My NPR story on SANAA winning this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize

    Read it and see a great slideshow here.

    Congratulations Sejima and Nishizawa!  Sublime work.  The Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art is one of the most wondrous buildings in America in the last forty years.  The work in Japan is unforgettable.  Elegant, delicate, monumental and smart.

    2010 Pritzker Prize 
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Frank Gehry, then and now

    If you want to know Frank Gehry back then.  This links to an excellent vintage interview.
    On California:
    FOG I don’t know how long we can still call it a “frontier” in terms of the USA. I don’t think it is as much now anymore that it used to be. It was the beginning of a new world.... When I arrived here in 1947, San Fernando Valley was empty. A lot of cracker boxes, little tiny stick houses, had been put up. I think that is where my own fascination for stick houses comes from.

    On History: 

    My university was just moving away from (the Beaux-Arts) model. We rejected history. We studied Fletcher history. We spent one hour a week on history. Then, after university, I worked for a while and after that I went to Europe in 1960s. And when I arrived in Europe, I was very angry about my training. Because I realized how rich the history of architecture was.... When I saw the cathedral, I was furious with my teachers that they treated that thing in a certain way… Architecture has always been involved with history.
    Hear, hear.

    And if you want to know Frank Gehry now, you can see him speak with his friends.  First this, (via Blair Kamin): Frank Gehry will be interviewed in Chicago at the Harold Washington Library Center on April 6, 2010.  Gehry (looking slightly older than he does above) will be interviewed by Tom Pritzker, long time Frank Gehry friend, and of the Chicago family that endows the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the Chicago Public Library.  This event will probably be in the library's Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, just across the street from the new and rather nice Pritzker Park.  Lucky Chicago, no?

    If you want to preview the shtick (I use the word lovingly) between Frank Gehry and his friend Tom Pritzker, watch them together here.

    Filmed in 2009 at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

    I'm glad Frank Gehry is going to Chicago because he told me not long ago that he had not yet seen how Renzo Piano played off of his Pritzker bandshell in Millennium Park.  Piano's Art Institute addition-- rectilinear, serene and elegant faces Gehry's wild and wavy and light reflecting bandshell.  Gehry's (arching) trellis above the lawn is said to be a canopy for sound and listening.  Piano's signature (flat) roof that transforms and transmits light into the upper galleries is said to be a canopy for light and looking.  I look forward to hearing Gehry's comments on how Renzo Piano "finished" the piazza, the park.  

    And in Frank Gehry's hometown of Santa Monica (L.A) not far from his famous house, at the Santa Monica High School auditorium on March 18th, it's 

    Architecture and Music. 

    Frank Gehry plus cellist Lynn Harrell and the author of


    "Conversations with Frank Gehry," another good and long time friend of his, Barbara Isenberg.  More info here.

    Too bad I leave L.A. the day before.  But I hope to be at the Chicago event.  Dinner tonight on Sawtelle Boulevard with a star from the firm.
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Kuma speaks. Chicago March 23

Last chance to see Actions: What You Can Do With the City

    From the release:  The Graham Foundation's successful show, Actions: What You Can Do With the City, closes this week. Swing by the Madlener House for one last opportunity to see the exhibit.

    Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
    Madlener House
    4 West Burton Place
    Chicago, IL 60610

    Gallery Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Free Admission. Actions will be on view through Saturday, March 13.

    Football Field 1. Maider López. Sharjah Art Museum, Arab Emirates, 2007. © Maider López.

    The Revolution Will Be Cultivated
    Amy Franceschini
    March 10, 2010, 6pm

    Held at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House.
    Free of charge.

    Accessibility: Talks are held in the ballroom on the third floor which is only accessible by stairs. The first floor of the Madlener House is accessible via an outdoor lift. Please call 312.787.4071 to make arrangements.
    Space is limited, to make reservations email: or call 312-787-4071.
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Maki makes magnificent Media Lab at MIT

    Fumihiko Maki

    Fumihiko Maki's MIT Media Lab is so exquisite that after you leave and come back to your senses, you realize you have returned to earth. You long to re-enter Maki's building in which you feel a hint of heaven. Or at least that you've made it to some sacred snow-covered mountain top. The ubiquitous white walls inside in all directions reflect the light and charge the space and because almost everywhere you stand you get views in two or three or four directions - up and down and in and out - you feel giddy and light as if you breathe mountain air.

    Mr. Maki likens the ensemble here to the Acropolis and he's not far off. The two atria awash in light and chance encounters operate like agoras; a lecture hall on top is curved like an amphitheater. Around this you find interlocking white cubist planes recalling houses manifesting the sun on Santorini.

    Natural light nips at you in this building, including sunlight from above which lightly pulls you up off your heels. The all-white inner walls create a purity with no boundaries. You dream of limitless possibilities. No hard walls seem to exist anymore. Your thoughts swirl around the atrium and then take flight through the transparency.

    Mr. Maki is quick to point out that his building follows a classical three part division, what he calls podium, piano nobile and crown.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts distant exterior
    I wondered if it would catch the transcendental New England light. So many Cambridge and Boston buildings do. H.H. Richardson's red brick at Harvard does, as does his pink Milford granite at Trinity Church in Copley Square. The gray stone of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church merges perfectly with the sunsets here. The wood houses painted pale yellow are gay enough to uplift your spirit even in the cold Massachusetts winter light. The famous all-white New England churches and steeples we know as timeless. But Fumihiko Maki gives us a metallic gray. "It's custom made, it's not Home Depot gray," a contractor who built the MIT building tells us. It's a gray a little more matte than on so many Hondas and Toyotas we see today, or like the shell of the MacBook Pro on which I write. Look at it for awhile and you realize that it reflects and captures light and is porous enough to remain alive.
    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts distant exterior

    If you don't know about MIT's Media Lab, read here. Important for us, it's a department within the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Well they've been planning and working on Maki's building for twelve years. This is the last in a series of major works begin at MIT in the 1990's - a billion dollar building program funded by the high-tech boom. Remember those days? MIT alone gave us a Sports and Fitness Center by Kevin Roche, Simmons Hall dormitory by Steven Holl, Frank Gehry's Stata Center, Charles Correa's Brain and Cognitive Science Complex, and now to end this run, the best of them all, Fumihiko Maki's Media Lab. 

    It is amazing, transporting and quite satisfying to see a proper "Japanese building" in the U.S., with the compulsive attention to detail and craftsmanship.  With this of course will have to follow proper maintenance.

    This may also be the last great building designed without BIM - building information modeling - the computer software changing the profession of architecture.  Remember this Media Lab was twelve years in the making.  

    On the client team is Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte - also known as the founder of One Laptop per Child. When Negroponte visited him in Japan Maki told him, "I have a warm palette and a cool palette." Negroponte immediately and wisely said this building must be Maki's cool palette. (The University of Pennsylvania chose Mr. Maki's warm palette for their recently opened Annenberg Public Policy Center.) But this a new cool, a new definition of what's "cool" in modern architecture. A building like this will go a long way to reconciling the general public with what contemporary architecture can be. This place works well, it's not crazy forms, it's not brutal, no, it inspires the soul, the mind and the imagination.

    From outside you see in to public galleries. Walk in and you are given calm. (Maki's office did not design the pod on the left, or any of the furniture that is not stationary.  That's a shame, the place would be even more transporting if it were more of a gesamtkunstwerk.

    The calm is nice for now but it's a ruse.  Your heart will soon be pumping fast with excitement. Throughout the building are thrilling views; multi-layered reflections and transparencies.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts glass transparency reflection atrium

    This is all about looking and making connections. With colleagues, with the institution around you, with the city and the world.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts transparency to city upstairs
    The heart of the building, which the public can also access during the day, is the labs.

    The double height labs came to the Media Lab organically, in their older building designed by I.M. Pei and opened in 1985. It's now adjacent to this one. In there was a performance space, a black box. Eventually it was needed for a lab and turned into one. Its double height worked well. The Media Lab asked Maki to use the idea here.

    The seven labs face each other across a central atrium.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts Double height lab ceiling

    Maki staggered the labs around the central atrium. This generates up and down diagonal views and visual excitement, pleasures for the eye. So we look a little harder, and we may even look in new ways. Everyone will see what their colleagues are up to. Cross-fertilization of ideas is the idea.

    That yellow diagonal you see in the rear of the photo above is one of three staircases painted in primary colors - red in the entrance, yellow and blue here in this atrium.

    Pei's building also embeds bright red, yellow and blue - in the exterior and in the interior courtyard. Recent buildings at MIT such as Frank Gehry's Stata Center and Steven Holl's dormitory also use bright primary colors.

    Piet Mondrian - Composition In Yellow, Blue, Red © Tate Gallery

    Maki's partner showed an image of a Mondrian painting and said they borrowed the De Stijl moves from Mondrian. A few primary colors against a background of white.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts atrium

    The staggered double height volumes create one of the most exciting interiors in all of modern architecture. It recalls the staggered volumes of Paul Rudolph's Art and Architecture building at Yale, the swirling upwards space in here recalls Maki's own "Spiral" in Tokyo, with some Frank Lloyd Wright at the Guggenheim thrown in for good measure.

    Windows to the stairwell also have a Mondrian, De Stijl and Bauhaus feel,
    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts Mondrian windows white transparency
    and allow you a little peek-a-boo. Remember the building is about opening. Opening your eyes, your mind, your spirit. With a few places to get lost by oneself, to contemplate,
    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts light mystery
    or is she making a cell phone call?  In either case, privacy is important.  Speaking of which, even the rest rooms are beautifully detailed and built and in their way, mysterious.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts men's room
    Kudos to Maki and Associates, to local executive architects Leers Weinzapfel and to the general contractor Bond for all making it happen at the highest levels of quality. The cost was 90 million dollars. 163,000 square feet. Six occupied floors. I was told the architects provided three times as many drawings as a contractor would expect to see to build this.

    The stairwells are as well thought out and put together as the restrooms as the atriums as the facade.  Full scale mock-ups of parts coming together were also constructed, in Florida! And Maki and Associates shipped a detailed (and beautiful) model from Tokyo

    to also help explain the seemingly simple but extremely complicated building. In Japan, the architects and the builders start from a position of trusting and valuing each other. Here, we rely more on contracts. But it all came together beautifully.

    G-d is in the details and a lot here is custom made, such as these door frames below

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts diagonal views office glass
    because they want the offices and all the spaces to maintain those diagonal views. Therefore the door is not at the corner.

    On top, two auditoriums, a function room and an outdoor terrace with inspirational views over Cambridge and the Charles River to Boston. Here Fumihiko Maki and a director of his firm, Gary Kamemoto try to enjoy the view.

    Fumihiko Maki having his portrait taken on the terrace at MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts
    The shot, as seen in the Herald.

    Now take the elevator back down.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts entrance elevators

    The light under the two elevators illuminates the entrance space to differing degrees as the cabs move. On the ground floor, which you see into from the street,

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts rear entrance
    you find two galleries. You're beckoned in. Upstairs, a public cafe. And during the day the public is actually encouraged to gaze at what the folks in the Media Labs are up to.

    The transparency really stands out in Cambridge, Mass. where zoning won't allow more than 50% glass. Hence some fritted glass here, varying experiences of transparency, and through many of the larger windows you peer through aluminum rods, restful, like bamboo screens in Japan.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts Amherst front facade
    And they break up the mass.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab Cambridge Massachusetts

    Here you really see the influence of Le Corbusier. The pilotis, the ribbon window and especially the rooftop "crown" recall villas of Le Corbusier, who was so influential to the Japanese and others of Mr. Maki's generation. The white interior also recalls Corbusier. Mr. Maki, seen here, likes white.

    Fumihiko Maki portrait MIT Media Lab Cambridge MassachusettsFumihiko Maki received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1993. I interviewed him then on the telephone and hadn't met him until now. Mr. Maki is quite the gentleman. No surprise, given his work. He said his concern as he gets older (born Tokyo 1928) is to maintain high quality in his architecture. He is elegant, kind and committed to quality; he is manifest in his buildings.

    All photos by Edward Lifson 
    © Hello Beautiful!

    More on MIT's Media Lab. 

    Three excellent books by or about Maki's works and ideas:
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Fumihiko Maki's new MIT Media lab - opening March 5.

    Fumihiko Maki's extension to I.M.Pei's MIT Media Lab will open in a few days. I got an early peek. I'll have more to say after a longer visit on Friday, but for now, this.

    First, from the release:
    The Media Lab has expanded into a new, six-floor structure with approximately 163,000 square feet of laboratory, office, and meeting space designed by the Tokyo-based architectural firm of Maki and Associates. Together with the existing Wiesner Building (designed by MIT alumnus I. M. Pei), the complex will serve as a showplace for new concepts in design, communications systems, and collaborative research. The goal is to ignite a new energy and connectivity within the two-building complex, and then extend this energy beyond our walls—to our sponsors and to the world at large.

    The complex will also house the List Visual Arts Center, the School of Architecture + Planning's Design Lab and Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the Department of Architecture's Visual Arts Program, and MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies. A key component of the building will be the Okawa Center for Future Children, focused on children, learning, and developing nations.

    The entrance space. Here a dash of red on the stair. Later you'll see a yellow one and a blue one. De Stijl colors. They also pick up a color scheme Pei used next door.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    Done mostly in white with far more glass than the usual Cambridge building

    The spaces inside are generous. Exposed elevators in the entrance space add movement and changing lightness in this space.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    You quickly notice superb detailing, a Maki trait, and wonder how he got it so good in the U.S.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    Throughout this project you realize that the client was nonpareil. Nicholas Negroponte, for MIT. He's the the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, and also known as the founder of the One Laptop per Child Association.

    Here's how the de Stijl colored staircase continues into the building (sorry for the lack of color in the photo.) Notice how the stair swells at the center landing, where structurally it needs the most support. It's honest and makes the stair more interesting.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    And this takes us to the most exciting part of this place. The section. Two story spaces overlap, see into each other, communicate and connect so all the creative people in this place can "feed off" of one anothers presence. In the multi-story atrium inside the "cubist" architecture excites the senses. We feel various layered planes and qualities of natural light.

    Of course, nothing beats what goes on in the labs.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    An exhibition on the building in the lobby says,
    The interior spatial configuration was guided by the idea of the "cube", which is a double height open lab space in I.M.Pei's original Media Lab building. These double height spaces have been staggered in the new building to create overlapping and interconnected lab spaces. The structural grid has been organized around the lab to create 3 clear spatial zones - the atrium, the labs and the service zones.
    Need a break? Take the stairs

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    To an outdoor terrace. This one reflects Boston:

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    Or, another view

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    Step out onto this terrace. Charles River on your left.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    Back down in the entryway, ready to leave. See how it's connected to the city and the life around it.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    One misstep, the furniture that is not bolted down in here, and that's most of it, was not designed by Maki's firm, and that's a shame. I'd have liked to have seen these spaces with more integrated furnishings. So for example, while this "capsule" looks Japanese, it did not come from the architect.

    Fumihiko Maki MIT Media Lab
    Back outside.

    More from the lobby exhibition:
    The building is sheathed in an aluminum and glass facade with a second layer of louvered screens that overlay the glazing of the double height lab spaces. This highly transparent facade offers an abundance of natural light and a variety of views to the exterior, which is in stark contrast to ordinary laboratory facilities that are often highly concealed. Furthermore, the activity occurring on the interior will be visible from the exterior, exposing the interior activity to the street. The exterior image of the building transforms throughout the day with the changing sunlight conditions illuminating the varying levels of transparency and spatial depth occurring within the building.
    The aluminum rods on the facade, while a bit gray on the day I saw it, do give a nice feel of precise Japanese design and of bamboo on a traditional Japanese facade. Maki has been working on such an element since at least 1993. He's been working on this building for some twelve years.
    The white and the light and the open spaces and transparent walls give a sense of calm. A parallel sense of excitement swells inside of you as you move from space to space.
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Lake Shore Drive Apartments by Mies beautifully restored

    Nice story with pics in Dezeen. We've been telling you about it here.

    Mies Lake Shore Drive Apartments Chicago restored 2009

    Mies Lake Shore Drive Apartments Chicago restored 2009

    Mies Lake Shore Drive Apartments Chicago restored 2009
    In person, the restored Lake Shore Drive Apartments are even more glorious than this. Restored travertine plaza, newly repainted black steel, opaque and clear glass returned to the original look and night lighting also returned to the original look. A sublime experience to walk around again and again.

    Fine photographs by William Zbaren who also shot this fine video of architect Ron Krueck - a leader of the restoration team - talking about the Lake Shore Drive Apartments.
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So you think you know Mies? Come play "Riddle Mies this."

    Mies van der Rohe Society Chicago IIT
    Geoffrey Baer, game show host
    Lee Bey, trivia team player
    Edward Keegan, trivia team player
    Edward Lifson, trivia team player
    Dean Donna Robertson, trivia team player
    Edward Windhorst, trivia team player
    Plus IIT students!

    (Should the three Edwards on one team challenge the others?)

    Mies van der Rohe Society Chicago IITClick any image to enlarge it.
    Here's a working link to register. Do so by March 15.
    And I highly recommend that you join the Mies van der Rohe Society.

    The Mies van der Rohe Society is dedicated to art, culture, and the preservation of the Mies legacy in Chicago. Join the Mies Society and enjoy private home tours, not-to-miss parties, lectures, and more, while supporting the exquisite restoration of Mies' masterpieces on the IIT campus.

    If you're not already a member, join now! The Society, with which I am affiliated, does excellent work, for example, a current project is to restore Mies's chapel at IIT.

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Katsura and Mies

    If you visit Crown Hall this week

    Mies Crown Hall Hedrich-Blessing
    make sure you also see

    Katsura Shoin The Photographs of Ishimoto Yasuhiro
    The Photographs of Ishimoto Yasuhiro

    February 18-March 7, 2010
    Kemper Room Art Gallery
    Paul V. Galvin Library
    Illinois Institute of Technology
    35 West 33rd Street, Chicago, IL 60616

    February 18-March 7, 2010

    Exhibition hours:
    Monday–Friday: 9 am-6 pm
    Saturday: 9 a.–5 pm
    Sunday: noon–5 pm

    For parking and directions visit

    The exhibition is generously sponsored by the Japan Foundation and supported by the Consulate General of Japan and art@IIT.
    The Photographs of Ishimoto Yasuhiro
    Ishimoto Yasuhiro studied with Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan at the Institute of Design. In 1953, Ishimoto began photographing the Katsura Imperial Villa, which was built in Kyoto in the seventeenth century for the Japanese Imperial Family. Its buildings and gardens are created in a simple yet elegant style that has had an effect on many modern architects such as Bruno Taut. The 50 images in the exhibition, which is curated by Susan Aurinko, are from the book Katsura, published in 1960 by Ishimoto.

    Top image: © Hedrich-Blessing

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