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Alexandra Lange

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Josep Lluís Sert's Martin Luther King Jr School: A Never-Loved Building That Never Stood a Chance

08:30 - 8 June, 2015
Josep Lluís Sert's Martin Luther King Jr School: A Never-Loved Building That Never Stood a Chance, Cover of MAS Context 25-26 / Legacy. Image © Tom Harris / Hedrich Blessing
Cover of MAS Context 25-26 / Legacy. Image © Tom Harris / Hedrich Blessing

In architecture circles, it's a sadly familiar trope: a postwar modernist building by a celebrated architect is slated for demolition, and the only people to come to its defense are not the local community, but the architects and critics who can see past the weathered concrete to the ideals within. But despite this familiarity, it's rare to find a critic with first-hand experience as the user of the building in question, and rarer still for them to have experienced it with the unprejudiced eyes of a child. Such is the case with Alexandra Lange, who went to kindergarten at Josep Lluís Sert's Martin Luther King Jr School in Cambridge. In this article from MAS Context, originally titled "Never-Loved Buildings Rarely Stand a Chance: Josep Lluís Sert in Cambridge" and featuring photographs by Lee Dykxhoorn, Lange recounts her experiences of the school and laments its destruction. The latest issue of MAS Context focuses on the theme of "Legacy" - from the legacy we have inherited from our predecessors to the legacy we are leaving for the future.

It’s a detail too perfect, better suited to a novel. Architecture critic goes to kindergarten at modernist school. Years later, she returns to the city of her birth and discovers the school again, surrounded by construction hoardings, on the brink of destruction. Can she save it? Except that was me, and I was too late.

Classroom clerestory expression along Putnam Avenue, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn Classrooms open on exterior play space, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn Play area behind the school with entry ramp, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn Classrooms open on exterior play space, Cambridge, 2013. Image © Lee Dykxhoorn + 20

Charles Moore: Going Against the Grain

01:00 - 8 June, 2014
Charles Moore: Going Against the Grain, A portrait of Moore, who was always more interested in how people moved through spaces­—and the resulting fragmentary views—­than a single beauty shot. Image Courtesy of Charles Moore Foundation
A portrait of Moore, who was always more interested in how people moved through spaces­—and the resulting fragmentary views—­than a single beauty shot. Image Courtesy of Charles Moore Foundation

“Who threw this tantrum?” This question sums up how Charles Moore’s peers reacted when they saw his Lovejoy Fountain project for the first time. Moore was always a bit unconventional by contemporary standards – he designed what others would not dare, creating a body of work that alludes to everything from Italian baroque forms to Mexican folk art colors to Japanese wood construction. Originally published as Why Charles Moore (Still) Matters on Metropolis Magazine, check out Alexandra Lange’s thoughtful piece on the influential architect after the break.

“Stop work. It looks like a prison.” That was the telegram from the developers in response to Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker’s (MLTW) first design for the Sea Ranch, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Architects Charles Moore, Donlyn Lyndon, William Turnbull, and Richard Whitaker, working with landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, had used sugar cubes to model the 24-foot module for each of the condominium’s original ten units. And that boxy choice, combined with the simplest of windows and vertical redwood siding, produced something more penitentiary than vacation (it’s sited on a choice stretch of Sonoma coast).

Moore's wacky bedframe in his New Haven home, complete with trompe l’oeil dome overhead. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine Designed in 1978, the Piazza d’Italia was built to honor the Italian American community in New Orleans. It was done in collaboration with Arthur Andersson, Steven Bingler, Allen Eskew, Ronald Filson and Malcolm Heard. Image Courtesy of Metropolis Magazine Barbara Stauffacher Solomon painted highly influential supergraphics inside the Swim Club, further altering perceptions of its small scale. In subsequent projects, Moore often worked with Tina Beebe to select interior color arrangements. Image Courtesy of Jim Alinder / Princeton Architectural Press Moore in the backyard of his New Haven home, late 1960s. He took a traditional clapboard house and poked holes through it, including this glassy rear extension. Image Courtesy of Charles Moore Foundation + 10

Necessary Hauntings: Why Architecture Must Listen to its Forgotten Women

01:00 - 16 July, 2013
Courtesy of Women in Architecture, via Metropolis Mag
Courtesy of Women in Architecture, via Metropolis Mag

This article, by Alexandra Lange, originally appeared on Metropolis Magazine as "Architecture's Lean In Moment."

“Women are the ghosts of modern architecture, everywhere present, crucial, but strangely invisible,” writes historian Beatriz Colomina in “With, Or Without You,” an essay in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 catalog, Modern WomenArchitecture is deeply collaborative, more like moviemaking than visual art, for example. But unlike movies, this is hardly ever acknowledged.” 

Colomina goes on to chronicle the history of modernism’s missing women, acknowledged, if at all, as working “with” Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, or Charles Eames. To put yourself in the shoes of Lilly Reich, Charlotte Perriand, and Aino Aalto, simply watch the cringe-worthy video of the Eameses on the Home show in 1956; Ray['s] introduced as the “very capable woman behind him” who enters after Charles has bantered with host Arlene Francis.

This spring, these ghosts came back to haunt us: Arielle Assouline-Lichten, a student at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, read excerpts from an interview with Denise Scott Brown in which she mentioned her own absence from partner Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize. “They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony,” Scott Brown said. “Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.”

Read all of Alexandra Lange's essay, after the break...