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Friday, September 22, 2017

Today's archidose #979

Here are some photos of the Central Mosque Cologne (2017) in Cologne, Germany, by Architekturbüro Paul Böhm. (Photos: Chris Schroeer-Heiermann, who has a Flickr set with construction photos of the building.)


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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Book Review: Fables for the Drone Age

Fables for the Drone Age by Richard Goodwin
N Editions, 2017
Paperback, 50 pages

Even though I cover architecture for a living, every now and then I come across architects who have been practicing for a while but for some reason I'm unaware. One such architect/artist whom I should have known about much sooner is Richard Goodwin; according to his website he has been practicing for 42 years. Quick glances at the Australian's work, both on his website and in this new book coinciding with an exhibition at London's Betts Project earlier this year, brings to mind the work of Lebbeus Woods, Kaplan and Krueger, Wes Jones, and other architects whose practices veered into art and confronted technology head-on.

Fables for the Drone Age, produced by N Editions, was inspired by Grodon Matta-Clark's artist book, Splitting, from 1974. Although I wasn't familiar with that book, a quick Google search yields immediate similarities: a landscape format, simple text and images floating on white pages, and a gatefold. In Goodwin's book, that gatefold comes on the inside of the back cover, a treat after the comparatively small images throughout the rest of the book. Fables collects fourteen of Goodwin's monochrome sculptures interspersed with prose that opens up the meaning of his works to even more interpretation.

Two somewhat contradictory ideas came to mind when immersing myself in Fables: the violence of machinery/technology and the enthusiasm of youth. The first comes across fairly directly, as in the destructive Syria, one of the most recent works in the book, and Twin Parasite (below), in which a model car is maligned onto a tower-like slab. It turns out this model is a maquette for a full-sized piece with a real car that was installed in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2015. This maquette brings to mind the second aspect, youthful enthusiasm, since Goodwin uses model kits in his pieces, the type that kids (boys, mainly) build – or at least they used to build. I got car and plane kits as a child and patiently tried to make them resemble the photo on the box. But I never "hacked" them the way Goodwin does, using their parts in unexpected ways (like turning a helicopter into Paddle Tower) or using them as subjects for tableaus that splinter any boyhood optimism.

With often violent interactions between machines and buildings, and with war an occasional subject, it's hard not to equate Goodwin's output as seen in Fables most strongly with the late and highly influential architect/educator Lebbeus Woods. I'm not sure if the two knew each other or were just kindreds, one in Australia and one in New York, but obviously technology and violence are universal concerns. But they are concerns that are all to often set aside by architects in favor of ones that are more mundane and less political. Thankfully there are voices like Goodwin who tackle difficult subjects like these in provocative and sometimes elegant ways.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Running Behind

Last week I was in Chicago for a preview of the Chicago Architecture Biennial and for part of this week I'm attending a conference. So posts will resume later this week or early next week once things have gotten back to normal.

Monday, September 11, 2017

LG Goes Architecture

Before heading to work this morning I caught a glimpse of a commercial on TV for LG Signature. What stood out was the way the LG products – refrigerator, television, washing machine, air purifier – were positioned in front of some fairly notable, if not all widely known, works of architecture.

There's Johan Otto Von Spreckelsen's La Grande Arche in Paris:

Fumihiko Maki's Four World Trade Center in New York:

James Stirling's State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart:

And Norman Foster's 30 St. Mary Axe in London:

The commercial ends with the lines, "All great things are alike. They are built on essence." More than other spot covered in my architectural advertising posts, this commercial explicitly equates the products being sold with the architecture on display; the latter are not merely backdrops. Unfortunately, the comparisons are strictly formal, geometric; such as with the round openings of Stirling's building and the round front of the washing machine. More superficial than essential.

See for yourself in the 30-second short version:

And the one-minute long version:

Friday, September 08, 2017

CAF on the Move

Yesterday the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) announced it will be moving about seven blocks from its longtime digs at 224 South Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute, to 111 East Wacker, facing the Chicago River. The move, which will take place next year, is a logical one, given that CAF is known best for its architecture river tours. The Chicago Architecture Center, as it will be called, is being designed by AS+GG. Containing a shop, gallery, lecture hall, and design studio, the Chicago Architecture Center will sit right across the street from the dock for the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady Cruises (its official name) and across the river from the new Apple Store designed by Norman Foster.

[Rendering courtesy of CAF]

The move, though logical for CAF's operations and visibility, is evident of a shift in Chicago's downtown toward the river. 111 East Wacker sits near the earliest stretch of the Chicago Riverwalk, whose third phase opened last year. Mayor Daley had Millennium Park, but for his successor, Rahm Emanuel, it's all about the Chicago River.

More than any shifting tides in the city, though, I'm most intrigued by the design, which is much more than renovating a storefront. The design encloses an open plaza beneath the building and reworks the base where it meets Wacker Drive. Here is the existing condition, by comparison with the rendering above:

[111 East Wacker existing | Google Street View]

I don't see any objections to AS+GG's design, especially since the walk up Wacker from Michigan Avenue toward Lakeshore East has never been very nice (no wonder the outdoor seating at Houlihan's is empty in the view above), and the nicest parts of the elevated Illinois Center plaza is found on the other side of 111 East Wacker.

The Chicago Architecture Center is expected to open in summer 2018.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Today's archidose #978

Here are some photos of Feltrinelli Porta Volta (2016) in Milan, Italy, by Herzog & de Meuron. (Photos: Frank Dinger, who has a Flickr set with many more photos of this building.)

Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan
Feltrinelli Porta Volta Milan

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Listening to Leslie

Structural engineer Leslie Earl Robertson will be talking at the Skyscraper Museum on Thursday about his book recently published by Monacelli Press, The Structure of Design An Engineer's Extraordinary Life in Architecture. Details from the Skyscraper Museum are below.

Leslie Robertson Book Talk
The Structure of Design: An Engineer's Extraordinary Life in Architecture
The Monacelli Press, 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017 6:30-8:00 pm

In The Structure of Design, Leslie Earl Robertson offers a personal and accessible chronicle of the partnerships and problem-solving that forged so many classics of modern architecture. He recounts his famous collaborations with architects, including Minoru Yamasaki, Philip Johnson, and I. M. Pei, among many others, and his delight in working with leading sculptors such as Richard Serra and Beverly Pepper. Join us for an illustrated talk that combines personal refections and professional insights on "An Engineer's Extraordinary Life in Architecture."

Leslie Robertson moved to New York City to work on the structural design of the World Trade Center for the Seattle firm Skilling, Helle, Christiansen, and soon added his name to the partnership. He established the firm Leslie E. Robertson Associates in 1986. The firm’s many innovative skyscrapers around the world include the U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh, the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and Lotte World Tower in Seoul. He retired as a partner at the end of 1994 and continued to work on LERA projects through 2012. He now practices as Leslie Earl Robertson, Structural Engineer, LLC.

The Skyscraper Museum offers 1.5 LUs for AIA Members for this program.

Reservations are required, and priority is given to Members and Corporate Member firms and their employees. All guests MUST RSVP to to assure admittance to the event.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Book Review: Detail Kultur

Detail Kultur: If Buildings Had DNA: Case Studies of Mutations by Christoph a. Kumpusch
Aadcu, 2016
Hardcover, 1030 pages

[All images courtesy of]

Even without the overused quote attributed to Mies van der Rohe, "God is in the details," architects would understand the importance of details, the way in which a building's success hinges on how its materials and assemblies are treated. In terms of books on the subject, they range from practical, technical guides to conceptual explorations, as in the exhaustive work of Edward R. Ford. Architect and Columbia GSAPP professor Christoph a. Kumpusch attempts to blend these two approaches, resulting in a massive, layered volume born from his PhD dissertation at the Universität für Angewandte Kunst - Wien.

Even before cracking open the thick chip board cover of Detail Kultur, it's clear this is a special book, a product of much time, energy, and passion. Additionally, the cover and its notched end pages spell out the structure of the book, specifically the ten themes (what Kumpusch call "lenses") explored by the baker's dozen projects listed on the front. The 13 projects are actually noted as "12+1 projects," since one of them – the Light Pavilion that Kumpusch worked on with Lebbeus Woods – inhabits Steven Holl's Sliced Porosity Block, one of the projects.

[Spread with Steven Holl's Sliced Porosity Block]

Even before the reader gets to the introduction, the author has provided a key to the book's layered structure and its many parts: the lenses and their icons, the projects, the various text boxes (Kumpusch's own text, dictionary definitions, quotations, captions, and citations), and finally the drawings, their thumbnail silhouettes, and their scales. All the relevant information is found on the page; there is no back matter outside of an index, bibliography, material key, and architects' bios. With so much information – practical and conceptual – packed on each page, a key is necessary to navigate the book's own detailed presentation.

[Spread with Neil Denari's HL23]

At just over a thousand pages, this is not a cover-to-cover read; it is something to dive into in a few ways. First is in terms of the lenses, which are notched on top of the pages and focus on such areas as "corners," "openings and closings," and "chassis geometry." Second is by project; every project does not fall into every lens, but the projects can be found easily via notches on the right side of the pages. (I found myself gravitating to projects I have some familiarity with, such as Peter Zumthor's Therme Vals, HL23, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro's The Broad.) Third would be a reading of the text that prefaces each lens's collection of relevant details; here Kumpusch explains his conceptual basis for each lens and references even more projects than the book addresses in its case studies.

[Spread with Eric Owen Moss's Samitaur Tower]

In terms of the details provided, kudos should go to Kumpusch for assembling them into a consistent graphic format with scales (most are 1:10) that allow for easy comparison. It's great to have access to details on 12+1 stellar projects. That said, some details are throwaways (are roof vent details, for instance, so important in this ambitious study?) and some of the photos that accompany the details suffer from low quality. But when Kumpusch pairs details with relevant, high-quality photos, as in the spreads here, the book excels as a means of providing technical information to conceptual thinkers – and vice versa, laying a conceptual foundation for architects otherwise focused on construction details.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Seaton Hall Expands

My alma mater, Kansas State University, is dedicating its expanded College of Architecture, Planning and Design on October 13. Regnier Hall, as the expansion is being called, is designed by New York's Ennead Architects (design partner Tomas Rossant) with BNIM as architect-of-record.

The expansion renovates portions of, and inserts itself between, Seaton Hall (left in the rendering above) and Seaton Court (aka Mechanics Hall, right in rendering above). The situation is hard to grasp fully in the available renderings, but this video produced by CAPD Dean Tim de Noble is very helpful in understanding the project:

Additionally, Tom Leopold has documented the project's construction on Instagram (apdesignexpansion); here are a few highlights:

Although I can't make it to the building's dedication next month, I should be posting more on the project in the near future.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Today's archidose #977

Here is a photo of the 2017 Serpentine Pavilion in London's Kensington Gardens (on display until October 8) by Diébédo Francis Kéré. (Photograph is by Iqbal Aalam, though be sure to check out his Flickr album that documents all of the Serpentine Pavilions since 2003.)

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
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:: Tag your photos #archidose