Earlier this week Archinect interviewed me for their new series on architecture photographers.
Stunning computer rendered short film that "tries to illustrate architecture art across a photographic point of view." Buildings by Kahn, Mies, Gehry, Calatrava and others are breathtakingly rendered. I particularly loved the depiction of the Barcelona Pavilion in the film.
If you love architecture, set aside 12 minutes and watch this in HD in full screen (you have to click on the link to go to Vimeo in order to watch this in HD).
The door is comprised of 40 sections of 254mm-thick Burma teak and integrates 160 pulleys, 80 ball bearings, a wire-rope and a counter weight. I need to see a video of this incredible door in action.
Photo credit: Dinesh Mehta [via Architecture Review]
Found this photo attached to a NYTimes article about how the U.S. can't track whether foreign visitors have left the country.
It appears to be a spherical tent attached to a one-car shed. It's identified as a "bungalow" in the article. I find it fascinating, but a cursory Google search has not turned up any info. Eyeballing the photo, the unit can't be bigger than 150 sq-ft (probably closer to 125). There's a certain dystopian futuristic look to these pods. I wonder how much the rent is for one of these things. Also, is it unbearably hot in the Texas sun? A/C? Shower and toilet? Who can tell me about these things?
Photo credit: Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram
I have updated Figure-Ground.com with two buildings from San Francisco:
I updated Figure-Ground.com with three buildings from Tokyo:
- Christian Dior Omotesando - SANAA
- Mikimoto Ginza 2 - Toyo Ito
- Tokyo International Forum - Rafael Viñoly
I still have about a half-dozen buildings that I have shot but have not had the chance to post.
I've finally gotten around to setting up a long-overdue feed for Figure-Ground.com. You can subscribe to it at: http://figure-ground.com/index.xml.
And the picture above is one I never put up before of Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall [Figure-Ground.com].
The media this week (and all month, really) has been wall-to-wall news, articles and essays about Beijing. Here's my contribution to the avalanche of Beijing coverage:
- Beijing [Figure-Ground.com]
- CCTV Headquarters - Rem Koolhaas/OMA [Figure-Ground.com]
- National Centre for the Performing Arts - Paul Andreu [Figure-Ground.com]
Incidentally, for the first time that I can remember, I'm actually excited about the Olympics. It has not much to do with the Games themselves, but everything to do with the host city and country. All the controversies surrounding this Olympics (the pollution, the media censorship, the crackdown in Tibet, the support of the Sudanese goverment) and the herculean effort the Chinese have made in successfully building a new Beijing that just screams money and power everywhere you look, have made the Olympics interesting again.
- Nakagin Capsule Tower (1972) - Kisho Kurokawa [Figure-Ground.com]
I've also expanded Figure/Ground's Tokyo (2005—2007) section to include photos from Fukuoka and Nagoya. Therefore, the section has been renamed "Japan" to reflect the expanded scope. Definitely take a look at the Fukuoka sub-section if you are interested in architecture. There are quite a few interesting buildings in that set.
I love Taniguchi's buildings. They're very elegant and understated.
- Toyota Municipal Museum of Art - Yoshio Taniguchi [Figure-Ground.com]
Another Taniguchi building I've photographed: The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures.
- Osanbashi Yokohama International Passenger Terminal - Foreign Office Architects [Figure-Ground.com]
Three recent works of Tadao Ando in Tokyo (pictured above from left to right: hhstyle.com/Casa, Omotesando Hills, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT). You see a definite departure from earlier works with the incoporation of lots of sharp angles and diagonals. I'm not sure I like this "new" Ando. These are pretty underwhelming projects compared to his earlier work like the Church of the Light and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
- Tadao Ando in Tokyo, 2005—2007 [Figure-Ground.com]
- Harajuku Protestant Church (2005) - Ciel Rouge Creation [Figure-Ground.com]
Surprise, surprise, another update to Figure/Ground! Hot on the heels of the Indonesia travelogue, here's a small update featuring a few shots of Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel entrance (yes, just the entrance), moved from Tokyo and planted in an architectural history theme park near Nagoya.
I thought it looked extremely sad, having been torn not just from its location, but from the rest of the building as well. It's architecture without context.
The photos of the truncated building set against a lush mountain backdrop and overlooking a lake look just so ridiculously incongruous and wrong, so you won't see those here. Some of you are probably curious to see them, but I simply cannot do that to FLW.
- Main Entrance Hall and Lobby of the Imperial Hotel (1923) - Frank Lloyd Wright [Figure-Ground.com]
11,000 people attended a lecture by Tadao Ando today in Taipei, held at the Taipei Arena.
ELEVEN THOUSAND PEOPLE!
That is just insane.
I know there's nothing to do in Taipei and the herd mentality of the Taiwanese cannot be underestimated (this is, after all, a country of people who would wait in line for 6 hours to buy donuts just because it was the hot new thing), but this is mind boggling. 11,000 to hear an architecture lecture? I'm willing to wager that 80% of the people who attended would not be able to ID an Ando building.
The lecture was free, sponsored by Toto (the Japanese toilet company). As many as 30,000 applied for the ticket drawing. Those who did not get one were supposedly paying upwards of NT$2,400/US$72.65 in online auctions.
Those who paid for the tickets got to hear one crappy lecture. Ando talked about nothing substantive nor insightful. The talk started with Ando striding the length of the arena floor onto the stage to thunderous applause, accompanied by the the theme of Rocky (I'm serious). And it was all downhill after that. For about 90 minutes, he talked superficially about his early life and career, then glossed over a few of his projects (Rokko Housing, Naoshima, his own office in Osaka). If you factor in the fact that he spoke in Japanese and had to be translated after every sentence, he spoke for no more than 50 minutes. After that, some Tokyo Univeristy professor and some Taiwanese dude joined him on stage for a 45 minute discussion/Q&A session, which was more fluff. A few softball questions and answers later, it was over. This is a far cry from the architecture lectures I used to attend at Cooper's Great Hall. Even conceding the fact that he probably had to shoot for the lowest common denominator with such a ridiculously large audience, it was still an extremely disappointing lecture.
 When Mister Donuts opened its first store in Taipei a few years ago.
Ando works I've photographed:
"We were told there were ghosts in the house. I decided the ghosts were ghosts of cubism." —Frank Gehry
A small update today: a few exterior shots of the Gehry Residence in Santa Monica. I took these after I went to see Eames House in nearby Pacific Palisades.
I finally got around to seeing Sydney Pollack's documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry last night and I remembered I have a few shots of his house which I never posted so here they are.
- Gehry Residence [Figure-Ground.com]
The documentary is okay, nothing too interesting. It's basically a 80-minute love-fest of Gehry and his work. I understand Gehry is a larger-than-life figure, but can the partners in his firm come off as any more in deference of him? Craig Webb, who by the way is a splitting image of Lyle Lovett, acted more like an awe-struck first-year student assisting his famous professor than a partner in a major architecture firm.
Some Gehry Quotes from the Documentary
On starting a new project: "I'm always scared that I'm not going to know what to do. It's a terrifying moment."
On a model he's working on: "That is so stupid looking, it's great."
On Alvar Aalto: "I would say my work is probably closer to him than any of the other previous generations."
On architecture: "What bugs me are these god damn rules that my profession has as to what fits and what doesn't."
Over in my Flickr photostream I have posted a set of photos of Yingge Ceramics Museum, located about half an hour outside of Taipei. There's not a lot of great architecture in Taiwan, modern or otherwise. For example, with the exception of a church by I.M. Pei (which I have yet to check out), no notable architect has built here. That said, this is one of the better buildings on this island. It's designed by a local architecture firm 竹間聯合建築師事務所 (Zhujian Architecture Studio). Nevertheless, it's nothing special. That's why it's not being featured on my architecture photography website Figure/Ground; but it's worth seeing what the state of modern architecture is in Taiwan so I've uploaded the set to my Flickr photostream. These are just some quick snaps I took with my dinky pocket digicam when I went to check it out a few months ago.
- Yingge Ceramics Museum 鶯歌陶瓷博物館 [Flickr]
 Well, actually, that's not entirely true. Supposedly some highway rest stop is designed by OMA but from the pictures I've seen of it, it's not close to one of their stronger works.
- Salk Institute - Louis Kahn [Figure-Ground.com]
Another Kahn masterpiece: Kimbell Art Museum.
PS: I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy new year!
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - José Rafael Moneo [Figure-Ground.com]
I have seen my share of Gehry buildings and this is his most refined and beautiful. Of course, Bilbao remains a more powerful work in historical context (and it is in a much more romantic setting), but in terms of pure forms, I think Disney Hall surpasses it.
- Walt Disney Concert Hall - Frank Gehry [Figure-Ground.com]
On October 30th, Renzo Piano will give the inaugural presentation of the Frazen Lecture. Admission is $10. As this lecture is co-sponsored by the Architecture League, League members can make reservations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 212.980.3767.
On November 14th, Thom Mayne of Morphosis will speak. Admission is free.
Both lectures start at 6:30 pm and are held, as usual, at the Great Hall inside Cooper Union's Foundation Building (7 East 7th Street).
See their work I have photographed on Figure/Ground:
- Morgan Library Expansion - Renzo Piano (1 photo)
- Auditorium Parco della Musica - Renzo Piano (31 photos)
- Caltrans District 7 Headquarters - Thom Mayne/Morphosis (29 photos)
I promised frequent updates on Figure/Ground, so here it is: another set of photos, this time of the Eames House.
- Eames House - Charles and Ray Eames [Figure-Ground.com]
After laying dormant for close to a year and a half, my travel and architecture photography site, Figure/Ground, has finally been updated! Hopefully there will be frequent updates over the next few weeks as I put up all the photos from the past 2 years (I may not have had the time to update the site, but I didn't stop traveling or taking photos!).
First up, the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters (pictured above) in Los Angeles and the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
- Caltrans - Thom Mayne/Morphosis [Figure-Ground.com]
- Guthrie Theater - Jean Nouvel [Figure-Ground.com]
teNeues has published a book, Ultimate Lighting Design, featuring quite a few of my photos (buy it from Amazon and earn me some measely commission). It's a 500+ page hard-cover book featuring the work of New York lighting design firm L'Observatoire. They've worked with all the top names in architecture and the book features an impressive list of cool buildings. I haven't yet seen the actual book, but from what I saw in the layout stages, it's full of beautiful photography (not least of all mine—I'm very happy with the photos I took for this book). Look for my work in the following sections: The Standard Downtown LA, The Standard Hollywood, Chateau Marmont (these three are André Balazs' hotels in L.A.), Jean Georges Shanghai, 66 and Perry St (these three are Jean-Georges' restaurants), and Beige (this one is Alaine Ducasse's restaurant in Tokyo).
With this, I have finally posted all the photos from Italy. Next up, Seoul!
Incidentally, this was actually the first thing we saw in Italy. As soon as we landed and checked into our hotel, we headed out to the Roman suburb of Tor Tre Teste to look for this church. It wasn't easy as we only had the name of the area and a picture of the church to go by. After a couple of transfers on the buses, we got to the area and just started showing the picture to random Romans to find our way there.
What did I think of it? Let's just say that I'm not a huge Richard Meier fan and this didn't do anything to change my mind.
- Jubilee Church - Richard Meier [Figure-Ground.com]
Continuing with architecture from my Italy trip, this is Tomba Brion, a cemetary and memorial for the Brion family designed by Carlo Scarpa in a little town outside of Treviso in the Veneto. If you are interested in more Scarpa, in the Italy entry on Figure/Ground, I have a photo of a footbridge he designed in Venice and some photos of Castelvecchio in Verona. The only photos left from that trip yet to come are from Richard Meier's Jubilee Church. After that, I'll probably take a break from architecture photos and work on travel photos from Seoul that I took during a trip way back in October of last year.
- Tomba Brion - Carlo Scarpa [Figure-Ground.com]
I'm slowly working my way through the backlog of photos I've accumulated since last October. This is the music auditorium in Rome designed by Renzo Piano. Still to come from the Italy trip are Richard Meier's Jubilee Church and Carlo Scarpa's Tomba Brion.
- Auditorium Parco della Musica - Renzo Piano [Figure-Ground.com]
Located in the basement of an apartment building near Hengshan Lu in Shanghai, there is a tiny gallery that has an amazing collection of vintage Communist propaganda art from the Cultural Revolution period. To get to this apartment building, you have to walk through a gated private parking lot/complex (very common in Shanghai) and find the building tucked in the back. The gallery, with a 20RMB/US$2.42 admission fee, consists of two dinky rooms in the basement. There is a talkative fellow there who is eager to practice his English on you and loves discussing the particulars of every poster and painting.
The not-for-sale posters aren't very nicely presented, just hanging here and there all over the tiny basement rooms. Some clipped to a board, some poorly framed, others covered with a dirty plexi. But the posters themselves are incredibly interesting, both historically and visually. Plus, they are sometimes unintentionally hilarious. They also have a selection of vintage posters which you may purchase (cost: 700RMB to 2,000+RMB), but those aren't nearly as nice as the ones on display.
It's worth a visit if you are in Shanghai.
See my photos of some of the posters and paintings from the gallery posted over at figure-ground.com:
- See the posters [ 22 Photos ]
Propaganda Poster Art Center
Rm BOC 868 Huashan Lu / 華山路868號總統公寓B座OC室
+86 (21) 6211-1845 or +86 (139) 0184-1246
Hours: 9am-4:30pm daily
Despite my previous claim that "The Gates" is close to being completely horrible, I went back to see it again this past weekend. This time, I entered the park through Harlem Meer (at 110th and 5th) and my reaction was much more positive. Maybe I was able to appreciate it after I got the player-hating out of my system. Or maybe up around the northern part of the park it just didn't have the crush of people that the below-reservoir parts had (there were less people up there on a Saturday afternoon then there were on a Tuesday afternoon below 86th). Or maybe the area around Harlem Meer is just an exceptionally beautiful part of the park (where I almost never go since it's so far up there).
Between my two visits, I more-or-less have seen every part of "The Gates" and the installation around Harlem Meer area is definitely the best. The gates worked well with the topology of the area and seemed to be placed less monotonously than elsewhere in the park. This last point I'm not sure, but that's how it appeared to me. I still don't think the project's that great overall, but at least I hate it less.
If you haven't gone out to see it yet, you should. Good art or not, it's still an interesting and impressive (in the sense that it was done at all) installation. You have a few days left to see it and make up your own mind about it. Make sure you enter the park through the Harlem Meer and avoid the crowd in the lower parts of the park.
Four of my Gropius House photos have been published in a new book by Taschen titled simply Gropius. It's from their Basic Art Series and lists for US$9.99 (buy it from Amazon). It's a 96-page soft-cover book introducing Walter Gropius and his most important works. It may not be one of Taschen's fancier volumes, but it's comprehensive and has lots of photographs (some quite good). These are the four shots of mine featured in the book:
- View from garden: on page 74, full page picture
- View from southwest: on page 76, half page picture
- Front side: on page 77, small picture
- South side of the house with the terrace over the living space: on page 79, small picture
I know I said I would put these up a few days after I went to see it... Three months later I've finally got around to it. And I still have a huge backlog of photos I need to put up from all the trips I've been taking recently.
[From Figure/Ground] I was enchanted by this building the moment I saw it. The building's glass facade set on a diamond-grid reminds me a little of my other favorite building I saw this year: Koolhaas' Seattle Public Library. Speaking of whom, I wonder how jealous Koolhaas is that neither of his Prada "epicenter" designs is remotely as successful as this one by Herzog & de Meuron.
I love the way the random mix of convex, concave and flat glass panels generate a constantly changing perspective of the products and the shoppers inside. It's as if each panel is another page in a live-action Prada catalog.
[From Figure/Ground] For those of you not familiar with the new MoMA's architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, here are a few shots of a gallery he designed a few years ago for the Tokyo National Museum. You can see some of the same elements he's using in the new MoMA.
Prada and H&deM have really hit it out of the park with this one. Just a quick shot for now. I'll put up a full entry under architecture in Figure/Ground in the coming days.
[From Figure/Ground] I've been sitting on these photos for almost a month now. I think partly because I just wasn't that excited by the building. It's a bit cluttered when you try to take the whole complex in at once. But examined up close, it has its moments.
Gehry has his detractors, usually people who are suspicious of the idea of architecture as sculpture. There does not at first seem to be a lot of form-follows-function about his work. My own doubts about Gehry tend to build up over time in this way—and then I go to see one of his buildings, and come away charmed. Gehry, who for the first half of his career had an utterly pragmatic grounding in reality working for big commercial firms of architects, has never lost that practical touch. Inside, his buildings work. They are not haphazard. Every space is thought through.
As previously mentioned, Thom Mayne unveiled the conceptual design for the new Cooper academic building today at noon. If you know me at all, you know that's way earlier than I care to wake up, so I didn't attend the presentation. I did, however, make it to the reception at night to check out the opening of the exhibition featuring the design. (Plus get some free wine and hors d'oeuvres. There's nothing quite like free-loading off Cooper, reminds me of the good ol' days.)
Described as a "vertical piazza," the glass-enclosed nine-story building has a soaring atrium inside with views of the Foundation Building across Third Avenue. Rather than me try to describe it in words, you should go see the exhibition at Cooper (the pictures in the NY Times article linked above doesn't do it justice). It's really quite a wonderful design.
If my classes were in a building like this, I might have showed up for a few more of them. Just my luck that I went to an old, crappy building for high school (Stuyvesant) and shortly after I leave, bam! a new high tech building with state-of-the-art everything opened. And then, I went to an even crappier building for college and now they decide to build something that is worthy of a world-class institution instead of the local-community-technical-trade-school of a building that I went to. Do I sound bitter? You bet I do.
The exhibition is at the Houghton Gallery through October 23, 2004 (Mon-Fri 11-7, Sat 12-5, closed Sundays). Houghton is on the 2nd floor of the Foundation Building for those not in the know. And if you don't even know where the Foundation Building is, then I can't help you.
Update: Cooper has put up a site about the new building. Lots of contents are still not available though.
Thom Mayne will unveil the conceptual design for the new Cooper Union academic building tomorrow (9/14) at noon in the Great Hall. Following the presentation, there will be a reception on the 2nd floor and the exhibition of the design will open in the Houghton Gallery.
There has not been a good building project associated with the Cooper Union since the renovation of the Foundation Building (the engineering building looks like a bad 70s-era junior high school), I hope this breaks that trend. It's a wonder Cooper architecture students aren't more ashamed of their own school (quite the opposite, in fact).