Posts Tagged ‘Richard Meier’

Due to train traffic ahead of us. . .

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Some of my more dedicated readers may have noticed that it’s been a while since my last blog post, and wondered as to the cause of such delay. Well, the lack of blog posting directly coincided with the start of a new job; I started at Diller Scofidio + Renfro several months ago, and my time has been scarce since.

In actuality, though, it may not be an issue of time–I wrote more than I ever had before (or have since) during graduate school, when I was busier than I am now (though it’s close. . . ). No, I think the issue may be that DS+R is a firm that is capable of, and welcoming towards, those ideas that usually have no place in an “architectural practice.” You might imagine how they would be amenable towards offhand inquiries into media/tech and its relationship to architecture, and so far they’ve proven to be just that. So the idle thoughts and expressions that usually have to wait until the after hours get due attention in the office. The partners at DS+R so far have shown a remarkable willingness to entertain crazy enough ideas, and so far I’ve felt little need to explore things outside of work.

Open the flat files at DS+R and you're liable to find stuff like this. . .

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, however. At my last position, working for Richard Meier and his progeny, the work was much slower, and the ideas were. . . shall we say, less up for discussion. Those who worked for Meier were confident and secure in what they thought was good, and didn’t really bide any differing ideas. Or were incapable of discussing them. Or both. They reminded me of Germans in their arrogance and lack of tolerance for difference. Or people who went to the GSD. And a lot of them were one or the other. Or sometimes they were both. Though in all truthfulness, I met the most competent, capable, and knowledgeable architects at Meier’s, and if I’m ever in a position to hire, I will look extremely favorably towards people from that office. I also think Germany has a great chance to win the World Cup this year. Like they always do. Scary bastards. No offense. Love their cars.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says "GSD rules."

But what this means is that the mental space that wasn’t being occupied by work was searching for challenges outside of work, and I appreciated the space it gave me to apply towards other things, this blog being one of them. Now that I’m at a work environment that seems capable and willing to entertain my other ideas, less of it gets channeled outside of work. It’s also a bit sad because though I’ve been involved in so many great projects already, I’m not at liberty to discuss much of what I’ve been working on. It’s stuff I would have written about otherwise, so it’s funny not to able to now that I’m so close. So my thoughts mainly have to stay in the office. In short, all of my energy is going into work, and I’m not sure yet if that’s a good thing. It’s a direction I’m going and I guess I’ll have to go far enough down that road to know if I want to stay on it. Remains to be seen. Just like the World Cup (go Spain or Argentina!).

Lionel Messi would go to Yale.

Argentina vs Germany, July 3rd, 10:00 am EST, on ABC!

US Embassy in London Competition

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

A collection of images from the recently closed competition for the United States Embassy in London:

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Richard Meier’s (New York) entry above.morphosis_embassy

The design from Morphosis (Santa Monica).

23piecobb_cap-popupThe Pei Cobb Freed entry (New York).

1267025314-kt-03-528x376Sadly, the image above is from the winning entry from Kieran Timberlake (Philadelphia).

Selected reading regarding the competition:

ArchDaily

A/N Blog

The New York Times

The Guardian.co.uk (in which Sir Richard Rogers decrees that the winning entry is “unfit to represent the US in Britain.”)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/feb/23/us-ambassador-spoiling-view-embassyT

Speed, Space, Structure, and Sounds

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

planvoisin

Sometimes I think it’s easy to imagine the enthusiasm that Le Corbusier must have had when he began to imagine the city under the influence of those two technologies of the early 20th century–the car and cinema. His Plan Voisin for Paris was named for the automobile company that bankrolled that project, after all. And his most famous residence, the Villa Savoye, was designed with both the automobile and the movie camera in mind, as Le Corbusier showed in his film, L’architecture d’aujourd’hui. And many of you know that in plan, the radius of that curve on the ground floor was exactly the radius of the turning circle of a Citroen car. It was a very precise and deliberate architectural gesture towards the impact of technology and media on a building in particular, and to urbanism in general.

411px-lallement-bicycle-patent-1866

It’s funny to think that the automobile and the bicycle were invented around the same time–I tend to think that an invention like the bicycle has been around since the dawn of time. But it hasn’t, and it’s sort of exciting to think of the way cities were experienced differently with that technology. A city biked is vastly different than a city walked, which is different than a city driven through, which is different than a city subway-ed.

For a time, my brother was a serious skateboarder, and he used to watch skateboarding videos in lieu of doing almost everything else (studying, eating, sleeping). And it was amazing to see the particular way cities were represented in those skater videos–through the fisheye lens,gliding across pavement (and only pavement) with considerable velocity, using the structure and space in a way that was probably more vibrant and energetic than what the architecture was originally designed for in the first place. In fact, skateboarding was how my brother saw cities. To my chagrin, in every city we visited on our cross country road trips, he knew of only the spots featured in those videos. You’ve never seen somebody so excited to see a certain flight of stairs and handrails. He avoided the museums and the usual spots, asking only to see the public schools or the under-bridge concrete parks. More recently, at the Richard Meier office, one of my coworkers recently put together a video of himself and his brother in Tennessee (spliced with my favorite song of right now, MGMT’s “Kids”). In the not-too-distant future, I can’t imagine a more fitting urban document of these times than these skateboarding videos.



In a way, it’s a creative and spatially pure way to experience a city. It’s outside of the proscribed “program” of a city, using your own locomotion and senses. It’s purely speed, space, and structure. One of my first architectural projects tried to wrestle with the way “neglected” areas of New Haven eventually found their own uses. I studied the graffiti of the area as well as watched some parkour videos (there is an amazing parkour video below). In all of these cases, the best environments seemed to happen by chance, or through a fortuitous combination of cirumstances. Rarely was a vibrant, energetic spot designed to be that way–it was more like the users made it that way through their own improvisation. In the life of the city, the buildings and structures recede, foregrounding the people and the activities. It impressed upon me how difficult it is for architecture to intentionally improve the environment–sometimes it seems as if the best architecture simply disappears.


field-section-detail



2/23/2006: Meier-dom?: An American in Rome

Friday, December 26th, 2008

More film notes that I wrote almost three years ago.

bellyofanarchitect

Belly of an Architect (1987), 118 minutes

“Cinema doesn’t connect with the body as artists have in two thousand years of painting, using the nude as the central figure which the ideas seem to circulate around. I think it is important to somehow push or stretch or emphasize, in as many ways as I can, the sheer bulk, shape, heaviness, the juices, the actual structure of the body. Cinema basically examines a personality first and the body afterward.” –Peter Greenaway

“I don’t think we’ve seen any cinema yet. I think we’ve seen 100 years of illustrated text. If you want to tell stories, be a writer, not a filmmaker.” –Peter Greenaway

As far choosing movies for an architecture film series goes, this one was fairly easy. It has the word “architect” in the title, and is actually about an architect and his artistic trials. It is shot entirely in Rome, which some people believe is a city of continuing architectural significance (though Le Corbusier said in Vers Une Architecture: “To send architectural students to Rome is to cripple them for life.”) As it happens, the architect is an American working in Rome who encounters some difficulties, so it also fits within the semester’s theme of “Cultural Invasions.” And tangentially, it could be extrapolated to serve as sort of shallow (and more probably, meaningless) analogy of the work that Richard Meier did to get his Jubilee Church built in Rome (a competition that Meier won over Tadao Ando, Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry and Peter Eisenman, and which is now the subject of its own documentary).

But if the selection of this movie for this series was so easy for me, it then begs the question, what makes a movie have architectural significance? What can students of architecture glean from a medium that is two dimensional and which relies most heavily on cinematographers, actors and writers—none of whom work directly on architecture?

I can tell you that I was loathe to screen this film for those reasons, plus a few others. First of all, I am not a fan of the director, Peter Greenaway, a filmmaker from Britain. Peter Greenaway is maybe one of the most ambitious filmmakers in regards to pushing the boundaries of film; he was trained as a painter, then worked as a film editor before making his own films; he has also written books, essays, and curated shows at international museums. And I am amenable to his ambition to free movies from their traditional bond to storytelling. The problem is his films are often unwatchable (full disclosure: I’ve only seen two of his films).

But the biggest reason I didn’t want to put this film on the series was that the link between architecture and film in the case may be too obvious on a very superficial level. Sure, it’s ostensibly about an architect, but that is not where the value of a film to the defensive field of architecture should remain. Greenaway has exhaustively documented artistic ambitions (I would hope architects have artistic ambitions, also), one of which is the relation of the body to his chosen medium. Could we not learn something from how he treats his subject, which is also the subject of our medium? He also has written about film’s dependence on the idea of “text,” which is something that has been known betwixt certain architects (ahem, Peter). So let’s try to get past the title and find something that inspires us architecturally.