvard]
NYT story with rehearsal stills

Updating The List: High-End Stores With Unpleasant Odors

1. Barney’s, men’s side, main floor
Coming down the escalator into the underwear/robe department, there’s an unbearable funk that’s been there since the store opened ten years ago. Drives me crazy.

2. Prada Store, Aoyama, Tokyo
[see left]
Leave it to a sissy to make fun of how people talk. In his retrograde column in the NY Observer, Simon Doonan reports, “As rumored, this store is bedeviled by a mysterious and unfortunate all-pervading odor of cat urine.”
My Tour de Tokyo [NYO]
Slide show of Herzog & de Meuron’s Tokyo Prada store, which opened in 2003 [dezain.net]

Bad Architecture (in Beijing)

China’s building boom may throw up a Rem Koolhaas now and then, but most of the time, it just looks like it’s throwing up.
Now, bad Chinese architecture has a home, BadJianZhu. Paul Wingfield, co-founder of the site, promises buildings with “a grandiose quality, a fantastical or monumental kind of aspiration that makes them worth recording.” Plus plenty of “Copies derived from copies, kitsch derived from kitsch.”
To be honest, a lot of it looks like the highway from DC to Dulles.
Visit BadJianZhu at badarchitecture.org
via Christopher Hawthorne’s NYT article, “Beijing’s Truly Bad Buildings”