COLUMNS

  • the Broad museum and urban development in Los Angeles

    “HAVE YOU SEEN THE LIGHT?” I heard the question over and over during a recent trip to Los Angeles. This being a city with a long and storied history of cults, the query was disconcerting at first, but I soon realized that there was nothing metaphysical about it. It was, instead, a literal reference to the most talked-about quality of the building I had come to visit: the new Broad museum, designed by the New York–based studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), which opened downtown on September 20 amid widespread praise for the sublime luminosity of its interior spaces.

    Daylight has always been

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  • the Broad museum and urban development in Los Angeles

    ALTHOUGH I MOVED to Los Angeles in 1990, I still get lost downtown. What the municipal government somewhat wishfully calls the Central City area is actually an amorphous zone, more or less bounded on the south by the Santa Monica Freeway, on the west by the Harbor Freeway, on the north by the Hollywood Freeway, and on the east by Alameda Street. And it contains multitudes: government buildings and courthouses clustered around city hall; the financial district; Grand Avenue, which is home to many of the city’s museums as well as the Music Center, including Walt Disney Concert Hall; the Broadway

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  • Amie Siegel’s The Architects

    DESPITE ITS TITLE, The Architects (2014) is not about architects. Certainly there are architects to be seen, mostly sitting, silently absorbed at their computers, sometimes chatting or tinkering with models. But artist Amie Siegel shows little interest in their personalities, pursuits, or motivations; the film registers people as objects, as merely one component of the complex social and economic machinery that produces our built environment today.

    Altogether, the film shows ten architecture offices in New York. Each has been filmed in a similar way, with a series of parallel tracking shots, and

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  • Wolfgang Tillmans’s Book for Architects

    ALTHOUGH WOLFGANG TILLMANS’S Book for Architects, 2014, offers an encyclopedic survey of the contemporary built environment, those to whom its title is addressed are likely to recognize surprisingly little of their own handiwork. Architects have never lacked ego, and we live in an age in which their trade has taken on an outsize importance and unprecedented popularity as a premium product of the international culture industry—charged with all manner of place making and identity branding. But this has led to a myopic understanding of architecture as little more than a series of individual

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  • Getting It Wright

    FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S 1921 Hollyhock House, a temple-like home on top of Los Angeles’s Olive Hill, marks not only a sharp divergence from the architect’s previous Prairie School period but the starting point of all that came after it. Wright’s first foray onto the sun-soaked LA landscape and the radical leanings of the client, Aline Barnsdall—oil heiress, anarchist sympathizer, single mother by choice—synthesized into an experimental architectural program. Wherever possible glass doors, rooftop terraces, and outdoor counterparts to indoor spaces join the building to the open air of the site

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  • New York’s new skyscrapers

    THE FLUCTUATING TROUGHS and crests of New York’s skyline have always registered another set of shifts: that of the seemingly incessant stratification of money and power in the city. The past year has been marked by a particularly accelerated spate of construction, one dominated not just by the starchitect but by the star building. First came 157 West Fifty-Seventh Street, or One57, Christian de Portzamparc’s awkward, crested tube of glass panels, finished in August. Now 432 Park Avenue, an ascetic monolith of stacked squares designed by Rafael Viñoly, is nearing completion. Rising fast behind

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  • Square Roots

    LISTS. It is hard to imagine architecture not getting its regular fix. The announcement of competition longlists, shortlists, and final lists pace the field’s collective conversation in a way that individual building projects or even group exhibitions usually do not. And if the playing field is not always leveled—too often, high-profile invited competitions read like Who’s Who lists—the site and the project size are at least common enough to make quick correlations and easily measure-up the contestants.

    So this past June when the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced that the two-stage design

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  • Bernard Tschumi’s retrospective

    “ARCHITECTURE IS the materialization of a concept.” This is just one of many polemical positions that Bernard Tschumi has articulated throughout his forty-year career, and it is the perfect summation of the celebrated architect’s position—capturing his conviction that his discipline is fundamentally about thinking, that building is first and foremost about ideas. But such a statement also leaves the definition of architecture uncertain, contingent on its material realization and on the vagaries of putting ideas into practice. Yet, the paradox is, perhaps, the real force behind Tschumi’s

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  • Renzo Piano Building Workshop’s Harvard Art Museums

    MUSEUM ADDITIONS are like the leftovers of the art world—difficult to keep interesting, mostly bland at best. And they are perhaps the structures most susceptible to the pitfalls of architectural practice—which is, after all, a discipline of constraints, often defined less by the vision of the designer than by the demands of the client, the limitations of the site, and the contingencies of building codes.Yet additions are inevitable. Art museums grow through accumulation—Adorno once remarked that, like the casino, the museum always wins—and so the day for expansion invariably

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  • Grace Under Fire

    WHEN CARLO SCARPA ASSUMED LEADERSHIP of Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia in 1972, he directed that graduation diplomas be inscribed with the aphorism of the Counter-Enlightenment philosopher Giambattista Vico, Verum ipsum factum—truth itself is made. Scarpa shared Vico’s understanding of the world as constructed rather than observed, a product of creative individuals rather than universal reason. A voracious reader and an ambidextrous draftsman, Scarpa nevertheless insisted upon the built.

    In particular, he made strange with it. This is partially attributable to Scarpa’s having

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  • “Beyond the Supersquare”

    IT’S BEEN A BANNER YEAR for Latin American art in New York, with the Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of Lygia Clark just one of the many recent highlights.Unfortunately, the complex themes addressed by Latin American artists are often lost in the regional surveys and monographic exhibitions most commonly mounted by large institutions. But the curators of “Beyond the Supersquare” at the Bronx Museum of the Arts—Holly Block, the museum’s director, and María Inés Rodríguez, director of the CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain in Bordeaux, France—provide a refreshing thematic approach,

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  • Kulapat Yantrasast

    KULAPAT YANTRASAST is willing (though perhaps not happy) to play second fiddle. For seven years he worked for Tadao Ando, serving as project architect on the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, a quintessentially Ando-ish collection of concrete boxes. And though Yantrasast started his own firm, wHY, in Los Angeles in 2003, he continued serving as Ando’s right hand on additions to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, unveiled this summer. At the same time, he has been working with the curators of the Harvard Art Museums to install their collection in Renzo Piano’s new galleries

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