At the AIA Convention in San Francisco

    If you're in San Francisco, drop me a line. Or, come to hear Jeanne Gang, Sheila Kennedy and Nader Tehrani. Thursday, 2 - 3:30 pm.
    I'll moderate.

    International Practice: Architecture Without Boundaries HSW/SD

    04/30/09 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m.

    1.5 LUs-Advanced Level


    Jeanne Gang's early experience at OMA seems to have given her a kind of fearlessness when facing large scale urban projects and an interest in exploring the potential in materials. Taking on large-scale projects stateside and in India, Gang's style has been called rationalized expressionism.


    Nader Tehrani of Office dA has worked on projects from Boston to Beijing, and most recently, Kuwait. Minding a practice that takes on projects from city planning to furniture design, and teaching at MIT, Tehrani's research interests are focused on material logic.


    Innovator, inventor, architect Sheila Kennedy's recent efforts have been devoted to the "Soft House": the concept of many different sources of energy in a distributed system working together. With a very internationally diverse team, she is re-examining the spatial, formal, social, and material aspects of architecture and its link to infrastructure and nascent technologies.


    Learning objectives:


    Evaluate different approaches to large-scale international practice.

    Explore the materiality of building.

    Appraise the use of on-site renewable and alternative energy systems.

    Speakers: Jeanne Gang, FAIA; Sheila Kennedy, AIA; Edward Lifson (moderator); and Nader Tehrani


    Provider:The American Institute of Architects


    Thursday, 2-3:30 p.m.


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This is not the Farnsworth House

    (click each image to enlarge it.)








    Supposedly these images were created completely with computer graphics; with no photography at all. If so they're some of the most startlingly real I've ever seen. Why do we think this is less real than a photograph? Are they more "real" than drawings? The tree he has made, so important to the Farnsworth House, looks more like the Sugar Maple Mies saw there and designed for, than the poor thing now looks decades later. It's interesting to me that he made an image of a flooded Farnsworth House. "Flooded" is now part of its iconography; a state of its being. It wasn't supposed to be, I think.

    Copyright (C) Alessandro Prodan, of Italy, who says,
    I started this reproduction to challenge my limits and my preconceptions, I spent several time studying botany and techniques to represent it, light and composition. I'm really happy to see it finished. Rendered in maya using Mental Ray, all plants and vegetation are poly Paint Effects. I hope you appreciate it.

    I do.

    Did I just marry the Farnsworth House?


    Ceci n'est pas la Maison Farnsworth


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Going, going, gone? Works by Gropius and Mies in Chicago?

    Chicago's plan to tear down valuable buildings designed with the involvement of Walter Gropius, and a work by Mies van der Rohe, reminded me of

    this editorial cartoon by Jacob Burck in the Chicago Sun-Times in 1953.

    Reprinted in "Preservation and Renewal in Post-World War II Chicago," by Daniel Bluestone in a 1994 issue of the Journal of Architectural Education.

    In the article Bluestone talks about the threats to Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House in 1957, and the lost battle to save Louis Sullivan's Garrick Theater.

    He talks of the push to generate awareness of Chicago's great architectural legacy, as seen in this proclamation by Richard I - current Mayor Richard M. Daley's father, Richard J. Daley. Perhaps the son could learn from this and offer the buildings a reprieve? - for Chicago Dynamic Week in August 1957:
    "WHEREAS, Chicago is the birthplace of American architecture, the curtain wall building, which ushered in the age of the skyscraper; and WHEREAS, Chicago today is concerned with the continued use of the newest building forms, materials and techniques to make Chicago a better place in which to live and work; and WHEREAS, the Chicago Dynamic Committee comprising our community's business and civic leaders has been organized to honor the sound building and far-sighted planning of Chicago, the world's most dynamic city ... I Richard J. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago, do hereby proclaim the week of October 27 through November 2, as 'Chicago Dynamic Week."'
    Frank Lloyd Wright, Alistair Cooke, and Carl Sandburg
    during a Chicago Dynamic Week television appearance.
    (Photo by the Chicago Sun-Times.)

    More than half a century later we're still fighting the good fight.

    ---
    A little history, from Daniel Bluestone:
    Beyond the Robie House campaign and Wright and Sandburg's personification of history during Chicago Dynamic Week, the first formal public recognition of Chicago landmarks came in 1957. In January, the Chicago City Council unanimously passed an ordinance sponsored by Alderman (Leon) Despres establishing the Commission on Chicago Architectural Landmarks. The ordinance called attention to Chicago's "internationally important monuments of architectural engineering and style" and cited six buildings as examples: Richardson's Glessner House, Sullivan's World's Fair residence, his Carson,Pirie, Scott store, and his Auditorium Theater, Wright's Robie House, and Burnham & Root's Monadnock Building.

    The ordinance also called attention to the need for landmark preservation by pointing to the earlier demolition of Richardson's Marshall Field Warehouse and Wright's Midway Gardens. The Council charged the commission with designating Chicago's architectural landmarks, identifying and marking them, educating the public about their importance, and developing policies for their preservation.

    Like the juxtaposition of heritage and contemporary visions for architecture and city building that characterized Chicago Dynamic programs, the first official list of architectural landmarks included both historic and contemporary structures. The six major Chicago School monuments featured on a special architectural tour during Chicago Dynamic week-the Rookery, Monadnock, Leiter, Auditorium, Carson, Pirie, Scott store, and the Reliance- were among the fourteen structures singled out for special recognition on the Commission's initial list of thirty-nine landmark buildings.

    The list, drawn up by a committee of architectural historians,architects,and commission members, included numerous structures by Adler & Sullivan and Burnham & Root and other buildings considered to have a role in the local modernist genealogy. Then, to complete the links to the present, the Commission designated such buildings as George and William Keck's University Avenue residence (1937), Mies's Illinois Institute of Technology campus (1947) and Lake Shore Drive apartments (1951), and S.O.M.'s Inland Steel Building (1957).

    The Commission's designation offered no protection for the landmarks, but it established architectural "merit,""structure,"and "planning" as the criteria for a new aesthetically based landmarks program. For post-World War II city planners, the clean, crisp lines of modernism had an obvious allure in an otherwise stagnant cityscape.

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Busby Buckminster Fuller

The structure of Chicago

    Flying in to Chicago from Los Angeles in April, what struck me most were the bare trees. No ornament and color of leaves. Just the structure of branches. From O'Hare to where I was going I passed forests of ornament-less life. Poles of trees and then Poles, the people. It all made sense when I went to see the very profound, thorough and moving, Buckminster Fuller exhibition at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). He will make you think about structure; and about Nature's structures. And when I looked out the back window of the MCA, I got it. The shadows of the trees and the Sol LeWitt on the lawn, in April, are of a piece.


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Tearing down Gropius in Chicago?

    We know that Walter Gropius was involved in the design of the Michael Reese Hospital campus in Chicago. It's a gorgeous mid-century modern site. Mayor Richard M. Daley wants to tear it down and soon.

    Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, is with Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, one of the three pioneers of modern design. Chicago should treasure this. But scavengers are already in there, pulling things down. Salvagers are pulling off metal, to sell for scrap.

    Gropius worked on this with local firms who were the architects of record, this may account for the lack of interest. After extensive research, a graduate student from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Grahm Balkany says Walter Gropius had great involvement in the design of at least eight of the buildings and the master planning. He can show you drawings, hospital records and other documents to show Gropius's deep involvment. he even has a copy of a letter from a Chicago architect to Gropius complaining that Gropius is doing too much of the design!

    I video'ed Grahm Balkany in front of the Michael Reese power plant (1952-54), which is not typical of the style of the campus. But it's a great "book-end," and "quote," by Gropius and others paying homage to Mies van der Rohe, who designed the Illinois Insititute of Technology just a few blocks away, with a very similar power plant. Between the two is work by Louis Sullivan, townhouses by Frank Lloyd Wright, and just a little south stands, saved from its own demolition threats in 1957, Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House.

    Shouldn't Chicago think about preserving this and creating a district showing the birth of Modern Architecture? Wouldn't that be smarter, more responsible and less wasteful than tearing this down? Did I say less wasteful?



    It stands on the land on which Mayor Daley plans to build an "Olympic Village Plaza." He's bidding for the 2016 games. But he's not waiting to see if he gets them. On April 10, 2009 the City of Chicago issued a request for bids to demolish Michael Reese. Bids are due this month. The city ain't playing. The Mayor almost always gets what he wants.

    Chicago's Olympic bid offers much, but not a real legacy for the games. The stadium is supposed to come down after its use. Wouldn't it be a terrific Olympic legacy to restore this historic site of the International Style? The advocacy group Preservation Chicago believes it would not be hard to turn the former hospital rooms into a dormitories for Olympic athletes. The group put Michael Reese’s modernist buildings on their Most Endangered list.

    It would be good for Chicago to preserve this campus. Play up your architectural history, don't tear it down!

    I note here than we can read in at least one biography of Walter Gropius that he was not completely satisfied with the results at Michael Reese and that he lamented not getting a solo commission. Balkany points to correspondence from Gropius that shows that he was not unhappy with the way things were working out, and that he was pleased with the collaborative process. Gropius certainly remained involved in the design of Michael Reese for many years.

    Grahm Balkany has formed the "Gropius in Chicago Coalition." Do check out their website.

    If you're in the town that tears down better architecture than most cities put up, Chicago, go see Balkany's presentation on

    Monday, April 20, 2009
    6 to 7 pm

    Please register and arrive at 5:30

    at the Hafele America Co. Chicago Showroom
    154 W. Hubbard St.
    Chicago IL 60654 (MAP)
    Phone: 312-467-2225

    From the Invitation: Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and one of the undisputed world leaders of architecture during the twentieth century, is generally not known to have executed works in Illinois. However, new architectural research has revealed that the virtually unheralded site of Michael Reese Hospital on Chicago’s South Side contains not one, but a collection of Gropius works, commissioned over an impressive period of 15 years. At this site, Walter Gropius executed ... a surprisingly complete portrait of the artist, comprising site planning, urban design, and execution of individual buildings.

    Join us for an important lecture by Grahm Balkany of the Gropius in Chicago Coalition.

    With the site now purchased by the City of Chicago for intended residential redevelopment, current plans call for the razing of the entire hospital site, leaving only one building out of 30 standing. In the process, Chicago’s built Gropius legacy, a tremendous asset and tangible opportunity, would be entirely lost.

    Join us for this timely seminar and become informed about this intriguingly forgotten history, current proposals, and possible alternatives.




    If you can't make Monday's talk, the group plans a tour of the Michael Reese campus on May 17. $10 suggested donation. Reservations not required. If you want to see it, it may be your last chance.

    Here are a few photos I took earlier in the week. First, the power plant.


    Here's the one by Mies at IIT.



    More from the Michael Reese campus:






    The arcadian scene is an early landscape design work by Hideo Sasaki, (and others). Sasaki was no carpetbagger, he had studied at the University of Illinois, in addition to Berkeley and Harvard. From 1958 - 1968, he chaired Harvard's Landscape Architecture Department, and helped to connect landscape to planning, as we see at Michael Reese. His Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm, Sasaki, now works worldwide.
    . (Photo not by me.)

    Sasaki won an international design competition to draw the master plan for the main site of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. It could also be a part of Chicago's Olympic legacy to restore Hideo Sasaki's mid-century work in Chicago. They could connect this with the parkland the Olympic organizers plan nearby over the McCormick Place truck yards. You can't plant a mature landscape, just like you can't make old friends.

    I'm not hopeful that any of this will be saved. I grew up in Chicago when they tore down Louis Sullivan masterpieces. Not far from Michael Reese stand the charred remains of Louis Sullivan's great K.A.M./Pilgrim Baptist Church (1891) which burned in 2006.


    Chicago can be a brutal, mercantile, short-sighted jungle. The same spirit that builds these wonderful things causes them to suffer. Currently, a small building by Mies van der Rohe and his office is slated for demolition.

    When I visited the Michael Reese campus last Sunday with Balkany, he showed me a plaque at the base of a tree on the Reese campus. The plaque reads, “This tree planted in appreciation of Walter Gropius, Architect and Educator, whose guiding hand contributed so much to the planning of this campus and its buildings.”



    Two days ago I got an email from Grahm Balkany,
    Hi Edward,

    I wanted to write you with a small update on Reese:

    I’m glad you got to see it when you did – sometime between our visit on Sunday evening and yesterday afternoon....

    Best regards,

    +grahm
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Zumthor Hip hop video

    If you're going to sing Hip hop in Pritzker Prize laureate Peter Zumthor's Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland, then sing it in Romansh - the fourth national Swiss language.



    About 100,000 people speak the language descended from Latin. Those in the know call Liricas Analas the "Romansh rappers of the moment."

    To me the music does not fit the quiet, tranquil, organic, site. But it's always good to hear Hip hop in Romansh.
    .
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Is Peter Zumthor designing something for Los Angeles?


    During my interview with Peter Zumthor, who received this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize, I asked him if he has any plans to build in the United States. He answered,
    "I’m on it. I’m on it. Los Angeles, you will hear from that."
    I followed up and got this response today:
    "It's a bit too early to talk about it."
    Sounds to me like something's cooking. Where? What? Public? Private?

    ---

    A Zumthor in Los Angeles?

    When I think of Zumthor, I think "spiritual" and "timeless." Would you describe L.A. that way?

    Talking with a friend in New York today about the possibility of having a Zumthor here, she said,
    LA as timeless and spiritual...let’s see...um...no. my description: the largest funny farm in the world without a fence – a fun place to be for a week or so, then it’s so nice to get home.

    I find L.A. can be spiritual. Nature and heaven abound here, spirit has room to play.

    But "timeless?" Not usually, no. L.A. we know tends to be trendy.

    But then, for example, you stand in the gardens of the Getty Villa in Malibu, as redone by Machado and Silvetti. Look out past the cypresses at the white mist between the blue sky and the equally blue Pacific with the waves rolling in and you feel it's some time, don't know when, between 79 CE and now.


    The smell of rosemary lingering from the garden helps to unmoor your brain and take you on an ancient journey. Scent at the Getty Villa, recalls the work of Peter Zumthor. His work engages all the senses. The pools at the Getty and the changing textures of the horizontal bands of stone, mixed in with the stark modernist walls at the entrance recall Zumthor's Thermal Baths at Vals, Switzerland. The Getty Villa fits in this rather "Mediterranean" city, and so could a piece by Zumthor.

    The Getty Villa, Malibu

    Zumthor's Thermal Baths, Vals, Switzerland


    L.A. has a traditional connection to German and Austrian art, from Bertolt Brecht to Arnold Schoenberg to Richard Neutra, and many more. L.A. is everything. It probably already has Swiss German art too. And if it hasn't, Peter Zumthor will start a tradition.

    Zumthor's work is about atmosphere. L.A. has more of that than any other city I know.

    I look forward to hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing and finally, touching whatever Mr. Zumthor plans for this great city; a place he knows. Peter Zumthor taught in Los Angeles, at SCI-Arc in 1988.

    I wonder who is his client? That will make all the difference in the world. But as we said in our NPR story, Peter Zumthor declines commissions for which he has no affinity.

    .
    Zumthor photo by Gary Ebner
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Multi-Point Perspective in Architecture

    "B." responds to my request for examples of multi-point perspective in architecture with,
    Olympic Sculpture Park?
    By Weiss/Manfredi
    Seattle
    opened 2007


    Good call. I'd say, it is multi-point perspective more in photographs than when you are there. When you are there it is mostly one perspective - straight ahead - which zigs and zags.

    ----------

    "Anonymous" suggested...

    McCormick Tribune Campus Center

    By Rem Koolhaas
    Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago
    opened 2003


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Two Point Perspective in Architecture

    Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes uses the exhibition of Carel Fabritius' View of Delft (1652) in Washington D.C. to discuss two-point perspective.

    "Carel Fabritius' View of Delft may be the greatest small painting in the world."
    -Tyler Green

    The painting normally hangs in London's National Gallery, but for now it's on view in "Dutch Cityscapes" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Tyler Green says,
    Instead of trying to answer the unanswerables (about its great mystery), I'm going to use Fabritius' masterpiece -- one of my favorite paintings anywhere -- as a way into pointing out how artists have remained fascinated with Fabritius' multi-point perspective.
    He points to Gustave Caillebotte's Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877),


    which I saw just yesterday at the Art Institute of Chicago, along with a study for it by Caillebotte in the Art Institute's unforgettable Edvard Munch exhibition (which includes works by other artists.)

    Tyler then remembers another work of Impressionism,

    Childe Hassam's Rainy Day, Boston (1885), in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art.

    Next Tyler posted a more contemporary work with multi-point perspective,

    Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (colored butterfly white background 6 wings)
    2004.

    Lovely. And of course, it got me thinking, where is two point perspective in architecture?

    The first piece I thought of is


    Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin (2001).

    I'll try to think of more examples. You too, and if you think of one, send it to me.

    Berlin Jewish Museum photo by my friend Quilian Riano
    .
    .
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Peter Zumthor wins 2009 Pritzker Architecture Prize. Interview below.

    Peter Zumthor portraitPeter Zumthor
    Photo by Gary Ebner

    Well-deserved. Below is my interview with Peter Zumthor.

    Here's a link to my National Public Radio story on this. You'll also find there a beautiful slide show of Zumthor's work.

    Zumthor seems to say at the end of my interview that he's working on getting a project in Los Angeles. "I'm on it. I'm on it. You will hear from that," he says. I'll try to get more information.

    Peter Zumthor Thermal Baths Vals Switzerland ThermaePeter Zumthor - Thermal Baths - Vals, Switzerland

    From the Jury Citation:
    His buildings have a commanding presence, yet they prove the power of judicious intervention, showing us again and again that modesty in approach and boldness in overall result are not mutually exclusive. Humility resides alongside strength. While some have called his architecture quiet, his buildings masterfully assert their presence, engaging many of our senses, not just our sight but also our senses of touch, hearing and smell.


    ---

    THE INTERVIEW
    Conducted by telephone.
    Mr. Zumthor spoke from his studio in Haldenstein, Switzerland.

    LIFSON: What do you try to communicate through architecture?

    ZUMTHOR: Well I guess, first of all I’m not trying to communicate anything. I try to do good buildings. So if you don’t mind me, it’s not about the message or promoting anything. It’s about making a fine building, for the place, and for the use. So I’m trying to be very responsive to the place and responsive to the use. And make it very typical, because I think if it’s done very typical for the place and the use, maybe it becomes special. There’s a chance.

    LIFSON: For example, what were you trying to accomplish with the Bruder Klaus Chapel?

    Peter Zumthor Brother Bruder Klaus Chapel GermanyPhoto by Walter Mair

    ZUMTHOR: Well, this was a hard task to do, sort of a spiritual place, maybe spiritual place, very small and tiny, in the fields. So, I know all the old, probably you know them also in Europe, all these field chapels where you have a painting in a niche, and a little grid in front of it. So it was hard to make a tiny little space which would invite, for contemplation. That’s about the space of contemplation and it turned out to be in the end I think something very existential.

    LIFSON: Existential?

    ZUMTHOR: Right, right, right. That’s what I, the reactions I get from people, there are a lot of reactions coming back from people I don’t know. A lot of religious people, or “art crowd” or something; when they come back, or they write to me, they say they always come back to this tiny little space and it makes them think. That is something that architecture is capable of.
    I think this is a noble task that architectural spaces can provoke… yeah, it’s the frame of our lives, and sometimes they can provoke good feelings, like, let’s say, there’s a good living room, there’s a good swimming pool, there’s a good movie theater, there’s a good nightclub, there’s a good (laugh) chapel! And that’s what I’m trying to do it make a noble space, for me and you.

    (At this point, we hear some background noise in the Zumthor studio, where his team is working. Peter Zumthor asks them to be quiet. He comes back to the phone.)

    ZUMTHOR: Okay, now nobody works here anymore!

    LIFSON: What do you think the architecture profession can learn during this economic current downturn?

    ZUMTHOR: Well, it’s a general question. I’m sort of not so good on (telling other architects what to do.) So I try to concentrate on my work. You know it’s a little bit a general question for me really.

    For me, if the client wouldn’t understand what I’m trying to do, then I don’t take on the commission. Because I’m not money-driven, as you probably know. So, it’s a choice. You make in your life. What you are going for. (He laughs) And maybe it’s also, you need a little bit of talent also, I guess.

    LIFSON: Then let me ask you, what are you “going for?”

    ZUMTHOR: I think if I can make a building fit to the purpose and fit to the place. Fit to the purpose that people are happy to be in the restaurant I did, or in the bath I did, or in the church, and they say, “what a great nightclub,” or “what a great church,” I feel really well, and I think this is the biggest compliment. You know, if I go with my daughter or with my mother to a place I did, I don’t want to explain to her why this is good. They should tell me, “hey, I feel really good in this space. It works,” and so on. And the same thing if you do a building which makes part of the urban environment, or a landscape, that it becomes part of this environment, and people like to remember it, (laugh) and think it fits in its place; stuff like that. Very classical architectural things (laugh.)

    LIFSON: You say you want people to be happy in your places. How do you define happy?

    ZUMTHOR: Yeah, in a very simple way. I’ll make an example. If you go to a restaurant, and you are talking there to your girlfriend, and the environment is just right to talk to her. And the acoustics aren’t terrible, and you like to sit there, and your back doesn’t ache, and it’s full of pleasant atmosphere; then I think I did a good job in doing this restaurant. And I don’t want to be remembered as an architect; I think this is what we architects have to do. Now you can take this restaurant to any other building tasks. And this is easy, I think, to evaluate. If an ordinary person thinks it’s good, then it’s good. Because people are not stupid. You can make a beautiful railway station, ask people, “did you like this railway station?” People will tell you, “yes, I like it.” I think it’s not such an intellectual academic thing, quality in architecture. Atmosphere. Everybody can feel it I think. And architects have to be careful not to over-rationalize their task. Because at the end of the day, it has to work in a world without explanation, speaking of itself. Am I sort of clear in what I’m saying?

    LIFSON: Yes. Can you add to that how you use the senses?

    Peter Zumthor Art Museum Kunsthaus Bregenz AustriaKunsthaus (Art Museum) Bregenz Austria
    Photo by Helene Binet

    ZUMTHOR: The way I experience architecture, we all experience architecture. How it feels as an atmosphere. The atmosphere we know is composed by light, by shadow, by sound, by tactile qualities. All material qualities, material presence. Nothing new! All the old things, you know! It’s like, all the spaces from our childhood we like, they were like that, if we experience a nice architectural atmosphere, it’s all of that. And some of these sense are maybe, more in foreground, and others, maybe like the sound of the space is more in the background; but nevertheless it’s maybe very important for your absorption of the atmosphere. So I think I’m trying to look, what are the elements, which make my spatial composition rich? I think it’s very normal. At least, everybody experiences architecture like that. There’s no other way. So I think forms are over-rated in talking about architecture, not in experiencing architecture. Forms, are over-rated.

    LIFSON: There’s certainly a classical quality to your work and a timeless quality; there’s also something very contemporary. What is contemporary, what is new in your work?

    ZUMTHOR: Well, this is hard for me to say, but I’ve been brought in up in the Modernist tradition at the art school, and there innovation was a goal in itself. And as you get older you find out there are other goals. I think quality does not always need to be new. So I’m sort of relaxed in what means I am using. But the filed is completely open. Whether I use an ancient technique, or a more advanced technique, I’m completely open at the beginning of a work. So, maybe this is what you experience, that there’s very advanced things which I’m using, and sometimes not, but no ideology with this new and old stuff, in a way.

    LIFSON: I’m a little worried about contemporary architecture; so much is about “spectacle” and “commodity.”

    ZUMTHOR: Yes, yes. Maybe this Pritzker Prize helps, that I get this prize, I interpret as a sign of the jury that they say please look at this way of working. And, it’s true, when I look at the schools, so this all becomes very academic and remote from the real practice, and this is left to economic people, to servicing people; and the architects become, I should not say “talking heads,” but at least, artists of some sort, or something.

    So, in the world of business, the world of architecture is sort of left at the disposal of other people. So we should regain this terrain. And this “going back,” and “regain,” this has to do with being professional. Being professional about this work, doing it well, is what I am trying to do.

    But I think there are always these pendulums, these cycles. Now, we’re in a cycle where architecture has become, as you know, a lot of imagery, but I think slowly, slowly, people are not satisfied anymore, with getting these images delivered by architects, but they want the real stuff, so I think this will come back.

    LIFSON: Oh, you think it will come back?

    ZUMTHOR: Yeah sure. It will always come back. Because the sense of quality is not dying out. If things become too superficial and artificial, all of a sudden people say, no, we want something real here.

    LIFSON: I was speaking with a colleague of yours about your work, and he asked me to ask you, are you first an architect or a mystic?

    ZUMTHOR: (He laughs.) I’m a passionate architect. I’m not a mystic.

    LIFSON: Do you think you’re the last of your kind of architect?

    ZUMTHOR: No. I hope this prize gives a lot of hope that this still can be done. We can not give up. This has nothing to do with mysticism. This has to do with solid, hard work, down to the bone. So, there must be young people.

    LIFSON: Any plans to build in the United States?

    ZUMTHOR: I’m on it. I’m on it. Los Angeles, you will hear from that.

    (Note- Mr. Zumthor knew I was calling from Los Angeles.)

    LIFSON: Anything else you would like to say?

    ZUMTHOR: What I would like to say is I try to prove, also in the United States, and also with somewhat more urban buildings, in Holland and in other places, that this still can be done. And I’m surrounded here with these guys- see, they don’t even stop working here, you hear this noise?! - no, I’m surrounded by twenty young people here; and they will go out into the world and try to do the same.

    LIFSON: That’s a nice image to end on. Thank you.

    ZUMTHOR: Thank you. Goodbye.

    Interview conducted in English; very slightly edited.

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And the winner of the Pritzker Prize is...

    Listen for my story on Sunday - on National Public Radio.


    One short list floating around the internet includes:

    David Chipperfield
    Steven Holl
    Peter Eisenman
    Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA)
    Toyo Ito
    Massimiliano Fuksas
    Daniel Libeskind

    Or ?

    Who do think it should be?
    Who do you think it will be?

    We'll all know tomorrow.
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Frank Lloyd Wright in the sky

Urgent! Will Chicago tear down a Mies van der Rohe building?

    (I write more on this and add many photos here. Scroll down to see several posts.)

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    Save the Mies!

    A small building on a southwest corner of the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) at 35th and Federal; from 1950 - 52.

    The door is an addition… but could be undone.


    On the drawings for it, now in the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe archive at the Museum of Modern Art in New York it's called the Test Cell.




    Some people call it the "Gunnery." Longstanding rumors at IIT have it that this building leads to an underground shooting range and/or a chamber in which to detonate and test explosives. Hence the odd name, the Test Cell, for this odd building.

    IIT did receive much government funding during and after the second World War. Was it related to that? What they were testing here? I'd like to be allowed to go down this "rabbit hole," like Alice.

    The public transit organization Metra wants to build a train station on this spot.

    They would down tear this work by Mies.

    The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) had been against its demolition- at least behind the scenes- stating that this work "contributes" to the overall significance of the IIT campus. Since IIT's entire academic campus was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, it seems crazy to allow demolition of a part of it designed by Mies.

    But the IHPA seems to have reversed its position; it seems the state agency charged with Historic Preservation will not move to stop the demolition of this work by Mies.

    The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has reportedly determined that the building has no real merit.

    I'm waiting to hear the latest from them.

    The Illinois Institute of Technology, wants a Metra stop there very badly. IIT is considered a partner in the project. U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) is also pushing for it. The station would serve his constituents and the nearby Chicago White Sox stadium.

    Metra's studies and construction drawings are finished. Stimulus funds have been approved.

    A contractor has not been chosen, but will be in the next couple of weeks. A conference will be held in two days, April 8 (at IIT !), to solicit minority subcontractors for this project financed with public dollars.

    Last month Metra was promised more than $140 million from President Barack Obama's stimulus package. That's what's causing this now. Metra will spend more than $10 million on it.

    When Metra first designed the new station, the agency didn't know that this building on the site was by Mies van der Rohe. But it is on the campus of IIT, and Mies used brick and well, you've just got to check these things.

    When you build in Rome, you find antiquities. When you build in Chicago, you find important Modernism.

    I'm told, by one who has studied this issue in depth, that this building is valuable for the following reasons:
    It shows asymmetry
    The low, engaged garden walls (reminiscent of the Wolf House in Guben/Gubin at the German/Polish border; the only example of Mies designing these once he got to the US)

    An indication of how Mies wanted the campus to be inclusive of its environment and not walled-off (notice how the structure interfaces with the Metra track)

    Unique details, such as the small steel coping (the top layer) and the
    running bond brickwork- each row is made entirely with the long side of the brick facing out. It's the only example of this I know in Mies's work

    Mixed materials – interior walls are concrete and even exposed CMU (concrete masonry units)


    This completes Mies’s design for the power plant area of campus; it "holds the corner"
    Not long ago Chicago tore down the Arts Club with the interior that Mies designed-- a great and irreplaceable loss. I grew up watching Louis Sullivans come down.

    I know some "Miesians" in Chicago are not worried by the loss of this small, rather overlooked project. Others are.

    I say, rework the Metra project to save the building designed by Mies van der Rohe. That is possible.

    Save everything in Chicago designed by Mies. He is that important. We owe it to future generations.

    Just as the details of a building of his tell about the whole, so the details of his design career, such as this little outpost, will tell you, or a future visitor, about his greater works.

    More information when I get it. Stay tuned. I expect to have more on this next week.

    Photos and scans added thanks to - a friend.

    More on saving the Mies van der Rohe Test Cell here.
    .Source URL: http://ecleticsergio.blogspot.com/2009/04/
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