The last time I wrote about an endangered building it was Richard Neutra’s 1963 Cyclorama at Gettysburg. After years of legal battle, the 50 year old building was demolished just last month. It’s a disappointing outcome, but the building did stand for five decades which is longer than many buildings. Sadly, one of those buildings that will not make it to the fifty year mark is the American Folk Art Museum by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.
This beautifully austere science building addition is on the campus of the University of Alcalá in Spain, and from the drafting boards of Héctor Fernández Elorza. Because the technological and spatial needs of research buildings tend to evolve quickly, the original building was in desperate need of a renovation to bring the building up to the working standards of a modern facility.
OMA and Knoll have officially debuted a new line of furniture called Tools for Living, in Milan. The kinetic and boxy pieces may look familiar to fashion-savvy readers because they were first seen back in January on the runway of Prada’s 2013 Autumn/Winter Men’s Runway show. What’s remarkable is that most of the furniture that makes up Tools for Living is somehow kinetic: it swivels, has complex inner hinges, or an adjustable height. It sounds almost more like a Swiss Army Knife than a line of furniture, but these aren’t meant to be static and stately pieces, and they’re called tools for a reason.
The Tools for Life range is based on the idea that furniture should be understood as a high-performance instrument rather than a design statement. OMA conceived the furniture to facilitate the contemporary flow between work and social life, while adjusting to the different needs of both.
Rem Koolhaas commented: “We wanted to create a range of furniture that performs in very precise but also in completely unpredictable ways, furniture that not only contributes to the interior but also to the animation of the interior.”
The good news is that the same tools can turn your space into a casual and social space again at the push of a button.
I’ve always been kind of terrible at video games. Any video game, it doesn’t matter. I automatically make anyone else playing a game with me look expertly skilled. It started when I plugged in my very own Sega Genesis on my seventh birthday and continues to this day when I get together with friends to play Michael Jackson: The Experience on Wii. However, I did have the fleeting experience of skillful gaming one summer when my parents sent my twin sister and I to spend time with our Aunt and Uncle in Minneapolis and they, in turn, sent us to spend time at a computer camp.
Sometimes while joking with my old friends who work as architects, I’ll offer my own summary of the entire history of the profession: “Let me just go ahead and boil this down for you: it was built to keep the poor people away.” It’s an absurd summary, and is far removed from the reality and concerns of practicing architects. More rational people might summarize the recent history of architecture (since Modernism) using either popular dictum from Mies van der Rohe, “less is more,” or another from Le Corbusier that describes architecture as a “machine for living in.” But, more recently, there seems to have been a shift toward thinking of buildings as organisms. I can’t think of a snappy saying associated with this shift, although I think the cover of the first Mark Magazine was getting somewhere with, “Let’s Build Trees!”
I haven’t quite figured out how seriously I should take architecture. Is it important? To some people, absolutely. But not everyone needs or wants it, so it’s a bit like fashion if you ask yourself these two questions: Do people need clothing? Yes, but not fashion. Do people need shelter? Yes, but not necessarily architecture. As much as we may like to dress spiffy or inhabit swanky spaces, most of us would probably roll our eyes if someone insisted that couture labels were a matter of life and death. And as long as it doesn’t collapse, architecture is pretty much the same way, right?
We’ve been looking at playful projects this past week, and have seen everything from roller coasters to legos to fiber optics. The last project we’ll see this week is from Michael Jantzen. Jantzen is probably best known for his shape-shifting M-Vironments which have been widely published, or you may know him from his playful photo series of deconstructed houses. and churches. And today we have a relatively simple footbridge he’s designed for nowhere in particular.
If you’re looking for a fun place to hang out and interact with data (and who isn’t?) try the Teton County Library in Jackson, Wyoming. The library has a new addition built by Gilday Architects. And inside the new entrance lobby, you’ll find a stunning installation created by E/B Office. The New York-based practice has filled the lobby with five miles of fiber optic cable cut into a thousand segments.
On the south side of Melbourne, designer Ryan Russell of Russell & George has recently completed a bright, playful space for Australian bag maker Crumpler, their twelfth store in Australia. What immediately makes the store stand out is the grid of fluorescent lights that defines the ceiling and moves down the walls of the retail space. The lights are big, looking almost like the largest and most fragile K’Nex project you’ve ever seen.