Venice Architecture Biennale 2014

 

“Back to basics” Rem Koolhaas declared, after he was appointed the curator of one of the most prestigious architecture expositions in the world – the 2014 Venice Biennale. Taking place from June 7 to November 23, 2014, the event will be home to projects representing a number of countries and studios from around the world. The official name, Fundamentals, will be the driving concept for a broad range of projects from the slew of international architects invited to exhibit. Canada has already selected the renowned Toronto-based firm, Lateral Office, to curate their Nunavut-inspired exhibition – Arctic Adaptations: Nunavut at 15.

 

The exhibition is in celebration of the 15th anniversary of Canada’s largest and least populated Northern territories. Arctic Adaptations aims to present five projects that reflect regional migratory traditions, as relating to mobility and seasonal change; and potentially propose how architecture could improve the development of cohesive communities in the face of rapid environmental, economic, and social changes. The design teams will also have to negotiate unpredictable elements like Canada’s raw landscape and extreme climate, and the real-life difficulty of transporting materials to the most remote regions of the Arctic North.  In addition to many of these geographic and meteorological obstacles, the designs will address the various specificities of Canadian indigenous culture.

 

“This is the first time that we are sending an exhibition about Canada’s North to the Venice Biennale in Architecture,” according to Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council. “Given the rise in national and international interest in the Arctic, this is a timely exhibition. Arctic Adaptations will bring attention and insight to the unique challenges and opportunities that Nunavut is facing, and the possibility for architecture to positively impact its future.”

 

 

 

 

— Dan Oprea

 

Northwest x Northwest: Seattle and the Hypercube

 

Nestled into the slope of 4th Street, is Seattle’s Central Library a glistening crystalline geometric projection. Just blocks from Pike’s Place Market, where tourists flock to Starbucks’ flagship store and peruse boutique confectionaries, is the country’s most architecturally progressive library; a vision for design enthusiasts and bibliophiles alike. The Central Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas and Seattleite Joshua Ramus, opened its doors in 2004, nearly doubling the stacks’ capacity and heralding the digital age with 400 computers and wireless Internet.

 

Most remarkable about the Central Library, however, is its form: tessellated cubes of reading rooms and computer labs, lacquered in thick black paint, are nestled within a latticework of steel and glass. The exterior grid pitches precariously forward at its upper floors, and sharply backwards at its base, expressing tangible structural tension on its visitors as they nonchalantly flip through the daily newspaper. The library’s guests sit above a semi-transparent vortex, a pyramidal atrium surrounding the library’s middle floors, formed by the shifted base and observatory level. The building’s integrity shifts beneath their very feet, and threatens to collapse above shaded pedestrians on the hilly streets below. Koolhaas’ airy geometry recalls a hypercube – a cube projected beyond the third dimension. As a treasure trove of timeless relics, a library projects conceptually into the fourth dimension, even as its structural presence remains resolutely in the third.

 

I found myself in the Central Library after a visit to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) just down the street. SAM recently acquired fifty works of art from the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection, an assembly of seminal Minimalist and Conceptual works. Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, are New York City natives who began amassing a sizeable collection in 1962, donated most of their contemporary pieces to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. The remaining pieces were disbursed to fifty museums in fifty states, Washington state’s fifty allotted works donated entirely to the Seattle Art Museum.

 

The works from the Vogel Collection will be on view until June 30th, on the museum’s third floor, hanging from brightly painted yellow and orange walls, which liven the somber palette of work from artists like Alain Kirilli and Sol LeWitt. It is LeWitt’s work in particular (displayed in the center of the gallery) that recalls the nearby Central Library. LeWitt’s 1, 2, 3, 4 (1980-1983), an intricate white tesseract of painted balsa wood, is unfolds its structural grid much like the pitched floors of Koolhaas’s library. Even thirty years later, such projected geometry insists on mathematical and scientific influence in the furthering of Modernist design and artistic production. A progressive Northwestern city like Seattle, where Boeing and Microsoft engineer digital age, is fertile soil for that Modernism to take root and flower, unfolding its petals like a cube of infinite dimension.

 

For more information about The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States project, please visit http://vogel5050.org/.

 

 

— Evan Moffitt

 

 

 

 

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Horizon Lines: Modernism Week in Palm Springs

Palm Springs Modernism Week ended on Sunday, and since all the spots on the Lautner House tour had been snatched six months ago, I found myself in the lobby of the Horizon Hotel seeking shade from the desert sun. The advertised exhibition was just a small collection of photographs, many of them without listed artistic credits. Two photos were listed as the work of Julius Schulman, who took interior shots of the hotel shortly after its opening in 1953.
“Horizon Lines: Modernism Week in Palm Springs”

The Fourth Time’s the Charm

Renderings of the current Breuer Building

 

From Greenwich Village, to Midtown, then Madison Avenue & 75th, the Whitney Museum has moved around Manhattan more than your average New Yorker is likely to in a lifetime. In 2015, another location will be added to the list, but this new 200,000 square ft. space is predicted to remain as the permanent home of one of America’s foremost museums focusing on works made by artists in the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It might have to do with the fact that Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano, the mind behind the Centre Pompidou in Paris, LACMA’s BCAM, and the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, will be designing what will be the largest column-free museum in New York City, rounding out at about $720 million total.

“The Fourth Time’s the Charm”

Neutra’s Kronish House Gets A Last-Minute Save

Richard Neutra’s Kronish House was recently rescued from demolition just days after it was slated to be bulldozed.

The house was designed in 1955 by Richard Neutra, the reputed father of California Modernism. The massive house occupies 7,000 square feet of space on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills, and remains the only intact design of Neutra’s in the city (one was demolished and the other altered significantly).
The Kronish House, with its elegant and simple rectilinear lines, is considered one of Neutra’s best works. Because of its sheer lateral size, the structure is more of a villa than a single house, an unusually ambitious project even for an architect of Neutra’s incomparable reputation. As an icon of the California Modernist movement, it stands as a priceless artifact of Southern California’s architectural design history. “Neutra’s Kronish House Gets A Last-Minute Save”

The New World Trade Center: A Design Opportunity Lost

During a brief visit to New York, I had the chance to visit the recently unveiled September 11th Memorial. The two huge pools, elegant scars of the fallen World Trade Center towers, have a graceful simplicity that recalls Maya Lin (Lin was, in fact, on the committee that reviewed design submissions for the Memorial). Although slightly smaller in size than the original towers, the two pools are the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. Beneath the names of the victims of the 9/11 attacks etched in bronze, glassy water pours past dark granite walls to a square, central drain.



“The New World Trade Center: A Design Opportunity Lost”