“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.

Advertisements

“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.

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.

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.

Blurred Lines…

The Guggenheim, already a world-renowned institution, was propelled in the stratosphere with the opening of its Frank Gehry-designed Bilbao institution.

© commons.wikimedia.org

© commons.wikimedia.org

The architect took his talent for sensuous and curved titanium materials and applied it in ways we had never seen.  Along the way, it also put Bilbao, Spain on the map in the world of cultural institutions.  And even though Gehry adapted his trademark look for Walt Disney’s Concert Hall in Los Angeles, nothing could approach the groundbreaking look of his Guggenheim original.  Imagine then the skipped heartbeats that took place when the famed museum launched a search for someone to design its latest location–in Helsinki, Finland.

NYT2010100714540814C

Gehry’s Spruce Street building in New York City.
© commons.wikimedia.org

Kudos belong to the winner Moreau Kusonoki Architects which managed the same feat Gehry did but only by going in a completely different direction–that of understated, minimal elegance.  Taking local materials and the Scandinavian art of simple, minimalist lines, Kusonoki’s winning design becomes part of the Finnish landscape, blending harmoniously in her surroundings.  I’m counting the days to its opening so I can visit and experience first-hand this achievement.

© cnn.com

© cnn.com

© guggenheim.org

© guggenheim.org

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.

The Whitney-03

© 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.