Happy New Year! Past and future architecture.

    In with the old, in with the new.

    And isn't that what makes cities great?

    What I'm looking forward to in 2009: The grand opening of Renzo Piano Building Workshop's Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago.

    Above, on the left - Piano's Modern Wing due to open May 16, 2009.
    Above, on the right- Right, Louis Sullivan Arch from the entryway to the Chicago Stock Exchange (1893, demolished 1972.)

    Here's another photo of the new wing-


    And the blade of a bridge Piano designed to cross the street from the Art Institute to Millennium Park, and back-


    Yes, that is Frank Gehry's Pritzker Bandshell and trellis you see above.

    Neatly engineered, this bridge shoots across the many lanes of Monroe street. Of course the bridge will be modernist white when finished. And doesn't the city look great, in this winter photo taken yesterday? That gleam, rising on the left, is the still-rising Trump Hotel and Tower. You do see it even from afar.

    I'll have more on Renzo Piano in Chicago soon. Including views inside the galleries.

    Happy New Year! Here's to a fine '09 - together.
    -Edward

    More Hello Beautiful! on the Modern Wing here.
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Happy Holidays

    For winter solstice I traveled up through

    the hills of Malibu

    looking like Arizona, Sedona, this time of year.


    The light changes from point to point.

    We arrived at Eric Lloyd Wright's Wright Organic Resource Center

    Others already stood on the hilltop, looking out over the Pacific Ocean. To join them we walked past




    a lovely koi pond (shades of Japan, shades of Guggenheim!)

    Frank Lloyd Wright often included a water element, even in his urban projects, and in his Southern California work.

    This house, designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, grows organically out of the hill, the side of the hill, the brow, like Taliesin ("Shining Brow") where Eric had lived and worked with "grandfather" for many years.

    Others had also come to visit Eric and his lovely, sympathetic and artistic wife Mary and their family, and to see the sun set on the shortest day of the year.


    The house for now is far from finished. Some of its forms recall a Japanese Shinto gate; and, as in Shinto, this architecture considers nature sacred and imbued with spirits. To be here is to feel those spirits. Shinto celebrates the sense and essence of a particular place, as does this house. Its concrete looks the color of the hill on which it stands, particularly when bathed with




    Underneath the terrace, in the space below, burns the hearth of the home. Fire, to go with the water element, and earth, and air. The space with the hearth faces the sun


    set


    over the Pacific.

    Back up on top of the terrace



    The prow of the house


    lines up with the sun on this day of the solstice. Those metal poles will be replaced by solar panels when the house is finished.

    We watched an especially surreal, sublime Los Angeles sunset, enhanced by this quiet, dark, natural spot.


    They take away all that feels solid inside of you



    I looked to the right and saw Eric (in the center, wearing a hat) with a circle of friends


    His seems a satisfied mind.

    I turned around to watch








    We then gathered for warmth and food, back where the koi swam silently. There we were, beneath two aged and spreading, sheltering trees; their branches wrapped loosely in Italian (Chinese?) little white lights. These illuminated our faces, but didn't keep us warm. We wrapped our hands around warm mugs of herbal tea, shared dinner and merrymaking.

    Happy Holidays to you!
    -Edward


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Peter Eisenman sing-along at Yale

    The syllabus for the course Peter Eisenman is teaching at Yale
    Yale University - Fall 2008 - Prof. Peter Eisenman
    801a: Introduction to Visual Studies: Critical Composition
    Drawing, Seeing, Reading

    says for the class this Thursday (the last session) :
    Thursday, 11 December 2008, 5:30 PM
    Sing-along: Required attendance.

    How festive! Will someone record this and put it on Youtube?

    Can Peter Eisenman sing? If not, will we discover new revelations in the relationship between architecture and music?
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What went down when the Sydney Opera House went up

    Reader Marcus Trimble from Sydney, sends Hello Beautiful! another take on the saga. I assume from the smarts of the letter that this is the Marcus Trimble who teaches design at the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture and is involved with the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture.
    View showing the two halls of the Sydney Opera House
    and it looks like "Greetings from Sydney!" ay?
    Hi Edward,

    This assessment on the troubles of the Sydney Opera House by Boyle is a little simplistic and bit off the mark.

    It was not a waning interest in opera that led to the opera hall changing location, nor was the smaller hall originally meant to hold the symphonic concerts.

    The problems with the two halls were set in place early on with the general strategy as outlined Utzon's competition scheme. The placement of the two halls side by side meant that fitting the required seating into both halls was problematic.

    The original plan was that the opera and symphonic concerts would be held in the same large hall. Operable elements would reduce the size of the hall for opera to accommodate the large sets and so on. The smaller hall was to be used as the drama theatre. Utzon's office and Arups spent much of their time on the project attempting to get enough seats into the major hall to satisfy the brief from the ABC and the acoustic requirements.

    When it became clear that achieving the seat numbers was not going to be possible, a compromise was reached where the opera was moved to the smaller hall, additional seating was placed to the rear of the concert hall and the drama theatres were moved into the podium.

    As for Utzon leaving the job, this was for a number of complex factors beyond mere disputes over the funding of models, such as the change of the NSW State Government and the ensuing change in management of the project, disputes over Utzon's role as lead consultant and refusal to work with a government appointed team of architects, disagreements over fees, and the failing relationship between Utzon and Ove Arup.

    I can recommend the excellent "The Saga of the Sydney Opera House" by Peter Murray which gives a detailed breakdown of the entire project.

    Thank you very much Marcus Trimble.


    photo from Flickr
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Jørn Utzon, flights of angels, and the sound of the Sydney Opera House


    Photo by Vermin Inc / © Some rights reserved.

    Architect Charles Boyle of Perth, Australia writes to Hello Beautiful!:
    The issue with the acoustics in the Sydney Opera house stem from the use of the halls - at the time, the "Opera House" was intended to lend competitive cultural gravitas to Sydney in favour of Melbourne (the same bean-field war propagated the location of the national capital in Canberra mid-way between the two)

    The larger hall was intended for Opera, and the smaller for concert performances.

    However, opera waned in popularity, so the decision was made to house the opera in the smaller hall, but the facilities are modest, and the volume insufficient to allow the operatic acoustic to develop.

    The reason why Mr Utzon could not continue was that he wished to build full-scale mock-ups and trials for the interior acoustic lining, but the government of New South Wales who had commissioned the project, baulked at the cost for something that might be simply discarded later, and so suspended any further payments on the project. Mr Utzon was thus forced to retire from the project. He never actually resigned.


    His approach would not be questioned in these days when acoustic excellence is a specialised field of consultancy: I recall how his office in Helsingor was littered with models, prototypes and samples of construction methodologies as this was his very hand-on way of exploring new ideas and pioneering solutions.

    "Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest"

    Charles Boyle - architect
    Perth, Australia
    Thank you Mr. Boyle.
    -----

    Joseph Rykwert:

    "I never quite loved the Sydney Opera House."

    Like almost everybody, I reluctantly admired the Sydney Opera House when I first saw the competition results back in 1956, with its earth-bound podium growing out of the soil of Bennelong Point and jutting out into the bay, the vaults hovering over the layered platforms in counterpoint to the arch of the Harbour Bridge. It may all have been very thrilling, but I never quite loved it. Perhaps I was uneasy, or even feared those vaults as foreboding the iconic buildings 50 years hence. Or perhaps I could not buy into the analogy between the vaults and the sails in the bay. Just think how that analogy has now been debased by the curved side of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.


    Burj Al-Arab in Dubai.

    Read Rykwert here.


    Interior photo from Flickr
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Rest in Peace Jørn Utzon

    Jorn Utzon, the Danish architect, died on November 29, aged 90.
    He designed the Sydney Opera House
    but left the project and never saw it completed.

    From the Sydney Morning Herald:

    With a friend, Tobias Faber, Utzon wrote a controversial article espousing two central architectural principles; learning from vernacular architecture and intelligent response to function.

    If these were the seeds of the Sydney Opera House design, travel was the nutrient. In the late 1940s, the Utzons went to America, where Joern had warm meetings with the renowned Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in Michigan, Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin and Charles Eames in California, as well as a bizarre encounter in Chicago with the cigar-sucking Mies van der Rohe, where communication, in English, was through a secretary. Mies allowed the Utzons to visit his newly finished Farnsworth House at Plano, Illinois.

    Utzon was struck by the way Miesian spaces were at once disciplined and voluptuous, by Wright's richly textural use of material and by the sheer panache with which Eames combined off-the-shelf componentry; lessons which he combined to good effect in his own house in Hammermill Wood, Hellebaek, 1952. Next stop Mexico, where Utzon had his first experience of the Mayan temples that, in creating massive stone platforms at the height of the jungle canopy, enabled the Mayans to break through into the sunlight and re-create lost horizons; much as Utzon would later do in Sydney.

    (From the New York Times) - As a young architect Mr. Utzon worked for Gunnar Asplund in Sweden and Alvar Aalto in Finland before establishing his own practice in Copenhagen in 1950. In 1956 he read about the Sydney Opera House competition in a Swedish architecture magazine. He spent six months designing a building with sail-like roofs, their geometry, he said, derived from the sections of an orange.


    (Back to the Sydney Morning Herald) ... by the time he won the Sydney Opera House competition, Utzon was a 39-year-old architect brimming with ideas and design skill but with relatively little experience in the tribulations of getting things built....

    The apocryphal story is that (Opera House competition judge) Saarinen arrived two days late and, plucking Utzon's scheme from the bin, declared it the winner. "So many opera houses look like boots," he told the press at the time. "Utzon has solved the problem." ... the winner was agreed.... Ten-year-old Lin Utzon, Joern's eldest child (who herself would later create a number of artworks for Sydney buildings) carried the news to her father, pedalling furiously through the frozen landscape on her bike. "Now," she said, "can I have my horse?"


    Even as Utzon basked in his win, the furor began. His winning scheme was displayed at New York's Museum of Modern Art beside Saarinen's TWA Terminal. Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe hated Utzon's design; Saarinen and Richard Neutra loved it.

    Read the whole story here.


    ---

    A professor of mine, Rafael Moneo, worked on the building, under Utzon. He helped develop some of the geometries of the curved shells. Moneo spoke in superlatives of his former employer. And he said that working on that project influenced his design for the


    Kursaal Auditorium and Congress Center in San Sebastián, Spain (1999). Particularly in the use of two volumes to separate functions.

    Warning to those who like straight lines - I don't think his Kursaal - by all accounts wonderful - identifies San Sebastián as famously as Utzon's design identifies Sydney.

    But the Kursaal halls are said to have marvelous acoustics, whereas the acoustics in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House are said to be poor and artists complain about the lack of performance and backstage space.
    ---

    Lynn Becker has a smart post on Jørn Utzon.


    Utzon portrait AFP/Getty
    Sunset shot Greg Wood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Thanksgiving quiz - You've never been inside this building, but you will be. - What is it?


    Its indoor "street," with shops or galleries to each side reminds me of an Italian Galleria, such as


    Vittorio Emanuele in Milano.
    So yes, it is by an Italian.

    Its main staircase says "elegance"


    and it is the "son of"

    staircase at the Arts Club, Chicago, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

    So yes, this new building will grace, help transform, add greatly to, the Windy City. To help situate it for you, here's a view of Millennium Park, from the third floor window of the new building,


    in lovely autumnal colors.

    Do you know where I was today, to take these photos?
    In which major new cultural building, due to open
    (with a splash) in May?


    Details and more thoughts on this, more photos, exterior shots, plus- is the bridge to this any good? It's got a tough act to follow! Answers after we pause for Thanksgiving. I'll also write about the restoration work at Mies van der Rohe's 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments.

    I have much for which to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. And write me, if you can name the building above.
    -Edward
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de Young by de Meuron and (de) Herzog

    Ah, the great de Young Museum in San Francisco by Herzog and de Meuron. It lays on the earth, not far from the ocean, like a beached whale; I mean it's a container of great mystery.
    And great power.

    With its shimmering skin


    and belly of an interior courtyard


    "waving" a great and mighty tail fin in the sky. It's a lookout tower. Rather than seeking the whale, now we're in the whale, seeking deeper meaning.


    This "fin" propels the place, creates waves of motion,



    It wants to swallow you, engulf you, and then spit you out a better person, as you've through a meaningful experience.
    ---

    And since I did it to Gehry, I'll add this roadside attraction, for kicks:


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Yale Whale

    Of course there's the "Yale Whale" by Eero Saarinen

    The David S. Ingalls Ice Arena (1956-58);
    which to me was always more of a


    stingray.

    But "stingray" doesn't rhyme with Yale.

    ---
    I'll post soon on a recent California museum with the power and mystery and belly of a whale. Know which one?
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Luring tourists with whales

LIFE imitates Mies

    Images of Mies and his work
    from Life Magazine.



    New York, New York. 1956




    1957. "Room reflecting in glass wall of apartment in Lake Shore Drive apartments. Outside view of companion building and traffic also visible."

    Nice that the popular magazine LIFE appreciated so early what Mies was trying to do.

    One of the more casual shots of him that you will see


    December 1956
    Mies van der Rohe relaxing on couch while smoking cigar and reading at home.
    (LIFE's caption says it was taken in New York, but I say Chicago.)


    Most shots of Mies have him concentrating, like this


    November 1956
    Mies in Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology

    They look to be working on a model of the New National Gallery in Berlin. Or is that a student's variation of it?

    Again thinking, with the thinking man's developer, Herbert Greenwald


    November 1956


    And with Philip Johnson. The woman looks like Phyllis Lambert.
    LIFE's caption says they're "studying technical problems concerned with model of a fountain. Chicago, October, 1956"

    Must be for the Seagram Building plaza



    Here are "Bronze I-beams ready to ship from Chicago Extruded Metals Company to New York City, where it will be part of the new Seagram's Building. November 1956."



    Nice to know they were made in Chicago.


    And finally, a photo of the still unfinished Mies' 860 - 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments.





    Bottom Photo: Ralph Crane
    All other photos: Frank Schersel.
    A few more, here.
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