“If you can design one thing…”

“…you can design everything.” ― Massimo Vignelli


If there were any concerns that New York City, the self-appointed capital of the world, was becoming complacent and erecting too many, cookie-cutter towers, two recent developments should end that.  The first, which we discussed on the page for architecture, was the design plans for Hudson Yards, an area on Manhattan’s west side.  The second, and no less noteworthy, is BIG / Bjarke Ingells’s VIA 57 West, a building which combines the Scandinavian practice of shared urban spaces with American bravado of pushing the limits on what a skyscraper can achieve.  Residents enjoy enviable views and a lush garden in the middle of the epitome of the urban jungle.

“Every great architect is, necessarily, a great poet.”

“He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” ― Frank Gehry


When it comes to visual poetry, famed Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava’s arguably greatest and most ambitious project was unveiled with much-deserved fanfare at New York City’s reimagined World Trader Center.  His gorgeous transportation hub, Oculus, reminiscent of a bird’s wings, is less about stunning architecture and daring design and rises to something even greater―that of art.

Air & space…

It’s fairly common to complain about modern air travel, that the days of glamour and luxury have been replaced by the mundane and tedious tasks of simply transporting passengers from point A to point B.  Recently, however, there have been significant changes–transformative in nature if not downright revolutionary.  Boeing’s groundbreaking Dreamliner, for example, is intended to define travel with sensuous curves and subdued lighting; Airbus’ A380, aka The Double Decker,” is a technological marvel with bravado to match.  It then leads to the proverbial question :  what is the next step in aviation ?  The latter company may have answered when it introduced its new Airspace, a revolutionary redesign of passenger cabins.  This is no mere paint job.  Airbus has completely reimagined the flying experience from the passengers’ point of view with contemporary lavatories; customizable ambient lighting; interiors defined by clean and sleek lines; larger and more accessible overhead storage bins; wider seats; and, unobstructed under-seat foot space.  Airbus has clearly realized the journey is as important as the destination.

If Architecture is Woman, this is the Sophia Loren of buildings (part deux…)

Zaha Hadid’s passing was a shock to the world of architecture and aficionados of great art alike.  She brought a unique feminine mystique and perspective to the projects entrusted to her, never compromising a very distinct point of view.  If the limits of engineering were tested by her ground-breaking building lines, the results undeniably became timeless.  We’re including some of her greatest achievements here and a copy of a post from last year about her first project for New York City.


Pritzer Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid unveiled her first project in New York City, a condominium at West 28th Street near the city’s High Line pedestrian park.  Her characteristic materials, which bend into sensuous curves much like Frank Gehry’s titanium designs for the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, are showcased spectacularly.  The High Line’s Standard Hotel, which sits atop the park, has been that urban project’s focus for some time.  It now has competition.

Welcome to the Republik…

Celebrated author Victor Hugo once said, “There is nothing more interesting than a wall behind which something is happening.”  We sometimes perceive architecture, art, and design as a collection of intangible ideas, behind a wall, and inaccessible.  Welcome to the newly redesigned Concept Republik, intended to chip away at that proverbial wall and in doing so, show how design surrounds and influences us.

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The Shard, London, The United Kingdom. © David-Kevin Bryant

Sliver, aka the Manhattanization of Brooklyn

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” ― Bill Watterson


Beauty has a price.  And a tremendous one at that.  SHoP Architects, the firm behind the Barclays Center in New York City’s Brooklyn, learned this―and not in a totally enthusiastic way―when it unveiled designs for the borough’s tallest structure, upsetting a large swath of New Yorkers in the process.  There is no question their building, 9 DeKalb Avenue, is gorgeous, its signature feature being a series of vertical bronze accents, a subtle nod to the historic Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank with which the proposed tower would share part of its footprint.

9 DeKalb Avenue-02

© SHoP Architects


The issue, however, is not with the building itself, but the precedent it may set and which may set Brooklyn on a development path from which it cannot escape.  Local residents are concerned the tower will have long-term, serious consequences on the neighborhood, located between Brooklyn Heights and Bed-Stuy, thereby shifting it from its claim of authenticity to one thriving on purely commercial interests.  They do not want the downtown area, and as a natural extension of this, the entire borough, characterized by the overdevelopment of tall, slender buildings, a trend that has gone nearly unabated with its sister borough, Manhattan.  Midtown, for example, at Central Park South, has a number of them and the long shadows they cast over the Park, particularly during the shorter daylight hours of Fall and Winter, has robbed the area of the solemn peace that accompanies the winter solstice.  Their argument, and its valid one, is that Manhattan’s skyline, although dazzling, causes the eventual eradication of the neighborhoods below and that’s precisely what sets Brooklyn apart.

9 DeKalb Avenue-03

© SHoP Architects

 

 

“Every nightmare has a beginning. This one never ends.”

And thus begins the hall of mirrors that is Dressed to Kill, a motion picture described by noted critic, David Denby, in New York Magazine as the “first great film of the eighties.”  After 35 years, it has been restored beautifully and issued in Blu-ray by Criterion Collection, along with an impressive list of disk extras.  Suspense director Brian DePalma should be quite proud of the results as his brilliant and terrifying film holds up quite well in the new century.

Starring Nancy Allen as a witness to a crime; Michael Caine as a psychiatrist with a dangerous patient; Angie Dickinson as a bored Manhattan housewife; Dennis Franz as a detective trying to catch a killer; and Keith Gordon, as Dickinson’s son, with some inventive tricks up his sleeve in order to untwist a Rubrik’s Cube of clues, “Dressed to Kill” was shocking when it was released in 1980.  Graphic in terms of language, nudity and violence, it was nonetheless praised for its visual style and soundtrack.

With nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, DePalma kills off his star, Dickinson, within its first half-hour.  Those 30 minutes, however, are characterized by two of the most talked-about scenes ever in modern American film-making.  The first is a virtually silent, 7-minute sequence in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (substituting for New York City’s Metropolitan.)  Dickinson pursues a stranger throughout the museum’s galleries, only to find herself being pursued.  It quickly became known as the “cat-and-mouse” sequence in film circles and it stands up beautifully even by today’s standards.  The second is the murder sequence itself, taking place in the confines of elevator.  With an ominous sense of foreboding delivered initially through the stares of a child who enters on a lower floor, multiple camera shots, and the glint of a straight-edge razor, DePalma solidified his reputation as director of bravura style, staging and editing.  What ensues thereafter is nothing short of dazzling.  Multiple images focused in the same frame, split screens and an abundance of mirrors throughout all help propel the notion of dual personality and mistaken identities.  DePalma’s longtime composer Pino Donaggio never scored a film more beautifully and cinematographer Ralph Bode, who has since passed since the film’s release, should be proud that his work has easily stood the test of time.