Jean Tschumi, Bernard Tschumi & DOCOMOMO

On Wednesday evening I attended a party at Vitra celebrating the publication of a long overdue monograph on architect Jean Tschumi, written by Jacques Gubler and published by Skira. Jean Tschumi: Architecture at Full Scale documents the brief career of the Swiss architect who eschewed his Beaux Arts training in favor of "the polemical field of modernity and its technological expression." In the US, the name Tschumi is more well known prefaced by Bernard, rather than Jean, who died in 1962 at the age of 57, when his son was only 18 years old. His early death may have cut his architectural career short, but the quality of the architecture that he produced is evidenced in the pages of this monograph and in the Archizoom exhibition last year, curated also by Gubler.


I'm especially taken by the image on the party invitation of the Aula de Cèdres, a conference center and auditorium at HEP Lausanne:


On Wednesday Gubler spoke of Tschumi's architecture relative to color (embraced by the architect, but rarely captured in documentation of buildings) and scale, referring to the book's subtitle and the architect's consideration of design from furniture to the city. The book offers an in-depth exploration of Tschumi's career, which includes a number of office headquarters, for Nestlé, La Mutuelle Vaudoise, and the World Health Organization. (This blog post at New Switzerland gives a decent overview of the qualities of Jean's architecture.)

One is tempted to break down how the father's architecture influenced Bernard Tschumi's, though if an influence on the latter is evident, it is in the year's since his father's passing. Some brief words on Wednesday by the architect of the new Acropolis Museum pointed to little discussion between the two regarding architecture. In fact Bernard admits that he didn't decide to pursue architecture until a trip to Chicago, only a few weeks before his father died. But with time to study his father's buildings, and a role in Architecture at Full Scale, it would be difficult not to find Jean's influence on his son.

[new Acropolis Museum | image source]

Looking at the two buildings shown above, I would say the influence of Jean on Bernard happens primarily with thinking about site. The above clearly illustrates how the new Acropolis Museum's top relates to the distant Parthenon, while the lower floor contends with the ruins preserved below. In between, the museum is all about movement and the clarity of the exhibition, but it can be seen as the byproduct of contending with the site below and distant. The elder Tschumi's HEP building skillfully addresses the site's topography (as can be seen here) and adjacent buildings, standing out formally but fitting into the multi-faceted landscape.


In the Wednesday-night party's introduction by Nina Rappaport, Chair of DOCOMOMO-New York/Tristate, the preservation of Jean Tschumi's architecture in Switzerland was commended, an unspoken difference between an appreciation of Modernism's gems and the demolition of the same in part or in full an ocean away. The US chapter of DOCOMOMO (international working party for DOcumentation and COnservation of building sites and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement) includes ten regional chapters (all tolled the international DOCOMOMO is 53 chapters strong), but fights for preservation seem to be lost more often than won.

While this fact points to a limited appreciation in this country for architecture produced in the middle of last century, I can't help but wonder if this situation is more about ideology than taste. Modernism was predicated on progress and responses to the changes sweeping across the developed world from industrialization and world wars, so the preservation of the movement's buildings seems anithetical to their origin. That people equate modern architecture with the tabula rasa clearing of neighborhoods, towards the erection of towers in the park in that time does not help matters.

A couple issues further complicate matters: how many modern buildings were not built with the longevity of buildings centuries before; the open plans and platonic forms of modernism did not turn out to be as flexible as envisioned. These point to the necessity of preservation less than 75 years after many buildings of the era were completed and the creativity needed by architects to propose and carry out the adaptive reuse of modernist structures. I think the latter is key in efforts to preserve modern architecture, especially when faced with opponents arguing that demolition and new construction is cheaper and therefore better. The fact that many modern buildings are ingrained and important elements in their neighborhoods (ironically, like the older buildings many modern structures replaced) is perhaps the strongest argument for DOCOMOMO's continued relevance today.

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From our pumpkin patch to yours











Pictures of my daughter, Rachel.  But, she didn’t want me to show her face.  So, I could only post photos of her looking at the beautiful fields of flowers at our local pumpkin patch.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Hope you have a fun day full of lots of treats and no bad tricks!BOO!

New Local Worlds in Section

[Image: "Moravian Mount" from New Local Zlín by Margaret Bursa].

In a recent post I included an image from Margaret Bursa's project New Local NY, which she produced while a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Bursa's tutors for that project were Mark Smout and Laura Allen, of Smout Allen; and I should right away that I'm consistently amazed at the quality of work coming out of Smout Allen's studios.

I thought, then, that I should take the occasion to share more images from Bursa's projects. You can check out her website here.

[Images: From New Local NY by Margaret Bursa].

New Local NY features "a ‘landscape of movement’," Bursa writes. It "takes the form of a condensed urban playground on the west side of Manhattan, overhanging onto the River Hudson," and it was at least partially inspired "by the ongoing relocation of immigrants and cultures to America, in particular Sokol, a Czech mass-exercise movement, promoting togetherness, flocking, fresh air and cultural pride."

The result is an intensely colorful, wind-powered megastructure, sitting comfortably astride the worlds of home craft and experimental architecture.

[Image: From New Local NY by Margaret Bursa].

Here are some amazing sectional sketches:

[Images: From New Local NY by Margaret Bursa; larger version one and two].

Then there is New Local Zlín, an earlier companion piece to New Local NY.

Zlín, Bursa explains, is the fading capital of the Bata shoe-making empire:
    The Czech town of Zlín is the site of a social, industrial and architectural experiment begun by Tomas Bata in 1894. However, his shoe-making factories that were once the town’s driving force no longer operate and so the social and commercial structure of the town and its suburbs are in decline. Responding to the New Local Manifesto, a layer of facilities is laid over and interwoven into the residential neighborhoods where seven housing typologies are afforded dual functions of work and domestic life such the House of Drink, where both production and consumption are combined.
The images, again, are drenched in color and extraordinarily detailed.

[Images: "House of Drink," "Greenhouse," and town plan from New Local Zlín by Margaret Bursa].

The next project is a kind of tube-diorama: you look into the miniature landscape and see autumn trees, a ruined Greek temple, and a many-windowed architectural section standing in silhouette.

The project seems to come with the implication that, when you look inside a telescope, perhaps it's possible that you might simply be seeing a world inside the telescope—that is, an optical device that, instead of revealing new worlds from afar, actually contains local worlds within it.

[Image: From Layered Landscapes by Margaret Bursa].

Called Layered Landscapes, the project is a "compositional map," Bursa writes, and it comes complete with hardcover book and poster.

[Images: From Layered Landscapes by Margaret Bursa].

Finally, I have a weird affinity for sketches of archways, and so I'd be remiss if I didn't include this short series of brick studies—called, unsurprisingly, Brickscape.

[Images: From Brickscape by Margaret Bursa].

In any case, there's some great work in there. Check out Bursa's site for a bit more.

Megan Fox Shops For Furniture In LA

The poor-mans Angelina Jolie, heart throb Megan Fox was shopping for furniture recently. First at Indigos (pictured here) and next to high-end Cisco Brothers in LA. I thought the story of the founder was inspiring.
Cisco Pinedo has become well known in the furniture industry as a leading designer of high quality upholstered furniture and unique casegoods.This is the story behind the man and his company, Cisco Brothers Corporation.

Born in a small rural town in Jalisco, Mexico, his family decided to leave the country in search of a better life. In the mid-seventies, Cisco found himself in South Central Los Angeles with the challenge of learning a new language and trying to fit in a new culture. He was only 13 years old.

In high school, Cisco discovered his passion for upholstery while working part-time in a small shop in Huntington Park. His job was to disassemble sofas, but Cisco quickly became fascinated by how each piece was put together.

His drive for knowledge helped Cisco find a job for an upholstery manufacturer. With his typical hard work and perseverance he soon learned how to run a business first hand. In his early twenties, he began making custom furniture for neighbors out of his garage in his South Central home. As his small enterprise began to grow, he and his wife, Alba recruited the help of their family members to help him run their thriving business. Cisco Brothers Corporation was born.

In a highly competitive, design-driven industry, Cisco Pinedo developed his furniture with superior craftsmanship, cutting-edge style, and unparalleled value. The closely-knit family atmosphere of the company nurtured uncommon client loyalty. After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Cisco decided to remain in the heart of South Central. It was a risky business decision, but Cisco saw the need to revitalize his ailing childhood neighborhood. The move proved to be timely as the company continued to expand.

The success of Cisco Brothers has been a critical component in the redevelopment of the entire area surrounding the business while at the same time providing training programs and secure employment for many families in the vicinity. In 2006, Cisco developed the Inside Green™ method of construction and became the first designer to create 100% FSC Pure sustainable upholstered furniture. The company moved exclusively to FSC Pure certified woods on upholstered furniture, using reclaimed hardwoods for a collection of stunning case goods and the use of water based glues and environmentally friendly detergents to wash all fabrics.

Today, Cisco Home has six retail showrooms including a gallery at ABC Home Furnishings in NYC and the acclaimed LA Design Center in South Central Los Angeles.

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Landfair Furniture + Design Gallery
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Mine / Stack / Vertigo

[Image: Michael Light, Bingham Pit photograph mounted and on display].

A beautiful new book of photographs by Guggenheim Fellow Michael Light has been released. Called Michael Light: Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack, and released by Radius Books, it includes an essay by "experimental geographer" Trevor Paglen.

[Image: Two photos from Michael Light: Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack].

Light, well known for, among other things, his aerial photographs of the American west, "pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime," as Radius Books describes it, has put together a collection of 22 images from his surveys of the Bingham Pit and the Garfield smelter stack.

The sheer scale of each site—one a void excavated into the surface of the earth, the other one of the tallest structures in the United States—is mind-blowing:
    Located at 8,000 feet in the Oquirrh Mountains—20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City—the Bingham Canyon copper mine is the largest man-made excavation on the planet. Its hole reaches more than half a mile deep and its rim is nearly three miles in width. It has produced more copper than any mine in history.
[Image: Michael Light, "Garfield Stack, Oquirrh Mountains and Ancient Beach of Great Salt Lake" (2006)].

    The mine’s Garfield smelter stack, situated at the edge of the Great Salt Lake about 10 miles away, is the tallest free-standing structure west of the Mississippi River, and is only 35 feet shorter than the Empire State Building.
In a nearly 9-page interview with Afterimage, Light comments:
    I work with big subjects and grand issues, and I am fascinated about that point where humans begin to become inconsequential and realize their smallness in relation to the vastness that is out there. In my archival work I also enjoy inserting a certain kind of revisionist politics into big iconic subjects that are owned by the world, where I can tell a story through my particular prism, in a way that hopefully offers a fresh perspective.
This is part of his ongoing interest in taking apart "the fundamental building blocks of landscape perception and representation."

The book is available through Radius.

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Steven Holl ::: The Hamsun Centre

Dutch Profiles: 2012 Architects


I often say how lucky I am to have the family that I do, the experiences I have and the friends who surround me. One of those is a woman whom I am fortunate enough to call a friend. Her name is Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello.

She is charming, stunningly beautiful and extremely smart (Yale and JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health). In addition, she’s a great cook, having had one of her recipes mentioned by Mark Bittman in the New York Times.Roopa3Roopa is going to be one of the contestants on JEOPARDY! tonight and we wish her all the luck in the world!   


Stanley Part of Coastal Living Idea House

More than 20 pieces of furniture from a variety of Stanley Furniture collections were used to furnish the Idea House.

Stirling Shortlist: Maggie's Centre

Maggie's Centre by architects Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners

A Ghostly Tale

It was about this time of year, maybe a little later. I was driving with a friend from the horse races at Chepstow in the Welsh Borders, back to our house in Cardiff. We decided to take a detour to look at White Castle which dates to the13th century, although there is evidence of a fortification there before that time.WhiteCastle4It was just before sunset, so we were the only people there. We parked and walked through the outer ward, through a 13th century gate and headed toward the bridge over the wet moat. From there, we would enter the inner ring of the fortifications through the inner gatehouse.  WhiteCastle2As I broke the plane of the gatehouse, it felt like I was walking through a curtain. I felt a bite of chilly air and had a flash of the scene before me: lots of people milling around, cooking fires, activity and light and some noise. Then it was gone. WhiteCastle3We walked around the inner ward until it got too dark, and then we headed home. I didn’t say anything about what had happened to my friend, thinking that he’d say I was nuts.

A few weeks later, I was back in the States and sending my Christmas letter to friends around the world. I mentioned what had happened at White Castle in one sentence. white castleSeveral days later, I got a call from my friend back in Wales. He was shocked! He had had the exact same experience as I had but didn’t mention it to me for the same reason I gave.

Do you believe in ghosts and other-worldly experiences like this?