“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.

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“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It’s fairly common to complain about modern air travel, that the days of glamour and luxury have been replaced by the mundane and tedious tasks of simply transporting passengers from point A to point B.  Recently, however, there have been significant changes–transformative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.

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

Through the Looking Glass…Smartly.

The Whitney, the formal name of which is The Whitney Museum of American Art, has transformed itself, not just in terms of its new location, between New York City’s High Line and the Hudson River, but also because of its new home, designed by none other than Renzo Piano, an architect who recently designed the headquarters for the New York Times.

The Whitney-02

© The Whitney

Rather than taking his usual minimal approach and giving the museum sleek lines and wrapped in glass, the renowned architect went in a different direction altogether.  It has received a lukewarm reception as the exterior appears like a hodgepodge of partially completed ideas which never are fulfilled.  Missing is what many expected to be a grand statement, like Hearst Tower, for example, which rises in dramatic and modern fashion from it’s historically protected, street level entrance.

The Hearst Tower-01

© commons.wikimedia.org

Herein lies Piano’s genius, however.  What he has achieved is only appreciated once you enter the building.  Missing are narrow and jumbled corridors and galleries separating people from one another.  Instead, huge spaces and generous amounts of natural light flood greet you.  In other words, don’t stand outside and simply admire the great architecture.  Come in and experience the great art.  Brilliant.

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© The Whitney

No longer is The Whitney the adopted little step sister to the city’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the world’s greatest art institutions, or The Guggenheim.  Now, she sits at the dinner table on equal footing with the others.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)…

…one of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the world, made its mark with beautiful, impeccably designed and minimalist commercial glass towers (believe it or not, they’re not mutually exclusive.)  The nearly 80 year-old firm’s Lever House in New York City, for example, is still considered a landmark achievement in the then-innovative concept of the “curtain wall” when it was constructed over 50 years ago.

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© 2013 SOM

The firm has taken on the holy grail of all projects when it submitted a design for the re-imagined Madison Square Garden & Penn Station complex in the heart of Manhattan.  Long considered one of the world’s premier sports and concert venues, the Garden–as its commonly known–is also derided as one of the ugliest buildings in North America, a reputation, despite numerous attempts at expansion and renovations, it has never escaped.  Its made even more obvious by its mere presence in a city known for the most recognizable skyline on the planet. The adjacent Penn Station, one of the busiest transportation hubs in America, has a reputation hardly any better than the Garden’s.

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© 2013 SOM

New York’s Senator Patrick Moynihan was the city’s greatest champion for a new, accessible Penn Station which was not only to serve local trains and Amtrak but was to strive for an ideal where public transportation, and the buildings which provide it, exist for a greater common good–an almost utopian view, if you will, of urban planning.  Sadly, the Senator’s passing in 2001 meant he never saw this lofty dream fulfilled.

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© 2013 SOM

Plans may be rapidly moving forward, however, and the Senator’s dreams finally realized with SOM’s plans. Their trademark glass facades, and multiple platforms, allow for an almost unfathomable space where patrons have nearly unobstructed views of everything else taking place around them. Their design may be much more futuristic than, say, Grand Central Station’s layout, but the intent is the same. For the self-proclaimed Capital of the World, nothing less than a spectacular, mind-bending space is acceptable and SOM may have just pulled that off.