December 21, 2008

Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture

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I already own the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture as well its travel edition, so its unsurprising that I finally caved and purchased the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture last night.

For the uninitiated, it's best to first start describing the 21st Century atlas by its size as the title is fairly straightforward about describing the contents. The 21st Century atlas comes with a plastic carrying case, which you will need as the inside cover proudly lists its weight at 14.5 lbs. The book is so tall and wide that I can almost squeeze my Wii Fit inside the carrying case.

So, does size matter? Yes, when you're looking at pretty pictures of architecture. The book is 800 pages, featuring 1037 buildings by 653 architects covering 89 countries. Anywhere between half a page and two pages are spent on each building, so the large page size is essential to packing in as much information per building while retaining good photo quality.

The Contemporary atlas covered 1998-2004 while the 21st Century atlas covers 2000-2008. As you might expect, there is some overlap between the atlases, though buildings that were lightly covered in the previous edition received expanded detail in the new edition and vice versa. It's not too troubling as the amount of actual overlap is fairly small. Head-to-head, the 21st Century atlas covers fewer buildings (1037 vs. 1052) but more countries (89 vs. 75). The page count is nearly identical and the page layout design is also similar, though the 21st Century atlas is updated with more saturated tones and a cleaner design. It somehow manages to shed three pounds of weight, which I assume has something to do with the paper. For the truly obsessive, the 21st Century atlas adds in coordinates so you can plot the building's exact positions: useful if you're trying to locate homes.

My favorite building so far is the Too Tall Teahouse in Japan, which immediately stood out as I flipped the pages as it is perched a top two tree trunks. Stunning and also the smallest building in the atlas at 67 square feet. The Sugiharto Steel House in Indonesia is also remarkable for its modern looks for a sub-$6000 price tag.

San Francisco only received a single entry for the previous edition so I was happy (as a Bay Area resident) to see entries on Herzog and de Meuron's de Young Museum and Morphosis' San Francisco Federal Building highlight the recent construction in the city. Tokyo really lights up in the new edition and nearly doubles its entries from 15 to 27, led by construction in Omotesando. There are three new Omotesando buildings (MVRDV's Gyre, SANAA's Christian Dior, Toyo Ito's TOD'S) -- four if you count Herzog and de Meuron's Prada building down the street. Unsurprisingly, the Ginza gets a couple new buildings: Ito's Mikomoto building and Shigeru Ban's Hayek Centre. New York City also shines with Gehry's first NYC building, Foster's Hearst Tower, Piano's New York Times building and Morgan Library expansion, and several more.

If you are wondering whether or not to update to the latest edition, the answer is probably yes, because you are probably have the same obsessive personality as I do, as evidenced by your ownership of the previous edition.

If you are new the the atlas and wondering whether you should buy it, consider whether or not you want a comprehensive book covering recent world architecture. I found the previous edition useful for finding architects that I wanted to study more about -- many of the architects in the atlas have monographs that you can purchase. The atlas is cross-indexed so each page lists other buildings by the same architect. The indexes are even color coded by region and have a three-letter code to identify the type of building. If you click on the Walt Disney Concert Hall page above, you'll see that the top of the page lists three other buildings by Gehry -- a Tourism building in El Cienego, Spain and commercial buildings in Berlin and New York -- all numbered so you can quickly find the page.

I also found the previous edition useful for planning buildings to visit while traveling. I wasn't too surprised when a travel edition came out and I look forward to the travel edition of this one as well.

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(book spreads used with permission)

June 26, 2008

Frank Gehry - InterActiveCorp Building


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The New York Times Building may not have ended up as Gehry's ticket into New York City, but the less skyscraper-y IAC Building got him a nice spot on the Chelsea waterfront -- he even got to put in a nice deck overlooking the High Line.

The design of the building is meant to mimic sails. You can't really tell from my photos as I was too lazy to cross the street to get the prototypical shot of the building. Instead I was enthralled with how well the glass was able to contort and reflect the blue sky and clouds -- definitely an advantage over Gehry's metal designs. From the adjacent sidewalk its a bit difficult to get a feel for the form of the building --not enough setback -- but you do get a closeup look at the faux-frosting on the windows: little white circles increase in concentration to transition the windows from transparent to opaque.

The building has two things going against it:

1) The lot size is too small for the form imposed upon it. Instead of floating glass sails, it feels like embellishments on a box. Other Gehry designs have been much more successful at deconstructing the rectilinear form

2) The stock IAC logo is ugly.

Gehry will soon have over a block's worth of buildings in Brooklyn at Atlantic Yards, so he'll have more opportunity to make his mark on NYC.

High Line NYC

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Thanks to advice from Christian, I was able to find easy access to the High Line in Chelsea. The High Line is an old elevated train track that snakes along the west side of Manhattan. I've been a fan of the High Line because it combines all the joy of relaxing in a park with the thrill of playing on train tracks.

Its a bit hard to figure out from the current construction what the final vision is, but thankfully Curbed just posted some new renderings of the park design:

June 25, 2008

Renzo Piano's New York Times Building


nyt-gehry.jpgBack in 2003 I went to a Frank Gehry exhibition at the Moca commemorating the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street. The exhibition was full of many models, some for buildings already built, some to be built, and some never to be built. In this last category was a series of models for the New York Times Building, which stood out because they were skyscrapers, something unusual for Gehry's portfolio. I believe that some of the models used crumpled tissue paper to simulate facade elements.

Two years later, I went to a Renzo Piano exhibit at LACMA commemorating Piano's future renovations to the museum. Among the many models there was his New York Times Building model, which was predictably more subdued than Gehry's though just as unusual for being a skyscraper. Gehry's design was considered a front runner, but he withdrew from the process. Piano's design employed a grilled facade that has won him many a museum proposal in recent years and this time secured him a skyscraper.

nytimes20080621_0068Mimicking the New York Times "Gray Lady" moniker, the relatively unadorned, very gray building stands tall with the vertical grill lines that are only interrupted by the giant New York Times banner logo. Buttresses on the side add a little bit of form to the building, but are minimal. I hear it can be quite beautiful at night with the newsroom lighting out through the facade. During the day the gray grills make even a gray sky more gray.

I would have preferred the Gehry design to be built, though I have a feeling that the Piano design has greater longevity. The un-offending building fits well within the Gotham skyline and they gray grills will soak up the grime and soot of the city with hardly a complaint. The New York Times nearly made it to the 21st century without color and it now has a color-less building to lead it to the next.

Photo Gallery

November 6, 2007

Gehry sued for leaky Stata Center

MIT has filed a lawsuit against Frank Gehry's firm for design flaws that lead to persistent leaks and other hazards.

August 7, 2007

SF Transbay Designs

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SFGate has coverage of the three proposals for the San Francisco Transbay Terminal. Each dwarfs the Transamerica Pyramid by over three hundred feet, though SOM's design (right) gets the nod for most phallic.

I'm excited to see plans moving forward for the Transbay Terminal as it promises to bring unity at last to the San Francisco public transit landscape. Funding remains the gigantic billion-dollar hurdle, so we'll see if public officials meet their 2010 start date (if ever).

SFGate: S.F. skyscraper designs released

Zaha's Vortexx Chandelier


Zaha Hadid's swirling band of light that makes up her Vortexx Chandelier is pretty hot. You can catch it on display at her Design Museum exhibition or try to figure out how to get a limited edition from Sawaya & Moroni.

More at the Zaha Hadid Blog

July 30, 2007

Ban's Paper Bridge in France



Shigeru Ban has been a favorite of mine ever since I picked up a Phaidon book of his work. From paper pavilions to paper disaster-relief shelters to paper churches, he's stretched the limits of paper as a building material. He's done so again with his new paper bridge over the Gardon River in Southern France, which contrasts with the historical Pont du Gard stone Roman bridge just a half-mile down the river.

France24 has more

July 13, 2007

London Velodrome, 2012



On the heels of the London start to the Tour de France, London Olympic organizers unveiled some artists conceptions of the 6,000 seat velodrome design to be built by Hopkins Architects.

See also: Financial Times: Games’ Velodrome sets architectural pace

July 3, 2007

Wired's photo essay of the Water Cube


The Water Cube is one of the more stunning bits of architecture being constructed for the Beijing Olympics. Wired has a photo essay showing that the Water Cube is nearing completion.