Janelle Zara
Architecture & Design News

OBJECT LESSONS: Architecture & Design News

George Lucas Reveals First Renderings for Narrative Arts Museum in Chicago

George Lucas shocked fans when he announced in June that he plans to build his Museum of Narrative Arts in Chicago. Though the filmmaker had previously announced plans to locate the institution in San Francisco near his film and television production company, Lucasfilms (which is based in Marin County), the West Coast city rejected his proposed site earlier this year. Chicago, observers noted, seemed to make little sense — Lucas didn’t have substantial personal ties to the city before the announcement. Location wasn’t the only shock the “Star Wars” auteur had in store: he and architect Ma Yansong revealed renderings for the Chicago waterfront museum yesterday, thereby bringing architecture critics and Windy City locals into a growing group of observers who are finding it difficult to make sense of Lucas’s decisions.

Ma Yansong’s proposed design for the Museum of Narrative Arts appears as alien as some of founder George Lucas’s characters.

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Marina Abramovic, Daniel Libeskind, and Moroso Collaborate on Tables for Art Basel

After premiering their Daniel Libeskind-designed “Counting the Rice” table at Milan Design Week this past April, Marina Abramovic and Moroso are taking the attendant show on the road to Miami. The Marina Abramovic Institute will be hosting a series of “Counting the Rice” workshops during Art Basel Miami Beach from December 4-7. The table in question is designed as an accessory for Abramovic’s exercise of the same name, in which a seated participant must sort and count individual grains of rice for at least six hours.

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“No More Weird Architecture” Says Chinese President

A Beijing office building that appears to be taking an altogether different shape.

Xi Jinping, the president of China, has taken on the task of architectural criticism, castigating the architects at home and abroad who are responsible for the country’s bizarre buildings — of which there are very, very many. “During a two-hour speech at a literary symposium in Beijing earlier this week – a rare attendance for a Chinese president – Mr. Xi discussed how art should serve the people,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Fine art works should be like sunshine from the blue sky and the breeze in spring that will inspire minds, warm hearts, cultivate taste and clean up undesirable work styles,” he is reported to have said at the symposium. Continue Reading

Design Miami/ Announces 2014 Lineup and New Programs

Last year’s fair.

Design Miami/ has announced participants for this year’s Miami edition of the collectible furniture fair, which will run from December 3 through December 7 as part of Miami Art Week. This year marks the fair’s 10th anniversary, and also its first with new executive director Rodman Primack, who took over from Marianne Goebl this past February. Whereas the fair had 15 participants when it debuted a decade ago, this year’s editions welcomes 35 galleries to Miami. That includes 11 of the founding galleries, as well as newcomers Edward Cella Art+Architecture of LA and Gallery Diet of Miami — whose addition represents a marked interest in contemporary design from across the United States. Continue Reading

LED Lights Will Be Installed Inside the Sistine Chapel

Soon, you’ll be seeing the Sistine Chapel from a whole new light. Next month, the Vatican is installing 7,000 LED lights around the perimeter of Michaelangelo’s masterpiece 6,135-square-foot ceiling painting to improve visitors’ views of the piece, reports the Atlantic. The LEDs will replace low-energy halogen light bulbs, which were installed in the 1980s to preserve the painting’s pigments but which, as a result, took a toll on the work’s visibility for squinting viewers down below. Last year, LEDs were also installed at the Louvre to better light the Mona Lisa.

Though Michaelangelo was illuminated by light that streamed in from the chapel’s windows while working on the ceiling, Vatican officials blocked off the natural sunlight for fear of its deleterious effects on the painting’s already-fading frescoes. This time around, they will use custom-designed Osram LED bulbs, which will brighten views of the painting and consume 60% less energy (and therefore also last longer) than the halogen lights, according to LEDs Magazine. Michaelangelo’s frescoes are attuned to the ceiling’s curvature and to the previous natural light sournces, which drove Osram technicians to perform elaborate tests before developing the new lighting scheme. According to the Atlantic, “Technicians analyzed 280 patches on both the chapel’s ceiling and its wall frescos, creating a spectrum map of the colors Michelangelo used in decorating the Sistine’s surfaces. From there, they designed an interactive system of LEDs that blend red, blue, green, and white shades of light—each combination meant to optimize the display of the frescos.”

— Anna Kats (@fortunaviriliis)

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Final Section of the High Line Earns Thumbs Up From Critics — and Tourists

The third section of New York City’s High Line opened to the public yesterday, the finale in an landscape saga designed jointly by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations. The last section runs around the massive Amtrak and Long Island railyards, before descending to ground at 34th Street and 11th Avenue.

By all accounts — or rather, those of the city’s leading journalistic observers of architecture and the built environment — this final stretch is an understated conclusion to the gritty glamour of the first two sections, which opened respectively in 2009 and 2011. Of the three components, this last one is the most rustic: there’s no electricity (so it closes every night half an hour before dusk) and the design interventions number relatively few (the updated variety of bench installed this time around is the most prominent). Instead, the original rail tracks are actually left exposed and landscaping is decidedly overgrown. And the entire final section will be decidedly different a decade from now, when the Hudson Yards will have populated the now-empty area around 12th Avenue and 34th Street with some of the city’s tallest, glitziest skyscrapers.

Critical responses are, by and large, positive: Michael Kimmelman practically pens a love poem to New York City over at the New York Times. Vanity Fair’s Paul Goldberger and New York Magazine’s Justin Davidson offer less sentimental but equally affirmative takes; only James S. Russell provides a thorough, and somewhat more somber, analysis of the real estate development swarm that is fast redefining the skyline that surrounds the comparably low-hanging High Line. Find choice quotes from each critic after the jump: Continue Reading

Hernan Diaz-Alonso Takes Over as Director of SCI-Arc

It’s been a rumor for quite some time, but SCI-Arc has finally made the official announcement: professor Hernan Diaz-Alonso takes over as Director of the Los Angeles architecture school from Eric Owen Moss, who officially stepped down in June after 13 years in the post. “I am pleased that the SCI-Arc Board of Trustees at its quarterly meeting [on Wednesday, September 10] approved the contract with Hernan Diaz Alonso as the next Director of SCI-Arc. Hernan will assume this role beginning September 2015…It is my honor to announce that the Board of Trustees has finalized its search for the next Director of SCI-Arc, and after over a decade of extraordinary service by Eric Owen Moss, we are placing SCI-Arc’s future in the amazing mind, heart and hands of Hernan Diaz Alonso,” wrote SCI-Arc board chair Jerry Neuman in a letter published on Archinect. Owen Moss would appear to agree with the appointment and the high regard: “SCI-Arc’s task, in perpetuity, is to go where we haven’t been, and report on what we find,” he said in a press release on the occasion. “Hernan Diaz Alonso is the perfect architect to continue this expedition.”

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The Getty Announces Plans to Restore Eames, Kahn, and More

The Getty Foundation will contribute funds to the restoration of Jørn Utzon’s iconic Sydney Opera House as part of its new architecture initiative.

The list of buildings the Getty Foundation plans to help conserve as part of Keeping it Modern, the Los Angeles-based research institute’s latest architecture initiative that was announced yesterday, reads like an abridged greatest hits list of modernist architecture: Eames, Aalto, Kahn, and more. The project aims not only to restore some of the seminal structures of 20th century architecture, but also to develop innovative methods of conservation to deal with buildings constructed using experimental techniques and materials that are holding up poorly with the passage of time. Grants are awarded for the comprehensive planning, testing, and analysis of modern materials, as well as the creation of conservation management plans that determine long-term maintenance and conservation policies. ”This new initiative continues our commitment, but now brings into sharp focus the specific conservation issues of modern buildings. This initial round of grants includes important buildings on several continents,” said Getty Foundation director Deborah Marrow in a statement. Continue Reading

Argentina Plans to Build Latin America’s Tallest Quarter-Pipe

Architecture as skateboarding paraphernalia.

Argentina may be in the throes of a monumental financial crisis, but that isn’t stopping the cash-strapped country from commissioning monumental architecture. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner today announced the winning proposal for the Cinematography and Audiovisual Tower that will be built in Buenos Aires by 2018, reports ArchDaily. MRA+A Álvarez| Bernabó | Sabatini’s parabolic design beat out four other competitors for the project, with a curved quarter-circle tower that will have 67 floors, 216,000 square meters of space, and a hotel on the highest 13 floors. Construction is expected to begin later this year on the structure, which will be Latin America’s tallest skyscraper upon completion, soaring to 1100 feet.

In the meantime, however, skateboarder Tony Hawk (who was in Buenos Aires earlier this month) took to Twitter to state the obvious: “Just after we left Argentina, they approve this skyscraper design (1200 feet tall). Coincidence?” We think not.

— Anna Kats (@fortunaviriliis)

Image via Fan Page de Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

How Zoltan Pali and Renzo Piano Broke Up

Zoltan Pali and Renzo Piano were originally meant to design the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, rendered above, as a single design team.

Few outside of Los Angeles’s architecture community had heard of Zoltan Pali until it was announced in 2012 that the local architect would be collaborating with Renzo Piano on the much-hyped Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is due to occupy the site of the former May Company building on Robertson and Wilshire in 2017. Yet Pali, like so many architecture aficionados, already knew and loved Piano’s work — so much so, that Pali even named his son after the Pritzker winner. More surprising than the original announcement that the relatively unknown Culver City-based designer would be collaborating with Piano was the sudden announcement this past spring that the Academy Museum had dropped Pali from the project, with no further explanation. Much was left to the imaginations of curious onlookers who wondered why the split had occurred, and questions abounded without answer.

This week, many of those questions are finally being addressed thanks to a thoroughly engrossing interview that Sam Lubell, West Coast editor of the Architect’s Newspaper, conducted with Pali. Though the dialogue isn’t quite a tell-all, Pali is very frank — the emerging designer discusses his disappointment with the spherical design that came out of the collaboration, his disillusionment with Piano, and what he learned from observing the work of the Building Workshop’s very large global office. We’ll leave you to read the entire piece, but we’ve compiled some of our favorite lines from the interview below (Lubell’s words are bolded): Continue Reading