What We're Reading
Janna Ireland on the Architectural Legacy of Paul Revere Williams in Nevada
Organized by the Nevada Museum of Art, Janna Ireland on the Architectural Legacy of Paul Revere Williams in Nevada focuses on Williams' work in Nevada through the photography of contemporary artist Janna Ireland.
Wiliams was the first licensed American American architect to work in the western region of the United States, designing buildings from the 1920s to the 1970s. Williams worked in Nevada from 1934 through 1964, time when racial discrimination and segregated residential communities were commonplace throughout the United States. Despite the racism, her went on to design over 3,000 architecturally significant structures during his lifetime.
Steven Holl can often be found reading poetry and painting watercolors in a tiny cabin overlooking lotus flowers on the edge of a lake in Rhinebeck, New York. The cabin sits on a 28-acre reserve that Holl purchased in 2014 that now hosts Holl’s full-time office, and ‘T’ Space, a nonprofit arts organization offering creative exhibitions, environmental installations, and architectural residencies. Wrapping around several large trees and linking through a passageway to another existing 1959 cabin, the Steven Myron Holl Foundation’s Architectural Archive and Research Library, built in 2019, is the latest building to be carefully situated in the lush landscape.
Diébédo Francis Kéré, architect, educator and social activist, has been selected as the 2022 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, announced Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award that is regarded internationally as architecture’s highest honor.
“I am hoping to change the paradigm, push people to dream and undergo risk. It is not because you are rich that you should waste material. It is not because you are poor that you should not try to create quality,” says Kéré. “Everyone deserves quality, everyone deserves luxury, and everyone deserves comfort. We are interlinked and concerns in climate, democracy and scarcity are concerns for us all.”
Born in Gando, Burkina Faso and based in Berlin, Germany, the architect known as Francis Kéré empowers and transforms communities through the process of architecture. Through his commitment to social justice and engagement, and intelligent use of local materials to connect and respond to the natural climate, he works in marginalized countries laden with constraints and adversity, where architecture and infrastructure are absent. Building contemporary school institutions, health facilities, professional housing, civic buildings and public spaces, oftentimes in lands where resources are fragile and fellowship is vital, the expression of his works exceeds the value of a building itself.
By Lizzie Crooks, Dezeen
Architecture firm SOM is renovating the 1950s Lever House skyscraper that it designed in New York in an effort to preserve the modernist office building's "very important legacy".
SOM's aim for the restoration is to preserve Lever House's original appearance, while also enhancing its sustainability performance to meet modern-day standards.
The project is being carried out for real estate agency WatermanClark and developer Brookfield Properties.
Mies van der Rohe's Forgotten Frat House Design is Resurected and Repurposed
By Lauren Moya Ford, Hyperallergic
The newly unveiled 60-foot-wide, 140-foot-long steel and glass building is an exemplar of Mies’s signature understated but innovative style.
More than 70 years after its inception, a forgotten Mies van der Rohe architectural design has finally been realized. This week, Indiana University opened its Mies van der Rohe building to students, faculty, and the public. The new campus landmark will provide lecture, workshop, and student collaboration spaces, as well as administrative offices for the university’s Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. Under construction since June 2020, the building was funded through a $20 million gift from Sidney and Lois Eskenazi.
Mies’s elegant design at IU was originally supposed to be a frat house. In the early 1950s, two Indianapolis businessmen commissioned the renowned German architect to design a residence for the Alpha Theta chapter of Pi Lambda Phi. However, the fraternity wasn’t able to raise enough money for the project, and it was abandoned. In 1985, a former fraternity president died, and his widow discovered Mies’s blueprints for the building among her late husband’s effects. She passed these along to a former fraternity treasurer, who then donated the plans to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The Last of the Temporary Wartime Housing
By Carol Acquaviva
In April 1962, nearly 570 families resided in Marin City, some living in homes that had been built in the early 1940s and intended to house Marinship workers and their families. To clear the way for redevelopment, twenty-seven wartime buildings had been scheduled to be burned that month. The Marin County Fire Department completed the final phase of burning the residential duplexes on April 20, 1962. These structures had been “to serve for the duration of the war and five years thereafter.” Due to the shortages of critical war materials, the comfort and sanitation of these structures were understood to be substandard for long-term occupancy.
A Striking Installation Reveals How Ableist Design Can Be
By Brandon Sward, Hyperallergic
"For many of you reading this, the world was built for your body. You don’t have to think when you climb the stairs; the counter comes up to just the right height. These taken-for-granted conveniences are thanks to the increasing tendency of designers, architects, and planners toward “standardization” over the course of the 20th century. But for many millions, life isn’t so simple. One of these individuals is artist and activist Emily Barker, whose exhibition Built to Scale recently opened at Murmurs in downtown Los Angeles.
Barker explains how “creating a standard means someone like me deviates from and is oppressed by it.” The exhibition’s pièce de résistance, “Untitled (Kitchen),” forces viewers to experience what this feels like. Made in collaboration with Tomasz Jan Groza, these scaled-up cabinets tower above the viewer. Despite their literal transparency, they’re frustratingly inaccessible. The feeling is that of being a child. It’s also the view from a wheelchair."
-Brandon Sward, Hyperallergic
LATimes: Architect Paul Williams’ archive, thought lost to fire, is safe. The Getty and USC will acquire it.
Paul R. Williams — the prominent and prolific Los Angeles architect designed private homes for numerous celebrities (among them, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Stanwyck, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz), as well as churches, hotels, commercial buildings and even the font for the famous Beverly Hills Hotel logo. Paul Williams was one of the country’s most notable Black architects with a rack of “firsts” to his name: the first licensed architect in California, the first African American to become a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the first to receive the AIA Gold Medal. The Paul R. Williams archive contains approximately 35,000 architectural plans, 10,000 original drawings, in addition to blueprints, hand-colored renderings, vintage photographs and correspondence. The Getty Research Institute (GRI) and USC’s School of Architecture are expected to announce a joint acquisition of Williams’ work.
NYTimes: Affordable Housing Earns French Couple the Pritzker Prize
Affordable Housing Earns French Couple the Pritzker Prize
March 18, 2021
After more than 30 years of designing affordable new spaces out of existing structures, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have won architecture’s highest honor. Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal have never demolished a building in order to construct a new one. The French architects, who are based in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, believe that every structure can be repurposed, reinvented, reinvigorated. Now, after 34 years of putting that approach into practice, they have won their field’s highest honor: the Pritzker Prize. “Through their ideas, approach to the profession and the resulting buildings,” the jury said in its citation, “they have proven that a commitment to a restorative architecture that is at once technological, innovative and ecologically responsive can be pursued without nostalgia.” In a joint telephone interview, Lacaton and Vassal said they have long been opposed to taking things down. “There are too many demolitions of existing buildings which are not old, which still have a life in front of them, which are not out of use,” said Lacaton, 65. “We think that is too big a waste of materials. If we observe carefully, if we look at things with fresh eyes, there is always something positive to take from an existing situation.” Vassal, 67, said they even once constructed a building around a forest — always making sure to integrate the natural landscape and preserve the past. “Never demolish, never cut a tree, never take out a row of flowers,” he said. “Take care of the memory of things that were already there, and listen to the people that are living there.”
Isolation is an Idea Provoker: Interview with Steven Holl
When it comes to the design process behind architectural projects, brainstorming is never the same for everyone. Some find inspiration in crowded rooms with loud music in the background, some walk around public spaces and observe people’s behaviors, and some need almost no resources whatsoever, just a pen, paper, and complete silence. In an interview with architecture filmographers Spirit of Space, Steven Holl shares how being completely isolated in the Watercolor Hut contributed to some of his office’s most notable creations.
Biden Revokes a Trump Order Seeking ‘Classical’ Civic Architecture
An executive order that former President Donald J. Trump issued in the waning days of his administration, which sought to make classical architecture the default style for new federal buildings, was revoked this week by President Biden as the White House continues its sweeping rollback of the previous administration’s policies. Though the Trump-issued order stopped short of banning newer designs from consideration, it was strongly condemned by several prominent architects and architectural associations — including the American Institute of Architects and National Trust for Historic Preservation — for trying to impose an official, preferred national style. Trump’s executive order, which he signed in December after losing his bid for re-election, was titled “Promoting Beautiful Federal Civic Architecture,” and it praised Greco-Roman architecture as being “beautiful” while describing modernist designs as “ugly and inconsistent.” Those who championed the order heralded it as a return to a bygone era of federalist style. The American Institute of Architects, which had said it was “appalled” by the Trump order, praised the decision to revoke it.
Renovation of Federal Reserve Board Headquarters Portends a Battle Over Civic Architecture
Paul Philippe Cret’s 1937 building for the Federal Reserve Board (FRB)—the Marriner S. Eccles Building—stands as a prime example of neoclassical civic architecture along Washington D.C.’s Constitution Avenue. But the white marble building may have prompted new proposed guidelines around federal architecture, if conversations swirling in meetings of the Commission of Fine Arts are any indication.
The Insanity of a State Sanctioned Style for Architecture
Earlier this week Architectural Record published a new memo calling for a redraft of the federal order “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” first issued in 1962. According to Record, the new order would ensure that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for new and upgraded federal buildings. There would be a new “President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture.”
NYTimes: At the Hirshhorn, a Battle Over Plans for Its Sculpture Garden
The museum is going ahead with meetings on a design by the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto that preservationists say would undo key features of postwar landscape design by Lester Collins. Advocates for the preservation of modernist landscapes in Washington have taken on another fight. After beating back the National Geographic Society’s plan to demolish “Marabar,” the 1984 sculptural installation by Elyn Zimmerman on its campus, they are now battling the Hirshhorn Museum’s proposal to redo its sunken sculpture garden by the architect Gordon Bunshaft and the landscape architect Lester Collins. The Hirshhorn, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution, has been advancing a design by the artist and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto that would substantially alter its look and feel. The standoff comes at a critical time for postwar landscapes, which are reaching an age when refurbishment will increasingly be needed.
NYTimes: Building Accessibility Into America, Literally
Thirty years on, the A.D.A. has reshaped American architecture and the way designers and the public have come to think about civil rights and the built world. We take for granted the ubiquity of entry ramps, Braille signage, push buttons at front doors, lever handles in lieu of doorknobs, widened public toilets, and warning tiles on street corners and subway platforms. New courthouses, schools and museums no longer default to a flight of stairs out front to express their elevated ideals. The A.D.A. has baked a more egalitarian aesthetic of forms and spaces into the civic DNA. But there’s still a long way to go.
Curbed: Michael Sorkin Taught Me How to Look at New York
If you’re ever lucky enough to spot a copy of Exquisite Corpse in a used-book bin or gathering dust on somebody’s shelf, snatch it. The author, Michael Sorkin, was the architecture critic for the Village Voice in the 1980s, and the book collects his greatest hits from that tenure. They are, I am here to tell you, truly great — a crackling, combative serial of how New York City crawled out of the ’70s only to emerge into the bright lights of the ’80s mightily mixed up about who and what it stood for.
Remembering the late Michael Sorkin
Michael Sorkin, inimitable scribe of the built environment and leading design mind, passed away in New York at age 71 last Thursday after contracting COVID-19. Survived by his wife Joan Copjec, Sorkin leaves behind an invaluable body of work.
Getty: Ada Louise Huxtable Might Have Liked This Q&A
The architecture world celebrates critic and writer Ada Louise Huxtable’s 100th birthday on March 14. She won’t be there to see it, having died at 91, after spending her career changing the way we think about architecture. For Huxtable, architecture was not just about how a building looked, but about how it affected the city around it. And as one of the most influential and avidly read architecture writers in the U.S., she made others see it that way, too. She spent 20 years as the New York Times’ first full-time architecture critic. She won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1970. She won a Fulbright, a Guggenheim, and a MacArthur Fellowship. She served as the first woman on the jury for the Pritzker Prize. Huxtable also won the love of a popular audience, who looked forward to her weekly column about architecture, which pulled no punches. A 1968 New Yorker cartoon showed a worker at a construction site telling the architect “Ada Louise Huxtable already doesn’t like it.” When Huxtable died in in 2013, the Getty Research Institute was just about to announce its acquisition of her archive. Sadly, the announcement was hastily rewritten as an obituary. I sat down with Maristella Casciato, senior curator of architecture and design, and research assistant Gary Riichirō Fox to talk about Ada Louise Huxtable, her archive, and her legacy.