Seeming Inevitability: Reconsidering Renzo Piano’s Addition To Louis Kahn’s Kimbell

South view. Image © Robert LaPrelle

When Renzo Piano’s addition to the Kimbell opened in late 2013, critical responses ranged from “both architects at the top of their games” (Witold Rybczynski) to “generous to a fault” (Mark Lamster) to “distant defacement” (Thomas de Monchaux). In this excerpt from a special issue of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, Ronnie Self gives a deeply considered assessment of the two buildings after a full turn of the seasons. The special issue also includes a review by Christopher Hawthorne of Johnston Marklee’s plans for the Menil Drawing Institute, a review by David Heymann of Steven Holl’s expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and an essay by Walter Hood and Carmen Taylor about Project Row Houses. Also featured are interviews of the directors of all four museums and their architects (Piano, Holl, Johnston Marklee, David Chipperfield, and Rice Building Workshop), making for a very comprehensive issue.

Piano’s main task was to respond appropriately to Kahn’s building which he achieved through alignments in plan and elevation and by dividing his project into two major bodies: a concrete walled, glass roofed pavilion facing Kahn and a separate, sod-roofed structure behind that should integrate a significant portion of the project with the landscape and thereby lessen its overall impact. Still, the loss of the open lawn that existed in front of the Kimbell where Piano’s building now stands is regrettable. Kahn’s Kimbell was conceived as a large house or a villa in a park, and unlike much of the abundant open and green space in the Fort Worth Cultural District, that park was actually used. Piano’s new outdoor space is more like a courtyard – more contained and more formal. It is more urban in its , yet less public in its use.

Aside from lamenting the loss of the open lawn, how might we judge the addition?

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Architect + Entrepreneur: A Field Guide to Building, Branding, and Marketing Your Startup Design Business

Courtesy of Eric Reinholdt

The inherently dry subjects of business development, marketing, P+L reports, taxes, and insurance are less likely to feed the intellect of the architect than discussions of materiality, parallax, articulation and form. Yet the reality of what it means to practice architecture, by necessity, requires reconciling these two divided worlds. Nowhere is the need to unify them as great as with the startup  business.

Author, award-winning architect and founder of the firm 30X40 Design Workshop, Eric Reinholdt, explores these topics in “Architect + Entrepreneur: A Field Guide to Building, Branding, and Marketing Your Startup Design Business.” Part narrative and part business book, Reinholdt advocates new approaches and tools that merge entrepreneurship with the practice of architecture and interior design. The book offers a framework for starting a design practice in the 21st century which leverages the lean methodology to create a minimum viable product and encourages successive small wins that support a broader vision enabling one to, “think big, start small, and learn fast.”

Read on after the break for an excerpt from Chapter 2 – Getting Started.

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How The Atlantic Philanthropies Changed Lives Through Building

Courtesy of The Atlantic Philanthropies

In 1982, the billionaire duty-free shopping magnate made a decision that would dramatically alter the course of his career and change his legacy forever: he founded a philanthropic organization, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and made a $7 million donation to Cornell University. Two years later, Feeney transferred his entire $1.6 billion stake in his company to The Atlantic Philanthropies (a move that the world did not find out about until 1997), and the organization has since gone on to make $6.5 billion worth of grants, in large part to fund construction projects that changed lives. Now, the organization is winding down, with its planned closure scheduled for 2016. To celebrate almost three and a half decades of giving, the organization has released ”Laying Foundations for Change: Capital Investments of The Atlantic Philanthropies.” The following excerpt is taken from the book’s foreword by President and CEO Christopher G. Oechsli, originally titled “What This Book Is About.”

Imagine having the resources to build something that can dramatically alter the lives of people, communities, even nations. Conversely, imagine an unassuming man coming to you and asking what you could build to change many lives, of the people in your community or even your nation. Imagine the possibilities. That’s what this book is about. It’s about fields of dreams, and about the people who were asked to imagine what could be built upon those fields to improve the lives of people, and of the people who come and till those fields and are part of that change. It’s a visual and narrative story of Charles Francis “Chuck” Feeney and The Atlantic Philanthropies and what literally laying the foundations for change means for people and nations.

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Book Excerpt: Safdie / Moshe Safdie

Courtesy of Images Publishing Group

The prolific body of work produced over the last half century by Moshe Safdie and his firm is somewhat anomalous in the pantheon of high-profile living architects. It is unique in both formal and philosophical terms, nostalgically guided by the ethical precepts of bygone modernist theory while working in architectural languages significantly evolved from midcentury standards. In the course of a comprehensive review of his projects, it is perhaps the very lack of an isomorphic personal signature that makes his celebrity so unique. The Safdie “look” is chameleonic, deliberately adapting to culture and context without suffering from the burden of personal branding, unified by theory and a geometric playfulness that transcends architectural language and affect.

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Kumbh Mela: Designing the World’s Largest Gathering Of People

Kumbh Mela, January 2013: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City. A project by Harvard University. Published by Hatje Cantz. Image © Felipe Vera

As the location of the world’s largest single-purpose gathering of people, the 2013 Kumbh Mela obviously required a significant organizational effort from those charged with planning it – but what is less obvious is exactly how this need to plan can be squared with the nature of the Kumbh Mela itself. Located in the floodplain of the river , most of the 23.5-square-kilometer area of the festival (commonly referred to as the nagri) remains underwater until a few months before the festival, and organization is at every stage challenged by the uncertainty and ephemerality of the festival itself. In this excerpt from the recently published book, “Kumbh Mela, January 2013: Mapping the Ephemeral Mega City,” Rahul Mehrotra, Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and at the Harvard GSD, and Felipe Vera, Co-director of the Center for Ecology, Landscape and Urbanism at UAI DesignLab, explain how infrastructure and street grids are deployed in a way that not only enables the Kumbh Mela festival itself, but enhances its ephemeral and democratic spirit.

Deployment Process

Standing at the Kumbh Mela at night looking towards an endless functioning city where the temporary construction of the nagri is fused with the city of Allahabad, there are two things that one cannot avoid asking: 1) How was this enormous city planned in terms of scale and complexity? 2) How is the city actually constructed? One of the most interesting elements about the construction process of the city is that unlike more static and permanent cities—where the whole is comprised of the aggregations of smaller parts, constructed in different moments that are tied together by pre-existing and connecting urban infrastructure—the city of the Kumbh Mela is planned and built all at once, as a unitary effort.

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a+u 535: Christ & Gantenbein

From the publisher. April 2015 issue of a+u is a special issue on Basel-based architects . The edition features 19 works including Swiss National Museum and Kunstmuseum Basel which they won through competitions in 2002 and 2010, respectively.

The issue features essays by Philip Ursprung, professor at ETH Zurich, Sam Jacob of former FAT Architecture, and Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee. The issue also introduces the discussion between Emanuel Christ, Christoph Gantenbein, and their colleagues Diogo Lopes and Kersten Geers on how they use references in their works.

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GIVEAWAY: Moleskine’s Inspiration and Process in Architecture / Studio MK 27

®-Inspiration and Process in Architecture

Moleskine, the go-to brand of sketchbooks beloved by creatives around the world, recently released another title in its Inspiration and Process in Architecture series: Studio MK27, led by architect Marcio Kogan.

The series already features monographs dedicated to Studio Mumbai, Wiel AretsDominique Perrault, Zaha Hadid, and others. joins this prestigious list along with Kengo Kuma, Grafton Architects, Frits Palmboom and Michael Graves, whose monographs were also recently announced by Moleskine.

Read on to find out how you can win a copy of Inspiration and Process in Architecture – Marcio Kogan Studio MK27!

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Kumbh Mela: A Temporary (But Not Instant) City for 2 Million

Part of Acciavatti’s diagram “Triveni Sangam: Celestial-Terrestrial Microcosm, 2006“. Image ©

Among the many complex interactions between humans and water in the Ganges river basin, perhaps none is more awe-inspiring than the religious festival of Kumbh Mela, which every twelve years hosts the largest single-purpose gathering of people on the planet, with an estimated 2 million temporary residents and 100 million total visitors in 2013. In the following excerpt from his book “Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River,” Anthony Acciavatti recounts the history of this spectacular event, as well as the smaller annual Magh Mela – and explains why even though it is temporary, the huge tent settlement that supports these festivals is not the “instant city” it is often described as, but instead a microcosm of settlement patterns across the whole Ganges.

Dangling at the tip of the Ganga-Jamuna Doab, where the Lower Ganges Canal system terminates, the city of Allahabad overlooks the confluence of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. While the Jamuna, to the south of the city, runs deep and narrow, the Ganges, to the north and east of the city, runs shallow and wide. Where these two rivers meet (and a third mythical river, the Saraswati), is known as the Triveni or Sangam, the most sacred site within Hinduism.

Every twelfth year, the sleepy university city of Allahabad is transformed into a colossal tent city populated by millions of pilgrims for the Kumbh Mela (literally Pitcher Celebration). And it all seems to happen so fast. After the deluge of the southwest monsoon (June-August), the waters of the Ganges and Jamuna slowly start to recede. A city grid is tattooed into the banks and shoals of the Ganges. Tents and temples pop up in October. Pontoon bridges stretch from one bank of the river to the other and pilgrims begin to arrive in January. Then come reporters and camera crews from all over the world, who come to document the life of what must at first appear to be the world’s largest Instant-Mega-City: a temporary tent city with the major infrastructure of a metropolis.

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Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River

Courtesy of

Few geographies in the world nurture such a rich and complex imaginary as the River Valley. The heart of Indian Culture, and home to over one quarter of India’s population, the Ganges is one of the most fertile and infrastructure-heavy river valleys in the planet. Its many physical, historical and spiritual natures defy a single interpretation: always in flux, source of life and destruction, and venerated as a Hindu Deity, the Ganges fully embodies the complexities and excesses of the Indian Civilization.

In “Ganges Water Machine: Designing New India’s Ancient River,” Anthony Acciavatti orchestrates a magnificent portrait of the Ganges River Basin, and its continuous reinvention as a test-bed for infrastructural innovation. Through the hybrid genre of the Atlas-Almanac-Travelogue, the book unfolds the many nested spatial and temporal scales that characterize this highly contested territory. Those captivated with the planetary urbanization of water will find in this book a timely and relevant volume of encyclopedic ambition and exquisite design.

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Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms

Elevation study of the southwest facade of Villa Savoye at Poissy, 1929, focussing upon the composition and proportioning of the openings and piloti, pencil and white pastel on trace, 75.5 x 126.2 cm (29 3/4 x 49 2⁄3 in). Image © Fondation , Paris

Marking the 50th anniversary of Le Corbusier’s death, Phaidon recently released a second edition of William J R Curtis’ seminal book, “Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms.” Following in the footsteps of the first edition published in 1986, the book reveals Le Corbusier’s works through over 500 images and incisive analysis. The context within which the book will be received is of course very different compared to that of 1986; in the following text, the author explains how Le Corbusier’s legacy has changed in the intervening years, but also why the book is needed just as much now as it was back then.

From the Preface to the Second Edition of Le Corbusier: Ideas and Forms:

When the first edition of this book was written Le Corbusier had been dead only twenty years. His reputation was in temporary eclipse. Demonized by post-modernist foes and over-simplified by neo-modernist friends, he risked becoming a caricature. At the time it was necessary to rescue him from transient perceptions and to place him in a longer and broader historical perspective. While focusing upon individual works I attempted to reveal Le Corbusier’s recurrent themes, basic types and guiding principles. His architecture was placed in the context of his larger social and cultural projects and related to his general conceptions of society, history and nature. The first edition closed with the declaration: ‘Le Corbusier is himself part of tradition and has even altered the perspective on the distant past. As he slips further into history, his modernity matters less and less: it is the timeless levels in his art which have most to give to the future.’

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JA97: Curving Line & Surface

From the publisher. 97 is focused on the curving lines and surfaces in architecture. The issue explores the topic through works, an interview, and essays by 10 architects including SANAA, Jun Aoki, TNA, and Junya Ishigami.

The issue, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, also introduces works of architecture with curving lines and surfaces from the past such as Kenzo Tange’s National Gymnasiums for Tokyo Olympics from 1964 and Toyo Ito’s House in Kamiwada from 1977.

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Morphing: Mathematical Transformations In Architecture

Courtesy of Laurence King

Cylinders, spheres and cubes are a small handful of shapes that can be defined by a single word. However, most shapes cannot be found in a dictionary. They belong to an alternative plastic world defined by trigonometry: a mathematical world where all shapes can be described under one systematic language and where any shape can transform into another. As digital tools are becoming increasingly complex, this book seeks to use “as a means to demystify the inner computational workings of digital tools” by proposing a framework to convey mathematical transformations as tools.

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Charles Eames’ Advice for Students

Courtesy of Yale University Press

Few in the twentieth century straddled the demarcation between design and architecture as effortlessly – or as successfully – as Ray and Charles Eames. For the Eameses, the distinction was artificial and unhelpful; useful creative thought emerged from a process-based method of problem solving, design solutions addressed and resolved specific needs, and success could be effectively measured by an object’s ability to do its jobs. But while the Eameses were famously weary of design’s historical tendency toward “creative expression,” their work exhibited none of the abject sterility threatened by a devotion to extreme functionalism. They found that delight was itself utilitarian, and an object’s capacity to produce pleasure for its user allowed for the consideration of aesthetics as one metric of serviceability. From this belief in the unity of performance and perception emerged some of the century’s most iconic designs: Case Study House #8, the Molded Plywood Lounge Chairs, and the 670 & 671 Eames Lounge and Ottoman.

The forthcoming An Eames Anthology, edited by Daniel Ostroff and published by Yale University Press, chronicles the careers of Ray and in their pursuits as designers, architects, teachers, artists, filmmakers, and writers. As Ostroff attests, with over 130,000 documents archived in the Library of Congress, the Eameses were nothing if not prolific; this volume, accordingly, is not comprehensive so much as representative, curated to reflect the breadth of interests and accomplishments of the pair.

In preparation for a 1949 lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles on “Advice for Students,” Charles made the following notes on inspiration, methodology, and career strategy. They are excerpted here from An Eames Anthology:

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Las Vegas vs The Landscape: Photographer Michael Light Exposes the Terraforming of the American Dream

“Barcelona” Homes and the Edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © , Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain

“Nestled into the desert landscape that defines ’s visage,
Ascaya feels as if it were shaped by the elements.
[...]
Where stone rises up to meet the sky, there is a place called Ascaya.”
- The Ascaya promotional website

Not quite, according to Michael Light’s soon-to-be released book, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain. Covering the advance of suburban Nevada into the desert, this two-part book looks at Lake Las Vegas, a then-abandoned victim of the 2008 real estate crash which has since emerged from the other side of bankruptcy, and nearby Ascaya, a high end housing estate that is still in the process of being carved into Black Mountain. Light’s photography doesn’t so much question the developers’ summary as it does, say, blast it, scar it, terrace it and then build a large housing development on the remains. Featuring beautifully composed aerial shots of the construction sites and golf courses covering the desert, the book is a clear condemnation of the destructive and unsustainable development in Nevada. Much more than that, though, Light is highlighting a wider philosophy behind developments like Ascaya and Lake Las Vegas that fundamentally fail to connect American society with the American landscape in a non-destructive way.

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a+u 534: Caruso St John Architects

From the publisher. a+u March 2015 is a special issue on London and Zurich based Caruso St John Architects, led by Adam Caruso and Peter St John.

The issue features 19 works with a focus on their recent renovation works including the Tate Britain, Millbank Project in London, Chancel at St Gallen Cathedral in Switzerland, and Liverpool Philharmonic Hall with its first stage recently completed.
The latter half of the issue features their on-going projects in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France including Bremer Landesbank and Lycée Hotelier de Lille.

Opening essay, by former editor-in-chief of AMC magazine Dominique Boudet, surveys Caruso St John’s early to recent works. The essay by Jay Merrick, the architecture critic of The Independent, gives us the details of the Tate Britain’s renovation work. Third essay by Adam Caruso talks about his and Peter St John’s method of working with references.

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Havana Revisited: Postcards of the Cuban Capital Through the Years

Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

Thanks to its privileged position as a gateway to North America and ’s unique political history, the architecture of the City of has a rich and layered quality rarely found. In a new book edited by Cathryn Griffith, “Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage,” this history is explored in detail through 12 essays by renowned architects, historians, scholars, preservationists, and urban planners in both Cuba and the United States and a selection of 350 color images comparing historic postcards with the city of today. The following text is the book’s introduction, written by Cuban architect, urban planner and critic Mario Coyula (1935-2014).

Havana’s modest beginnings came in the sixteenth century, as the springboard for Spain’s conquest of America. When the port became the obligatory last American stop for Spanish ships making their return voyages to Europe, its significance grew until Havana had become the most important city in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. From the beginning, it was a settlement oriented toward providing services, especially that of protection. Hence, Havana became home to the most formidable system of defensive fortifications in the colonial Americas.

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Behind the Lines by TYIN Tegnestue

Andreas Skeide’s Behind the Lines by TYIN Tegnestue details the lifelong journey of architects Yashar Hanstad and Andreas Gjertsen, following their story from their start as students to their transition into professional architecture. The book looks at the logic behind the formation of TYIN Architects and eleven of the resultant projects, highlighting both the successes and the failures along the way. The following is a series of excerpts from the book detailing pivotal moments in their careers.

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Solid Wood: The Rise of Mass Timber Architecture

Courtesy of Routledge

Largely overlooked in the development of Modernism,  architecture is making a comeback in the 21st century with the success of designers such as last year’s Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban, and the push toward timber towers from large influential firms such as SOM. In the following extract, author Joseph Mayo introduces his new book,Solid Wood: Case Studies in Mass Timber Architecture, Technology and Design,” which examines the rise of mass timber through historical analysis and contemporary case studies.

Few books have addressed the use of wood in large, non-residential buildings. While light frame construction and residential resources are common, little has been written about the use of wood in taller, urban, commercial and institutional buildings. Solid Wood presents a survey of new timber architecture around the world to reveal this construction type’s unique appeal and potential. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm for solid wood architecture (also known as mass timber architecture) and engineering is now growing rapidly among a new generation of architects and designers.

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